Sex for the Glory of God
About the Guest
What did God have in mind when He created male and female? Denny Burk, a professor at Boyce College and an assistant pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, reminds listeners that sex exists for the glory of God, which means that our sexuality puts God's glory on display. Burk talks about God's purposes for sex: consummation, procreation, an expression of love, and pleasure.
Denny BurkDenny Burk (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Ethics at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Burk edits The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and speaks and writes extensively about gender and sexuality. He is the author of What Is the Meaning of Sex? and coauthor of Transforming...more
What did God have in mind when He created male and female? Denny Burk reminds listeners that sex exists for the glory of God, which means that our sexuality puts God’s glory on display.
Sex for the Glory of God
Bob: The Bible says there is pleasure in sin for a season. When it comes to sexual sin—when it comes to sex outside of the bonds of marriage—Denny Burk says that pleasure that you might experience will be shallow and fading.
Denny: The fantastic thing about the way God set this up is that sex is rigged. It’s only pleasurable if you are godly. If you’re a bad husband—if you are unloving to your wife / if you’re harsh and unkind—it doesn’t work. There is a straight line from your attitude and the way you treat your wife, in general, to what happens in that bedroom. The converse is true for wives. You’ve got to be godly for it to work and for it to be maximally pleasurable.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. You understand that God is the designer of human sexuality; right?
Well, we are going to explore what the Designer had in mind, today, with Denny Burk. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, back four-plus decades ago, when you and Barbara got married, had you spent a lot of time thinking about God’s purpose for sexuality?
Dennis: No. No, in fact, in reading Denny Burk’s book here, I thought, how clueless I was and what a shallow opinion I had of, not only sexual identity, but also the act of sexual intercourse.
Bob: It’s not that you hadn’t thought about it—it’s just that you hadn’t thought—[Laughter]
Dennis: No, I’d thought about it. The world had done a good job of feeding my mind with it.
Denny Burk joins us again on the broadcast. Had you thought about it much before you got married, Denny?
Denny: Of course not! I was thinking about baseball. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, we know that not to be true because he and Susan have four children. He is the Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, and he has written a book called What Is the Meaning of Sex?
And, you know, I think of what a good job the world does do, as we grow up. It really is difficult, Denny, to get a clear biblical bead on what God had in mind—not only when He gave us our sexual identity, as male and female—but also what He had wrapped in the whole concept of sex in the first place. What is the purpose of sex?
Denny: Sex exists for the glory of God. What I’m trying to argue in this book is that all sexual morality has to be measured by its ability to achieve that purpose. Now, I know that, for me, this is just kind of a strange idea to think that sex exists for the glory of God; but it’s in the Bible.
In fact, it’s the most intimate part of our beings. It would be a surprise if God hadn’t said something about it. It’d be a surprise if God hadn’t somehow related it to His overall purposes for the world.
So, what I’m trying to argue is—is that God does have an ultimate goal for your sexuality—and it’s His glory. Because of that, it also has a certain design that He’s given it. You don’t glorify God by just meditating on the divine attributes, and then, all of a sudden, your sex glorifies God. No. He defines certain behaviors—a certain way of being—that glorifies Him. That’s what this book is all about.
Dennis: Explain and unpack what it means to glorify God because I’m sure some listeners heard that and they went, “That just sounds like church language,”—
Dennis: —okay? Unpack what it means when you say, “Sex glorifies God.” First of all, what does the word, “glorify,” mean?
Denny: Well, to glorify God means to set God on display; okay?—
—so, to make Him known and to give Him honor because of who He is. That’s what to glorify God means. God is glorious within Himself. We have a responsibility to make much of that glory.
Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount; right? He says, “Let your light so shine before men that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” A part of those good works, that we have to do, includes our sexual lives. So, God created sex with a purpose.
The purposes that I outline in the book are purposes that I got from another author, named Dennis Hollinger; but they are this: “God created sex for the purpose of the consummation of marriage, for procreation, for the expression of love within marriage, and then, also, for pleasure.” Those are the four purposes that God gives. So, if you are going to glorify God, you’re going to have to enjoy the gift of sexuality within the framework of those purposes.
Now, that assumes a certain definition of marriage because what the Bible teaches is that the gift of sexuality is to be enjoyed, exclusively, within the covenant bond of one woman and one man in marriage. Anything outside of that is a dishonor to God and does not glorify Him.
Bob: Alright, before we unpack that, let me go back—just for the person, who is thinking: “Alright, so, my sexuality is supposed to put God’s glory on display. It’s supposed to be a testimony to God’s glory, but my sexuality is a private act. When my wife and I are being intimate, we’re not putting anything on display for anybody other than one another; right? So—
Dennis: Well, now, wait a second. There is Somebody, who shows up in the bedroom, besides a man and a woman in marriage.
Bob: So, God’s there.
Dennis: He is there. Somehow, I think that’s what you’re talking about—that, as two people, in marriage, express love for each other in the act of intercourse, they are to delight God in the pleasure and in the love that they share with each other.
Isn’t that what you are saying here?
Denny: Yes. I would also say that you have to remember that our private sexual lives have public consequences. There is a straight line between who we are, as sexual beings, and who we are, as social beings. It’s not just what happens in the bedroom that is significant because what happens in the bedroom impacts children, impacts the shape and the manner of your family. It impacts all manner of things. It impacts whether or not marriages are permanent.
So, the gift of sexuality is given for the covenant of marriage, which is supposed to be permanent. Whether or not couples stay together and love one another is something that is on full display before the world. These are all bound up within our lives, as sexual beings; okay? They can’t be just cut off as private issues.
Bob: So, the implicit way that I am handling this good gift of sexuality—it’s implied to everybody around me. It doesn’t mean my sexuality is on display. It just means that my neighbors know that I represent myself as a faithful husband—that I represent myself as a one-woman man. When I do that, I am glorifying God with my sexuality; right?
Dennis: Well, let me comment on that, Bob, because a man who is a one-woman man won’t flirt with other women.
Dennis: That is demonstrating his sexuality, saying: “No, I’m not going to give myself to any of you. I am a one-woman man.” Likewise, a woman who dresses modestly is displaying her sexuality publicly and saying to men: “No, there is only one man that can truly know me and can see me as I really am. I’m not going to tease other men with my body because of that.” I think that’s wrapped up in our sexuality as well—don’t you think so, Denny?
Denny: Well, yes. You can’t reduce sexuality to just the behaviors in the bedroom.
Your sexuality is who you are. It’s the way you present yourself. It’s the way you relate to your spouse. It’s the way you relate to children. It’s the way you relate to people who aren’t your spouse. All of that is bound up with the way you define sex and God’s purposes for this great gift. To miss that is to miss the way that the Bible speaks about these things.
Dennis: Okay, let’s talk about those purposes that you mentioned. The first one—and it’s interesting—you say it’s the purpose of sex is about the consummation of a marriage. It’s interesting how the culture and the world distorted that one through encouraging folks to hook-up, shack-up, cohabit, and experience sex outside of the covenant of marriage. But you’re saying, “We’re to celebrate the purpose of sex, that God made, by consummating our marriage and becoming one flesh”—Genesis, Chapter 2: 24; right?
Denny: That’s exactly right.
The Bible presents marriage as a covenant. A covenant involves a public promise and, then, this private act or consummation, which is sexual union. Now, the consummation of marriage is something that has a beginning but that, too, doesn’t have an end. This is the symbol and token of your physical union. This is an absolutely necessary part of a marriage.
Bob: So, let’s talk for a minute to some of our listeners, who are going, “You know, there’s just not a whole lot happening, sexually, in our marriage.” I mean, I’ve met couples who have told me that it’s been a year or longer since they’ve been intimate with one another. They have essentially said: “We get along okay. We’ve just—that part of our marriage has kind of withered away.” Is that okay?
Denny: Well, it’s not okay. The way that—I’m a pastor too—I’m a bi-vocational pastor. I’m a professor, and I also pastor at my church. And I—we encounter these kind of things, all the time—couples who are having difficulties.
Usually, the sexual life is indicating that there is something else wrong there. As a pastor, I’m going to want to know, “What’s that something else that’s going on?” There’s usually some prior issue that’s happening that’s destroying intimacy.
But here is the thing—your marriage can’t be a healthy marriage where there is no sexual union—1 Corinthians 7, Paul says, “Stop depriving one another, and come together again lest Satan tempt you.” We’re actually commanded to come together in sexual union, as spouses, in marriage. To not do that is to set ourselves up for temptation—to set ourselves up for being attacked by the devil.
Dennis: That’s another one of the purposes of sex in marriage—is a preventative to keep us from really being tempted by the world and giving in to our temptations.
Another one of the purposes of sex—that you talk about in your book—is that of procreation. That’s obvious—it’s having children.
In Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 26, 27, and 28—right after God makes them male and female, He says—and commands them—“Be fruitful and multiple.” There’s a command for procreation here / a command to have children. Some people would say, “We’ve done a good job of this.” Have we?
Denny: Well, and some people would say: “Well, that was good for them. That was good for the first union, but that shouldn’t be definitive of every marital union that comes after.” In other words, we shouldn’t expect that every union will have children. Now, we understand that, in a fallen world, there are some people, sadly, who are going to have struggles with this and will have physical difficulties that keep us from this; but you hear from time to time—more and more, especially lately—of couples who enter into—
Denny: —marriage, and they are intending to be childless. Biblically, that just doesn’t hold. In fact, that goes against the purpose of marriage. It goes against the purpose for sexual union.
It wasn’t just in the beginning that God said this, “Be fruitful and multiply,” to Adam and Eve.
He also said it after the Fall. He said it to Jacob. He said it to Noah. So, this is a continuing obligation—that one of the ways we glorify God is by spreading His image on planet earth through procreating—through giving birth to children. And we are supposed to bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. Now, I’m not one of those people that thinks that: “Well, that means you should have as many children as you can possibly have,” or something like that; but this is one of the purposes of marriage.
Those who are thinking that they can enter into this union—and sort of: “Children are just a lifestyle choice—maybe do it / maybe not”—no. That’s not a biblical way of thinking about things. That’s actually more of a post-modern way of thinking about things—that has sort of adopted the contraceptive mindset, which we may discuss a little bit later.
Dennis: The Bible declares children to be a blessing. I think it’s an issue of faith and obedience to view children as God says they are—
—and not as someone who gets in the way of you achieving your objectives, or being able to be happy, or have more time for yourself. In fact, one of my favorite quotes about children—that I saw on a bumper sticker one time—was: “My children saved me from toxic self-absorption.”
Dennis: I mean, I was with a couple, a number of years ago, who had remained childless for a number of years. They finally got pregnant. It was fascinating to watch the dialogue of this couple, who were now in their late 30s, bantering about what this was going to mean: “Oh my goodness! What’s this going to mean?”
Barbara and I just sat there, going: “You know, this is going to mean some real growth. I mean, you just thought you were selfish when you got married. You want to find out how truly selfish you are, and how much you need Jesus Christ in your life, and the Holy Spirit to empower you? Then, have a herd of children in your house and try to live the Christian life, at that point.”
Denny: Well, they say: “The more, the merrier.” I say: “The more, the holier.” [Laughter] There are more opportunities for sanctification the more that you add to the mix. Now, I absolutely agree. God gives us the gift of children as a blessing, and He gives them to us for a purpose. This is an opportunity to raise up a generation to glorify Him and to give honor where honor is due. I absolutely agree with you that children are a blessing from the Lord. But what we have today is sort of a worldview that’s coming against the biblical truth, that says children are a blessing, and saying that children are a burden.
Dennis: Another purpose of sex—that you speak about in your book—we’ve got to talk about this. I mean, we just have to. There is a whole book in the Bible, really, about this—Song of Solomon. The purpose of sex—one of the purposes is pleasure. Comment on that. God’s not down on pleasure; is He?
Denny: Yes. Some people view God as this big cosmic killjoy and that He is, somehow, negative when it comes to pleasure.
That’s just not the way the Bible talks. In fact, if you look at the Psalms, it talks about God, “In His right hand, there are pleasures forevermore.” I mean, God is a God of pleasure. He intends the sexual gift to be a gift that evokes pleasure. I think even the pleasure has a purpose to it. It is given to us, as a gift, for our enjoyment; but it’s also a powerful inducement to achieve all the other purposes for sexuality that He’s given us.
I mean, imagine if the inducement were not pleasure—if it were pain: “Do these things. Procreate or else you will experience pain.” No, that’s not what it is. He has given it to us, as a gift. Pleasure is a powerful inducement to achieve the ends—that He’s made this gift.
Bob: Well, He designed our bodies so that, when we come together—He put the pleasure-centers in there. I mean, I remember Bill Cosby—years ago, he said: “God could have made it like Polaroid. You kiss your wife, and ten seconds later, there is a baby that appears.” He said, “That’s not how God did it.”
He said—and this is Bill Cosby talking theology; right? [Laughter]
But the reality is—God designed us so that, when we come together, there would be physical enjoyment—maybe, with a little additional incentive to say, “I gave you this command, but I’m going to make it fun in the process.”
Dennis: Denny, you may not know this, but we have a video event called The Art of Marriage®. It is six hours long—on video. You can host it in your church for Friday night/ Saturday. We’ve had anywhere from two or three couples go through this at one time—all the way up to 950 folks, joining together in a church, up in the—interestingly—up in Portland.
One of the segments is on sexuality. There is a segment in this video—Bob knows exactly which one it is—where a woman begins to describe the first ten years of her marriage. Dare I say the word, here on Christian radio?—I think I can.
Bob: Well, we can just say that her experience for the first ten years did not include pleasure. How’s that sound?
Dennis: Okay, yes, that would be delicately dancing around a word that starts with “O.” [Laughter] Those, who know about such things, will understand that. Little ones, who may be listening, will go, “O?” [Laughter]
But anyway, she makes the statement—in The Art of Marriage, she says: “I want to ask the men, ‘If you had had intercourse for ten years, and you hadn’t experienced pleasure, how interested would you be in having sex?’” Of course, the answer is—every man gets it. The answer is: “Not at all.” Finally, she was able to experience that—and that’s a part of the story—but God wants all couples, in the marriage relationship, to be able to experience pleasure. He’s not a killjoy.
Bob: And He wants husbands and wives to make this a part of the pursuit. He wants us to be bringing pleasure to one another in this time together; right?
Denny: Well, that’s absolutely right. The fantastic thing about the way God set this up is that sex is rigged. It’s not pleasurable—
Dennis: I can’t wait for the answer to this.
Denny: —it’s only pleasurable if you are godly. If you are a bad husband—if you are unloving to your wife / if you are harsh and unkind—it doesn’t work. There is a straight line—from your attitude and the way you treat your wife, in general—to what happens in that bedroom. And the same thing happens—and the converse is true for wives. You’ve got to be godly for it to work and for it to be maximally pleasurable.
Bob: When I’ve done some premarital preparation for couples, I’ve said: “I’m going to tell you one of the most important verses on your sexuality. It’s Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 3. It says: ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. With humility, regard one another as more important than yourself.’”
That’s not just about how we treat one another in our conversation. It’s how we treat one another in every aspect of our marriage. When there is unselfish/humble regarding of one another as more important than yourself, it brings a new dimension to our sexuality.
Dennis: It does.
There is one last purpose you talk about. That’s love. Explain what you mean by that. I don’t know that I’d seen that in a list, speaking about the purpose of sex.
Denny: Well, I—yes, I say it’s the expression of love. What we mean by that is—that there are things that are communicated in the conjugal bond that aren’t communicated anywhere else—and that you don’t have to be a poet—but there is a certain union and a certain expression that happens, within the marital bond, that can only happen there. So, that’s the final purpose—is the expression of love.
Dennis: Amen. I may not be a poet, but I’m going to tell you, “I enjoy loving my wife.”
We’ve been married for 41 years, and it is a great privilege. Loving her has never grown stale. It hasn’t grown old with the years. It, frankly, gets sweeter and sweeter with each passing year.
And I’m glad you pointed it out earlier, Denny—being a sacrificial leader of your wife—especially to the men. They need to hear that today. They need to give up their lives for their wives. There isn’t a place probably more sacred than the bedroom as a place for a man to do that—denying himself on behalf of his wife.
Bob: You know, I think we live in a culture, Dennis, where we don’t get that message often enough. The culture is screaming at us to go in different directions. It panders to our own selfishness in this area of human sexuality.
That’s why we need to have our minds renewed—to have our brains washed with the Word of God. Denny, you’ve done that in your book, What is the Meaning of Sex?—which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
I’d encourage our listeners—go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get more information about how you can get a copy of Denny’s book. You can order online, again, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Just click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” The information is available right there.
If you’d like information about The Art of Marriage—we’ve talked about that video series today—you’ll find that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com as well. Again, click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” to get the information you are looking for.
Let me also mention that all three of us are going to be in Nashville for the national conference being hosted by the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention—a conference dealing with homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the church, and how we understand these issues.
It’s October 27-29th. Al Mohler is going to be speaking. David Platt is going to be there, speaking. Dennis, you’re speaking. Denny, you’re speaking. Folks can get more information about this national conference when they go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the “GO DEEPER” button, and the link is available right there. You can register for that conference.
Of course, I mentioned Al Mohler. He’s going to be joining us, this weekend, at the I Still Do™ event in Portland. It’s coming up on Saturday. We still have seats available for our listeners in the Portland area who’d like to join us for a one-day celebration of the marriage covenant. Go to IStillDo.com to order tickets.
And those of you who live in the Washington, DC, area, we’ll be seeing you in a few weeks—October 4th—at the Verizon Center. That event is being simulcast, all around the country and around the world. You can get more information, again, at IStillDo.com.
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I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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