I dare say that not too many sermons have been preached about the fact that the Prodigal Son spent his money on sex (read the whole story in Luke 15:11-32). The brother’s accusation that he has used the entire inheritance to have intercourse with prostitutes wasn’t contended by his father. The lesson for us isn’t just the young man’s fornication, but what led up to it. He could have approached his father and said, “Dad, I’m burning up. I need a wife. Can I have my inheritance now to buy a house, because as a hungry man can think only of food, I’m thinking about the marital bed?” His father was agreeable to giving him his inheritance and letting him travel the world, so more than likely he would have given him his inheritance so that he could obey His Creator’s command to be fruitful and multiply.
Instead, the Prodigal took his money and went to a “far” country. That word “far” is the key to unlocking what was going on in the heart of this young man, who was desperately feeling the itch and wanted to scratch. In a far country he would be away from his godly dad. In a far country he could visit prostitutes without looking over his shoulder and being discovered by him in his sin. In a far country he could indulge in everything his sinful heart craved, things upon which his godly father would obviously frown.
God made sex. He made male and female like a nut and bolt for each other, so that they could physically come together and with great pleasure, reproduce after their own kind. How kind of Him. But more than that, He made the female desirable in the eyes of the male. Just looking at her curves brings the male mind towards pleasure. She can increase his heartbeat in a second, and take his breath away with her beauty. How very kind of God to do such a thing.
But He made sex in that same way He made much of creation. When He created gravity, He gave us the intuitive sense to obey certain rules. Don’t climb up a 100 feet and step into the air because the same gravity that sustains your life by keeping your feet flat on a round earth, will kill you. It will bring you down to earth so quickly that the sudden stop will break every bone in your body. So gravity is good, if you obey the rules. God also made the deep blue ocean with its brightly colored fish, its cycle of evaporation and rain. But fall into it and breath it into your lungs, and it will kill you. The ocean is good, if you obey the rules. The rule of thumb is don’t step off 100 foot cliffs and don’t breath in ocean water. But every day around this world people fall to their deaths and other people drown in oceans. Had they obeyed the rules, they would still be alive today. Rules are sensible and they are for our protection.
God has parameters for the wonderful pleasures of sex, and He made it for marriage between a man and a woman. Obey the rules and indulge with His blessing. Disobey and you have His divine frown plus the consequence’s that will eventually come your way.
Sex Inspired Atheism
So what can a sin-loving sinner do when all he can think about is sex? The thought of having a woman takes his breath away with excitement, and yet God is frowning at his lustful thoughts. He knows He’s not happy at lust because he has a God-given conscience. It intuitively tells him that his sexual fantasies are morally wrong. So thoughts of God become unpleasant, and thoughts of a far country become attractive.
The sinner wants to get away from God, and in his mind he has two options. One is atheism. It does more than take him to a far country. It removes God entirely from the equation, and removes what’s left of the restraints of sexual passion. If there is no God, then conscience wasn’t divinely given and there will be no Judgment Day and definitely no Hell. It means that there is no such thing as sin, there’s no lust, and there’s no fornication. How attractive such thoughts are to the average prodigal.
However, it was the father of science (Sir Isaac Newton) who said that atheism is “senseless.” He chose his words well. To be an atheist, you have to remove your sense of sight, of sound, of touch, taste and smell.
An atheist is someone who believes the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything. There is no alternative. Everything was either made by something or it was made by nothing. If you think nothing made the sun, the moon, the stars, birds, flowers, trees, the yearly seasons, the oceans, the fish and a million and one other amazing things, how did it do it when nothing didn’t exist? It is senselessness in the truest sense of the word to deny the initial Cause. Something must have made everything, and to deny such simple common sense is intellectual suicide. It’s to say that buildings don’t need a builder, and that paintings don’t need painters. Yet every building is evidence of a builder and every painting is scientific and undeniable evidence that there was a painter. That’s why the Bible calls the atheist a “fool” (see Psalm 14:1). So atheism is out for the prodigal who wants to hang onto his common sense. A far more attractive alternative is idolatry.
Ah, the oasis of idolatry. It is promised water in a barren desert. It’s the doorway to a far country. It deals once and for all with the frowning rule-making God. “Idolatry” is a belief in your own god. You make him yourself. You can do this either with your hands or with your mind. To make a god with your hands you need either gold, silver, stone or wood, and you can make him small or you can make him large. Most make him small, sometimes with a fat belly, often ugly, and sometimes with multiple arms and legs.
With idolatry anything goes. It’s entirely up to your imagination, because that’s where it comes from—the imagination—the place of imagery. But that brings us back to the frowning Rule-maker that began His Ten Commandments with “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” Even though making idols out of gold, wood, and stone is about as senseless as atheism, there is a form of idolatry that draws humanity into the far country. We shape a god that is not gold, wood, or stone; one who stays in the human imagination.
This god is then idolized. He is spoken of with an inordinate affection—“My god is loving and kind. He doesn’t go around condemning people and damning them in a terrible place called ‘Hell,’” and the reason for his inaction is that he doesn’t exist. He’s a mere figment of the imagination. He never speaks out against abortion, rape, or murder. Nor does he condemn lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, or homosexuality. That’s why he is idolized.
The Two-Word Key to a Successful Marriage
As a husband, I haven’t had to work very hard to make our marriage work. This is because marriage—a huge part of my life though it is, is the trunk of the tree, and that is nourished by the deep root of my walk with Jesus. If the root is healthy the tree will show it. Those who diligently train for the race will find the race itself to be a breeze. A successful marriage should be the natural outworking of your successful walk with the Lord. That’s the key, and it’s summed up in two little words with massive implications—“love God.”
The problem with so many marriages is that there hasn’t been a personal Gethsemane experience. If we are saved we should have agonized over our sin, and then whispered, “Not my will, but yours be done.” You are no longer your own. You belong entirely to God. You’ve presented your body as a living sacrifice. You do everything His way. You treat others as you would like to be treated. This is nothing special because you are a normal biblical Christian, and as a Christian you have learned that if you live after the flesh (for yourself), you will die: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5,6).
The test of whether or not we are living for the flesh is if we can’t get our own way. When we don’t get what we want, we feel “hurt.” That’s when the poison begins to set in. From there we have a sense of rejection. That festers to a self-pity, a resentment, then to anger, to hatred, to depression, and finally to thoughts of suicide or even murder.
But as a Christian, you no longer want to have your own way. God is first, others are second, and you are third. You also know that you have a very real enemy who seeks to destroy you. He does that through sin; and wanting to have your own way—“selfishness” is the open doorway. Satan’s kingdom is the kingdom of self, where you sit on the throne and all others are your servants. But as a Christian you have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. God is on the throne, and you are His servant and therefore the servant of others. Does that sum up your Christian walk? Don’t be too quick to answer, because selfishness is self-deceiving.
Ask a selfish person if he thinks that he is selfish and he will almost certainly say that it’s not a matter of “selfishness,” but rather an issue of having “rights.” Then listen to how many times he uses the word “I” and “me” as he talks about his rights. That’s why we need God’s Word to search out our inner motives. It turns the mirror on us so that we can see our selfishness. It took Nathan to turn the mirror on a selfish King David and bring him to his senses. If you are living for yourself you probably don’t know it, so allow me to be your Nathan for a moment.
You may be familiar with what is commonly called “The Good Samaritan.” I will remind you of the details:
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you’ (Lk. 10:30-35).
Using one or two adjectives, how would you describe the priest and the Levite who saw that dying man and looked the other way? How about “cold-hearted hypocrite”? If you’re a Christian, all around you are “half-dead” people. The Bible says they are “dead” in their trespasses and sins. The enemy has left them mortally wounded, and if they die in their sins they will go to Hell. Tell me, do you pass by on the other side when it comes to evangelism? Do you profess to love God but neglect His command to take the oil and the wine of the gospel to every creature? If so, can you use the words cold-hearted hypocrite on yourself? If you have seen self on the throne I would suggest that you go to Psalm 51 and make David’s prayer your own. Do it for your eternal salvation, do it for the lost, and do it for the future health of your marriage.
It was D.L. Moody who said, “Faith makes all things possible; love makes all things easy.” After Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, He said, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:15-17). Marriage is a foot-washing institution and if you make it your aim to wash your spouse’s feet you will have a happy marriage.
Moving Beyond Embarrassment
Years ago I spoke to a group of about 80 men at a camp on the subject of love, and shared the biblical principle of loving your wife as much as you love yourself. I said, “Here’s how much you are to strive to love your wife—‘Husband, love your wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’ So that means you will strive to love her as much as you understand how much Christ loved the Church, and you won’t understand that until you see your own personal sin.
Jesus loved us while we were full of lust, pride, greed, and selfishness. He loved us when we were worthy of being justly damned in Hell. But His love wasn’t lip-service. He went to the cross to take the full punishment for the sin of the world. He suffered unspeakable agony so that we could be forgiven. That’s how much Christ loved the Church! Men, if you can love your wife that much, she will reward you…sexually.”
My last word made a quiet room even more silent. They couldn’t believe that the visiting speaker had made a reference to sex. After a long five seconds of shock—as the truth of what I had just said sunk in, a wonderfully honest brother yelled “Alllllright!!!!!” and an 80-man chorus of chaotic joy broke loose in that room.
I was once asked to speak at a married couples’ dinner and began by saying that married men place far too much emphasis on sex. Then I said, “Tonight, I am going to speak about the other two percent.” Everyone laughed, but the men knew that my exaggeration wasn’t far off.
Again, embarrassing though it is, God made our first parents naked and commanded them to have sex. Thankfully, they did as they were told and we are here as a result. Some not-so-excited Christians may say that the command was given to Adam and Eve before the Fall, and now things are different. But God gave the same command to Noah and to Jacob (Genesis 8:17, 9:1, 35:11). So keep multiplying with joy—because it’s God’s will to fill this whole earth with human beings and you get to be a part of that wonderful commission.