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Matt Bennett is founder and CEO of Christian Union, a Christian leadership development organization. A native of Houston, Texas, Matt earned B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Cornell University and holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He resides in New York City.
What would you say is the biggest social justice issue of the day? Have you ever thought that the biggest social justice issue of the day is the sexual revolution, which began in the 1960s and continues up to this day? I think it is. The damage that has come from it has been absolutely extraordinary, and I want to tell you about it.
My name is Matt Bennett. I am Founder and CEO of Christian Union. Most of our ministry is to younger folks: students, colleges, a bunch of the most secular universities in the United States, including University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, other schools. And we also work with adults in New York City and also with people across the country through Christian Union Day and Night.
I've been doing a series on six sins of America that I believe America should repent of. Here—I live in New York City—we've had 125,000 cases in New York City alone, and 9-10,000 deaths or something like that. Almost everybody knows somebody who's been affected by it. I have friends who've been sick by it. I haven't had any friends who've died from it, but I've had friends whose relatives have died from it, tragically. So it's really hitting us hard.
And when this comes to a society, or community, or a nation, something like a plague like this, the Christians asks themselves, "Where's my heart?" They examine themselves. They let the Spirit of God examine themselves, and that's what we're doing through these six sins. I believe that as American Christians repent of these sins, then we'll have revival across the United States.
In this series we looked at fear of God and trust in human achievement as something that needed to be addressed. Secondly, self-indulgence. Third, greed. Fourth, violation of the fourth commandment. And now this message is the disaster of the sexual revolution. So this is the fifth of the six major sins in the United States of America, both [of] Christians and non-Christians, in my view.
So we're going to look at, first of all, God's design for human sexuality. And then we'll looking at three areas [where] we kind of go wrong: the mind, what's before our eyes, as well as our actions, and then the takeaways from that. And the benefits of understanding God's design for human sexuality and the disaster of the sexual revolution is that it allows us to avoid incredible problems in our own lives, in our families' lives. It helps us to help other people not to have these problems. It helps curses to be lifted off of people's lives. Also, I think it could possibly bring in revival as we repent of it in large measure, and bring incredible moves of God's Spirit with many coming to faith in Christ and giving praise, honor, and glory to our great God and Savior.
So first of all, there's God's intention. I want to read a couple of verses from Genesis, and you've probably seen these verses before, but it's important just to meditate on them. Just to consider and reflect upon God's beautiful intention for sexuality. So Genesis 2:20-24: "The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam, there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh."
You see a similar passage a couple of verses before in Genesis 1:26-28. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image after our own likeness and let them have dominion over the earth of the sea, over the birds, of the heavens, and the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" So God created man in his own image, in the image of man, he created him. Male and female, He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Incidentally, this is the only creation account from the ancient world where you see male and female created as equal, together, and both equally made in God's image. The creation account we have in Genesis is hands down above anything else you get from any other culture, the Babylonian culture, anything else. This is God's intention for all humankind and here, thousands of years later, we recognize it as amazing, extraordinary, and as beautiful.
So God's intention was for male and female to come together and to enjoy sexual intimacy and to fill the earth and to have an enduring marriage. And Jesus reinforces this intention in Matthew 19. It's important that we hear the words of Jesus himself and God's design for marriage and male and female. Matthew 19:3-9 says, "And the Pharisees came to him and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?'" He answered, "Have you not read? That he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?" And he said, "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate."
And they said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce to send her away?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives. But from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery." This is God's design. Now, it's a longer subject on the issue of divorce. I believe there are some situations where divorce is warranted. Some Christians don't believe that, that's a whole other separate issue. But the vast majority of divorces today are not because of sexual immorality or even verbal or physical abuse. And this is a big problem.
Sex is a beautiful gift, and in the right context, it's wonderful and life-giving, but in the wrong context, it's a disaster. It's been said that a fire in the fireplace warms the home and the heart, but a fire three feet removed in the living room is a disaster and threatens the life of everybody in the building. I think this is an incredible analogy. It's so true. Both are a fire, just three feet difference, and it makes an incredible world of difference. Sexual expression is like that. Unfortunately, in our society, we don't realize that, and suffer all of the problems. So this rebellion against God's design, which has been going on for a millennia—but in the United States it really accelerated in the 60s through the so-called sexual revolution—It's led to an increase level of lust, of fornication, of transgenderism, homosexual acts, adultery, rape, divorce, sex trafficking. I mean so many bad things ... Sexual assault and prostitution, cohabitation, abortion, pornography, which unfortunately has been exported around the world. And all the related diseases, broken families, despair, difficulties and problems. It has been absolutely unbelievably awful.
Take abortion alone through all this, hundreds of thousands of innocents die every year, simply because, the vast majority of these people aren't married, don't want to raise a child that their sexual intimacy has produced. Astonishingly wicked, unbelievably self-centered, and we blithely go along in our society. That is unbelievable. And you have all the other damage that comes from it. It's such an injustice. Pornography exposure, so much research on that. Promiscuity, research, the problems with that. The more promiscuous a person is, the more likely they're going to get divorced when they have divorce.
You look at the children who are the victims of divorce, even when controlling for race, for income, education, far greater levels of poverty, alcoholism, depression, suicide, sexual abuse, drug abuse. It's on and on. I come from a divorced family myself. This is not about putting shame or blaming or whatever else anybody, my parents or anybody, but it is about a society repenting of the damage that we are doing to other people and dishonoring God. It's got to stop. We need a rapid, radical turnaround in our country.
There's a lot of research on these matters. Take the Austin Institute for The Study of the Family and Culture. The leading scholar there is Mark Regnerus, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas. By the way, some years ago when he put out his family structure study that showed that, unsurprisingly, kids do best when raised by their biological mom and dad, I mean he got attacked like crazy, especially for those wanting to say the research that it doesn't matter as long as you have two parents, even if the parents are of the same sex or something like that. Absolutely attacked and vilified even though the research is the research. But this is what it's like in Christian, so-called Christian America today.
Another place for great research is the Institute for Family Studies. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor there at the University is a leading scholar there at the Institute for Family Studies. They also put... you can get their Twitter and you can go to the website, get a lot of research on all of this. So all of the research done on these subjects shows what the Bible shows, that what we need is a society where a man and woman stay together in an enduring marriage is great for it, society, it's great for the kids, it's great for everybody, and sexual expression is focused, limited in that context.
So I'm looking at three sort of areas to keep in mind. First is our minds. It needs to begin in our minds. Matthew 5:28 says, "But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." So it has to start here. Who has not committed the sin? Everyone has, in one way or the other, a certain frequency. The answer isn't to beat yourself up on this or any of these other things. It's just as soon as you repent, the blood of Jesus covers it. It's amazing, incredible the power. But you've got to repent. We've got to repent. I do. Everyone needs to do this. We need to repent and start with our mind, and as soon as it kind of comes in, just stop. I remember some years ago a friend said that his wife said it was okay for him to look as long as he didn't touch. It was like, well that ain't God's way. We got to stop right there and repent of it when it comes into our minds.
A second area to focus on is what we put before our eyes. Job 31:1 says, "I've made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a woman," and we live in a society [where] we've got so many visual images, even the person who wanted to stay away from all this will find themselves in a TV show or a movie where something comes up that they didn't anticipate, and it's a problem. You have that on one end of the spectrum, all the way to pornography the other end of the spectrum, all of which is damaging, and we need to address it and repent of it.
Something that's really bad and really sad is there are even some preachers in good churches who will give stories and illustrations from TV shows they should not be watching. I don't say this to condemn them, if they stumbled and watched something they shouldn't, and who hasn't, just repent of it, but don't use it as a sermon illustration in a positive way, thereby endorsing the watching of something like that. We shouldn't be watching a lot of these programs, it's really bad. Nor should we be quasi-endorsing them from the pulpit. Absolutely wicked. This is again is not to condemn anybody, but all of us have sinned in one way, on one level or another in this. Let's just repent of it, receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and try to do better by His grace.
The third area is our physical actions. I remember some years ago when I was ministering to students at Princeton University every day, one student wanted to meet, and I didn't know him well, he'd just come to a couple of functions. He wanted to meet up, I barely knew his name. So, we met up in the student center, we sit down face to face. First thing out of his mouth—first thing he says, and I still don't know anything about him—he just says, "I have a question for you." And I said, "okay." He says, "is it wrong for me to sleep with my girlfriend?" And I didn't know if he was a Christian or not or anything at this point, and I said, "yes it is." He said, "Good, thank you. I just needed someone to say it." It's astonishing isn't it? That even those wanting to do what's right and honorable before the Lord, they just never get the message of what the Lord's design is this way.
We need to limit our physical expression just to our marriage partner, and this includes things such as phone sex or oral sex or these sorts of things. It's common for me to encounter people, young people in their 20s, mid 20s, who've grown up in a Christian culture, Christian family who don't even know that those things are not permissible. Some even coming into our ministries at our universities who went to a "good church," and Christian families don't know that sex is not permissible between two people of the same sex, even if it's a so called "marriage," which is not a marriage — Marriage is only between a man and a woman. This has to be taught, and we have to know the boundaries that way.
Again, for all who stumble in whatever way, the Lord forgives if we repent, but the Lord can be very severe if we do not repent. I did ... the previous sin was on the violation of the first commandment, which was related to idolatry. You see in the New Testament all the time, whenever sin lists are given, almost always sexual immorality and idolatry are right there together, right there at the beginning of the list. In some ways they kind of go together in some weird spiritual way, but they're a problem, they've got to be pushed out of our lives.
People today are exposed to all sorts of terrible things. People involved in orgies and all sorts of things. Young people today, even from Christian context, not even know that it was wrong. I know that sounds weird to some of you, but this is the world we live in today. But the Lord forgives. The Lord restores. The Lord heals when we repent and turn to Him. So, in bringing this all together, the answer for us of course is turn to the Lord. The Lord is merciful, He's wonderful, He's great. He loves to pass over all of this. He's incredible in what He'll do for us if we turn to Him with our whole hearts, but it's very serious as well. We have to see this thing as serious. You remember the story of John the Baptist, and this is told in Mark 6. Do you remember this? Do remember why he got his head lopped off? It happened because he confronted Herod over the fact that he has taken his brother's wife.
And can you imagine that was all he did? We do a lot worse today. And John the Baptist confronted him and Herod, through the wife's machinations, he had his head cut off. So, you see this is incredibly important that we would say and speak the truth of what the Lord accepts and what He doesn't. This is true for Christians and non-Christians. The only difference is that Christians have said with their hearts that they choose to obey Christ as Lord, but these standards apply to all humanity, and so everyone needs to repent. So, God knows this can be tough for us to succeed in. It's why He sent the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit for his health, for his strengthening, and he's available to us, and so we are to pursue fillings of the Holy Spirit. This happens through repenting of our sins. This happens through regular morning and evening devotionals. It's great. You need probably half an hour or maybe up to an hour and a half every morning and evening on your own with other people, reading the Scriptures, praying, listening to praise music, so that you are strong and you have the power and filling of the Holy Spirit in order to resist these temptations. It makes a big difference in your life, that's for sure.
When I think with the prophets, I think of Jesus, I think of the apostles ... All of them were persecuted because they spoke out for truth. And as you live a life of truth, if you live a life of sexual integrity and call others to that, you will be harassed. You will be called every kind of negative name. That is absolutely the case, and this is what happens in today's society. Didn't happen decades ago, but it does now all the time. But you know what? You are in great company. You are in fantastic company. So they did it to Jesus Christ, they will do it to you and to the prophets and to the apostles and Christians for millennia, but the Lord is with you. He will help you. Don't fear people and what they can do to you ... malign your reputation, speak falsely and negatively of you. Fear the One who can destroy the body and soul in hell. That's the One we should be fearful of. And know that He is with us, He helps us and strengthens us, even when we're attacked in all sorts of awful, terrible ways. I think of some years ago at Harvard, students we minister to there, they were attacked. They brought in a former lesbian to speak on these issues. You can only imagine all the hubbub that came up with all of this and slander and attack and everything else. It's just that - absolutely ridiculous, what is done to the name of Jesus Christ and those who follow. But the students stood firm, praise the Lord's Holy name for this and their integrity. We need a lot more of that in our society. We need many more Christian ministers to speak on these issues openly. It's not the only issue in our society to speak on, but it's a big one. Many places you'll go, and for years they barely touch on this. They're afraid to, and it's to their shame and discredit. We need Christian ministers who will speak openly on these. Not [that] that's all they talk about ... I have one friend who goes to a church, not in New York, but elsewhere. He says, all this pastor talks about are two things: tithing and homosexuality. Now that's not good. There's a lot to talk about in the Bible than that, for goodness sakes.
But that is the extreme bad case. But it can't be simply just forgotten and never talked about. Our people are struggling and they need help, and I found here in New York City, even people going to good churches, people who are in leadership positions. It's not taught to them God's expectations. They stumble and struggle because of that. And they need help and they need strengthening. The guidelines and God's purpose need to be laid out. And then a context of helping people to stay strong. So this is the fifth of messages I believe America's greatest sins. The social injustice of the sexual revolution dishonors God and dishonors other people. I encourage you ... any of these ways, if you've been dishonoring the Lord, please repent of them for your own sake. And also repent on behalf of America that we would experience visitations from God, His Holy Spirit coming over us, life and peace and joy in every way. So may God keep you safe and may He bless you in every way.
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