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Immoral TOHU wa BOHU

• Greg Boyd

TOHU wa BOHU is the term the Old Testaments writers used to describe the formless, empty and chaotic world before creation. In this sermon, Greg talks about how sexual immorality is outside of God’s plan for creation, and it leads us back to TOHU wa BOHU.

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We’re back to Colossians! As we see in Colossians 3, we’ve just finished reading about our identity in Christ, and Paul now turns to ask the Christians in Colossae to now live out that identity. He starts by saying that they should put to death our earthly nature. He cites sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. Paul understood that sexual immorality was, in essence, greed because greed is simply craving more than the natural boundary. That is, it’s greedy to eat more than you need, greedy to buy more than you need, and greedy to have sex outside of the boundaries God put on it.

God puts boundaries on things to help them perform their function. In the beginning, the earth was formless and void (TOHU wa BOHU). This was a chaotic and negative scene. In the ancient world, it was the type of land that was desolate and could not have order. God steps in and creates order. He separates the water from the land and the light from the dark. God is all about setting up boundaries so that the world did not fall back into TOHU wa BOHU.

The flood narrative shows this. When the world was so corrupt that angels were living with the humans after giving up their authority, God allows the water to once again consume the world. He stops the boundary of holding chaos at bay, and we see that the flood enveloped the chaos of the world because the flood represented TOHU wa BOHU. When the boundaries are over-stepped, chaos begins to seep in and corrupt the world. The world becomes more TOHU wa BOHU as we do less and less of the natural boundaries that God set up.

God is not a kill-joy. He put boundaries on sex so that it could be enjoyed and perform its natural function. He wanted to keep corruption and chaos out of the bedroom. It is anything but arbitrary. We have an impulse, however, to overstep this boundary. In this culture, we are conditioned to want and have sex with whomever and whenever we want, and this is a massive assault on God’s design.

Sex, in this culture, does not say that it is only for marriage. In fact, sex is a tool for marketers and advertising. But this is only part of a deeper cultural understanding. In this culture of individualism and consumerism, we get what we want when we want it. We can’t get away from this draw either. Whether it’s TV, magazines, advertising, or simply the way people around us live lives, we are bombarded by sexual images.

We are made in a way that we commit to people through our biology when we have sex. It’s not merely a choice. There are three main neurochemicals that are involved with sex: Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Vasopressin. Dopamine is a gender-neutral feel-good chemical. Oxytocin and Vasopressin are the chemicals in males and females that allow us to bond to others. When we have sex, Dopamine and Oxytocin/Vasopressin are released. This is a good thing when we are having sex with a spouse who we are supposed to bond with. But when we have sex with people outside of marriage, we are bonding and tearing ourselves from that person when we break up. And when that happens, our body begins to have a harder and harder time bonding to new people through sex. It’s TOHU wa BOHU on all of us.

God designed sex inside of marriage, and for some very good reasons. He wanted to keep TOHU wa BOHU out of the bedroom. He wanted sex to be between only two people so that those people could bond in the way that marriage intended. He didn’t want the ill effects of STD’s and porn to infiltrate this world. This is why Paul, in Colossians, wanted us to die to this old earthly way of doing things. Now that we are in Christ, we shouldn’t act in ways that bring about TOHU wa BOHU.

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Topics: Marriage, Relationships, Sexuality

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Focus Scripture:

  • Colossians 3:4-10

    When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

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13 thoughts on “Immoral TOHU wa BOHU

  1. Lori says:

    Greg mentioned more Q&A that we would be able to find after this message. Where would I look for those?

  2. Jill says:

    Thank you for this message! I’m sure it’s mind boggling for anyone who struggled with porn addiction back in the 70’s or 80’s, to see how prevalent it has become. The statistics are scary, and our societies way of making it all seem normal is more scary. This is a much welcomed and timeless message that I’ll put on a DVD for my kids to watch when they get older.

  3. I wish that I had this information when I was in high school. We had a sex education class in the Methodist Church I attended that taught us that light petting (anything done above the waist) was okay, and heavy petting (below the waist stuff) was a no no. We were never taught purity, the importance of sex inside the marriage etc. I was promiscuous starting at age 17 and it was a very sad time.

    We have been blessed to be in a fellowship where purity is highly valued and inspired among our young people. My children have been blessed by this. they don’t see abstinence as being prudish, but rather wise and nurturing.

    This was a great talk and I hope to share this with some young people who are straying off the path of purity. I want to get that book you talked about–so great that you are willing to talk about a non-Christian book because that is what will win over those who are not followers of Jesus.

    thanks so much. what a blessing. I am a pod-rishioner from Fayetteville Arkansas.

  4. Tim says:

    I am 30+ years old. As someone who has been addicted to pornography since I was 16 years old, I thirst for these types of messages. I have experienced the “tape losing its stickiness” personally and I have only been a porn user and have only had physical sexual encounters with 3 people in my whole life (1 being my wife) and had only had intercourse with my wife. Thats how powerfully destructive pornography is! It is a drug.

    It has truly been “TOHU wa BOHU” to our marriage and my life. Thank God my wife is a humble God fearing women who, while having HUGE struggles with my struggles, overall been able to see me as someone who is sick and in need of healing.

    God has brought me lots of healing, through counseling and different books, but I need so much more! I need stickiness back on my tape and to be honest in my current state, I have huge struggles with believing I’m not permanently damaged….. Thank you Pastor Greg for the hope in your message that in Christ we are a new creation and no damage is permanent in Him!

    Also, thank you for sharing the book in your presentation, I have a scientific evidence based mind and those kind of books and materials really speak my language!

  5. Andrew Langbehn says:

    Lori–they are in the audio only file at the end 🙂

  6. Lori says:

    Thank you! He answered those questions very graciously.

  7. Robyn Hannah says:

    An interesting description of chaos resulting when boundaries are removed. I started to link these ideas to the second law of thermodynamics which I think says that in an unbounded system, entropy (chaos) will always increase. At least that was my geek mind thinking. Maybe science has been thinking God’s thoughts for a long time.

  8. Kevin says:

    Hey I want a tee-shirt that reads:


  9. Kevin says:

    Porn has always had me hooked. From my first playboy to hustler then to the unholy miracle of actual moving images with the creation of the video cassette recorder. When the internet took off, the floodgates were indeed open and i would immerse myself with it despite the viruses i would get in my computer and the guilt i felt. I would become completely saturated with it and felt more in bondage than ever before. God gave me many ‘restarts’ and tools i could use to stay clean. I was never wired for marriage either! When i could be honest with myself i realized that the truth for me was that taking on a woman would only be to gratify my lustful desires. Perhaps it was all the brain chemicals Greg described but the only choice i was left with was celibacy. My first breakthrough was after reading a book called the bondage breaker by Neil Anderson and one other on the same subject after which i remained sexually pure, meaning no release whatsoever, for nine whole months. There were many failures since then, indulging for long periods of time, many months even and then another ‘re-dedication’. I did learn the enemies devices along the way and today i seldom give in; when i do i feel it is from boredom and flat out rebellion. My church had a men’s group for a while but the pastor shut it down and changed the format of the group but i do have a few guys i can call on and in writing this i see where starting another group should be a priority. Anyone here needing some “tips” on beating this thing, feel free to contact me at bigfishsalesonline@gmail.com or PM me on facebook account Kevin Sandidge. i would be humbled to be of service.

    God is Large and in Charge!

  10. Tracy says:

    The sermon touched on the “cruel” desires that can often result from the law of diminishing returns. May I add to this, just in case anyone reading this has never thought through how individual porn consumption branches out to create demand for further harm to others? Porn is, mostly (who knows what else is buried out in the world), fantasized violence against females—children, teens, and women. So, porn exploits human sexuality and dignity even beyond that of individual consumer. The progression moves from the individual porn user being unable to bond, to their demand for porn fueling the exploitation of those “making” the porn; to those users willing to pay to physically experience novel acts. Those willing to pay for sex are purchasing humans as a product, or as one researcher quoted a purchaser as saying “it’s like renting a body part ” –the objectification and dehumanization of those recipients of the deviant acts. So, porn consumption ripples out to fuel the demand for prostitutED (yes, emphasized as a passive verb, not a noun) girls, women and even boys—sexually trafficked humans worldwide. SO, in anticipation of upcoming Bonhoeffer sermons, gaining control of individual porn addictions can actually contribute not only to one’s own despair, but help “drive a spoke into the wheel [of the violent sexual exploitation of others] itself.”

  11. Loree says:

    I can’t find the audio only file at the end with the questions. At the end of where?

  12. Kathleen says:

    FYI- Dr. Joe McIlhaney is a Christian and a long-time promoter of abstinence and sexual purity. Bravo to him for his continued efforts.
    Thanks Ps. for the insights into a potential minefield issue that you have navigated wonderfully and invited us to join you on the other side!

  13. caucazhin says:

    ” all ancient & near east thinking ” also understood that homosexuality is a complete ” PERVERSION ” of human sexuality….
    I love how Greg selectively goes through the bible like a cafeteria picking and choosing what he likes and what he think the verses say to suit the golden calf of theology hes built……
    U R going to be held accountable some day dear Greg

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