Leslie Basham: Divine limits around our sexuality are there for our own benefit. Here’s Dannah Gresh.
Dannah Gresh: God is not a killjoy. His boundaries are not to withhold something from us. They’re first and foremost so that we are honoring and glorifying Him with our lives, but He has also taken our pleasure into account with those boundaries.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for April 4, 2019.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re talking about a subject on Revive Our Hearts all this week that, I’m just saying, we don’t talk about it often enough. I’ll take responsibility for that. I don’t know why we haven’t talked about it more because Scripture certainly does.
I’m so thankful for Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh who are joining me all this week to bring some of this subject of sex and sexuality to the light. Scripture talks about it. God cares about it. It has a lot to do with the gospel and the redemption story, much more than most of us realize.
It’s a message that speaks hope and beauty and restoration and redemption into the lives of people in our world today who are so broken, so confused. We all know those people, and a lot of us are those people—whether married or single.
After we finished the last program, Dannah, you looked at Juli, and . . . If you missed that, go back to ReviveOurHearts.com, yesterday’s program, and listen to it. But Dannah, you looked at Juli, and you said, “That was brave radio.”
Dannah: Brave radio. Right. And the sad thing is we’re not telling our stories when we need to so desperately. I wish it wasn’t brave, but what you shared yesterday is the story so many women are struggling with. I think as they hear it, their own healing is going to unfold.
Nancy: You’ve been open in sharing your story, too. In your first book, And the Bride Wore White, you talk about your journey as a teenage girl, sinning sexually, and how it was many years into your marriage before you started to really get free from the lies you had believed.
Dannah: Almost ten years between when I first sinned sexually and I finally told someone. And, really, that was I think the starting point for my healing because I was just enmeshed in lies. One of them being: Nobody needs to know about this. I can heal. I can heal. I can fix it. I’ll get in the Bible. I’ll read the Bible. I’ll confess again. I mean, I hadn’t been sinning sexually for years, and I was still confessing it. I just didn’t feel like anybody needed to know about that.
Nancy: And in the meantime, your marriage was not all that it could have been and that would have glorified God. As we’ve talked about it, I think you look back with regret that you didn’t get to that place sooner.
Dannah: I think that’s one reason why I’m so free about talking about this subject. I want women who’ve known the pain I’ve known to maybe learn through my testimony and life, so they don’t have to learn it on the hot pavement of life. That’s a hard way to go.
Listen to this program today. Hear the lies that we’ve believed, the lies we’ve witnessed other women believe. And let us start you on your journey to freedom.
Nancy: And, Juli, you’ve done such a great job in your latest book, Rethinking Sexuality, of unpacking some of those lies that women—and men, for that matter—believe about sex and sexuality. Some of those lies are deeply imbedded in our thinking. They’re imbedded within our culture.
And so, thank you, first, for writing this book. Thank you for being here at Revive Our Hearts to talk about it.
Juli Slattery: Thanks for having me and for you two women inviting a brave conversation. That’s a courageous step, and it’s a joy just together to seek the Lord and to apply His Word to this very vulnerable and sensitive issue.
Nancy: Well Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And, of course, ultimately, the truth is Jesus.
Nancy: He is the Truth. He’s the one who sets us free. But the implication there is that, if you’re believing lies, you’re not going to be free. You’re going to be in bondage.
I’m just envisioning, as we’ve had this conversation this week, the Holy Spirit, the Truth, Jesus, moving into people’s hearts and homes and vans and cubicles (wherever they listen to this podcast or their broadcast) with a great big key of truth setting prisoners free.
I think there are far more women—our target audience—young, old, married, single, who are in chains who don’t have to be. And maybe nobody else knows, but they know their marriage physical relationship is not what . . . They’re not enjoying it; they’re not flourishing.
They know that, as a single or a married woman, they’re struggling with sexual addictions, with memories, with past abuse, with ways they’ve been sinned against, ways they’ve sinned against the Lord and others, and they’re just not free.
I have a very close friend who, for the last couple of years, has been walking through a brave but really hard journey to get set free from lies that she has believed about sexuality from the time she was a little girl, raised by parents who had no clues about God’s ways. There was nothing of Christ in that.
There was a lot of abuse. There was a lot of wrong thinking. And then as a Christian young woman, experiencing adult abuse sexually—things that are horrific and should never, ever have happened to a little girl or to a young woman.
And just in the last couple of years she has started to walk into the light, to be courageous enough to raise her hand and say, “I need help. I need Jesus.”
Dannah: Oh, that’s so great. That’s so brave.
Nancy: It’s a hard journey. But with the help of others and the help, above all, of the Lord and His Word, but also a wise biblical counselor and close friends, she is confronting those lies in the face and saying . . .
Dannah: Can you see a difference in her?
Nancy: Oh, my goodness! It’s a hard journey. It’s messy.
Juli: Yes, it is.
Nancy: If we’re going to walk through our own healing or with others into rejecting those lies and getting set free by the truth, we’ve got to be willing to roll up our sleeves.
Dannah: And that’s why it’s brave.
Nancy: It’s brave.
Juli: I’m glad you said it’s messy, because I think that one of the lies we believe is: When I come to Christ, Jesus is going to clean all this up, and I don’t have to deal with it anymore. And the truth is that walking toward redemption, in every area, including sexuality, is a long journey and a messy journey.
Nancy: It’s an ongoing journey because we come to different seasons of our lives and . . . I married older, and having come from a really sweet background, being saturated in the Word. But what did it mean for me as a fifty-seven-year old young bride to receive and enjoy God’s good gift of intimacy at a season of life when a lot of people would say, “That’s not a season to be enjoying intimacy.”
Dannah: And that’s a lie that many older women are believing.
Nancy: That is a lie. It doesn’t mean there aren’t physiological challenges.
Dannah: It may change with age. The gift may look different with age. But we’re still called by Scripture, as long as we’re physically able, to enter into that intimacy and that joy.
Nancy: We talk a lot about lies on this program because I’ve written a book called Lies Women Believe.” Dannah, we wrote a book together called Lies Young Women Believe. And now you’ve written a book called Lies Girls Believe.
Dannah: Oh, yes.
Nancy: But when we went back a couple of years ago to update and revise Lies Women Believe, one of the things we knew we needed to do was add a chapter—I can’t believe there wasn’t this chapter in the original book: Lies women believe about sexuality. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t on my radar when I wrote that book almost twenty years ago now.
So, Dannah, you came alongside of me and authored that chapter for the Lies Women Believe book.
Dannah: Yes. That was really so fun and so meaningful. Just today I have the same sense as I did when I was writing that. Just the sense of seeing you, the listener, right there, in your car, at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee, as you have a eureka moment with God that begins to unfold freedom you might not have even believed you needed in your life.
Nancy: And so, Juli, you know we always want to go back to the Word because that’s where we find the anchor, the mooring, the foundation, the pillar of truth. And, really, those lies we believe about everything, including our sexuality, began back in Genesis chapter 3 in the garden with an enemy.
Nancy: An enemy of God who, instead of just targeting God, he targeted the woman and the man and their marriage and told them some things that weren’t true that Eve believed.
Juli: Yes. And you know, Nancy, whenever a woman like your friend would ask me, “I’ve got all this sexual brokenness, where do I even start?” The two things I tell her are the two things that you described in your friend’s life.
First of all, you need to tell another person. Bring it into the light.
And the second thing is you need to be identifying lies. The reason why is because that’s Satan’s calling card. Jesus said he’s the father of lies. He can’t speak the truth. And we see that his first interaction with humanity was all lies.
There were three prominent lies that he told Eve, in just a quick conversation, that I think play out today in how we understand sexuality today.
Dannah: What are they?
Juli: So the first lie he said: “Did God really say? Did God really tell you that you couldn’t eat from this tree?” And we hear that all the time: “Did God really say that you shouldn’t sleep with somebody before you got married? I mean, that’s kind of old-fashioned. Did God really say that marriage should be between a man and a woman? Let’s look at that in a different light now.”
Dannah: Well, yes, and the underlying belief is that the Bible is outdated when, in fact, it was never in style.
Juli: Yes. Exactly. “You heard God wrong somehow.”
Juli: Or it’s, “You heard God wrong somehow, and we’ve been interpreting Him wrong.”
And so it gives doubt in the authority of God. I think even when you look at the idea that the tree that the whole conversation was around was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Who defines right and wrong? So the core of that lie, the doubt is: You can define it.
Nancy: You can define it.
Juli: Yes. “It’s up to you. Search your heart. What’s true for you?”
Nancy: Which is really saying, “You can be god. You can be your own god.”
Nancy: You don’t need God.
Juli: So a lot of the sexual confusion in our world, and even in our church today, begins with that lie.
And then Satan moves on to the second lie, which is to doubt the consequences of sin. “Surely you won’t die if you eat from the tree.”
Dannah: “Are you sure?”
Dannah: “Are you sure that’s what’s going to happen? It won’t happen to you.”
I hear that in teenagers and college-age women all the time. “I know all my friends have STDs, but it can’t happen to me.” There’s this immunity that we have to the consequences of sin.
Juli: Yes. And it’s not just young people. I’ve met with married women who, in their heart of hearts, begin to believe, “God knows I’m dissatisfied in my marriage. And if I sleep with this other guy from church, who, I read the Bible with, and we pray together. God’s going to bless that.”
That is not biblical.
Dannah: It’s playing with fire.
Juli: And you’ve been deceived. There are consequences. Solomon talked about our sexual behavior and said, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not get burned?”
Nancy: I think another consequence that so few younger people are thinking about is, “How will this impact my future marriage to whomever?”
There are so many sexual issues, as you ladies know, in marriage that go back to prior to marriage where there was not believing the truth about sexuality and that created trust issues, inability to be intimate, or to enjoy the good gift of sex within marriage. And so many times, what’s required is going back and dealing with lies that were believed before you even knew the person you’re married to now.
Dannah: Bonding occurs between two partners who have sex. The Bible says it over and over, “The two will become one flesh.”
Nancy: It’s glue.
Dannah: It’s glue. Sex is a glue. The apostle Paul even writes about that in terms of, “Don’t you know that even when you have sex with a prostitute, that statement is true: ‘The two will become one flesh’”?
And I think, physiologically, even in the last decade or so, Juli, we’ve come to understand more the neurochemistry of sex and how it is a physiologically gluing together of two human minds to one person.
One of the consequences of sex that we are just discounting is that we believe we can have sex with someone and it’s not going to mean anything. But your body makes a promise, whether you make it or not.
Juli: Yes. And I think the ultimate consequence of sin . . . Yes, we can talk about the STDs. We can talk about pregnancies out-of-wedlock. We can talk about the impact on marriage. And on and on and on. But the ultimate consequence of sin that Satan wants us to forget about is that our sexual sin will separate us from God.
Nancy: Any sin does.
Juli: Yes, including our sexual sin. But people believe that, “I can worship the Lord and have this great relationship with Him, and then look at pornography on the side or nurture a fantasy about somebody I’m not married to on the side, and it’s not going to impact my relationship with the Lord.”
Nancy: That was Satan’s goal all along—to separate us from God, from intimacy with Him, which is what we were made for.
Dannah: And even as you say that, that convicts my own heart because I think there’s something in my head, where the Lord is even dealing with me right now as we’re sitting here, of, “Do you really understand that that’s the biggest consequence?”
Do you really understand that even though the others might seem more tangible, might seem more painful even, because there’s emotional aftermath and even sometimes, for some women, physical aftermath. They may be listening to this radio program with the physical aftermath of their sexual sin. But the biggest one is how it impacted our relationship with Christ.
Juli: Yes. And the enemy doesn’t want you to recognize that because the great news is: That’s why Jesus died, to repair that breach, to give us a route back to intimacy. And if you never know that intimacy’s been broken, you’ll never seek to restore it.
So what’s the third lie that Eve heard in the garden?
Juli: The third lie was really a statement that Satan made, essentially saying, “God wants to keep you from something good. He’s trying to keep you from greater wisdom and from great knowledge.”
Nancy: He’s withholding something from you.
Juli: Yes. God is not good.
Nancy: That’s such a fundamental lie.
Juli: It is.
Nancy: It affects every area of our lives.
Juli: Yes. But with sexuality . . . You might be here right now, and you feel like you’re at a crossroad where, “Either I embrace God and this miserable existence that says I can’t experience any sexual pleasure. I’m single, and I can’t do anything with my desire.” Or maybe you struggle with same-sex attraction or sexual addiction. “I can’t get what I want because God is not good. Or I have to abandon God and follow my own desires or recreate God as a deity that doesn’t have moral structure to Him. One that just approves of everything I do.”
This is a really fundamental lie that, “God’s law, His design for sexuality is old-fashioned. It’s not relative today. It’s not for your thriving.”
Dannah: You know, that’s one of the three lies I identified in my heart when my sexual healing began. I believed that God was withholding something good from me, and that’s why I ultimately made the choice to sin sexually as a teenager. Now, I would never have verbalized it that way as a fifteen-year-old girl. I think about that. I was a baby. I was fifteen. But looking back, I really believed that.
I’m very cerebral sometimes. I need understanding about that. And one of the things I’ve researched in the past twenty years is how our sexual pleasure is actually increased by sexual restraint and self-discipline.
There’s beautiful research from some very liberal secular sources that tell us that some of the most sexually satisfied women are those who waited until marriage and have one lifetime mutually monogamous partnership—I call that marriage, but the secular research calls it that.
Men over the course of their lifetime report the highest number of sexual partners report the lowest sexual satisfaction. (This is out of Indiana University.) And men who report the lowest number of sexual partners in their life report the highest level of sexual pleasure.
God is not a killjoy. His boundaries are not to withhold something from us. They’re first and foremost so that we are honoring and glorifying Him with our lives, but He has also taken our pleasure into account with those boundaries.
Juli: He absolutely has in our ultimate fulfillment. I think there are so many men and women who don’t, in their heart of hearts, believe that. They believe that, “I have to honor God and say ‘no’ to everything that’s good.”
Nancy: Or enjoyable.
Nancy: When what God is really after, is that, when we pursue Him, as we honor Him, as we worship Him, as we surrender ourselves to Him, He’s wanting to give us the utmost happiness and pleasure and satisfaction, knowing that it can’t be found anywhere other than in right relationship with Him.
Dannah: That’s right.
Nancy: So we’re really cheering for our own flourishing and joy when we say “yes” to God’s way and God’s standards and God’s plan for sexuality.
Juli: Yes. And let’s be clear that what Scripture says is true: “Sin is pleasurable for a season.” And in the short-term, giving in to whatever desires you have, may bring more pleasure and more happiness. But God is interested not only in our pleasures here on earth. He’s preparing us for eternity. And He’s making us for eternity. Sometimes I think we lose sight of that, that God’s got a much bigger picture in what He’s doing in our lives than just what we experience today.
Dannah: Well, along those lines, I get letters from single women all the time—they’re young adult single women—and many of them contain this lie. While I have Dr. Juli at the table, I would like to hear the answer so that I start answering them really well. The essence is: “I need a sexual outlet. I am a sexual being. I was created to be sexual. But I’m single. So, Dannah, tell me how far I can color outside the lines. What is my sexual outlet?”
Juli: Yes. That’s a really good question.
I think part of the reason that women are asking that question is because they see sexual desire as an end and of itself. In other words, “I have this thing I have to have something to do with.” Instead of seeing it as a metaphor for something much more profound.
I think, on some level, even in the Christian culture, we’ve encouraged that thinking by making marriage the hallmark of maturity.
Nancy: And the ultimate prize.
Juli: Yes. Restrain yourself until marriage.
Dannah: And your prize for purity is: Obey God now. Get the guy later.
Juli: Yes. And then you can have wonderful sex.
The truth is, in most people’s lives, it’s not about restraining yourself until you get married and then all of a sudden all your sexual pleasures are expressed and met. In some cases, you don’t get married at all. But many more cases, there’s marriage and there’s sexual pleasure, but there’s a lot of brokenness with it, and a lack of fulfillment with it.
Dannah: And working through barriers and working through sexual healing so that you can enter into the pleasure God intended for you.
Juli: Exactly. So when we see marriage as a metaphor . . . when I say to a single woman, “Marriage is the metaphor for the answer to your loneliness or your desire, but it’s not the answer itself.” If that makes sense.
Juli: Then it’s a totally different picture because that woman is saying, “I have desires. I’m not married. I have nowhere to go with them,” because she’s thinking that marriage is the end result, “It’s what I’m aiming for.”
Whereas, a broader picture of this is: “My sexual desire is telling me something about my heart, that I’m longing for something.” I’ll even tell you a story that represents this. Sexual desire is not just a physical thing.
There’s a woman I was talking to who’d come out of a very broken background and was sleeping around quite a bit. She came to Christ—a young Christian—and said to me, “Why can’t I stop sleeping with guys? I walk into work, and I see this guy, and the first thing I think about is: I want to have sex with that person.”
And I began asking her questions. I said, “Do you feel satisfied after you have sex with a coworker?”
And she said, “No.”
And I said, “Do you think it’s really sex that you’re seeking?”
And she said, “No!”
And we began to dig deeper about her longing for intimacy, for connection, and, really, for her, it was feeling loved, like somebody wants me, even for a moment.
And if we dig deeper into why we have sexual desire and what our physical desires are even telling us about the longing of our heart, I think we see the paths that God gives us that are far more satisfying.
A lot of single women that are burdened with sexual desire, yes, that’s something in their life, but the deeper thing is: Do you have intimate community? Are you sharing your life with people? Are you vulnerable? Even your relationships, do they require healthy physical touch, hugs and sharing meals? There’s so much more to our sexuality than having sex with someone.
When all we think about is just the physical release, we miss the broader perspective of what our sexuality is supposed to be driving us towards.
Nancy: Wow. I know this conversation is so encouraging and helpful and making us think about, for many of us, what we don’t do enough thinking about. For us to see our sexual piece of our lives as being deeply connected to our relationship with the Lord and a means by which, whether married or single, younger or older, we can honor God. We can reflect that metaphor to those around us. And what an opportunity we have, as the people of God today, to be instruments of healing and grace and help for those who are in bondage.
And that person in bondage may be you. And as you’ve been listening today, your heart is crying out, “I want that freedom that Juli and Dannah and Nancy have been talking about, that they are experiencing,” And it’s a journey for each of us, too.
Let me encourage you to read Juli’s book Rethinking Sexuality. It’s not going to answer every question, but it will sure get you on a road to right thinking about what sexuality means, why God created it, and to help you as you think through those questions.
We’d be glad to send you a copy of Juli’s book as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts this week of any amount—whatever the Lord puts on your heart—to help this ministry continue. And when you call us or go online to make your gift, be sure and ask for a copy of Dr. Juli’s book on sexuality.
You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or you can go online to ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know you want to make a gift to Revive Our Hearts.
That gift will help women in this country and around the world experience the freedom that Christ came to bring us—freedom from the lies. It will help us point people to the truth that sets us free. And when you make your gift, be sure and ask for a copy of Dr. Juli’s book, Rethinking Sexuality.
Leslie: What should a wife do when her husband is involved in pornography? Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh will provide solid biblical advice in helping husbands and wives deal with this issue in a way that is thorough, honest, and loving. Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you find satisfaction in God. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.