Leslie Basham: Juli Slattery remembers the time God was giving her a burden, a mission.
Juli Slattery: I just started to cry and be broken for revival around sexuality. I believe that God has a heart for revival in all areas, including sexuality. Revival is when God takes ground back. It’s when He goes on the offensive, reclaiming ground that Satan has had for too long. What would it look like for God to reclaim sexuality on a massive scale?
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for April 8, 2019.
We’re tackling some tough issues all this month on Revive Our Hearts. There are things many of us face on a day-to-day basis, and we need God’s wisdom. Now, today’s topic is for mature ears only, so, parents, be advised. You can always listen later at ReviveOurHearts.com. Nancy?
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When we started this series with Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh last week on “Rethinking Sexuality,” we thought it was going to be a five-day series. And, as it turned out, there’s a lot more depth in this well and a lot more that these women have to offer.
So let me just say, first of all, Dannah and to Juli, thank you so much for the way you’ve thought through these topics on God’s design for sex and why it matters. Thank you for the way you’ve both written about it, the way you both have committed to live with integrity with what you’re teaching to others—not perfectly, but in a journey of growth. I’ve seen that in both of you.
I think what’s so helpful to women is that you share out of your journey. You share areas that it would be easier not to talk about, but you’ve been willing to do that. So I want to say to both of you, as we come back for this sixth day, we’ve said, as we started this, “On the seventh day they rested.” So we’ll end this series today and maybe come back to this topic at another time. But thank you so much for helping us with this subject.
Dannah Gresh: What a pleasure. It’s been just a joy.
Juli: It has. Thank you.
Nancy: I know a lot of our listeners are wanting to say, “Thank you.” I’m sure there’s some things that have been stirred up, and I’m so thankful that you’ve pointed us to Scripture, to Christ. And, Juli, you’ve written this really helpful book, Rethinking Sexuality, which we’re offering to anyone who makes a donation of any amount to this ministry. We want you to have it. That’s part of our partnership with you as you support this ministry, is to make that resource available to you.
Dannah: It’s so good.
Nancy: Visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. That offer is still available.
But I also know we have people listening, and I found myself thinking this way a lot as I read your book, Juli, I have friends of every age, young women and young wives, single women, older women, some in my generation who never felt the freedom to share their struggle, their battle, their past, the ways they’ve been wounded, the ways they’ve sinned.
I’m old enough now to have known women who had an abortion forty, fifty years ago, and have never shared that with anybody, or who were sexually abused as a child or as a young woman, and have never felt the freedom to discuss that with anybody.
I had an experience recently, and maybe this will set the stage for today’s conversation, where I was with several young-adult, single, men and women (we were together, actually, for a couple of days). They’re all single. They’re college age, young-adult age, and most of them were in relationships, and they’re in love. They’re smitten. And so that came up a lot, that subject.
Dannah: Did you just say the word smitten?
Nancy: I said the word smitten. (laughter) They’re in love. These are Christian young people in their, like, early twenties.
As I listened to them, and as Robert and I had the chance to interact with them on Friday, things related to love, sex, and marriage, it became really apparent that these young people, all of them from godly home/church backgrounds, have not thought through sexuality from a biblical perspective.
They weren’t, like, miles off, but they’re far enough off that you realize that they have some hard things ahead of them that you wish you could help them avoid. They’re on the edge of some deep pits and making some choices that we know are really unwise. They’re not listening to counsel of the people who know and love them the most. They’re thinking they know better for themselves. Just several things along this whole line.
I was reading your book, Juli, at the time, and I was thinking, “You know what? God has put Robert and me in those young men and women’s lives, and in lots of other lives, where He wants to use us to be helpful. Sexual discipleship is what you call it. And to say things that maybe their parents would love to say but don’t maybe have the platform or relationship to say.”
Nancy: It just made me so thankful when I got to the last chapters of your book, Rethinking Sexuality. You started dealing with this whole thing, not only of getting healing and help for yourself and moving past the pain, past the shame, moving into the fullness of what God intended for our sexuality, but also then letting God use you as someone who can speak into, to have relationship—so much discipleship in all of our lives takes place in relationship.
Nancy: And you take really seriously this calling to not just be the older people who go, “Shame on these kids. Why do they act this way?” It’s easy to be critics or say, “What’s wrong with them?” But to roll up our sleeves and get in the trenches with these younger and older people who are confused, who are a product of their culture, who have been discipled by the world but not by the Scripture.
How can we really be missional in our relationships with them? That’s kind of what I want to unpack in this conversation because I know both of you do that really well. So, Juli, your life is a testimony to this. You’ve walked through a lot. We’ve shared this in this series, a lot of your own misunderstandings, wrong thinking about sexuality, including early years of your marriage.
Nancy: You’ve seen God bring beauty out of ashes—not perfection. None of us is there yet, but you’ve seen God redeeming. You didn’t just let it stop there. You said, “This is for something. This isn’t just for me. This is for others as well.”
Juli: Yes. A beautiful thing about God’s work is how He redeems all of your pain, even to the point . . . You don’t wish to go through it again, but you’re grateful for even the hardest things you’ve walked through. I’ve heard so many men and women tell stories like that.
Like, “I would never, ever wish sexual abuse on someone, but when I look back at the redemption God has done in my life . . .” Women will say, “He’s redeemed it so beautifully for His glory that I don’t regret it anymore because I see the beauty out of ashes.” And that’s the power of our God.
I think, Nancy, that’s where some of this starts in terms of being missional about God’s design for sexuality. It’s the difference between having a reputation and having a testimony.
There are a lot of Christians who feel like, “People will come to me and ask questions if I present that I’ve got all the answers, and I’ve done this perfectly well.” They won’t come to you and ask questions because they’ll be afraid of being judged.
I know a lot of us have Christian reputations, but a testimony is not what I’ve done well. It’s what God has done through my sin and brokenness.
Dannah: Wow. I love that.
Juli: When you have a testimony like you do, Dannah, people want to share their pain with you because they know you’re real, and they know the power of God is real.
Nancy: And they know that you can understand something of what they’ve experienced.
Nancy: If you just have all the answers and no testimony, they’re going to think, “Well, maybe she’s right about all that, but she’s never been to where I’ve been. She can’t relate.”
Dannah: She’s not approachable.
Juli: Right. So to admit that you still have questions, to admit that you still struggle, to share about some of the things that you’ve walked through and how God’s redeemed those, that invites people to share their pain and to have hope that you’re going to embrace them and not judge them or shut them down.
Juli: I think that’s part of it, a big piece of it. Then another one, you kind of alluded to this, Nancy. You are in relationship with the young people that were sharing with you. I think a lot of times we have this idea that we’re going to teach somebody about biblical sexuality outside of relationship.
Nancy: So come to my seminar.
Juli: Yes. Or even, I just meet a young person, and I see they’re sleeping with their boyfriend, and I want to teach them.
Nancy: Or start to confront them.
Juli: No. You have to build trust, build a relationship. Let them know that you’re a safe place. Listen. Ask questions. Before we ever speak, there’s a lot of that kind of work that we want to be doing.
Nancy: I just want you to repeat that. Listen. Ask questions. And this is good wisdom, not just for friends, but for parents.
Nancy: If you want to be successful at speaking into your kids’ lives—and you may not be the first person they talk to about this. I think parents, wise and godly parents, pray that God will bring other friends into their kids’ lives who have a godly influence.
I’ve said to moms who are frustrated with choices their kids are making, and understandably, “Are you listening? Are you asking questions? Or are you just laying answers on them?”
Dannah: There was a popular New York Times’ best seller years ago called, How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk. I never read the book, but the title just transformed my parenting. I was, like, “Oh.”
When they start to unfold their thoughts and they start to reveal their heart, sometimes the fear in me wants to rise up and correct their thinking as quickly as possible so it doesn’t have life. Right? But I haven’t really gotten to the heart of what they’re thinking if I don’t listen.
Dannah: That’s hard for a mom to do because we are fixers. We want to fix our kids really fast. And that’s not the most effective way.
Nancy: And they may not talk unless you’re asking good questions.
Juli: Yes. And I don’t think it’s just kids. I think we have friends around us.
Nancy: People we work with.
Juli: Yes. A big thing that I think helped me was recognizing how often I go into these conversations with an agenda—with my kids or with other people. I have to convince them that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I have to convince them that homosexuality is outside of God’s design for sexuality.
You know, God never gave me that agenda. I picked it up myself. He told me to go into the world and to share about who He is, to share about what He taught, to have an impact on people’s lives so that they will want to follow Him. Sometimes that requires speaking truth and teaching and correcting wrong thinking, but a lot of times that requires loving and listening and waiting for the right time to speak.
I think a lot of times on these topics, we speak way too soon.
Juli: I think it is appropriate in long-term relationships, like parenting, to actually be able to listen to a kid struggle through some of these things without giving the answer in that moment, without saying, “Well, let me fix all the thinking, and let me tell you what’s right.” But just to affirm the place of tension.
Dannah: I had one child who was always seeking out, “What do you think?” He wanted facts. He wanted answers. He was very cerebral. “Tell me the answer.” And he was also very compliant.
But I had another child who was, “Oh yeah? You’re going to tell me how it is? I’m going to find another way.” And I learned very quickly that with her my parenting had to be resting in the tension of, “What do you think?” And it would kill me sometimes because I knew what she thought wasn’t biblical or truthful or right. But if I just planted it and threw it at her and stuffed it down her throat, her personality was going to be such that she didn’t receive it well.
Dannah: And so, what I hear you saying is that, it’s not that we compromise truth, but that relational love is a part of planting that truth.
Juli: Yes. And you know your kids know what you believe. Mine know what I believe. There are times where I need to speak it out loud again. But there are a lot more times, particularly as they are getting older, that I need to ask them, “What do you think?” And listen. “How did you come to that conclusion?”
Nancy: Let them hear themselves.
Juli: Yes. I think that’s a lot more effective. And, again, it’s not just in parenting. But when you ask questions, you also are showing somebody that you are willing to enter into their pain and enter into their mess.
Dannah: That you care.
Juli: Yes. When you make statements, you’re shutting them down. Like, “Let me put a nice little bow on this big thing you just told me: Your marriage is breaking apart. You can’t stop looking at porn. Let me give you a Bible verse so that I can go away and not have to sit with you in this.”
Juli: But when you ask questions, when you listen, when you’re just with someone—wow. That speaks volumes.
Nancy: I’m sitting as we’re having this conversation. We’re talking about kids and grandkids and friends, but also how much damage have some of us done online, social media, and how much damage have Christians done to the cause by being quick to slam and to shame people that are making choices and believing things that we know are not consistent with Scripture, but we’ve not evidenced any compassion. We’re just quick to say, “This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong. And don’t you get this?”
We’re kind of screaming, and, really, nobody’s listening—of the people we’re trying to impact. Sometimes I want to say, “Do you really care that you influence anybody? Or are you just trying to yell?” I don’t want to be guilty of the same thing myself, but to realize, that’s not effective.
We know that God’s way, God’s design is good. It’s for human flourishing. And so we want people to be set free from their pain, from their shame, from their guilt, but first they have to know that we really care, that we’re listening, and we’re not just jamming answers down their throat that they’re not in a frame of mind yet to receive.
Juli: Yes. How often do we see Jesus repeating Himself in His encounters with people? It’s very rarely. Every interaction is different. Sometimes He asks a question. Sometimes He brings up a topic that the other person doesn’t want to talk about. Sometimes He simply says, “Your faith has made you well. You’re forgiven.” Sometimes He confronted sin. And He was wise to know that every interaction, every spiritual need, every person is coming from a different perspective and advantage point.
To effectively minister, we have to have that same wisdom. Our interactions with people should not be, “Well first you say this. And then you tell them this. And then you show them this Bible verse.” It’s the work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to: “How do I express the love of Christ? How, when it’s time, do I know that I need to confront in love?”
Dannah: You’re saying it takes wisdom. It’s my husband’s soap box, the way that we interact on social media as Christians. He’s, like, “How many people are we driving away from Christ, from truth, from faith because we have to get our opinion heard?” So don’t you think that another ingredient in this tension of truth in relationship is humility?
Juli: I think that’s a huge one. Actually, in Rethinking Sexuality, you know this, Dannah. I wrote a whole chapter on that because humility is this character trait that Jesus embodied. We’re told that in Philippians chapter 2. That laid the groundwork for Him to have the discernment to know when to speak truth and how to express love. We see that Jesus was humble before the Father. He didn’t take up an agenda that the Father hadn’t given Him. He wasn’t there to do His own work.
A lot of times, I would say even on social media, as much as you might want to spiritualize it, you’re there to do your own work, to air your own opinion, to engage in a battle.
Dannah: To win, to be right.
Nancy: Yes. And also, if we’re proud rather than humble, we’re not going to be free to share out of our own failures and our own journey, which is part of what those we’re trying to influence need to hear. They need to know we’re broken people.
And how many parents, I think, at the right time and in the right way, could gain a lot of ground just by being honest with their kids about their own failures? The parents are afraid, “I don’t want them to go there.” But you never told your kids, “We blew it. And here’s some of the consequences we’ve experienced, but here’s how God’s grace is redeeming my life.” They need to hear that.
Dannah: Yes. I get on my soap box because I hear from mothers all the time who say, “I haven’t told my children about my abortion. I never will. My husband and I were both married before this marriage, and we agreed not to tell our children that.” On and on.
I think there is so much danger in that because, if we want our children to trust us with their temptations and their secrets and their pains, how will they do that if we haven’t modeled it?
Juli: Yes. I heard one pastor say that we will either be raising sin confessors or sin concealers. And when all we present to our kids (and our spiritual kids) is that we’ve got it right, that we’ve got it figured out, we’re teaching them to conceal their sin, and that we’re not safe.
But what we want to be modeling and inviting is we all are sin confessors.
Nancy: And if not, we’re sin concealers.
Dannah: And isn’t that so contrary to the gospel which says, “I’ve been rescued. Let me tell you about it.”
I think often about that Bible verse in the book of Revelation that says, “We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.”
We are a church that is terrified of the testimony. How will we overcome?
Juli: Yes. That’s a good point.
Nancy: Before we run out of time here, I just want to wrap up this series by asking you, Juli, to tell a story that I don’t think I had heard until you and Dannah and I were having dinner together last night.
You came several years ago to a True Woman conference, hosted by Revive Our Hearts. You were presenting a workshop there, a break-out session. And the Lord did a really, fresh and sweet work in your heart during one of the plenary sessions that is reflected in the last chapter of your book, Rethinking Sexuality, where you talk about your burden for revival and how that relates to this whole issue of sexuality.
Can you just share with our listeners what you shared with me?
Juli: Yes. Absolutely. The session was on revival. I can remember you drawing a chalk outline around you, like a circle, and saying, “Revival starts here.” You were calling us to pray for revival. I was with Dannah. I was sitting with the other speakers, and you asked us to spend a few minutes just in groups praying for revival.
Well, I started praying—and this is very uncharacteristic of me. I’m a head person. I don’t cry very often. But I just started to cry and be broken for revival around sexuality. I didn’t even just cry. I began to sob uncontrollably for long after you asked us to pray. You guys went on to worship and teach, and I’m just on my knees, on my seat—snot, tears . . .
Dannah: It was the ugly cry.
Juli: It was the ugly cry that I couldn’t stop. I believe that God has a heart for revival in all areas, including sexuality. And what I began to understand is that revival is when God takes ground back. It’s when He goes on the offensive.
And often, when we talk about sexuality in the church or in our families, we think defensive. “How do we keep the bad stuff out? How do we get rid of pornography?” Or whatever the issue might be.
Revival is when God says, “I’m not just keeping the bad stuff out. I’m reclaiming ground that Satan has had for too long. And we’re going to begin to see fewer and fewer marriages that are broken because of sexuality and fewer and fewer men and women addicted to pornography because the truth is setting them free.”
Juli: That is something that only can happen with the supernatural work of God.
We’re seeing the opposite happen right now. Satan is taking more ground.
Juli: So I want to pray and call people to pray and work for, “What would it look like for God to reclaim sexuality on a massive scale?”
Nancy: And that’s not just by programs like this or books that you write or messages that Dannah gives. We’re all working toward that and believing God for that. But every person listening to our conversation today can be a part of that change and that revival that God wants to send.
Dannah: Can I read this? This is my favorite sentence in Rethinking Sexuality. It’s actually two.
“If revival is to come, it must begin with people like you and me. Revival won’t happen when your pastor catches the Holy Spirit or the Supreme Court upholds a biblical view of sexuality. Don’t look around waiting for God to call someone else. He’s calling you.”
Juli: That’s the essence of it. And, Nancy, that’s what you were teaching during that session: It starts with us.
Whenever we look at the Old Testament prophets that began a movement of God, it started with their own personal repentance.
Juli: I was kind of the poster child for, “I did sexuality right, and I’m married, and I don’t do all these bad things.” But God had to break me, and He had to see how, in my own beliefs and my own actions, I was actually contributing to the brokenness I hated around me. Until He did that work in my heart, I wasn’t equipped to share this message with others. That’s where it has to start with all of us.
Nancy: I think God started that work in a lot of hearts, or taking another step over the last week or so as we’ve been having this conversation. We haven’t come in to say, “We have the answers.”
We’ve come in to say, to each other and to those listening to us, “God’s Word is what we need, and God’s glory is worth being humble for, repenting for. It’s worth getting up off the couch and getting engaged and involved in the people God has put in your life, in your workplace, in your church, in your small group.”
When I read these prayer cards that women turn in at conferences, the big takeaway to me is: We have no idea how deeply people are hurting.
I was with a group of women sitting in a living room a couple of weeks ago, and these are women who love this ministry. They are very engaged with this ministry. And they’re sharp women who, in their places of influence, they’re really, good, godly women. Well, we sat down on our last day together, and I just asked, “Let’s just share how we can pray for each other.”
And we went around that circle, and one after another, every woman in that circle shared something that was deep pain. Every woman was crying. People were coming around them and praying for them. It was a touch of revival.
It wasn’t always their own sexual pain or brokenness. Sometimes it was for a family member or for a friend. A lot of it related to sexuality. And I realized, “Two days ago I had no idea.” These women, this is like the créme de la créme, and I had no idea they were hurting so deeply.
And what happened as we shared with one another, as women came around and prayed for each other . . . I wasn’t really directing this. I was just sitting there letting God do it. After one woman shared and people prayed for her, she just lifted her hands up and said, “This has been such a heavy burden, and I feel like you have helped to lift it for me.”
They were doing that for each other. They’re from all over. They went back to their homes, and now they’re going to have more compassion, more heart, more longing to see God do that in other places because we all said, “We couldn’t have imagined that in this circle we would have had these kinds of needs and burdens.”
Well, the fact is, we do. In this circle right here at this table we do.
Nancy: And for us to be able to get honest and humble and engaged in the messiness, the tears, the ugly crying, the wrong ways of thinking, and to lovingly, compassionately, and truthfully help each other get to Christ. As we all do that, we’re going to see, I believe, that kind of revival that we’re all believing Him for.
Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been talking with Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh about God’s definition of sexuality. They’ll be back in a moment to pray.
Today is the final day in a series called “Rethinking Sexuality.” If you missed any of the previous programs, you can listen atReviveOurHearts.com.
After listening to this series, you might realize, “I really need to dig further into the topic of sexuality in light of God’s Word.” Juli’s new book is a great place to start. It’s called Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters. I hope you’ll get a copy.
It’s available today atReviveOurHearts.com for a gift of any amount. Just ask for Juli’s book when you make a gift atReviveOurHearts.com or by phone. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959.
Have you ever felt like you were out in a stormy sea, that you couldn’t make it back to shore? Nancy looks to the Psalms to offer hope for the storms of life. She’ll help you to lean on God alone. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Nancy?
Nancy: I’m going to just ask, Dannah, if you’d close this series and pray and ask God to take this home and take it out beyond those of us who are just hearing it now and to send that revival we long for.
Dannah: Yes. Lord, we give You permission to begin with us. Correct our thinking. Help us to rethink sexuality, where we are blinded by lies from the enemy. It’s Your heart that we would be set free.
Father, I pray for every woman listening, whatever fear that is being conjured up in her heart right now because she might feel led to tell someone about something she’s battling or struggling with, that she might feel led to be honest with her children or her husband, Lord, God does not give us the spirit of fear but of power and love and peace.
Would You flood each woman with peace, Lord, that You are not going to just set her free, but You’re going to start a revival in her home, in her community, in her church, if she just submits to whatever work it is that You want to do in her heart and her life today because of this program. Set her free, Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you to rethink sexuality. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.