Leslie Basham: Dannah Gresh invites you to rethink your sexuality in light of God’s Word.
Dannah Gresh: The world’s narrative says, “It’s all about me!” God’s narrative says, “It’s so much bigger than you, and it’s not about you at all. It’s about the gospel. It’s about people understanding My love, people seeing My love, people having a picture of My love!”
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for April 1, 2019.
This month on Revive Our Hearts we’re tackling some tough issues. Here’s a little preview of what you’ll hear during the month of April.
Dr. Juli Slattery: Discipleship trains you how to think about all sexual issues. It gives you a framework so that you’re walking out: “How do I follow Jesus related to my sexuality?”
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You’ll never experience all that there is to know of God until you have found yourself in a place of drought, in a place of desperation, in a place where you think you’re drowning.
Mark Vroegop: Our world is terribly broken, and yet God is unbelievably glorious. How do those two things reconcile?
Nancy: Your pain, my pain, our pain leads us—if we’re children of God—to a grand and glorious future.
Leslie: Be sure to stay tuned to Revive Our Hearts this month as we look carefully at what God has to say about these tough issues. Nancy?
Nancy: It is such a joy for me this week to be in the studio with longtime friends—girlfriends—two women who have been such sweet ministry partners, encouragers in my personal walk with the Lord, in my ministry. We all go back a long way with each other.
We’re having a little bit of a reunion here in our Michigan studio this week, to talk about a subject that is really dear to all of our hearts—and dear to God’s heart even more importantly. I’m excited to dive in, and I think that there is something important that God has for every listener.
When we introduce that you may say, “I don’t know if that’s a subject I’m interested in.” But I guarantee you, it’s a subject you need to be interested in. God has a message for your heart this week.
Both of these women have been with us on Revive Our Hearts before, but it’s been way too long. Juli Slattery, in your case it’s been a number of years. You’re an author, a speaker. You have a ministry called Authentic Intimacy. We’re going to talk a little bit about that this week. It’s an intriguing name for your ministry.
You’ve written a book recently called Rethinking Sexuality. We’re going to unpack why we need to rethink sexuality at all. So, Juli, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.
Juli: Thanks so much for having me. It’s so fun to be here with you and with Dannah!
Nancy: Dannah Gresh. Let me introduce you, Dannah . . .
Nancy: We see each other more often than I see Juli, but you and Juli go back a long way. You’ve co-authored a book together. You and I have co-authored a book together. And there’s some exciting things happening in partnership with your ministry and Revive Our Hearts that we’re just announcing!
Dannah: So exciting!
Nancy: You’re an author, a speaker, and for years you’ve had events—they’ve been called Secret Keeper Girl. A lot of our listeners are familiar with that: mom and daughter events for tween girls. Those events are in the process of being rebranded, retitled, as True Girl.
Dannah: Ah . . . that makes me so happy. Yes!
Nancy: We’re very excited to be in partnership with you and your husband and your ministry over this. We’ll be talking lots more about it. This coming fall, people will be hearing about True Girl events coming to their area.
Dannah: Yes. All across the country.
Nancy: We’ve had True Woman as part of Revive Our Hearts. We have ministry to teen girls (you and I have partnered in some of that). And now for us to be able to be speaking into the lives of young girls.
Dannah: The little ones—“the little women.”
Nancy: The littles ones, the eight–to–eleven girls, the True Women in the making! So thank you for being here and being part of this conversation.
Dannah: My pleasure. This is so fun to a be part of this conversation!
Nancy: And, Juli, Authentic Intimacy is talking about sexuality and intimacy in marriage and a right perspective on it outside of marriage. You probably never would have envisioned that this would be a topic you’d be addressing a lot.
Juli: No. I remember growing up in church and hearing missionaries that would tell a story about, “I gave my life to Christ and I asked God, ‘Please! You can do anything with my life, but don’t send me to . . .’” And they’d name the geographical place where they were serving.
Nancy: “Anything but! . . .”
Juli: Right. I think that’s probably what I said to the Lord. “I’ll teach on anything but sexuality.” And here I am. So God uses the weak. But it’s a joy; it’s a joy to be stepping into a topic where there are so many questions and so much pain, and, really, so little spoken from a biblical perspective.
Dannah: But why? Why was it the subject that you were like, “Anything but! . . .”
Juli: Good question, Dannah. I think it’s because I grew up—like many of us did—in a Christian culture where sexuality was shrouded with some shame, maybe. It’s so private. And to be vulnerable . . .
Nancy: This is in the church—in the Christian world—and it was something that was not talked about easily.
Juli: No, and because it’s not talked about, I think we make the assumption—and I did—that we shouldn’t have these conversations in the church. Or at least we shouldn’t have a gut-level, honest sort of conversation, where we’re sharing about the things we struggle with, the temptations we have, the wounds we’ve suffered. Who wants to do that?
And, also, let’s just recognize that talking about sexuality, particularly in our day and age, means stepping into conflict. It means talking to people—even Christians—that have very different views on sexual issues. I’m not somebody that seeks out conflict or wants to say things that are offensive. But some things in the Word of God related to our sexuality today are very offensive.
Nancy: They’re counter-cultural; they go against the grain.
Juli: Not only are they counter-cultural, but deeply personal. So this is not something that I would have volunteered for. But God doesn’t usually ask us what we want to do. He gently leads us, and He equips us when we don’t feel equipped.
Nancy: Why is this a subject that we need to bring into the light, that we need to be talking about? When we started Revive Our Hearts, the kind of conventional wisdom was, “You do not talk about sex or sexuality.”
Dannah: Did you just say that word!?
Nancy: I just said that word. There would be stations that wouldn’t even air the broadcast if we talked about that. I think that was the way a lot of people felt: “This is not something we want to hear discussed openly or publicly.” So why is it something that we need to talk about?
Juli: I think on a surface level, the most obvious reason is because the world is talking about it ad nauseum. We’re being trained in how to think about sexuality from a worldly perspective. But the deeper reason is something that we’ll be talking about as we get into this discussion—sexual issues are spiritual issues.
When we’re confused about sexuality, or we’re dealing with sexual pain that’s not addressed from a godly perspective, it really chips away at the foundations of what we believe about God. We see that happening in the church today.
We see people walking away from the Word of God because somebody hasn’t answered their sexual questions. So this is really an evangelistic and discipleship conversation we need to be having.
Nancy: It’s an avenue to the gospel.
Juli: It is.
Dannah: That seems a big jump! I mean, if you haven’t really studied sex in the Bible, in the Scriptures, to say this is an evangelical conversation . . . I believe that. But I’ve sat across from leaders and pastors who, when I say that, they look at me like I have never read the Bible. Maybe you should explain why you think it’s a gospel-imperative initiative conversation.
Juli: I think there are biblical examples where we see Jesus ministering through the topic of sexuality. One of the most obvious examples would be the woman at the well in John chapter 4. And, Dannah, you and I have written on that chapter in the Bible where, really, this woman just wanted to have a pretty sterile theological conversation with Jesus.
Dannah: “Where should we worship?” (see John 4:20)
Juli: Yeah, making small talk.
Dannah: That was the theological debate of the day. “Let’s be heady about it.”
Juli: Exactly. But Jesus went for her heart by asking about and commenting on her sexual past. I love the way John Piper puts it when he’s teaching out of this chapter. He said that Jesus knew that the quickest way to the heart is through a wound.
And that’s so often true around us. We can talk about the Bible, we can talk about doctrine. But where people really . . . their hearts are throbbing in their pain, in their shame, in their questions that are unanswered.
Nancy: One of the lies that women believed was she could keep that part of her life as a separate compartment from her faith life. So in her conversation with Jesus, she wasn’t going to go there, because that’s a separate compartment And Jesus is saying, “No, it’s all part of your life. And we’ve got to go there.”
He puts this in the Scripture for us to read, saying to us, “Your sexual part of your life is not a place you can keep shut off; it’s not separate from your faith. It’s a whole piece and part of your faith.”
Juli: And I’m so glad you said that, Nancy, because that is exactly what we see today in the Christian community. We see men and women who really believe that they can serve God, worship God with most of their life.
But when it comes to their sexuality—whether it’s wounding from the past, sexual struggle, sexual brokenness in their marriage—they feel like, Well, God doesn’t really speak into that. I have to figure that out with me and my therapist. You know, “God’s on the sidelines related to my sexuality.”
We look at John chapter 4 and Jesus teaching us that you can’t separate the two. And when you do separate the two, a piece of your heart is locked off from the Lord. I see that so often today.
Nancy: I think He’s also saying to that woman, “The thing that you think is just in your past, that you feel ashamed about, that you don’t want to bring to the light, there is hope! And the hope is not in keeping it buried. The hope is in bringing it to the light and letting Me come into it,” Jesus says to her.
People who have been wounded through their own sin or the sins of others are in a place of shame or guilt or pain. Maybe the sense is, “I can’t deal with that! In order to be free, I’ve just got to forget that or suppress it or not bring it up.”
But Jesus is saying, “No, in order to get free, you’ve got to bring it up! We’ve got to talk about this. We’ve got to walk right into this. That’s the place where you find hope and restoration and freedom.” It’s like it’s counterintuitive.
He’s saying, “Yes, let’s bring this into the light. Your past, your brokenness, your woundedness, your sinfulness can actually become a beautiful place, a thing of beauty.” He transforms it and makes something holy out of that which was shameful and sinful.
Dannah: That’s the testimony of my life. I just believed that the wound from sexual sin as a teenage girl was something in my past. I believed I could never tell anyone and never talk about it and still serve God and be a whole human being.
Nancy: And you were serving the Lord.
Dannah: I was! But that whole time it was so marginally fruitful because I wasn’t set free. What I love about that woman at the well is that she immediately runs out and says . . .
Nancy: . . . to the town . . .
Dannah: Yes, into the town! This is the woman who wouldn’t come to the well with the other women because she was in so much shame about her lifestyle and her choices and her sexual pain. Now she runs into the village shouting, “Let me tell you about this Man who just told me all the things I’ve ever done!”
And I’m thinking, Do you think she was talking about the breakfast dishes, the laundry? No! They know what she’s talking about. She’s not afraid of it anymore because she’s been so set free!
Nancy: Actually, her past sin and shame become a part of her life message and something that God can use in others’ lives to set them free and to point them to the gospel (which is where we started this conversation!).
Juli: Yes! And I think, additionally, it’s what makes our relationship with the Lord intimate. The reason I say that is: You share your sexual burdens with the most intimate people in your life. Dannah, you and I have gotten to know each other as good, intimate friends. We’ve shared some deep things, and it’s bonded our hearts. It has created a trust.
When you have an idea of God that, “I can’t share this part of myself with Him,” it makes God a distant friend, a distant Savior. But when you realize that He wants to be invited into the most intimate thoughts and feelings and experiences and to be renewing those and healing those . . .
I’d say one of the number one responses that we get from women who are engaging with our ministry is, they can’t believe how this has deepened their relationship with the Lord. It’s because God is now intimately involved in every area of my life! It’s not like He’s just compartmentalized into the safe areas.
Nancy: Our perspective on sexuality—whether married or single—and our experience with sex and sexuality invariably, in some way, reflects on our relationship with God. You can’t separate the two. I think we think your sex life is over here and your God life is over here . . . but no.
Our relational life, our view of ourselves as sexual creatures, our sexual experience and pain and confusion, our right or wrong thinking, it all says something about our relationship with God. If we’re sexually broken, invariably there’s going to be something broken in our relationship with God, don’t you think?
Dannah: Absolutely! Let me go back to my “Eureka!” moment that helped me to really understand that. I was reading in the book of Genesis and found, in Genesis 4:1, that Adam yada (that’s the Hebrew word) with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth.
And I was like, “What an interesting word—yada, yada, yada.
Nancy: So in the English, it’s usually translated: “He knew her.”
Dannah: “He knew her,” right, or “lay with her.” Yes. So, I wanted to know, “What does that word mean?” And the Hebrew word is, “To know, to be known, to be deeply respected.” It transcends the physical act taking place between husband and wife; it goes to intimacy. To me, what that says is that the purpose of sex is intimacy.
There may be a way that we achieve that intimacy that is physical, but it’s like the world has gotten obsessed with the way to the intimacy. It would be as if we tried to turn on a lamp in here because it was a dark room. Instead of being all excited about the warmth of the light, we’d be like, “Look how that plugs into that wall!”
It doesn’t make any sense in God’s paradigm that we aren’t understanding that it’s about the connection, the intimacy. But what really blows me away about that word is that, as I began to study it, it’s a word that God uses over and over in the Old Testament to describe knowing Him!
So, “Be still and know (yada) that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Again, there’s that going back to the whole idea of the gospel, the love of God. Marriage and sex is a picture of that! If we can’t embrace and understand that picture, then we’re never going to enjoy or really experience sex the way that it’s meant to be, and we’re going to have some blockage in the way we experience God—because it’s about the intimacy.
Juli: Yes, absolutely. I think what you’re describing right there is really a narrative that helps us understand our sexuality. And a lot of what we’ve heard in Christian teaching are the do’s and don’ts and the rules around sexuality without a broader narrative that helps us understand, “Why does God care about this in the first place?”
“Why would God really care if I choose to sleep with my boyfriend instead of getting married? Like, I love him! What’s the big deal?”
Nancy: So if we just tell people the list—“don’t do this; do do this” (which may be a true list!)—but if we don’t give them the heart behind it, the narrative behind it, there’s not the draw to their hearts to know why this matters. And at the same time, the world is telling a narrative.
Juli: Right, a very compelling narrative! A narrative is only powerful if you can find your own story in it.
Nancy: So how would you describe the narrative of the world? Because I think most of us are more familiar with that.
Juli: The narrative of the world is that, “Your sexuality is all about your personal expression, about your identity. And so, to be sexually mature, you’ve got to experiment. You’ve got to seek your own heart: What do you want? Who are you? What do you desire? And you form your sexual behavior around what’s inside of you.
Nancy: And you do this without any external truth to determine that.
Juli: “No, truth is found by looking inward.” And so, the world would say, “The only rules around sexuality are, really, not to get in the way of anyone else’s sexual expression, because that’s cruel, to not let them be free in their own expression.” And then, “Don’t hurt somebody else.”
Nancy: And what you just described there is a deeply-rooted narrative—not only among non-believers in the non-believing world, but also in the Christian world today. I don’t think we realize how much Christian thinking has been impacted by that narrative! We’re seeing millions of messages as we grow up that tell us that.
Dannah: That goes back to what you said at the beginning of the program, that the world has been very loud about this and our silence has put a megaphone up to the world’s message! Right?
Juli: Well, the world’s message is more compelling than what we’ve traditionally heard from Christian resources. If all we hear from the church is, “Save sex for marriage. When you get married, sex should be great.”
Dannah: “Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not . . .”
Juli: Exactly. And I can’t find myself in that story. Maybe I’m single, and I’m forty-five years old, and I don’t know the purpose of my sexual desire. Maybe I have a past of sexual abuse. Where do I fit into the church’s narrative? But I can fit into the cultural narrative, and I know what healling and maturity look like.
Nancy, what you said is so true. This has infiltrated Christians’ thinking. We’ve got to recognize that the cultural narrative around sexuality didn’t come out of a vacuum. It’s the overflow of the larger thinking of our cultural, which is humanistic: “We have become god!” Romans 1 talks about this.
Our sexual chaos begins with a wrong perspective of who God is, a dysfunction in our worship. And there a lot of Christians who, without realizing it, have really begun to buy into the fact that, “God exists to serve me, to make me happy, to please me, to follow my desires,” instead of, “I was created to serve and to know God!” That’s the fundamental issue underneath all of this.
Nancy: And many of us in the church would never say those words, but I think it’s impossible to overstate the extent to which our thinking has been subtly impacted by that! We may not be practicing living as if we believe that cultural narrative, but maybe it’s just, as we’re dealing with others.
the mindset is—with our kids, our grandkids, things we’re seeing in social media—something inside of us says, “That doesn’t seem right!” But we don’t really know why. We don’t know how to speak into it in a way that is compelling or helpful or redemptive.
So there’s kind of this standoff between those. Maybe in the church there are those who say, “Well, that’s wrong, that’s wrong, that’s wrong!” Well, what’s wrong with it? And what is right? And what is true and good and lovely. That would be a compelling vision for those who have been trapped in the world’s narrative.
Dannah: I think, “What is right?” is the part of the conversation about sex that has been glaringly missing from the church. “What is right?” in terms of, “What does it mean? What is it for?” Whereas the world’s narrative says, “It’s all about me!” God’s narrative says, “It’s so much bigger than you, and it’s not about you at all!”
“It’s about the gospel. It’s about people understanding My love, people seeing My love, people having a picture of My love!” And also, what’s right in terms of, “How do I enjoy this gift God created?”
And Juli, I’m thinking of women who are saying, “I wasn’t abused as a child, I didn’t have sex before I was married, I haven’t seen pornography.” Is it possible that some of those women listening right now might have wounds about sex that they’re not even aware of. . .because they’re not fully enjoying the gift?
Juli: Yes, I think so. I think, even on my own journey, I’ve seen God unfold more the fulness of sexual wholeness, and what that really is. And when you see a fuller picture of sexual wholeness, it starts to point out in your own life, “Wow, I’m not grasping that! My marriage doesn’t look like that! My thinking doesn’t look like that!”
God has done so much work in my heart and in my own mind that I didn’t know needed to be done!
Nancy: I think a lot of our listeners are going to experience that this week. I’m so glad, Juli, that you’ve written this book Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why it Matters! I found myself as I was reading this over the last few days, just saying, “Yes, yes, yes! This is good; this is beautiful; this is true!”
This is something that all of us need to grapple with in a better understanding of, “We need to rethink sexuality.” My hope is that every one of our listeners—single, married, whatever season of life—would get a copy of this book. We’re glad to make it available to anyone as our way of saying “thank you” for a gift of any amount to this ministry, to Revive Our Hearts.
In just a moment, Leslie will be back to tell you how you can make that gift. But as I think about what we’re going to talk about over the next several days . . . we’re going to get into some tough topics, some frank discussion, some personal sharing out of our own journeys . . .
There are some topics that for a lot of our listeners are going to be, “Eeeeh! Do I want to go there? Can I go there? Is it okay to got there? Am I willing to go there?” So, I’m not saying that this is going to be an easy conversation for us or for our listeners, but I think it’s really, really important.
God wants to do a restoring, redeeming, recalibrating, renewing, refreshing . . . whatever other words I can put to that . . .
Nancy: . . . reviving! (thank you, Dannah) work in our hearts as we have this conversation. We’re hoping that you’ll just “pull up chair to the table” where Dannah and Juli and I are sitting and you’ll share in this conversation with us this week.
Most importantly, that you’ll pull up to the Lord and say, “Lord, I want You to speak into my life and show me where my thinking needs to be renewed, where my mind needs to be renewed, and how You can use me as an instrument to minister grace to sexually broken people”—because we all have those in our lives.
Juli, I just wonder as we wrap today’s conversation, would you pray for this week’s conversation and for our listeners, that God would be speaking and ministering grace exactly where it’s needed!
Juli: Yes, absolutely! God, I thank You that You gave us examples in Your Word that invite us to have these conversations, that You were not afraid or ashamed of addressing the sexual questions we have, the shame we have, the pain we have, and that Your forgiveness and Your redemption extend into every area of our lives.
Thank You that You care for us that intimately! I pray that Your Spirit will just give us guidance and wisdom as we speak and as we listen and, Lord, freedom to grab on to Your truth.
I pray for chains to fall off men and women who have felt so in bondage related to sexual issues in their own lives. Lord, we ask that by the power of Your truth and Your Word and by the power of Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: Dr. Juli Slattery has been praying that we’ll all find godly wisdom as we approach this sometimes difficult topic of sexuality. She’s been talking with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Dannah Gresh. I hope you’ll dig deeper on this subject by getting a copy of Juli’s book. It’s called Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why it Matters.
We’ll send you this book when you give a gift of any amount tothe ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com to make a gift and request Rethinking Sexuality, or call us at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the book Rethinking Sexuality when you make a gift.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “discipleship”? Do you realize that you need to be discipled in your sexuality? Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery will talk with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth about sexual discipleship tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you develop intimacy with God. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.