Sexual intimacy is the key way that God has given a married couple to remember and to celebrate our love for each other. It's like our bodies have a way of expressing the commitment that we've made. It's remembering that I've given myself completely to my husband, and he's given himself completely to me.
We did those with words, but sex is the way that we remember it by doing it with our bodies, and it's supposed to be a celebration. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app.
This is Family Life Today. So I'm excited because we get to hear the rest of a message by Dr. Julie Slattery, who is a friend of ours and a clinical psychologist. She has a podcast, Java with Julie, but she is mostly known as a woman you can ask any question about sexual intimacy.
Yeah. We were talking the other day and she goes, Ann, can you imagine being me? Like you're known as the sex guru. It's not the best title to wear all the time, but she does really give us guidance and help from a biblical perspective. And Julie's great. She's married. She has three sons, and she's always willing to be really honest and real and practical. And always biblical.
I mean, she's coming straight from the Word of God. And this is a message she gave on the Love Like You Mean It virtual cruise. We didn't get to get on a boat this year, so we did a virtual cruise. So couples all around the world were watching on their computers. And Julie gave, I think, a powerful message, very, very helpful to couples to understand, as she calls it, the puzzle box. Like you got to know what you're shooting for when you do a puzzle.
We've done many. Yeah. Have you ever tried to do a puzzle when you haven't seen the cover of what it's supposed to look like? I mean, I'm pulling that cover up every second because I'm lost. I have it placed right there so it can be looking at it continually as you put it together. And yet if you asked a couple, what's God's puzzle box for sexual intimacy in marriage?
There's not a clear answer. And she got into it in part, the first part of her message. Yeah. And I love it because she talked about three different puzzle box highlights. And the first one was the world's, which really just highlights self-fulfillment. And then you have the traditional church's puzzle box, and that one highlights rules and duty. And then she finished with the Bible's puzzle box, which really highlights God's covenant love. And that's the one we're really shooting for.
But we've all experienced all of them. And so today we get to listen to her talk about four practical ways that God's puzzle box help us steward sexual intimacy within marriage. So the first one is that we recognize that sexual intimacy within our marriage needs to be built on the foundation of faithfulness. You know, the greatest commandment in the Old Testament is this one. And Jesus repeats it in the New Testament and says it's the greatest commandment. It says, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. In other words, you should be completely undivided to the Lord your God. You're in a covenant relationship with Him, and you're to be sold out for Him. And the first of the Ten Commandments actually reiterates this. God says, have no other gods before you. Don't worship anyone else. In other words, be true to Me. Be faithful to Me.
You know, God is really serious about your spiritual commitment to Him. In fact, in Exodus, God actually calls Himself by the name Jealous. He says, my name is Jealous. I think in the Hebrew you say Elkanar.
I think that's how you pronounce it. He doesn't just say I am jealous. He says, that's my name.
Like that's my identity. I am a jealous God. You know, we often think of jealousy as something that's bad. But when we look at God Himself as calling Himself jealous, that means that there's an element of jealousy that's righteous and right within covenant. And this means that within marriage there's a healthy jealousy.
Have you ever thought about that? In terms of your covenant promise being exclusive between one another, you should be jealous for that. Now, let me also say that there's an unhealthy jealousy that we can have for our spouse. Any jealousy that is based on fear or is trying to control your spouse, that's not healthy. I'm not talking about maybe the husband who says his wife can't see her family or the wife that says her husband can never work with a female co-worker.
That's based on a fear. It's not based on this sense of healthy covenant love. Healthy jealousy is rooted in the awareness that marriage is binding and it calls us to emotional and sexual faithfulness to one another. So this means it shouldn't be okay if your spouse is reconnecting with old flings on social media. You should not be alright with that. It shouldn't be okay if you or your spouse are looking at pornography. You're bringing someone else into that one flesh covenant relationship.
You should be jealous and protecting that. And you know, even our larger culture acknowledges us, even as we look at all the sexual immorality in our culture and all the things that we say are okay today. Surveys show that over 90% of Americans say that cheating on your spouse is morally wrong. This is a higher percentage of people than actually objected to human cloning, suicide, or polygamy. Over 90% are saying it's wrong to cheat on your spouse.
Now why is that? I believe it's because this covenant faithfulness is actually written on our hearts. We intuitively know it's wrong. We know that infidelity is something that causes great pain and that it breaks apart families. And God created it that way because his love is faithful. And so we want to emulate that within our sexual relationship in marriage. And let me just tell you, this is an honest fact. You're very likely going to be sexually or emotionally attracted to someone else when you're married.
Nobody really tells you that, but it's true. You have feelings, you have drives, you have desires. Sometimes you're attracted to someone who's very different from your spouse because you're reacting to the pain in your marriage. It's normal to be tempted, but because we understand the front of that puzzle box, we choose to act on our promise and our covenant instead of choosing to act on our feelings.
Now even as I teach this, I know that some of you are going through this right now. I know that some of you right now actually have a secret that you're keeping from your spouse. Maybe you're struggling with a sexual addiction. Maybe you have infidelity that you haven't confessed. And my encouragement to you would be, I know so many couples who have navigated those hard waters and come through it on the other side actually even stronger than they started. But you have to be honest with one another and you have to do the work of pursuing faithfulness in your marriage and healing where faithfulness has been broken. Because that's really the cornerstone of the picture that God has called us to create within this aspect of our marriage.
The second one is realizing that sex is meant to be a mind, body, and spirit celebration of love. For me personally, I don't know if you can relate to this, but one of the hardest things about COVID has been not being able to gather together as a family of God like we're used to. Not being able to be in church services where we can sing from our heart, take communion like we used to all the time take. These are parts of what it is to be in the family of God. And when I think about the past Love Like You Mean It Cruises that I've been able to be a part of, that's my favorite part I think is that gathering in those auditoriums and family life does an incredible job of getting just amazing worship leaders and lifting up our voices together and praise for our God.
Feeling that passion that we have for Him. And there's a sense that our worship, our corporate worship and taking communion are the mind, body, and soul celebration of our love for God. And God says we should be doing that often. Like we should be entering His gates with praise and thanksgiving. We should be celebrating communion often. These are things that awaken our love for Him, that awaken our passion for Him, that help us communicate how we feel about Him.
And we not only do that corporately but we also do that privately. So I try every day to spend time connecting with God through personal prayer, scripture meditation, through personal worship, just remembering the love I have for Him, reminding myself, expressing my love. Now in a similar way, sexual intimacy is the key way that God has given a married couple to remember and to celebrate our love for each other. It's like our bodies have a way of expressing the commitment that we've made.
It's remembering that I've given myself completely to my husband and he's given himself completely to me. We did those with words but sex is the way that we remember it by doing it with our bodies and it's supposed to be a celebration. We see this even when we look at the way God has designed sex to happen within our bodies. He experienced our brains to be washed with things like dopamine and endorphins and oxytocin. These are neurotransmitters and hormones that make us feel bonded and make us feel good.
They're the pleasure centers of the brain and so God created sex to be something that is meant to be fun and pleasurable and here's the truth. There are a lot of challenges to enjoying sex within marriage and some of them my husband and I have experienced in pretty profound ways. There's things like little kids who cause you to be exhausted all the time so you can't even think about sex.
There's physical problems like pain during intercourse or maybe trauma from your past makes it so that when you think about sex or you experience it you are anxious instead of enjoying it. What God calls us to is to work through those things because this is supposed to be a celebration of our love. It's almost like if you were to go to a party and you saw someone at the side of the party who was just off by themselves and they were really, really sad. You want to go up and say, hey what's wrong? Like where should we be celebrating?
This is a party. You're supposed to have fun and I think there's that similar attitude when sex isn't pleasurable in marriage. We want to just say, okay it's not that our marriage is broken necessarily. It's not that our sex life is broken but this isn't the fullness of what God has designed us to experience and so we want to as a couple say, all right how do we address that problem?
Now let me clarify something. Sexual intimacy isn't based on pleasure. Remember it's based on covenant. It's based on faithfulness but pleasure needs to be part of celebrating that faithfulness and that covenant and God created it that way and so that's the second piece I would encourage you to think about in terms of that's what a healthy sex life should look like.
All right the third thing I want you to think about is that sex was designed to be a journey of intimate knowing. Within Christianity you might hear a phrase like this, do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? And when we say that what we mean is that Christianity is not just agreeing to rules that God has put in the Bible. It's not just saying hey this is my faith commitment. That's part of it but actually to enter into that faith commitment is to have a personal relationship with God himself through Jesus Christ and that's unlike any other religion. God calls us into an intimate personal relationship both as individuals and then as part of being part of the body of Christ and that's profound.
God doesn't just want you one day to sign up for Christianity. He invites you to do life with him. Jesus says that he wants us to abide with him as he abides in us and the picture he gives is one that if you're a farmer you might relate to or if you like just a garden he talks about a vine and the branch abides in that vine so much that they're stuck together and all the nutrients from the vine are coming into that branch. That's how close God wants us to be with him to have this intimate journey with him. When we go through hard things he wants us to run to him and trust in him. When we go through blessings and happiness he wants us to rejoice and celebrate with him.
When we're not sure what to do or faced with a hard decision he wants us to lean upon his understanding and not just our own wisdom. That's a journey of intimate knowing and the same is true with the way God has created sexual intimacy. It's this long journey of learning to know each other in an intimate way throughout the years through ups and downs, through good times, through bad times and I think sometimes the way we talk about sex both in the culture and the church it doesn't highlight the beauty of this journey. That it's not just knowing each other's bodies but it's knowing each other's hearts and minds and going through just all the different things that sex can bring to a married couple.
There are times where you're going to laugh together and memories that you might build that you'll laugh on years later. Times where we can just say wow that was a really special time of connection but there are also going to be seasons that we walk through that are very difficult and that's part of the journey of intimate knowing. There might be a difficulty of infertility where for a season sex feels like one big aspect of disappointment every month grieving that we didn't get pregnant and sex feels like it's more like a lab of how do we make a baby rather than how do we express love. You know that's not a fun season but that is a season that God can use to help you grow in your intimate knowledge with each other. You might be going through a season where there's a heavy battle with temptation or sexual addiction. God doesn't want you to be isolated in that journey. He wants you as a couple to be seeking help together and growing together because it's not just about what's happening in the moment it's about how he's forging your character and forging your love for one another and there are all kinds of examples like that when our bodies don't work when we're aging and we can't enjoy sex maybe the way we used to and I would just encourage you and your spouse to ask the question do we know each other more intimately today than we did a year ago and what role is sex playing in our relationship because God wants you to continue to move together on this journey of intimate knowing and sex can be a big part of that. The fourth thing I want to talk about that is key to this picture of the puzzle that we're putting together and again this is maybe something you've never thought about in reference to your sex life but our sex life at some level should be characterized by mutual sacrifice.
Now what do I mean by that? Well let's go back to the the picture of Christ in the church. The very cornerstone of the Christian faith of God's covenant with his people is that God sacrificed he gave his son for us and that Jesus Christ gave his life for us he sacrificed everything for us his love cost him dearly and actually he calls us to respond in a way where our love for him cost us dearly. Jesus says to his followers take up your cross and follow me daily be willing to do the hard things out of love for me and so if that's a cornerstone of the Christian faith if that's a key component of what's on the front of that puzzle box where Paul says that your love for one another as husband and wife is supposed to be like Christ in the church why are we so surprised when marriage costs us something why are we so shocked when our sex life is difficult and costs us something. Now I talk to a lot of single Christians on issues of sexuality and one of the main things that we always come back to with single Christians if we talk about the importance of self-control and self-denial and that this is part of following Christ is stewarding your sexuality in a way that is characterized by self-control and for some reason I think we sometimes believe that when we get married we no longer have to have self-control or self-denial in our sex life because we're now married we should be able to have everything we want but that really doesn't make logical sense. God is still forming our character he's still teaching us to take up our cross to deny ourselves to follow him and deny ourselves at times out of love for one another and so there are times in your marriage where your your needs may not be met the way you wish they would be there might be seasons where it's really hard you've got to walk through some tough things of giving grace to each other and forgiveness and there's aspects of where you just wish like hey I didn't sign up for this I didn't know this was going to be this difficult but I want you to remember that that doesn't mean your marriage is broken because God's greatest desire is to make you and me more like himself and he uses those seasons sometimes in our marriage sometimes very specifically in our sex life to teach us about the nature of his love for us that he forgives us that he's gracious towards us that he gave himself for us and I hope this gives you a sense that God's picture of sex his puzzle of sex is so rich and here's why because it gives you purpose and context in whatever season you might be in if you're in a season right now of celebration and intimacy and you feel close with your spouse and quarantine actually has been great for you because you're spending so much time together then praise God enjoy that but if you're in a season where you're encountering significant struggle where sex represents conflict and pain for you look at the front of that puzzle box what is God trying to teach you inviting to teach you about the nature of his covenant love for us and I love that because it gives you purpose it gives you a redemption in every aspect of this of this part of your marriage that you might be struggling through and now I'm not sure where you might be on this spectrum I'm not sure what you and your spouse might be going through but I encourage you to remember what's on the front of that puzzle box to give you some perspective what does God want to teach you about his love and how does the example of his love help you to love one another well and we've been listening to dr julie slattery uh give a powerful message on the love like you mean it virtual cruise and I tell you what she's talking about stuff nobody wants to talk about I know yeah and giving a perspective that uh I mean I she said it there at the end it's very difficult you know the thing we never thought going into marriage would be difficult was the bedroom we just thought oh my goodness how hard can this be and we've struggled and I know there are couples listening right now that are really struggling and julie gives you hope well as I was listening to that last part when she says how does his love teach us to love one another well I would have never guessed before we got married that I'm continually looking at God's love and bringing that God's love into our marriage into our bedroom into our parenting but it's that continual looking back to the cover of the puzzle piece which is actually God's word and it makes me realize oh we have to be in God's word we need to be in community with other people who are always guiding us back to God's word and his plan and I think you know listening to a message like this you ask this question should my spouse and I talk about this yes yeah I think this is one of the hardest topics to talk about in a marriage it's just difficult you just you feel hurt you feel rejected or whatever you're feeling and you're afraid and a conversation about this begins the healing process well what would it look like I mean this kind of sounds weird but if we would just every night pray Lord Jesus help us with our physical intimacy every night we're going to pray that yes why wouldn't we yeah and I think like I was just saying it's not just praying about it but talking about it with your spouse I mean you know I've it's been it's been easier for me to preach about it to a thousand people than walk in the bedroom or the kitchen and say honey can we talk about our you would say why do we have to talk about it let's just do it no I mean I'm being honest here yeah when we have struggled I don't want to talk about it it's it's uncomfortable and Julie has open opened the door to say have a conversation and I'm guessing there's a spouse listening or and her or his spouse is not listening at the same time and you're feeling right now like man I really want to talk to my husband or my wife about this I would say go for it yeah ask God to enter that conversation or listen together and then talk about it yeah and he'll bring healing healing Dave and Ann Wilson's recommendation that you and your spouse listen to this message together it's a great idea the message is from Dr Julie Slattery just go to our website and find a time when the two of you can listen and pause the recording and have a conversation about this subject this is one of the messages that was presented this year on the Love Like You Mean It virtual cruise and we are all glad that the 2022 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise is not going to be virtual it's going to be face to face in person on a boat in the Caribbean with the warm winds and the ports of call and great speakers and great food just a great week together all of our Love Like You Mean It marriage cruises have been sellouts and we expect it's going to be the same this year we're starting to fill up quickly this week we're making a special offer to Family Life Today listeners the Back to Cruising event lowest cabin prices for the rest of the year are available right now you can call 1-800-FL today to find out more or to reserve your cabin over the phone there's also information about the cruise on our website at familylifetoday.com but again let me encourage you reserve your cabin today and join us Valentine's week of 2022 for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise we'd love to have you with us and with that we got to wrap things up for this week thanks for joining us hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend and I hope you can join us back on Monday in fact if you know somebody who's a single mom encourage her to tune in Monday because Peggy Sue Wells and Pam Farrell will be here with us to talk about some of the best decisions any single mom can make I hope you can tune in for that on behalf of our hosts Dave and Ann Wilson I'm Bob Lapine have a great weekend we'll see you Monday for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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