Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Episode Resources

Learn more about the Seeking Him study.

Dannah Gresh: Today’s topic is sensitive. Can you be free once you’ve engaged in sexual sin? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The gospel is a message of hope for people who are broken in every way, including sexually.

Leslie Basham: It’s October 11, 2019. This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: If you have younger kids with you, you need to know that we’re going to be talking about God’s plan for physical intimacy within marriage, and you need to decide how much your kids are ready to handle that topic.

For the last couple of weeks, Nancy’s been in a series on the characteristics of personal revival. The series is called, “Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.” And just open a web browser, or look up at the billboards you’re driving past, and you’re going to see why today’s topic is so applicable. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Well, I don’t have to tell you that we live in a hypersexualized culture—all of us, and by that I mean all of us—men, women, children have been profoundly affected by the pornification of our culture and the pervasive narrative that that culture tells us 24/7 about beauty, sex, our bodies, our worth, and so much more.

And so we look around, and we see a lot of tragedy. We see incredible confusion and brokenness. We see a huge battle. That’s how I view this whole sexual situation in our culture, in our world—a battle for souls, a battle ultimately for the display of the gospel. And I hope that will make a little more sense at the end of this session.

Now, you look around at the church, Christian friends that you know, even in this room, we have different perspectives on sex. There are those who think of sex as the ultimate good. They can’t live without it. They’re obsessed with it. They think about it all the time. It becomes their god. It controls them. That’s at one end of the spectrum—sex is the ultimate good.

And then we have at the other end of that spectrum, some who think of sex as anything but good. And there can be a lot of reasons for that. There are some who may have grown up hearing that sex is bad, that you can get STDs. It can wreck your life. “Stay away from it.” So they come to think that sex is dirty and disgusting, and they’re probably uncomfortable that we’re having this conversation right now.

There are others who may feel, not that sex is dirty, but that you are dirty as a result of having had sex outside the covenant of marriage or violating God’s sexual standards in some way. So when you hear the term “sex,” it just stirs up, it brings to the surface deep regrets and guilt. So, for you, sex is anything but good.

For others, including some in this room, you may have been a victim of sexual assault, abuse, manipulation, and so, for you, sex is terrifying. It’s dreaded. It’s something you want to stay away from.

For whatever reason, whatever your background, your frame of reference, you may think of sex as, basically, a necessary evil. If you’re married, maybe you think of it as an obligation, something you have to do, something that has to be a part of your life.

I’ll just say that I’ve taught on the “Seeking Him” series in the past these lessons, but I’m viewing all this with new eyes as a married woman, and I want to come from that perspective today a little differently perhaps than I have in the past.

I’ll just start us by saying, reminding us what we know, and that is that God cares a lot about sex. He does. And also, the devil cares a lot about sex. And maybe something you haven’t thought about, you and I need to care a lot about sex. It matters.

I think in this discussion we need to start by just addressing some basic truths and misconceptions. For example, sex means a lot. That’s true. But sex does not mean everything. That’s also true. So the misconception is that sex is everything. It’s not. It means a lot, but it doesn’t mean everything.

Sex is a beautiful gift. That’s true. But sex is not greater than the Giver of the gift. That’s also true.

The sexual relationship between a man and a woman is a powerful, important metaphor, a picture of the gospel story. It points us to the oneness, the faithfulness, the joy, the delight that the members of the Trinity experience within that relationship. It points us to the sacrificial, covenant love of God for His people. So it’s important. It’s beautiful as God ordained it.

Now we go back, just roll back the scroll a little bit, if you would, to Genesis chapter 3. We see how God blessed the man and woman He had created in that beautiful environment where He blessed them. And then, Satan contested God’s work. He contested the restriction that God had placed, “Don’t eat from the fruit of this tree.”

Adam and Eve now faced a choice, and what they did was to trade in God’s blessing for fear, shame, and guilt. I’d say they got the bad end of that deal, but they weren’t thinking about where they would end up. They were thinking about the momentary offer, the deception. They thought they were trading upward, but instead they traded God’s blessing for fear, shame, and guilt. And what they thought would satisfy them, disappointed them and ultimately destroyed them.

The consequences of sin in the garden, in that first married couple, impacted every area of their lives. Body, soul, and spirit, all were impacted, affected by sin. Their relationships with each other, with their children, all future relationships were all tainted and impacted by that first sin, including the sexual relationship, which, if you follow the trajectory of Scripture—creation, fall, redemption, God created sex. Sex is impacted by the fall. And God is redeeming sex, redeeming our sexual lives.

So in this here and now, in the broken period, we have a lot of people who, in relation to their sexual lives, are broken. They have dysfunctional, distorted views and experiences of sex. And so we read in Romans chapter 1, for example: 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and served the creature [and their own natural creaturely lusts] rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (vv. 24–25).

So you see, God brings in the whole brokenness of sex, but He puts it in the context of creation and how He is redeeming the broken things. So we end up with worship God “who is blessed forever! Amen.” (It all comes together within one paragraph there.)

Now, Satan has a way with every area of life with twisting and perverting the true value of things. He switches the price tags of things so we think things that are worthless in God’s eyes, Satan says they are of great value. Things that God says are of great value, the enemy comes along, and he says, “Oh, that’s worthless. Throw it away in a garage sale.”

And so, in the case of sex, interestingly to me, Satan convinces unmarried people that they cannot live without sex, and then, once they’re married, he convinces a lot of married people that they can do just fine without sex. And we see him twisting the values and perverting and distorting the way that God designed it to be.

Now, I’m so thankful that Scripture addresses all of this. The apostle Paul spoke to New Testament believers who lived in a sex-crazed world—in some ways, crazier than our own. They faced sexual temptations and issues on every front. His message on sexual purity was wildly counter-cultural, as it is today.

Somethings we think, God’s standards about sex are so old-fashioned. Well, they always have been. “They so don’t fit the culture.” Well, they’ve never fit the culture.

And so, today, in these moments we have, I want to wash our hearts and renew our minds with the pure water of the Word of God because that’s what gives us sanity and perspective and moorings and bearings so that we’re not set adrift in this sea of shifting moral values. We could just talk about all the bad things, all the things going wrong, but I want to give you a vision for what God designed sex to be and what it means to have sexual purity.

So I’m turning, for example . . . I’m going to look at three passages in the writings of the apostle Paul. One in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. I’d love to spend a whole session or more just unpacking the broader context of this passage, but I’m going to pick out one paragraph here, beginning in verse 3. “For this is the will of God.”

Have you ever said to somebody, “I really want to know what God’s will is”? You want to know what God’s will is? I’m going to tell you what the will of God is. Now, there are other passages that say, “This is the will of God.” Find those passages, pursue what it says in those passages, and you will find yourself in the center of God’s will. Now, probably, there’s not going to be a passage that tells you, “You should just sell the house you’re in and go buy another one.” But if you do the passages that say, “This is the will of God,” you’ll know how to make good decisions on some of those other things.

This is the will of God, your sanctification [your holiness, your growth in grace]: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God . . . (vv. 3–5).

Now, let me just stop right there. The clear thing in that part of this passage is that those who know God do not live the same way as those who do not know God. There is a qualitative, huge difference from the inside out. Now, they all eat. They all get dressed. They go to work. There are some things they all do, but there’s an inside core that is way different.

And Paul is saying, “You can’t claim to know God and live under the control of your passions and lusts, and that those who do know God abstain from sexual immorality, and they control their own body in holiness and honor.” Verse 6, he says, 

. . . so that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

By the way, it’s right to warn people about the consequences of sexual sin. Now, we want to do it with grace. We’re not coming at people with a sledge hammer. We’re not trying to destroy their lives. We’re trying to protect their lives from destruction.

So Paul says, “I’m going to warn you about this.” And we need to warn others, and ourselves, that the Lord says there are consequences for those who transgress God’s moral laws and wrong their brother. Sexual sin affects you. It affects the person that you’re sinning with sexually. You’re wronging yourself, you’re wronging others if you’re sinning sexually.

And then he says, verse 7—here’s the vision: 

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

If you want God’s best in your life, you want to enjoy the fullness of all He made you for, then pursue sanctification. Pursue holiness. God didn’t call you for impurity.

Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man [“These aren’t my rules. These aren’t my standards] but disregards God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (v. 8).

God has given you His Holy Spirit; God has given me His Holy Spirit—we’ll talk about that in the next session—so that we can live holy lives free from impurity. What a calling is this!

Now, the alternative to lust, we’ll see in this passage and in other passages, is love. Look at verse 9: 

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.

So you’re not going to sin against one another by having your bodies uncontrolled in sexual immorality, but your body’s controlled in holiness and honor so you won’t sin against each other. Instead, you will love each other well—love one another. And then he says: 

For that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more (v. 10).

Do it more and more. Pursue sanctification. Pursue holiness. Love one another instead of lusting one another. Live out your calling to pursue holiness, and you will bless each other with the love of Christ.

Now, you see the same theme in Ephesians chapter 5—and I’m just picking out a few passages here that similarly make these points. Verse 1, he says:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

This is not God saying, “I hate you. You can’t have sex.” This is God saying, “You are a beloved child, and I want everything that is good for you and nothing that is bad for you, so let Me tell you how you get that, beloved children.”

Verse 2: “And walk in love . . .” Walk in love. Don’t walk in lust. Walk in love. Love for God—receiving God’s love. Loving others with God’s love. Loving yourself in the way that God loves you. 

Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Listen: Love equals self-sacrifice. Love doesn’t equal doing what you want with your body, following your raw animal instincts. Love means doing what pleases the Lord and what honors your body and honors the bodies of others.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among [what’s the next word?] saints (v. 3).

He said, “You’re beloved children,” and now he’s saying, “You’re saints.” You know what saint means? It’s not somebody who was a really good person who died. It’s you. It’s those who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. You are a saint if you’re a child of God. 

He says, “You’re a saint. Now, live like a saint. You don’t have to live like those who don’t know God, and all they can do is express the drives of their flesh.” He says, “You’ve got the Holy Spirit living in you who will give you the motivation, the power, the desire to love God and others well, including with your body.”

First Corinthians chapter 6—same concept here. He says in verse 18:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (vv.18–20).

We are not disembodied creatures or souls. We glorify God with our souls, with our spirits, all that is within us, bless His holy name and glorify God with your body.

Some years ago I received an email at our ministry from a woman who was working on the staff of another Christian organization. Her email said:

Please pray for me. I am so close to unfaithfulness, though I have a wonderful husband. I have been very inappropriate with another married man. [Who, as it turned out, worked at the same Christian organization as she did.

I don’t understand what I am wanting from him, only that I want to be with him. Your series on “The Foolish Woman” helped me back off, but just for a while. I feel out of control. 

Exactly the opposite of what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4.

Well, reading this email stirred up something very deep in me. I felt like this woman was in a burning house, and she needed someone to love her enough to pull her out of it. So I sent an email to one of our staff who responds to many of the emails we receive at our ministry. I said to this woman, “Plead with her—beg her—to RUN from this situation! Satan is doing to her exactly what he did to Eve. She is being deceived into thinking this “fruit” is what she wants and needs.”

And I said to our correspondent, “The truth is it will be her un-doing. The thing she thinks will bring her joy will destroy her—her life, her future, her family, her relationship with the Lord—everything. Hard as it may be for her to deal with this, if she will cry out to God for grace, He will help her.”

Well, a few weeks later we received another email from this same woman—this one even more desperate. And she said, and I quote: “I feel paralyzed this morning, trying to do my job (here in this Christian organization), reading this morning’s emails from the ‘other man,’ and wondering how to ‘RUN’ from this situation, because now we are ‘in love.’”

She felt she was in love, but the truth is, she was in lust. It’s love that she really needed to deliver her from lust.

So finally I was able to talk with her directly, and we had that call. She was sobbing, just sobbing. It turned out she had a whole history of sexual addictions and starts and falls and another fall and then another start. And she’s sobbing, and she said, 

I know I am destroying everything. I feel so hopeless. I want out of this life before it all blows up and everybody finds out who I really am.

She’d been trying to break free from these sexual sins and addictions for years. Her husband was an elder in their church, and he didn’t know what she was experiencing in this relationship at work. She had counseled other women in a similar situation in the past.

Well, long story short, through a process—an amazing process—of confession, repentance, and rebuilding, God set this woman free from her bondage, restored her marriage. It’s been now, I suppose, fifteen years or so, and we still correspond occasionally. God has done an amazing work in her life. He now is, truly, using her to minister to others who are prisoners to sexual sin.

You see, the gospel is a message of hope for people who are broken in every way, including sexually.

You may have sinned sexually. And I want to tell you the good news today is that the gospel can set you free from guilt and can—get this—restore virtue. Yes, it can. The enemy doesn’t want you to know that.

Now, maybe you’ve been sinned against sexually. And I want to say to you that the gospel can set you free from shame and can bring healing and wholeness to your heart that has been busted into smithereens because you were sinned against in ways that you had no control over, no choice in. You need the gospel.

Whether you’re married or single, you may be struggling to abstain from sex outside of marriage.

You may feel the pull—and it may feel incredibly strong—of sexual fantasies, pornography, erotica, self-gratification. And I want to say: “You need the gospel.” The gospel can give you the desire and the power to please God and to walk in self-control and love rather than lust. The gospel can give you the power to experience deep satisfaction in the love of Christ. 

As a married woman, you may struggle to thinking positively about sex, to give yourself sexually to your husband. There can be a lot of background reasons for all of that, but I want to say: “You need the gospel.” The gospel can give you the grace you need to desire your husband, and to experience healing in the broken places of your lives and your marriage.

Now, if you’ll let me, I want to get really personal for a moment here.

I have spent, as most of you know, most of my life as a single woman, and during those years, God gave me—by His grace; I take no credit for this—a desire to please Him, and to pursue Him, to pursue intimacy with Him, and to serve His kingdom as a single woman.

Song of Solomon chapter 8, verse 4 says, “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (CSB). I was familiar with that verse from the time I was a child. In the context of this amazing book of the Song of Solomon, on the beauty and the magnificence of sex within the context of covenant marriage, but to this young woman, it said: “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.”

So as a young woman I purposed, by God’s grace, not to fuel sexual desires until God made it clear that it was His time, if ever, to do so. Now, I’m not going to say it was always easy. It wasn’t. But I will tell you this, looking back on that season, that I experienced tailor-made grace for every day, every situation I faced in that season. 

As a woman working with a lot of men in ministry, there were a lot of opportunities for fulfilling the lust of my flesh rather than loving well, and you’ve experienced the same. God gave amazing grace. That’s all I can say.

And I’ll tell you something else He gave me in that season: incredible fulfillment—not always with no loneliness or no longings, but there was great fulfillment.

When I got engaged to Robert at the age of fifty-seven . . . .I’ll just tell you that a lot of people were concerned about what the adjustment would be like for me in every area, including physical intimacy.

I have a friend—some of you have heard me tell this story. I write about it in another book—who, as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle at my wedding, pulled me aside. She’s like a mother figure to me, and she said: “Honey, I’m a mama, and I just want to ask: Is there anything you need to ask a mama?” I won’t tell you now how that conversation went (I share more of it in my book on Titus 2), but people were really concerned, “What was this going to be like?”

I just want to tell you that one of the sweetest blessings as Robert and I entered into marriage was that—and I want you to hear me here; there’s no self-righteousness in this because I have no righteousness apart from Christ. I’m just telling you that. But a huge gift was that as we entered into marriage . . . Robert had been married almost forty-five years and then widowed. I had never been married, and my view of sex had not been shaped by pop culture, by songs, music, movies, but by years of soaking in and being saturated in the Word of God.

You might laugh at this because it seems really odd, maybe impossible, but my frame of reference for sex was the Song of Solomon. I mean, that’s how I viewed it. I know that sounds, like, crazy, but it was an incredible gift when it came time to awaken love, the appropriate time.

Now, your experience may be very different than mine. It probably is. And your experience may be different than the person sitting next to you. You may be starting with a huge deficit. You may be in need of deep sexual healing and restoration. But I want to say to you that by the power of Christ and the gospel, it is possible for your mind to be renewed by the Spirit and the Word to help you think God’s thoughts about sex and to help you experience His best in your sexual life.

I long for my Christian sisters to experience the freedom and the joy of celebrating the good gift of sex in its God-given time and place. In fact, on our wedding night, I gave my husband this little book. It’s a little photo album, and it’s the Song of Solomon. I had it printed out and cut and pasted the entire text and wrote, “The Song of Songs for my beloved on our wedding day, November 14, 2015. With all my heart, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Then the Song of Solomon, and a note in the back I won’t read—that’s for him. (laughter)

But I long for every Christian woman to experience God’s perspective on the good gift of sex in its time and place between a man and a woman united in covenant of marriage, and I want our sex lives, whether single or married, to tell the gospel story and reflect the covenant love of Christ.

Knowing God, loving God and His ways, will free you up to enjoy His gifts to the fullest in every season of your life, whatever those gifts may be—the gift of sex in marriage, the gift of abstinence as a non-married woman. But I want us to remember that God’s instructions, His limitations are for your joy, for our freedom, for our peace, for our flourishing. And so I want to plead with you, married or single, don’t settle for less than that! Don’t trade in God’s good gifts for anything less.

I know I’m speaking to women with all kinds of situations. We have some college students here. We have a high school student. We have young married women. We have women who have been married forever. We have widows. People in just a lot of seasons of life. I’m saying, don’t trade in whatever God’s gift is for you in this season. Don’t settle for anything less than that!

As Robert and I were going to sleep one night recently, he held me in his arms, and he breathed a short but very heartfelt prayer. It just captured my heart in that moment. I remembered it, and I jotted it down the next morning. He said, “Thank you, Father, for the gift of intimacy. We worship you together.”

Worship – that’s the point of all of life, whether you are married or single, to experience the purity and beauty of intimacy with Him, the purity and beauty of being set apart for His kingdom purposes. And, if God gives you the gift of marriage, to experience in that covenant context, the purity and the beauty of being one with each other in body, soul, and spirit.

And so, Father, this is holy ground. It’s also a mystery. There’s so much we don’t get. But I know that our sexual lives tell a story. I pray that they might be informed by the gospel and might reflect the gospel and that people would see the beauty and the wonder of Your ways, that we would see it, that we would not trade in what You’ve given us, the good gifts You’ve given us, for anything less than Your very best.

I pray for my married sisters. I pray for my single sisters, widowed, never married, divorced—whatever. I pray, oh God, in each season of life, would You by Your grace give us the joy of sexual purity—whether that means abstaining or practicing beautiful, good sex, in Your time in its appropriate time. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: What a beautiful picture of intimacy, and we can all experience it. If single, you can experience intimacy with Christ Himself. But if you’re married, intimacy with your spouse is for the purpose of glorifying God.

Now, look, we’ve all blown it in some way, and we all need forgiveness and healing and God’s grace. If you’re ready to have that kind of freedom, to know you’re forgiven from past sins and to make holy choices from now on, would you consider going through this Bible study Nancy co-wrote with Tim Grissom? It’s called Seeking Him. Nancy’s going to show you how to have freedom from sexual sin and all kinds of condemnation. She’ll show you how to walk in honesty and purity through the power of God’s Spirit.

We’d love to send you this study, and here’s how you can get it. When you donate any amount, we’d like to give back to you by sending you the workbook Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

Ask for the Seeking Him study when you contact us and check out further details about how you can get more copies of the study or Nancy’s teaching on video that goes with it.

Nancy knows a lot of people are trying to please God out of their own strength.

Nancy: So many Christians who are striving, struggling, trying harder. “I’m going to be a good Christian if it kills me!” It might because you can’t live the Christian life. The Christian life is not hard. It’s not difficult. It’s impossible. Only Jesus could live the Christian life.

Dannah: That’s why she’s going to show you how to lean entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s Monday. I’m Dannah Gresh, inviting you back next week for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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