Revive Our Hearts Podcast

What Your Sexual Conduct Says About the Gospel

Leslie Basham: It’s important for a wife to set boundaries, but Mary Kassian suggests a single woman needs the same thing.

Mary Kassian: Behavior that would be inappropriate for a married woman to engage in with a man who is not her husband, you have to question whether that behavior is appropriate for an unmarried woman to engage in with a man who is not her husband. So whether we’re married or single, the Lord wants to redeem our thinking about sex and sexuality so that we have an increasingly pure and holy mindset with regard to sex, and that our behavior is increasingly holy.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, August 25.

Today’s program may not be appropriate for younger children. So you may want to divert their attention before coming back for this important conversation. Here’s Nancy:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: My friend, Mary Kassian, has written a book that we’ve been talking about in this series. This is a book that every Revive Our Hearts’ listener—certainly every woman listener—needs to have a copy of and to read and to personalize and to be sharing its concept with others. The book is called Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild.

Mary, thank you so much for being back here with us again on Revive Our Hearts today to talk about these concepts.

Mary: Thanks, Nancy. I’m so glad to be here.

Nancy: By the way, I’m making plans to take a small group of young women through this book. You’ve provided some great resources, study guide questions, discussion questions, a learner’s guide, online resources, video book blog, pdfs, just all kinds of companion resources that make it really easy to take someone through this study. I’m working on gathering a group of women under 35, and as an older woman, I think this is going to be a great resource to be investing in the lives of those younger women.

Mary: I think that’s what we need to be doing. That’s one of the reasons I put together so many extra additional resources because I think that these ideas about womanhood are critical for us to be discussing as women and for older women to be teaching younger women. So the ideas and the concepts in Girls Gone Wise really deals with a lot of different aspects about what womanhood is all about.

Nancy: I can honest say I don’t know of any single resource that is a more thorough, comprehensive treatment of biblical womanhood in its practical outworking than this book. There are 20 chapters that show the contrast between a wild woman—and that’s what’s all around us. That’s what we see in our culture—and a wise woman—which is what we see in the Word of God and as Christian women, what we want to be.

I think you do such a great job, Mary, of giving us the theological underpinnings of why all this matters, but then also flushing out what it looks like and how to live it and why it’s beautiful, why it’s desirable. Nowhere do you do it better than in the subject, which we have to get to on this when you talk about wise and wild women, than the whole issue of sexual conduct, a woman’s sexual behavior.

One of the sentences in this chapter that really caught my attention was when you said that you think that we don’t make as much of sex as we should. I’m thinking to myself, “How can you say that? Sex is everywhere.” It’s everywhere, and yet you’re saying there’s a sense in which we don’t make enough of sex.

Mary: We don’t make enough of sex as we ought to. Certainly we do live in a sex-saturated culture, but we don’t honor and value sex for what God created it to be. We don’t esteem it as holy, and we don’t treat it with the same sort of respect that God would have us have for it. So I don’t think we make nearly as much of it. If we valued it more and esteemed it more for the purposes and reasons that God created it, we would certainly be much more careful about our sexual conduct.

Nancy: One of the things you do, before really getting into the nuts and bolts, specifics of the conduct, is to say it’s important that we understand what great sex is about. What do you mean by that?

Mary: Well, we need to understand why God created sex because so often we think that sex is about us, just having enjoyment as men and women, for us to enjoy our marriages, and for us to create children. But sex really has a cosmic sort of a meaning to it, as do manhood and womanhood. Sex falls into that same category. It has a meaning to it that is way bigger than us.

Manhood and womanhood, marriage, and sexuality really were created by God to tell a story. It was really like a parable to tell the gospel story, to tell the story about a Husband who loved His Bride so much that He gave His life for His Bride. It's the story of Jesus and the Church, and the story about how wonderful and how promising and how exciting their union will be when the Church and Christ are united.

So sex exists to tell that story, and marriage exists to tell that story, and if we don’t understand what that story is all about, and we don’t understand the meaning of sex, then we won’t get our sexual behavior right.

Nancy: That’s important for both single and married women to understand.

Mary: It is because the Bible’s principles for sexual conduct take the issue of sex a lot further than a written list of do's and don’ts for marrieds or for singles. The Bible’s teaching on sex really emanates from the heart of God. He wants us to cherish and value our sexuality and to bear witness to the truth of the gospel with the way we conduct ourselves sexually both inside and outside a marriage relationship.

Nancy: So as a single woman, how can my abstinence or chastity reflect the gospel?

Mary: Knowing what sex is all about motivates a single woman to be pure and to be holy in her sexual conduct. As she is pure and holy and faithful prior to marriage, or through her whole life if she remains unmarried, that behavior tells the story of God’s faithfulness and tells the story of the faithfulness of the Church of Christ to Christ until this time we see Him and are united with Him.

So a single woman tells the same gospel story but from a different angle. She tells the story of a Bride who is awaiting her Bridegroom and being faithful to Him in the time in which they are not yet together. So she tells that part of the story, and a woman who is married tells the part of the story of the union and communion and the intimacy that the two will experience when the two are one.

Nancy: I think, whether married or single, we tend to want that list of do's and don’ts that you just referred to, but the challenge biblically is to cultivate attitudes that underlie how we view our sexuality and that govern how we live it out.

Mary: The attitudes are important, and we do need to cultivate a godly attitude toward sex and sexuality. I think that sometimes Christians have erred in the past by seeing sex as something that’s unmentionable or something that is dirty or unholy or something that is somehow lesser, but sex is actually part of God’s plan. It’s a beautiful part of God’s plan, and it teaches us truths about what the gospel is all about.

  • It teaches us how two can become one.
  • It teaches how you can have individuals and yet you can have union.
  • It teaches how there can be an intimacy that is so profound and so amazing.
  • It teaches things about commitment and things about family, things about children.

All of those images, I believe, God created. He put all of those images in place so that we would have the words and the language to understand who God is and what the gospel is all about because if we wouldn’t have those concepts and human images and human examples and pictures, we would really struggle with understanding truths about the Lord.

Nancy: It all relates to the whole aspect of covenant, doesn’t it? It relates to the covenant relationship with our Lover.

Mary: It really does, and that’s the story that’s told through manhood and womanhood and marriage and sex, that whole story, the story of the covenant. We’re told in the Bible that God makes a covenant with us and that there’s the new covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ. The new covenant is the story that is told through the Bridegroom who gives His life for the Bride, the Bride who is faithful to her Bridegroom. It tells how wonderful their union will be. That’s the story we tell in our marriages, and that’s the story we tell as single women awaiting marriage.

If we do get married, or if we do not, this is such an incredibly beautiful thing because a single woman participates in the story just as fully as a married woman does. She tells the story just as fully in her life as a married woman does, of a story of a woman who is faithful in waiting and pure and holy. It is the story, really the covenant story, which God wants to communicate to us.

Nancy: We’ve been looking in the series at the woman in Proverbs 7 who is an example of a wild woman, not a wise woman. Her sexual behavior is impure; it’s dishonorable. She reaches out beyond her relationship with her mate, and she’s not satisfied with what God has given her in her marriage or exercising her sexuality within her marriage. She reaches out beyond that and seems to have this sense of neediness—“I need something beyond what God has provided in my marriage.”

Mary: We see the example of the Proverbs 7 woman who really has this neediness in her life. The text says that she tells the young man, “So now I have come out to meet you to seek you eagerly.” So she is eagerly seeking to have her needs fulfilled, but she is looking to a man to fulfill those needs.

Nancy: To a man other than the husband God has already given her.

Mary: A man other than the husband, but even our husbands cannot fulfill all those deep needs of our heart. We need the Lord Jesus Christ for that.

Nancy: So she acts on that sense of neediness, looking to sources to fill the empty places of her life other than the one God Himself who really can fill her most deeply.

Mary: Women have a tendency to do that. We have a tendency to turn to our relationships, to turn to men and expect them to meet the deepest needs of our hearts. Certainly, there is a lot of fulfillment in relationships, there’s a lot of joy in marriage, but even the best marriage and the best Christian marriage isn’t going to meet the deep desires of a woman’s heart. For that she needs to have her feet grounded in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. She needs to be pursuing that relationship and looking to Christ for significance and looking to Christ to fulfill her needs.

Nancy: But in the process of doing that, she really is not going to miss out on the kind of sexual fulfillment that God wants to be enjoyed within the marriage context.

Mary: Sex in the context of marriage, statistically even, is the best kind of sex there is. Sex in the context of a committed relationship between a husband and a wife is the most fulfilling and the most delightful type of sex that there is. That’s born out statistically, but the Word of God bears witness to that.

We need, as Christian women, to give sex an important place in our marriages because we tell the story of the gospel. Sexuality is an important part of who we are, and it’s an important part, really, of understanding the gospel and of telling that story in the context of the marriage relationship.

Nancy: There’s something else we see in the Proverbs 7 woman. An attitude that affects her sexual behavior is her insistence on immediate gratification.

Mary: She says, “Come on, let’s take our fill of love, and let’s sop ourselves full with love” (verse 18, paraphrased). So she really wants to have her needs gratified immediately.

This sense of entitlement is another major point of contrast between a wild and a wise woman. The wise woman is willing to forfeit gratification for the sake of a greater or a higher good. She’s willing to do that for what Jesus calls her to do if necessary.

Whereas, a wild woman just pursues gratification and looks to have her need met in any way, even in illegitimate ways where she’ll go and chase an affair or an emotional affair or indulge in things and behaviors that she ought not to be indulging in all because she has this voracious neediness.

  • She insists that this need has to be taken care of, and that she’s entitled to be happy.
  • She’s entitled to have her sex life look the way she wants it to look.
  • She’s entitled to be loved in the way she wants to be loved.
  • She’s entitled to all those things, and rather than entrusting that to God, she will go out and get it for herself.

Nancy: So in Proverbs 7 we have this portrait of the wild woman in many areas, including in her sexual conduct. But in the New Testament, we have a classic passage on the wise perspective and attitude toward sexual behavior. Of course, I’m talking about 1 Thessalonians 4.

If you’re in a place where you have a Bible close at hand and can stop what you’re doing and join in with us, I would encourage you to open your Bible to that passage. It’s one of those that’s familiar to many of us, but we need to stop and go back and look at it again and hold our lives up to this standard and say, “Whether I’m married or single, am I living in accordance with this picture of wisdom?” Paul says to the Thessalonians,

We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God [which is what it’s all about], just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification [your being holy]: 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 (verses 1-5). 

So this whole area of our sexual behavior really does have a lot to say about how we view God and whether we even know Him at all.

Mary: That’s right. Paul says that the baseline type of behavior for Christians with regard to their sexuality is that they abstain from sexual immorality. In other words, that they stay away from any type of sex that takes place outside of the marriage relationship. That is the mark of a Christian. He says, “You need to get this right. This is what you do.”

This is very foundational to Christianity. You need to get your sexual conduct in the right place so that you’re abstaining from immorality.

Nancy: So how do we draw the lines? Everybody wants to know, “Where do you draw the lines?” You’ve got a dating relationship; you’ve got a male/female relationship at work—how far is too far? When does it become sexual immorality? I know you’re not going to give us a list, but how do we think about those things?

Mary: We think about them in terms of thinking, again, getting back to the context of the covenant, behavior that would be inappropriate for a married woman to engage in with a man who is not her husband, you have to question whether that behavior is appropriate for an unmarried woman to engage in with a man who is not her husband.

The Bible doesn’t give us a list, as you said, Nancy. It does give us the bottom line and that’s: Stay away from sexual immorality. So there’s the bottom line. You don’t sleep around. You don’t sleep with someone you’re not married to.

But in this passage, it also encourages us that we ought to aim for increased sexual purity. So whether we’re married or single, the Lord wants to redeem our thinking about sex and sexuality so that we have an increasingly pure and holy mindset with regard to sex, and that our behavior is increasingly holy.

This is a challenge for those who are single that they consider when they are in a relationship, not, “How far is too far?” but “Am I demonstrating a commitment to holiness and to covenant and to displaying the beauty and the glory of the gospel in the way that I interact sexually with the other person?”

In a marriage relationship, also, a married woman can ask herself: “Is my sexual conduct in my marriage bearing testimony to the truth of the gospel?” The delight of the Bride of Christ in her Bridegroom, the union, the desire to be together, “Am I as a married woman living that out in a way that honors God?”

Nancy: This is a huge issue among believers today, married and single. We’re finding, even within churches, as I’m listening to those who are writing to our ministry, and parents dealing with young adults who are working through these issues, the bar has just really fallen so low in terms of sexual purity.

So today for a couple who are engaged to be living together, really, it doesn’t raise very many eyebrows. It’s not unusual for them to say, “Well, we’re not sexually involved. We’re just sharing the same apartment until we get married.”

How are we to think about these things? And how should Christians look and be distinctive and different from the world in these matters?

Mary: If you’re thinking about the example of an engaged couple living together and sleeping together, the problem with that behavior is they’re really telling a lie. They are bearing witness with their bodies that a covenant has taken place when in fact it hasn’t. There has not been a joining. There has not been a union by God, and sex is the mark of the union. So they’re really not telling the truth about the gospel. There will be no union unless there’s first a covenant, unless there’s first that covenant joining.

We ought to be very different in our sexual conduct than the world. It says in the passage that you read that we ought to control our body in holiness and in honor. That looks very, very different than the free-for-all, it doesn’t matter, no boundaries type of conduct, or the type of conduct that sees sex as purely for my pleasure. Certainly there is a lot of pleasure and enjoyment and delight in the sexual act, and yet it’s not all about me. We’re telling the story of the gospel with the way that we conduct ourselves sexually.

Nancy: What about the mindset that it’s not really sex. There’s no intercourse, so it’s not really sex. How does 1 Thessalonians and the Scripture help us deal with that mindset?

Mary: Ephesians 5:3 says,

Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints.

Another translation says there shouldn’t even be a hint of it, there shouldn’t even be that little bit of it, that impurity or immorality. You shouldn’t even be joking about it, let alone doing it.

So this really speaks to our behavior. The bar is really quite high when it comes to sexual conduct and what God would want for us in the way that we express our sexuality. The bar is high. He wants us to be pure, and He wants us to be increasingly pure, and He wants our conduct to be as such that there isn’t even a hint, we don’t even go in that direction towards impurity and immorality.

Nancy: And then 1 Thessalonians 4 sums it up by saying,

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (verses 7-8).

So it comes back again to this is not about me. This is not about, “Is it okay for me to do this or that?” It’s “How is my life reflecting the Holy Spirit of God, the holiness of God, the pure and holy calling of God, and the exquisite picture that He has given us in His covenant relationship, the covenant relationship between Christ and His Church. “How am I manifesting that? Or “How am I giving people a faulty picture of what that covenant is like?”

Mary: That’s right. It goes also in 1 Corinthians 6 where we’re told: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (verse 20). 

It also there ties it together with sexual purity, that we glorify God in our bodies when we conduct ourselves sexually in a way that is consistent with what God would have of us as His children.

Nancy: So, wild or wise, it affects every area of our lives as women, even in the area of sexual conduct. Mary, you’ve provided us a great tool to be thinking about these things: Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild.

My hope is that not only these programs but thatthe book would be used by the Lord to motivate a lot of women to say, “I want to be God’s wise woman. This world may have gone wild, but by God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit, I want my life to tell the gospel story and to draw others to that as a result of letting Him make me a pure and wise woman.”

Leslie: I’ll tell you how to get a copy of the book Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing. Our guest, Mary Kassian, wrote it, and it will show you 20 points of contrast between a foolish woman and a wise woman. As we’ve been hearing all week, this book shows you how to incorporate biblical wisdom into every part of your life.

The book is called Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. We want to send you a copy. Just support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount, and we’ll say, “Thanks,” by sending Mary’s book. You’ll also get the series on CD. Listen to this conversation between Nancy and Mary in the car or wherever you are.

We rely on donations from listeners just like you who believe in this program and appreciate the teaching that they hear. Ask for Girls Gone Wise, the CD series and the book when you call 1-800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

What are your boundaries? Have you ever thought through what you will and won’t do with a man who isn’t your husband? Nancy and Mary will discuss that next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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