Test You and Teach God’s Love
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Juli SlatteryDr. Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She's the president and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. She hosts a podcast called Java With Juli, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to As...more
Marital intimacy is a difficult topic to discuss. But Juli Slattery says, Christians must push past our discomfort if we are to have any hope of conveying a Christ-honoring vision of it onto our children.
Test You and Teach God’s Love
Bob: As married couples, we need to be committed to taking the subject of marital intimacy—our sexual relationship in marriage—taking that seriously. Here’s Dr. Juli Slattery.
Juli: Friends, there are days, where I get on my knees, and my heart is just broken as we walk further and further away from God’s design for sexuality. One day, when I was on my knees, I heard the Lord very gently say to me, “Juli, why don’t you do something?”—because when we become complacent about pursuing sexual wholeness and holiness in our lives, we become complicit in the work the enemy is doing to destroy holy sexuality.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 18th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Have you ever stopped to consider that your intimate relationship in your marriage might be about something bigger than just your enjoyment and your pleasure? We’ll spend time considering that today with Dr. Juli Slattery. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, we’re back to talk more about what we’re talking about this week—at least, here, at the beginning of the week. We’re talking about human sexuality. I know there were some blushers yesterday—that’s what you call them, “the blushers,”—who tuned in and said “I don’t know,” and then they stayed with it; and they were like: “Oh, that was good. I needed to hear that.”
Dave: Juli, who we’re going to hear today, was phenomenal on the cruise, talking about this. Bob, I’m sort of glad she was talking about this. Do you remember the first time you invited Ann and I to speak on the cruise? [Laughter]
Bob: I do.
Dave: We had this text conversation going back and forth. It was pretty funny; because I said, “What do you want us to talk about?” You ended up saying “Sex.” I texted Bob back and said, “Do you really want a couple, in their 50s, talking about sex?” Immediately, you responded: “Are you still having sex?—then, talk about it.” [Laughter] So the answer is: “Yes,” and “Yes”; so I’m glad Juli’s doing it this time. [Laughter]
Ann: But I think Juli goes a lot deeper than we went.
Bob: Dr. Juli Slattery is an author and a speaker. She’s written books on this subject and really has some great insight into the nature of the sexual relationship in marriage. She joined us on the 2019 Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise.
Now, we need to just mention here, the 2020 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise is very close to selling out. We’re 90 percent full for next year’s cruise. We expect, by the end of June, it will be completely sold out. If you are interested in being with us—joining Dennis and Barbara Rainey; Dave and Ann Wilson; Dr. Gary Chapman’s going to be with us; Charlie and Kirstie Dates are going to be on the cruise. I mean, we’ve got a great lineup of speakers and artists/musicians who are going to be joining us.
If that’s something you’d like to do, Valentine’s Week next year, we need to hear from you this month; because, again, we expect, by the end of June, the remaining cabins will be sold. Our team has agreed that, if you sign up this week, there’s a special incentive for FamilyLife Today listeners. You can save $300 per couple off your stateroom, and there’s some other perks that are being thrown in.
Again, we need to hear from you this week. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you have questions; or you’re ready to register and talk about your stateroom/what cabin you want—call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Join us on the 2020 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise—our 10th anniversary cruise.
Well, we’re going to hear Part Two of Juli Slattery’s message today. She was talking about things she never heard about in church related to marital sexuality. We’ve already heard her talk about the first thing, which is that “Sex cements and celebrates the marriage covenant.” As we pick up the message today, she’s talking about the second thing that she never heard about in church.
Juli: Alright; the second thing I learned about sex, that I never heard in the church, really was that “Sex tests and refines your love.” So often, we think of sex just being about a celebration or expression of love; but it will test your love. It will test your love perhaps more than anything else in your marriage does.
When I grew up, I kept hearing, over and over again, that sex was this great gift that I was going to open on my honeymoon. But when we opened up this gift on our honeymoon, I was like, “God, You really shouldn’t have!” [Laughter] And things didn’t get better in our marriage; they continued to be difficult.
One of the reasons that the gift wasn’t great when we opened it was because my husband and I are different—men and women are different when it comes to sexuality. For men, sex leads to feelings of love; for women, feelings of love lead to sex. Men are quickly aroused and satisfied; women are slowly aroused and satisfied—it’s the microwave versus the crockpot. [Laughter] For men, desire/sexual desire is dependent on one constant hormone, which is testosterone. For women, sexual desire is based on changing hormones and many hormones.
So let me ask you a question: “Do you think that Adam and Eve had these differences in the Garden of Eden?—so they had these differences from the beginning?” Why would God do that?—what’s God’s plan in this? There was a period of my marriage, where I thought, “That is the first question I’m going to ask God when I see Him.” [Laughter] But fortunately, He didn’t make me wait until I got to heaven to answer that question; because what God began to reveal to me is that God, in His brilliance, built these differences into male and female sexuality; because having a great sex life requires learning to be unselfish. Having a long-term satisfying sex life between a man and a woman is impossible if you’re not learning to love each other unselfishly.
I began to realize that sex is actually more of a gift like LEGO®s. If somebody gives you a box of LEGOs, that has this awesome Batmobile on the outside of the box, you don’t expect that you’re going to open it up and find a Batmobile; do you? If you do, you’d be really disappointed; because when you open it up, you’re going to find all these pieces that don’t seem to fit together. You have to learn to build. When God gives a man and a woman this gift of sexuality, He’s inviting them to build. He’s inviting them to build love—to learn what real love is like.
He began showing me that in my own marriage; but 10 years into our marriage, when we had three little kids, the gift of sex for me was really not getting any better. In fact, it was getting worse; because I was exhausted. I began to see sex as something that was more of a gift for my husband and more of a duty for me. I just kind of accepted: “Well, that’s my lot in life. That’s the way it’s going to be”; but I started avoiding it. I’d be exhausted at the end of the day, and I really didn’t want my husband to make any advances. You know, sometimes he'd say: “Honey, you look really tired. Can I give you a back rub?” I’d say: “What kind of back rub?—what’s involved?” [Laughter] But that was my attitude; I almost became afraid of it.
I would really reserve the evening, after the boys went to bed, for my quiet time/my time with the Lord. I can remember one day/evening God was just really stirring in my life when I was having my quiet time. Have you had those moments, where you just sense God calling you to go deeper with Him? I began to pray: “God I want to know You. I want to serve You. How do I serve You? How do I surrender more of my life to You?” God’s answer really kind of shocked me; because I sensed Him saying, “Go up and initiate sex with your husband.”
“God, I want to know You. [Laughter] God, I’m so into Leviticus I can’t put it down!” I begin arguing with the Lord: “God, You can send me to the mission field; but please don’t send me upstairs”; [Laughter] because going upstairs was symbolic of entering into an area of my life that I wasn’t wanting to enter into. Sex is one of the few places in life, where Christians feel like they can be selfish—where we can be closed/where we can protect ourselves—instead of being vulnerable.
God began working on my heart, so I went upstairs. I looked into the bedroom, and Mike was there. I’m like [pensive voice]: “Hey honey. You know why I’m here?” He said: “Oh yes! I know why you’re here.” I said: “No, no; it’s the weirdest thing. I was having my quiet time, and I was praying. God told me to come up and initiate sex with you.” He said: “No kidding. [Laughter] I was praying and asking God to tell you that.” [Laughter]
Now, why would God tell me that? Why would He say, “If you want to get closer to Me, this is an area of your life that I want you to work on”?—because He was revealing to me that I had stopped building the LEGOs. We were not building intimacy. I didn’t know how to get through some of the trials that we were having in this area of our marriage.
Some of you can relate to that. The question isn’t: “How many times a week should you be having sex?” As a matter of fact, some of you need to stop having sex so you can work on the issue that’s in the way of you building real intimacy: learning to love, learning to share, learning to address the pain of trauma in the past or the shame of the sin that’s in the past, taking steps toward forgiveness and true communication. Sex is an invitation to begin to learn to love like Jesus loves. For many of us, it will test and refine that love more than any other aspect of your marriage.
The third thing that God showed me about sex is that: “Sex teaches us about God’s love.” You’re like, “How in the world can sex teach us about God’s love?” Well, let’s start with the whole premise—see if you agree with me on this—that everything God created was intentional and purposeful. Would you agree with me on that?—that God didn’t just randomly create things out of fun; He had a purpose for it. That purpose of everything in creation is what?—reveal His glory; reveal Himself to us. So God creates physical things on earth that we can see, and experience, and touch to teach us about spiritual truths that just seem less tangible.
For some of you, you went scuba diving today or you went snorkeling—nobody went scuba—but you snorkeled with the sharks. You saw beautiful fish. You did something where you saw creation. I hope you just didn’t’ say, “That’s a cool experience”; but when you saw the beauty of God’s creation, your heart was called to say, “How great Thou art!” When we’re in the middle of the sea on this ship—when you look out at the ocean—you don’t just go, “That’s cool water; it’s pretty”; but you say: “I am so small. God, I can’t even imagine how big You are,”—that everything in creation is calling us to reflect on something of who God is.
This is true of your sexuality as well. John Piper put it this way—he said, “The ultimate reason why we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable.” Why would John Piper write something like that? Well, he was reflecting on what Paul said in Ephesians, Chapter 5, when Paul talks about this one flesh union between a husband and wife. He says: “Now this is a great mystery; I’m referring to Christ and the church,”—that marriage and sexuality is a metaphor/a picture of God’s covenant love for us. It’s a physical thing that we experience—that we can feel and sense—that teaches us about something that is very intangible, which is God’s covenant love for us. It’s a holy metaphor that gives sexuality great significance.
There are times in your marriage, when you’re learning to build those LEGOs; and the thing you need to do is—you need to look at who God is and say, “Okay; Jesus, this is how You love me; and so I want to love my husband…” or “…wife this way.” But there are also times, when you’re building intimacy in marriage—particularly when intimacy is wonderful, and it’s exhilarating, and it’s passionate—where you stop and you say, “You love me like this?” because the Scripture says that sexuality and God’s covenant love—that one teaches us about the other.
Let me give an example where we see this in Scripture. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is the word, yada. Does anybody know what the word, yada, means?—to know. It means to know intimately or deeply. Now, the word, yada, is used in the Old Testament over 940 times. How many of you have read the whole Old Testament? Okay; let me ask you: “Is there that much sex in the Old Testament?”—no. The reason the word, yada, is used over 940 times is because, most of the times, it’s used it is referring to God’s intimate sacred knowledge of us and our desire to know Him intimately.
In Psalm 139—the psalm of intimate knowing—David says “You have searched me O God and You yada me. You yada when I sit and when I rise…before a word is on my tongue You yada completely.” When Moses was asking to see the glory of God, he was saying, “God, I want to yada You; I want to intimately know You.”
If you’re reading the Old Testament in the original language, you would know that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is a metaphor/a symbol reminding us all and always of our longing to know God more intimately and more passionately—to enter into who He is. You know, some of us—I’ve been here—we say we love God. We say it out loud; we might even sing the worship song, but we don’t know how to enter into the passion of knowing who God really is and of celebrating Him.
This gives sex great significance—to know that its purpose is to be a metaphor of something as holy as God’s covenant love. It is not just a metaphor for us, within our own marriages; it is a metaphor that the world is watching. It is the one thing on planet earth that is a physical tangible way of us showing people that God loves us intimately, that He loves us passionately, that He loves us faithfully, that He doesn’t break His covenant. This gives sexual intimacy within your marriage holy significance, and it also is why the enemy so desperately wants to destroy sexuality.
Can you think of anything in our culture that is under more spiritual attack than sexuality? We see sexual brokenness everywhere. In my job/in my ministry, what I deal with every day is sexual brokenness and sexual questions. I deal with brokenness: in marriage; pornography; “How do you recover from an affair?” I deal with same-sex attraction; I deal with gender fluidity and confusion; and sexual abuse. Sometimes, it gets pretty overwhelming when you see all that pain and you know all that pain is there. Friends, there are days, where I get on my knees, and my heart is just broken for the pain. I see that the pain is only going to get worse as we walk further and further away from God’s design for sexuality.
Sometimes, I just cry out to God and I say, “God, why don’t You do something?” One day, when I was on my knees, just praying that prayer, I heard the Lord very gently say to me, “Juli, why don’t you do something?”—because when we become complacent about pursuing sexual wholeness and holiness in our lives, we become complicit in the work the enemy is doing to destroy holy sexuality. Here’s what I realized: “We need revival.” And you know where revival is going to come from?—it’s going to come from us; it’s going to come from God’s people.
There is sexual brokenness, and shame, and sin, and hurt that’s not being spoken out loud—we’re not asking God to bring healing; we’re not being honest with what we’re struggling with. If we want to see revival out there, it has to begin with right here. That’s why I say to God: “I don’t want the enemy to have one inch of territory of that area in my marriage. I want to fight for it. I want to fight for God to reclaim what the enemy has stolen.”
I want to ask you to fight for it, too. Again, fighting for revival—it’s not about “Hey, let’s get these laws changed,” or “Let’s picket this.” It’s about asking Almighty God to reclaim territory that has been stolen by the enemy, not out there, but right here. [Applause]
Bob: Now, again, that’s Dr. Juli Slattery speaking on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise this year. We’re going to hear from her, again, before we’re done—she’s going to pray for couples.
She’s right; this is a spiritual issue—a profoundly spiritual issue—that has an impact, not just on our marriages, but in our culture. How we deal with this good gift from God affects everything about our lives and our culture.
Dave: And because the sexuality of our lives is so tied to our souls, which is something you need to hear in the church. What Juli was talking about, it deeply affects us from the inside out so, when we made bad decisions, it’s something that you carry for your whole life.
Revival—man, she’s so right. It’s like: “Am I willing to take this area of my life and surrender it to Jesus?—and ask Him to do a revival in that part of my soul so that it can spread out to the world?”
Ann: I so agree. I see so many people and couples in bondage in this area—that they can’t get free. I love that she’s going here, because God can set us free. He can revive our hearts, and revival starts within ourselves before we can take it to the world.
Bob: And the people, who are in bondage, feel helpless; because they feel like, “This is something I can’t talk to anybody about.”
Ann: Right; and “There are no answers.” “Here are answers.”
Bob: Exactly; Juli’s written on these subjects. In fact, we’ve got a number of her books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLIfeToday.com to get more information about books from Juli Slattery. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and her material is very helpful.
Let me also mention—I mentioned this earlier—but the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, where Juli was speaking this year—our 2020 cruise is almost completely sold out. We’re in what we’re calling “Countdown to Sellout.” We expect, by the end of June, all of the cabins will be claimed. If you’re interested in joining us on board the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2020—Valentines week/February 11-17—go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get more information, or call to register at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
If we hear from you this week—you’re a FamilyLife Today listener—there is a special offer available. You can save $300 per couple off the cost of your stateroom, and there are some additional perks that the team is throwing in. Find out more when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to book your cabin. Again, the number to call: 1-800-358-6329; and we can get you all set up to join us, in February 2020, on the tenth anniversary of the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. We hope you can join us for that.
Now, here, again, is Dr. Juli Slattery to close our program today in prayer.
Juli: As we close, I’m going to ask you just to hold your spouse’s hand; and close your eyes for a minute with me. These aren’t easy things to talk about, even between you and your spouse. But if God is stirring on your heart/if there’s something that He is revealing—where you just feel like God is asking you to put a stake in the ground to address something that maybe is hard to talk about/to confess something that you’re afraid to talk about or confess—would you just squeeze your spouse’s hand? Just between the two of you say: “Honey, this is something we need to talk about later,” or “…pray about.”
I would just ask the Lord to give you the courage to follow through with that, because I really believe that God redeems and reclaims one life at a time and one marriage at a time.
Lord, we come before You. I see in Your Word the pattern of You moving begins with You breaking Your people’s heart; and when their hearts are broken, You ask them to begin with personal repentance. We sang to You, O God, just an hour ago about how You are the healer and, if You are for us, then who can stand against us? I claim that prayer for every couple in this room.
Some couples are just wanting to celebrate in a different way than they ever have before. Some couples need to invite You into healing—need to invite You in to removing shame/removing bitterness so that their marriage can truly be a metaphor for the depth of Your covenant love.
Lord, I pray that You would do this in our hearts and in our lives in this place so that we really could be lights in a dark world for Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray; Amen.
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