FamilyLife Today® Podcast

God’s Design for Sex

with Tim Gardner | February 8, 2007
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Today on the broadcast, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute, talks with Dennis Rainey today about God's beautiful plan for the sexual relationship.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute, talks with Dennis Rainey today about God's beautiful plan for the sexual relationship.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Today on the broadcast, Tim Gardner, founding director of The Marriage Institute, talks with Dennis Rainey today about God’s beautiful plan for the sexual relationship.

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God’s Design for Sex

With Tim Gardner
February 08, 2007
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Bob: Guys, let me ask you this – does your wife know that you are delighted with her?  If she does, it's powerful.  Here's Tim Gardner.

Tim: The more a woman feels loved, cherished, cared for, and accepted and made to feel experientially and otherwise that she is the sole object of desire for her husband, then the world will be the world, but a woman doesn't feel like she has to compete with the world because she's not getting that from her husband.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 8th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  There is a lot more to desire and feeling desirable than meets the eye.  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  We're going to be talking about intimacy in marriage today, physical intimacy, and I know some moms or dads will thing, "Well, we probably don't need to have this on during the car pool this morning while the kids are in the car," and that's appropriate, but we do want to talk candidly about something.  And I think this is interesting, Dennis.  I was looking at the title of this book we're going to be talking about, and I think a lot of people think that those two words really belong together.

Dennis: You're talking about "sacred sex."

Bob: Yeah, I mean in this culture it sure doesn't seem like we treat this subject with any sense of reverence or holiness, you know?

Dennis: Right, and probably points out the need that we have in this culture for talking about it from such a perspective.

 We do have the author of the book, "Sacred Sex" with us.  Dr. Tim Gardner joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Tim, welcome to the broadcast.

Tim: It is an honor to be here, thank you.

Dennis: Tim is a native of Austin, Texas.  We do allow Longhorns to cross the border up in here to Arkansas but only on an allocation basis.

Bob: Well, you know, last year, for the first time, we were able to vault ahead of them in the polls – the first time in a long time, so that's when we said, "Okay, it's all right to let Tim come up."

Dennis: You know, even if it's only for a week, Bob, it's still fun.

Bob: It's still worth it, isn't it?

Dennis: It's still fun to be ahead of a Longhorn.  There are some of them listening right now to me, and they're going to write me, I know, for sure.

 Anyway, Tim is the founder and director of The Marriage Institute, which is an outreach to marriages and families.  He is a speaker, a teacher, and author, a licensed counselor.  He and his wife, Amy, have three children, and they live near Indianapolis, Indiana. 

 And, Tim, this book is intriguing.  I want to begin it on more of a practical level.  You tell a story in the book about a couple by the name of Sarah and Michael, and Michael felt like his wife needed counseling.  Why don't you share about that couple with our listeners, and then let's talk about how it relates to the title of your book, "Sacred Sex."

Tim: Sarah came into my office, as I have experienced on a number of occasions, and her mandate was to come and get fixed.  Her husband felt that she must have a problem of some kind because she did not want sex near as much as he did.  And instead of seeing it as anything wrong with him, he thought it must be her.

 And the first question out of my mouth was, "Well, Sarah, tell me what you think the purpose of sex is."  And she kind of hung her head and thought about it for a minute, and said, "I don't know, I guess it's just something God created for men, and it's something that men need."

Dennis: Only for me?

Tim: That was pretty much her perspective.  She just thought that in the Corinthians 7 passage of her body was not hers, had been used to illustrate that for her or to bring that point home, and so her perspective was this was just something that it was her duty to give but, beyond that, and being something for her husband, she saw no purpose of it beyond that.

Bob: Now, when you hear a wife say something like that, what do you think?

Tim: Well, my first reaction is normally to say, "I need to see your husband next week" – get him in here as well.  Second, I guess my initial response is, like so many people within the church, they have just never answered or even wrestled with this great question – why sex?  What was God thinking?  I mean, if it was just procreation, He really could have done this any way He wanted.  It could have been a special, secret, super handshake – something.  If He's God, He could have done anything He wanted.

 He chose sex, and since we have to ask the question why?  And I think the answer is far bigger than it's something that men can do to have fun.

Dennis: I just want to go on record that I'm glad it's not a super secret handshake.

Tim: Absolutely.  Some hidden button on the female body you just push and procreation begins.

Bob: But there have to be a lot of Sarahs who have that same perspective and who look and think, "This seems to be pretty one-sided. 

Tim: Absolutely.

Bob: Is that because we don't understand its purpose?  Is that why it seems one-sided?

Tim: I think that's a huge piece of it is again not knowing what God was thinking when He decided to create this thing called sex.  Looking at the history of the church on this subject, we kind of morphed several times over 2,000 years the initial response from the church leaders was that sex is just for procreation.

Bob: Right.

Tim: The second response seems to be, "Okay, pleasure can be part of it, but [whispers] we don't want to talk about that at all."  So we just kind of keep that secret.

 The third response in the last 20 or 30 years, or a third phase of the church history seem to be, "Well, God intended it to be enjoyed, so let's do everything we can to learn how to maximize the pleasure to the fullest."

 Well, I think that doesn't get us to the important phase, and that's understanding what God was thinking from a spiritual perspective.  If we stop at that third phase, where sex is just a pleasure, and sex falls under the same law of diminishing returns as every other pleasure, it will ultimately fail to satisfy.

 So I think that the problem is that if we just talk about the pleasure piece, we miss so much of what God was thinking when He did this. 

Bob: All right, so if you look to the Scriptures and try to think "Where do I find the verse that explains what God was doing," I mean, I've read through it, I don't find a verse.  What have you come up with?

Tim: The first thing we see, I think they're there, it just may not say it in the words that we are looking for.

Dennis: Well, I think Bob's looking for a single verse.  A lot of men are looking for a single …

Tim: Yeah, where is that verse?

Dennis: Where is that verse, you know?  But, truthfully, the Bible speaks of a number of purposes for this subject of sex.

Tim: Absolutely, and if we take it to the very beginning, to the Book of Genesis, the first description of sex is the word "oneness."  Whenever the Bible mentions the word "oneness" or "becoming one," it is talking about sex.  We like to think, "Oh, spiritual oneness, emotional oneness."  No, it's talking about sex, and so in the Garden of Eden, the first description of this relationship is "the two shall become one." 

 So, it seems to me, that the primary purpose of sex is this unifying factor, this creation of oneness.  Even more powerful, we can go to Corinthians 6 and see that oneness is built into the system of sex.  Paul asks the rhetorical question – why should you go unite yourself with a prostitute?  Do you not know that he who does that becomes one with her?"  He doesn't say "Don't go have sex with a prostitute."  He doesn't say, "Don't go have sex outside of marriage."  He says, "Don't become one with her."  It's built into the system that idea of oneness begins to explain why sex outside of marriage is so painful in so many different ways.

 But the concept of oneness that is repeated over and over again, you know, Christ refers to it in Mark 10, it's there in Ephesians 5, which we'll get into – is the important piece to understand.  It is about creating and recreating marital oneness.

Bob: So are you saying that God's design for sex is to somehow press us toward something beyond the act, which is oneness, that that's really – it's kind of a tool to get us there?

Tim: Absolutely, and I think there's a beginning component to that we need to understand.  Marriage is a covenant, you all talk about that frequently, and the idea of marriage is being a covenant relationship.

 Well, in the Bible and actually throughout Eastern cultures, covenants are always formed by two parts.  There is a verbal declaration and then there's an oath sign.  God said, "I will never again destroy the earth with a flood," and the oath sign was the rainbow.  Every covenant made has two parts.

 Marriage is a covenant.  The verbal declaration in our modern wedding ceremony is the vows.  I think the original verbal declaration was Adam saying, "Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh."  Now, what's the oath sign?  Well, in today's wedding ceremony, it's the giving of the ring or "You may now kiss the bride."  In God's design and God's plan, the oath sign is sex.  That is the sealing of the deal, so to speak.  That is the creation of the covenant, that is the oneness.

 And so understanding that God so uses sex in such a powerful way to create this oneness relationship to establish the covenant is, I think, where we have to begin in our understanding of what was God thinking.

Bob: So this is a part of the covenantal joining.  This is God saying, "I'm going to give you" – like the rainbow with the flood, this is God saying, "This is my blessing, my promise, my part of the covenant?"

Tim: Absolutely.  In Orthodox Judaism still today, the chuppah that they get married under that symbolizes the marital canopy, the wedding chamber.  The couple would say their vows and walk down the aisle into this awaiting room and have sexual intercourse as part of the wedding ceremony.  Talk about pressure, trying to do that today, people are going, "I'm glad I didn't live back then."

Bob: Do it privately, you're saying?

Tim: Absolutely, they go into this – it is private, but they are not married.  They cannot be declared husband and wife until that occurs.  That is the act that creates the covenant; that seals the deal.

 And so taking that into understanding how we can relate in a healthy way as husbands and wives today, part of sexual intimacy in our marriage should be saying every time we engage sexually, "Honey, I would marry you all over again.  This is my re-commitment to you, this is my re-commitment to this covenant."

 So, again, it's back to being about oneness and not about my pleasure. 

Dennis: Two people who are giving themselves to one anther are restating their pledge then.

Tim: Absolutely.

Dennis: I promise you to you, I pledge to you to forsake all others and to commit to you.

 I want to go back to Sarah and Michael.  She wasn't interested, he was.  And so I'm wondering, what did you say to her?  In light of this definition you are giving us of sex being a sacrament; of it being sacred and set apart as a picture of oneness, what's the solution, then, of a woman who practically is not interested as much as her husband is?

Tim: The first step for her was this process of understanding that sex isn't about pleasure primarily.  Sex is primarily about oneness, and it is a God-ordained act to create and re-create oneness in marriage.

 What also needed to occur in her situation was that Michael needed to understand that the way he was treating his wife was pretty much making her feel like a thing, an object; that she had been objectified by his constant sexual badgering, and so forth.

 He needed to begin to see sex in the same way that she did.  It's not about his needs and her needs, it's about serving each other.  So her wrestling with the idea that God has given her this permission to engage sexually, but, even more, God has even given her the permission to enjoy sexually.

 There was a period of time that the church believed that women should not enjoy sex, or there was, even further back, St. Augustine believed that the pleasure part of sex was a consequence of the fall, was a consequence of sin.

 Well, for that to be true, bluntly – a woman would have to grow an additional part that she didn't have prior to the fall, because there are female parts that are solely for physical pleasure. 

 So her understanding that God says it's okay for her to imbibe deeply, the Song of Solomon – to enjoy this relationship, but, again, it's not just about enjoyment.  It's about a spiritual intimacy that she shares with no one else, that how powerful that can be.

Bob: You know, what you describe in Sarah and Michael's conversation is somewhat typical, right?  You've got a standard scenario where a wife says, "It's lower down my priority list than it is on my husband's priority list."  Is that primarily because we've left women objectified, as you described it?  They've been made into sexual objects?  Was there a time in history when it was different for women than it is today?

Tim: Obviously, just based upon the Song of Solomon, we have the picture of a bride who is very sensual, who was very much open to sexual advances of her husband and making sexual advances of her own.

 It brings up an important point – we talk a lot today that the problem is women not wanting sex as much as men.  I think a bigger problem is we have men's sexual desires running rampant.  They seem to have given themselves permission to walk around all day long staring at women, be it pornography or glancing at a co-worker, and they don't take Paul's advice and bringing every thought captive to Christ.

 So they are letting their minds run wild all the time, they are staring at sexual objects all day long, and they think, "Hey, what's wrong with her?  She doesn't want it as much as I do?"

Dennis: And, you know, I want to just add to that, I wish an older man would have come alongside me as a newly married man and had given me that advice – put his arm around me and smiled and not shamed me, but just said, "You know, you're going to be exposed to a lot of images in your lifetime, and you've got to decide what you're going to do in terms of allowing your mind to feast on those images, continue to watch television, continue to watch the channel.  Instead, turn away from them, realizing that it does you no good to just sit there and be bombarded by these images.

 And I think many men are easily taken captive by this culture because the images are everywhere.  I mean, they're coming at us regularly.

Bob: You know, as you describe that, I'm thinking of a place in our airport – a little gift shop that's right by the back gates, and when you walk by they have a popcorn machine out front, and they've got fresh popcorn that they're popping all day.

 And you walk by that and the first thing that happens is you smell the popcorn.  And you know how that is when you smell popcorn, you just – you've got to get some popcorn, you want popcorn.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: Well, it's almost like the aroma of sexuality is all over the place in this culture, and guys are walking all day long sniffing, sniffing, sniffing, and, you know, with the popcorn, whether you're hungry or not, you still want the popcorn.  Well, after you've been in this culture, you come home just kind of excited for sex because of what you've been smelling all day.

Tim: And then it has become about my needs and my desires and what I want without any clue of what my wife might want.

 Now, to take that further, I guess, I like that illustration of smelling the popcorn.  The difference is I can go get some of that popcorn, and it's okay.

Bob: Right.

Tim: One thing I try to tell myself and teach others is that if there is a woman – and I know this is hard.  This is incredibly difficult for men to do but, the problem is, I don't see too many men trying.  If I see another woman, see an image, whatever it might be, I have to remind myself, "That's not mine.  It's just not.  That woman is not mine, it is not my prerogative simply to stare at her or to desire her.  My wife is the one God has given me."

 In the culture that objectifies women, turns them into objects, we have men who just think that it's okay for them to stare and look all day long.

Dennis: And this is the side of men that women don't understand why men could be so preoccupied, but back to the popcorn illustration, Bob, which I do think is a good one, I think the aroma is most everywhere.  And some of the place, men invite the aroma in.  They turn on the TV when they arrive in the hotel, and they may go into certain channels where they shouldn't be going that provokes them even further.

 But network TV, cable TV, if you channel surf long enough, it's just a matter of time before you're going to be exposed to those images.

Bob: Okay, so given the fact that we live in this kind of a culture where the aroma is everywhere, that's going to leave women feeling objectified, that's going to lead to a culture full of women who aren't going to respond because they feel objectified.  So we have a pandemic in the culture, and guys are going, "Well, what do I do?  Move somewhere?  How do I deal with this because I don't want my wife to feel like an object?"

 But it sounds almost like we're saying if you live in 21st century America, this is the reality, and it's going to be hard for a woman to transcend that and be in touch with her own need or desire for oneness in marriage.

Tim: And I think the answer to that goes back to the marital relationship.  As a matter of fact, I heard at a FamilyLife conference years ago, at a Weekend to Remember conference, I don't even remember the speaker's name, but he said, "If a woman is beautiful under the age of 40, she had something to do with it.  If she's beautiful after the age of 40, her husband had something to do with it."  Meaning that a husband's attitude towards his wife is just paramount.

 If I, as a husband, worked diligently and daily to let my wife know how much I love her, care for her, she is accepted – it goes back to what I think one of the core truths and understanding sex as God designed it is this idea of naked and unashamed.  Where a woman can stand there and feel that my husband is happy and pleased with me just as I am.  He wouldn't be happier if I was taller, thinner, different shaped, whatever it might be.

 So the more a woman feels loved, cherished, cared for, and accepted and made to feel experientially and otherwise that she is the sole object of desire for her husband, then the world will be the world, but a woman doesn't feel like she has to compete with the world because she's not getting that from her husband.

 You know, it reminds me of another story of clients that came in one time after they had wanted to do something to spice up their sexual relationship, and so the woman had breast surgery, and there for a while was their relationship more exciting?  Well, yeah, because she felt better about herself and had to buy new lingerie and clothes for her but, after a while, that experience wore off, and so now they're saying …

Bob: What now?

Tim: Yeah.  Her husband walked in another time and said, "Honey, what are we going to do to spice up our sex life," and she literally pointed to her chest and said, "I thought that's what we did."

 But I had another couple I spoke with one time where the husband asked her, "Honey, would you ever consider having cosmetic surgery?"  And so now how did she feel not only when she was naked in front of him in the future but even if – every time she feels like "He's not happy with me.  He wants something more."

 Where the flip side of that is the husband that completely accepts his wife loves her, encourages her, makes her feel that she is everything he desires.  That woman will not struggle with feeling like she's an object when she walks out the door of the house.

Dennis: What I hear you saying is, and you vividly illustrated it by the woman pointing to her chest.  Instead, we need to point to our head and our hearts.

Tim: Absolutely.

Dennis: That this issue of human sexuality and us being made in the image of God really begins with who we are as we relate to Him and how He made us and embracing God's design for how he made us male and female.  And then male and female being two different people, again, made in the image of God but coming together in the most intimate act on the planet, sexual intercourse.  To do that, those people have to grow in their understanding of who God is, how He made them, and what human sexuality is all about.

 And I do think the Bible – it's interesting, the Bible is not silent on this subject. 

Tim: Not at all.

Dennis: God included an entire book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon, that I hope we can explore further and later, Bob, around this subject, because God didn't stutter.  He spoke very clearly about this.  He was not ashamed at what takes place within the Christian bedroom.

Bob: And I think this is one of those areas where Romans 12:2 comes into play, where the Bible says that instead of being conformed by the culture, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, and that means we need to think biblically about what God created in the area of marital intimacy.

 And a book like Tim's book, "Sacred Sex," helps us do that.  It takes us below the surface and into the heart and mind of God on a subject that is profound and is deep and is important and is essential for a healthy marriage relationship.

 We've got copies of Tim's book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  I want to encourage our listeners, go to our website,  In the middle of the home page you will find where the red button used to be, a red heart, because with Valentine's Day coming up next week, they decided to go ahead and put the heart on there.

 So you click on that heart, it will take you right to the area of the site where you can get more information about the book, "Sacred Sex," by our guest today, Tim Gardner.

 There's also information about other resources available from FamilyLife related to intimacy and romance and passion including the Simply Romantic Nights resource that our team put together to help you with some very practical ways to express your care and your love and your devotion for one another. 

 Simply Romantic Nights is a series of a dozen romantic date nights for you and a dozen romantic date nights for your spouse – ways in which you can creatively express your love for one another.  And if any of our listeners are interested in getting both Tim's book and the Simply Romantic Nights collection, we can send out at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with Tim Gardner.

 Get all the details on our website at  Click that red heart, or that red "Go" button that you see there in the middle of the screen, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  If you have a particular issue or question related to romance and intimacy in marriage, ask somebody on our team and maybe they can recommend a resource that can help you with that specific issue in your marriage relationship.  Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

 One additional resource I want to mention, and this is something that we are making available as a thank you gift this month to folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  This is an audio CD that features two messages – one from Pastor C.J. Mahaney and the other from his wife, Carolyn Mahaney. 

 Carolyn talks to wives about how they can better understand their husband's romantic interests and needs, and C.J. helps us, as men, understand how we can more effectively express our love to our wives.  We call the CD "Romance Basics for Husbands and Wives," and we're sending it out again as our way of saying thank you this month when you make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 We're listener-supported so those donations are how we stay on the air in this city and in cities all across the country, and if you'd like to help us do that, you can make a donation online at, and when you make that donation online, if you'd like the CD I talked about just write the word "love" in the keycode box, and we'll know to send a copy of the CD out to you.

 Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone, and mention that you'd like the CD that is the thank you gift this month, and we'll be happy to send that out to you as well.  And, again, let me say thanks for partnering with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to talk more with Tim Gardner about what God has in mind when it comes to intimacy, romance, and passion in a marriage relationship.  We're going to talk about the covenant of marriage tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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