Purifying the Marriage Bed
About the Guest
It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. Russell Moore says that when it comes to maintaining marital fidelity, a wife’s best defense may well be to move into her husband’s life with hard questions and a loving presence to open up the dialogue about marital fidelity – before the affair happens.
Russell MooreRussell Moore is President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to his election to this role in 2013, Moore served as provost and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also taught as professor of theology and ethics. A widely-sought cultural commentator, Dr. Moore has been recognized by a number of influential organizations. The Wall Street Journal has called him “vigorous, cheerful, and fiercely articulate” whi...more
Dr. Russell Moore discusses maintaining marital fidelity.
Purifying the Marriage Bed
Bob: When the Bible gives instruction on singleness, and marriage, and sexual purity, it’s not simply providing some kind of pragmatic advice. Here’s Dr. Russell Moore with an example.
Russell: It is better to marry than to burn with passion. Why is that the case? It is not simply because fornication will do bad things to you later on—although, it will. It is because God has revealed, “Fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. There is a connection between your relationship with God, the condition of your soul, and your sexual purity. We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. You just spent the weekend at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, up in Washington, DC.
Dennis: I’m telling you—that is—if that doesn’t light your fire, your wood’s wet. I met tons of listeners from the DC area—lots of young couples, coming to the Weekend to Remember, up there. What a treat to spend the weekend with those folks—hopefully, encouraged them—as they build their marriages, their families, and their legacies.
Bob: I’m going to be out in Hershey, this weekend, at the Weekend to Remember at the Hershey Lodge.
Dennis: It’s not too late for folks to go hear Bob speak and get a little chocolate—
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: —while there—a little romance, on the side, there.
Bob: And you know, I was thinking about the Weekend to Remember because when my daughter and son-in-law went—and they were engaged, at the time. They went to the engaged sessions because there are breakout sessions for the engaged couples.
Dennis: Did you speak?
Bob: I did not speak. No, I was not going to have them come to one where I was speaking. Forget that! [Laughter] But one of the things we challenged the engaged couples to is a commitment to purity in their relationship, prior to marriage.
Bob: And my daughter came home; and she said, “I’ve got a little problem with your purity covenant, that you had at the Weekend to Remember.” I thought—
Bob: —“Uh-oh!” I said, “What’s the problem?” She said, “You’re having us sign something where we pledge that we will remain pure before marriage.” I said, “Yes.” She said, “What about remaining pure after marriage?” I said, “Touché!”
Dennis: That is a good question.
Bob: That is a good question.
Dennis: That’s a great question.
Bob: She said, “We should want to remain pure, not just before we get married, but throughout our lifetime.”
Dennis: If you are looking for a great wedding gift to give a young couple, who are getting married in the coming months, the Weekend to Remember gift certificate—I’m telling you. We give a lot of wedding gifts to a lot of couples. I think it’s the best thing we give them. Why?—because it’s going to help them turn their marriage license into a real marriage.
And today, we’re going to hear a message by Dr. Russell Moore, who is the Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I always liked that “The”—The Southern Baptist—
Bob: Like, The Ohio State University.
Bob: Yes, right.
Dennis: Exactly—in Louisville, Kentucky. Russell is a good friend. He’s a funny speaker. I want our audience to really listen as he shares some of the counsel he gives an engaged couple, who comes to him for marriage preparation counsel.
Bob: And this is Part Two of a message that he presented to the student body at Southern Seminary, in Louisville, back in August. It’s a message on purity in marriage—keeping your marriage, sexually pure. And here, with Part Two of that message, is Dr. Russell Moore.
Russell: Sometimes, people get their ideas about marriage from watching films and watching movies. That’s a really dangerous thing to do because of the films they choose. They want to watch The Notebook. [Laughter] If you want to see a realistic movie portrayal of what it means to—Ephesians 5—“Fight for your wife and your marriage” —don’t watch some promiscuous idolater, and don’t watch some sappy romance—watch an old werewolf movie. [Laughter] What happens in the werewolf movies? The guy knows that he has been bitten by a werewolf, and he knows that the moon is going to be full. He’s watching the shadows go back and back, from the moon. He says to his friends: “I want you to chain me in the basement as long as the moon is full. I don’t care how I beg you. I don’t care how I plead with you. I don’t care what I promise you. Don’t let me out of the basement, as long as the moon is full.”
That is exactly what it means to crucify yourself, sexually, when it comes to temptation. You must know yourself enough to know, “Where are those soft points of vulnerability that the satanic powers are going to be able to tap at, and to check, and to move towards?” because you can be certain that these invisible beings are watching what turns your head. They are watching what gets your attention. They are seeing the desires of your heart. As long as those desires of your heart are not conformed into the image of Christ, they will see to it that you will get what you want. A faithful husband and a faithful wife are Christians, who are struggling, and fighting, and crucifying the flesh—not only as individuals—but as a couple.
In premarital counseling—with every couple that I marry—one of the exercises that I have them do is to write an essay that they will read to the other one: “If I were to have an affair, here is how I would do it.” You can lie in that. You don’t know everything about yourself in that; but sitting there and saying: “What is the kind of situation—where would I be vulnerable to adultery—and what kinds of things ought you to ask about if you start to see those things showing up in my life? What is the way that I typically cover over sin? What is the way that I typically justify sin to myself?”
As a couple, you are not, as Paul says, ignorant of Satan’s designs. You know what the satanic powers do to human beings, generally; and then, you know what the satanic powers do, specifically with you. The other member of that couple is able to be watching and praying with you—as seeing where all of those internal and external threats are starting to come in.
Early on, in ministry—serving a church—we had a young woman, who would come up after every sermon. She would say, “Ah, Brother Moore—that was just amazing! I’ve got some questions to ask you, from Habakkuk.” Then, she would stand and ask questions. Maria said to me, in the car, on the way home, “She’s after you!” I said, “You’re crazy! You are crazy! I look like a cricket. [Laughter] She’s not after me. Secondly, she’s just this godly, truth-seeking woman. She’s just intensely passionate about Habakkuk.” [Laughter] Maria said: “Well, I don’t know about all that, but I know women. I know how women act, and she is after you.” She was not threatened by that. She didn’t nag or berate me about that. She just made sure that, every time that woman approached, she was right there with me.
That woman came and sat down one time—next to me, on the pew, before service started—to ask me a Habakkuk question. Next thing I know, here comes Maria. She just squeezes herself right down between us, reaches up and kisses me on the cheek, and just starts rubbing my back, while I explain the eschatology of Habakkuk. [Clapping] What that is—is a warrior princess for Christ—in her marriage.
If you wives are going to work, with your husbands, toward godliness, you cannot be threatened by the idea that your husband is going to feel some attraction for some other woman. If your husband tells you that he has never had any attraction to anybody else but you, he is a liar! Don’t be threatened, wives, when your husband sits down and says to you: “I believe that I may be vulnerable. I find myself noticing So-and-so when she walks in the room,” or, “I find myself just spiritually dry, and joyless, and bored right now. I’m afraid that’s an inroad to Satan. Help me to crucify the flesh.” That’s a blessing from God!
Secondly, there’s the issue of fornication. One of my missions in life—one of them is to get rid of those little, plastic, Chiclets—Lord’s Supper communion tablets—that we have been giving out for years and years. [Laughter] But the other is to eradicate, from the Christian grammar, the words, “premarital sex”. There is no such thing as premarital sex! The Scripture uses a specific word for this immorality. That word is a word that sounds so antiquated and church lady-ish that we feel awkward even using it—fornication and fornicator—but when you use the language of premarital sex, you’re not just updating your vocabulary—you are changing the notion of something that, in and of itself, is intrinsically evil—to something that is simply a matter of timing. That is not what the Scripture is talking about when it talks about the sin of fornication.
There are some ways in which fornication mimics the conjugal union of sex; but when you have two, who are joining themselves together, outside of that lifelong covenant, you are picturing something other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fornication is not simply something that is timed badly. The fornication is a spiritual act that is joining you and attaching you, in some mystical way, to another person, in a way that communicates a Christ who is not faithful to His bride. That is not just immoral. That is blasphemy!
One of the significant issues that we face in our churches is that we have an entire generation of young people who are able to cover over and to callous their consciences by being technical virgins—by justifying, to themselves, acts of rebellion against God as somehow being acceptable and somehow being justifiable in a way that, not only stores up sin, but also devastates the functioning Christian conscience. Often, even those teenagers and young single adults in our churches, who are remaining faithful in sexual purity, are doing so more out of risk-avoidance than out of a commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul says, “If you cannot handle yourself and keep yourself under control, marry. It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Why is that the case? It is not simply because fornication will do bad things to you later on—although, it will. It is because God has revealed, “Fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Now, one of the problems that we have in our church, and possibly even in your marriage, is that we do not really believe that. We do not really see the spiritual war that is going on, at this point, because we assume: “It’s premarital sex. So, once the marriage takes place, the issue is now resolved.” “Do you not know,” First Corinthians says, “that fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Such were some of you; but you were washed.” You were justified. You were sanctified.
Some of you—in your marriages, right now—are experiencing deadness, and mistrust, and conflict because you, husbands, led that woman into fornication. You have never gotten to the point of repentance before God for evil. Every act of hiddenness that you took to manage your own image and to cover over your sin, you will be able to do, just as easily, again, with some other woman. “She’s the love of my life!” You’ll feel that way about somebody else, one day. “We were just so carried away!” You’ll be carried away again, one day.
Until you get to the point—specifically, men—where you, as a former fornicator, get on your knees with your wife and say: “I am guilty of not protecting you, of not exercising godly headship over you, of not loving you as Christ loved the Church. I repent before God, and I repent to you,” you will never understand what the Scripture is talking about when it says: “You were washed. You were freed.” The problem is—we assume that, because the issue is in the past, that the issue is over; but as Alice von Hildebrand put it so poignantly one time, “Nothing drives two people further apart than sinning together.”
Your wife, men, may not trust you right now because she knows her parents couldn’t trust you then. Until that is dealt with—with the kind of heart that cries out, “Lord, have mercy, and free me, and wash me,” you will never find the kind of spiritual power and freedom in your marriage that you so desperately need.
Bob: Well, that is a strong word from Dr. Russell Moore at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, talking about the need for repentance over sexual sin in a marriage relationship. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to own up to. It’s hard to want to go back into issues that have been there in the past—maybe, premarital issues you’d kind of like to just forget it and get on with marriage—but these are things that have to be addressed, head-on, and have to be dealt with. They can’t just be shoveled over with a load of dirt.
Dennis: You know, in Genesis, Chapter 2, it talks about a man and his wife both being naked and unashamed. The idea there is without disguise, without covering, without hiding. I don’t think you are ever going to experience the intimacy that God designed for your marriage if there’s something you’re hiding from your spouse or something that, maybe, together that you did that you need to go back and say, “I need you to forgive me for some of my actions,”—perhaps, as you mentioned, Bob—perhaps, when you dated or, perhaps, later on in your marriage.
I think true authenticity—true honesty—can be used by God to bring healing in a marriage relationship; especially, if you both know how to forgive. Here’s the thing. Some folks don’t know how to do that. If you’ve not been to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, I’d encourage you to come because one of the components of the weekend is a really important section of the conference that will equip you to know how to put issues like this behind you, and to truly give up the right to punish another person, and to be reconciled, and to move forward with vision—with oneness—and to know how to handle temptations, when they come your way, in the future.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve got a number of Weekend to Remember marriage getaways going to be taking place, throughout the country, this spring. In fact, you were just in Washington, DC, at the Gaylord National Hotel, at a great Weekend to Remember there, with hundreds of folks, from all around the area. We’ve got hundreds joining us, this weekend, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and in other locations—I just mentioned Hershey because Mary Ann and I are going to be there for the Weekend to Remember this weekend—and then, through the spring, Weekend to Remember events will take place in cities, all across the country.
So, if you’d like to sign up for a getaway weekend for you and your spouse—a little preventative maintenance for your marriage—a fun, romantic getaway—go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link for the Weekend to Remember. There is more information about when an event is coming to a city near where you live. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
There is also information there about Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, Rekindling the Romance, where you address the issue of purity in marriage—from both a husband and a wife’s perspective—Barbara writing to wives, and you writing to the husbands. Again, go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information about the Weekend to Remember or about Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, Rekindling the Romance. The toll-free number, 1-800-FL-TODAY—you’ll find us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, I mentioned the Weekend to Remember—I was speaking at one of these events a while back. We addressed the issue of sexual intimacy in marriage, at a Weekend to Remember, in what I think is a both candid and appropriate way of addressing this subject. We have the message that I presented at that Weekend to Remember available on audio CD. It talks about some of the challenges that couples face in marriage that can threaten their sexual oneness in marriage, and it also talks about what are the essential ingredients for marital intimacy to thrive.
We’re making that CD available, this week, when you make a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation to help underwrite the costs of producing and syndicating this program. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, on the website. That will take you right to the area where you can make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. Ask for the CD about marital intimacy when you get in touch with us. We just want you to know we appreciate your support. We appreciate you being partners with us in this ministry.
And we want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to hear from Dr. Russell Moore on the issue of pornography in marriage and what that is doing to undermine marital purity. I hope you can be here 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 will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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