Real Life Loading...™

Let’s Talk about Sex: Shelby Abbott

with Shelby Abbott | April 5, 2024
Play Pause

Ever get the feeling that waiting till marriage is a bit old-fashioned? Seems like everyone's just doing their thing with their significant other anyway, right? But have you ever thought there might be more to it than waking up feeling guilty about what went down the night before? Shelby Abbott gets real about what the Bible really says about sex, how to set boundaries that actually make sense, and how to deal with those relationship slip-ups from the past.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Shelby Abbott

    Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Questioning waiting till marriage? Shelby Abbott gets real about biblical views on sex, boundaries, and healing from past relationship mistakes.

MP3 Download Transcript

Let’s Talk about Sex: Shelby Abbott

With Shelby Abbott
April 05, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading...

I'm your host Shelby Abbott. And okay, I want to talk about sex. Yes, that's the subject we're going to deal with today. Just so you know, if it sounds like I'm telling you what to do or reminding you of where you've gone wrong, I'd like for you to keep listening, all the way to the end. Yes, I want to be honest with you about how serious and important sexual wholeness is, but of course, I want to do it through the lens of the gospel, which always gives us hope for areas where we might struggle.

All right. So to start off, let me say this: It's no secret that women are different from men. Like, we're different from one another. I don't know if you noticed this. And although you might laugh at the fact that I didn't truly absorb this little gem of information until I reached college age. Yes, college.

My bet is that you sometimes forget that it's true too. Men are different from women and women are very dissimilar to men. :et me give you an example. Women often like to smell pretty and men have absolutely no desire to do so. Or. at least they don't really, proactively communicate that they care about smelling nice. Women like to smell flowers, cucumbers, melons.

Men have absolutely no desire to smell like fruits or vegetables, and they really don't have the urge to smell like fruit and vegetables. So here's my example. A buddy of mine lived in a coed dorm, where the men and women were separated by floor. And I remember paying him a visit one time. As I walked up the stairwell, to the fifth floor where he lived, I could tell by what I was smelling where I actually was. So, I'd climb the stairs, and initially it was the scent of feet. then coconut., then stale beer, then cinnamon, and then finally gym socks. Conclusion? Men and women are different.

Well the cool thing is however, with all of that, even though we have our differences, we still long to be together. In Genesis 2 18, God is quoted as saying, “It's not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And then Scripture goes on to say in verse 24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
So, we can see very clearly in the Bible all over the place, that God made men and women with many differences. But, He also made them for the distinct purpose of uniting together. This union serves men and women quite well, but it also brings great glory to God in the process.

When a man and a woman come together in the covenant commitment of marriage, the union itself forms a bond that's in tune with what the Lord intended. It's in perfect pitch, and it projects a picture that really points to the joining of Jesus Christ Himself and His bride, the church. The natural attraction men and women have for one another is God designed, and it's extremely healthy. It's meant to be undertaken in the best way possible, via the context of marriage and the precursor to that union can be experienced in what we call dating.

But of course, like every other good thing God created in this world, this desire to be together has been horribly tainted by sin. We all receive input on how to live life via many avenues. But, the unfortunate fact is that many of the sources we get our information from are ill equipped or just altogether wrong.

Maybe you've seen stuff like this on TikTok. You're like, that's not true. The world, our own sinful nature, and Satan are quick to speak up on how you should approach a relationship with the opposite sex. And what you should do with your body sex-wise during your single years. They're all very excited to go on and on about the topic in great detail and therein lies the problem.

It's probably safe to say that most of the input we get on how to date or just how to approach sex is from a worldly perspective. However, only a fraction of the communication on this topic comes from the far too silent Christian community. And when that rare moment does arrive for a godly perspective to take center stage, it is not always but often, wasted by extremely vague babbling and awkward commands that usually settle on something like, “Just stop it,” or “Don't do that.” And this should make you sad, because it surely makes me sad.

I know what I'm about to say isn't common language in the average church service, but I need to tell you something very important. Okay? It's this: Sex is not a bad thing, it’s not. Sex is a good thing. It's a very good thing. Our bodies are good things. They're God's design. He invented them and He also invented sex. Yes, He did.

For far too many years, the Christian community has led people to believe that sex is weird and taboo and shouldn't be discussed, especially by young people. There's very little Christian input or influence on this immensely important topic. So the world happily chimes in on how it should be done. Since the world, our sinful nature, and Satan are the only ones doing the loudest talking, you, who probably want to honor God with your life if you're listening to this podcast, have really little other options but to listen to those three off kilter megaphones.
Almost everyone on the planet is interested in sex once they hit a certain age. And what they're learning, over and over again, from the wrong sources is this: The more you practice. Because sex is streamed directly into your pocket through your phone, people are educating themselves about sex under the guidance of pornographers, studio executives, cameramen, cinematographers, and people being trafficked in the sex trade industry.

We are all being spoon fed a considerable and consistent string of lies that hypnotize us into believing things that simply aren't true. Things like, sex has little to no consequences. Or, sex is an end goal, not the beginning of something. Or, if you're serious about the person you're dating, you should be having sex, especially if you're younger. In fact, there's something seriously wrong with you if you're not sexually active. And it goes on and on.

So yes, sex is a great thing, but it needs to happen within the proper context in order for it to be experienced in the most exciting, pleasurable, and godly way possible.

So let me explain. This is going to seem weird at first, but hang with me. There are a bunch of words used in the longest Psalm in the Bible, which is Psalm 119, that feel kind of strange when you read them next to other words that would seem on the surface to be quite a juxtaposition. Here are some of the words I'm talking about: rules, statutes, commandments, precepts, testimonies, law. But the description around those words in this Psalm are things like I love; I delight in; teach me; I don't stray from; I meditate on; I hope in; they are the joy of my heart. They give me life. They are my comfort and affliction, and it goes on and on.

So, here's the question, why is there such delight in the structure of God's rules and commands in the Psalm? Why such love for clear boundaries that God sets up? Well, the answer is, boundaries are a good thing. See, in our culture right now, you're led to believe that freedom and liberation from boundaries are where your best experiences will be. A life free of restrictions and fences is where true pleasure, true delight, and true joy is found, but that's simply not true.

Real life isn't about an absence of boundaries in order to be happy and feel joy. Real life is about finding the right boundaries. It's all about where you look for how the boundaries are set up. The world will tell you, “Do what you want without limitation, and you'll be happy and free.” But where does that kind of “life hack” take you? Dark, dark places.

Fast and loose sexual liberation doesn't lead to life. Quite the opposite, actually. True freedom, true vibrancy, and true life are found for us within the context of the boundaries God has set up, and anything outside of that environment isn't liberation. It's actually slavery, even though people think they might be free without the rules or laws or commandments or shackles of how God tells us to live.

The truth is that when it comes to that posture towards sex, what looks like liberation is actually assassination. The world is urging each of us to believe this. You need to experience sexual liberation outside the confines of marriage. “It's not fair,” says culture. You should be allowed to have the freedom to sexually roam around as you please, without being confined to the boring limitations of marriage - out here is where real life fits in can be found.

But if sex is taken outside the God given commitment of marriage, it leads to destruction and brokenness. See, sex exclusively within a marriage relationship isn't prison or death. It's actually freedom. Sex within marriage is life. It's just like Psalm 119 describes pleasure and delight and joy. It's hope and life and comfort. It's the gracious, God-created plan for the maximum experience two people can have, because they know that they aren't going anywhere. They know that within their marriage, there isn't any embarrassment or comparison or insecurity. They know that the other person isn't going to grab their clothes and leave in the morning. There's no walk of shame for married couples, because they've committed their lives to one another in every way, not just sexually.

Sex in marriage works best because that's how God designed it. Sex outside of marriage, though it may look like liberation, is in fact assassination. 1 Thessalonians 4 [verses 3-5 and 7-8 NIV] says this, “It is God's will that you should be sanctified,” which means set apart or pure. “That you should avoid sexual immorality. That each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans who do not know God … For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being, but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit.”

Okay, so what I need you to know is that God is brilliant. He has intentionally set things up in order to give us the maximum sexual experience possible. So the less that you do now, the more you end up investing into your future. Yes, godly sexual investing takes an extreme amount of patience. But man, it pays off, and I know this from personal experience. Now, I'm not going to brag here and tell you that I'm awesome because of the choices I've made in the sexual arena. But what I will do is unapologetically explain to you that I'm glad I made the decisions that I did.

I got married when I was 29 years old, and I was a virgin when I did so, and so was my wife. And I have to tell you that there has never been a time in my marriage when I thought to myself, I really wish I had done more sexually before I got married. I've certainly never thought, I wish that my wife had more experience in the bedroom before she married me. I praise God all the time that neither my wife nor I had a sexual experience before we were committed to one another in holy matrimony.

As a result of our choices to stay sexually pure, I've never compared her to anyone from my past. She's never wondered if she was better or worse than one of my old girlfriends. We've never worried about sexually transmitted diseases of any kind, and I've never had a flashback from a previous sexual experience when I'm with my wife. It's beautiful and I continually give thanks to the Lord for that.

Now that's not saying that everybody will experience that. If they stay pure, when they get into marriage. I'm not saying that my story is a prescription or a rule book to be followed. That if you do, you'll experience this amazing sexual experience within marriage. That doesn't happen for everyone. It just happened for me.

Again, I'm not telling you this because I'm gloating. I'm explaining this to you for a few reasons. First and foremost, I want God to receive more glory for the great things that He's done in my marriage, both before and after the wedding ceremony.

Second, to be honest, there aren't too many stories like this to tell. The stories of defeat far outweigh the stories of chastity. So, when there's an opportunity to tell my story and point not to my own righteousness, but to His, I want to do it. Jesus be glorified. Isn't He great? I love that God called me to a life of celibacy until I married my wife.
I wouldn't have it any other way, and I can say with absolute certainty that I'm so glad we both waited because she was worth it. Frankly, I'd like to think that I was too.

So, if we claim to be followers of Christ, then others must be able to see Jesus in every single aspect of our dating lives. If you were to place your dating relationship up on a pedestal, metaphorically speaking, then Christ should shine brightly and be clearly visible through that relationship from each and every angle. Opportunities to cross the line will always be available anytime you're dating someone. So it's important to communicate on the front end of any dating relationship what your physical boundaries should be. This way, both of you in the relationship can keep one another accountable for the boundaries that you've set up.

I'd also recommend that whatever boundaries you've put in place, that they be shared with a few outside third parties, who care about you and your dating relationship. So, like a roommate or a best friend or someone you're comfortable with being vulnerable to, it's always a good choice to involve them.

Now what I won't do is tell you the specific physical boundaries you should have in your dating relationship. I refuse to do that, because I don't want to. unintentionally communicate something that might cause a couple to stumble and fall into sin. Because what might be fine for one pair might actually be really difficult for another. It just totally depends on the boundary lines each couple has set up.

I have known friends who didn't even kiss until they both said, “I do” at their wedding. This was their decision and I respect it with all my heart. When my wife and I were dating, we were very intentional about communicating with clarity to one another and some close friends what our physical boundaries would be. And we kept revisiting that conversation as things got more difficult the longer we were together. Now, I won't lie and tell you that we never crossed the boundary lines we set up, but I will say we were both aware of those lines and had to be in constant communication with one another about the particulars.

In the heat of the romantic moment, one tends to look for loopholes in the boundary specifications. And we were no strangers to this. Again, we weren't perfect, but our boundary lines were set pretty high. So, if and when we crossed them, we would confess that. Not only to our accountability friends, but ask forgiveness from the Lord and each other and set higher standards for the future.

And because our boundaries were set pretty conservatively, when we did stumble, our lives weren't characterized by an overwhelming sense of guilt and remorse and shame. We were never driving to the local pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test.

Now, I'm going to double down on my resolve here and tell you once again that it's important to talk with others, when it comes to these kinds of boundaries. It might be embarrassing, but please do it. An isolated couple is a couple in danger. I urge you to involve other God fearing people you trust in your decision making about physical boundaries. This can only lead to healthier, more godly dating relationships and less foolish decision making if you involve the right people.

Now, I want to talk about maybe a past you're not proud of. Whenever I end up talking about the subject of sexual purity and the importance of remaining sexually pure in a dating relationship, I inevitably end up getting asked a series of very legitimate follow up questions. What about sexual impurity in the past?

Anxiety can flood someone's heart when they hear all that I've shared with you so far and thoughts somewhere along the lines of, “Well, that's great for the people who've never screwed up in the past, but what about me?” Those kinds of things end up rising to the surface. And questions like this are valid. They really are. They're very valid.

Maybe you've come to know Christ just recently, and you have a sexual history with literally every person that you've ever dated. Or maybe you've been a Christian for quite some time, but were still looking for acceptance and love from a boyfriend or girlfriend in your past, and that led you to some sexual places that you're now ashamed of. Or maybe this whole concept of sexual purity is brand new to you, and the idea of not being sexually active with your boyfriend or girlfriend is completely foreign. because that's just the way that it's always been for you. No one's ever told you anything different. Or maybe you reacted to “purity culture” early on when you heard about all this kind of stuff, and you're like forget that, I want to do whatever I want. This is just Fundamentalism and rule following. I'm not going to do that.

The purity culture has led to a lot of really horrible things. There could be countless reasons for anyone to say well all that stuff about staying sexually pure, as 1Thessalonians talked about, is good, and I want to do that from now on, but I'll never be able to change my imperfect past.
So first, let me say something that I hope will stick with you, regardless of what your past may hold. Ready? Jesus offers healing in the gospel. If you're in Christ, the Bible says you're a new creation. It's from 2 Corinthians 5:17. Things that used to be true of us in our history are dead. We are made new and perfect, because of Jesus redeeming work on the cross. In Christ alone is forgiveness, restoration, newness of life, and healing of our past failures. Even if you've messed up in the past, after you became a Christian, you are still completely accepted and made new by the sacrificial blood offering that Jesus made for you when He hung on the cross.

You can take comfort and rest in the fact that when God sees you, He does not see your past sexual compromises, but your newness in His son and the blood that covers your life for all eternity. You are completely clean in His eyes. And because when it comes down to it, it's only God's opinion that truly counts, not other people's opinion, not even your opinion of yourself. As a result, we can move forward in our lives with confidence that the failures of our past in the sexual area do not define us. If we are in Christ, we are all spiritual virgins, so to speak, and the truth of our purity is again a testament to the goodness of God and how glorious He is. I said it before, and I'll say it again. Isn't He great?

See, it's not about how great we are, or how great we can be from here on out. It's about how amazing He is because of His grace, His love, His sacrifice, and His perfection. If you're a virgin and you've never compromised in that area before – praise God for his graciousness in your life. And if you stumbled and crossed the line sexually many times in your past or even, frankly, earlier today, praise God that He has forgiven you and offers His gracious healing in your life.

Either way, God is good and gets the glory. It's all about Him. If you have a past you're not proud of, rejoice in the fact that God has restored you to the new creation you are. This is your identity. You hear me? This is your identity. He is your identity. So, rest in it, and don't believe the lie that you won't be able to climb out of the pit of despair that is a sexually immoral history. Christ's sacrificial blood that buys your forgiveness is bigger than your past.

Here's what I want you to remember, even though you might know this by heart already, which you probably do. Ready? Here it is. “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones,” that's all of us. “to him belong, we belong to Him. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

Jesus loves you. Soak it in and live like you believe it because the Bible tells you so.

Let me close with this, a few verses from Psalm 119 [verses:161-168, 171-176 NIV] that I was talking about at the beginning of our time.

Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of Your words.

I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.

Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous rules.

Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.

I hope for your salvation, O Lord,
and I do your commandments.

My soul keeps your testimonies;
I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts and testimonies,
for all my ways are before you.

And then verse 171:

My lips will pour forth praise,
for you teach me your statutes

My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right.

Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.

I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.

Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.

God invites you into His good, loving, and perfect boundaries. And within those limitations is life and freedom and joy.

Now, if you liked this episode of Real Life Loading… or thought it was helpful, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend or maybe even multiple friends or, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. And, wherever you get your podcasts, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading, if you'd rate and review us.

It's for real easy to find us on our social channels. Just search for Real Life Loading or look for our link tree in the show notes.

I want to thank everyone on the Real Life Loading… team. You make it happen and I appreciate you. I'm sincere about that. Love you guys.

I'm Shelby Abbott and I'll see you back next time on Real Life Loading...

Real Life Loading… is a production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® ministry.
Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.

We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?

Copyright © 2024 FamilyLife®. All rights reserved.