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Building Guardrails Around Your Marriage

Air Date 02/03/2016

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Pastor Andy Stanley takes the concept of guardrails as roadside lifesavers and applies it to marriages, describing how couples can put 'guardrails' around their relationship to protect it from dangerous pitfalls.

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Episode Transcript


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John Fuller: On today's "Focus on the Family," Pastor Andy Stanley wants to challenge your thinking when it comes to relationships with members of the opposite sex.


Pastor Andy Stanley: What could be any clearer than this? Because we know the implications of steppin' over certain lines sexually. So, we would say to the people we love, "Flee sexual immorality." But when it comes to you, when it comes to me, we don't flee. We flirt, don't we?

End of Clip

John: It can be surprisingly easy to let a relationship drift into dangerous waters and you'll hear about guarding against that today on "Focus on the Family" with Focus president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, here at Focus on the Family, we're honoring marriages throughout the entire month of February and what better way for each of us to honor our marriage than to put some boundaries in place that will protect us from infidelity. And Andy Stanley calls those boundaries "guardrails," which is a great word picture. These are pictures that you can use to keep yourself from straying into dangerous areas, just like the guardrails along a high way. And you know what, if you're single, we have some thoughts from Andy Stanley just for you, so be sure to listen to that segment on our website at And John, we've got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get to it.

John: Sounds good. Here's Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries on today's "Focus on the Family."


Pastor Andy Stanley: In, in every area of our life where there is a desire, we need guardrails. But in the area of our physical and sexual intimacy, our desire for physical or sexual intimacy, we need reinforced steel when it comes to guardrails. And the reason is this. Because unlike any other area of your life and any other area of my life, you can fully recover from just about any other kind of disaster, but sexual disaster, it's almost impossible to fully recover from.

You can full recover from a financial disaster. You can have no guardrails in your life. You could rack up a lot of debt, get into a lot of trouble. But given enough time and enough discipline, you can fully recover from financial disaster. You can laugh about it. You can learn from it. You can teach your children about it and fully recover from it.

But when it comes to the area of our sexuality, those are the stories no one ever laughs about, because and even though our culture's finally coming around to this, what we know intuitively, what we know in our heart, what every single adult knows, but we don't know how to talk about it is this. Is that sex is not just physical, that it's way deeper than that. And when a person crosses certain lines in their desire for physical intimacy, when a person crosses certain lines when it comes to their sexuality, there are things that they carry with them the rest of their life. We know that; we just don't talk about it, because we live in a culture that says sex is purely physical, but we know better.

And if there's any area in our life where we need guardrails, I'm convinced and you know what I think; you're convinced, as well, this is the area, because the damage done follows us through our lives. The memories follow us through our lives. The guilt follows us through our lives. The ghosts follow you through your life. It goes on and on and on and on and on.

Every desire you have, whether it's your desire for food or whatever, every desire requires guardrails. This one requires, I mean, the strongest and the toughest guardrails. So, today I want to be very, very explicit and I want to be very, very specific. And some of you are gonna think I'm being way, way, way, way too conservative and that's okay. We're gonna talk about that in just a few minutes.

But as you look at what's happenin' in our culture and as you look at what's happening in your life and your family and as you think about your own past, the truth is, you would be better off. I would be better off. Our culture would be better off if we would take this very, very simple verse a little bit more seriously than we tend to take it.

Here's what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:18. "Flee from sexual immorality." Flee, not be careful, not watch out, not get as close to the line as you possibly can and peer over the edge. He says, "Flee." When it comes to sexual immorality, what could be any more clear than this; flee.

Now here's what I know you. This, if you're married, this is what you want your husband to do, isn't it? I mean, you're sayin', "I'm so glad my husband's here hearin' this, right?" (Laughter) So glad my wife's here and I'm gonna get this, you know, a copy of this for my cousin. Glad my kids are here. You know, I'm glad my grandkids are hearing this, because when I look at everybody's else's life around me, I mean, what could be any clearer than this? Because we know the implications of steppin' over certain lines sexually.

So, we would say to the people we love, "Flee sexual immorality." But when it comes to you, when it comes to me, we don't flee. We flirt, don't we? We ask, well, I'm not even sure exactly where sexual immorality is, so just tell me when I'm getting' too close. Am I cold? Am I hot? Am I cold? Am I hot? My conscience isn't tellin' me anything.

Our culture baits us to the edge of disaster and then mocks us when step over, right? That everywhere we turn in our culture, we are being baited, baited, baited to the edge. And then once you step over the edge, culture chastises you.

You see, in our culture, somewhere on the other side of the guardrail, everybody agrees that a certain age little girl shouldn't get pregnant, that you know, teenage pregnancy's a problem. Everybody's against teenage pregnancy. But have you paid any attention to how we market to teenage girls? Have you been to the mall? Now this is a little offensive, okay? But if you were to go back in time 40 years, but I'll just say 50 years to be conservative, if you were to go back in time 50 years, did you know that what we're marketing to teenage girls to wear is what hookers wore 50 years ago? You realize that.

Some of you are old enough to remember how your mama used to dress and your grandmama used to dress. And if somebody showed up 50 years ago wearing what we just, you know, market like crazy in the mall, people would say, "Oh, she must be a hooker. Look how she's dressed." That's what we market to and then, when the teenage girl gets pregnant, we go, "Oh, that's such a shame. She probably came from a terrible family. What's wrong with those people?"

As we walk through a mall, full of pictures and full of posters and full of things that are so explicit and then we wonder why. Because culture baits us to the edge and then chastises us when we step over, right?

Everybody agrees now more and more that the culture's finally talking about it, that somewhere on the other side of that guardrail, there's inappropriate male sexual activity as it relates to the Internet and porn and all that stuff. I mean, somewhere out there, there's a line where everybody goes, "Oh, that's gross. That's too much. I can't believe he got so involved in that."

And guys, you know what we all know? That every time we turn on the television, every time we walk through the mall, every time we flip through a magazine, we are being baited in that direction , aren't we? And then when some guy finally falls in and gets all addicted, it's like, "Oh, that's just disgusting. What's wrong with him?" Well, he just took the bait, because every place we go we're being baited. Come on; let's be real honest.

All of us, all of us, even the pastor, all of us entertain ourselves with affairs. Every show you watch, every movie I watch, all of us entertain ourselves with affairs. And then when acts … when somebody actually has one, we're like, "Oh, I can't believe he did that. That's so disgusting." "Why would she do that?" "Why would he do that?" And almost every single day, every single show, every single movie, every single novel, we entertain ourselves with affairs and then, we're surprised when somebody actually has one.

So, when's the last time you saw a movie where there was a, you know, a love scene between married people?" (Laughter) Now why is that even funny? (Laughter) When's the last time you saw a movie and it was like the romance scene, love scene and they were married. And you know what? There's somethin' in us, this is so weird, it's like, "Well, who would even want to see that?" (Laughter)

But the point is, come on, come on, come on, we're adults; we're adults. So, you know what you need? You know what I need? You know what we all need? Because culture's not gonna change. I mean, the point of this isn't let's go boycott and quit going to the mall. Stop watching movies. I mean, that's your business.

But you know what? We all need in this culture that's probably not gonna get any better, we need guardrails. You need to decide, "This is as close to that as I go." And when I bump up against my personal standard of behavior, when I bump up against my personal standard of behavior, I'm gonna feel guilty and I'm gonna say, "God, I'm sorry and I'm gonna make a big deal out of somethin' that five yards away or 10 feet away from disaster. I'm not gonna live out on the edge of that line anymore.

Program Note:

John: We're listening to Pastor Andy Stanley, as he explains the concept of guardrails on today's "Focus on the Family." And in a few moments, you'll hear specific application points for married couples. Get the CD of this program. It has additional content, including guardrails for singles or the entire Guardrails series on DVD, when you call 800-A -FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or learn more at Let's go ahead and return now to Pastor Andy Stanley on today's "Focus on the Family."

End of Program Note

Pastor Stanley: If you're a Christian, there's even greater incentive for you and for me to flee sexual immorality. There's even greater incentive for us to create guardrails. Look what Paul goes on to say in this verse. He says this: "Do you not know," which meant, he didn't think they knew, which means some of us didn't know till today. "Do you not know that your bodies, that your bodies are temples?" Did you know that?

When you got up this morning, you went, "Look at my temple?" (Laughter) The temple's growing; I'm a growing temple, you know. (Laughter)

God says, your body is a temple, okay? It's a temple. God's Spirit comes to live inside of our physical bodies, which means our bodies are a temple, "whom you have received from God." But the Holy Spirit came to live inside of you. Your body is very, very, very special.

And then listen to the implication he says. "You are not your own." You don't belong to you. Your body doesn't just belong to you, because God moved into your body. "You were bought at a price." The implication in what he's talkin' about as you read the whole passage is, that when Christ came into this world and died for your sins, that He purchased you. You have been purchased from sin. You are no longer a slave to sin. You don't have to do what your desires tell you to do. You don't have to do what your appetites tell you to do. You are the master of your body, because your body is now under the authority of another master.

So, consequently, he says, "You are not your own. You have been purchased," purchased and specifically, "purchased from the power of sin. Therefore," here's the application, "Therefore, honor God with your bodies." And the context for this whole discussion is sexual, the whole thing.

 "Flee sexual immorality. Don't you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? Don't you know that God resides in your body? You are not your own. You have been purchased." And what was the price? The death of your Savior, Jesus Christ. That was the price that God paid for your body.

So, he says, here's what I want you to do with your body. If you have any questions and it gets unclear, if you're tryin' to figure out, as you're tryin' to make a decision, here's kinda the litmus test: honor God with your body. Honor God with your body. If it's dishonoring to God, don't do it with your body. If it's dishonoring to God, don't look at it. If it's dishonoring to God, don't think about it.

Decide every morning, "God, my body belongs to you. It's a temple. I want to live this life and I want to live this day in such a way that everything I do with this body, honors You." And God says, "Well, if that's the case, that when it comes to sexual immorality and your desire for physical intimacy, you must flee, flee, flee, flee, flee, flee, flee. Not flirt, flirt, flirt, flirt, flirt, flirt, flirt. You gotta flee sexual immorality.

Which means, practically speaking, you've got to establish some guardrails, because if you live on the edge and you step over the edge, it'll be a catastrophe. But if you have guardrails and you bump into your guardrails, even though your conscience lights up, there are generally speaking, no consequences.

Now this is your opportunity. And I will promise you this. What I'm about to go through very quickly, if you establish these guardrails, you will not regret this. But where I got these, these aren't in the Bible. I made all of these up. But I made all of these up based on not a conversation, but many, many, many conversations, many, many e-mails, many, many tearful phone calls, many, many heartbreaking circumstances. And I've come to the conclusion that in this culture that is so dangerous for you and for me morally, that in this culture that is so dangerous in terms of what we're baited to and taunted to, that these aren't extreme at all.

This is how you flee sexual immorality in our culture, that these should just be standard operating procedure. And some of these, I'll tell you before we look at them, some of these you're gonna look at and say, "In my environment, in my industry, where I work, that's impossible." And all I would say is this. Would you begin praying toward this possibility? Because here's what I've discovered. I've talked to so many men and women who would say, as some of you will say as a result of this message, "I wish I had heard that and I wish I had done that." This is more possible than you think once you make up your mind to establish these kinds of guardrails.

No. 1, don't travel alone with members of the opposite sex. Just don't do that. Just don't travel alone. Don't get in a car; don't fly with, just decide "I don't travel alone with, if you're a married person, with somebody of the opposite sex. When we built this building out there in Alpharetta and we built our first campus, Julie Arnold and I are on staff together. Our offices were in Dunwoody and we had 100 meetings out here with the architects and with the contractors and it was just funny, because I've asked our staff. "I don't care how far you have to go and I don't care, you know, how much gas you eat up, don't travel alone with members of the opposite sex. It's just a standard for our whole organization."

And she and I would get in two cars, park next to each, drive up here; have our meetings, get in our separate cars and drive back to Dunwoody and wave at each other on the highway. And it seemed kinda silly, but you know what? We just think that should be standard operating procedure for married people who are really serious about maintaining margin morally in this dangerous, dangerous culture. Just decide. Just not gonna travel alone with members of the opposite sex.

No. 2, similar, don't eat alone with members of the opposite sex. Every affair, except for one, every affair I've ever been involved with as it relates to talkin' to people, both people, one or the other, every single one of 'em, it began right here. "We had a meal." I said, "Hey, you want to have dinner?" "Hey, let's have coffee," that became lunch, that became dinner, that became another dinner, that became, "Let's work late." Just decide. "I don't eat alone with members of the opposite sex.

You say, Andy, that's extreme. Well, guardrails are extreme. Guardrails are always within the safety zone. That's the point of a guardrail. And if you find yourself in a situation where you're surprised by the fact that you're having to eat alone with somebody of the opposite sex, you call your spouse. This has happened to us on several occasions. I was supposed to meet a couple years and years ago. They wanted to talk about the church and went to OK Café. I got there and there's the woman and the husband couldn't make it. And I said, "Oh," I said, "Hold one second. I got to make a quick phone call." "Hey, Sandra, I'm sittin' here with …" and she's … "we're over at the …" And I did and we both laughed. And we went ahead and had breakfast. Hey, that's it. But it's a standard. And when suddenly I'm in a situation where I can't avoid it, you make a phone call.

Program Note:

John: Some really good insights from Pastor Andy Stanley on guarding your relationship and this is "Focus on the Family." In a few moments you'll hear how those boundaries can fuel intimacy in your marriage. Now you're gonna find a lot of extra content when you request the CD of this presentation or there's an entire Guardrails series on DVD. Ask about those when you call 800-A-FAMILY or look for details at Let's go ahead and return now to Andy Stanley on "Focus on the Family."

End of Program Note

Pastor Stanley: No. 3, don't hire cute members of the opposite sex because you want to help them. (Laughter) Now let me explain what I mean by that. Listen, you laugh. Come on; some of you['ve] been there; some of you are there. Some of you, your wives or your husband said, "I'm not comfortable with you working with him." "I'm not comfortable with you working with her." And you said, "Yeah, but he really needs this job all right." I'm just tellin' ya. Don't hire cute people because you're tryin' to help 'em.

Now listen, I'm in the ministry, so I'm a professional helper, okay. Everybody should get help that needs help. And everybody can be helped. But come on. Don't deceive yourself. Don't deceive yourself. Don't hire cute people because they need your help. Get them help, but don't hire them. You say, "Andy, where'd you come up with that?" Take a wild guess where I came up with that. Story, after story after story and tearful women and tearful men sayin', "I told her I wasn't comfortable with it. I asked him not to" and he complained and the next thing I know, they're having coffee, then they're havin' lunch. Then they're havin' dinner and then there's the phone bills I can't explain and credit card and things I can't explain.

Next one, don't confide in or counsel members of the opposite sex. Just don't. This is huge. I mean, and this is what everybody does at lunch. I mean, this is why you're havin' lunch. You know, it was gonna be 20 minutes of coffee and an hour and a half later, "No one's ever listened to me like you before." "Really?" "No, can we talk again. No one's ever, no one's ever understood me before." (Laughter) Oh, good grief; it's like a bad movie, right? (Laughter) In fact, if you saw some of this in a movie, you would know exactly where the plot is headed, wouldn't you? But some of you do this.

"But Andy, she's the only one that'll listen to me." No, she's the only one you know who will listen to you. It is dan-ger-ous when your emotional world gets entwined with somebody's emotional world, you have crossed a[n] invisible, intangible, but dangerous line in terms of intimacy.

And intimacy doesn't begin with the physical. Intimacy begins with the emotional. That's why this is so dangerous. I can't even begin to tell you all the pastors, all the Christian counselors I know who ditched and blew up their marriage trying to help someone. The most compassionate thing you can do for you, your family, your grandfamily someday and the other person is to get them help and refuse to be the shoulder they lean on or cry on.

Next one,this is huge, married people. When you feel your heart or desire drifting towards a specific person, tell someone. I'm not sayin' tell your spouse. There's a time when you do that. I'm not sayin' that up front. There needs to be someplace safe. That's why we do community group, men's group. That's why we're tryin' to put people in circles and not just rows. There needs to be someone you can go to and say, "Guys," or "Girls," you know, "This is kinda awkward for me. I'm uncomfortable sayin' this, okay. There's a guy at work and he just kinda gets to me. I don't know what it is. He just kinda gets to me." "There's this girl at work and every time she comes by and she's so chatty and friendly and guys, this is embarrassing, but I find my thought life going that way." You just need [to say it]. You say, "Andy, is that necessary?" Yeah. "Andy, is that a little extreme?" No, because you know what? You'll never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever regret that.

Now one more thing about married people. Married people, your spouse needs to know where your guardrails are, so they can call you on it. Your spouse needs to be comfortable with your guardrails. In fact, some of your spouses are sitting here going, "I've been trying to tell him. I'm oh, so glad he's here." And you're sittin' here, goin', "Oh, great, you know. Oh, we shoulda done something else today," because you've (Laughter) already had this conversation. And you know what? Listen, listen, listen. And God is trying to use the man or woman in your life to protect you and you've resisted this. But this needs to be a conversation among married people. And I need to know and Sandra needs to know and you need to know and your spouse needs to know. f

And everybody needs to know where the guardrails are, because here's the deal. You see, if you decide, "I am not gonna have a meal alone with an unmarried person" and then one day, you just do anyway. And the whole time you're havin' a meal with that unmarried person, your conscience is goin', "You idiot; you idiot; you idiot. You promised." You're gonna feel bad and here's the great thing about guardrails. You're gonna feel bad about something that's not even a sin. You're gonna feel bad about something from which there are no consequences. But your conscience is gonna light up. That's what guardrails do. But if you don't have 'em, you'll never feel bad about anything until you step over a line that everybody feels bad about and culture will chastise you for.

Are those extreme? I don't think so. I think they're just common sense. Are those extreme? Let me tell you a secret. That's how you have an extremely, amazing, one-of-a-kind, you're the only one for me marriage. See, you know what fuels intimacy in marriage? There's several things. You know what one of the big things that fuel[s] intimacy in marriage? Exclusivity. When your spouse believes that she or he is the only one for you, there's an old, old song that says, "I only have eyes for you."

When your spouse believes that, that's a powerful, powerful thing and do you know where that begins? It begins with guardrails. It begins by setting standards that no one else in your culture is gonna understand. But don't be fooled by culture, because culture will bait you to the edge of disaster and then turn it back on you when you step over certain lines.

And so, what would you expect your heavenly Father to say? He would say, "Flee sexual immorality. Don't you know, your body is precious to Me. Don't you know, in some kind of strange mystical way, I live inside of you. That being the case, I want you to honor Me with your body. And if you honor Me with your body, I will honor you in your relationships."

Because God is the Creator and the giver of sex. I mean, that's not in the seven days of Creation, but it got created in there somewhere. It was His idea. If sex is a fire, God brought the matches, okay? It was His idea. And when you learn to honor God with your body, the reward is that God will honor you with a relationship of intimacy, the way He intended; He designed it to be. But if you're gonna get there, if you're gonna live there, you're gonna have to establish some guardrails.


John: Some really good thought-provoking ideas on today's "Focus on the Family" from Pastor Andy Stanley, as we consider honoring marriages by establishing boundaries or guardrails, as he calls them, to protect that relationship.

Jim: John; I really appreciate Andy's approach here, because it honors the heart of your spouse and because of that, it's a great way to honor your marriage and let me tell you, Focus on the Family has taken these boundaries seriously over the years and it's a part of our corporate travel policy, in fact. On any overnight travel our staff of the opposite sex may not share a rental car or have a dinner meeting, just the two of them or even stay at the same hotel, unless there's a third staff member present for that entire trip. And that just makes good sense.

John: Well, I think it does. It sometimes is inconvenient, but we know it's the right thing to do and I'm so grateful that we have those guardrails, as Andy calls them, for our employees.

Jim: Well, you know, Hebrews 13:4, it says very clearly, "Marriage should be honored by all," and I love that, not some of us, by everyone. And that includes the company you work for, your church, your friends, your family. And in fact, Focus on the Family is encouraging churches to honor marriage on Sunday, the 14th--that's Valentine's Day--and we'll have ideas about how to do that at our website.

And if you believe in marriage like we do, please consider partnering with us financially. We're a non-profit ministry and we depend on your donations, which we use wisely to create radio programs and other resources and tools to help marriages thrive. And I think last year, we had 130,000 couples say that Focus, through your help, helped save their marriage. And I think that is a wonderful thing to partner with us in. And if you can do that today, if you can support us today with a donation of any amount, we'd like to send you the complete DVD series by Andy Stanley called Guardrails. You'll hear extra content from today's program, plus five other messages on how to establish and use that guardrail concept, including areas like friendship and finances. I sat through that series at our church and it is good. So, call us today and let us say thank you for helping couples and their marriages.

John: And our number here is 800-232-6459; 800-A-FAMILY or donate online and request the Guardrails DVD series at

And while you're there, look for ways that you and your church can honor marriages. We have a special day of honoring marriages that we're calling for on Sunday, February 14th.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for joining us and inviting you back next time, when author Lee Strobel shares the true meaning of God's grace.


Pastor Lee Strobel: There's nothing you can do to make God love you more and there's nothing you can do to make God love you less.

End of Excerpt

John: You'll hear about God's unwavering love for you. That's next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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Andy Stanley

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Andy Stanley is the founder of North Point Ministries and the senior pastor of North Point Community Church, a multi-campus congregation based in Alpharetta, Ga. He is also an author of numerous books including The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating, Ask It, and Deep and Wide. Andy and his wife, Sandra, have three grown children. Learn more about Andy at his website,