John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, we’ll address some of the challenges that you and your children will face or perhaps are already facing navigating sexuality and purity in today’s ‘anything goes’ culture. And obviously as we tackle this topic, the conversation won’t be appropriate for younger children.
Pastor Levi Lusko: Relationships and dating and sexuality is being brought into a mobile experience where many, many, many young people in big cities like Los Angeles or New York are using the app to facilitate a quick hookup. They’re not using it to date as much or get a boyfriend or girlfriend but just to find someone to have sex with for the evening. And then, in the words of one user, that the Vanity Fair article I read about it that kind of opened my eyes to it said he said people are looking for this app to help them “hit it and quit it.”
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John: Pastor Levi Lusko is back with us today on Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we had a difficult but really good, solid conversation last time with Pastor Lusko. And I would encourage you to get a copy of the CD or download the phone app, the smartphone app. And you can listen to it that way.
But it had so much meat in it about how to look at these things, human sexuality in our own lives, as a parent of young teens perhaps. But these are important,subjects that we need to talk about within the Body of Christ. We tend to shy away from it, which is so, uh, harmful I believe. And I know if you’re listening now, you’re saying, man, you really wanna cover this? Yes, we do because we’re kind of tired. I’m kind of tired of giving it over to the enemy of our souls
And we need to talk about God’s design for human sexuality. We need to put out there for our young people a purpose in what God has put together. And that’s why we’re doing the program. Get a copy of the conversation last time.
In fact, we talked about how sex has become so devalued in our culture today and the dangers of pursuing pleasure at the expense of everything else. And our kids and, if I could be bold enough, ourselves - we are inundated with sexual temptation. We’re inundated with sexual images. It is so, uh, rampant in the culture. It’s hard to look away. And we have - as the Christian community, we’ve got to do the job of being equipped to manage this in our hearts and in our minds.
John: I appreciated, as well, something that Levi did yesterday in our conversation and that was very vulnerable and transparent. We’ve got to have that level of authenticity...
John: ...In our walks to be able to say to each other and to our kids, I’m not perfect in this. I’m making progress. I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven.
Get a copy, uh, of the broadcast, as Jim said. But also get a copy of Levi Lusko’s bookSwipe Right: The Life-and-Death Power Of Sex And Romance. We’ve got the - the help for you, personally and as a parent, at focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: Levi, we covered this last time. But for those that are joining for the first time, the swipe right analogy in the title of the book refers to Tinder or those type of apps.
Jim: Explain it because I didn’t even know it. I mean, this is sad. I should know.
Levi: It’s amazing to think of what’s - how - just how quickly life’s changing. When I was a kid, Blockbuster video on Friday night...
Jim: (Laughter) Right?
Levi: You go walk in. You rent a movie. You rewind it. You return it.
John: And make sure it’s not late. (Laughter)
Levi: Or you pay the fine. Yeah, right. So just how much stuff is changing. And dating is changing as well. It started with, of course, the online website where you’d meet people that way. Now, it’s all become a mobile app. And you could virtually fire up in any city in America one of these apps, like Tinder, and find someone looking for a casual encounter by night’s end.
And many young people in our culture today are using these apps. They’re - they’re foregoing relationships. So I’m 20. I’m 30. I’m a graphic designer. I don’t want a relationship. I don’t want a boyfriend or girlfriend. But I want to have sex. So I’ll use this app. And it makes the experience of having sex with a stranger as easy as ordering an Uber. And this is what’s happening with sex in our day. It’s become a mobile thing.
Jim: Why do we run to that ledge so quickly? Why do we not have the sensibility to hold back and say, what is being done to us here? Why are they capitalizing on my visceral, kind of deep appetite?
Levi: Well, I think because it feels good in the moment. And I think we are an instant-gratification-obsessed culture. Everything faster. Amazon Prime takes too long, you know. (Laughter) And so I think we’re hoping for what we want right now. We don’t want to wait. We want to use a credit card to get what our parents could afford. You know, and now - and now, we’re applying that to sexuality as well.
And so we’re not heeding the Biblical wisdom that, you know, really - what feels good in the moment is like the sowing of a seed. But whatever you sow, the same you’re going to reap. And Scripture says you have to lug what you load. And so what I want to tell people is protect your future by living carefully right now.
Jim: You have to lug what you load (laughter).
Levi: That’s exactly right.
Jim: I mean, that’s a great message.
Levi: Well, you think about that old tradition of hope chests is a beautiful thought. Parents would carve out a box for their daughter and pack it full of dishes and, you know, towels and linens. And it would kind of be this conversation, like this is going to be a blessing to you and your marriage one day.Well, the truth is all of us are packing a box that’s going to sit at the foot of our bed one day. We’re just not all going to like what’s in there because we’re going to bring our pornography addiction. We’re going to bring our bad habits. We’re going to bring our laziness into our marriage. And it’s gonna haunt us.
And so I think we have to just realize that you don’t get a pass on what you do when you’re young. People say oh, just get it all out of your system. I’ll meet young people - their parents even tell them, you know, get it all out of your system - you know, the bachelor party, kind of like, you know, sow your wild oats. But the truth is, you don’t get things out of your system by doing them. You get them into your system. And they’ll be there in your system down the road to haunt you or to help you, depending on whether you live wisely or foolishly today.
Jim: Yeah, and that wise and foolish contest, if I could say it that way, we need to be equipped. We need instrumentation. In fact, you mention in the book a great analogy about the death of Kennedy Jr., JFK’s son.
Levi: That’s right.
Jim: And he died in a plane crash. Explain how you pulled that out of the...
Levi: Yeah, well, John F. Kennedy Jr. was not instrument rated. And he was flying a Piper Saratoga aircraft with his wife and his sister-in-law to Martha’s Vineyard. And as he took off, there was a haze. And they say that at a certain point, it becomes very difficult to get your sense of up and down...
Levi: ...Where there is no visual horizon. And so as he was flying, he would have become, at some point, confused to where up felt like down and down felt like up.
The - we know that when they finally found his plane in the bottom of the ocean, he was still strapped into his seat. And he had never issued an emergency call. So likely, he hit the water thinking he was pulling up and never knew what was going wrong until he was dead. He never was worried, in other words. He died calm because he was confused. He didn’t know how to trust his instruments. His aircraft had instruments that could have kept that from happening. But he didn’t know how to use them when it counted because he wasn’t instrument rated.
And I think a lot of us, we trust our feelings. But our feelings can lead us into disaster because the Bible says our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it? And we’ve all seen that person dating that guy. And we’re like, the - he’s no good for you. Why don’t you see it? They don’t see it because they’re trusting their feelings. And when you have sex, it binds and blinds. It binds and blinds, meaning it binds you to them. The Bible says the two become one. There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. So there’s a …
Jim: Well, and to add to that, just - I mean, again, the physiology - it is a - there’s a bonding hormone that occurs, especially for women.
Levi: Serotonin, the happy hormone and gets released, yeah.
Jim: Yeah, it - you make that analogy of the sticky note.
Jim: Explain that because it’s so good.
Levi: Yeah, well, the more times you stick a sticky note, the less sticky it becomes. And I think sex is that way. You know, God didn’t give us these rules to, like, ruin our fun. The devil loves to run it up the flag like, sex is my idea. You know, it’s like - God’s like I’ve got the patent for that on my wall in my office. (Laughter) You know, He invented it. And so he knows how to use it.
We - it’s funny to me. People have an attitude when they hear of God’s plan for sex, which is one man, one woman, one lifetime. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, the two shall become one flesh. That’s a statement on sexuality so short you could tweet the thing. But there’s so much in it. That’s the marriage bed. That’s the arena in which God wants sex to be contained not because he doesn’t want us to have fun but because he does.OK?
So what happens is we turn from there. And we start using sex with everybody - strangers, through pornography, random person I met on Tinder, guy I met at the club, coworker, whatever. Now, all of a sudden, we’re gluing ourselves to person after person, like the sticky note. The more times you stick yourself, the less sticky it’s going to become. Soon, it can become difficult to achieve that lasting, meaningful bond that God wanted you to have because you’ve become numb on the inside.
Jim: Man, I - I can feel people going, I am experiencing that. What you’re saying, Levi, is exactly where I’m at in my life.
Jim: I mean, I’ve been through four, five, six, 10 guys. And it’s leaving me desperate. It’s not fulfilling.
Levi: Well, one - one director of a sex addiction center - he - he noted on the advent of Tinder and how people are now having a turnstile approach to sexuality. He said it wears down the parts of you on the inside that hope to achieve a meaningful relationship.
And really, that’s what the Bible tells us.You know, sin isn’t bad because it’s forbidden. God forbid it because it’s bad. He doesn’t want us to harm ourselves. Someone said every time God says don’t, you can finish it this way, don’t hurt yourself. And that’s why he gave us these rules. He doesn’t want you to, you know, be in a marriage bed filled with all of these previous partners in your mind and, you know, racked with all these thoughts and STDs. And he has our best interests at heart.
Jim: You know, Levi, I was, uh, at a book signing. And I was speaking to maybe 50 or 70 people. And there was a - a - a homosexual man in the audience. And he put his hand up. And he said when are you Christians going to get over your archaic understanding of human sexuality? It’s like you’re living in the 15th century.
Jim: We’re in the 21st century. Why don’t you catch up to speed?And I smiled. And I said, you know, it’s great that you want to make me the editor of the book. Well, I’m just a follower. And I fail at times in following the book. But it’s not up to me to edit the book. God has crafted this as guidelines, as you said, as the rules to live by for our blessing, not to curse us...
Jim: ...But to help us live a fulfilled and wonderful life. How would you answer that person with what you know now and what you’ve gone through personally? Why don’t you just get caught up with the 21st century? Tinder is the way it is, Levi, I mean, even for the church. Come on.
Levi: Yep, well, I think first of all, you responded so well in the moment with kindness. And - but to say, with all due respect, I’m just delivering the message He gave to us. And who are we to change it? It’s not loving. It seems loving to do that. But it’s actually unloving. But I think when we look at our culture, the data does not point to our culture’s approach, to the instant gratification as being life-giving. You look at the higher rate of STDs. They say that 40 years ago, doctors only needed to know how to treat two STDs. Now, 25 they need to know because they’re commonly seeing.
Jim: Think about it.
Levi: One out of four teenage girls has an STD. Look at sexual assault. It’s now estimated that 20 percent of college coeds, by the time they get out of college, will have experienced sexual assault.
Jim: Twenty percent.
Levi: Just think about this. That’s one out of five. When you look at the approach that says do whatever you feel like doing and it’s kind of like we said, a secular, humanistic approach, where whatever I feel like. It’s not thy will be done. It’s my will be done.
Why are we surprised that that eventually, ultimately carried out to its highest, you know, ultimate expression leads to people taking advantage of other people?
In the animal world, one shark takes another shark. One bear takes another bear. No one flinches. I think we know more because we’ve been given more. We’ve been made in the image of God. So when we see in, you know, 2 Samuel 13 Tamar raped by her brother, we’re appalled because we know that’s wrong. But ultimately, he was just doing what felt good in the moment.
Jim: Right, he was living out Darwin’s theory, right?
Levi: At the end of the day.
Jim: The - you mentioned the animal kingdom. So much of what God has created is a metaphor or a - or a point of training for us, isn’t it? You pull that point out in your book when it comes to sharks and your fascination with Discovery Channel.
Jim: You probably watch Shark Week like my boys and I tend to do...
Levi: Oh, I love it.
Jim: ...Because it’s just - you know, that’s guys’ TV right there!
Jim: But you were captivated about the shark and their mating habits.
Jim: What was it?
Levi: I was watching this, uh, show about great white sharks breeding. And they showed a female great white shark. And they said, we know it’s a female. I was like, how do they know that? They all look the same to me, you know. And - and they said because their side is riddled with scars.
And that’s how the male shark holds on. He has to hold on somehow. So he bites her on the side while he mates with her. And then he said the presence of scars means there’s been sex.And when I heard that, it just chilled me because I - that phrase, sex means scars. So often when we approach sexuality in the context that God did not tell us to, it leads to scars, the scars of heartbreak, the scars of abortion, the scars of - of - of STDs, of divorce.
We see scars - I think of people in my own life, those who - you know, the young person who sent sexually explicit pictures. And they got around the school. The person who cheated on his wife and it devastated both families. Sex means scars. And that’s why God intends something so much more for us.
John: And if what Levi’s talking about right now is really connecting with your heart and you’re thinking, I am scarred. I need help. Give us a call here at Focus on the Family. We have trained Christian counselors. And they would be happy to have an initial consultation with you and one of our team members will get your name and number and have them call back just as soon as they can. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Online, you can find help and Levi’s bookSwipe Rightat focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Levi, again, I so appreciate you coming to the - the studio and just illuminating for us, enlightening us about the topic. And I’m guilty of it. You know, I’m busy. And we cover a lot of this in our parenting, Jean and I. But to really know it is where you get credibility with your teenagers (laughter). You know, when you can talk in a way that they know that you know what their friends are facing, maybe what they’re facing. And I just - again, I appreciate the boldness and the vulnerability that you’ve shown in your own addictions as a teenager, what God has led you through. And I love the fact that you embrace it as, um, you know, that pain being part of your passion, part of your platform.
Jim: And you’ve done that so well.InSwipe Right, you mention a Stanford University study about the arousal addiction. Explain to us what - what you saw in that study.
Levi: Well, basically, there’s what they call”The Demise Of Guys”happening in our day. I originally came across it in a CNN article. And it was literally called “The Demise Of Guys.” I clicked it, of course. And they basically said in every regard, young men are doing worse than young women in our culture today. That’s just a fact...
Jim: So true.
Levi: ...In every way, graduating high school, health, all of it.
Jim: College, grad school.
Levi: So they point to, the Stanford study you mentioned, videogames and pornography as the two most likely culprits as those are, in their words, rewiring the brains of young men in our day, causing what they are dubbing an arousal addiction.
Traditional drugs, you need more of the same. If I’m high on coke, I need more coke next time - the law of diminishing returns. With pornography and videogames, it’s more of the different, meaning I can’t just see more of the same. I need to see something new, a new scenario. And oftentimes, it gets darker. It gets more twisted, fetishes, etc.
I’m really disturbed. I recently just came - and I didn’t get to write about this inSwipe Rightbecause it’s always evolving - there’s now these things out there called fan fiction, where they - basically, young kids that like books even - and it’s often young women who like a certain kind ofLord Of The Ringsbook orHarry Potter, where were they write twisted versions of that book with pornographic details inside of them, basically erotic literature, which is - they call it ‘mommy porn.’ And it’s something like half of all paperback books sold is - is romance novels.
But it’s these very steamy scenarios. And they’re getting young girls hooked on this stuff even at a young age. But all that to say, I wrote this book so parents could transform that awkward sex talk that’s so clumsy into an ongoing dialogue that would lead to wide - wise choices.
Because we need to talk to our kids, not just “no” to pornography. Here’s why. Here’s what that will do to you. Here’s - here’s how that will cause your brain to need more. And eventually it causes you to be unable to perform sexually. The young men - Time magazine did an article about it - in our culture who are the most addicted to porn perform sexually the worst.
Levi: They’re unable to please their partner. And they’re actually, in some cases, unable to even get aroused with a real person there...
Levi: ...Because they need a scenario that they now have worked their brain up to.
Jim: Levi, I love your animal analogies. And again, I think God puts that on display for us. And you have pulled it out inSwipe Right- I mean, the shark catch, (laughter) you might say. And then you also observe that idea between cheetahs and gazelles.
Levi: Yeah, I had the chance to go to South Africa. And I learned that cheetahs, they have a ability to run only until their brain hits 105 degrees.
Jim: Isn’t that something?
Levi: At 105, they either stop and pant, which is the mechanism that cools the brain. Or they will die. So if they keep running, they’re going to die. But gazelles often elude the cheetah because they have a special compartment of air that cools any air coming to the brain. So their brain can be at 109 but the cooling brings it down to 105. So their body can be hotter than their brain is...
Levi: ...Basically. So they get that extra four degrees. So they literally will prevail if they have a cooler head.
And so in the book, I talk about how we should fight to limit our access to things that get our blood pumping, things that make it more difficult. Second Timothy 2:22 says flee also youthful lust. So I think what we should do is when we get into a scenario when we’re seeing something that would make temptation harder, like David when he saw Bathsheba, he should have bolted. We should fight to keep our head cool because once all the blood is pumping, it’s more difficult to do a righteous thing.
Jim: Yeah. Levi, there’s so much brokenness that comes in this area of sexuality for us as human beings, if you’re 14, 15, 16 years old, or you’re 50, 55, 70 years old.
Jim: It can be painful. It can be harmful. Where do we get a bearing? I mean, we’ve been talking about it for two days now. But where can we go? I’ve heard you, Levi. I’m broken in this area. This has been the struggle of my lifetime. I don’t know what to do. Everything - it’s like a diet thing. It’s not worked for me. You know, I’ve done it all. I’ve exercised, but I - I’m just not losing weight.
Jim: I’m just not losing that appetite sexually. I still have it. I still have that desire to look at things I shouldn’t look at.
Jim: Maybe the affair I’ve had that nobody knows about - whatever it might be.Speak to the person who is still struggling. And they’re crying out to you, what can I do?
Jim: I wanna honor God.
Jim: But I’m not getting there.
Levi: Yep, I think first of all, we have to go to the cross. It’s not going to come in our own power. The Bible says, not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. So when we go back to the cross and we let the gospel be lived out anew, we have that resurrection power that the Holy Spirit gives to us. And then I think it’s God’s people. So not only going to God for the power, but also going to God’s people for the healing. The Bible says, if you confess your sins to God, you’ll be forgiven and to people, you’ll be healed.
Jim: OK, now speak to us as those people. What do we need to do to equip...
Levi: I think...
Jim: ...And to come alongside people?
Levi: Speaking to your pastor, speaking to your small group leader, getting an army of people around you who are making the right decisions that you are. Life begets life, and darkness begets darkness. So you can’t outlive your friends, so getting the right relationships in your life.
I would say a season, maybe even of separation, where you’re not dating at all, where you can really just focus on God and have that kind of hard reset inside your soul. Take drastic action. If it’s cable, if it’s Internet, be crazy. You know, sin wants to do something crazy to you. So do something crazy to your sin. Jesus said chop your hand off. Man, cut that eye out. I - I’m saying, like, if you need to have a season where you have a dumb phone for a while, fine, have a dumb phone. You know, make - take drastic action because life is short. In just a moment, we’re going to be standing before God in heaven, receiving rewards for the deeds done in the body. And I would say life is far too short to live in a way where we’re hamstringed by sin.
Jim: And, Levi, with that pain point that you’re talking about that you went through as a teenager addicted to pornography. And now it’s your mission, it’s your calling to help people out of that pit.
Where’s that point of pain - I’m sure it’s different for every human being - where the pain is now greater, um, than the pleasure? Have you seen that in your counseling?
Jim: And - and what can you say to that person, maybe - I’m still enjoying it. The pleasure is there. I know I shouldn’t be. Where does that equilibrium come where I now am feeling like it’s beyond good? It’s - it’s - it’s not good for me, and I’m recognizing that.
Levi: Well, I think when you take it to its ultimate extreme, you have to look at what sin wants to do to you. Sin will thrill you so it can kill you. It will fascinate you so it can assassinate you. And that transition will always come while you’re hypnotized.
And so I think you want to make that shift far before you realize it’s too late. Look at the Proverbs. He follows her like a sheep towards the slaughterhouse, not knowing till the arrow pierces his liver. You know, all of her guests end up in hell. I think when we realize this is what sin’s agenda is - the devil does not have a plan to give you slightly worse of a life than God does. He wants to kill you and destroy you. He’s playing for keeps.
So I - if you’re toying with sin, it’s going to get its foot in the door so it can get in the door all of the way. And so when you sow that thought, you reaped the action. Sow the action, reap the habit. Sow the habit, reap the character. Sow the character, reap a destiny. So I think you don’t - don’t play with fire. It will burn your house down. Instead, let the fire stay in the fireplace where God wanted it to be. And it will heat your life up.
Jim: I love that. Um, let’s end with this one ‘cause it’s - it’s insightful, and it’s fun. But you mentioned in your book,Swipe Rightthis idea of being the snakebird. (Laughter) Yeah. I love it.
Levi: You know what, I love it - I love it.
Jim: My boys are going to love this, I’m telling you. Let’s talk about being a snakebird.
Levi: Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, behold I send you out, as sheep in the midst of wolves. So be as cunning as a serpent, but as harmless as a dove. So he said, basically, if you’re going to try and be pure in a world full of the Internet, you’re going to try and date righteously in a world full of Tinder, then you know what, you have to know there’s wolves out there. And as college students, as young adults, you’re in the midst of wolves, so you need to be a little bit like a snake and a little bit like a bird.And I think what that means is, trust God but don’t be stupid… (Laughter)
Jim: Yeah, that’s well said.
Levi: You know, yes, pray, but also have a plan, you know? So I talked to a guy and he’s like, my girlfriend and I slept together again. I’m like, well, tell me about it. Well, we were praying. Well, where were you? Well, we were in her bedroom. I was like, hey, listen, there’s two things that happen in a bed - sleeping and what you did. What do you think’s going to happen?
You know, this advice applies to all of life. I’m praying for a job. Did you apply? You know, I’m praying for a wife. Did you brush your teeth? I think we need to have an approach that’s theological…
Jim: (Laughter) There’s a message.
Levi: …Theological and logical. Be a snakebird.
Jim: Be a snakebird. I love it. Levi, this has been amazing, and, uh, thank you so much, uh, for being our guest here at Focus on the Family.
Levi: Thank you for having me.
Jim: I love your book,Swipe Right. And again, it’s that kind of equipping resource - that tool that everybody can learn from - teens as well as parents who are raising teens, as well as older couples, who may be still limping in this life, even though they’re trying.
Levi: I would say, don’t feel like you’ve given up the moral authority though. I speak to parents all the time. It’s like, I can’t talk to my kids about sex because I didn’t make good decisions, and I’d be a hypocrite. I would say, speak vulnerably and tell them, I didn’t do things God’s way. I wish I had, but you can. You’re not disqualified. Your mistakes are now a message.
Jim: I love it. And what I want to do is just, say thank you. If you support the ministry of Focus on the Family with a gift of any amount, man, we want to put this tool in your hand, and we will send it to you. And we so appreciate your support of the ministry that literally touches hundreds of thousands of lives every year, so partner with us and in doing that, equip yourself, uh, either for your own family or for a friend.
John: And you can get Levi’s bookSwipe Rightand a free audio copy of this two-day conversation when you donate at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And at our website, we also have a free downloadable document for you called, “The Talk” and it’ll help you initiate ongoing conversations with your kids about God’s design for sex and purity. And then finally, if you’ve got teen girls growing up in your home, as I do, then we have a great magazine calledBriowhich provides really Bible-based perspectives on dating, social media, beauty and fashion and living out their faith. Check out all these helps and donate at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Coming up next time on Focus on the Family: how we can help begin healing the broken hearts of fatherless boys.
John Smithbaker: So I tried to win everything, accomplish everything, be perfect in the eyes of the world, so my father would want to love me.
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