How to Be Passionately in Love and Sexually Pure
"Among you," God tells His children, "there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity" (Ephesians 5:3)
It’s because of clear commands like this and the reality of our God-given sexual appetites that we face "hammock" moments — moments when we must choose between what our bodies crave and what we know our Lord has instructed. The temptation maybe seemingly innocent as deciding when to to kiss, or as serious as choosing when to sleep together. Whatever it is, the internal struggle is the same. The question boils down to whom will you believe? Will you heed the clear commands of Scripture and the voice of your conscience, or the voice of compromise that’s offering immediate pleasure? What’s really going to make you happy?
We all know how we’re supposed to answer, but when our desire kicks in, doing what’s right isn’t easy. In the heat of passion, we need more than just knowledge about sexual purity. To stand firm against sin, we can’t simply intellectually agree with the merits of chastity. We must be captivated by the beauty and greater pleasure of God’s way. This involves agreeing with God about the goodness of pure sex within marriage, refusing the counterfeits offered by the world, and fearing the consequences of illicit sex.
Being captivated by God’s way won’t happen by accident — it requires purposely effort before marriage. Author Ken Myers once told me, "True love doesn’t just wait; it plans." He’s right. While we’re single or in courtship, we need to do more than just avoid what’s wrong — we need to plan and work hard at being captivated by the good. In this chapter we’re gong to look at how during courtship and engagement you can be planning for a thrilling, God glorifying sex life in marriage. Are you ready to be captivated?
Worship in Bed
God celebrate pure sex within marriage. He invites us to do the same. "What more divine gift of celebration do we have than lovemaking?" asks Douglas Jones. He writes that the marriage bed should not "merely be a place of satisfying natural urges, but a place for delighting in the mysterious beauty of those drives. Why did God delight to entrance us with smooth skin, soft breast, firm muscles, entangled legs, and slow kisses?" Why did God delight to make us so? The answer is for our enjoyment and His glory. Because He’s very, very good. He could have made the means by which we procreate as brief and boring as sneezing. Instead, He gave it more sizzle than the Fourth of July. And when a husband and wife revel in and thank God for the gift of sex, they glorify Him. Their lovemaking becomes a jubilant, two-person worship service!
To plan ahead for a great sex life, we have to realize that the message of Scripture is not for us to disdain sex, but to love God’s original design so much that we see the world’s perversions of it revolting. "Enjoy pure sex!" God practically shouts in Proverbs 5:18-19; "May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth… may her breast satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love."
There’s the word again — "captivated." It means to be amazed by and taken prisoner by the beauty of something. "Be captivated, be ravished by the body of your spouse," God tells us. "Be entranced by the true and lasting pleasure of the marriage bed." Women who were infertile due to damage from sexually transmitted disease. Women who had to undergo biopsies for precancerous condition due too many partners." Ask women like these if it was worth it. Talk to the married couples who sinned together before marriage and who have spent years recovering from the bitterness and distrust it sowed in their relationship.
And if it isn’t enough to make the option of sexual immorality vile, look into the eyes of Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who knows the depth of God’s unmitigated wrath against sexual sin — He bore it all when He hung on the cross, cursed and forsaken by His Father (2Corinthians 5:21: Galatians 3:13).
PART OF THE MOTIVATION we need in order to hold out for the pleasure of pure sex is a sober acknowledgment that God is serious about punishing sin. Let’s not kid ourselves. God is talking to us."God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" Hebrews 13:4 tells us. And in 1Thessalonians 4:6, we read, "The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you." We can’t be flippant about this. It has to sink in.
God doesn’t excuse sin because of who we are or how good we’ve been in the past. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived asexually pure life for forty years and then have one night of sin — God still hates that act of fornication. Read the story of King David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba in 2Samuel 11. Even though God called David "a man after his own heart" (1Samuel 13:14), He hated David’s sin and He punished it. David was forgiven when he repented, but the consequences of his sin marred the remainder of his life. The lesson for us is that God’s righteous standard will not be relaxed for anyone.
God doesn’t overlook our sin because it’s not as bad as someone’s else. We can always find someone else and some other couple who are more disobedient than we are, but that doesn’t change the reality of our own disobedience. God doesn’t grade on a curve, He doesn’t base His judgments on the popular standards of the day — His standards are unchanging (Psalm 102:27: "They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; like clothing you change them and they are changed," ; Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever"
God doesn’t excuse our sin because we’re in love and "no one is being hurt." You’ve heard the argument; maybe you’ve even used it yourself. "We’re two consenting adults. We love each other! We both want this!" But do you see who’s being forgotten in the equation of two "consenting adults"? The almighty Creator of their two bodies.
The apostle Paul explains:
In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? (1Corinthians 6:18-20, The Message)
The warning are serious and there are no exceptions. Sure, some people seemingly escape them, but there will be a reckoning beyond this life — "they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1Peter 4:5). Every man & woman who refuses to turn from sexual sin and trust in Christ for forgiveness will one day look into the eyes of a Holy Judge — the short-lived pleasure of sin will be forgotten, and it will be too late for mercy.
"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching. It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them."
why sex drive is a blessing??
"Okay" you’re thinking, I agree what sex in marriage sounds great, and I believe that sexual sin leads to death. But none of this deals with my raging sex desire right now! Did God make me like this just to torment me?
No, He did not. Even though our sexual desire can seem like a curse, and even though we have to restraint it for own good, we need to keep in mind that these desires are natural, God given, and wonderful. In fact, they are a blessing even when we can’t satisfy them.
Let me explain what I mean. If God had made sex so undesirable that we were never tempted to steal it before marriage, it wouldn’t be much of a gift, would it? Every time we long for sexual intimacy before marriage, we should quickly thank God for making us sexual beings and for making sex so desirable. The bible says, "Guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband" (Hebrews 13:4, The Message). It’s because God has made sex a precious treasure that He’s commanded us to guard it.
And not only did God make sex good, but He also increased our enjoyment by reserving it for marriage. If we didn’t have to wait for it, there is no anticipation, no build up, no excitement.
When I was young, I read a story of a boy who was granted his wish that everyday would be Christmas. For awhile it was paradise — every morning he dashed downstairs to newly stuffed stockings and dozens of presents under the tree. But in a very short time, the celebration last its joy. There was no longer anything special about it. He begun to despise the presents. He had thought that he would find happiness in boundless Christmases but he gutted the holiday of its meaning and pleasure.
Couples who impatiently and greedily take sex outside the boundaries of marriage do the same thing. It’s like Christmas everyday. The act loses its beauty and uniqueness. They end up cheating themselves out of sex at its best.
Why does God ask single Christians to face the marriage? One answer is that He’s committed to great sex! I’ve read that honeymoon resorts are having to provide more and more activities for newly weds, who, since they didn’t wait, are bored with sex by the time they get married. While many many sexually promiscuous couples greet the marriage bed with yawn, the chaste fall into it with cries of delight. On our honeymoon, Shannon and I didn’t need a scheduled packed with activities. We rarely left our hotel room!! We had stored up passion; we were full of anticipation and pure desire. Everything was new, fresh, and intoxicating.
There’s another reason the struggle of waiting for marriage is a blessing. God not only wants to maximize a couple’s enjoyment of sex in marriage. He also wants them to learn to trust Him together. When a Christian man and woman systematically deny their own physical desires as an expression of mutual faith and submission to Jesus Christ, they are laying a solid spiritual foundation for their marriage. They’re learning to fight sin as a team. They’re learning to care for each other, pray for each other and challenge each other. In the most practical of ways, they are submitting to Jesus Christ as the Lord of their relationship.
DEMONSTRATING THE DEPTH OF YOUR LOVE
FAR FROM BEING A CURSE, GOD’S CALL TO CHASTITY IS A BLESSING. OF COURSE it rarely feels like one, and when we’re in the thick of it, it’s never easy. That’s why it’s so important that we have a clear game plan for our physical relationship. We need principles that will help us align our hearts and our actions with God’s plan. Remember, our goal is to be captivated by God’s plan for pure sex. The motive for our self-control and restraint is not asceticism or religious piety, but joy, true pleasure, and God’s glory.
Let me share some principles that helped Shannon and me during our courtship and engagement.
The first is this: During courtship, guarding each other purity and refraining from sexual intimacy are acts of lovemaking. A Christian man and woman in love have to redefine what true lovemaking before marriage. They have to agree that sexual intimacy before marriage is most unloving. They have to renew their thinking so that they both see that not violating their future marriage bed is the a true expression of love.
Do you want to be romantic with the person you’re courting ? Do you want to demonstrate your passion for them with more than words? Then guard against sin, fight lust, and refuse to arouse them sexually — this is only God-sanctioned form of lovemaking in courtship and engagement. I opened this chapter with the story of my temptation in the hammock. Walking away from Shannon that summer day was the real way for me to demonstrate my love for her. I wasn’t denying the reality of my love or my sexual desire for her, I was increasing it and purifying it by submitting it to God. She appreciated that. Even though there was part of her heart that wanted me to stay, she felt my love for her as I turned my back on temptation.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1John 3:16). Before marriage two friends who are not yet lovers can prove their love by laying down their own sexual desires and protecting each others purity.
Learning to recognize true affection
Learning to recognize true affection can be difficult, especially if v you’ve equate sex with love. It takes lots of communication, prayer and humble leadership on the part of those people concerned during courtship to change their thinking. Some came to see that the absence of a physical relationship was not a lack of love, but a sign of it. They have to work through the deeply rooted pattern of looking to men instead of to her heavenly father for comfort and confidence.
Don’t try to bargain
It’s an essential part of planning for pure sex in courtship and engagement is understanding the lie of lust. The following principle can give you an edge against it.
LUST IS NEVER SATISFIED
Lust would like us to believe that it can make us happy. If we just give it what it wants, it will stop pestering us and be satisfied Don’t buy it. Lust is never satisfied. You can’t bargain with it and come out a winner, Lust hijacks sex. it wants to train your desires to delight in thrill of the forbidden so that you lose your Godly appetite for what is good.
Ray and Angelina slept with each other during their nine-month engagement. I felt so right, how could it be wrong? "It was incredible. There was this animal passion between us," Ray says. They justified their fornication by saying that heir "electric" sex confirmed that they were supposed to be married. And they assumed that the extra practice in bed would only benefit them in the future. They were wrong. They bargained with lust, and they got ripped off. A year and a half after wedding, the sizzle had vanished from their sex life. Sadly, they went to the bargaining table with lust. They started renting pornographic movies to "enhance" their passion. It didn’t work. The more inflamed they became with lust, the less satisfied they felt. Now Rey is starting to view pornography on the internet and cast a longing eye at women at work. Once again lust is telling him that "what he really needs "is something that he doesn’t have."
Is Ray and Angelina story proof that marriage ruins sex? No, it’s another sad example of lust ruining sex. During their engagement they learned to delight in what was off-limits. They weren’t being driven by a passion for the goodness of pure sex; their passion was fueled by the sinful thrill of lust. When they got married and sex became something good and pure, they had no appetite for it.
Don’t try to bargain with lust. Kill it. Don’t spend the season of courtship giving into it — in your mind or your actions — and learning to delight in sin instead of righteousness. Once you do, you’ll never find true satisfaction.
When fantasy goes too far
It’s tempting during courtship and especially during engagement to begin to fantasize making love with your future spouse. Be careful that joyful, God-centered anticipation doesn’t turn into unbridled lust. Even though it’s not easy, you still need to guard your heart. It’s never right to fantasize about sexual immorality, and it’s very easy to go from "imagining the wedding night" to sinful fantasy.
During our engagement, I struggled the most with sexual thoughts about Shannon in the morning. It always happened right when I woke up. If I allowed myself to lie in bed for an extra five minutes and dream about how one day I’d be waking up next to her, lust often got the better of me — if not at the moment, then later in how I treated her when we were together. In spite of falling often, by God’s grace I was committed to fighting lust, I knew that the moment I stopped struggling against my sinful nature and started believing the lies of lust, I’d be lost. That’s why I jumped out of bed and cried out to God for grace in my times of weakness. That’s why I was accountable to my roommate, Andrew and my pastor about my thoughts life. That’s why, when sexually thoughts about Shannon came, I did my best to turn my focus to thanking God for what our future held and to asking for His help to be patient and strong in the meantime.
the yellow line:
The reality of indwelling sin and the deceit of lust is why this next principle is so important. To fight and avoid sexual sin, we need a game plan. This principle helps connect our convictions to our actions: SPECIFIC GUIDELINES FOR YOUR PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIP CAN NEVER REPLACE HUMBLE RELIANCE ON THE HOLY SPIRIT — BUT THEY CAN REINFORCE YOUR BIBLICAL CONVICTIONS
Every couple needs to search Scripture and come with their own specific guidelines for what they will and won’t do in their physical relationship.This guidelines should never become replacement for prayers and constant reliance on the Holy Spirit. Instead, they should be seen as an expression of a sincere desire to please and obey God. A vague definition of righteousness quickly leads to compromise.
The guidelines that you and your bf or gf come up with are like the yellow lines that divide the road. Can they stop you from sinning? No. Do they negate the importance of carefully evaluating your heart and your motives? Not at all. But they are still important. We need the yellow lines on a road even though they can’t stop a car from swerving into the wrong lane and having a head-on collision. Though the lines are unable to stop drivers who wants to ignore them, they do help drivers who wants to avoid danger.
Here is what’s important to understand: We can’t start by making our guidelines. Our standpoint has to be a heart desire to honor God with our bodies and to serve each other. Paul was right when he said that rules for the sake of rules and rules that originate from human traditions and glorify human piety have no "value in restraining sensual indulgence" (Colossians 2:23). Only the power of the Holy Spirit working in us can change us. Only by His grace can we learn to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:12).
But here’s where many people misunderstand and misapply this passage. An important part of of receiving and applying God’s grace in our lives is establishing behavior that flees from temptation and put sins to death. This involves establishing guidelines — yes, rules— that help us. These rules aren’t our hope, they don’t earn God’s love, and they aren’t our starting point; but they can help us put our convictions into action..
After our "nap" in the hammock, I realized that Shannon and I needed stricter and more specific guidelines for our physical relationship. We were accountable to friends, but we hadn’t really spelled out what it meant for us to be obedient. It was all subjective. "How are you two doing lately?" my parents would ask. "Uh, I think we’re doing pretty good… I guess," I say trying to remember if I felt guilty about anything that occurred recently. As I looked ahead to the four months before our wedding, I knew it would only get more difficult to stick to our convictions. Our guidelines are based from the Scriptures. Let me tell you some guidelines we came up with. In sharing them, I’m saying that you should follow them and you have to develop your own convictions and guidelines. You’ll have your different strengths and weaknesses than us. What I want to illustrate is how important it is to be specific. Examples:
We will not caress each other. For us this excludes: rubbing each others back, neck or arms, touching or stroking each other’s face, playing with each other’s hair or scratching each other’s arms or back.
we will not "cuddle". for us this excludes: sitting entwined on a couch watching a movie; leaning or resting on the other person; lying down next to each other; playfully wrestling with each other.
We will guard our conversation and meditation. For us this means: not talking about our future physical relationship, not thinking or dwelling on what would now be sinful; not reading things related to physical intimacy within marriage prematurely.
We will not spend undue amounts of time together at late hours. A specific area of concern for us in time together late at night. We’re more vulnerable when we are tired. Even if we we’re spending too much time together at late hours.
Appropriate physical expressions during this season include: holding hands; Josh putting his arms around Shannon’s shoulder; brief "side hugs"
These guidelines are "fences" to keep us far from violating God’s commands. Our greatest concern is the direction and intention of our hearts. Even if we’re following them to the smallest detail, please inquire if any action or activity is stirring up inappropriate desire or awakening love before its time.
Looking at this guidelines now, I smile. They are extremely detailed. But at that season in our relationship, that is what we needed to stand by our convictions. Even though it was embarassing, we gave copy of these guidelines to my parents, my pastor and his wife, another married couple we were close to, my best friend, and Shannon’s 3 roommates. We didn’t want any safe havens for compromise. We wanted everyone in our lives to know our standards and to help us stick to them. Shannon’s roommates had our guidelines posted on the refrigerator!
Let me say it again: My goal in sharing our guidelines is not so you’ll to adopt them. You might be able to do some of these things with a clear conscious before God. Whatever guidelines you come up with need to grow out of the clear teaching of Scripture and from sincere convictions so you can follow them with joy.
I encourage you to take time to "paint the yellow lines" for your relationship. You don’t need them when you are feeling strong and spiritually sharp — you need them for the moments when your resistance is weak and your sense of conviction dull. In those moments of weakness you don’t want to start having to decide what you should and you shouldn’t do. If you make your choices then, you’ll wind up in compromise.
the big deal about little things
So how should you decide what you do 0r don’t do in your physical relationship before marriage? This next principle can help you formulate your own guidelines ;
THE LONGER YOUR "NO BIG DEAL" LIST IS BEFORE MARRIAGE, THE SHORTER YOUR "VERY SPECIAL" LIST WILL BE AFTER MARRIAGE.
This principle reminds us that we should base our decisions of what we do and don’t do in our physical relationship on a desire to maximize the joy and pleasure of sex within marriage. Many couples spend dating and courtship convincing themselves that things like kissing and sexual touching are "no big deal." When they finally reach the marriage bed, there’s very little left that can be considered unique and special to marriage. They are the ones to lose. I’ve already mentioned that Shannon and I decided to save our first kiss for our wedding. This is another example of an outward action that is meaningless unless it’s backed up by a heart desire to glorify God and serve each other. I don’t encourage couples to do this or any other commitment so they can feel morally superior to other people. Neither do I think that this should be the litmus test of truly godly relationships. As you’ve already heard, I sinned more in my heart without kissing Shannon than many guys who kiss their girlfriends. The most important issue is our motive and our heart before God . But let me share why Shannon and I decided to make kissing a "big deal" First, we had both in previous relationships in which we kissed other people. We knew how meaningless this could be apart from true love. We wanted to "redeem" kissing, if you will, and make it a privilege of marriage. Second, we understood the progressive nature of sexual involvement. Once you start kissing, you want to move on. We didn’t want to start what we couldn’t finish. When a man and a woman’s lips meet, and their tongues penetrate each other’s mouths, their process of becoming one has begun.
It’s a Package!!
Another way to put it is we viewed kissing as a part of the whole package of sexual union. And we didn’t want to dissect the sex act into stages so we could justify enjoying more and more lovemaking outside of marriage. Many Christian couples have the conviction that sex should be saved for marriage. Unfortunately, all this really means is that they’re saving the intercourse for marriage. Do you see how ludicrous this is? Sex is so much more that just penetration. As John White puts it, "Defining coitus in terms of penetration and orgasm has as much moral significance and as much logical difficulty as trying to define a beard by the number of hairs on the chin". He goes on to reveal just how silly it is to try to break the passion of lovemaking into stages:
"I know that experts used to distinguish light from heavy petting, and heavy from intercourse, but is there any moral difference between two naked people in bed petting to orgasm and another two having intercourse? Is the one act a fraction of an ounce less sinful than the other? Is it perhaps more righteous to pet with clothes on? If so, which is worse, to pet wet with clothes off or to have intercourse with clothes on? You may accused me of being crude. Far from it. If we pursue the argument far enough, we will see that an approach to the morality of premarital sex that is based on the details of behavior (kissing, dressing or undressing, touching, holding, looking) and parts of the body (fingers, hair, arms, breasts, lips, genitalia) can satisfy only a Pharisee. A look can be as sensual as touch, and a finger brushed lightly over a cheek as erotic as penetration."
In insightful article entitled "(Don’t ) Kiss Me" by Bethany Torode points out the problem among many Christians is that we "don’t acknowlegde sexual intimacy as a whole package." She shares her own convictions about kissing and challenges Christians to take time to consider the deeper significance of something many of us have learned to treat nonchalantly. She writes:
I’m a sophomore in college with virgin lips. A few months after turning 16, I vowed to keep my "bow" tied until a man promises to commit himself to the whole package. My first kiss will be from my husband on our wedding day. Yes, that’s quite a progression, from an expert kiss at the altar to the complete unwrapping o the wedding night — believe me, my friends have pointed that out. Then again, Adam and Eve managed to figure everything out.
What Bethany and other Christian are realizing is that when it comes to a physical relationship, " the beginning and the ending of passion are inseparable." We’re the ones who lose when we make any other form of physical intimacy "no big deal." Even our kissing should be informed by an overriding desire to glorify God and to be captivated by sex within marriage. She continues:
God never intended the engagement period to be a time for physical experimenting, for peeking under the wrapping paper. Kissing — which quickly turns passionate when you are in love — carries a current intended to light a fire. In the old testament, the Hebrew word for kiss (nashaq) is derived from the primary root meaning "to kindle." I don’t want to open the match box. "Why preheat the oven when you can’t cook the roast? is the way Doug Wison puts it in "Her Hand in Marriage."
Can you kiss the glory of God before marriage? I’m sure there are many couples who can. But if you realize you can’t, be willing to refrain. Ask yourself, " Why is it so important to me that we be kissing now? Is my sinful heart deceiving me? Am I being motivated by lust?" The thing that matters is our motive and the fruit of our actions.
Even Porn Stars Draw Lines
I encourage you to make as many parts of your physical relationship as you can precious and treasured parts of marriage. I once read a news paper article that quoted a woman who had starred in many pornographic movies. Surprisingly, this woman had stipulated a contract that she would never have to kiss the male actors with whom ahe had sex before the cameras. Why would a woman who gives her body to every form of sexual perversion care about a kiss? The answer she gave was that a kiss was one of the few remaining intimate and precious things she could reserve for her boyfriend.
I wanted to cry when I read that. I thought of all the men and women who have been shocked, even offended, by my decision not to kiss my wife until we were married. "Kissing is no big deal!!" I’ve heard it over and over. So who’s right? Are they, or is the porn star? I believe that they are both wrong. WE CANT MAKE CERTAIN PARTS OF SEXUAL INTIMACY MEANINGLEsS— it’s all precious!! It’s ridiculous to say, " It’s just a kiss!!" as it is to say "It’s just intercourse!" They ‘re both part of the amazing and mysterious gift of sex, which God created so that husbands and wives can become "one flesh."
Let’s treat it all as precious!!
(A very delicate issue that can make a big conflict between two friends)
Has love dissolved after that? Or has it grown deeper??