A Message from a Bachelor Pastor to His Congregation before His Wedding
Steve DeWitt has been Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana for 14 years and is the author of Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything—a book Leland Ryken calls “the gold standard” for how Christians should value beauty in the world.”
At the age of 44, Steve just preached his last sermon as a single man. You can watch the sermon at the end of this post.
I want to speak frankly to the matter of sexual purity. I have fought the fight for purity since my first real girlfriend in 10th grade. That is 28 years. It’s hard to believe. As an adult single in the Christian dating scene, it is frightening to see how little concern there generally is about sexual purity. Yet God’s Word makes it clear, God’s will is for our sanctification – that we control our bodies with holiness and honor. If you would have told the 18-year-old me I would still be dating in my 40s, I would have thought, “Well, at least the temptations aren’t as strong. You’re old. You probably don’t even think about it.” I actually think in some ways it’s harder as an adult than as a college student.
In spite of all the struggles and challenges, purity is worth it. After 28 years of battling this, let me share a few lessons I have learned.
Nothing is more helpful than only dating highly committed Christians
Over the many years, I have been blessed to spend time with some very godly Christian women. This has been so helpful because committed Christian women are very interested in purity. If you date marginal Christians or Christians in name only, the power of sexual temptation is so strong that it is extremely difficult to remain pure. Young people, singles, the caliber of Christian character that you date will largely determine your purity. This is especially true these days when expectations in the dating world for what is physically acceptable are so very low. I would urge you to only be interested in dating highly committed Christians.
Set wise boundaries, communicate them right away, and stick to them
Our sexualized society requires me to speak with some frankness here. God made certain parts of the body for sexual expression. Go there and it’s the point of no return. So at the very least, wisdom would say that you should never go there outside of marriage. Don’t touch the sexual places. I call them the “no fly zones.” Jennifer and I had that talk very early so there were no questions about our intentions. The conscience is very helpful too. I’ve learned that when the yellow light of my conscience is blinking, I need to heed the warning.
Stoke the greater passion
You can put all the parameters in place, have accountability partners, and date high quality Christians, but sexual desire will overwhelm all the boundaries unless in my heart I have one thing – a greater desire for God’s pleasure than sexual pleasure. That doesn’t just happen. I have to stoke my desires for God while starving my desire for sexual fulfillment. You don’t starve it by undressing in your mind every pretty woman that walks by. You don’t starve it by viewing pornography. You don’t starve it by making entertainment choices that allow you to watch actors doing things with women what you wish you could do with one. Those things fuel illicit desire. Then you get a girlfriend and you put on the godly Christian man smile, but inside there’s an inferno. Purity doesn’t last long like that.
As a Christian, I am not helpless in this. If I will do the things that stoke my spiritual desires and not do the things that kill them, I have a powerful ally in overcoming temptation. “But Pastor Steve, I can’t do it! I’m 19 years old and it’s too much!” Do it for 26 years and then come talk to me. With God’s help, you can do it.
I am so blessed to be marrying a woman who has fought that fight successfully. That reality means we can’t wait to be married. We can’t wait for our honeymoon. We have waited a long time in our lives to experience the full joy of sexual expression in the sacred confines of the marriage covenant. It has been hard. I have had moments of embarrassment and immaturity, but to come to our wedding day knowing she has never been with another man and I’ve never been with another woman, is a precious, precious gift.
I put that out there as a motivation to purity. Virginity is mocked in our culture, but treasured by God. Purity before marriage and in marriage is worth every effort. It is God’s will for us. Yes, there is true forgiveness for sexual sin and praise God for his grace to us in this area. That doesn’t in any way diminish the call of God for his people to strive for purity of mind and soul and body.
So fight the fight brothers and sisters. It’s worth it. . . .
For those who want a biblical and practical case for the vision Pastor DeWitt is commending, you may want to check out Sex, Dating, and Relationships, by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas (Crossway, 2012).