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).

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Comments:


19 thoughts on “A Message from a Bachelor Pastor to His Congregation before His Wedding”

  1. Bill Trip says:

    Being single for 44 years isn’t for every person. When we make it a template, we doom people to misery. Get married by 25 and avoid the mistakes that I have made in life. The advice in the article is sound and any Christian male should follow it but don’t make one man’s life journey a model or template for every Christian male. Like I said, get married between 22-25 and build a happy family.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Bill: Steve makes it pretty clear in his sermon that he has always wanted to get married. Lots of single people do. Isn’t it sometimes a little more difficult than just “get married between 20-25″? And of course he doesn’t say it’s a template or model.

    2. LG says:

      “Like I said, get married between 22-25 and build a happy family.”

      Man, why didn’t I think of that? The only reason I’m still single at 30 or this guy was still single at 44 is because we just never thought to get married between the ages of 22 and 25? If only I’d known it was just that easy, I could have saved myself all this trouble! :-/

    3. Joshua Lawrence says:

      Absolutely not! Get married when it is time to get married. If you are setting deadlines like this; you are in for a rough life, IMO. I suppose if you think _YOU_ have the capability to “build a happy family” your advice is sound; but I think we all know that is not the case.

      Follow Godly principles and take advantage of opportunities when they become available. If there aren’t any until later in life, then so be it.

      It is ALWAYS better to be single then to be married poorly.

  2. Carlton Wynne says:

    Many kudos to Steve for his helpful reflections and testimony of steadfastness under trial.

    On another note, though, does this qualify as a sermon? I mean that with sincerity. Steve explains that these are “personal reflections” with some brief exposition. That is a bit disheartening to me, especially when that explanation follows expressed gratitude for the renovations of the satellite campus. Am I nuts?

    1. JB says:

      @Carlton Yes, you are nuts… just kidding, but I wouldn’t take an exceptional kind of address as the norm for his preaching ministry.

      And I’m not sure what is Biblically wrong with his comments about renovations to where the church gathers??? Let’s not overthink this thing and miss the wisdom shared in his address.

      1. Carlton Wynne says:

        JB, yes I am nuts, I know. :) Please know my satellite comment wasn’t a knock on satellites, but a subtle question as to whether a church today generally grows into satellites by pulpit reflections (however excellent) over against overt exposition/application of Scripture. I’m inclined to think that it does, generally. Steve’s message was just the springboard for those thoughts.

  3. David says:

    I’m glad for the brother, and I think he would not disagree that there is going to be a bit more emotional power in these words today than there will be in them in five years. That’s why he said them “today.” What I mean is, he knew he wasn’t supposed to live the single life ’till death (that doesn’t mean he was rebelling because it took so long – again, not a template). Remember Boaz? He was a bit aged, perhaps because of his ancestry, before getting married. Turns out his family tree is pretty awesome. Anyway, our brother’s preaching this today is powerful because he’s crossing a line that doesn’t get uncrossed (though sinful crossings can be justifiably crossed-out).

    These messages often elicit responses from the “exact-ors” who believe sexual purity is good and sex is good, and our culture is deluded by the god of this world on this point, but when someone gets preachy about the delight of light-the-fire, first-time, marital sex, they tend to toss wet blankets and say, “Aren’t you preoccupied with something that isn’t the ultimate joy?” I know I’m susceptible to think like that and then have to check myself.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Southern Observer says:

    This is good news for this brother. It makes me reflect on some of the statements that have been made by Mohler over the years. The way in which Mohler has spoken about young men getting married, has only added to the “scarlet letter” effect for older single men. My guess is this gentlemen was not just playing video games and extending his adolescence. All that to say, JT thanks for posting this. It helps to bring balance to the one-sidedness that has characterized the singleness/marriage discussion over the last decade or so.

  5. Cyn says:

    Dear Justin,

    Thanks for posting this!

    Dear Steve,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful message! Thank you for striving to be pure for the sake of the Gospel. Your life is such an encouragement for us who are single.Also, I find your honesty refreshing (finally someone who understand that being single is not weird or a curse!) :=).

    All the best for your new page of life together with Jen! We’ll be praying for you!!

    In Christ
    cc

  6. Kim says:

    This is really encouraging for me as a mother, who prays daily for her children to remain pure until they get married.

  7. Steph says:

    There is a ton of truth in here. Especially the part about who you date determining your purity. Unfortunately, I know from experience that it is quite impossible to remain pure when you date someone whose heart is not longing for Jesus. And as a woman, I made that man my “ultimate joy” for a time and thus, fell into sin.

    I wish I could take it back. I feel ashamed whenever I think about it. I know that forgiveness is found in Jesus. It still wrecks me when I think about the fact that I will have to tell my future spouse of my past indiscretions and sin. I have confessed my sin to God, but I guess I still have to deal with the fact that I sinned against my future spouse.

    Any advice for those who have not kept themselves pure?

    1. Child of God says:

      @Steph-I commend you for your honesty. While you may not be a virgin physically, you became a “spiritual virgin” from the moment you decided to be intentional and wait again until marriage to engage in sex. You will have many battles to fight just to maintain that stance. Try not to add ammunition for the evil one to use against you because if your past still haunts you, then those thoughts are not coming from God. This will hinder your ability to truly enjoy relationships with men right now.

      I believe that your future spouse will not hold the past against you (that’s the maturity factor that the pastor mentioned). Rest assured that your future spouse will have things that he isn’t proud of either! The hardest thing you will have to do now is forgive yourself. Talk to other married friends. You may discover that this scenario is more common than you think! Ask them how the Lord delivered them from the guilt and shame. I have friends who married spouses that were not virgins, but you would never know that from the way they interact and love each other deeply and authentically.

      That’s what makes living out true forgiveness so powerful! It’s difficult to embrace the scope of forgiveness if you will not forgive yourself. Yes that convo with your future spouse may be hard, but it will not play out in your mind as you are imagining it. Self-disclosure of this nature happens in a safe environment without the fear of rejection and I’m willing to bet that your future spouse will fully accept you as God has. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1.

  8. Peter says:

    What is it with all this ‘sexual purity’ stuff? I never found it difficult to remain ‘sexually pure’ when I was single. It wasn’t as if I had tons of Christian women standing in line to tempt me. 99% of them seemed to be looking down their noses at me. Maybe I was just in the wrong churches, or perhaps I had three eyes, I don’t know.

  9. Gary says:

    JT, thanks for sharing this. You may think this is odd, but this might be my all time favorite post of yours.

    @ Southern Observer, If I understand you correctly, I’m totally with you. Among the YRR crowd these days, my sense is that the mantra is, I can’t control myself anymore, so just get married and make it work out. And then we wonder why so many marriages (in the church) these days are in complete shambles. It’s better to be single than to be married to the wrong person. Pastor DeWitt is dead on. His main points are the blueprint for singles to follow. You are not an animal, you can control your urges. Like Pastor deWitt said, you stoke the fire for God and you suffocate the fire for sin. That is an infinitely better approach than the “just get married” mantra of most the YRR guys these days.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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