“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” ~1 Corinthians 6:18-20
One reason why I think some churches tend to take a stand against dating is because of the physical boundaries often crossed outside of marriage. There is some truth and wisdom in that, especially for young hormone-driven teens who are just learning how to manage these new feelings and biological drives. Sometimes refraining from dating can be the best thing for those who are not ready to conduct themselves in a way that honors God in a relationship.
But for those who are considering dating, it is crucial to have a firm understanding and conviction of what God’s standard for our behavior is within the relationship. Holiness is the standard by which God calls us all to live and we need to be prepared to uphold it, even within a relationship.
So what constitutes sexual immorality? And how do we ‘flee’ from it? What does it mean to treat our bodies as ‘temples for the Holy Spirit’? What does ‘honoring God with our bodies’ look like in a relationship when two people are attracted to one another?
These are not easy questions to answer and I won’t even attempt it in this post. But I will share that in my own life, this standard of holiness was very hard to uphold before I had the revelation and conviction of what living a holy and pure life meant. I was actually in a relationship with another Christian when the Lord spoke to me about this. He revealed that my behavior and the ‘lines’ we were crossing (sexually) were not pleasing to Him. We thought we were ‘honoring’ God because we were not having sex. But it turns out, God had a different view of what it meant to honor Him with our bodies. The conviction and correction from the Holy Spirit came so strong that it propelled me to make some immediate changes, which entailed some serious conversations with the person I was with and some intentional drawing of boundaries (more on this next week).
I this represents the legalistic approach we often take to sexual purity. For example, the Bible says that sex should be reserved for marriage. So we will push the envelope until right before rule of sex is broken. But what I have learned is that God’s standard of sexual morality is not about rules, but about His heart that says, “I love you and want the very best for you.” Maintaining sexual purity outside of the covenant and commitment of marriage isn’t God punishing us or taking away all the fun. Rather it is Him protecting us and preserving these things for a time when they can be fully enjoyed the way He intended them to be.
In a society that is very sexually charged, many Christians succumb to the pressures and give up trying to remain sexually pure. While it’s true that upholding a lifestyle of sexual purity is no easy task, it is possible! But it cannot be done on our own strength. It will take a great deal of reliance on God in His power and grace, in addition to setting practical boundaries to allow His holiness flow in and through our lives.
At the end of the day, only you know what your behavior looks like behind closed doors. And only you can look at God in the face each day and know whether you are honoring Him with your body or not. If you are unsure of whether your behavior and expression of love towards your boyfriend/girlfriend is ‘holy’ then I suggest praying and asking God to give you a fresh revelation of what His standard of holiness is and what it looks like lived out in your relationship. If we are truly asking Him with a heart that is set on pleasing Him in every area of our lives, we can be sure that He will gently convict us of behavior that is not pleasing to Him. Be prepared to hear Him and obey!
True holiness comes not from following a list of rules and trying on our own strength to live out a standard of perfection. Rather it is realizing our human limitations and weakness and making decisions that will allow His holiness to manifest in our lives and relationships. If we are tuned into the heart of God and truly desire to honor Him in the lifestyle we live, He will enable us. As Paul so eloquently states, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This includes godly relationships!
**This the Sixth Principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #7: Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries. See you then!
Read: Exodus 23, Jeremiah 29
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and bring you to the place I have prepared for you” (Exodus 23:20)
One of my favorite runs to do while I lived in Singapore was called McRitchie Reservoir–one of the city’s most beautiful nature trails. I loved the watch tower where you could climb to the top for a bird’s eye view of the entire park. I always hesitated, pondering whether it was worth the climb up several stories of stairs. But every time, after a moment’s thought I eventually would decide to give it a go.
I was always so glad I did. What I found at the top of the watch tower was nothing I would have experienced from the ground. Not only was it quite and peaceful with a cool breeze, but I could see the entire lay-out of the trail. Parts of it were shaded, while others were out in the open, there were dips and climbs, rocky parts and smooth ones, curves and stretches of straight path.
As I was literally tracing each step of the trail from high up on the watch tower, God seemed to be telling me something through it. He wanted me to come to His watch tower to show me a similar bird’s eye view of my life. He had already gone before me and marked out a spiritual trail, which would be my path of life. However, just like the natural trail, there would be parts that would require an up-hill climb, and parts that were rocky, parts that were smooth and parts that were straight. Being a Christian didn’t mean I was exempt from the varied terrain of the nature trail of life on earth; it just meant I had God to hold my hand through it all.
Setting aside time with God each day was the same thing as climbing the stairs of that tower. It takes a little effort, but the reward is so worth it. It’s from that high place with Him that He wants to show us things that we can’t see with our own human eyes. Things that relate to His plans for our lives and future.
Today, He is inviting you to His watch tower for an extra special bird’s eye view. Will you make the climb?
Dear Lord, thank You that You have the trail of my life already marked out. Thank you that You desire to show me what’s ahead so I won’t be alarmed or harmed by anything that life brings. Please help me to value spending time with You so that You can show me these things. Give me the willingness and the strength to climb the stairs to Your watch tower, so I can enjoy the rewards Your presence brings. Amen.
*Take-Away Treasure: What’s keeping you from climbing the stairs to God’s watch tower? How can you make more time for God this week?
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” ~2 Corinthians 6:14
There is much debate as to what the Apostle Paul actually meant when he wrote this instruction to the Corinthian Church. It is safe to assume however, that at the very minimum, he meant that believers should not engage romantically with non-believers. Why? For one, Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” If one person in a relationship does not have faith, the relationship as a whole will never be able to be pleasing to God. Secondly, it just makes things so much easier when two people are coming from the same world view, for it is this view from which all decisions in life will flow: how to spend money, what your priorities are, how you value relationships, how you raise your children, etc. Sharing the same faith means sharing the same perspective, thus minimizing the chances for conflict.
But I would venture to say, being ‘equally yoked’ together goes beyond sharing beliefs, to having an equal level of maturity in the faith and being in agreement with the direction and vision of each other’s callings in Christ. Before we go any further, we must understand what a yoke is. Being ‘yoked’ to another is an agricultural metaphor often used in the Bible to describe two animals being hooked together to plow a field. When two are of equal strength, they plow a straight line and carry an equal and light load. But imagine what would happen if a horse was attached to a goat–the goat would be dragging behind and making a difficult time for the horse! Their line would be crooked and the load would be heavy to bear because they were not of equal yoke.
This picture is used to describe what can happen when two people are unequally yoked together. The journey will not be as smooth and easy as God intended it to be and the couple will plow a crooked path. God intended a dating and/or marriage relationship to be between two people of equal strength and maturity, and also sharing life goals and callings (or at least supporting each other in their separate ones). This does not mean two people will share everything in common. They can and will likely have totally different gifts, talents and personalities, while still being of equal strength and maturity. God will often purposely pair us with a person who is different but complimentary to who we are. God is very strategic that way, which might explain why the saying “opposites attract” rings true with many couples!
When it comes to calling, being equally yoked means there will usually be a synergy in where two people are headed in life. For example, if one person is certain they are called to be a missionary in Russia and the other person is called to be a banker on Wall Street, it might be that their life trajectories are headed in totally different directions. Therefore, it would be wise id they chose to stop dating. Even if they are attracted to one another and/or share a strong chemistry, pausing to take the long-term view into consideration can be a deal breaker–in a good way.
This is not to say two people must have identical callings, but there needs to be an openness and communication about where both parties are feeling called and what dreams and/or visions God has put in their hearts up until that point. One person may sense a calling to minister to unreached people groups, while the other person is called to be a nurse. Though different, the important thing is that both are in agreement with where God is leading and are willing to allow Him to weave their callings together. Not all the details will necessarily be known (and will likely not be), but it is important to pray and ask God if He is leading their trajectories in similar directions or not.It is better to discover this sooner rather than later and it could save a lot of heartache and resentment down the road.
I have a friend who told me about a woman she met in Japan who knew in her heart she was called to missions but chose to marry a man who had no interest whatsoever. Decades had passed when she spoke to my friend, “I love the man I married and God has been good to us, but I continue to grieve over the loss of my missionary call…” This is not to say she did not have a good and happy life with the husband she chose to marry. God can redeem all things and works everything together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But she was making the point that God has an ultimate best for us in mind, and choosing a person who is in alignment with what God has put in our hearts will allow the fullness of His plans to come to pass.
Finding someone of equal yoke is not always black and white. Faith is easy to determine in the early stages, but discerning maturity levels and life trajectories takes time. Stay close to God, remain prayerful and continue to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment along the way. Be open to God showing you things about the other person and receive this awesome promise from Jesus himself:
“The Spirit of truth…will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.“ (John 16:13)
**This the third principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #4: Set a Pace for the Race. See you then!
Maybe you’ve been a Christian your whole life, but you’ve never actually heard God speak directly to you. Or maybe you’re a total skeptic and can’t help but cringe every time someone says, “God told me this or that…” Wherever you are at, make a decision today to at least be open to the possibility of knowing a God who really does speak. Imagine for a moment, God Himself saying these words right to YOU, “My sweet child, do not fear, do not doubt, do not be discouraged…I am right here with you and have so much to tell you about your future with Me…yes, YOU!”
Yesterday we identified five of the most common ways through which God speaks to His people: the Bible, still small voice, other people, circumstances, dreams and/or visions. Today, I will address the question: How do you begin hearing God speak directly to you in your own life?
Here are five tips to help you on your way to hearing God, tuning out the distractions of life and tuning into the powerful voice of your Heavenly Father:
#1 Believe. In order to start hearing God’s voice in our lives, we must believe that He speaks. Take a look at these verses:
- “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
- “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth… he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)
- “I am the good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:14, 16)
Are you convinced yet? Knowing God is more than following a rule book of the Ten Commandments and trying to be the best person you can be. The God we serve is the same God who SPOKE to Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus and many others who were led to do mighty things for the Kingdom of God. The only pre-requisite they all had to have was simple faith that they were being led by the voice of their God! That’s all that is required of you and me too. Do you believe?
#2 Be in the Word. In order know the voice of God, we must know who God is. In order to know who God is, we must read His Word, for it is the Book of Life, revealing His nature and character in dealing with His people. If we do not know the true heart and character of God, we can easily be deceived. The Scriptures warn us of false prophets and false doctrines that will come (Matthew 24:23-27; see also 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 1:17-18), many of which are out there now, disguising themselves as ‘good’ and even ‘godly’ things. But we must remain vigilant in guarding against falsehood by knowing the Truth. Studying the real thing, will help us know the reality of His voice when it comes, and spot counterfeit when it comes.
#3 Be Expectant. One of my favorite verses is, “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3). When we have a living, vibrant, two-way relationship with the Lord, we must remember to turn on our ‘spiritual antennas’ and expect to hear God speak to us. But notice what precedes the expectation: laying requests before Him. Sometimes we are not hearing from God because we are not asking specific things from Him. Jesus Himself says, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Expecting to hear from God without seeking Him first is like expecting your friends to come to your Birthday party without sending invitations. We must devote ourselves to asking, seeking and knocking on the door of our Father’s heart, waiting in expectation for Him to answer.
#4 Be Ready to Respond. We can’t just say we want to hear God without the desire to want to obey what He says. When we truly train our spiritual ears to hear from God, the hard fact is this: sometimes He says things we don’t want to hear. It’s true. He might say things like, Apologize to your mom…Forgive the person you wronged you…Give half your salary to that needy family across the street…Ask your boss if she needs prayer. Hearing God is an awesome privilege, but with it comes great responsibility. God is looking for those who will hear AND act, carrying out the directives He has spoken. Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). So be ready to hear…and respond! Otherwise you’re better off leaving your earplugs in.
#5 Be in Community. There will be times when we are unsure whether what we are hearing is the voice of God or not. This is where Christian community proves invaluable. There have been times where I think I am hearing something from God and I will go to a trusted friend who knows me well and run it by her, “I am hearing this…does that resonate with you?” Thankfully, in these times God will speak wisdom and discernment through that friend and she will either say, “Yes, based on what God has been teaching you this season, this does resonate with my spirit.” Or, “Ya know, these sound like negative words of condemnation and don’t seem to be in line with God’s character in His Word.” And then we’ll pray in agreement with or in opposition to the Word and ask God for confirmation or further insight. We were never meant to walk this spiritual journey alone. Proverbs 14:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” There will be times when we need to lean on others for advice, wisdom and protection to help us stay on the path God has carved out for us.
Go beyond imagining God could speak to you and choose today to believe He WILL. By taking practical steps of being in the Word, being expectant, being ready to respond and being in community, you can be sure His voice will come! Rejoice, for God has special secrets to reveal to you (Psalm 25:14) and mysteries to uncover in your very own soul. It’s up to you to open your spiritual ears to hear. Will you?