September 19, 2015

Singles, If You’re Not Different, You’re Going To Be Sorry

Gary Thomas — 

Singles, If You’re Not Different, You’re

I used to love eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They tasted so good—until thirty minutes later, they sunk into my stomach like the batch of fried dough that they are. I paid the price for those thirty seconds of delight (and am still trying to run off the pleasures of my youth).

We all have foods where we know this is true—they look and taste so good, but long-term we pay the price for giving in.

Singles, this is doubly true with premarital sexuality. Most people agree that Krispy Kreme doughnuts aren’t that healthy for you. Most people now think that premarital sex is healthy and abstinence before marriage is considered bizarre, even psychologically harmful, relationally dangerous, and sexually “repressed.” Singles who choose to wait until marriage will be laughed at. They will be challenged.

You will be well served if you pay heed to God’s words in Psalm 1, which promise to lead you into a stable, happy life. You must believe first that God wants you to have a happy life (He does) and second, that He knows what He’s talking about. If you’ll accept those two premises, consider the power of Psalm 1:

“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.” (1:1)

You can always find someone who will disagree with God. You will always hear voices that challenge your obedience—“That’s not what the Bible really says,” or, “Seriously? You still believe that?” The Bible promises you that happiness lies in listening to the voice of God over the voice of those who disagree with Him. Mind you, happiness. Going against God is marching toward misery.

“Happy are those who do not…take the path that sinners tread.” (1:1)

The actions of most of those around you will feel like a giant social vacuum sucking you toward disobedience. Virtually every movie and television program assumes that couples who start to like each other must get naked with each other. Magazine articles and blog posts assume sexual activity before marriage. Friends talk about it. It is so natural to just follow where everyone else seems to be going, but the Bible promises you that true happiness is found in deliberately not taking the path that sinners tread. Their end is not happy. Their way leads to much misery. Find out where they are headed and assume you should walk in the other direction—if, that is, you truly want to be happy. Just ask yourself, are most people happy? Do most walk with joy? Why do you think you can live the world’s life and not end up with their sadness and disillusionment?

They may seem happy and they may tell you they are on a happy road. But that’s because they are strangers to the peace, purpose, and empowerment of a Spirit-filled life. They don’t realize just how much their disobedience is costing them.

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord.” (1:2)Krispy Kreme Donut

Notice the word “delight?” God-followers are people of joy. There is a quiet fulfillment, though sometimes it overflows and all but forces them to smile; such people walk around with an inner contentment, a spring of life in their soul. They direct their life by what God has said and is saying. That is the only voice they listen to, and they are blessed immeasurably because of it. They don’t just grudgingly follow God’s directions—they know His words are guardians of their happiness and well-being.

“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season…The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away.” (1:3-4)

The God-followers are fed by a “secret stream.” Their life, their marriage, their relationships are replenished by a divine source. They are fed by God, watered by God, and given new life. The wicked are like dead trees that just haven’t fallen down yet. They have killed their souls with their rebellion—“the way of the wicked will perish” while “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” (1:6)

This last verse says it all. The wicked don’t want God to watch over them. They want to hide from God. The God-followers because they obey God and because they delight in His way seek to live in His presence. They know that with His presence comes strength, assurance, joy, peace, forgiveness and yes, happiness.

If you want spiritual happiness, you now have to live an entirely different life than most people live. You have to listen to a different voice. You have to please a different audience. For inspiration to do this consider memorizing Psalm 1.

Don’t be sucked into the soul-destroying habits of society. Your goal should be to have a better marriage (should you choose to get married) and a happier soul at 50 than you have at 25. Remember verse 3? The righteous “yield their fruit in season?” Sometimes, it takes a while for God’s wisdom to be seen as wisdom. Physical cancer can initiate death years before its known; the same is true of spiritual cancer.

“Delighting in the law of the Lord” is your best long-term strategy for a happy life with fewer regrets. Trust God; He knows what He is talking about, and He delights in your well-being.

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9 responses to Singles, If You’re Not Different, You’re Going To Be Sorry

  1. Hi Gary, I’ve recently found your website and love it. I’ve added it to my RSS reader and am devouring past posts.

    I’m really hoping you can answer a question for me, as I am seeking wisdom. I started dating a Christian guy only to be shocked when he expected sex immediately. Unfortunately, I was not strong about keeping my boundaries, and gave in to his pressure. He was/is a new Christian, and from a different culture, and told me that he didn’t know before we started dating that it was wrong. It became a persistent problem in our relationship which was very destructive. He admitted he knew it was wrong, experienced conviction, was fighting the sin, and there was progress, but it never got to 100%. It was mostly me fighting it, although I was not very good at setting boundaries. Eventually I separated from him with the intention of breaking up. He persuaded me to stay together but have a time apart for him to refocus on his relationship with God. He says he genuinely wants to change and wants it for himself and for God, not just for me. He says it may take him time, as quitting marijuana did (he smoked for years before becoming a Christian).

    I want to give him grace as a new believer, as I’d want God to give grace to me. There are also many good things about the relationship. He loves God, he’s extremely kind, he’s very devoted to me, we are good friends and get along well. I’m torn between thinking the lack of sexual self-control means I should say goodbye to him permanently, and wanting to give him a chance to grow. He wants to get married, that is his solution to the problem. That’s a harder decision for me as it means moving to his country. I know I can do it, but it’s difficult, and I have to be really sure about marrying him. What would you advise in this situation?

  2. Beautiful reply, Ross. One thing I have noticed about some – not ALL – Christian guys who have remained pure and are still single into their 30s and 40s is that they are blind to their own pride in rejecting outright any woman who isn’t “pure”. When I read something like this I think about what kind of husband that guy would be, because marriage just reveals who you already are, really, so that pharisaical attitude would play out in so many ways in the context of marriage. About marrying a non-virgin, all I know is this. Sometimes we fall hard before we learn the truth. But we are much better after having learned the truth. I am not the same woman I was at 19 years old when I married someone I barely knew who told me he was a Christian but then selfishly used me for his own gain. At 30 I understand much better who God made me to be. I understand my sin, my need, my pride, and how much I need Jesus. I understand men better too. Which is why I am not desperate anymore to have one around who really doesn’t take his faith seriously – and if any guy rejected me because I was married and divorced long ago, on that basis alone, I would be grateful he weeded himself out before I had to do it 🙂

  3. I totally agree with you Kimberly Long. We share the same sentiments and experiences. Well me I’ve only dated 2 guys at my 27yrs, and in your exact words one who confessed Christianity when I asked him what he believed about premarital sex, said that “as
    long as you love that person it’s okay.”
    I find that disturbing, pathetic and absurd. All in all, I thank the HolySpirit for illuminating His word to our hearts, that we are able to obey.

    Thank you very much Gary, for your blog, especially those that are adressed to us single Christians. I bless God for your wisdom. This is my first time to comment as well, but I always read the posts. God bless <3

  4. Darwinian Arminian September 29, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    I’ve never commented here before, but after seeing this post I’d like to pose a response question: If the church is going to ask singles to remain sexually pure, are singles justified in asking for that from a potential spouse as well?

    I ask this because right now I’m a single man in my early thirties. Bible-believing Christian. Gainfully employed with a good income and no debt. I grew up in the church, and heard often that God expects His followers to remain virgins until marriage. I took that message to heart, and while it has not always been easy, I’ve continued to live it out to this day. So it follows that I also don’t want to consider a woman as a possible wife if she hasn’t held herself to a similar standard — but when I’ve shared that with pastors, church leaders and church members they only give me grief for it.

    This is especially frustrating given that single women in the churches I’ve attended often have histories no different than those on the outside. I’ve even had church members tell me I should be willing to look at divorcees “whose husband failed in their responsibilities” and single mothers “who need a father for their kids.” I’ll give my objections –but that usually just gets me a lecture where I’m informed that I simply need to learn the concept of forgiveness.

    I believe in forgiveness; as a Christian, how could I not? But can we not say that there are some very good and ultimately downright practical reasons for wanting a spouse who was willing to save themselves for you? You gave some in your post. I know that for myself, I don’t want to have to worry about the possible STDs or increased risk of divorce that a woman with a history of multiple partners can bring with her. But what really galls me is that ultimately I’ll be offering the freedom from comparison with past partners and the trust that comes from a life lived faithfully to a woman who is never going to be able to give the same to me.

    And yet if I say this in the church, the best I’ll hear in response is a bland platitude along the lines of ” . . . God makes all things new, son!”

    When it was my behavior in question, I always heard from the church that sexual purity was a very important matter. But now that I’m in the position of looking for it in others . . . I’m told that I shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it, because after all, God forgives.

    Were they lying to me then? Or are they lying to me now?

    • Hi D.A.,

      As a recovering pharisee, I sniff the same spirit in you and want to speak strong words if you’ll receive them.
      You feel that because you have kept yourself ‘pure,’ you are entitled to the same from a prospective spouse. Sorry, but you don’t deserve that. You don’t even deserve the breath you’re breathing in right now. You deserve death. Your sin has made you to stink in the nostrils of God, and self-righteousness only compounds the problem.

      Jesus said those who are sick need a physician, not those who are well, and until you acknowledge that you are sick with the cancer of sin like all those icky women at church, you will not experience forgiveness and healing.

      Don’t despair though! God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Right now you’re proud, but you can humble yourself and God will give you grace! Then maybe he’ll even given you a wife, one of those dirty rotten sinners that He has washed and made anew, one that has experienced the love of Christ and therefore can now love you in the same sacrificial way, instead of a lily white virgin who’s never known sin, who’s been living in her princess castle waiting for her prince (let me know when you find one).

      But you might say, “God would never tell me to marry one of those whores would he?”

      Hos 1:2 When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD.”

      Hos 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”

    • D.A.,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I am a woman, but I can only imagine that a man who has been taught all of his life about the virtues of saving himself sexually for marriage in the likelihood that his future bride would also be someone who had been “kept” in the area of sexual purity would have the type of expectations and desires that you do when looking for a future wife.
      I appreciate your sincerity when you say that you don’t understand the double-standard that exists when it comes to teaching men how important it is to remain sexually pure, but yet seemingly being more lenient when it is a woman who has not abstained from sexual immorality, however, I think there is a bigger issue at play here. You absolutely have the right to want to marry a virgin; if that’s your preference. Where I see the issue is that it sounds as if you would EXCLUDE a potentially excellent choice in a mate simply because of her past. A past, by the way, that has been forgiven by God, who has forgiven both you and I for all types of sin. Pre-marital sex included. And while you make some very valid points about the practicalities of 2 virgins marrying, e.g., no history of STDs, no one to make mental comparisons to, etc., etc., you end up factoring out the most important game-changing fact of all: God is truly able to make ALL things new; including how you feel about someone who is not a virgin. In your consideration of what makes a woman a viable choice as a spouse, please do not leave God out of the equation while you attempt to keep His principles in tact! He can, in fact, give you the grace to see the person just the way He sees them: as pure and blameless; washed in blood of Jesus Christ. That is something that you should be open to as a Believer in Jesus Christ. I am not asking your to drop your standards, change your convictions or lower your expectations. I’m asking you to remember that you are a Believer and that Christian women who are no longer virgins are also Believers, and the same Jesus Christ who cleansed them from their sin, changed their thinking and presents them holy and blameless before a PERFECT God can also present them holy and blameless before an imperfect man, as yourself. 🙂 Give room for people’s pasts and don’t exclude them based on it. Let it be the measure of the women’s current character, her present integrity and the beauty of her real-time relationship with Jesus Christ that guides you in your choices, not the past that she has been washed and cleansed of that determines her candidacy for marriage.

      Just my two cents…

  5. Gary, thank you for this great article and oh, how I wish every Christian man and woman would take heed to it. I am amazed at what the men tell me while I’m dating them. When they find out I will not have sex before marriage, some break up with me and say there is no way they can get married to someone without knowing what they will be like in bed. I tell them you don’t have to drive a car to Kalamazoo and back before you buy it. And you don’t get to move into the house before you present payment and sign the papers. You can visit and look around and enjoy the atmosphere, but it’s not your home till you sign the closing.
    All men that I date from an online site say they are Christians. But when I ask them what they believe about premarital sex, they say that as long as you love that person it’s okay. Then I ask what do they think God’s word says. Most will be honest and say that they know what it says but they just don’t think they can do that!?! Well at least they don’t play dumb. Lol. But the crazy thing is these same guys that say it’s okay as long as you love first—will start making moves on me while kissing during the first part of the dating period. I know I’m sweet and all, but I know they don’t love me yet. So they lie to make themselves feel better about it.
    I dated 20 guys last year and only one had the same convictions as I do. He was the only one I dated for any length of time because I won’t open my heart to someone I can’t trust.
    Maybe I’m dating the wrong kind of guys, I don’t know. I don’t think I have to settle for dorky, unfit, financially indebted, or “just a good ole boy” type just to have a God-fearing man, though. I want what I am offering along with the godliness. So my question is ….
    Could somebody please shout this message from the rooftops? ; ) Thank you again and many blessings your way for your stand in Christ!

    • Kimberly, I hear similar complaints (I don’t mean that word in a negative sense–what you are saying is valid and powerful) from many women. There are a few men out there (I know, because I do premarital counseling and we go through this stuff), and they’re worth waiting for. The sad thing is that if the vast majority of women took your approach single men would be forced to re-evaluate. But there are plenty of women willing to compromise. Just know this: those women are getting your leftovers, so to speak. By definition, they are with a man because they are willing to compromise on what they know to be right. And, sadly, if they marry a man on that basis, they will have to live with the consequences of being with a man who doesn’t take his faith seriously. I admire you, I respect you, I pray God will keep you strong and bring–sooner rather than later–a man worthy of your trust and love. Until then, I hope you sense God’s favor and peace as you trust that He really does know what He is talking about.

      • Gary, thank you so much for this encouraging word! And I’m glad to know there are a few men out there that really do fear God and desire to please Him. Yes I will wait and have a peace that it’s worth the wait. ; )
        When my date let’s me in on how quickly all the other women will sleep with them, I tell him I am very sad—sad that the women don’t have respect for themselves. And I’ve begun telling the man that I’m sad he is willing to use women. They won’t come crying to him, but they are crying to their girlfriends many times. I know there are a few women who want to be promiscuous, but I know it still affects their honor.
        I like looking in the mirror each morning and saying, “Self, I like you and am proud of who you are, in Christ!” It’s always a matter of relying on God’s power for me; I’m not exempt from the temptation, no way. But I know the benefits far outweigh the momentary pleasure.