Monthly Archives: November 2013

An Open Letter to a Church Couple Considering Living Together, Part 2

This is part two. Click here for part one.

Now…down to brass tacks: one of the big questions couples in your place wonder is, how far can we go? Believe it or not, the Bible actually speaks to this question, though in a roundabout way.  Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (ESV)

I like to tell couples who ask “how far can we go?” (Kissing, holding hands, etc.) that Paul’s phrase “passion of lust” is the key. Obviously, “passion of lust” is fine for married folks, so with this thought, Paul is addressing the unmarried. If a particular behavior feels like “passion of lust,” then you want to wait until marriage.

And so, you wonder – that’s a pretty high standard – what if we commit to moving apart and purity in our relationship – and then fall again? Along these lines, if a couple was in premarital counseling with me, and in one session, they told me that they had not kept their purity covenant the past week, and they felt terrible about it, I would commiserate with them and remind them of God’s grace and encourage them in holiness next week. If they came to me the following week, and told me that once again on Saturday night things didn’t go so well…etc. Well, I would encourage them to make some different plans about how they spend their Saturday nights, and remind them of God’s grace, and so on. And most importantly, these confessions would have no effect on my commitment to officiating at their ceremony.

The point is that God’s grace is real and overwhelming, but it is for those who have truly repented of their sins and trusted in Christ’s work on the Cross of Calvary. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” and contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t talking about funerals. He was speaking of those who are sorrowful over their sin. In the same way, He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Mourning over sin and hungering for holiness are marks of followers of Christ, those who have his Holy Spirit. He is the one who leads us to mourning over sin and a desire for holiness.

Which means that we’re talking about far more than sex here. If a couple said to me, “We’d like you to officiate at our wedding, and we are committed to staying pure, but we do cheat on our taxes.” I would say, well, Jesus says, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s”. Are you willing to repent from stealing? And if they said, “No,” then my answer regarding officiating would be the same as to a couple living together. So, you see, in answer to the bride’s initial probing question – there is no inconsistency. We marry sinners all the time here, but we simply insist that they are repentant sinners, that is, Christians who are fighting the power of sin in their lives.

So, all that said, though I could say much about statistics and other reasons for maintaining purity during these days, I thought I would appeal to you on the basis of what I understand is your commitment to Christ. If you consider Jesus to be your Savior, then I wanted to encourage you to think deeply about what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 (ESV)

Everyone is controlled by something, and Christians are no exception. True believers, however, are controlled, not by legalism or a set of arbitrary rules, but by the love of Jesus Christ, displayed on the cross. He loved us so much that he died in our place. Now, Paul is saying that if we truly understand this great thing he has done for us, then we will know and delight in the fact that He has called us to a life not lived for self, but for Him and for His glorious Kingdom. And such a life is a life of joy.

So Bob and Sue, may I ask…what are you controlled by? Has the love of Christ displayed in the gospel so gripped you that you long to love and serve Christ with all your heart for all of your days? If so, then, I suppose you know what to do.

As for the couple I mentioned before – they chose to find other places to live and committed to purity. We celebrated a wonderful wedding ceremony, and today, they have a beautiful baby whom they are raising to know and love the Lord Jesus.

If you would ever like to talk, I would surely be glad to do so.

God bless,

Pastor Roger


Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Uncategorized


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An Open Letter to a Church Couple Considering Living Together

Dear Bob and Sue,

Congratulations on your engagement! My dear friend John, your grandfather, is excited for you and shared about it this morning at our prayer group. You won’t be surprised to know that he also brought up your plan to live together for the next 2 years as you await your wedding. Since there is so much confusion going around about this nowadays, I thought it might help to get a full biblical perspective from a pastor. I know you didn’t ask for this, but I hope you won’t mind. From my talk with John this morning, the two of you were on my heart.

I don’t doubt that you consider your mom and granddad “old-fashioned” in this matter, and since I don’t know you, I surely can’t claim to know how you’re thinking, but I can take a guess, and that’s what I wanted to write about.

Some years ago, a couple came to me asking that I officiate at their wedding. Happily, we perform a lot of weddings at Edgewood, and our church has a policy that couples need to sign a purity agreement (which I regularly and awkwardly ask about during pre-marital counseling!) and agree not to live together before their wedding. Since this couple was living together and was not interested in moving apart, I had to tell them that I could not marry them.

That was disappointing to me, but especially to them, as the future bride had attended our church for most of her life. All in all it was a hard time. Not surprisingly, however, I moved on to other matters in the busy church life…and yet they kept thinking about it.

It was a few months later that I received an email from the young lady. Her question was along these lines: “We really like Edgewood and want to be a part of the church and eventually raise a family here. You marry all sorts of people at the church, and they are all sinners. And yet, you won’t marry us for this one sin. Why the inconsistency?”

I was so glad to get that communication from her, because it gave me an opportunity to explain something that I hadn’t apparently explained well before. It gets to the very heart of what it really means to be a Christian. Here’s the gist of what I said when I got together with them to talk again:

It is true that we are all sinners. Paul was the chief of sinners, and I myself, obviously, struggle with sin. In fact, all of us who are Christians have sinned in the past, and continue to sin in the present. However the mark of a Christian is not sinlessness – it is, instead, that we fight sin. We live a life of continual repentance for sin. Sometimes we don’t know that our actions are sinful, but when a true Christian realizes it, he or she strives for repentance. In your case, I told the couple, the problem is that you’re not fighting. When you decided to live together even though you knew it was wrong, you made a greater statement about sin –saying in effect, “it’s just not that important.” And in saying that, you also said that repentance was not important.

But the mark of a real Christian is faith and repentance. True faith is always accompanied by repentance. Whenever you run to the light, you run out of the darkness. When you truly realize that Christ has died for your sins, you can’t help but hate sin. After all, it’s what led your Savior to the cross. Anyone who can say, “Jesus saved me from my sin,” must also understand sin as a terrible thing that they needed saving from. Therefore, whenever anyone says, “I know my actions are sinful, but I don’t care,” I assume that they really don’t understand the cross of Christ, and in that…I assume they are not true Christians. Conviction and repentance – these are signs that someone has the Holy Spirit. He is the one who brings these things about.

(Continued here)


Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

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