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[The Influential Woman 4] Making Love, Sharing Love

When I first spoke to Christa I was impressed by her delicate beauty. She was a slender blonde with pale, Scandinavian blue eyes.

"Vickie," she looked directly in my eyes as she spoke, a deep frown creasing her brow, "I have a big problem with sex, and I don't know how to solve it."

"What kind of problem, Christa?"

"Well, Kevin and I have been married for five years. We had a wild affair before that. In fact, to be honest, I took him away from his first wife." She shook her head and looked down at her hands. "I'm not proud of that, you know."

I waited for her to continue, and after a few seconds she went on.

"When Kevin and I were seeing each other, we had the most exciting sex life imaginable. It was just amazing. I got excited just thinking about him when he was away. And the minute we were face to face, we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Frankly, I loved every minute of it, even though it was wrong."

"So you're married now. What's happened?"

She looked at me with the most puzzled expression on her face, searching for words. Suddenly her voice broke, tears flooded her face, and she whispered hoarsely, "I can't stand for him to touch me!"

"What happens when he touches you?"

"I feel filthy—like a whore! I'm so sorry for the things we did. I really am. We broke his first wife's heart, and it was all because of sex. Sure we have a good relationship otherwise, but that's what caused all the trouble. I hate sex!"

"Have you asked God to forgive you for your past sins?" Christa's voice was muffled. "Yes . . . but I can't forgive myself."

"And have you forgiven Kevin?"

"Kevin? You mean for dragging me into it in the first place?" An unexpected tone of bitterness tinged her voice. She studied me thoughtfully before she answered. "No, I guess I haven't. In fact I've never even thought about it."

"Christa, you are going to have to forgive yourself. If God has already forgiven you, how can you refuse to forgive yourself? And as for Kevin, he needs your forgiveness too. I think you are withholding yourself from him because of guilt and bitterness and it's time you gave all that up to God."

Christa wept her way through a prayer of forgiveness. When she had finished, I suggested that she go home and tell Kevin that she'd been holding unforgiveness in her heart.

"Tell him you've forgiven him, and ask him to forgive you for your part in the past. Then leave it with God, and don't allow yourself to feel guilt ever again. Remember, God has removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west!,,

Some months later, I saw Christa again. "Oh, Vickie, thank you so much for your words. You know, I wouldn't tell anyone else this," her eyes glowed with warmth as she spoke, "but Kevin and I have fallen in love all over again. And, believe it or not, our sex life is better than ever!"

Sex. We see it. We hear about it. We discuss it. We are surrounded by it. Sometimes we are attracted to it. Sometimes we are repelled by it. Difficulties with sex, along with financial problems, are the primary causes of marital discord. And considering all of the perversions and distortions our society has created, I suppose everybody has at least one misconception about it. Now, as never before, there is a vital need for us to have clear values and a grasp of both "the good news and the bad news" about human sexuality.

If we women are to help each other, we must be able to share an accurate biblical view of sex. In this area especially, we must be careful not to communicate impressions and attitudes based on our own experiences or upbringing if they are not in line with Scripture.

An Ancient Lesson in Love

There wasn't a lot said about sex in church when I was a young woman. In those days, the Song of Solomon was discussed only as an allegory relating to Christ and His church. We didn't see it literally as an eloquent poem describing the actual physical relationship between a husband and his wife. Even less did we understand that this very romantic book was God's way of communicating to us His delight in the wonderful relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.

There are some fascinating principles about biblical, marital love written across the ancient pages of the Song of Solomon. They still provide us with valuable insights into sexuality that remain apropos, even as we approach the twenty-first century.

The first lesson we learn is that biblical love is mutual, and represents equality to both man and woman. The bride, the "Shulammite" wasn't very self-confident.

Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun.

Song of Solomon 1:6

She said, "I am dark and not very attractive." But her lover kept reinforcing her—he thought she was beautiful and told her so.

How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!

Song of Solomon 1:15

And how did she see him? She thought he was magnificent.

How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming!

Song of Solomon 1:16

Each one admired the other.

Furthermore, in the song there is no passive partner—each reaches out in passion to the other. The man says,

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride. . . . How delightful is your love.

Song of Solomon 4:8, 10

And the woman encourages the man,

Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages.
Let us go early to the vineyards . . .
there I will give you my love.

Song of Solomon 7:11-12

Sexual invitations came from both man and woman. There was mutual interest, mutual desire, and mutual enticement. This is particularly interesting in the context of King Solomon's world, where a woman was generally considered to be nothing more than a possession. In the Song of Solomon, however, we get a different picture. Here, reflecting God's intention, we see sexuality acted out as a totally mutual pleasure.

Song of Solomon shows us that biblical love is exclusive. It is a covenant relationship for life. The woman says, "I am my lover's and my lover is mine." There is security and identification with each other. Throughout history, the marriage ceremony has been important. That's because wedding vows are said in covenant language, promising a lifetime commitment before God and all those who are witnesses.

Song of Solomon demonstrates that biblical love is total, encompassing both sex and friendship. "This is my lover," the woman tenderly said, "and this is my friend." Men and women are to love physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We don't marry a "great body" or a "hunk," but a person. Our culture's emphasis today on external appearances has been very damaging to the way we value one another.

Finally, we learn from this exceptional book that biblical love is beautiful. The poem is breathtaking in its imagery, "You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride" (Song of Solomon 4:12). Here the husband was speaking of his bride's virginity. "You are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain." The word fountain is used to speak of the organs that produce life in both the male and the female.

I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk.

Song of Solomon 5:1

The marriage has been consummated, and it has been a joyous, deeply satisfying union.

Following this we read a brief expression of God's invitation for all men and women to enjoy marital sex. "Eat, 0 friends, and drink; drink your fill, 0 lovers." Sexuality is to bring satisfaction. It is to be thoroughly enjoyed. It is to be celebrated.

Finally, in 8:6-7, lies the literary high point of the book.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.

A Perfect Union

Physical love in marriage, symbolically uniting two personalities by the outward act of sexual intercourse, is beautiful in the eyes of God. And it is holy. In the New Testament we read,

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:31-32

Sexual union, when lovingly consummated and mutually satisfying, is God's way of demonstrating a great spiritual truth. The relationship is specifically designed to illustrate God's unending love for His people. Therefore, sexual intercourse must be experienced within the framework of a permanent, giving commitment. Because of what it represents, we must not distort it and take it out of its proper place of honor.

Throughout the Bible, sexual love between man and woman is esteemed.

May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer,
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.

Proverbs 5:18-19

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.

Hebrews 13:4

Sexuality vs. Spirituality?

Somewhere along the way, have you picked up the idea that sex is not compatible with spirituality? One woman told me rather piously, "The more I grow in my Christian faith, the less interested I am in sex."

Another concerned young woman came to me several years ago and said, "All the time I was growing up it was 'No, no, no!' Then I got married and all of a sudden it was 'Yes! yes!' I haven't been able to make the switch, and I've been married five years."

What has helped her and many other women like her is a realistic contemplation of God's Word and a commitment to living life His way.

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourself to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

1 Corinthians 7:1-7

This is the definitive New Testament passage about the marriage relationship. The Corinthians were an extremely dissolute society. In fact, to be called a "Corinthian" meant that you were totally immoral. It implied that you were a sort of Hugh Hefner of the day—a playboy.

So when Corinthians became converted to Christianity, the new believers had a lot of questions. And one of their biggest problems was in the area of sexuality. Because sexual depravity had always been so much a part of their lives, it was very difficult for them to understand just exactly how to change their behavior.

Some, whether married or not, were concluding that celibacy was really their best option. There were people saying that it was really much more spiritual to abstain from sex, even within marriage. Some of them were actually putting celibacy on a higher plain than marriage.

The source of that perspective was a Greek philosophy called dualism. Dualism claims that the body is bad and the spirit is good. Since sex has to do with the body and anything connected with the body is bad, therefore sex is bad. Of course this is a false belief. The Christian believer's body, soul, and spirit all belong to the Lord.

Two Valuable Gifts

Paul therefore taught in 1 Corinthians 7 that either celibacy or marriage is acceptable. Neither is more spiritual than the other because each is a gift. One person may have the gift of celibacy. Another may receive the gift of marriage. Either one is a good gift. Paul wrote,

Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:26

Apparently, the church was going through some heavy persecution and Paul was saying, "For the time being, don't change your present status. If you get married you'll have a spouse and possibly children to worry about." His words, however, were related to a temporary crisis, and weren't intended to apply forever.

Instead he taught that, in light of so much sexual immorality, every man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The prevention of immorality is an extremely important reason for marriage. If a person is not married and does not have a way to legitimately satisfy his sexual needs, he is tempted in all kinds of ways.

Paul recognizes that the sex drive is powerful. He says, "If they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." As we consider this issue, above all else we need to grasp the reality that God created us as sexual beings.

If you happen to have a very strong need in this area, that doesn't make you an unspiritual person. The way you handle your sexuality, however, will be determined by your spirituality. If God indicates that you are to remain single or if He has taken your mate from you, He will provide you with the ability to handle your desires. You can trust Him to help you. But there's nothing shameful about a dynamic sexual drive. God made us sexual beings. Marriage has been provided to satisfy such needs, and every scriptural prohibition has to do with sexual activity outside marriage. Don't let anyone tell you the Bible prohibits sex or represses your sexuality.

Men and Marriage

George Gilder, in his book, Men and Marriage, asserts that having a normal, stable married life not only prevents sexual immorality, it also deters a lot of other problems. For example, says Gilder,

A single man's aggressive tendencies, stemming from his sexual drive, are often unbridled and can be potentially destructive. Men commit over 90% of major crimes of violence, 100% of rapes, 95% of burglaries. They comprise 94% of drunken drivers, 70% of suicides, 91% of offenders against families and children. More specifically, the chief perpetrators are single men. Single men comprise between 80% and 90% of the violators in most social and criminal offenses.

On the average, single men also earn less money than any other group in society, simply because they have less motivation. Any insurance actuary will tell you that single men are also less responsible about their bills, their driving and other personal conduct. Together with the disintegration of the family, they constitute our leading social problem.

Conversely, when a man falls in love with a woman, normally his natural responses make him want to protect and provide for her. His sexual passions are channeled, his selfish impulses are inhibited, and he discovers a sense of pride in being able to take care of his wife and his children. The marriage relationship not only discourages immorality, but a lot of other social ills as well.

Mutual Need, Mutual Satisfaction

And, as Paul describes it, the marriage relationship is reciprocal. The husband should fulfill his marital duties to the wife, and likewise the wife to the husband (1 Cor. 7:3).

In Paul's day, this kind of thinking was revolutionary. A woman had no rights in that society. Just as in the time of Solomon, she was nothing but property, available to meet her husband's needs. Christianity came in like a hurricane and blew away the old pattern, which had been the result of sin and was not part of God's original design. In God's economy, there is total sexual equality.

There is also equivalent need. Paul taught that a woman was to have her own husband and a man was to have his own wife. This implies that either sex can be tempted and has legitimate needs provided for only in marriage. Of course, we know that there is a difference in the way those needs are felt and expressed. Each partner must be sensitive to the needs of the other one and make time to meet those needs.

Paul makes another important point. He says that the wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same sense, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do you see how revolutionary this was? The words translated "does not belong to" actually mean "to have rights over."

Sometimes a husband will say, "Do you see that verse? That means that you have to do it any time I want it!" Sorry, sir. That's not what Paul is telling us. He is describing loving availability to each other, which includes sensitivity to each other's needs without selfish exploitation. And just as we saw so beautifully depicted in the Song of Solomon, here we find again freedom of expression for both man and woman. Women are free to take the initiative, free to be active and not just passive partners. There is no hint in either the Old or the New Testament that sexual intercourse was intended exclusively for male pleasure!

There may be times when there must be abstinence in marriage for reasons of health or other extenuating circumstances. But verse 5 makes it clear that this is not to be a unilateral decision. It's very likely that a couple can agree to a temporary abstinence to concentrate on prayer and spiritual matters. But the warning is there that this is to be only for a limited time, mutually agreed upon. You can't come to your husband with a great revelation from God, such as, "I had my quiet time this morning and God told me that we can't have sex for six months."

And this brings to mind another area of misunderstanding. Women should not use sex as a weapon. Oh, I know it's very tempting. Sometimes we do have to get their attention, don't we? But it's not wise in the long run to use sexual relations either as a weapon or a reward.

Actually, most of us have a difficult time responding sexually when we're angry and upset, particularly if the problem hasn't yet been resolved. This is true because most women really love with their whole being while most men seem to be more compartmentalized. Your husband may not even like you on a given day, but he probably will manage to maintain his interest in the sexual relationship anyway.

Ephesians 4:26 says, 'In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.' Between married couples, there is an especially good reason for this teaching, because unresolved anger festers into bitterness and affects the intimacy of marriage.

Throughout the Bible, there is mutual submission in all areas related to sex. There is no headship in bed and no exploitation. On the contrary, selfish withholding violates our mutual ministry to each other.

Single and Satisfied

Marriage provides certain freedoms, and those of us who are married should enjoy those freedoms. On the other hand, there are other freedoms to be enjoyed in being single.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

What are the advantages of the single life? If you don't have a family, you are in a unique position to be wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord. Your time and money can be given to the Lord. The single life provides a wonderful opportunity to develop a relationship with God and to serve Him. Think about some of the unmarried women that have served the Lord so outstandingly. Henrietta Mears. Amy Carmichael. My own sister, Helene Ashker, has accomplished splendid things for God as a single woman ministering to women around the world as a staff person with the Navigators.

Let's do away with the mindset that marriage is better, or that singleness is holier. Whatever you are, whatever gift God has given you, He wants to use you in a mighty way. You need only be willing to say, "Lord, my whole aim in life is to serve you." Singles have tremendous opportunities. God can give you the ability to be fruitful, joyful, and contented as a single woman.

In a world where there are more women than men, somebody is not going to be married. If your prayer is "Lord, I just want to get married; that is all I want," and you don't give God veto power, you may be setting yourself up for a real heartache.

The prayer, "Heavenly Father, I don't want to be married as much as I want your will," may have a hard time finding its way through your lips. But it is the best request a single woman could ever make. And don't stop there! Go on to say, "If it is Your will that I should marry, You send the man that You have chosen and I will wait until he gets here. I am not going to just wait in limbo, just existing, either. I am going to be vigorous. I am going to be active. I am going to grow spiritually. I am going to grow personally. I am going to grow intellectually. I am going to be a person who cares for other people. So Lord, when You're ready, You send the one You want for me. I'll be waiting, but I'll be busy!"

God does wonderful, amazing things when we have that kind of an attitude. But He expects us to do our part to maintain personal purity.

An Appeal for Purity

"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

We've already considered the depravity of Corinth's culture. So if any of you are tempted to say, "Well, purity is just too hard these days," remember that it was just as difficult then.

The Christians at Corinth had an attitude that some of today's Christians seem to share. They believed that because they were "free in the Lord," they were free to do anything they wanted. Let me assure you that this is not true. We are only free to do good. We are only free not to sin. The moment we step outside the circle of God's revealed will, we are not free to choose the consequences. So that's not real freedom, is it? Paul addressed this issue as an abuse of Christian liberties. And that's exactly what it was.

Some Corinthians were saying, "Sex is an appetite; sex is like hunger. And you have to take care of it. If you are hungry you have to eat; if you are thirsty you have to drink. So if you feel a sexual need you have to satisfy it or else you will be starved emotionally or psychologically or even physically." In considering sex as a mere appetite, they were denying the wonderful purposes God gave it: oneness, parenthood, pleasure, and the prevention of immorality.

Obviously, we can't decide that we like the pleasure part and forget about the rest. Surrounding the purposes for sex is the wall of protection called marriage. Once marriage is removed from the equation, we are left with a separate appetite, the sex drive, that cries out for satisfaction.

The believers at Corinth were also accepting the false philosophy of dualism—that the body is evil and the spirit is good. Some of them, as we mentioned before, adopted celibacy because of this belief in dualism. Others felt, since the body is evil anyway, then it doesn't matter what it does. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul prayed:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no dualism in Scripture. You were saved as a total person, not just your spirit and your soul, but also your body.

Four Pertinent Questions

Paul poses four questions that we should ask ourselves when weighing our behavior. The first, Is this good for me? Even if you are free to do it, is it good for you? For instance, suppose you say, "It's okay to get involved physically. A little necking won't hurt, and I know when to stop." Is it really good for you? Is it going to help you, or is it going to lower your defenses?

The second question is, Will this control me? Boy, is that a biggie! When we stimulate an appetite it can become controlling. And the more we feed it, the more controlling it gets. But there is a good side to this, too. We usually think of habits as being bad, and of bad things as being addictive. Romans 6:16-18 tells us that we can develop good habits, and righteousness can become addictive, too.

Don't you know that when you offer yourself to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Third, Paul wants us to ask, Is God seen through my body? He says, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord." When you look at this passage you have to think in terms of all the other Scripture on the same subject, stating that we are to glorify God in our bodies.

Glorify is a big, vague word, but it simply indicates that when people look at us and at our activities they should be able to see God. For us to indulge in sexual immorality and still to think that God is being seen in us is an absolute contradiction.

It is not just our spirits but our bodies which are members of Christ. And with that in mind, Paul is saying that it is inconceivable to unite immorally with someone else. When you have sexual intercourse outside the protection of marriage, Jesus is there. You are taking a member of His body, which He owns, and using it to sin. That's a pretty serious thought! And it should shock us.

The fourth pertinent question Paul asks is, Is the Lord for my body? The answer is a resounding yes!

God gives His Holy Spirit to live in the body of each person who has trusted Jesus Christ. He is there to give us a new power over temptation and sin. God is for us. He knows our weakness and He is there to control our sexuality if we yield that area to Him. He loves us and He knows that purity is vital to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. He is on our side and will make us strong.

It's very important to emphasize the benefits of this great gift of sex that God has given us. Sex is so good that we must not spoil it by separating it from the framework God gave it—marriage. In marriage it's to be enjoyed and celebrated. Outside of marriage, it is prohibited.

Your Maker, Your Husband

Consider this if you are widowed, divorced, or single and have never been married: Isaiah 54:5 says, "For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name." Even those who have ideal marriages (and I haven't yet met anybody who has it all together in that area) find that there are several areas in which a husband does not meet every need.

Unhappily married women most certainly need to consider the Lord's willingness to be their husband. Instead of saying, "I have got to find someone else," or "He is such a loser," or "I am not satisfied," we have to say, "Lord, where he does not meet my needs, I'm trusting You to meet my needs."

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

I think we all must discover Paul's great secret. We have to learn it because it isn't something that just comes naturally. Isn't it wonderful to say, "Lord, You have placed me here, and You have the ability to keep me pure and fruitful and happy and productive—no matter what"?

Run, Don't Walk

Do you notice that Paul says to flee sexual immorality? Why do you think he doesn't tell us to resist it? Because it's too hard to resist! Run like crazy. Run like Joseph did. Joseph even left his coat in the hands of the woman who was trying to seduce him rather than stay in her house one more minute (Genesis 39). Be as drastic as necessary to physically separate yourself from temptation.

There are numerous reasons to flee immorality, and the first one is that you sin against your own body. You may think that you are satisfying something, but the one person you're really hurting is yourself. And, almost without exception, the woman is hurt the most. She is the one who may get pregnant. She may have an abortion or go through the heartaches of giving up her child for adoption or raising it alone.

The second reason to flee sexual lust is that you are the Holy Spirit's home. Paul says:

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19

This means that He is with you all the time and you are His dwelling place.

It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

When considering sexual sin, we have to keep in mind the fact that we don't belong to ourselves. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and poured out His blood to pay for our sins, He redeemed us. The word redeem means to be bought back. As God's possession, we cannot decide, "I'm going to please God in every way except my sex life. In that area I am going to please myself." We don't have that option because every part of us belongs to God.

But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are our of place, but rather thansgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . . and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

Ephesians 5:3-12

Let's look at this very practically for a moment. We mustn't even for a moment exempt ourselves from the possibility of sexual temptation. The Scripture says, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor. 10:12).

As with most enticements, the minute you think you're safe from sexual temptation, you open yourself up to trouble. And it's when we have our eyes focused upon ourselves that we are the most vulnerable.

You and I must predetermine for purity. Don't wait until you are facing an explosive situation to weigh the issue. If you've chosen purity for yourself, you are going to be careful about all kinds of things. That's the way to avoid getting caught in a trap.

Avoiding Some Pitfalls

What are some of the traps we may face? Well, for one thing, if it is shameful to mention "what the disobedient do in secret," is it okay to watch it on television? Or at the movies? We are being conditioned to accept immoral standards and have to isolate ourselves from our culture's sexual brainwashing.

What about the way we dress? Just exactly what are we advertising when our skirts are too short or our necklines too deep? The New Testament encourages us to dress modestly, and not to draw attention to ourselves with extremes in our clothing, hair styles, or jewelry ( 1 Pet. 3:3-4; 1 Tim. 2:9).

We are also warned not to allow our minds to wander into areas of sexual fantasy and lust. If you begin to daydream about someone else's husband, or if you are married and start thinking about a man who isn't your spouse, you are taking a dangerous step toward adultery.

Jesus made it very clear that evil begins in the mind (Mark 7:21-23 ). And we already know about Satan's weapons—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. All of these are active in sexual temptation.

Debbie was an attractive, brown-eyed brunette, around thirty years old. She had never married and was beginning to experience a nagging fear that she would always live alone, and that her dream of being a mother would never come true.

When she met Ben, her hopes soared. Here he was at last—the exciting, energetic man of her dreams. He was handsome, with sparkling blue eyes, and he had his own business. Granted, he wasn't making a lot of money, but she admired his courage and determination. Besides, Ben treated her warmly and affectionately from the beginning, and was delightfully complimentary. Debbie, for the first time in years, felt hope—for herself and for her future.

The phone, silent for so long, began to ring two or three times a day.

"Hello, Debbie?" Her heart pounded every time she heard his voice. She could hardly believe her good fortune. "Ben! How are you?"

"I'm terrific. I just wanted to say 'hi' and to hear your voice.

Debbie was deeply touched by Ben's calls, which often ended with his warm voice saying, "You know, I think you're wonderful, and I just wanted you to know."

Ben's affectionate ways soon led Debbie into the bedroom. The relationship was consummated with little debate—Debbie wanted to keep the affection in her life that she had long and desperately craved. And common sense told her that if Ben didn't find gratification with her, he would find it elsewhere. Besides, Ben was quite a lover, and some of her most private fantasies were coming true. She was beginning to feel like "a real woman."

But gradually, as weeks and months passed by, Ben's affectionate behavior began to change. He was often preoccupied with business concerns, and this troubled Debbie. The phone calls persisted, but with a different focus.

"Hello, Deb? Look, I need some advice. I've got to come up with $3,000 by the end of the month to cover a balloon payment. Any idea where I could borrow it?"

Debbie could hear the stress in his voice, and it saddened her. She missed his warm, personal calls, but was understanding enough to realize that he had more pressing matters to deal with at the moment.

After several days of hearing about the money crunch he was facing, Debbie came to the rescue. When he arrived at her house one Thursday night, she had a $3,000 cashier's check waiting for him—all but $250 of her savings account.

When they made love that night, he seemed like his old self. It was worth it! Debbie smiled to herself.

Months turned into years. Ben borrowed, paid back portions of his loans, then borrowed again. By now Debbie was glad to do his laundry twice a week—he was so busy and disorganized, and she felt valuable to him.

But Debbie was troubled by the fact that, although their sex life continued to be somewhat satisfying, the sweet affection she'd first felt from Ben was a thing of the past. He rarely complimented her, in fact he usually talked about himself. Worst of all, he never mentioned marriage.

The more she thought about it, the more distressed Debbie became. She had given her all to this man. Why didn't he love her enough to marry her?

Debbie was a Christian. She had rationalized her behavior with Ben because she loved him and had every intention of marrying him—just as soon as he asked.

Unfortunately he never did.

It took Debbie more than a year to separate herself from Ben, to recover from the rejection she felt, and to start her life over, a little older and a great deal wiser.

"God's rules make sense, Vickie," she told me not long ago, with tears in her eyes. "I think God's rules about sex can protect us from all kinds of hurt and disappointment—if we'd only follow them."

A lot of women could use a lot more wisdom in their dating relationships. I am always amazed when young women tell me that they've met a guy and he's shown a little interest, so they've started washing his laundry and making his meals. I say to them, "Listen, a guy wants to be a hunter. He doesn't want someone who is going to drop like a ripe apple into his lap."

Women need to retain a little sense of mystery. After fifteen years of affairs, a woman wrote to Ann Landers,

I now realize that men are always ready and eager to have sex (great revelation!! ). I don't believe most of them intentionally hurt or exploit women, but if a woman is too willing and too eager to please, a man finds it difficult to believe that a woman could want more from him than just a good time in bed.

It has taken a long time, but I am finally willing to admit that our mothers and grandmothers weren't just prudes, they were smart. In their day couples went through a courtship or dating period that enabled them to get to know each other before becoming sexually involved. I am sure they saved a lot of pain and grief and this made for stable and lasting relationships.

It is up to the woman to have enough self-respect and self-control to set limits, and to decide for herself if and when she wants to say yes.

And of course my advice is, "Say NO until you have the wedding band on."

It's Never Too Late

Maybe you're sadly thinking, "It's too late for me . . ." Well, it is never too late. Jesus Christ died for every sin that can ever be committed. There is no sin He did not pay for. If you have never trusted Christ as Savior and guilt is weighing down upon you, turn it over to Him. He's already taken the punishment. There are consequences that you will have to face—perhaps you already are facing them. But Jesus Christ took your eternal punishment, and through Him you can have forgiveness and a relationship with God.

If you are a believer and you have been involved in immorality, confess it and accept God's forgiveness. First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by our guilt that we just keep confessing and confessing. Don't do it any longer! No matter what the sin—adultery, lust, abortion, homosexuality—confess it for the last time. And don't ever bring it up to God again, because He has forgotten it (Heb. 10:17). He no longer holds you accountable for forgiven sin.

If you're single, society may try to tell you that sexuality apart from marriage is all right. Your personal history may tell you that you've fallen before and you're bound to fall again. Your physical body may tell you that you have a desperate hunger that must be met. But God's Word calls us to holiness, to purity, and to patience and trust while He supplies our needs, in His way and in His time.

Marriage and marital love were God's best gifts to man and woman in their sinless state. And they are still His greatest blessings. Marriage is a picture of God's unconditional love for His people. It is supposed to be permanent and unalterable. Once we begin to understand God's view of marriage, we will receive it as the precious provision He always intended it to be. And we won't cleave together as long as we both shall love. We will cleave to each other as long as we both shall live.

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