Spiritual transformation has many different facets. One of those facets is a life of sexual purity. God created the wonder and beauty of sex for several reasons. He designed the sexual union in part to give husbands and wives a way to express a closeness that cannot be put into words. But He also created the sexual union to express the depth of intimacy the Bridegroom will share with the bride (the church) in heaven. Christ is inviting us into more of that closeness here on earth.
Satan is insanely jealous about all this. Maybe that is why he works so hard to twist the beauty of sex into something awful.
Sexual purity primarily is a matter of the heart. It is a beautiful way for a teenager to express love and adoration to Christ the King. Scripture says, “Flee sexual immorality” but then immediately gives the reason, “Glorify God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). In Romans Paul adds, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).
Calling teenagers to purity does not spring from moralism and religious rule keeping. It is calling them to express their worship and adoration through a pure life. Granted, teenagers who see Jesus as a little buddy or mascot will not see any need to present their purity as a holy gift. But teenagers who see their King as high and lifted up, gloriously reigning at the right hand of the Father, will deeply desire to give Him such a beautiful worship gift. It will be their proper response to one who said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
We call teenagers to total-life purity for a lifetime. Focusing on total-life purity keeps the conversation from drifting off to anatomical boundaries and what constitutes technical virginity. We offer up all we are to the greatness of our Regent. And we call teenagers to lifetime purity. Fifth-graders and residents of nursing homes equally have a call of purity on their lives.
We call teenagers to lifetime purity. Fifth-graders and residents of nursing homes equally have a call of purity on their lives.
Teenagers need to see the big picture. They need to know that if they marry, they will still need the Spirit’s power to live in purity and faithfulness. They need to know that if they remain single all their lives, they will receive a gift that will allow them to honor God with their bodies for a lifetime. They need to know that if they marry someone who develops severe Alzheimer’s, they will remain faithful to that person to the end—for the glory of God.
Wise parents and churches begin at the birth of the child to lay a foundation for lifetime purity. By the time children reach the youth group, their hearts should be full of love for Christ, their heads full of Scripture, and their eyes full of the example of key adults.
Declarations and promises fill the pages of the Bible. Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1 NKJV). Tens of thousands of young married couples report that their promises of purity to Christ were important in bringing them to their wedding days in innocence.
But of course, some teenage Christ followers will stumble along the way. In that instance, we lead them to agree with God that sin is sin. We lead them to experience His grace that flows from the cross. We lead them to stand up and start walking in purity again, in fellowship with the God of second chances.
The parent’s or church leader’s own life of purity—or impurity—will tend to be reflected in the teenagers
Teenagers tend to imitate their parents and leaders. The parent’s or church leader’s own life of purity—or impurity—will tend to be reflected in the teenagers. I have spent my entire life as a youth minister and a youth volunteer, so that principle always has been important to me. When sexual temptation becomes an issue, I have learned to ask myself five questions.
- First, am I willing to lose that intimate part of my fellowship with Christ? If I give in to temptation, unmerited favor covers my sin, and I remain in a relationship with God. Grace will give me admission to the throne room when I pray, but I may well feel distant from the King on the throne. The more I abide in Him and love worshipping Him with abandon, the more I don’t want to lose that due to sin.
- Second, am I willing to become spiritually irrelevant to those closest to me if I indulge my temptation? You see this throughout Scripture. For example, David—a man after God’s own heart—became spiritually unimportant to his son Absalom after the Bathsheba disaster. Watching David convulsed in tears over the loss of his son reminds me that sin never is worth it. If I succumb to temptation, I can wake up one day and discover I just do not matter spiritually to my own family, my friends, or the teenagers. That is too high a price to pay.
- Third, am I willing to see innocent people suffer while God deals with my sin? God is patient for a season, but at some point He will intervene for the sake of His name and for the coming of His kingdom on earth. He is willing to do this even if innocent people suffer in the process. The blame for that falls on me. When God makes my secret sin public, my wife and son are going to be in great pain. And the teenagers in our church. And my extended family. And scores of my friends. I have to decide if I want to be responsible for that much pain.
- Fourth, am I willing to endure public humiliation as God deals with my sin? In Malachi 2, God tells sinful religious leaders that He is about to put dung on their faces. You have seen God do that in our day with public Christian leaders. But I have to remember that He will do the same with me. At any moment He chooses, God can take my most heavily guarded secret and make it public knowledge. That is nothing for Him. The only reason my secrets are not in the newspaper this morning is that God graciously is giving me one more chance.
- And fifth, am I willing to become useless in God’s kingdom activity? In Malachi 2, God also tells sinful religious leaders that He will curse their efforts. That gives me cold chills to consider. Can you imagine going to work to discover that what you do just does not matter anymore—that the power is gone?
Here’s the good news. Your life of purity is a beautiful way for you to express adoration to Jesus. And at the same time, your heart and your example will lead teenagers in the same direction.
Richard Ross is professor of youth ministry at Southwestern Seminary and co-founder of True Love Waits, a movement promoting sexual purity among teenagers. True Love Waits recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
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