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The Cost of Sexual Purity

with Joshua Harris | February 11, 2008

Wondering what God thinks about sex? Just open the Bible. Today on the broadcast, Josh Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and author of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, talks about God's special purposes for sex and the high cost of sexual immorality.

Wondering what God thinks about sex? Just open the Bible. Today on the broadcast, Josh Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and author of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, talks about God's special purposes for sex and the high cost of sexual immorality.

The Cost of Sexual Purity

With Joshua Harris
February 11, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: It doesn't matter whether you're walking past a magazine rack or a television set or a movie or even listening to music on the radio.  There are a lot of messages about sexuality in our culture.  But the one message that doesn't seem to be getting through is what the Bible has to say about sex.  Here is pastor and author Joshua Harris.

Josh: The world needs to hear Christians speak loudly the truly about sex.  God has not been silent on this subject; we cannot be silent on this subject.  We need to be reminded of the beauty and the goodness of God's purpose and plan for sex, and we need to be warned about the dangers and the judgment that comes from God when we misuse His gift of sex.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 11th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Joshua Harris joins us today to help us think carefully and biblically about a very important subject – intimacy in marriage.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on Monday edition.

Dennis: Hey, Bob, I've got a question for you.

Bob: Yes?

Dennis: What was the – what was the level of counseling you received in the sexual area before you and Mary Ann became husband and wife.  How many sessions did you have around that subject with the pastor who married you?

Bob: I really don't remember anything.  I'm just sitting here trying to think – we did have premarital counseling.

Dennis: And what did they talk about besides the wedding ceremony?

Bob: I remember talking about some relational issues that we might experience in marriage.  And, you know what?  Just as I'm thinking, this may have nothing to do with the pastor, he may have talked about it in great depth.

Dennis: That's always a possibility at this point in your life.

Bob: I was kind of half-tuned in.

Dennis: The brain waves are going flat at that point because, I mean, you're getting ready to get married.

Bob: Well, and we're going to hear today about this whole issue of sex in marriage and here, during Valentine's week, I think that's an appropriate subject.

 But I have to tell you a story because my daughter and son-in-law went to one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, and you know that when you're engaged, we encourage the engaged couples to commit to purity with one another prior to marriage.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And there was even a covenant that they could sign where they were committing to be pure with one another prior to marriage.

Dennis: We've been doing this for 31 years at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.

Bob: And I remember Amy coming to me after she and her fiancé, now her husband, had gone through this session, and she said, "I didn't like that purity thing, Dad."  You know, and that kind of gives you a little start, right?

Dennis: Amy said that?

Bob: She said, "I didn't like it."  I said, "Why not?"  She said "Because it said that we should commit to purity prior to marriage."  And she said, "I want to commit to purity after marriage, too.  I don't think purity stops" …

Dennis: I should have known one of your kids, but especially Amy.  She's sharp as a tack, I'm telling you.

Bob: So we're working on some revisions.  Amy's done some editorial work for us on the covenant, and we'll see if we can't …

Dennis: I'm for it.

Bob: But that's the subject we're going to hear about today – the whole issue of purity not just before marriage, but there is an issue of purity inside of marriage that needs to be talked about, too.

Dennis: And the guy who wrote the book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye."

Bob: You mean the guy who is married and the father of three or four now?

Dennis: That's right, Josh Harris is going to lead us in our discussion of this subject, and I just want to echo what you said.  I think – you know, as you look at what you promise in the marriage relationship, you promise fidelity.  That word, "fidelity," means purity.  It means faithfulness, it means singular, attentive, commitment and focus on another person.

Bob: And not on anybody other than that other person.

Dennis: That's exactly right, your spouse.  And so, frankly, I'm excited that Josh did this message to his congregation.

Bob: He's a pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and actually did a series of messages on the subject of purity, but this is the message that kicked off the series, and it's a great reminder for us married folks during Valentine's week, about the need to be pure prior to marriage and in marriage.  Here is Pastor Josh Harris.

Josh: [from audiotape.]  Today we are going to do something that might seem strange, maybe even a little awkward.  We are going to open our Bibles, and we're going to learn about sex. 

 Now, for some of us this isn't necessarily an easy subject to talk about with other people, let alone talk about here.  I remember a conversation that I had about sex with my pastor, C.J. Mahaney, a few days before Shannon and I got married.  C.J. and his wife, Carolyn, had done our premarital counseling, and we finally got to that moment when it was time for the "big talk."  You know, the big talk was the sex talk; the talk where I would meet privately with C.J., and we would discuss the finer details of marital intimacy together.

 So C.J. took me for this important conversation to Starbuck's.


 In hindsight I'm not sure that was the best location.  For those of you who don't know C.J., C.J. is – he's a loud person.


 C.J. wasn't born with an inside voice, you know?  He's demonstrative, he moves his arms around, he speaks loudly, he even shouts at times, and all that is wonderful when he's preaching to a crowd of a couple of thousand people, but when you're having the conversation about your wedding night in a coffee shop with him, it's real interesting.

 I'll never forget one moment in the conversation when he really started getting worked up about the subject, and he closed his eyes, and he leaned forward, and he began to talk about how excited he was that [voice rises] I would soon be married and be enjoying the gift of sex to the glory of God, and that I would experience pleasure before the Lord, pleasing to the Lord, lovemaking that God designed – and I'm sitting there going, "Could you just" …


 It was a memorable moment for everyone in that coffee shop.


 There were people at the counter placing an order saying, "I'd like whatever that man is drinking over there."


 Some of you might be feeling a similar level of discomfort that I experienced on that day because we were having a conversation about this topic in a public context, church, of all places.  Why are we talking about sex here? 

 Well, I'll give you a few reasons.  The first reason is that God has spoken about His good purpose for sex, and His truth needs to be heard.  I'm so grateful for the memory of that conversation with C.J., and I wish that more people in the world could have overheard that conversation; that they could have heard a godly Christian man, a pastor, speaking with joy, speaking with gratefulness about the goodness of God's plan for sex within marriage, because there are so many people today who wrongly think that God has nothing to say about sex; so many people who think that the God of the Bible is against sex, is somehow anti-sex.  Or that being a Christian means that you're called to repress your sexuality, and nothing could be further from the truth.

 The world needs to hear Christians speak loudly and truly about sex.  God has not been silent on this subject; we cannot be silent on this subject.  We need to be reminded of the beauty and the goodness of God's purpose and plan for sex, and we need to be warned about the dangers and the judgment that comes from God when we misuse His gift of sex.

 We need to be reminded of God's holiness; we need to be reminded how the power of the Gospel relates to this part of our life; how it both forgives past sexual sin and gives us the power to live in a way that we could never live by ourselves.

 The second reason that we need to talk about sex in church is because we are surrounded by and influenced by the confusion of our culture.  We live and breathe values and a way of thinking of a culture that is so confused when it comes to sexuality.

 Now, you might not perceive that because our culture is constantly talking about sex because there's always a new expert who will get on television and sell his or her book and that sex is everywhere, so how can we be confused by it if it's such – so limitless.  We've got so much content, so much information that we can get.  Well, here is the sad irony – we've never had more access to so-called "sexual expertise," but we've never been more miserable or confused when it comes to our sexuality.

 And none of us are immune to the lies of our culture; to the perversion that is all around us.  We've all been touched by it.  It's influenced each and every one of us, and many of us don't even realize all the ways that it has shaped our perspective, shaped our attitude, and that's why we need to wash ourselves in God's Word.

 I'm so glad that there are so many young adults, teenagers, who are here right now.  I just want you to know how excited I am that you are going to be sitting in the midst of adults, maybe next to your mom or dad.  This might seem like a strange thing.  I want you to know this is a good thing, and I want you to see not only through this message but in the messages that follow, if there's one thing that you take away from this, I hope it's that you remember that you don't need to go to the world to learn about sex.

 You know, some people are embarrassed.  They think, "Well, I don't want to talk about this subject when my mom or my dad or with a Christian person that I respect, and it seems like the world is talking a lot about it, so I'll just go to the world and get my information and try to figure this out, and I just want all of us to realize that we're only going to find lies and distortion and misinformation.  We need to be able to come together and open up this part of our lives in appropriate ways before the word of God and in the safety of Christian community, and that's why, for you teenagers who have godly parents, you're blessed.  God's not left you alone, He's given you His Word, He's given you parents who want to speak the truth to you, He's given you a church family, and I just hope that you will see that this is the context, this is the place, that God wants us to learn the truth about his plan for sexuality.

 The third reason that we need to talk about sex in church is that sexual sin is a temptation for all of us.  We all face the temptation to misuse this.  Sexual temptation and lust is not just a problem that a few perverted, dirty people deal with.  We all face the temptation to misuse this gift; whether we're single, whether we're married, whether we're old, whether we're male or female, lust is not a guy problem, it is a human problem.

 Lust is craving sexually what God has forbidden, and anyone of any age and any gender can be susceptible to that temptation, and I think it's just important for us to get past some of the stereotypes we have when it comes to men and women and how they deal with sexual temptation.  It's almost a cliché today that men struggle with physical desires while women only deal with emotional longings for intimacy, and that might be true some of the time, but those generalizations, if they're not qualified, can lead us to think that there is something wrong with us if we struggle with lust in a different way, and the truth is is that many women struggle with lust in physical ways, men can be tempted to lust in ways that are not the classical, typical guy way of lusting. 

 The point is lust is lust.  It's all a problem.  It's all serious, and we all need to look to God to be changed, and that's what we're going to do today as we open our Bibles to Proverbs, chapter 5.  If you have a Bible, would you turn to the Book of Proverbs?  We're going to study a passage together that speaks very clearly to this subject.

 Proverbs is a book of the Bible that teaches us that we can only live life skillfully when we make God our primary concern.  It teaches us that we need to fear God and live for Him in every part of our life.  That is, as Proverbs 1:7 says, "the beginning of wisdom" – to fear God and to understand that there is no part of our life that we can understand or live rightly in until we see who God is, and we understand who we are in light of God.

 And so King Solomon, the primary author of the Book of Proverbs covers many practical subjects, subjects that you might not seem are spiritual; they might seem mundane and commonplace, but these are all areas that we need God's wisdom in.  So he talks about money, he talks about relationships and business and communication, and he talks about sex.  He is writing to, in many chapters, his young son, and so he talks about sex quite a bit, as a matter of fact.

 Chapter 5 of Proverbs is a chapter that's specifically addressing the temptation of taking sex outside of marriage.  And so it's warning against idolatry.  We are only going to read a few verses from this chapter, starting in verse 18 and from this we're going to learn, as both men and women today, what it means to properly exercise our sexual desire. 

 Here is what I want us to remember – we are not just reading the advice of a man.  These words were inspired by God's Holy Spirit, and they speak to us today to help us rightly understand how we are to live as sexual creatures before our God.

 So let's read in Proverbs 5, starting in verse 18 – "Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe, let her breasts fill you at all times with delight.  Be intoxicated always in her love.  Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?  For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.  He dies for lack of discipline and because of his great folly, he is led astray."

 For over 14 verses, this passage is warning us against adultery and outlining the consequences of, as a married person, having sex with someone that is not your spouse.  It tells us that your life will end in bitterness, that there will be deep regret, that you will lose honor before other people, that you will suffer physical consequences, and finally you'll come to the end of your life and bemoan the fact that you avoided and denied the wisdom that was given to you.

 But one thing that I want to close with that's so very important is to remind all of us that the purity that God calls for us; that He calls us to is an expression of His love for us.  And the God who has given us good commands for sexuality is also the God who has made a way for those of us who have broken those commands to be forgiven.

 Maybe today, as we address this subject, you are aware of past sin and regret.  I know that I can be.  I've made mistakes in this area; I've sinned against God in this area.  We need to remember that the God who commands us to live sexually pure lives is also the one who has given His Son, Jesus, to die in our place so that we can be completely cleansed of our sexual sin made pure, made white as snow.

Bob: Well, that is part 1 of a message from Pastor Joshua Harris on the issue of purity in marriage, and, Dennis, sadly, we've seen a lot of couples who have ignored King Solomon's advice, ignored his counsel and, as Josh reminds us, it's not just the counsel of a man, but it's the instruction of God, and many people have been tempted into sexual relations outside of marriage with devastating consequences.

Dennis: And, Bob, I want to be clear on the front end here – I don't hold any stones to those who have failed.  I've sat across the table from people that I've confronted with sexual sin, married men, confronting them for being unfaithful to their wives, and as I've done so, I've really searched and evaluated my own life.  But I want you to know that I've been faithful to Barbara all our 35 years.

 But the Bible warns repeatedly about what happens when we stumble in these areas.  It says in Proverbs, chapter 6, which follows the passage that Josh just read here.  It says that "the man who commits adultery lacks sense.  He will not go unpunished.  He'll stumble.  He takes coals," it says, "into his bosom."  It means you light a fire, and there are embers that burn in your soul and in your conscience.

 Proverbs says, "He lacks sense and wounds and disgrace and dishonor become his way."  Now, how much more clear do we need to make it?  The Bible really warns us that the promise you made when you stood before the pastor and said, "I do," was a promise to sexual fidelity; to remain pure and unstained by the world.

 There are listeners right now listening to this broadcast who are toying emotionally with an affair.  They have not had an affair yet, but the next step beyond emotions is a physical affair.  And if, for no other reason, we aired this broadcast is for you to say, "Stop, right now."  Stop lighting the fire emotionally, put it out, and turn your focus back to your spouse and make your investments and your love and your focus be upon her or be upon him.

Bob: And there may be some folks listening to the program who haven't just toyed with the idea, but they have found themselves ensnared in a relationship outside of their marital relationship, and today is the day to wake up and to repent, to turn around and go the other direction.

Dennis: And they feel that coal, that burning ember in their bosom, in their chest, and they know they've made a poor choice.  You know, you just have to quite now.  Pick up the phone, call the other person, terminate the relationship.  Say, "This cannot go any further, this can no longer be allowed to occur," and make today the beginning of steps of life rather than steps toward death.

Bob: You know, Joshua wrote a helpful book on this subject a while back.  A book called "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is," and it really does get to the heart, to the root, of what it is that we wrestle with in the area, because as Joshua said today, "Sexuality is a good gift from God designed for marriage.  The problem is when we want that gift outside of the bounds God has made for it.

 We've got his book in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with the book that you and your wife Barbara wrote called "Rekindling the Romance," where you address some of these same issues because if we're going to keep our romantic relationship strong and healthy in marriage, we've got to keep our guard up.

 Let me encourage our listeners to go to our website,, for more information about both of these books and other resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife on this subject.  Again, the website if, you can order online, if you'd like, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY – 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Someone on our team can answer any questions you have about resources that are available and can make arrangements to have these resources sent out to you.

 You know, one of the resources that we have found to be helpful on this subject, especially for wives, is the book by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus called "Intimate Issues."  It tackles 21 questions, the most common questions women ask about romance and sexuality and intimacy in marriage.  We sat down and talked with them about this subject a while back, and we wanted to make the CDs of that conversation available to our listeners this month if they can help make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. 

 All you have to do is go to our website and make a donation online or call us to make a donation and let us know that you'd like a copy of these CDs.  If you're donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in the word "intimate," and we'll know to send a copy of these CDs out to you.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the CDs on intimacy and, again, we're happy to send them out to you.  It's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry.  We depend on donations from folks like you to be able to keep this program on the air, and we appreciate those of you who contact us from time to time to make a donation.  Thanks very much.

 Now, tomorrow we're going to hear part 2 of Joshua Harris's message on the subject of purity in marriage, and I hope you can be back for that. 

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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