Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships Resources on sale now.
About this series
Love Sex and Lasting Relationships
God's Prescription for Enhancing Your Love Life
Everyone desires to love and be loved. The pursuit of "true love" is everywhere you look! It's romanticized on TV and in the movies we watch. Countless books and songs are written about it and hundreds of online dating websites and relationship seminars abound - all of which are designed to "help" you find that special someone to love. So why is "true love" so elusive? Could it be that the picture of love we see in today's culture is nothing more than an illusion? If so, what does real love look like? In this series, you'll discover God's way for finding love, staying in love, and growing in intimacy for a lifetime.More from this series
I want to share an experience I had. I just call it a night that I’ll never forget. And it was one of those that changed the course of my life in this whole area of love, and sex, and lasting relationships. Let me try and picture it. We all have a handful of memories where it’s, literally, etched in the back of your brain. And when you think of it, you don’t even have to try and remember it. The images are so clear, because it was profound.
I was a sophomore in college. I had been a Christian about two years. I had begun to read the Bible in the mornings, and I got into Bible study with some guys. I actually saw God radically change my life. And, yet, the biggest war raging in me was, I knew God wanted me to be sexually pure, and I certainly didn’t grow up thinking pure thoughts, or viewing the other sex in appropriate ways. And so, after two years of walking with God, I was just in the midst of this battle.
And it was many of the kinds of things I’ve heard from you. I’ve had people all over, after every service, an hour or more, just tell me, “I really want to live that way. I really get it. I understand. But you just don’t understand. I’m trying as hard as I can. I fail. I fail. I fail. I try not to log on,” or, “I know I’m not supposed to, and I don’t want to go to those, but I just do it.”
And that’s where I was living. And this couple didn’t know it, but, it was a small college I went to, maybe three to five thousand students, up in the mountains. You would drive about a half hour, and then you’d come to a clearing, and you would see, on this huge plateau, this beautiful college, like, out of a storybook.
And a small, little town; the college had one – when I say “small,” there was a little red church, a little white church, two bars, and one gas station. And the gas station was only open for a few hours a day. And so, you were stuck up on this little place, and so getting a home-cooked meal was awesome, and very rare.
And there was this young couple – looking back, they were young – they seemed old at the time, because I was nineteen, maybe twenty. And they said, at church – I started going to church, which was really new for me – and they said, “Would you like to come over for dinner?” The answer is, “Yeah, of course.” I mean, cafeteria food, or a home-cooked meal?
And so, I got in my little green Volkswagen, and I drove – it was about seven or eight miles – it took about twenty minutes, because in West Virginia all the roads are like this. And then, I came over a hill, and there was their little house.
And, literally, for those of you who can remember, or even know who Norman Rockwell is – it’s just like a snapshot, a picture of a Norman Rockwell. There’s a little barn that needs some paint, a little white farmhouse, a little gravel driveway.
And I pull up, and I sit down. And then, I walk into the house of this couple that, at the time, I thought were kind of old. They were late twenties, early thirties. And I thought, What could they ever know?
And so, we come in – and I didn’t think about it at the time, but they were probably pretty poor. He was actually a farmer, and doing a couple little odd jobs. And there hadn’t been a lot of rain. But everything we ate was cooked right out of their place.
And so, we came in, and as we came in, I noticed there weren’t doors. So, I guess they didn’t have a lot of money. And they had a line and sheets that they made for curtains. And that’s what they would open and close for a little bit of privacy. It was a very small, little farmhouse.
And then, you go into the kitchen – and some of you can remember – remember the aluminum-type legs, and the tables with the plastic tops with the floral patterns? That was it. It was retro, retro. If you could get it now, it would be super cool, and probably worth a lot of money on eBay.
And so, I sat down. My elbows got kind of sticky, and I took them off. And so, Dave and Lanny – and they had a four-year-old and a two-year-old. And they were just a little bit ahead of me. They had been Christians about three and a half years, me for about two. And they were just beginning this journey.
And we sat down, and she cooked a great meal, and they don’t know I’ve got this battle inside, and I feel like, Everything fun, God says ‘no’ to, and Jesus loves me and He changed my life, but if we could just renegotiate the Bible to – how about seven commands? Or even eight! But there were two that were like, “Are you kidding me, God? You gave me hormones! Certainly You don’t expect me to…” And He said, “Certainly I do.”
And so, I always felt like God was on this side, and I was on this side, and there was this big barrier, and there were these things I was supposed to do, and no matter how hard I tried, I always failed.
And in the midst of that, I’m sitting at this table with this older couple, who probably don’t know much about relationships by now. And I notice how she looks at him, and I notice how he helps out and picks up the dishes. And as we were talking – and we talked about everything. And I noticed that they reached over and held hands, and you could see this energy between them. And I thought, Wow, maybe married people still really like each other.
All I can tell you, there was a beauty in this little home, and these two little kids. And then, they said, “Excuse me” – dinner was done, and we picked up the plates – “we’re learning something, and we’re trying this out with our kids. Would you mind just waiting here? We’ll be back.” And “be back” – they went, like, ten feet.
And then, they opened the little sheet, and there was one twin bed that both kids slept in, little kids. And Dave got down, and then Lanny, got down, and then a four-year-old, and a two-year-old. I mean, it’s like Norman Rockwell again.
And they all folded their hands, and Dave told a very brief story about Jesus. And then, the mom folded each of the little kids’ hands, and then Dave prayed, and then the mom prayed.
And I don’t know if you have ever, I didn’t grow up as a Christian. I never even opened the Bible. But when you hear a four-year-old, “Dear Jesus, thank You for my mommy and my daddy, and thank You for this man who came to our house, and thank You for loving us ...” And then, the two-year-old was like, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Jesus, amen.” And it’s not like I’m trying to eavesdrop, but there’s only a sheet between us, right?
And then, they came in, and here’s what I want to tell you: Something happened. It was like – you grow up with dreams, and I was a young man with dreams. And I thought, Someday, someway, I’d like to get married. And someday, someway, I’d like to find someone I can get along with the way this couple gets along. And then someday, someway, I’d like to have some kids.
And it was just like God gave me a snapshot, but it was a short, little movie. And then, after I saw that, something inside was like, I couldn’t even verbalize it, at first. God, that’s what I want, someday.
And then, they came back in, and of course, she made homemade apple pie a la mode. And we drank coffee, and we talked. And all I could think of was, These people don’t have anything, and they’ve got everything. They don’t have anything, but they have everything that I really want.
And I’m up on that campus, with the basketball team, evaluating girls, and feeling guilty. And when I even get my behavior right, then my thought life is in the trashcan.
And I remember, I got in my little Volkswagen, and I’m driving, and I thought, I’m just going to have a talk with God. I was learning. I learned you could pray with your eyes open. I didn’t know that. And I learned you could talk to Him anywhere. I didn’t know that, either.
So, I’m trying out all kinds of new stuff. So, I’m in my little Volkswagen, God, that’s what I want. Okay? I just want You to know. What I just saw, that’s what I really want.
And I didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know how He worked, and I didn’t know how He brings thoughts to your mind. But, not an audible voice, but as clear as I could ever hear anything from God, I heard, in the most gentle voice, Chip, that’s what I want to give you. That’s what I want to give you. That’s a picture of love, and sex, and lasting relationships. And, Chip, you think all these barriers about ‘no sex before marriage,’ and barriers about not living together, and barriers about what you watch, and what kinds of movies, and what you read, and how you look at a woman or…do you really think all those are prohibitions to keep you from something good? Chip, what I want you to know is, those are the boundaries that all the exploiting, and hurting, and negativity, and pain, and disappointment, and feeling used, and shame…I don’t want you to have any of that. I want you to get what you saw. And do you think it’s an accident? Do you think that people just walk up to a random college student and ask them over for dinner? Don’t you understand? I orchestrated this. This was My gift to you. I know you’re trying hard, and failing. Willpower doesn’t bring about sexual purity.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish. But happy or blessed are those who keep the Law.” “Where there is no revelation –” The actual Hebrew word, it’s translated vision, but it’s where there isn’t a revelation, a truth, or a word from God that people go unrestrained. If we don’t have a clear, vivid picture of God’s way, and the beauty of it, and what He wants for us, then what we do is, we try our own way to get those needs met.
We all have a need for love. We all have a need for sex. We all have a need to be connected. And if there is no revelation, if there’s not truth from God, and we don’t see the beauty of it, we try and do it our own way. And the writer of Proverbs would say, “There’s way that seems right to a man, but it ends in death.”
And that’s how most people do love. That’s how most people do sex. And that’s how most people’s relationships don’t last. And what I want to tell you is, when there is revelation, when there is a picture, the reason this changed my life is something that happened after I had this talk with God.
I still remember coming onto the campus – and I lived in this dorm, way down this hill, and it was a super steep hill. Because I remember, I always had to downshift in my little Volkswagen. And I got right in the middle, and I could tell you to this day, this is where I stopped, and I heard God’s voice.
Now, I had just started memorizing Scripture, so I didn’t know the Holy Spirit did this, at all. I didn’t know that when you memorize Scripture, He can bring answers to your prayer anytime, because it’s in your heart.
And so, as I am coming down, and I’m wrestling with, I don’t know if I can buy all that, and, God, I really want it but…Romans 8:32 came to my mind – vividly, powerfully. “He that spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not freely give us all things?”
And it was one of those, I’m a pretty logical guy, so it was like, Chip, I took you there. There’s the picture. That’s what you could have. All the barriers are to protect you so you get that, not to keep you from something good. And if I gave My Son for you, to demonstrate how much I love you, why would I withhold any good thing?
And here’s what I want to tell you: All my self-effort in my thought life, all my self-effort on dates, all my self-effort to be sexually pure failed. When I saw that picture, and it was, “God wants to give me that,” I began to read the Bible with new eyes. I began to look girls in the eyes, instead of other places. I began to make pre-decisions about dates. I decided the kind of girl I would date, and who I wouldn’t date.
A revolution happened in my heart, and it didn’t happen because I was trying really hard to be sexually pure. It happened because I got a picture from God about the beauty, and the goodness, and the plan that He has for every one of us – you and me.
Because if you take that verse and flip it around: Where there is revelation, where there is a word from God, where there is a clear picture of His goodness, and His love, and His beauty, and what He wants for you, guess what, you’ll be restrained. Because all of us are willing to have some delayed gratification for something great.
If I told you all – everybody here – if I told you, “Okay, today, if you really, you need a thousand dollars. You need a thousand dollars. I will give you a thousand dollars when you walk out the door. If you will wait one year, I’ll give you a hundred thousand.” Who’s signing up for the thousand? Oh, no takers?
And the motivation wouldn’t be, Oh, I have to wait for a year. I have to wait for a year. I have to wait for a year. The motivation would be, A thousand versus a hundred thousand? This is easy math! Right? You would be highly motivated and arrange your life, and you would probably be on time, and get here next year, exactly at this time, as I am passing out a hundred thousand dollars to everybody, right?
That’s what God’s saying, except He says it’s way more than a hundred thousand. He’s saying, I’ve got something precious for you. But here’s the deal: My way. That’s what wisdom is. “My way.”
With that, open your notes, if you will, and I want to dig in a little bit, because I want you to see why sex is such serious business. It’s so serious because, actually, the issue with sex and spirituality – the issue is worship. See, who are you going to worship?
When you do it God’s way, you’re saying, God, I trust You, and I want to worship You. Sex is a sacred gift. When I do it my way, I say, “Sex is really about me, and what I want,” and I worship me.
And so, we’ve learned – if you have your Bible, open to Ephesians 5, will you? Or your phone, whatever you use. And I just want to give you a runway, especially for those that may be just joining us. Ephesians 5 is talking about relationships, and verses 1 and 2 say, “Be imitators of God” – remember that command? – “and walk in love.” And then, verses 3 through 6 say, “Well, how do you walk in love?”
Well, you walk in love, first, by being generous, and kind, and loving, and others-centered.
But then, the opposite is, “Don’t let any immorality or impurity or greed be even named among you, or any coarse jesting or joking” – and there are six different words that talk about sexual impurity in our thinking, our words, and our behavior – “but rather the giving of thanks.”
And then, he gives us the reason, in verses 7 through 10: because there are consequences. God loves you and me so much that, when we violate those boundaries, like every good parent, He brings about the discipline, and the consequences, so that He says, I want you to get the best. And if you keep making bad decisions, I’m going to bring some consequences to get your attention, so you say, “I really don’t want to do that.”
Now, we pick it up in the crescendo of this passage. There is a command in verse 11: “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them.” Circle the word participation, and underline the word expose.
Participation is that same word that we saw: “don’t associate with,” “don’t be connected to,” “don’t get near.” It’s like, “I want you to be separate. I want you to be separate from those things, not necessarily those people.” We’re to love people, but there are certain things and certain places that the whole context is sexuality.
And then, he says, “…the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but even expose them.” The word expose means “to reveal; to make clear; to convince” – literally, “to rebuke.” Our abstinence isn’t enough. Simply refraining from sexual impurity is not enough. He’s saying, “I want you to model love and authentic relationships that are sexually pure in such a way that the world around you would be exposed.”
What Dave and Lanny did to me was, they exposed me! They exposed me! I was brainwashed to believe, How many girls could I date? and, This is what you do, and, This is what I want. And it was all about worshipping me.
And then, I got into a room, and I saw what love looked like, and little children, and the best use of this – it was wholesome. It was holy. It was beautiful. It was rich. It was deep. And when I was in the light of that relationship, what it exposed was me. And that’s what God calls us to do.
And then, he gives us the reason: “For it is disgraceful even to speak of these things which are done by them in secret.” And this is Ephesus. There are temples, and male prostitutes, and female prostitutes, and it’s a wild, crazy place.
He says, “You need to expose the darkness by living this new kind of life.” And he says, “Here’s the challenge. You’re supposed to do it, but don’t even speak about these things, because sexual immorality violates God’s holy character, and His positive intent for His creatures.” So, he says, we’re to expose them.
But I have a little problem. If we’re not even to speak of these things, how do we expose things, without words? Notice, he’s going to tell us the explanation: “But all things become visible when they are exposed.” Underline that. It’s the exact same word.
“All things become visible” – the moment light enters, they become visible. And when he says “visible,” he means, “You see them for what they are” – “by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.”
I remember, my dad was a science teacher, and he would do these experiments. And he would take these little Petri dishes, and put a few little things in it, and then he would put them in the dark, for his students. And then, you’d bring out the little Petri dish, when it’s been in the dark, and then what would happen? It had all these growths.
And then, what he would show them is, “Okay, now, here’s what we’re going to do.” He’d take the lid off, and he would expose the bacteria, or the things that have grown in the Petri dish, to the light. Guess what would happen? Bam! It’s gone.
Light exposes things. Certain things, the moment it’s brought into the light – bam! – it’s gone. It’s exposed. And he says, “That is our calling.”
In this passage, he’s talked about you and me living sexually pure lives, in our thinking, and our lips, and our behavior, and our practices, and in our relationships. Now, he’s saying, “I want you to go to the next level. I want you to live in such loving, authentic, sexually pure lives, in every area, that your life is illuminating people like Chip, when he was in college. I want you to have the kinds of relationships, and love, and beauty, so that when people are around you, and they hear you talk about relationships, and they see what you do with your friends, and what your marriage looks like, it would expose. Without even saying a word, it would expose.”
In fact, “For this reason,” it says – and he’s quoting a hymn that the early Church used – “Awaken, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
This passage teaches – on the bottom, I put a summary for you and me: “Just as light silently reveals all things for what they really are, so it is when God’s people” – here’s the key word – “model purity and love in relationships that expose sexual immorality for what it is: lustful, destructive, self-worship.”
And I know there are needs, and hurts, and strengths, and temptation, but here’s what I want you to know. When ordinary people at your work, and people where you hang out to do your hobbies, or work out, or when neighbors get together, here’s what I want you to get. This is what this passage is teaching, because God is calling us to a second sexual revolution.