I’ve developed the following material and presented it to many young people and their parents over many years. When my now married daughters were teenagers, I honed it further for sharing and discussion with them and the young men who asked to date them.
What follows is an abridged version of the longer material, “Guidelines for Sexual Purity.”
1. Sex is good. God created it, God called it “good,” and it existed before there was any sin in the world.
Sex was not created by Satan, Playboy, the Internet, or some pervert lurking in the shadows of a porn shop. However, God requires us to address sex within his intentions and requirements, not the world’s (Ephesians 5:3-4). God designed sex for the sacred union of marriage between a man and a woman, and reserves it for that union.
2. Like all good gifts from God, sex can be misused and perverted.
Water is a gift of God, without which we couldn’t survive. But floods and tidal waves are water out of control, and the effects are devastating. Likewise, God designed sex to exist within certain boundaries. When exercised in line with God’s intended purpose, it is beautiful and constructive. When out of control, violating God’s intended purpose, it becomes ugly and destructive.
3. The boundaries of sex are the boundaries of marriage.
Sexual union is intended as an expression of a lifelong commitment, a symbol of the spiritual union that exists only within the unconditional commitment of marriage. Apart from marriage, the lasting commitment is absent and the sex act becomes a false expression, a lie. Sex does not become permissible through subjective feelings, but through the objective lifelong commitment of marriage.
4. Your sexual purity is essential to your walk with God.
Sexual purity is not an option for an obedient Christian; it’s a requirement. God’s will is centered on our character and moral purity much more than on our circumstances, such as job and schooling: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
5. You are vulnerable to sexual immorality.
Don’t kid yourself that it can never happen to you—it can. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). If you think you’ll never fall sexually, you’ll fail to take precautions to keep it from happening.
6. You are targeted for sexual immorality.
The more involved you are in serving Christ, the greater vested interests Satan has in destroying you and God’s work in and through you. The evil one wants to take you down and to use your life as a bad example to other Christians. God requires that we be holy and pure instruments to be used by Him (2 Timothy 2:20-21). But as powerful as the evil one is to tempt us, God is infinitely more powerful to deliver us and has given us in Christ all the resources we need to live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3-4).
7. Your body belongs to God, not you.
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:20). When you came to Christ, when you affirmed Him as Lord of your life, you surrendered your entire self, including your body, to God. He paid the ultimate price for it: the shed blood of God Almighty!
8. Sexual purity begins in the mind, not the body.
“Above all else, guard your heart [mind, inner being], for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Be careful what you expose your mind to. If you’re on a diet, don’t go to Baskin & Robin’s. If you do, your resistance will break down. If you want to abstain from lust, you don’t go places and watch movies and programs and read things that stimulate lust. Don’t give your mind junk food. Be sure you’re getting spiritual nutrition.
9. Since God doesn’t want you to have premarital sex, neither does He want you to do that which prepares your body for premarital sex.
There is a continuum of physical contact that begins with things like sitting close and hand-holding on the near side and moves to sexual intercourse on the far side. Scripture does not spell out exactly what “intermediate” behavior is permissible, but one thing is certain—the line must be drawn before either of you becomes sexually stimulated.
10. Once you let your body cross the line, it will neither know nor care about your Christian convictions.
Some Christians pray God will protect their purity, then willfully put themselves into temptation and wonder why God didn’t answer their prayer. No matter how fervently you pray that you will not fall into immorality, you will fall if you continue to make choices that feed your temptation toward immorality. Don’t allow your choices to undermine and invalidate your prayers.
11. If you have sexual intimacy with someone outside marriage, you are stealing from God and the other person.
Since he or she belongs to God, not you, that means you are borrowing this person for the evening. Be careful what you do with what doesn’t belong to you. You’ll be held accountable to his or her Owner.
12. God has your best interests in mind when He tells you not to have premarital sex.
Sex is not just something you do—sex is someone you are. It is linked to the welfare of your whole person. Having sex outside of marriage is self-destructive in every sense. Sexual purity is always for the best—not only for God and others, but for you.
13. God would not tell you to abstain from impurity if it was impossible to obey him.
Sex is something everyone can abstain from—it is a strong desire, yes, but never an emergency, never a necessity. “The grace of God teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). You can and should draw upon your resources in Christ, and say “no” to temptations to sin.
14. Satan will lie to you about sex, but Jesus tells you the truth.
Jesus said of Satan, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan is a liar, but Jesus is the truth and the truth-teller (John 14:6). He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Those who believe Satan’s lies about sex end up in bondage. Those who believe Christ’s truth about sex end up free.
15. You must learn to think long term, not short term.
Good or bad, you will always reap what you sow—you will always harvest the consequences of your choices. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). The lifelong consequences of sexual impurity are worse than we can imagine. The lifelong rewards of sexual purity are greater than we can imagine.
16. If you’ve violated some of these guidelines, confess, repent and implement a plan to prevent future violations.
When you confess and repent of your sins, God will cleanse you:
"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Even if you are no longer a virgin you can and should commit yourself to secondary virginity—to remain sexually pure from this day forward, preserving yourself only for your marriage partner, should God choose to give you one. You need more than good intentions to maintain your purity—you need a plan. If you are committed to a relationship with a growing Christian discuss it honestly and formulate a plan to prevent falling back into premarital intimacy.
Live in such a way as to hear your Lord say to you one day, “Well done.” Get on the right side of the universe’s moral system. Honor God by living in sexual purity. If you do, you’ll experience His blessing and rewards not only today, tomorrow, and ten years from now, but throughout eternity.
Browse more resources on the topic of purity, and see Randy's book The Purity Principle and his booklet Sexual Temptation.
Photo by Anton Chernyavskiy on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.