You Ask. We Answer – Single and Celibate?

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October 22, 2017
Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

At the beginning of this sermon series, we were talking about all human relationships and how relationships between two people can be a struggle, and those struggles are generally heart problems, not relationship problems. Then, we talked about marriage. If we were to go back to the sermon on marriage, we said that marriage is tough. Marriage is tough for anybody and you don’t just stumble into it; you don’t just find a good marriage. You have to fight for a great marriage, and the fight is typically not you-against-her or you-against-him. That fight is you-against-you, because all of us have sin in our hearts, and that sin will create problems. -selfishness and other problems like that. And those problems are going to show up again and again in all relationships, to include marriage.

I said when we were talking about marriage, that this is going to come back up at the end of the sermon series when we talk about being single. See, I don’t even need to know you, and I already know that all of us have family responsibilities. If you’re married, you have a responsibility to your spouse. If you’re a parent, you have responsibilities to your children. These are good things. These are God-ordained things. The Bible tells us, “Children, honor your father and mother.” It’s the Word of God that we should make sure that we meet our family responsibilities. Fathers are commanded in Scripture to provide for their families.

But, what about the people who aren’t married? What about those that don’t have a spouse they have to give part of their time and part of their attention to? Today’s sermon is largely for somebody listening who is single. Maybe you’ve never been married before. This is for you. Maybe you’re currently divorced, and you’re trying to determine whether or not you ever want to get married again. This is for you today. Maybe you’re a widow or widower, or maybe you have a spouse who is in the military and they’re on a long deployment, and your kind of temporarily single right now. This is for you.

But it’s also for our church to remember a couple of things about what the Bible teaches when it comes to folks who are single, because if you’re single, we just should admit up front, you don’t have some of the responsibilities that all married people have. -the responsibility to both serve Jesus as a follower of Christ and to try to be a good spouse at the same time, and sometimes you can be pulled in what seems to be two different directions if you’re married.

So today, we’re going to take a look at what it’s like to be single and to be a passionate follower sold out for Jesus Christ. Now, I’ve got an incredibly deep, theological statement for you to hear from me today that will set this whole sermon up. If you’re single, you should probably write this down and put it in the Bible as a kind of bookmark. Are you ready for this brilliant theological statement? Okay, here it is. Write this down:

A spouse cannot fulfill your need for a Savior.

And it would be okay with me right now if you said, “Duh, we know that already, Jeff.” Here’s the truth: Inherently, if you’ve been raised in church, you know that only Jesus can meet your deepest, greatest longings in life, but the problem is that sometimes the church doesn’t act that way. Sometimes Christians in the church who are single don’t act like that, and sometimes we act like, “No, I need another person to meet my deepest needs”, and then the danger comes. -because pretty soon, that person starts to take a place in your life, or you start to expect that person to take a place in your life that they can never meet. That place is reserved only for Jesus. As we go along today, you’re going to see clearly from the Bible how a spouse cannot meet your greatest need for a Savior. They can’t fulfill those needs. No human being, it doesn’t matter who you marry, can meet those kinds of needs.

I. Don’t sulk about not being married

Much of what we’re going to look at today was influenced by a book by Mark and Gracie Driscoll called Real Marriage, and here’s one of the things that I think I’d like you to write down. If you’re single and not married (‘never been married or currently are single), don’t sulk about not having a spouse. Don’t sulk or get angry about not being married, because the truth is, you have freedom that married people don’t have. You can give your time and energy in ways that married people just cannot give their time and energy, because they have a marriage relationship that deserves a lot of time and energy as well.

Here’s a familiar passage from the Bible in this sermon series from Matthew chapter 19, and I want you to hear what Jesus says. Then I want you to think about how shocked the crowd was about what he just said. Somebody asked Jesus this question. They were probably trying to trick him and trip him up and back him into a corner legally or theologically, and they ask him a question about divorce.

Matthew 19:8-12
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10 Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” 11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Our church did an entire sermon on divorce, and we did a series of questions. So many questions came in on this topic, that our pastors had the film 4 videos in our studio to answer all of your questions on the subject of divorce. Those videos are on our website. Go check them out. I’m not going to spend time talking about divorce today.

This is what the Bible is teaching us: You need God’s help if you’re going to try to remain single and celibate in a society like Jesus was in 2000 years ago. How much more are you going to need God’s help in our society today?

If you’re already in a relationship, in a marriage relationship, that spouse has to get some of your time. If you’re not in a marriage relationship, you have flexibility and freedom that no married person has. Jesus summarizes it this way: (verse 12) “Some are born eunuchs. Some have been made eunuchs by others, and some [and I think this is what he’s getting at in this statement], and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” And then he says to the singles, “Let anyone accept this who can.”

What Jesus is saying is, some people decided, “I am going to give all my energy and all of my attention and all of my time and all of my passion to serving Jesus, and a marriage is going to take too much time and attention away from Jesus, so I’m just not going to pursue marriage. Maybe I do end up getting married one day; maybe I don’t. It’s fine with me.”

The words Jesus is teaching right now, we are familiar with. They’ve been in the Bible. Most of you have read this a time or two in the past. But the truth is, churches generally don’t act this way. They will tend to say to the young lady in the church, “What’s your problem? Why aren’t you married right now? Get married and start a family and grow up.” Or parents will put pressure on a son to get married and have children, because “we want grandchildren”. And in reality, maybe that’s not God’s plan is for your child. Maybe that’s not God’s plan, and it can be wrong for churches to pressure singles into a relationship. In fact, sometimes singles can be so pressured by the church, that they feel like, “I don’t fit in here, because everybody around me is married, and everybody around me expects me to get married too, and that’s just simply not what Jesus is teaching today.

Believe it or not, a way that I just came across this that perfectly describes what Jesus is saying today is found in a fiction book by Louisa May Alcott called Little Women. In the book, Miss March says to her two daughters, Meg and Jo, “’Better to be happy old maids than unhappy wives or [listen to what she says next] un-maidenly girls running about to find husbands.”

What Jesus is saying is, “You can give me all of your time, and you can give me all of your attention if you’re single. If you’re married, it’s going to take something away from giving everything to me, and not everybody should follow this teaching. Not everybody can follow the teaching, but some of you should consider it.” And Jesus would tell us, don’t sulk if you’re not married.

II. Don’t sin outside of marriage

And here’s really what happens next as a result of this: Because of the billboards and the magazines in the society that we live in, the second challenge becomes really hard in our day. And that is, don’t sin outside of marriage. “Okay, Jeff. Are you saying that I’m supposed to give up marriage, and by giving up marriage (I know what the Bible teaches about sex outside of marriage), are you telling me I’m supposed to give up sex forever to follow Jesus?” Well, listen to how Paul, the writer of 1st Timothy, would answer that question for you.

1 Timothy 5:9-15
A widow who is put on the list for support must be a woman who is at least sixty years old and was faithful to her husband. 10 She must be well respected by everyone because of the good she has done. Has she brought up her children well? Has she been kind to strangers and served other believers humbly? Has she helped those who are in trouble? Has she always been ready to do good? 11 The younger widows should not be on the list, because their physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ and they will want to remarry. 12 Then they would be guilty of breaking their previous pledge. 13 And if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t. 14 So I advise these younger widows to marry again, have children, and take care of their own homes. Then the enemy will not be able to say anything against them. 15 For I am afraid that some of them have already gone astray and now follow Satan.

There are widows in the church. They have great needs. There’s a list that the church is maintaining of people that have needs, based on how much they need. Paul describes 2 different kinds of women today in this passage, 2 different kinds of widows. I think this would be true of widowers too.

The first widow we’re talking about here is somebody who’s giving all of her time in all of her attention back to Christ. She’s giving it to Jesus’s church. But there’s a very different kind of widow as well in verse 11. There is a difference that Paul is describing in this one passage between these ladies, and I don’t think it has anything to do with age.

One has decided, “I’m going to give all of my time and all my attention to serving Jesus and his church,” and the church is supposed to be family and is supposed to meet that woman’s needs. And then you have this other widow (or widower) who all they think about is passion and desire and a passion to re-marry. Paul is saying that brother, that sister, needs to go ahead and remarry, because if not, that desire can become stronger than a desire to follow Jesus, and that would be detrimental to their soul.

What the Bible is teaching us today is: Yeah, sometimes Jesus calls people to give up a spouse and to give up sex and to remain single and celibate in service to him. He calls some people to do that, but he doesn’t call everyone to do that, and to the person who says, “There is no way I would give up a spouse, and there’s absolutely no way I would give up sex to follow Jesus,” you have a distorted view of how good sex is. You have a distorted view of how good Jesus is or isn’t to you. ‘Because when you understand who Jesus is and how Jesus can satisfy you, there is no amount of sexual pleasure that can make up the difference.

I just want to challenge all of us (myself included) to say that nothing should be more important to us -not your spouse, not sex, not anything else- should be more important to us than passionately pursuing Jesus, because if you’re not careful, you’ll rush to get married, run down the aisle, and you’re going to end up marrying the wrong person, and after the wedding date, you’re going to struggle with that decision for the rest of your life.

III. Don’t settle for the wrong mate

Here’s the third warning from the Bible today: Don’t settle for the wrong mate. Don’t be in such a hurry to rush in to get married, that you didn’t pray through and consider seriously: Are you two compatible? Can you two live the rest of your lives together? Is this the person that God wants you to spend the rest of your life with? Listen to what Paul teaches. The same guy who writes 1st Timothy chapter 5 also writes 1st Corinthians chapter 7, and listen to what he says to widows in this passage:

1 Corinthians 7:8-11
So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. 9 But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust. 10 But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. 11 But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.

If your physical desire is going to cause you to sin, get you into sin repeatedly, cause you to make a mistake and rush down the aisle with the wrong person, then just go ahead and marry. Make sure you’re marrying the right man or the right woman.

When a couple comes to see me and they’re already married, they’re really struggling living together, it’s obvious compatibility issues, and they’re saying, “What we do now, Jeff? How do we go forward with this?”, at this point, we’re no longer talking about compatibility issues. We’re talking about commitment issues.

You stood before God. You made an oath. Now the question is, are you going to fulfill what you said before God and others that you were going to do? And I have to really restrain myself not to ask this question, because I want to so badly. I have to restrain myself from saying, “How did you guys make this mistake and not know that you didn’t have what it takes to live together? How did you not figure this out while you were engaged? How did you not figure this out while you were dating? How did you not figure this out while somebody was counseling you before you got married?”

If anybody ends this relationship while you are engaged, as much of a heartache as that is, I can’t help but say, “Praise God that you guys figured this out while you are engaged and not two weeks or two years after you got married.” -because you rushed down the aisle, you were in such a hurry to get married, that you might have married the wrong person, like you married a non-believer thinking, “Surely I’m going to win her over to the faith after we’re married and she’ll start to believe what I believe,” or, “He will stop cheating on me after we’re married or stopped hitting me after were married.” You made a mistake, and you should have never married that man; you should have never married that woman. Now you have to live with the consequences of that mistake.

IV. Don’t serve anyone other than Jesus

You don’t sulk if you’re not married. You don’t sin if you’re single. Don’t settle for the wrong mate, but really the whole sermon is going to this point right here: Don’t put anyone else in the place of Jesus, not even your wife or your husband, not even yourself. These aren’t my words. These are Jesus’s words. Listen to how Jesus teaches in Luke, chapter 14.

Luke 14:25-17
A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is saying, “You don’t put anyone across that line in the sand, and you don’t make anyone equal with me. Don’t do that with your spouse. Don’t do that with your children. Don’t do that with your parents. Don’t do that with your brothers and sisters. Don’t even put yourself on the other side of that line and make yourself equal with me. If you want to call yourself my disciple, you must put me in a position above everyone else in your life, including your spouse and including yourself.”

And to drive the point home just a little bit more, he says, “Otherwise, you cannot call yourself a Christian. You cannot call yourself my disciple.” Now, if you are in the crowd that day, you should be thinking, “Wait a second. I thought this was the dude that wanted everybody in the world, no matter what country they came from, what color of skin, I thought this was the guy who wanted everybody in the world to follow him. Why would he be saying something like this?” And to make sure that nobody misses it, Jesus says in verse 27, “If you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus is drawing a line in the sand today, and I’m afraid sometimes even church people unintentionally or intentionally step across that line, and you put your spouse in a position that they never should be in. You allow somebody in your family or a BFF, or you even allow yourself to become just as important as Jesus is, and what Jesus is saying is, “If you make this mistake, I don’t think you can call yourself a Christian. You shouldn’t call yourself a disciple.”

If you placed anyone in your life in the same position that you placed Jesus, what he would say to us if he was here today is, “If you’re married, you have twice as much work on your hands as single people. You have a responsibility to honor your wife and honor your family, and at the same time to make sure that they don’t take my place in your life.”

There’s a guy by the name of Eric, and maybe his story is where some of you are right now. He’s looking for something in a woman that he’s not finding in himself or in Christ, and when he starts to find a woman, she doesn’t meet his need. In fact, his own words say, “I don’t get life; I was hoping for life out of these things.” Eric is looking for a relationship, but he didn’t realize, he was in a relationship all along. I mean, his Facebook status should have said “in a relationship with Jesus”, and he had a family, a church family, that wanted to love Eric and wanted to be there for him, but he was looking for something else in a lady, something that the church is supposed to provide for Eric, something that the church does for anybody who single. It was only after making a big mess of his life that Eric realized, “Man, I had it all along. I had it in Christ, and I had it in Jesus’s people, and I made a big mess looking for something that no human being can deliver to me.”

Maybe you are like Eric, and you’ve been looking to a person or something else to give you something that only Jesus can give you. If that’s you, today I want you to find that in Jesus and only in Jesus. Maybe some of you in this room have allowed relationships -marriage relationships, family relationships, work relationships- to become more important to you than Jesus. If that’s you, you’ve crossed the line that Jesus describes in the Bible that we’re not supposed to cross. You’ve put something on the other side of that line, and only Jesus belongs on the other side of that line.

Maybe you’ve placed yourself on the other side of that line. Maybe today what you need to do is to repent. That word repent means to say, “God, I’m sorry,” and to show God you’re sorry by living differently when you walk out of here. Maybe some of you need to say, “God this week, every week, with your help, I’m going to put Jesus first and everybody else after him. Help me to never let another person, not even my spouse, take his place in my life.”

Next Steps

• I don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Today, I am trusting Jesus as my Savior for the first time.
– I have allowed someone else to become more important to me than Jesus.
+ I will place my relationship with Jesus above all other relationships this week.


Discussion Questions

  1. If you are married, what is the biggest challenge about marriage? If you are single, what is the biggest challenge about being single?
  2. Have you ever met someone who talked constantly about wanting to get married? If so, what was his or her main motivation for marriage?
  3. Has someone ever asked you, “When are you going to settle down and get married?” If so, how did that question make you feel about being single?
  4. Reread Matthew 19:8-12. If Jesus says it’s better not to marry, why do churches put such an emphasis on marriage?
  5. How can settling for the wrong mate affect your faith in the future? Give specific examples if possible.
  6. Marriage is going to take some of your time and energy away from serving Jesus. Pray for married couples in our church, that they would balance serving their spouse and serving Jesus.
  7. Pray that Calvary would be a family for which single people are longing.

Further reading

Acts 8:1-4

May 5, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. The Gospel has always been under attack Acts 8:1Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a...

Acts 7

April 14, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. God calls a people Acts 7:1-8 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked. 2...