My friend wrote a helpful blog post on dating that got my writing juices flowing. I haven't written down most of my thoughts on dating and pursuing marriage. I have many lessons I've learned from others and from pastoring high school, college, and post-college brother and sisters in the faith. I’ve also learned a lot from being married that would make me do things differently if I could go back. I've seen many hearts broken, bodies and souls violated, consciences deformed. I’ve felt the grieving and anger of God. I've also seen hearts guarded and restored, bodies honored, consciences cleared and strengthened. I’ve felt the joy and approval of God. Sometimes I've seen both sides in the same relationship. There is much wisdom and truth for dating learned by those who've gone before and it is in this spirit I pray it helps you walk in the advice of the righteous not wicked, stand in the path of saints not sinners, and sit in a group of worshippers not mockers.
6. ENVISION THE FUTURE
You want to date in such a way that if the Lord wills that the two of you do not get married, you can meet each other's spouse in the future with no shame or embarrassment. You didn't physically take what isn't yours prematurely. You didn't touch each other in places or show affection toward each other in ways that are clearly inappropriate once married to another person. You didn't linger emotionally when you knew God wanted you to break up. You honored each other and your future spouses because you understood that dating doesn't equal married life with married privileges before the formality of a ceremony.
And if you do end up marrying each other, you still won't regret the way you treated each other in honor before our God and Father. I haven't met a married Christian couple that wishes they spent more time physically intimate and touching each other before they got married. You won't regret it in the future. The key is to know this in the present.
7. MEN: GUARD YOUR SISTER'S HEART
You knew biblical manhood had to figure its way onto this list one way or another. The essence of manhood is "a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships" (John Piper, What's the Difference?, 22). The best book that gets at this for singles is John Ensor's book, Getting Things Right in Matters of the Heart (the table of contents alone are worth the price of the book!). If a man is to lead, provide for, and protect the woman he's dating in appropriate ways, then he needs to guard her heart as her brother and not as her husband until he marries her. He should conduct himself in ways that minimize her potential heartbreak. He should be leading in discerning whether he wants to marry her or not. He should work hard to find out so that he can break up or propose to marry her as soon as possible. He should make himself known, sins and all, to his girlfriend so she can have all the information she needs to know him and whether she should still consider marrying him.
He doesn't want to linger in the relationship because he's protecting her heart and the more it lingers before a break up the more pain he inflicts on her. This means he takes the risks of embarrassment and rejection and doesn't fish for her response before he makes a move. That puts her at the risk of embarrassment for his own safety. It's cowardly, not courageous. He doesn't ask if she likes him first before he tells her he likes her. He shouldn't ask her if she's willing to marry him before he expresses his willingness. He initiates, she responds; because he protects, she receives protection. This also means that the man should constantly be pointing his sister to Jesus Christ as her joy, rock, and leader and not replacing Jesus.
Men, don't just tell the sister to guard her heart with your words while your actions, inaction, and (long) relationship grip her heart and yank it from her soul.
8. LADIES: GUARD YOUR HEART
Please guard your heart. I've written elsewhere that if a man doesn't meet certain qualifications, don't even consider dating him! Close up your heart toward him. I know that the attention and feeling of being pursued is wonderful. It is. But you have to keep a clear head and a guarded heart that follows worthy leadership, not just any leadership. Piper defines womanhood as, “a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships” (Ibid.).
I fear for my 3 daughters being swept away by some knucklehead who talks sweet and looks impressive. They need to evaluate the man's leadership and make choices to respond to his initiation or not. Is he a worthy or unworthy man? Don't do it on emotion alone since our hearts can be easily deceived. Know what you're looking for, know what good leadership is, affirm and follow good leadership at your desire and call out bad leadership, passivity, and the lack of risk taking when appropriate.
9. DISCIPLE OTHER PEOPLE
The purpose of marriage is not to solve loneliness, but man's aloneness in accomplishing what God has called him to (Tim Chester, Gospel-Centered Marriage, 19), namely to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). So God made a "helper as his complement" (Genesis 2:18, 21, HCSB). The New Testament Christian focuses that mission to include making disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ as central (Matt 28.19-20). So if a man's mission is to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and to do this as a disciple of Jesus Christ who makes disciples, it is not good for man to be alone. Marriage was given to fill this need (though it's not the only way to fill this need).
So disciple other people. Evangelize. Pour into the lives of others to convert them or cultivate growth as a Christian. Be about the mission now so that when you’re married you continue in it. Ladies, if a man can't disciple and lead another man, what makes you think he'll lead you and your kids? Men, do you really want a self-focused lady to be the one to selflessly serve you and your kids and those you two will serve as disciple-makers? The call to multiply and make disciples to fill the earth with God's glory is an awesome call and as a married couple you do this together. So many marriages are inward and ingrown because the lovebirds focus on themselves and don't live to bless others outside themselves or their immediate family. This causes many spouses to be disillusioned with marriage. Many couples dating make this same mistake before marriage.
[tweetthis]If a man can't disciple/lead another man, what makes you think he'll lead you/your kids?[/tweetthis]
 This has more implications then I want to get into here. Like whether or not you should even kiss each other.
 Genesis 1:28: God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
 Genesis 2.18, 21: Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” …So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place.
 Matt 28.19-20: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
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