Everyone looks for love in life but that need cannot be fulfilled with sex before or outside marriage, Pastor Greg Laurie, the lead pastor at Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif., said.
Studies have found that what people are most looking for is love, and not material goals, Laurie said as he began his sermon, titled "Hope for Lonely Hearts," meant for singles on Thursday. "But what's love?" he asked.
For a lot of people it's lust, the well-known evangelist said. Our culture doesn't give a cue, he added, and if we listen to culture, we will be disappointed. We need real love not the pseudo love that culture talks about.
However, the pastor went on to say, a man or a woman cannot fill the hole in our hearts. The simple truth is that you need to be content where you are, whether you are single or married. "It's the Lord we need first and foremost."
He reminded the audience, comprising mostly of singles and young married couples, of the story of the Samaritan woman found in John chapter 4, where Jesus tells the woman who has had five husbands that what she really needs is "living water."
Pastor Laurie spoke against cohabitation, saying living together without marriage is a sin. He said studies have found that 20 percent of cohabiting women are unfaithful to their partners, as opposed to four percent of married women who are unfaithful.
Many think married people are not happy, but studies suggest that two-thirds of unhappy marriages can improve drastically if the couples just remain married. He also said about 60 percent of married people are happy.
The California pastor also dealt with the question of celibacy. There are advantages and disadvantages in both getting married and remaining single. If you think you can concentrate more on God's work and remain clean, then it's perhaps for you. But since most people will eventually marry, it's good to marry rather than live with temptations, he said.
However, Laurie encouraged singles to wait on the Lord. "Don't be obsessed with finding the right person." God will bring the right person, he said, quoting Mathew 6:33: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
What should you be looking for in your mate? Inner beauty, he said, as he encouraged single women to "grow into a woman of God, not a cougar… [be] a woman of strength and influence." Christian women, he said, have something special because they are godly, "and it's a magnetic thing." Non-Christian men also find them attractive, he added.
"The more time you spend with the media the more unhappy you will be with your body, he noted. We should spend as much time we spend in Bible study and prayer as we spend working out, he suggested. Married for 37 years, Laurie has learned that what counts the most in the long-run is inner beauty.
A key question in choosing a life partner should be if the person is a Christian, "a godly Christian, a believer," he stressed. The pastor advised against getting married with non-believers. "Find out a hot godly girl," he told the single men.
Once in courtship, Laurie said, "Don't rush it. If your love is genuine, it will stand the test of time." He referred to Genesis 29:20, saying Jacob worked for seven years with Rachel's father to be able to marry her.
Love is patient, he added. "Love them as they are, don't try to change."
There are three words for "love" in Greek. Eros is for physical attraction in which you want something from someone. Phileo is for friends and family and in this kind of love you give something but also expect something back. Agape is God's kind of love, where you give something that cannot be paid for ever and you do that without wanting anything in return.
All three have a role in marriage, he said, but "base your life on Agape." "Sex is not bad, sex is good; we wouldn't be here without sex." But it has to be practiced according to God's will, that is, only after and within marriage.
We have all sinned sexually, either by an action or in our thoughts, Laurie acknowledged while warning singles to flee from temptation. If you have already done something wrong, ask for God's forgiveness. Jesus died for our sins. But sin no more, he encouraged.