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Craig Groeschel defines sexual integrity in a broken world, details his 'first Christian relationship'

Pastor Craig Groeschel
Life.Church Pastor Craig Groeschel preaches a sermon about how Christians can uphold sexual integrity in a broken world on Oct. 30, 2022. |

Pastor Craig Groeschel of the multi-site megachurch Life.Church preached Sunday on how Christians — married or single — can live with sexual integrity in a world filled with "sexual brokenness."

In the sermon focusing on marriage, the 54-year-old pastor said that biblical scriptures teach that marriage is a covenant between "a man and a woman for life," stressing that Hebrews 13:4 says marriage and the marriage bed should be "honored" by all and "undefiled."

Groeschel said that Scripture teaches that the "only kind of God-honoring sex" is the "sex within the covenant of marriage." He added that Ephesians 5:3 states, "there mustn't be even a hint of sexual immorality" among Christians.

"This is God's standard because the gift of lovemaking is so holy, reserved for the intimacy of a covenant marriage," Groeschel said. "Because it's so holy, so intimate, so righteous and so pure, there shouldn't be a hint of sexual immorality."

Groeschel, who has been married for 31 years, said that when he first started dating his wife, Amy, she was his "first Christian relationship." He asked the question, "what is it that we can do, and what is it that we can not do sexually?"

"I asked my strongest Christian friend, 'What exactly, and don't leave anything off the list, give me everything that's legal before God to do [sexually], I want to know all of it," Groeschel said.

"And the list was really short. There wasn't much on there. Because Scripture teaches the principle in Ephesians 5:3 that 'among you, there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality.'"

"And so, what would that mean? What would be out of balance?" he asked. "Well, certainly adultery. That's more than a hint. And then, when you ask, 'What about premarital sex?' That's actually more than a hint. That's not something we should be doing. 'Well, what about like, you know, just like … not going all the way, but like just everything else? Everything, but just not the final thing?' That would actually be more than a hint."  

Groeschel suggested that modesty is critical when practicing sexual integrity before God. 

"You could make an argument that perhaps crude sexual jokes might be a hint of immorality," he said. "You might suggest that dressing immodestly or posting immodest photos of your great big muscles or your cute little bikini. …  Jesus was the one who said, 'If you even just look lustfully at someone else, you're committing adultery in your heart.'"

God's standards for His children are "so indescribably high ... that [no one has] fully kept them."

Before he dated his wife, Groeschel said he cohabitated with previous girlfriends and viewed sex as something to simply be enjoyed. He also viewed marriage as merely a contract, not a covenant before God.  

"I kind of dated and did the play-house thing. And then, Jesus completely transformed my life. And when He did, it changed how I viewed marriage," he said. "And so, for a two-year period, I stopped pursuing women and started pursuing Jesus. … This is cheesy, but this was the late '80s, I had date nights with God."

After taking a two-year hiatus from dating, Groeschel started dating Amy. He said they waited until marriage by abstaining from sex until their wedding night. 

"We chose to put God's will ahead of our own desires. … And I'm not going to tell you we were perfect because we weren't," Groeschel admitted.

"But, when we shared our covenant vows on May 25, 1991, I drove her to our bed and breakfast. It was five miles away from the church. … And I carried her across the threshold of the room, and we prayed together. And for the first time, we sealed what was our covenant vows and what God did is He united us into a holy covenant. His standards are so high, and his blessings are so worth it."

According to the pastor, condemnation isn't God's goal in creating boundaries for sex.

"[This is] revealing our desperate need for Christ and our desperate need for grace. It's not about condemnation or judgment. It's about an equal need for the forgiveness of God and the power of God to enable us to live a life that is pleasing to God," he said.

"What I want you to know is that 'there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.'... But if you feel a little bit convicted, that's the loving presence of God leading you to something better."

For Christians who haven't been practicing sexual integrity, Groeschel advises them to repent and ask God for renewal. 

"What do you do? Well, you can together apologize to God. ... 'God, would you please forgive us? Would you direct us?' And you could let God change you," he said. "You can maybe stop doing something you were doing. Or you may decide it may be expensive and costly, but we want to move out. We want to reestablish the parameters in a way that would honor God."

"Or you may recognize you're incredibly unequally yoked, and you're not going to stay in this relationship any longer because you're not going to settle for something less than," he continued.  

For married couples, he said there is hope for reconciliation and connectivity found in Christ. 

"You might be looking at your marriage right now and going, 'we're not really doing it right in our marriage right now.' So what do you do? Well, maybe you just join hands, and you turn to God, and you say, 'God, would you just forgive us and receive our forgiveness together?' You might choose to be baptized together in two weeks and go underwater and say, 'We're coming out with a new marriage — new, completely in Christ,'" Groeschel suggested. 

"There is no sin too great for the grace of God."

The pastor assured that God's design for sex and marriage is meant to bless Christians with "righteous intimacy" and protect them from "emotional pain" and heartbreak. 

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