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Podcast: Singleness and Sexual Temptation

Is sex an essential part of human flourishing? How can our needs for intimacy be met as Christian singles?

Josh, Kyle, and Bob kick off our series on singleness by discussing these important questions. They also discuss how singles are called to deal with sexual temptation, talking to Jesus about our temptations, and the commonalities of dealing with temptation between singles and married couples.

They go on to discuss the cultural expectation that one can only be happy if they are sexually fulfilled.

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Josh 0:07
So to be a Christian means we are, by definition followers of Jesus. And Jesus was a single man who lived a perfect life perfect relationally. Perfect, as in regards to how he handled his sexuality and his temptations. And so we are beginning today a four part series on singleness. And we’ve talked to Reverend Bob Reagan and Kyle Bowman, who both work with regeneration in Northern Virginia. Guys, let’s start with this question that a lot of people who come to us ask as a single people, how are singles supposed to deal with sexual desire and sexual temptation?

Kyle Bowman 1:09
I’ll start Josh with answering that question. I know, in talking to some of the young women that come into our office and talk about their struggle, the first thing that I suggest to them is, are you talking to Jesus about it? And some people are really freaked out by that, like, nobody wants to say, hey, Jesus, I’m really struggling, I really would like to have sex right now. And I know that’s not your best for me. But I really want to do this if people are very, very skittish about being that open and honest with Jesus in using that kind of language with Jesus. Right.

Josh 1:54
Yeah. Bob, what would you add to that?

Bob Ragan 1:57
I think what I see, when I with the men I talk with that, talk about sexual temptation, I’ll ask the question I’ll ask him is, what are you really hungering for? So what what is it? Is it the sex that you’re hungry for? Or is there something beneath that that really is driving it? What are you looking for? Because so often, the temptation is actually tapping into something that is much deeper within us.

Josh 2:28
Yeah. And we talked about this a bit a chunk in our previous series on temptation. And the interesting thing, so we’re answering this question about singleness. But the reality is that these are, these are both both the answers you guys just gave, that they work for everybody, whether you’re married or single, like what’s going on underneath the surface? So is there something is are there unique struggles? Are there? Is any deal of temptation unique to singles in any way? Or is it the same as when when people are married?

Unknown Speaker 2:58
The way I look at it is, I think it’s the same for all of us where we are in our lives. And the danger is to somehow think, oh, because I’m single, there’s something chronically unique about my temptation that makes me different and separate from someone else, or even someone who’s married. But we all we all walk with some form of temptation or some Goliath we’re battling.

Kyle Bowman 3:22
Yeah. And I think, to think that a married person is not tempted in the same way. As we who are single is such a bad belief to have. Okay, so

Josh 3:38
let me push back. So you guys are both single. One of things I hear from, from single folks about temptation, as a married man, I’ve even heard them directly right of me saying, well, you don’t understand because you have an outlet for your temptation. Like you’re married, you can you can have sex. So how do you respond to that?

Kyle Bowman 3:57
Well, I’ve actually had somebody to also say that to me, or at least to say, you know, married people, they can just have sex whenever they want to. And the first thing I said to them, well, do you think that that’s an objectification of someone else? To think that this person is only available just for you to to have sex with? Whenever you want however you want and not have any regard for what their wants and needs are?

Bob Ragan 4:30
Yeah, yeah. And we must never forget that them the most whole and complete individually walk this planet was single. And Jesus had to walk through this as as we walk through it, and well, then someone said, Well, he was God. Well, but he was also Son of man. And he is my example. And he is the one that I know Jesus. You walk with temptation. And I know because you went before me That you are the one that will help me to walk through this. I’m not walking through this by myself.

Josh 5:05
Yeah, you, you guys are getting after some, some deeper stuff here, which is good. So let’s start going there that it’s almost like there is I’m hearing like there are these deeper lies underneath some of the surface temptations. So we start off by saying, how do you deal with temptation sexual temptation specifically as singles. And now we’re getting into Okay, there’s actually some faulty thinking among singles, or at least some singles when it comes to sexual temptation, one of those. One of the one of the pieces of faulty thinking that you guys just mentioned, the idea that just because you’re married, you can have sex that actually ends up being an objectification of treating somebody as an object. And yes, as a married person, you can treat your spouse like a sexual object, we walk with men and women who experienced that in their marriages to the other bar that you mentioned, is this kind of idea that I’m not even sure how to articulate exactly, there’s something what maybe you can even help me What, what’s the faulty thinking? Like? What maybe what brought you to bring that is that just the reality of Jesus walking as a single man into this conversation?

Bob Ragan 6:10
I think because there is the faulty thinking in our culture, that to be happy and content, you have to be sexually active. And I think that especially focuses on those of us walking in the state of singleness, that if we, if we believe the lies of the culture, then then then those sexual drives become something that I must absolutely satisfy. And that means I have to satisfy a part from God’s boundaries that he has set for us, as his creation to walk in healthy relationships. So I in a way I have to, I have to process this with Jesus and walk with him in a way that that those emotions within the hunger within the drives within are being surfaced in a way that I under I’m understanding what’s making me tick, what is really driving me here. But I have to recognize I have to walk away from what the world is saying is right for me, and saying, God in my singleness, what do you say is right for me?

Josh 7:19
That’s good. That’s good. Kyle, your smells with that?

Kyle Bowman 7:22
Yeah. I was also thinking that, you know, when we think as singles about sexual desire, it’s often very selfish, right? It’s about me. It’s about how do I get satisfied? How do I make myself feel better? It does not. In any way, think about the satisfaction of some other individual and and what sex is really designed to do. This is about a gift. It’s a gift to someone else. It’s not just this thing that I have, that somebody is supposed to feed in and make better for me.

Josh 8:04
Well, yeah, you mean you’re tapping into a whole whole deception kind of that our world has come under with in regards to sex, whether married or single, this idea that, that sex is about me and I, and even compatibility is measured by do I feel satisfied sexually. I better not wait till I’m married to have sex with this person. Because, you know, God forbid I get married and find that we’re not sexually compatible, aka that I’m not sexually satisfied. Yeah, this that’s big. So you guys are saying, let me just put it out there. You guys are saying you don’t need to have sex to be satisfied in life to be fulfilled?

Kyle Bowman 8:44
Absolutely not. You don’t. And I think this, like anything else, if if, if your focus is chocolate cookies, then you’re going to always chase after chocolate cookies, your whole thing is I gotta get chocolate cookies. But if you look at all this other food that’s available to you, besides chocolate cookies, you know, there’s nice vegetables in there is you know, protein, all this other? these other things that are available, then you get to see the bigger picture. And you can view your sexuality in in God’s bigger design for life. Instead of just looking at it under the microscope.

Josh 9:29
Yeah, good. But Kyle, I

Bob Ragan 9:30
want chocolate cookies. That’s, that’s what I want. And what I have to do is like, okay, God, there’s something more for me. And actually, chocolate cookies are actually limiting me. So God, what’s the bigger picture here? kit? Lord, would you help to line up my passions with your passions? Will you help me to see that there’s something more such that Again, break away from this lie that the word intimacy is always associated with sex. And yet that intimacy I pursuing is I want to, I want to know and be known by others. And so instead of when that that temptation comes to me, when I’m faced with sexual temptation, I’m like, Lord, help me to have those intimacy needs met in a way where I’m actually connecting with a person on a real level and objectifying them.

Josh 10:29
Yeah. So I saw here, two different pieces there, and I want to break them apart for our listeners. The first is this idea that, that there’s something deeper going on that I’m longing for. That it’s not just sex. The other and you, you started with this, I think is, is the idea that if I’m single, and I keep my mind set on, I made for sex, I need sex, or I need romancer I need this kind of relationship. Then I’m just I’m stoking a fire for something, and I may miss something else that God has, that’s actually really good for me maybe even better for me, right? So yes. So speak to that person a little bit. Like so. Bob, you you walk with a lot of single men and women in the ministry, what would you encourage them to do to take their eyes off, if they’re struggling with it with setting their eyes on marriage or significant other or sex so that their, that doesn’t become something that just kind of keeps stoking something that’s not that guy doesn’t have for them, or it doesn’t have for them right now at least?

Bob Ragan 11:33
Well, the thought that struck me is that if, if my focus is like, I got to be married, I want to be married, I’ve got to be in, in that relationship like that, am I is that vision and that drive, actually obliterating my capacity to see the relationships that are there or hear from you right now in terms of friendships. So am I so focused on finding that spouse, that what happens is, I’m not connecting with others around me in communion with my brothers and sisters in healthy friendships and healthy relationships, when in reality are going to better prepare me if I am to be married. So I’m learning how to celebrate my state of singleness where I am right now, by by connecting in a very real way with the many women in my community, so that I’m not withdrawing, I’m not isolating, which, of course we know. sexual temptation giving into like sexual addictions tend to isolate us from from community. So when I’m with the Lord’s help learning how to connect in real relationships with one another, that is actually causing me to rise up and become more of the man or the woman that God’s called me to be. And in that healthy way of relating, that is enabling me to become the man or woman that God’s created me to be? And if indeed he hit does have marriage down the road for me, I’m going to be much better prepared for that.

Josh 13:10
Yeah, I mean, isn’t it true whatever state we’re in the the ability to kind of say yes to the things that God is putting before us. The lessons he wants us to learn, as opposed to shaking your fist and saying, but God, you haven’t given me this yet. You know, you haven’t given me a spouse yet. You haven’t enabled me of sex. You haven’t give me kids yet? You haven’t given me this in my marriage, yet, whatever it is, as opposed to, Lord, what I have is, is the clay I’m working with, and what would you have me do? And how would you me live as I am right now?

Bob Ragan 13:38
See you there. It’s my focus is so down the road that I’m not able to see what’s in the present right now.

Josh 13:43
Yeah, yeah. Kyle, would you add any of that?

Kyle Bowman 13:46
Oh, I think the same thing is just how do you live in the present? How do you stay present to what God has for you that the picture that came to my mind is there’s a drawing of a young girl, and she has this little teddy bear in her hand. And she says, that Jesus, I want to keep this. And so Jesus, the picture of Jesus is he’s got this gigantic teddy bear behind his back that he wants to exchange. And so he wants her to trust him enough to give her that little thing, so that he could give her something so much bigger and better. And I think that’s what we miss, is when we keep our eyes on this thing that we think we should have. We missed this these big beautiful things that Jesus wants to give to us. And their eyes are not open for

Josh 14:42
you. You guys are basically challenging singles in what you’re saying. to dare to believe that and maybe this especially for singles, who desire to get married who are who are longing for that kind of closeness with another person, or that kind of cover. Or for a family of their own or to have sex? You’re, you’re daring them to believe that God has something better for them than what they’re holding out as the best for them?

Kyle Bowman 15:14
Yes, absolutely.

Bob Ragan 15:16
I was just saying, going along with that earlier analogy, if I keep eating chocolate chip cookies, it’s not going to be good for me. It’s not, it’s not going to sustain me. And God saying, Wait a minute, I have something better for you, I have something that is more substantial, something that will actually be better for you. And, and, and we, with our limited vision, we can often settle for so much less when God is saying, Wait a minute, I’ve got something even better, something even more profound for you? Will you let go of your control? Will you let go of what you think is best for you? And will you allow me to show you, I’ve got something so much more.

Josh 16:02
So So a couple things here as you’re listening listeners. First of all, we are not in any way saying that marriage is not great. The marriage is not a great blessing from the Lord, that marriage is not God’s does God’s design for many of us. Marriage is a wonderful gift. And even looking at our bodies, our bodies are designed for sexually for union with some of the other sex it just that we’re wired for these things. So if you have that longing, that’s fine. Have that long, you know, it’s a good godly longing. Like what you guys are saying is, if you don’t have that, yet, if God hasn’t given that to you yet, it doesn’t mean that God’s best is still out there somewhere. As long as you have Christ. As long as you are walking with Christ, you have God’s best whether you’re single or married. That’s a that is a that is a counter cultural message.

Bob Ragan 16:56
In Josh, I think comes down to that same basic, basic question that I know Jesus asked me very frequently. Bob, will you trust me? Right? Will you trust me? Will you trust me? That, that I’ve provided this path ahead of you and I am leading you? Will you trust me that I hear you, I see you and I know your heart? Will you trust me that I am caring for you?

Josh 17:23
I have a friend who who was sharing this recently with me, he said, You know, I really did make that shift where I started trusting God and started serving and started not just waiting for marriage to happen, but really kind of threw my chips in and said, Lord, you’re first I’m gonna I’m, I’m not going to run around and first forsake you because I’m pursuing marriage. But he said subtly, on it on it on a deeper level on it on a subtle level, I was kind of thinking, Well, once I really did that, then God would give me the spouse. Yeah, I was waiting until I really gave him everything, which you could poke a hole in that equation. If not another way, you can really poke a hole in it by saying, Well, there are a lot of married people who never ever gave God that kind of control in their lives, and they’re already married. So the we’re not saying there’s an equation here by what you say, Well, I’m

Bob Ragan 18:13
just gonna say I love that example. Because what the Lord show that man is like, Oh, yeah, there’s some unspoken expectations in me. Or there’s, there’s some kind of formula to all of this.

Kyle Bowman 18:28
Yeah, it’s so funny. Like, I’ve heard people say, Well, you know, you can, you can have a spouse if you prepare for spouse. Yeah. And so if you do these things, if you, you know, become the best person you can be if you know what it’s like to be with children, you know, they give you all these things that you can do. So that some way shape or form God is looking down. And he’s saying, oh, they’re doing all the things to get ready for marriage. So I guess I’ll bring them somebody right. And not understanding truly, deeply how you have been called by God to do whatever it is He has called you to do. And are you willing to say, God, it is so important to me to do your will? That if it means marriage or not, I’m still committed to doing your will?

Josh 19:21
Yeah, that’s,

Bob Ragan 19:22
that’s a hard word. And, and we do have these unspoken expectations. I remember there, there was a woman that was always very interested in and wanted to start dating and, and, and the relationship didn’t work out. And I’m driving in my car, which is where I normally have my discussions with God. My steering wheel Yeah, as our discussions I noticed, yeah. And, and I was letting my anger come out of God, saying, You dangle the carrot in front of my face, you know? And Atomy came this. I said, God, I went full time in ministry for your don’t I deserve this relationship. And you know, john I had no idea that was in me. But see, by letting that anger come up by being real with God, that expectation faulty as it was came out to me. And I immediately said, Thank you for that that came up to me because I didn’t even know that was in there. And and see. So as we as we walk through these trials as these challenge of being in the state of singleness and and having these wants and hopes and desires, through it, by staying present with what’s happening with deep within my heart with God, these faulty expectations copping out. And I think that, that makes the way clearer for what may happen down the road. That’s good.

Josh 20:43
Let’s pause there. We’re going to pick this conversation up next week, because there’s so much more we can say about this. So let me just pray for those listening. Yes, Jesus, we thank you that you have been tempted in every way as we have been. And yet you’re without sin. Or thank you that you decided not to stay aloof, far away from our experiences, but you entered into that and Lord, you entered into singleness to and so Lord, for the brothers and sisters who are listening, who are, who are single, whether they’re by choice, or for a season, or perhaps, Lord, for their whole lives, whether they want to be or not, we just pray special blessing on them and your grace on them. And Lord, would you even speak to them now about what you’re putting in front of them, or share share with them a piece of the hope you have for them? Not beyond singleness, but in their singleness? And we ask this in Jesus name, amen.

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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.

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