Then he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)If there's anything clear in Scripture, it's that following Jesus is a matter of the heart. It's not just about doing the right things, but about why we're doing them. He wants to change us from the inside out.
Today I read an article on sexual purity that was a compelling example of this principle. "True love waits" is a noble campaign to encourage purity in young people. But I'm a classic example of the question raised by the article: if the motivation for waiting is the "carrot" of marriage - when the waiting will be over - what is the motivation if marriage isn't in your immediate future? (For example, if you're going to be single into, say, your 50's or beyond.) Since the purity was temporary, until marriage, how do you respond when temporary approaches permanent?
The answer is complicated - like it is for all life questions - but the short version is this: God doesn't want us to be pure just because we're waiting for the day when we don't have to be. He wants us to be pure because we are denying our own selfish desires for a greater joy, fellowship with the Father through Jesus. In other words, future marriage isn't my motivation for purity; my faith is.
So purity in this area is spiritual discipline that will teach us to live Luke 9:23 in all areas. No wonder Jesus says elsewhere (Matthew 5:8) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
The whole article is here: "True Love Does More than Just Wait" (Relevant Magazine)
If you'll take the time to read it, I think it'll challenge you like it did me.