Two New Books: Letters to a Romantic

Dear Readers,

We have some exciting news.

We have been working on a project together over the past two years. We have been writing two books that are expanded versions of our Letters to a Young Engaged Man blog series. These books are being published by P&R and will release simultaneously in the Fall of this year.  

The books are called Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement.

The book On Dating begins with topics related to singleness and then covers a wide range of topics such as breaking up, physical affection, early marriage, and discussing sexual history. Some chapter titles include:

  • Marriage vs. Singleness
  • First Date
  • Should We Be in a Relationship?
  • Do We Have a Bad Relationship?  
  • What if I am not a Virgin?
  • Should I Guard My Heart?

The book On Engagement walks couples from the time right before a proposal all the way to their wedding night. Some chapter titles include:

  • The Length of Engagement
  • Till Death Do Us Part
  • Loving Your New Parents
  • Should We Elope?
  • Handling Conflict
  • On Birth Control

The chapters are designed to be short and can be read individually or together as a couple. Even though we don’t know the specifics of your situation, we have made a concerted effort to make each chapter as practical as possible. It is our prayer that this content feels immediately helpful and comes from a refreshing peer-like voice.  Our wives have also contributed to many of the letters and provided their own warm touches throughout the books.

Our prayer is that your plans for dating and engagement would begin aligning with God’s plans to glorify his Son in the world.  We pray that these letters will tune your ears to hear God’s voice in his Word and that these letters will provoke many conversations between you, your partner, and godly mentors in your life.  

We are not relational gurus.  Quite the opposite.  We would be the first to admit to you that when we follow our own wisdom… we get lost.  We are sinners who are desperately in need of God’s illuminating Word in every facet of our lives.  We have simply tasted the goodness of God’s shepherding voice in our romances, and we want you to taste it too. We pray that you fall in love with hearing his voice in the Bible so that it guides you in singleness, dating, and engagement – and every other season after that.

In the meantime you can check out the recent Truth in Love podcast with Dr. Heath Lambert and Sean on the topic of Physical Boundaries Before Marriage that discusses a controversial portion of the dating book.

As we continue to write to you, we always want to hear your letters. Don’t hesitate to send us your feedback and share your story with us.

 

Until then,

Sean and Spencer

 

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Wedding-Ring of Faith

by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

I finally saw the engagement pictures of you and your fiancee. You both look dashing if for no other reason than it is uncontrollably obvious you are both in love. I smiled as I saw the shot of you bowing the knee with ring in hand. Even through the tears, you couldn’t have looked happier.

I recently read an essay by the reformer Martin Luther and a couple of paragraphs caught my eye in light of your recent photos. He connects the gospel to marriage in a way that I had not considered before.

Luther notices that when a couple becomes one flesh, they fully give themselves to each other. The wife gives everything she has to her husband and the husband gives everything she has to the wife.

Our union with Christ is similar. Everything we have (which is sin, shame, guilt and death) becomes Christ’s and everything He has (which is purity, holiness, freedom and life) becomes ours.

Luther writes,

“The third incomparable grace through faith is this, that is unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband; by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage, then it follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His.”

This is the sweet exchange that Luther is talking about: “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine; as it is written, “My beloved is mine, and I am His.””

All of our sins becomes Christ`s and all of His righteousness becomes ours. Many people only think of the gospel as providing forgiveness, but the gospel also gives us the righteous state of Jesus. (2 Cor 5:23) His perfect life becomes our life and our sinful life became His on the cross. This forgiveness and righteousness is only obtained by “the wedding ring of faith.”

Your marriage will not be based on conditions of works. She will not submit a list of good deeds to you at the alter. You may pour sand into a jar, but you will not weigh scales. You will not swap resumes but you will exchange rings. She became your fiancée and wife by a simple pledge of faith.

“Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its husband Christ.”

Brother, as she takes your hand in faith, take the hand of Christ by faith. Pledge your life to him trusting not in your good works or good intentions but only in His perfect life and saving death.
Christ did not buy you with a mere precious metal, but with His own precious blood.
Celebrate your proposal and ponder the greater privilege of being united to Christ.

To conclude with Luther, “Who then can value enough these royal nuptuals? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace?”

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Warm Heart vs. Cold Feet

by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

Don’t panic. After your last letter, I felt the icy fear freezing your feet. It almost made me want to put socks on. You are concerned about whether you should continue on the path toward marriage or bail for the single trail.

Let’s examine the series of events:

  • You have been studying your devotions and have spent a long time in 1 Corinthians 7.
  • You want to serve the Lord as best as you can and it seems Paul says singleness is the way to go.
  • Your friends are leaving for the missions field while you are registering for teapots and curtain rods.
  • Your friends are being radical and spending all day at the homeless shelter while you are spending all day licking invitation stamps.
  • You want to serve Jesus but now you are wondering how could you possibly be advancing the kingdom by pursuing marriage.

Pause. Grab the railing. Come let us reason together.
I think you already know the answer, but I will try to freshen the air.

The question of singleness or marriage all boils down to gifting.
Which gift do you have?

“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” (1 Corinthians 7:6-7 ESV)

Notice that both singleness and marriage are gifts. A gift is a good thing.
Singleness is not for the folks who didn’t make the cut. Singleness is not for those who missed the wedding bus and are sulking on the sewer curb.
No, the life of singleness is for those who are zealous for God and his gospel. God has designed singleness for those who do not settle for the mediocre. If you have the gift of singleness, seize it for the glory of God. Take life by the horns, ride the bull, live or die. Launch into the heat of the battle with no restrictions or reservations. Take no prisoners and leave no farewell letters. Visit the orphan, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and preach the gospel.

How do you know if you have the gift of singleness? You are not burning with passion for a wife. You are fine without fatherhood and satisfied without sex. You are content with Jesus and yourself.
Are these questions too basic or too secular? I don’t think so. Jesus has capital on the “secular” and he is the one who made the body to burn for his glory.

But what if you do desire a wife? What if you desire to lead a family and love a woman exclusively without reserve? This might mean marriage is for you.

Marriage is not for those less spiritual or those with less gusto for the gospel. The married life is not for those just couldn’t jump far enough on to the radical boat and are left on the unspiritual dock.
No, the life of marriage is for those who are zealous for God and his gospel. God has designed marriage to display his glory in a unique way. If you have the gift of marriage, don’t bail because you feel less spiritual. Take your wife by the hand, plunge into life, until you die. Launch into the heat of love with no restrictions or reservations. Take up a job and produce little children. Adopt the orphan, feed your neighbor, heal the sick, and preach the gospel.

He who finds a wife, finds a good thing. He who lives a single life, lives a good thing. The point of 1 Corinthians 7 is to live as you are called. Live each season with God first in your heart.  Advance the kingdom of Jesus according to the desires God has given you and according to the circumstances he has placed you in, even if it is not what you expected.

Brother, if your heart longs for your fiancee, it is no sin to marry. Receive it and do not reject it.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV)

I have belabored the point, but I am confident your burning heart will warm your cold feet.

Until then,
Sean

Letter To A Young Engaged Man: The Marriage Bed

Dear Young Engaged Man,

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes sex.

I am frustrated by most churches who neglect this topic and do the body of Christ great harm. Simultaneously, I am frustrated with other churches who are explicit with sex and talk about it in very unhelpful ways; nevertheless, Jesus wants Christians to think biblically about this topic.  Many things could be said here but I want to focus on the attitude that should shape the way we view sex.

The gospel has no bounds and is not privy to categories of “public” or “private.” Jesus is the God of the living room and of the bed room. God will not let you be selfish in any area, including your most intimate endeavors. Our sex drive should be selfless. Your pleasure must be rooted in God and in bringing your spouse pleasure.

On your wedding night and then every night after, your mind should be that of Christ Jesus, who, although being in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:5-7). Before lying down in bed with your wife, you must be willing to lay your life down for her.  We need the grace of Jesus to do this.

The Christian must not do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. The marriage bed must remain undefiled by lust and selfishness.  This is why only Christians can have truly satisfying sex. Only the Christian couple can find their delight in selfless service. It is only the Christian husband or wife who can satisfy both their body and heart in the marriage bed.

Remember to love your neighbor as yourself, especially the one who will sleep next to you. Settle it in your heart now to make your marital bliss complete by being selfless. Purpose to do whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, or have sex, to do it all for the glory of God.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: A Wedding is a Community Event

Dear Young Engaged Man,

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

As my wedding approached, the amount of generosity my friends and family showed my wife and I was overwhelming.  You would not believe some of the stories: A couple of my friends came over one evening to cook for me while another friend feverishly moved my fiancées possessions into our future home; other friends poured out the love of Christ by addressing wedding invitations, wrapping party favors, and compiling power points; parents shopped for us, planned for us, and provided for us all along the way. Every hole was patched and every loose end was tied by the love and affection of our neighbors. I cannot tell you of all the instances of kindness we experienced.

The climax of this relentless hospitality was during the few days before the ceremony.  Over and over again the words “what can I do next?” graciously found their way to us.  Some did not even ask because they had already thought of projects to tackle.

A wedding is truly a community event. Our brothers and sisters washed our feet with joyful smiles and reflected a deep love for Christ and His bride.

What is hospitality?  Jeff Dalrymple often summarizes hospitality as anticipating the needs of others. This is an excellent definition. Anticipating the needs of others and joyfully meeting them for the glory of Christ.  What separates secular hospitality from Christian hospitality? Genuine joy.  Our wedding party exhibited a deep fountain in Jesus which overflowed into the basins where they placed our feet. Our family had their finger on our pulses to continually check our needs and meet them.  Their example is a letter about hospitality that continues to be circulated.

May we emulate them as they emulate Christ.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: The Weighty Thrill

Dear Young Engaged Man,

When the time comes for you to stand before your bride and say your vows, a mix of emotions will flood your soul. The exchange of vows is a weighty thrill.  You are thrilled by your deep love for her and the weight of your promise is sobering.  The line in your vows that perhaps carries the most weight is “Till death do us part.”  Not many couples realize the significance of this short phrase.

If you say this phrase, you will be committing to never leave nor forsake your bride until the day you breathe your last. You will be committing to be a one woman man until you behold Jesus face to face.

Be warned. The promise is not “Till adultery do us part.” Nor is it “Till abandonment do us part.”

I am convinced that the Bible teaches believers should not divorce under any circumstances. We can discuss that later if you like, but even if you disagree, I plead with you to discard any “parachute cord” from your marriage. Remove from your mind all reasons for divorce and live as Christ does with his bride. Irrevocably committed.

Christ will never leave nor forsake his bride, even when we commit adultery against him.  Christ will never abandon his wife, even when we abandon our first love.  The vows are weighty and before a holy God.  Our “yes” must be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. Heath Lambert helped me realize the seriousness of the wedding vows. He has pointed out that if you are going to hold to legitimate exceptions for divorce in your marriage, then you must include them in your vows or completely leave off the phrase “Till death do us part.” You can’t have your exception and eat it too.

Ephesians chapter five calls us to love our wife as Jesus loves us. Make a fundamental commitment to never separate what God joins together. (Mark 10:9)  God calls you to be a Hosea even if you marry a Gomer.

I am praying for you as you prepare for the weighty thrill of covenanting together with your bride.  May your marriage oaths be true until either you or the heavens and earth pass away.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To a Young Engaged Man: One Day Closer

Dear Young Engaged Man,You are one day closer to marriage and you are one day closer to the return of Jesus.There is a link between these two things: Just as you long to be with your bride in an unhindered and unrestrained way, you should long to be with your Savior free from sin and unrestrained by the flesh.  Just as you have waited all these years for your wedding day and life together, I pray you have waited all of these years to behold the face of Jesus and spend eternity together.  Your bride is going to walk down the aisle to meet you – the one who loves her and has longed for her.  Jesus is going to descend from the sky to meet those who have loved him and awaited his return.

Many times at the beginning of engagement people asked me, “What day are you thinking about getting married?” I would respond “tomorrow” or “yesterday.” I assume you are like me and can hardly wait.  Towards the end of engagement people have cheerfully asked, “Are you excited?”
This question became wonderfully foolish because the answer was so obvious. I assume the same will be for you.

Brother, I do not say this to be overly spiritual or to sound puritan. The only thing more exciting than the upcoming wedding day is the return of Jesus.  I say that because Jesus has been kind to my heart and I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. His steadfast love is better than marriage.

Now you might be tempted to think, “If Jesus comes back before I am married, then will I have missed out?” Or you might be tempted to feel depressed that you did not get to experience the joy, friendship, or intimacy of marriage.  Take heart. “Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” (This Momentary Marriage, pg. 15)  Or to think of it visually, we would never trade a person for a photo.

Marriage is simply a picture of the person and work of Jesus Christ; marriage is only a mirror that reflects the relationship of Jesus and His bride; marriage is merely a good gift to glorify a satisfying God.  Enjoy marriage, but only as it submits the the supreme pleasure of knowing God.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but soon we shall see face to face.

Until then,
Sean