Red Flags in Romance

Things are getting heated, and we don’t mean #bachelorinparadise. In this message, we open up God’s Word to the first two chapters of Song of Solomon. We learn from a spicy biblical romance what we should do and what we should look out for when we’re all up in our feels.

Message Transcript

All right! Here we go! Rated R for Romance kicking off. Welcome, friends here, Fort Worth, El Paso, Phoenix, Fayetteville, Philadelphia, Nashville, wherever you are joining or tuning in from. We are kicking off a new series, Rated R for Romance, looking at and exploring love, dating, relationships, and looking specifically at the Song of Solomon. What would you say is the greatest love song of our era? In this room we're probably divided about some. There are probably some classics that make the list, like this oldie but goodie from T Swift.

[Song]

"Love Story." Such a classic. Or maybe you, like me, can bring it back to high school, and you're like, "Dude, this was just the jam back then."

[Song]

Hit that falsetto, Usher. Come on! I think, without question, the greatest love song of our generation or of this era we're living in has to be this by your girl Whitney.

[Song]

Falsetto coming from the audience. Man! What is it with that song? It almost makes you emotional in here if you're dating. You're welcome. The reason I start there is because tonight we are starting a series where we are looking at a song the Bible calls the greatest love song of all time, the Song of Solomon. For the next six weeks, we're going to explore the relationship this song that Solomon, who wrote…

In 1 Kings, chapter 4, we're told that Solomon, who was a king in ancient Israel, lived 3,000 years ago, so some of this literature we're about to study will be the oldest literature you maybe have ever read. Solomon wrote a ton of songs, and this one he said was the greatest of all of them. Here's what you need to know about this song. I don't know that it has ever been more needed or more relevant. We live in a culture that both loves love and is really bad at love.

Everyone loves it. There's a reason The Bachelor is the most successful show on ABC year after year, yet at the same time, we live in a culture where the divorce rate is 50 percent, where many people, though they fall in love, don't seem to be able to stay in love. There's bad example after bad example we're given from Hollywood, and the most notable names are people who fell in love but couldn't stay in love.

We're given bad example after bad example, including many of The Bachelor. You look around, and trending over the weekend is Miley Cyrus leaving her bisexual relationship with a girl. She just had divorced her husband. We are given one bad picture of what it looks like to have love and romance after another. Even the ones that we would all be like, "Oh, they're so beautiful. It must be amazing…" Brad and Angelina. They end up falling apart. So many different bad examples are given, and it would be awesome if there was a great example.

The good news is that God who's there loves romance. He created it. He loves sex. He created it, and he intended it to be a part of his incredible design for human relationships, specifically in the context of marriage. He gives us this amazing, beautiful picture in the Song of Songs, and it showcases what a romantic relationship should look like, from the chase to the wedding to the rest of their lives together.

It's a book that, honestly, as we're going to go through it, you're going to be like, "Dude, I cannot believe this is in the Bible." It is a book that Hebrew men and women were not able to read until they either married or were 30 years old because it was so erotic and sexual in its nature and content. They're going to make love two times in this book. They are including types of sexual expression toward one another that, dude, you do not want to read with your mom sitting next to you, because you're like, "I can't believe this is in there."

We're going to explore what God has to say, because one of the greatest lies people are told is that God is against sex. God created sex. He is all about it, and he wants you and me to experience his design for sex in the context of marriage and have a romance like so few people ever really experience inside of their life.

So we're going to look at this book for the next handful of weeks. Here's what you need to know about the book: it is Hebrew poetry. In other words, it was a song in the original Hebrew language, which is what it was written in and then translated to English. It was a song that rhymed together. A lot of things you almost miss out on, so we'll try to highlight some of those, because just like a song, it had moments where it rhymed and flowed together.

In the song it has three different characters. It has a man, a woman, and her friends. It has a man who speaks about 30 percent of the time, a woman who speaks about 55 percent of the time (that feels normal), and then her friends, because it's like, "If you're going to be my lover, you've got to go with my friends." That's what we're going to trace and see as we explore this book together.

Tonight, we're going to look at the chase. What do I mean by "the chase"? I mean those initial stages in dating where the book starts off. I don't know if you are in the middle of a chase right now, if you are like, "I haven't had anyone chasing me in years, or ever," or you are someone who probably needs to stop chasing because they said, "No." It's applicable to all of us, because at some point, that initial stage of relationship is going to be a part of your life.

What does it look like to successfully navigate those waters together? Most of you will be married in the next decade, statistically. It's not a guarantee. I'm not making promises, but statistically, the majority of you in the years you are a part are going to decide who is going to be your spouse, and next to who is going to be the God you worship, who is going to be the person you marry is one of the most important decisions you can make.

So, if we're going to do so and have the opportunity to learn from what God says, "This is who you should look for; this is how you should handle the chase," what a tragedy it would be to not take advantage of that and learn from Miley Cyrus versus the God of the universe. So, in this book we're going to go through the chase, dating and engagement, the wedding night and sex, conflict, how to stay in love after you fall in love, and "until death do us part," continuing to move together in marriage.

Tonight, I'm going to read the verses we'll cover from this first chapter. There's a lot of Bible we're about to cover, a chapter and seven verses total. So if you didn't get a quiet time in, you're about to get it in right now. Here we go. We're going to start in verse 2. In verse 1 he says, "Solomon's Song of Songs." It immediately launches into her. She's the first one speaking.

"Let him…" Talking about her boo. "…kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers." The friends jump in. They say, "We rejoice and delight in you [two] ; we will praise your love more than wine."

Her speaking: "How right they are to adore you! Dark am I…" Talking about her skin complexion. "…yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar…" Which is this tribe that made these dark tents. "…like the tent curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother's sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I had to neglect."

Unlike in our culture where everyone is trying to get tan, in that culture, everyone was trying to not be tan, because it showed that you were out working in the fields a lot if you were dark. It showed you were a commoner. She's basically saying she has this humble insecurity about the way she looks, but she also knows she's lovely.

Verse 7. She speaks to him. "Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?" He speaks and responds in a flirty, almost playful way. "If you do not know, most beautiful of women, follow the tracks of the sheep and graze your young goats by the tents of the shepherds.""You know exactly where I am, lady. You come and get me."

Verse 9. He speaks. "I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh's chariot horses." I'm going to come back to that, because he's not just saying, "Girl, you're like a horse." "Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver."

She speaks: "While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance. My beloved is to me a sachet…" That's like a necklace with a sack on it. "…of myrrh…" That's perfume that would have been in there. "…resting between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi."

He says, "How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves." Doves could only focus on one thing at a time. So he's not saying, "You have birdy little eyes." He's saying, "You only have eyes for me." She says to him, "How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant." Or green, as in grass. "The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs." They're outside in a park, if you will, having a conversation.

She says, "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys." He says, "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women." She says, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples…" Those are aphrodisiacs. "…for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me."

She then turns and talks to her friends after she's getting all hot and bothered. "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." What I want to cover tonight as it relates to the chase is what I would call Red Flags in Romance.

I want to look at some of the characteristics that mark this couple's relationship, and there were five red flags that if the things we're going to cover are absent from your relationship, you should be concerned. As you navigate the waters of a relationship someday… Maybe you're like, "I'm single, and I have no way to apply this right now."

In some context, in some future day, you may enter into a relationship, and you need to know, "These are red flags I should really be concerned about." Consistent red flags all throughout the Scripture, the Bible says, but tonight we're going to see it as we look at some of the characteristics that marked their relationship, and if they're absent from yours, you should be concerned. So, red flags in dating. The first red flag I want to highlight comes from the first couple of verses she said.

1.When their character is not what attracts you to them. Why do I say that? The second verse says, "Let him kiss me…" Another translation says, "Kiss me and kiss me again…" She's basically going, "This is a guy… I want him to lay one on me right now." If you read that, you're going, "What has possibly gotten her so in the mood?" She says, "Here's why."

Verse 3: "My man is pleasing in his fragrance and perfumes, but his name…" Or his reputation, the person he is. "…is like perfume poured out." In the original Hebrew it actually all rhymes together. She basically says, "Dude, this brother smells good, but even better than how he smells on the outside is the type of person he is on the inside. His reputation, his name is like the highest and greatest perfume there could be. It's of incredible value."

What attracted her most to him was not his outside appearance but his character, his reputation, who he was as a person. This drove her to go, "That is someone I want to be in a relationship with." Is what attracts you to the person you're dating their character, who they are, their relationship with Jesus, their ability to be trustworthy? Not just how they look on the outside, but are you attracted to, can you with integrity…?

If you're dating someone right now, is part of what attracts you…? I hope you're madly in love and madly attracted on the outside of what they look like, but if you don't have a character you're also attracted to, you are attracted to something that is fleeting, declining, and the Bible says deceiving. It's going away, but character is going to be there. If the character of the person you're dating in a relationship is not attractive to you, you should be concerned.

Is what attracts you to them their love for people, the way they treat people, the way they use their time, the words they say, the way they keep their word or promises? Do they seem like someone who's going to be a good mom or a good dad, someone you want your daughters to be like someday, someone you want your sons to be like someday? Is what attracts you to them their character?

Girls, the Bible says a man is supposed to lead you in marriage. If you're going to allow somebody to lead you in a relationship, in your marriage…I cannot stress enough…you need to be asking, "Who is leading him?" If you're going to allow him to lead your life, if he's going to lead the direction of your family, lead your children someday, ask the question, "Is he being led by himself, by his own desires, by his future work preferences and his dream for his life or is he led by the Spirit of God and the Word of God?"

The same I would say to guys. Guys, you want to know, "Is this a girl who's going to just wear me thin?" This is so important. There are so many beautiful women, and guys go in and are like, "Oh man, this is amazing. We're going to have this amazing sex someday." And they get in, and the wife is nagging. She doesn't love them. She doesn't love Jesus. She's selfish. She ends up doing anything but pursuing God's best, and they're just really hot. That honeymoon sex faded away, and now the relationship and romance is cold.

You need to be asking, "Is this a woman I want to covenant my life with? Can she follow me?" How do I know if she can follow me? Is she following Jesus right now? The way you can determine, "Is this someone who has character in their life…?" If they're a guy, what is leading him? What's directing his life? Is he a part of a church and committed underneath the authority of elders? Because that's what the Spirit of God in the Bible says it leads men to do.

Is she being led to spend time caring for other people? Does she serve with her gifts? That's what someone who follows Jesus is going to do. What is the character of the person you're dating? If they are not someone who is following Jesus, focusing on their relationship with him, where character, who they are as a person, is what jumps out and attracts you to them, you should be concerned.

This is so huge, and I'm going to try to say this as gently as I can. Bad character attracts bad character, and good character attracts good character. In other words, they find each other. Bear with me. If you are in a place where you're like, "Dude, I've just been in one dysfunctional relationship after the next. All men are pigs. I can't believe these guys. They're just a bunch of jerks out there. This is just what they are. I've had seven messed-up, jerk guys take advantage of me. It's just what guys do…"

Who's the common denominator in all of those relationships? It's you. I've said before my wife is a counselor. She'll always say the level of dysfunction in a person… It's like the other person will find that same person of dysfunction. The best way you can set yourself up to have the type of marriage and to find the type of spouse you want is to focus on your character, because the opposite is true.

Someone of good character who's following Jesus, who cares about the things God cares about, is not going to date someone who has bad character. You know that, right? In other words, if you're like, "What the Bible says when it lays out this is what a godly husband should be… He should lay his life down for his wife and serve her and care for her and spend time with his kids and sacrifice all of his desires to care for the needs of his family. That's a really mature character man."

The best way you can focus on making sure you move in the direction of having that type of man in your life… It's not guaranteed, but the best way you can move in that direction is by being the type of person that man is looking for, because a man of incredible character is not going to be like, "Oh, she's out, and she's probably going to sleep around. She has this side addiction or she drinks a little too much, but, dude, she is smoking hot." That's not a man of character.

So the best thing you can do right now is focus on working on your relationship with Jesus, not focusing on dating. Some of you may need to break up and just say, "I'm going to go to re:gen. I'm going to work on my character. I want to develop and become the type of person God wants me to be, and I'm going to set myself up, hopefully, to find a spouse who has that same vision, shares those same values and character which lasts far longer than the physical characteristics I see today that are going to be gone tomorrow."

I had a friend recently call, and they were sharing about a relationship they had just formed. They had not been walking with Jesus for any amount of time, really in general. They'd been in and out. They'd been in some rehab. God's grace is big enough and bigger than all of that stuff, but had just been a mess. They called, and they were like, "Hey, I've got this new girl. You're going to love her. She's a church girl, loves Jesus, Christian. It's been great. We're going to church together, living together."

My biggest red flag was, "Man, I don't know that that's true. I don't know that she is following Jesus, because she's dating you. If she was following Jesus, she would be dating someone who's following Jesus, and you're not following Jesus right now. So my biggest flag and biggest concern about her is that she's dating you. You need to get healthy. You need to get into an abiding relationship with Christ. You need to get in community with other people around you."

As gently and as compassionately as I can… I don't say that to pick on you, because that's applicable to some of us in the room. The biggest concern I would have is that they're dating you. You need to say, "I have not been following what God says for me, but what the Bible lays out as the type of romance and love that is possible for me, the type of peace that can mark my home and my children could grow up in… I would love to have that." God says work and focus on your character.

2.When others don't celebrate the relationship. You see in verse 4 that the friends chime in and say, "We rejoice and delight in you [two] ; we will praise your love more than wine. How right they are to adore you!" More than wine, or more than the party, essentially. "Better than any weekend party thing that we're getting together is this relationship." They had friends in their life who were like, "Dude, this is amazing. You guys are better together than you are apart. We celebrate. We're all about it."

Why do I say the word celebrate? Because if people in your life are not coming alongside and going, "I'm not just neutral on you guys moving forward, but this is a great thing…" People in your Community Group or your small group, people who are believers in your family or friends, people coming around being like, "This is awesome. I support this. I support you dating him. He's the type of guy I want to date someday or that I hope my children end up dating."

Oftentimes, the inverse is true, where people in our lives try to tell us, "Hey, I'm concerned. He doesn't seem like that great of a guy" or "I'm not sure he's the right one for you." If those are things you're hearing, you should be concerned. The Bible over and over says that God's provision and protection for us is other believers in our lives speaking out the truth of what they see.

Oftentimes, this leads people to almost buy this lie that's like, "You know what? The world is just against us. Everyone is jealous of our love together. They don't like it because they can't have it and it's so sizzly together. I don't even care. I'm disconnecting from everyone." This couple didn't do that. How do I know that? Because you can't celebrate what you don't see, and they had people in their life going, "This is a great thing."

Are people in your life encouraging and celebrating the relationship or are they concerned about it? If so, you should be concerned. If you have believers in your life and you're dating someone, I want to encourage you to ask them these two questions, like, in your Community Group. I want to invite you to take advantage of what God says, that plans fail for lack of counsel. Over and over the Proverbs say you have to have wise people in your life speaking into it.

So I want to invite you, if you're dating someone and you're in a Community Group or you're in a small group or someday if you ever are, to invite them in and ask them this question. "I want to hear from each of you. Does anything you see in my relationship with him or my relationship with her give you pause about us moving forward? Honestly. Does anything you see in my relationship with him or in him or in her give you pause about us moving forward? Honestly." Invite them to speak in. The second question being, "Do you think we're good together?"

If you're in the room and maybe you're like, "Dude, I have a friend who is in a relationship that just seems toxic. I'm concerned about them. I don't think he's a believer or she's a believer. I feel a burden that maybe I should say something. How do I do that?" Here's how you do that. You go to them individually, and humbly and prayerfully you just say, "Can I just share with you what I see? I'm concerned about Rob. I'm concerned about Jessica, and here are the three things I've noticed that could be wrong."

Be open to the fact that you may be wrong, but just communicate, "As someone who loves you and cares about you, who is committed to seeing you flourish, like I hope you are for me, I just felt like I had to bring this up, because I'm concerned." I know so many people just in doing this for the last 10-plus years who didn't have friends in their life who spoke those truths, and everybody saw it. Here's the deal: we see it. It's not crazy where it's like, "Oh yeah. I saw that coming." They ended up divorcing one another. It just entirely fell apart, and nobody ever told them the truth in that dating phase.

The worst thing you can do, candidly… Stop being the friend who when you don't think a relationship is healthy follow them on Instagram together and be like, "Oh my gosh! Heart, heart, heart. Love this!" when they post a picture of them two together. You're like, "Yes, this is so beautiful. Oh, love it. Hope I get in the bridal party." You are not being a good friend. You can be a good friend, but it involves you going, if you see something, and saying something.

3.Whenever you are not okay or they are not okay being single. Why do I say that? One of my favorite lines in this first chapter is what she says to the guy where she says, "Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?"

She's basically like, "Hey, where you at, boy? I want to come and be around you. What gym do you go to? I want to go to that gym. Where do you live? I'm going to put myself in your presence. I want to be around you." Then she says, "And I'm not just looking for any man. Why would I want to be like a veiled woman…?" That's a prostitute.

She's basically like, "Hey, I'm interested in waiting for the right person, and if I don't find the right person, I'm not just going to put myself out there among the flocks of your friends, or among the flocks of other people. I'm looking for and waiting for the right person." She was content with being single. It was okay if she wasn't in a constant state of being in a relationship with someone.

Are you someone who is okay in this season of singleness? That you're allowing God to grow your patience, grow your contentment in him; you're allowing God to teach you, and you're believing and seeking to trust, "Jesus is enough. I'm okay. I'm not going from one relationship to the next relationship to the next relationship."

Are you someone who's like, "Man, I've never been single for more than three months"? It may be that you're not okay being single, and that may be something you need to evaluate with other people in your life. The second thing I love about that verse is it answers a question that so many girls ask all the time. One of the most common things we got asked this week was, "Hey, is it okay for a girl to show she's interested in a guy?"

This woman would say "Yes." That's pretty forward, where you're like, "Hey, boo. Where are you going to be, because I'm going to be there? I may just conveniently show up and be like, 'Oh, I didn't know you shopped at this grocery store, but I followed you here, so now I do. This is great. Should we go in together?'" He was reciprocating. He was like, "Girl, you know exactly where I shop at this grocery store. You followed me here. I saw it. I liked it. Okay?" That's what happened. It's catty and it's flirty and it goes back and forth. She puts herself out there.

In some ways, I think that's an okay thing. Generally speaking, guys, step up. There are a bunch of godly, amazing, beautiful girls in this room. Ask them out. But also, women, I don't think it's inappropriate for you to put together an event and strategically try to put yourself in the presence of godly men and be like, "Hey, we're going to the movies, and I'm inviting these other four people so I can invite you. Want to ride together?" I think there's some level where that's okay. Or throwing it out on the radar.

You probably should realize guys are a lot less intelligent than you think. When you throw the event and you're like, "Oh man, I'm totally putting myself out here," like, "Hey, do you want to go to the movies with all of these people and ride together?" he's going, "Oh, I love that movie. That sounds great. I've been wanting to see Avengers. For real? You'll drive? I'd love to save on gas. This is cool." He has no idea. So you just need to know…

I know there are some guys in the room who are picking it up. I was not one of them. In fact, I don't know that I would be married if my wife didn't throw herself on the radar out there to me. We were working at this Christian camp, and I was teaching at the camp over a couple of summers. I remember she wrote these different notes to me that were encouraging. I didn't know her well. We had gone to the same college, and I knew of her character, knew positive things.

But she wrote these notes, and she was like, "I was totally putting myself out there." I just read the note like, "Oh my gosh! That's so nice. She loved the message. That's amazing. This is great." But it did put her on my radar in a way that only continued to grow from there. Point being, is it okay to strategically put yourself in the presence of godly men? Yes. Hopefully that answers your question.

4.When there is lack of clarity in the relationship, you should be concerned. This is a couple, and the guy leads well by defining who she is to him, both to her and to everyone else around him. What do I mean by that? On multiple occasions, like that mare, where he brings up, "You're like the mare that pulls Pharaoh's chariots…" What does that even mean? Well, the horses that would line whenever Pharaoh would go to war…

He'd bring all of his soldiers out, and they'd go out to war, and they'd form this huge line of all of the warriors together, and there would be black stallions that lined. It was an intimidating force. You would see black horse, black horse, black horse, except for right in the middle would be Pharaoh, and he would be led by a white mare, a white female horse.

Solomon is basically saying, "You're the only one for me. You're my bae. You're before anybody else. You are the only girl for me. Everything else, I'm not even seeing it. You're one of a kind. That's how I see you." Then she says, "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys." It's an incredibly beautiful verse unless you actually study what that verse means.

A rose of Sharon was an incredibly common flower, and a lily of the valley was very, very common. In other words, she's saying, "I'm nobody. I'm nothing special. I'm just a commoner. I'm like a dandelion amongst a field of weeds. That's who I am. I'm nothing special." She's almost doing what I feel like girls still do today, where they downplay themselves in hopes that the guy would be like, "No, you're not."

You know what I mean? Where girls are like, "Oh my gosh. Look at this picture. Oh, I look terrible in it." You're hoping the guy isn't like, "Oh, yeah. Yeah. That is not your color for sure. It's okay. Everyone has bad hair days." You're hoping the guy is like, "Are you serious? You are beautiful. That's what you look like to me."

Luckily, our Don Juan responds and says, "Hey, this is who you are. You're not some lily of the valley. Like a lily among thorns is my darling among all the other women." Like, "You are the only girl for me. Every other woman is like a thorn compared to this lily. That's how I see you." He drives for clarity in the relationship with her.

She does the same in her comment about her myrrh being around her neck. The myrrh would have been the most valuable possession she would have, and she'd be like, "This is this incredibly valuable thing to me. That's who you are. You are, as it were, resting close to my heart, this thing of incredible value."

A couple of verses later, in chapter 2, verse 4, she literally says, "Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love." What does that mean? It's incredibly beautiful, whatever it means, but here's what it means. A banner over something would signify, "This is whose this is." It kind of designates, "This is who I am and whose I am."

Similar to a flag. You know at the Olympics when all of the teams come in and they carry the flags and they're like, "Oh, there's Jamaica, and there's USA," and all of the different teams? In the same way, when you went off to war, people would carry a banner, and it would declare, "We're the nation of Israel. We're the people of God."

She's saying, "When I go in, it's like I went into his banqueting hall, the palace banqueting hall, publicly on display for everybody, and his banner over me was love. 'This is my girl.'" He was not ashamed to publicly display, "This is my girl." He brought clarity to the relationship. The Facebook status was changed. He was willing to say, "I'm in with this girl. I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it," is essentially what he's saying.

If you're in a relationship and the guy or the girl is unwilling… If you've been dating for more than a couple of days or you've been dating for more than a month and they're unwilling to acknowledge publicly that there's something going on there, you should be concerned that you're not dating; you're getting played, because a godly guy with character and a godly girl are going to fight to bring clarity to that relationship together.

Clarity should mark the relationship together. Solomon did not leave her wondering. One of the best things, as we've talked about so many times, guys… You will set yourself ahead of the pack if you will just do this. If you are like, "I want to wake up and be 10 points more attractive to women tomorrow," be a guy who leads by removing confusion.

Don't leave them wondering. Don't leave them going, "Where is this thing going together?" You bring clarity. "I'd like to take you out." Then, at the end of that date, if you want to continue moving forward, you say, "I'd like to continue taking you on another date. I enjoyed our time together. I'd love to spend time getting to know you."

When you feel like it's clear in your head you'd like to do that again or you'd like to spend more time, you sit them down or you call them or you communicate to them, "I would love to continue getting to know you in an intentional way. I'm not sure we're going to get married. I'm not promising any of that stuff. I just would like to continue spending time with you." You just telegraph or communicate, "Here's where I see this going. Is that okay with you?"

Girls, when they do that, if you're not in, don't be like, "Uh, yeah," and then just ghost them and not ever respond. You say, "I'm not interested right now. Thank you for honoring me in the way you've communicated and spending time with me, but I'm not interested in moving forward." You communicate intentionally and drive for clarity in the relationship. You need to be intentional. At the same time, don't be intense.

I also have guys who feel like they need to telegraph every five seconds when they're with that person, like, "I am now going to sit down and use the salt here, and I would like to spend more time with you, and I have already chosen six children's names if you would like…" You don't need to be intense. You don't need to be weird. Just consistently be like, "Here's where I see the relationship going," and then define the relationship. See the responsibility on you to define it.

Women, bring clarity on those moments if you don't want the relationship to keep going, but if there's not clarity driven around your relationship, you should be concerned. I think the further implication would be publicly, you should be declaring… If you're in a dating relationship, it should be no mystery to the world around you. "I am with her. She's the one I'm spending time with."

You're not texting other girls. You're not sliding into DMs of other random people just kind of putting feelers out in case this thing falls apart. You're not posting a lot of comments on other girlfriends, like, "Man, you look so great. Good to see you. If you make it into town, I'd love to catch up." You're not spending a lot of one-on-one time or maybe any one-on-one time with other girls.

You are bringing clarity to the relationship, and whatever clarity you have in that moment, you don't have to say, "I've heard from the Lord. We're getting married." In fact, that's probably a miss. I'm going to go ahead and say it is a miss, in my opinion. Point being, bringing clarity as you have it. Guys (and girls), at the same time, respect when someone says, "No, I'm not interested in moving forward." You should respect them. If you don't listen to that and you're unwilling to respect them, you are disrespecting them.

This isn't even in my notes, but let me say this. The picture the Bible paints in 1 Peter, chapter 3, about the way you and I (I'm just talking to guys) are to interact with girls is kind of terrifying. It says that God is like a heavenly Father and he sees his daughters like any father sees their daughter. You're responsible for how you interact with and how you treat them.

You know that dad who sits on the front porch with a shotgun, like, "Take care of my girl, son"? That's how you should see the heavenly Father. You are accountable and responsible for how you treat them. At the same time, women, you're accountable and responsible for how you interact with and how you're honest with guys.

5.When you're compromising sexually. She says in verse 3 of chapter 2, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste." Scholars disagree on what this verse means, so I'm going to give you both, because it's rated R for romance.

The clearest thing is that she's at least saying, "You're like an apple tree among all of the other forest of trees that are all normal. You're unique to me." Then the next verse, scholars would disagree and say she's either talking about looking forward to performing oral sex or she is saying, "I delight to be a part of the protection and provision that being under his tree brings me." Scholars will disagree across the board. You decide for you.

We at least know she's getting all hot and bothered, because the next couple of verses say she is looking forward to increasing amounts of sexual touch to come in marriage. She says, "Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love." Both of those are aphrodisiacs. King David, when his men came home from war, literally gave out raisins and apples to his men, saying, "Hey, eat these. Go be with your wives. Make some babies." That's what he handed out. It was seen as an aphrodisiac in that day.

She's basically going, "Ooh man! I want this man. Give me some apples and raisins. I'm faint with love." "His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me." Then she says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." What is she saying? Do not introduce sex before you can fully go all the way. Do not introduce sex, biblically, until you're married. That's what the word arouse means. There's a reason we call it turned on.

God designed you to be turned on in the context of marriage. You don't need to feel bad about that. You don't need to feel bad about having sexual desire for the person you're dating. That's called normal. But you should be aware that that's not something you should allow to mark your relationship. You should be very cautious to not allow that turning on, because you weren't designed to be turned on and then turned off. God created sexual intimacy to be something you experience. The human body is wired to pursue that intimacy together.

She says, "Look. Even though all of these desires are here, we're not going there until we can go all the way, until we are married," the Bible says. If you are compromising sexually, you should be concerned. It should be a red flag. If the guy (or the girl) you're dating is saying, "I don't care what God says; I'm going to do what my body says. I'm not going to honor sex inside of marriage," what do you think is going to happen someday when he is married? Is he going to immediately flip the switch and be like, "Now I honor sex inside of marriage"?

The Bible says do not arouse… Don't bring that into your relationship. Don't even put yourself in a position together where you're lying down, where you're spending time, where your body is beginning to prepare itself for sex. It was not designed and created to be that way. Here's why this is so crazy to us but so important. The Bible says, and it's so brilliant… God in his infinite wisdom gave sex. He's all about it.

Here's an answer to the question everyone wants to know all the time. Where is the line? How far is too far? Where's the line? The Bible doesn't say there's a line. It says there's a time. It's less concerned about, "This is exactly where the line is." The line, as we're going to explore, is pretty far out there. It's more concerned about when the time is, and that's in the context of marriage, for a couple of reasons.

First, sex was given as this powerful thing to glue a man and woman together, that they would become almost intoxicated and bonded together. It even says sex is intoxicating and is like getting drunk, Proverbs says in Proverbs 7:18. The reason that's so crucial is just like it's bad to drive after you're drinking, it is bad to date drunk in sex, and alcohol too. It's bad to be intoxicated in sex, because here's what it's going to do: it's going to keep you in relationship longer than you should be.

Just like alcohol, it numbs your inhibitions of like, "Oh man. I was going to go home, but now I'll just hang out for another party." Quickly, inhibitions go. So it is with sex. It blinds you to "Man, there are character flaws." It does what sex is meant to do. This is the amazing thing in God's design. It's like, "I'm going to give you this powerful thing that's going to give you the ability to even overlook offenses because you love them so much. It's going to pour this intimacy to bond you together where you're willing to bear with each other."

That is amazing in marriage. It's not great when you are dating someone of really bad character. It's not great when you are dating someone and there are clear warning signs that this is not someone you should marry. Just like getting drunk on alcohol, you're getting drunk, and it blinds you from like, "Oh man, I'm no longer able to see as clearly." You're putting on drunk goggles as you're dating that person, and the Bible says when it comes to the selection of who you're going to marry, other than worshiping God, what else is more important? So introducing that is incredibly dangerous.

The second reason it's dangerous is think about the number of scars. Think about just the guilt and shame represented inside of this room if you're engaging in sexual activity with someone you're dating right now. The God who's there never wanted that for you, not because he's angry at sex or angry at you. He loves you. Think about the scars people carry uniquely from sexual sin.

God doesn't give instructions because he's like, "Man, I don't want anybody to have fun with this." Are you kidding? We're about to dive into all types of sexuality, everything they do in the book, but we need to save it. He's very all about it, but that romance being in marriage. He gives instruction and context because this incredibly powerful thing that is sex is also incredibly destructive if used in the wrong way.

It's like this. There were a couple of months ago where in Dallas there was a storm, and it ripped up all kinds of trees in our neighborhood. It was just a mess. If you guys were here in Dallas or you live in any of the neighborhoods, there were trees every single place. Basically, it was like, "Man, I need to get a chain saw. First, because that would be awesome, and second, because we need to cut back some of this brush. We're living in a jungle right now."

What happens when you get a chain saw? Well, you go and you begin to examine it and you put it all together and you begin to look very carefully at the instructions Home Depot gives you, because you're like, "One thing I know is I like my fingers, so I'd like to keep them, so I want to make sure I have the right amount of oil, that I use it in the right way, that I'm not careless with it, that I follow the instructions and keep it away from the ability to cut off limbs, because it is incredibly powerful but also very, very dangerous."

This thing could tear through my leg. It also could remove brush and be an incredible tool. Do you know what I didn't think with Home Depot and do you know what nobody thinks with Home Depot? "Instructions! These guys are a bunch of killjoys over here. Are you kidding me? I'm going to use this thing however I want to…toothpick, juggle it around. I'll do whatever I want, Home Depot, you bunch of fun-killers." No.

I thought, "Yeah, I'm going to read every word and be careful," because I know this thing is incredibly powerful. It is incredibly helpful and good when it's used in the right way, but it is incredibly dangerous when it's taken out of context and used in a way that contradicts the creator's instructions. The Bible says this is how sex is. God created it, and he's all about it, and he wants that powerful tool…

Just like Home Depot wants you to use that chain saw to cut through things and cut back debris and doesn't want you to use it to cut off your hand so it gives instructions, so God says, "I want you to use and experience this incredible tool and gift, but I give instructions on how to best experience that, because I love you and I care about you."

In conclusion, things to focus on or red flags you should be concerned about: If character is not something that's drawing you to that other person, you should be concerned. If others don't celebrate the relationship in your life, that should give you pause. If it was formed or is being formed in a season where you're not okay being single, you should be concerned. If clarity doesn't mark it and purity doesn't mark it, you should be concerned.

My heart for this series is that you and I would begin to experience God's design for romance and love inside of your relationship. I had Porch leaders, some of our volunteers who lead different teams, over to my house over Christmas break and had a Christmas party and did the whole white elephant and tacky sweaters Christmas party. Everything was great. The whole night was going amazing.

I had a fire pit set up in the backyard where I was going to have fire and a moment where we'd come together, kind of family time all together. I forgot I just had wood and lighter fluid. I put the wood inside of there, and I forgot to light that wood before everybody came out. I was like, "Oh, I'll just light it while everyone is out here."

If you've ever lit a fire, it takes some time to get that wood to actually burn unless there's a foundation of kindling or other things that help it to burn and to continue to burn long term. In other words, you can throw lighter fluid on there, but it flares up and is gone, versus if you have the right foundation burning beneath it, it's going to take longer, but it's going to burn hotter and burn longer.

The book of Song of Solomon is God writing to you, to me, to people everywhere, "I want your romance in life to not be something that's up in a moment and then gone but something that with the right foundation is going to burn longer and hotter, more in a way you want it to for the rest of your life," because he loves you. What I hope for this series more than anything is that you, if you're dating… Maybe you just got out of a relationship and you're walking through heartbreak and all the horrific stuff that it is to break up. It's terrible.

My hope is that throughout this series you would not just be focused on "What are some of the red flags I should be looking for?" and even tonight that you wouldn't just leave here and focus on one individual or maybe those five red flags but you would say, "God, I surrender. I'm waving the white flag over my dating relationship, over my life. I'm saying, 'God, I give it all to you.' I'm going to trust you, and I'm going to do your way. I'm going to date like you call me to."

Our team is praying for this series to unleash incredible marriages in the future of our country, incredible marriages inside of this room, that you would rise up and say, "I'm going to surrender this to you. I haven't done it well. I've really messed up. I have all five flags. I have them here with me if you want to see them," that no matter where you are in the room, you would say, "I'm going to surrender to God. I wave the white flag. God, I want to do it your way," because he is crazy about you.

The greatest love story that is contained in the Bible beyond Song of Solomon is the love story of God's love for you. He's madly in love with you. I mean, insane in love. I love my wife so much. Do you know what I sometimes think about? I think about I don't know what I would do if something ever happened to her, both raising children and operating and also I would be so heartbroken. I sometimes get sad about the day that we're ever separated if one of us dies first.

I've said before and I'll say it again: There is no husband, there is no wife, there is no person who loves their spouse more than God loves you. How do I know that? Because he already went to the greatest length possible by sending his Son to die in your place, by God becoming a man in the form of Jesus and giving his life for you.

His love for you is so great, and for us to think anything other than, "I want to surrender even my dating life. I'll give it to you, God, because you're crazy about me. I know you're for me. You know what's best for me. I'm going to follow your instructions, knowing that you love me and you'll lead me to life…"

I'm praying that some of us in the room… Maybe not even most of you are going to do it, but some of you guys are going to say, "I'm going to do it God's way. Going forward, I'm going to date his way. We're going to handle sex his way. We're going to pursue marriage his way." It's the best way, and it's a way I can trust because he loves me. He has proved it.

Any love I'm going to experience on this earth, if it's disconnected from that love, will not experience the fullness of the romance I was made for, which is a romance first with him, and then that bleeds into other ones. Let me pray.

Father in heaven, I pray that you would unleash the strongest marriages our world has ever seen from this group in front of me. I pray that children would be born to men and women in this room right now who love you, who know you, who walk with you, and they would raise those children to know you.

I pray for any relationship here that needs to break up, that they wouldn't leave here covered in shame, they wouldn't leave here covered in guilt, but the Spirit of God would be heavy on their hearts, that sin would be confessed and we'd move in the direction of your love. You've already, out of your love, moved in our direction and pursued a relationship with us. Father, would you bless our time these next six weeks? Would we learn, would we grow, would we be encouraged and strengthened of your design for romance? We worship you now in song, amen.

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