Start as you intend to continue
Are you a Christian? Do you want to follow Jesus in your life? Following Jesus is a whole lot easier when you marry someone who is just as keen to follow him as you are. If you’re getting into relationships with people who aren’t Christians, you’re probably going to keep on getting into relationships with people who aren’t Christians. There’s no sudden point where you think, “Ah, now this is where I start having serious relationships, so I will now change my mind about who I want to go out with.”
If you want God to be first in your life, then let him shape your choices.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6)
Practice for marriage - properly.
What is marriage? It is a life-long relationship where you are in a covenant (binding agreement) with one person before God. You don’t practice for marriage by getting into a whole bunch of hook-ups. In fact, the more relationships you muck around with, the more unrealistic you can become about what you want in a wife/husband, and the more problems you can create down the track for that one special relationship.
People don’t stop being attractive when you’re married. If you get in the habit of “checking out the talent”, then you don’t magically stop doing that after the rings are on fingers. So practice for marriage the right way: practice not lusting after people. Practice avoiding the second/third/fourth glance that says, “I want.”
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)
Now is a great time when you can really hook into your relationship with God. You have all sorts of opportunities to decide who you’re going to be. Are you going to be a faithful person? Are you trustworthy? Are you going to love God no matter what life throws at you?
Encourage each other to trust Jesus.
Hebrews 13:1 says this:
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Chapter 13 verse 4 says this:
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
There are great encouragements and warnings in these two verses.
Dating tends to use people up and spit them out: “He was a great kisser, but he’s totally wrong for me.” “She was fun to hang out with, but I’m not going to text her back. Too needy.”
On the other hand, friendships God’s way are supportive, helpful, caring for others to help them in their relationship with Jesus. Instead of sizing people up, God’s plan is for us to treat each other as family - because we’re a part of God’s family. Being friends is a great way to learn about someone’s character. In fact, the best marriages are ones where the couples are best friends, too.
Now, you can read all this and say, “You’re dreaming! We live in the real world here, and it is totally impossible to avoid relationships. Are you crazy???”
This isn’t easy - especially when your hormones are going off. But it’s not crazy. It’s part of learning to trust God - learning that God’s plans for relationships are best.
A final encouragement from Hebrews 12:1-3:
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.