I have a question and need further advice. My girlfriend and I have been together for 8 years and have been living together for 6 years. I have recently gotten saved. I was raised Catholic but have converted to Christianity. When I had found out about sexual immorality and it not being right to have sex before marriage, we had stopped having sex. When we did fall to the temptation, I felt horrible about it, even though in my heart I know she will be my wife. We have both talked about getting married, and we both feel the same way about each other. I recently talked to my pastor about my case and he told me something that made me feel a little better about my situation. He told me "God knows your heart. If have declared her as your wife to Him then it's fine. A wedding is basically the blessing of the church, so don't feel bad about it." Since then we have been having sex because we want a second child. I still want to get married but now we face a problem because she is Catholic and refuses to get married through a Christian church. I won't marry her through the Catholic Church because they kneel down before the Virgin Mary for her blessing.
I'm going to approach this from a different direction because you received some very bad advice.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word porneia, is translated as fornication, sexual immorality, or sometimes just immorality. Regardless of how it is translated, the word means having sex when you are not married. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). You cannot reach heaven while guilty of sexual sins.
The denominational preacher claims that just declaring to God you are married is equivalent to an actual marriage. I'm afraid it this demonstrates his ignorance of the Scriptures. A marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman. "... she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:14). A covenant is a special vow that establishes a lifelong commitment. There are several parts to a covenant:
- The covenant establishes who is entering the covenant
- A brief history of the relationship is given
- The obligations of the parties are stated (it is a lifelong commitment)
- The benefits to keeping the covenant are stated
- Provisions are made for remembering the covenant (rings and anniversary)
- Vows are exchanged before God
- There are witnesses to these vows (bride's maid and best man)
- A record of the covenant is kept (license stored at the courthouse)
See: Marriage Covenants. Marriages are not a function of the church. Marriages done at a county courthouse are just as valid as a marriage done by some religious leader. Intentions are not the same and the fact that you continue to call yourselves boyfriend and girlfriend and you are still wanting a wedding demonstrates that you also know that you are not married. Yes, God knows your heart, but His knowledge of what you really think isn't an excuse to sin.
Essentially the denominational preacher is claiming that intentions of doing right is good enough. Yet intentions doesn't change right and wrong. Solomon illustrated it with a hot coal. "Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?" (Proverbs 6:28). You may never intend to walk on a hot coal; and, even if you do, you can apologize profusely; but the result will be the same. You'll get burned because that is the nature of hot coals. You have an intention to get married, but right now you are having sex while you are not married. Your intentions doesn't change the fact that you are committing fornication.
Similarly, people fool themselves into thinking that love conquers all. "Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). Cuddling up to a coal and whispering sweet nothings won't keep you from being burned because that is the nature of a hot coal.
Even though you have an intention to get married, the fact remains that you two haven't gotten married and are fighting over where to get married. Meanwhile you continue to commit fornication. If nothing else, go down to the courthouse and get married. Quit putting yourselves ahead of doing what God commands.
Another thing to consider is that becoming a Christian requires repentance before you are baptized. "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"" (Acts 2:38). Repentance is giving up your sins. I'm concerned that you tried to become a Christian while holding onto your sins. That can never work. "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:3-7). You cannot be freed from something you have retained.
Thank you very much for the help. Now I know why I haven't been able to feel the presence of God in my life. Once we started having sex regularly I felt as if the the Holy Ghost's presence had left me.
I would like to know your input on kneeling down to the Virgin Mary because it's to the point where I don't even care any more. I just want to be married and have God's blessings, but I do know that Scripture goes against it.
You can't fix one sin with another. The Scriptures are clear that Mary, being human, is not to receive worship. (Worship translates a Hebrew word that means bowing down by the way.) See: The Glorification of Mary.
The issue of your church or hers is one that you and she have to resolve because marriage will not make it go away. It will resurface when it comes to what religion you are going to raise your children in. Parents who fight over religion generally tend to raise atheists. Personally, I would prefer that both of you leave the denominations and simply become Christians as people were in the New Testament. See: We Are Simply Christians Without Being Members of Any Denomination, You Can be Too!
Thank you very much Jeffrey for your help. May God Almighty continue to help you and your ministry. God bless.