Ah, purity. The stereo-typical “church word.”
What does it mean? Well, duh. It means you don’t have sex before you get married. Maybe it means you don’t look at pornography.
But what if it means more than that?
What if purity is not just for unmarried people?
What if it’s not just for teens?
What if it’s not just for men?
Joshua Harris defines purity this way: “True purity is a direction, a persistent, determined pursuit of righteousness. This direction starts in the heart, and we express it in a lifestyle that flees opportunities for compromise.”
I talk to people caught in life-dominating sin on a regular basis as part of my work. The sin is primarily drugs and alcohol at first. But addictions are more than surface issues. In order for a person to be free, they must trace the root, pull it out, and plant something different. The problem? We can’t do that. We don’t have the power, much less the motivation. Only God can remove the root and put something else in its place.
What’s the root? Well, let’s take a step back and get a bigger picture.
According to 1 John 2:16, all sin can be traced back to three roots: the lust of the flesh [what feels good], the lust of the eyes [what looks good], and pride of life [–well, pride].
If we trace addictions, we find they’re attached to the lust of the flesh. People use and abuse drugs to “feel” better. What’s the antidote? Instead of living for what feels good, you must live by what is good. Stop being self-indulgent, start being self-controlled.
Why am I talking about addictions when we started with purity? Because, believe it or not, these two things are closely related. I’ve not met a single person who struggled with an addiction who didn’t have a bigger struggle with purity. Why? Because drugs are an obvious and huge sin – even the government says its bad. But no one says that about impurity. In fact, immorality is celebrated in our world.
Is it any wonder, then, that 19% of our congregations view pornography during the week? Or that 9% engage in premarital sex during the week? (And that was 8 years ago. Imagine the increase now.)
How does this happen? What’s the solution?
Let’s take the premarital sex problem. A lot of people think getting married will fix it. Let me tell you a little secret: it won’t.
The same root of sin that caused you to act out sinfully before marriage will also cause you to act out sinfully in marriage.
Because it’s deeper than that. It’s not a behavioral issue. It’s a heart issue.
Why do people indulge in immorality? Because it feels good. More specifically: it feels better than being alone/facing temptation/doing right. So what’s the root? Lust of the flesh. And what’s the solution? Self-control.
But you can’t stop yourself. You have no self-control. If you did, it wouldn’t be a problem.
We naturally don’t want to tell ourselves “no.” So we tell ourselves “yes” and have all sorts of excuses to justify it.
Everything from “No one will find out,” to “We’re going to get married anyway,” or “it’s not really sex,” or “it’s not that bad, at least I’m not watching ____________.”
In Galatians 5 we learn about life by the Spirit vs. life in the flesh. The only way to overcome our flesh is to yield to the Spirit (through submission to authority, thankfulness, and singing spiritual songs). When we submit to the Spirit, He can then work in us self-control. That’s His job. That’s what the fruit of the Spirit is about – The Holy Spirit working through us to produce that kind of behavior. But He can only do it when we are submitting to Him, not ourselves.
How do we really do that? Well, it requires faith. Not a lot – just enough.
I’ve written about grace before – it’s the power God gives to do what God says. We receive it by faith – taking the first step when we don’t see the last one. When we act in faith, God’s grace carries us the rest of the way. But we must have faith.
We must believe that God’s way is better.
We must believe that He loves us.
We must believe that He wants what is best for us.
We must believe that He is enough.
We must surrender – which requires that we ask the brutal question: “Do I really trust God enough to let go?”
Anyone can say they trust God. But a faith that costs nothing is not faith. Do you trust God enough to forsake your sin, surrender your flesh, and commit holy living?
What is holy living? Well, let me ask you this: what is pure living?
Let’s get back to our definition of pure: it’s not just sexual.
When something is pure, it means it contains only one thing. For example, pure orange juice has nothing but oranges in it – no sugar, syrup, chemicals. Just oranges. It’s pure.
By this definition, purity affects more than just sexuality.
It affects worship, relationships, work, talents, and every other part of our lives.
For us to be pure, we must be filled with only one thing: Jesus.
We must, therefore, remove the contaminants such as our lust, materialism, and pride. And the more layers are pulled back, the more pure we become. But I won’t lie: it may hurt.
I’m reminded of Eustace in Narnia. He turned into a dragon – and in order to be turned back to a boy, Aslan had to use his claws to remove the scales. And he had to do it several times. The first few times, it didn’t hurt, but it also didn’t change him. The final time, it hurt horribly, beyond explanation – but finally he was a boy again!
Let Jesus tear out the junk and make you pure!
Don’t walk around with a pricked conscious and an unchanged heart.
See how beautiful life can be when lived in obedience – and how destructive it can be when lived in sin.
I can’t tell you how many people have argued with me about media – is there any single greater threat to our purity than this world’s entertainment? But Christians are reluctant to let it go. I’ve heard of so-called Christian women reading 50 Shades of Grey like it’s not a problem – but it is. And I’ve met people who are okay with sleeping together, as long as they don’t live together. I’ve met people who are perfectly fine dressing immodestly, placing all responsibility on the man not to look. Or even worse – will do any of those things “in secret” and then pretend everything’s fine. But you know what? Everyone knows what’s going on.
I had a call this week from someone who told me straight up she was living in sin and fully understood what she was doing. She then proceeded to tell me how she felt God was speaking to her in another area of her life. When she asked for my opinion, I told her honestly – there is no way God is speaking to you in that way because you’re living in sin. Sin interrupts fellowship with God. He doesn’t hear prayers, and the only way He is at work in our lives is to bring us to complete brokenness and repentance. You can’t compartmentalize your relationship with God.
If you really want to be pure, then you won’t argue, defend, or get angry when God starts peeling these layers away.
But if you don’t trust Him, if you don’t love Him, if you are afraid, if you’re consumed by yourself, you will argue, you will fight, and you will push back – not only against God, but against all the purity you see around you. You’ll have a pricked conscious, but an unchanged life.
If you do commit to pure living, to seeking God above all else, and submitting to his Lordship, then be prepared – those who are not will persecute you. They will push against you. They will avoid you. They will vilify you. It will be the ultimate test – do you trust God enough to suffer for what you believe?
One of my closest friends once made a comment in passing that has stuck with me. She was talking about salt and light, and she said, “But light blinds and salt burns.” Too often we think when we’re salt and light people will be drawn to us – but if someone isn’t want to change, isn’t wanting the light, then it will blind, and your presence will feel like a burn. It’s okay – because your purpose isn’t to get people to like you, it’s to love God. And He will take care of you.
What is pure living? It’s more than just right and wrong. Sometimes it’s between good and better.
Pure living is about moving toward Christ.
It’s not about finding a line in the sand and trying not to fall behind it.
It’s evaluating everything your life, asking, does this bring me closer to Christ or further from Him?
Is your music making you pure?
Are your relationships making you pure?
Are your clothing choices making you (and others) pure?
Are you willing to let go of the mediocre for the fantastic?
Do you really trust Him?
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Psalm 24:3-4
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.