Passionate about Purity

I was out shopping one afternoon when I was approached by a large, muscular, young man. He was holding a single, white, long-stemmed rose.

“What does the color white mean?” he asked me, gesturing at the rose.

I assumed he was selecting a rose for his girlfriend and wanted to make sure the color matched the sentiment he hoped to convey.

“It means Purity,” I responded without hesitation.

He looked at me, puzzled.

“What’s THAT?” he muttered, as he turned away.

He chose a yellow rose instead!

Though this brief exchange took place years ago, I’ve never forgotten it and have often pondered how I would answer the question that went unanswered:  What IS purity?

Is it just an old-fashioned and outdated concept? Is it even possible in this day and age? The Bible has plenty to say about it…

Purity is puzzling.

Purity doesn’t make sense apart from a knowledge of God. God is Pure. The dictionary defines pure as: “free from moral fault or guilt.” Because God is pure, He calls His followers to live in purity:

And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3, NLT)

Sexual purity is a foreign concept in a society that promotes passion with little restraint. Yet children of God are not to conform to the world’s ways. We are to be set apart, holy:

For it is God’s will that you should be holy: You must abstain from sexual immorality… (1 Thessalonians 4:3, BSB)

A Holy God has determined the boundaries for our sexual conduct. A biblical definition of purity could be simply this: abstinence before marriage and faithfulness after marriage. But purity is more than just seeing how close we can get to the boundary lines without crossing them:

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, NIV)

Not even a hint. Not even a second look or a lustful thought. Because even the tiniest speck of contamination renders a substance impure.

Sounds completely unattainable, doesn’t it? Yet…

Purity is possible.

Whenever God issues a command, inherent within it is the power to obey it. Believers in Christ have His Holy Spirit within them, and ready access to His strength. I personally know dozens of Christian couples who remained sexually pure until marriage, and many more who are staying faithful after marriage. For with God, nothing is impossible.

But this doesn’t happen without some serious intentionality. We must get practical about purity. These biblical principles can help:

1–Trust your Father’s heart. He’s not trying to deceive or deprive you, but to protect and provide His very best for you, His beloved child.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 3:17, NIV)

2–Let His Word be your guide. God’s timeless instructions must be the basis of your moral convictions, not the changing opinions of the world.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9, ESV)

3–Avoid whatever might encourage sexual compromise. This would include websites, movies, music, etc. Seek out others who share your desire to live a holy life.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22, ESV)

4–Ask God for help when you are tempted. Look for His way out–and then take it!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT)

5–Take sexual sin seriously. God does. He knows the heartache it can bring, and He cares about your well-being.

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18, NLT)

Purity isn’t perfection.

But what if you’ve already blown it? We all stumble in many ways. Only Jesus led a life of perfect purity. His perfection purchased our pardon.

One of the most wonderful verses in the Bible is 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

Did you notice the word “purify?” If you’ve stumbled sexually in the past, your purity can be restored! Go to God, sincerely confess your sins and gratefully accept His forgiveness.

You can begin again, clean and pure in His eyes.

I recently counseled a young, single college student who was very relieved when her pregnancy test came back negative. After this scare, she was ready to make some changes. She eagerly accepted the invitation to pray and recommit herself to a lifestyle of sexual purity. She even planned to buy herself a purity ring as a reminder of her cleansing and commitment!

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NLT)

God can make a red rose white again.

Friend, may I encourage you to become passionate about purity? It’s never too late to begin doing what is right! Your commitment may not be applauded or understood. You may not do it perfectly. But purity IS possible, with God’s help!

A life of purity is like a rare and fragrant flower, beautiful in His sight.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8, NIV) 

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Cleaning House

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17, NAS)

Jesus was at home in the temple, teaching, healing, worshiping. A Son, in His Father’s house, going about His Father’s business.

But on this day? It was time for a little housecleaning.

The outer court of the temple was more like a bustling marketplace than a peaceful sanctuary. Tables had been set up for the convenience of visitors who needed to exchange money or purchase a sacrificial animal before proceeding to the inner courts of the temple. Upon entering the courtyard, one’s senses would have been assaulted with the sights, sounds, and smells of this carnival-like atmosphere. Regular temple worshipers had probably become somewhat desensitized, accepting the scene as normal.

Not Jesus. He had had enough of this bizarre bazaar. Fashioning a whip, he drove the sellers and money changers out in a rare display of angry passion.

Zeal for His Father’s house, we’re later told by His disciples, had simply overcome Him.

That temple is long gone, reduced to Roman rubble in 70 A.D. But now there is a new temple. One erected in every heart where Jesus dwells.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, NAS)

And just like the days of old, “money changers” come and set up their tables in the temple courtyards of our hearts. Some have occupied space there for years. The Bible calls them “strongholds.”

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV) 

A stronghold can take many forms. It could be a persistent sin, struggle, or addiction. It’s something that “sets itself up” in our lives to keep us from intimacy with God. It is anything that consistently robs us of what is rightfully ours.

Strongholds were never meant to be tolerated. Yet we grow accustomed to their presence and accepting of their chaos. We even start to “own” them, personalizing them…my anxiety, my insecurity, my anger. Strongholds are thieves masquerading as friends.

I allowed a long-standing stronghold of Fear to set up camp in my heart. It was a familiar presence, one I had learned to put up with and had begun to call my own. But according to 2 Corinthians 10:4, strongholds are meant to be demolished. Destroyed.

Thankfully, Jesus is on the scene. And He is still passionate about His Father’s house. He possesses the power to clear the temple courts with a whip and a word.

That word is our weapon.

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV)

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword… (Hebrews 4:12a, NLT)

His word is the gleaming sword that pierces, the swinging hammer that crushes, and the raging fire that can consume all of our strongholds.

Regarding “my” stronghold of fear, He placed this particular weapon from His word in my trembling hand:

Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18, NIV)

His word IS alive. And amazing. I doubt it’s coincidence that the Greek word for “drives out” in 1 John 4:18 is the same root used in John 2:15, when Jesus “drove out” the money changers.

I decided that Fear had littered my temple ground long enough. Perfect Love swept in and swept it away.

Does this mean I’ll never battle with fears again? No. But when I do, I’ll take them captive, rather than the other way around. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.)

What strongholds have staked a claim in your life? Are you tired of paying their exorbitant fees? Do you long for peace in the sacred spaces of your heart?

Jesus is here. He is ready to clean house, overturn some tables, and drive the money changers out.

Just say the word. Then take Him at His word.

He is zealous for you, lovely temple of His Holy Spirit.

“My house shall be called a house of prayer…” Jesus (From Matthew 21:13) 

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Puppies and Poop

BathThat’s right.  You can’t have one without the other.  The trick is to keep the ‘other’ from getting on the ‘one.’  And on any other surfaces you’d rather not have to immediately sanitize.

Our first week with a new puppy brought a not-so-slight increase in laundry and baths.  (Good thing we live in the county, where we don’t have a water bill.)  I kept hearing that puppies don’t like to combine their bathrooms with their bedrooms.  Well, this little guy didn’t seem to mind that combo one little bit.

I began to dread the scene that awaited me on the other side of the bathroom door each morning.  There he’d be, all 2.1 pounds of him, jumping and scratching on the sides of his kennel, desperate to be picked up and held.  I was genuinely happy to see him and eager to embrace him.  But his condition was not exactly conducive to cuddling, if you know what I mean.

Laurel and I would fly into crisis mode, gathering supplies and scrambling to fill the sink with warm water.  He’d whimper and wiggle as we tried to work some orange-scented “Puppy Fun!” shampoo into the offending areas.  I wanted to say, “Stop fighting me!  I can’t hold you until I get you cleaned up!”  Eventually we’d get him bathed and bundled in a dry towel, where he’d sleep, spent from the struggle.  By then, Laurel and I needed a nap too!

Just like that four-letter word that begins with ‘s,’ SIN happens in our lives.  It goes hand in hand with our human condition.  And when sin happens, we also have a tendency to step in it, track it around, and make an even bigger mess.  We wonder why God appears to be distant as we cry out for comfort.  The truth is He longs to hold us close, but the issue of our sin must first be addressed.  We are helpless to clean ourselves up.

This is why Jesus came.

If you are still resisting Him, might I encourage you to stop?  Submit to His capable care and let His love and mercy wash away sin’s stain.  Relax in His strong grip.  Rest in His tight embrace.

You can trust Him.

If you know Him as Savior, then why not be quick to run to Him when you make a mess?  There’s no need to wallow in it or cower in shame.  Just confess your sin, gratefully accept His forgiveness and get back to enjoying your relationship with Him.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NAS)

It feels good to be clean.

And even better to be held.

Held

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