Thursday, 10 July 2008

Purity (part 4) ‘The Plan for Purity’

Having thought about the costs of impurity and the opportunity of purity; the challenge not to tolerate a position of compromise; and the particular vulnerabilities we face whether we are male or female, married or single, I want to talk about how we can go about striving for purity. I have listed six Biblical insights below.

Remember grace: You can be pretty sure that almost everyone we meet has struggled and failed in the area of sexual purity. It is easy to feel a hypocrite writing about a topic such as this. However we should not let our defeats leave us defeated. I love the line in the Book of Common Prayer that reads, ‘we weep and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions’—there is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Yet having truly confessed our sins we must move on to gratefully acknowledging that they are forgiven. It is not God’s intention that we should keep on beating ourselves up over past failures. We are to know the joy of having our past dealt with and so live a life striving for thankful obedience.

Run for your life: Flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). We must run away from those things that will tempt us. If we are hiring a DVD we should look down to the age classification and when that says ‘may contain scenes of moderate sexual activity’ we should get another movie. If our drive to work brings us by a large billboard with a half dressed model that always grabs our attention then we might need to go another route. If someone we are tempted by is at a certain place at a certain time then we need to make sure we are in a different place at that time.

Deal with your eyes and ears. Rico Tice, the presenter of the Christianity Explored course, had a technician come in to remove Channel 5 from his television, because of the type of sexual programs they were showing at that time. He wanted to make himself blind to that temptation because he says found it very difficult to have that channel and want to go on being a Christian. That’s the sort of thing that Jesus means when he says, ‘If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell . . .’ (Mark 9:43-47). Jesus is using figurative language to show how seriously we must deal with sin. For sin ultimately seeks to lead us away from God, to destroy our faith, and lead us to hell.

How, for example, do we become blind to the page three girls? Buy a paper that doesn’t contain such pictures or rip that page out before you open it (and we’ll have to have a strategy for other pictures in the paper as well).

Be accountable. When we become Christians we are made members of a family. We are brothers and sisters of every other believer. Groups of this family meet in local church fellowships. We are to have a role in each others lives as we encourage and challenge each other, as well as bear one another’s burdens. In the area of purity we are to support one another. I would suggest that if we take purity seriously we should find someone with whom we can be accountable. They will help us and we will seek to help them. This person should obviously be a friend be of the same gender (if your struggle is with same-sex attraction this becomes a little more complicated and you need to choose wisely) with whom you can be really honest and talk in a mature way.

If you are married you might not be sure how open you should be with your spouse about these things. We don’t want to pretend that we are someone that we are not. Yet our spouse might not want to know about everything that tempts us or be told about every person we are attracted to. An accountability partner who knows our spouse should be able to help us decide how to talk to our spouse about these things.

If you are married then enjoy your spouse. The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor. 7:3-5).

Let’s be clear that there is never an excuse for a married person to have a sexual relationship with any other person than their own husband or wife. We are not even to think about such things. That being said if we deny our spouse sexual contact we are increasing the level of temptation they face. Paul is not saying that we demand sex from our spouse—that would be unloving. He is saying that we should see sex as a way of helping them. In marriage sex isn’t just about our desires but also takes into account the desires of our spouse. It is easy to neglect this aspect of marriage but it is not godly.

Depend on God. True purity takes place in relationship with the one who can deal with our rebellious hearts. In Galatians 5 we read that the acts of the sinful nature include sexual immorality and impurity but that the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control. As a result we are to keep in step with the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3 says that we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit—the Holy Spirit actively changes us in a way that we could never change ourselves. Paul tells the Philippians For it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose (2:13)—this means that we don’t sit back and passively expect God to transform us without our action, neither are we to grit our teeth and expect to be able to transform ourselves, rather we co-operate with God as he enables and we strive. If we want purity then we need to develop lives that are growing in relationship with God, that look to him for the ongoing help that we need, and that are motivated by his glory in all we do, think and say.

The psalmist asks ‘How can a young man keep his way pure?' And answers ‘By living according to your word’ (Ps. 119:9). May God enable us to put these Biblical principles into practice that we might bring glory to Him as we grow in purity!

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