We live today in a world full of impurity, immorality and defilement. This is evident as the world takes more and more precautions to regulate itself for the sake of the most vulnerable – our children. For instance:
- The government requires notices on our televisions to inform the viewers of material that contains “adult content.” The emblems MA cautions parents that the show is for “mature audiences” because it contains language, violence and sex scenes inappropriate for children.
- TV cable companies now provide a remote control that can block certain channels. Supposedly, this provides parents with a tool to protect the innocent.
- Signs on roadways indicate that certain areas are “Drug Free School Zones,” warning that illicit drugs are not allowed anywhere near or in that school.
- Programs are presented in communities to encourage children to abstain from sex until they are mature enough to understand the responsibility that accompanies that kind of relationship.
The attempts to foster some semblance of morality in an immoral world are numerous. Yet God is crystal clear on this point: He wants His people to exemplify purity. It is a core biblical principle for Christian living. When the Lord washed His disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:2-20) He explained that believers become defiled as they walk in this world. There are enemies without that cause defilement – the world and the devil. But there is also an enemy within – the flesh, our sin nature inherited from Adam (Rom. 7:5; Gal. 5:19-21). Despite the plight, God demands purity. It is both needed and possible (1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Tim. 4:12).
Defilement By Association
In His high priestly prayer to His Father, our Lord Jesus said this of His followers: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:16-17 NKJV). The Lord accomplished God’s will when He died on Calvary’s cross to pay for our sins, rose and ascended into heaven. But the disciples remained on earth, and so He prayed this for them: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). We still live in a world full of sin.
While living in this world, we are defiled by association. First John 2:16 says that “all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” John wrote about a world system that functions through lust and self will, and we must navigate through it. In this system certain sinful behaviors are the norm. While too many to enumerate here, they include: profanity, sexual immorality, selfishness, cheating and violence. But God calls us to live by a higher standard.
The apostle Paul encouraged young Timothy to exhibit purity in his life: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Although he lived in a world full of lust and defilement, Timothy was to be different. His speech was to be pure and free of profanity. His words were to edify not destroy. His conduct was to reverberate with purity. He was to have a godly attitude despite what was going on around him. naturally, this included abstaining from sexual immorality. Timothy was to model his faith. His conduct before his fellow saints and the world was to be characterized by purity.
The Lord expects the same thing from us today. We are to exhibit this purity in an impure world. We have the resources: the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Word of God, prayer and the local gathering of Christians. Each resource must be used if we are to be shining examples of purity. For example, in our speech we are exhorted not to let any filthy words come out of our mouths, but only “what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). In a world of profanity and lies, of flattery and exaggeration, of criticism and injurious language, the Christian should be characterized by language that builds up rather than tears down. Further, our conduct is to be sterling. The Holy Spirit of God can control all of these areas if we let Him. He indwells us (Jn. 14:16-17), and we are called “to be filled” with Him (Eph. 5:18). When He is in control, our conduct changes and we become more Christlike (Gal. 5:16-26). We do not behave like the world.
Purity can be seen in the way we love. A lot of the love in the world is driven by selfish motives. Christianity, however, is different. We read that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). Our behavior is to be characterized by His love which glorifies God and brings good will to its recipients. Jesus commands us: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35) – love for your neighbors (Mt. 19:19), love for your enemies (Mt. 5:44), love for family (Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1-4) and love for God (Mt. 22:37). The purity of our love is exemplified as we honor our parents, wait until marriage to experience intimacy with our spouses, pray for our enemies and show them acts of kindness. What better way to model purity than to actually live it: “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure, but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (Ti. 1:15).
Defilement By The Sin Nature
Paul closed his letter to the Philippians with these words: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). What a verse for us to think about! It is the Lord’s desire that our minds be pure. If it is true, as they say, that we are always thinking about something, we have to make sure we think pure thoughts, because the world is set up to control our thinking. The media is all encompassing and never ending. There is always something to see and something to hear. Most advertising defiles our minds and gets us to focus on ourselves. But Paul encourages us to exert our mental energy on spiritual things. All the characteristics of Philippians 4:8 speak of Christ. God wants our minds to be lined up with His.
But there is a major hindrance to purity of thought; it is our Adamic nature (Rom. 3:10,23). It is possible to appear as though we are living a pure life while our thought life is actually entangled with sin. In Matthew 5:28 the Lord reminded the multitude that adultery can occur in the heart: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thus we can appear to be living in purity while all of the time committing adultery in our heart. We may appear to worship but have a selfish issue with our brother (Mt. 5:23-24). The Lord pronounced seven “woes” upon the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Two of them stand out in relation to appearances: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (23:25). And “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (23:27). Those charges were against the scribes and Pharisees, but we too can commit them in spirit. The Lord wants reality in our purity. He does not want us to play games.
The secret to purity of thought is found in Christ. Paul stated that we should “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). We need to ask the Lord to keep us from worldly and carnal thoughts. We should not put ourselves in compromising situations. Most assaults to purity come through the eye gate and the ear gate. We can control those gates. It is God’s desire that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Christ reproduced in our life will bring purity from within. The Bible reminds us that we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit and exemplify the fruit of the Spirit. If we subject ourselves to Christ, the world will see real purity (Gal. 5:22-26).
Purity In A Global Culture
We live in a global culture. Technology has shrunk the world so that everybody can have a piece of it. news stories from countries thousands of miles away are now instantly in our living rooms, dens and offices via television and the internet. Yet these same advancements have also brought the dirt of the world into our homes. Profanity, sexual immorality, lust, unrighteousness, violence, prejudice and greed are all around us. Christians have the spiritual resources and the special privilege to exhibit the purity of God to the world. In fact, it is our calling and our duty. We have the mandate from God, and He has given us the resources. Purity is possible!
By Albert Stuart
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org