OK, admit it—You thought from the title of today’s blog entry that I was going to talk about sex, right? Well, if you thought that, you’re partially right. When I use the term, I’m talking about more than just that one aspect of our life. Purity includes sexuality, but it’s not limited to it.
Before we get to the rest of it, let’s get sex out of the way. You should have known that when I said we were going to examine the Christian virtues, that this was going to be part of it. It’s not the “centre” of Christian virtue (as C.S. Lewis called it), but it is important, and it can incredibly impact our lives, both this one and the next one.
God’s standard is not that difficult to understand. You can make the case that it’s pretty tough to carry out, but pretty easy to explain. Simply put, God’s standard is that any sexual expression is to be within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman for life. That’s what he expects.
And we’re not done yet. Jesus made it clear that if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart (yep, that would include porn), then he’s committed adultery with her in that arena.
Now, I’m not an idiot, and God’s word is not naïve. I’m fully aware—and of course he's so much more so—that none of us completely have lived up to this standard, especially guys. The Lord is also very aware that our society and popular culture does just about everything it can to make it even more difficult for us. In fact, I would venture that there’s almost no one out there not influenced by the Bible who even makes the effort to be sexually pure according to this standard, or who even recognizes that it's a good standard to have.
But I'd be derelict in my duty if I sugarcoated the truth. He has expectations of me as a teacher.
However, like I said before, the Bible has more to say about purity than just sex and lust. Look again at today’s passage. He puts—in the same warning about sexual immorality—that among believers there shouldn’t be even a hint of greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking.
Now, I can anticipate the questions here, because I’ve asked them myself: “What exactly does Paul mean by obscenity or coarse joking? What’s the line?” The best answer I have for that? If you need to ask yourself where X falls, then you probably should refrain from X.
What I’m really trying to get away from here is this limitation in our minds that “impurity” is talking just about sex. Yes, that’s included. But a lot of other things are under that jurisdiction, like how we speak and how we look at our possessions. A person might never look at a porno site but fall pretty short of his standard.
But I want to move beyond the concept of impurity to purity. That really needs to be our main focus. Yes, we need to avoid impurity, but the main goal is purity. And the way we do that?
Not by just emptying the impure things out of our lives. We have to focus on what’s pure.
Does Paul ever talk about that? Why, yes he does. He told us “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And what could I think of that would immediately fill all those categories? Christ. His righteousness. His grace. His power.
I think that’s the secret, or at least a huge part of it. Of course I’m not pure when compared to my Savior. But when I notice that a thought doesn’t meet God’s standard, he points it out to me (through his Spirit), I confess and turn away from it, and ask for his help in being more like him. I refocus my thoughts—not on my failure, but on who he is. And what he’s done. And what he’s doing. And what he’s going to do someday.
Now I want to say a word to all those who feel immensely guilty right now. You’ve fallen so far short on this that you think you can’t even see the standard, much less meet it. But that’s why we have grace. That’s why Christ came. My sins are just as nasty in his sight as yours. Just make the decision right here, right now, that (with his enabling power) you’re going to do things God’s way from this point forward, no matter what the cost.
But just like they say at an A.A. meeting, it starts when you admit you have a problem.
Lord Jesus, the problem is that you’re holy and I’m not. You’re righteous and I’m not. You are pure, and I’m not. Please forgive and change me.