Monday, July 24, 2017

True Virtue: Purity

Purity is the state of being pure, undefiled, without blemish, untainted. As with humility it also fairly contrary to our society. Those who pursue purity are ridiculed and looked down upon for being pious or self-righteous (which I find ironic). Purity is not understood and is misunderstood by unbelievers, but also by many Christians as well. I was one. I thought that purity merely consisted of waiting to have sex until marriage, but I have discovered that it goes much deeper and longer than that.

When people hear the word purity, no doubt the first thing they think of is a bride in white who waited for her wedding night. While that is part of it, it is only the physical representation of true purity.

Purity goes so much deeper than sex. In order to be truly sexually pure it must involve our minds and hearts. Jesus said that lust is the same as adultery. Anything that would be wrong to do with someone who is not our spouse is wrong to think about, and it is also wrong to do at all if we are single. God considers us married from the beginning, to whomever we will eventually wed but also to Himself. We must keep ourselves pure for Him above all else. We must consider ourselves married even when we are single and refrain from anything sexual until we stand at the wedding altar. It really is that big of a deal and there are always consequences for impurity.

I wish I had known all of this before I married. Like most, I thought purity consisted only of “waiting for marriage”. I had no idea how involved it was. And even though I only ever dated the man I married, and we did wait for marriage, there are a lot of things that I not only regret, but am now paying the consequences for even in marriage. But what is in our hearts and minds doesn’t just stay there. It does surface in some way and we do suffer for it. So many things that most people would say are no big deal are still causing problems in our marriage. They may be small problems, but they are still ripples in the serenity of our marriage that would not be there if we had remained truly, completely pure. And it is something with which I still struggle. Sin doesn’t just go away any more than weed just remove themselves from a garden. It takes intentional, repeated efforts of eradication before it is complete.

As with all virtue, purity is about the heart. Many people misunderstand virtues, and Christianity in general, because they think it is all about outward appearances and actions. That is where legalism comes from; outward obedience without inward transformation. But God cares more about our hearts than our actions, because our actions are the product of our hearts. If our hearts are right, our actions will be also, but if our hearts are bad no amount of good works will disguise it.

While it is one of the less talked about virtues, purity is actually very important to God. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are largely about God calling His people to purity, to the extent that He didn’t want the priests’ clothes to be “blended”, they were to be made of only one type of material; 100% wool, no poly cotton blends. I am not saying that we need to do this as well, again that would be legalism. The principle that God was trying to drive home here is that our lives need to be pure and uncompromising in everything.

True purity is being true to God, not compromising your beliefs or values for anything. It is being untainted by the world, being in the world but not of it. It is not allowing any corruption or uncleanness into our hearts.

Psalm 24:3-5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Purity is essentially the opposite of sin. Only the pure can commune with God. He will not hear the prayers of the unrepentant, nor can He be in the presence of the corrupt or defiled. We must cleanse ourselves to come to His presence because He is wholly pure. How do we accomplish that?

Psalm 119:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.

If we want to be pure we must live according to God’s word, we must live as He does. Of course we cannot do this perfectly, but if we don’t try then we are rejecting His demand of purity in our lives and rejecting His promise and offer to make us pure.

Impurity causes problems, not just in marriage, but in every relationship, and especially our relationship with God. Regardless of whether you are already married or will never marry, it doesn’t matter. Purity is not just for the single. Purity is for the Christian. If we are to have a relationship with God, if we are to have abundant spiritual life, if we are to grow and flourish we MUST seek purity. Purity is a requirement for holiness and that is what God demands of us. We must seek purity in every area of our lives, in every relationship, in every part of ourselves. We must purify our hearts and minds above all, and seek to correct our actions. If there is impurity in our hearts it will come out and it will cause trouble. I beseech you: seek purity as if your life depended on it, because it does!

Matthew 5:8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

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