"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Higher Standard

I recently finished a month-long course on purity which I would strongly encourage for anyone who is interested. It can be found at settingcaptivesfree.com and is called the Purity Challenge for anyone who is struggling with sexual sin in particular.

After finishing this course, it prompted me to start thinking about sharing the message of purity more with those around me and I figured, what better way to do this than to write several messages on it? So what I intend to do (though I may end up not following this plan, lol) is to split the message of purity up into different sections, the first one being titled 'A Higher Standard'.

What do I mean when I say a higher standard though? Well its a relative term and as I'll point out further along, the standard that Christ taught actually raises the bar higher than the laws of the Old Testament and is clearly much higher than the standard of the world.

Now, in order to effectively teach this message, we first need to give a basis for the world's standard.

The Bible teaches us that as the end times draw near, as the return of Christ becomes more imminent, the wickedness in this world will increase.

Matthew 24:12 NIV says, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold."

In this context, Christ talks about false prophets and persecution of Christians and then in verse 12, He declares that wickedness will increase. Now, I'm not fond of end-time predictions and I have no intention of giving anyone a date but as time goes on, it feels each generation is more wicked than the previous. There's more nudity, more fornication, abortion, murder and the list goes on. It doesn't take a university degree to see that the world is slowly diminishing in moral standards. Just as we can see a slow moral decline from the time of Adam, this generation, and the next, and the next, will all be part of that slow decline in morality until the return of Christ. 

Now, let's go back a bit to Exodus with Moses on Mount Sinai and the Law that was given. This was a big event when God established His covenant with all of Israel and gave all of His Laws to the people. He essentially gave a clear-cut standard. And we're familiar with some of the more known commands that are mentioned in the Ten Commandments. 

We have laws such as "Do not commit adultery", "Do not lie", pretty basic rules. And this continued on for quite some time until Christ came and what Christ essentially did was, not only fulfill the Law by His sacrifice on the cross, but He raised the standard. 

A clear example of this is in Matthew 5-7 with the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus not only reaffirmed the teaching that adultery was wrong but said that if a man even lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery in his heart (5:28). 

Christ raised the standards, He raised the stakes. Other Scripture, such as in Ephesians 5:3, Paul says there must not be even a HINT of sexual immorality among the children of God. 

I think about that command and I first think "Wow, dude, how am I gonna keep that standard?" and then the second thought being "That's a pretty awesome standard." 

Now, the Law was good, but ultimately, it didn't bring salvation. Works cannot bring salvation. In Romans, Paul speaks extensively on the relationship between the Law and Christ and how Christ brings freedom to those who follow Him. 

Here's the thing, with the life that we have in Christ, this is no longer about ceremony and giving sacrifices for the remission of sins, this has reached a whole new level of following Christ, ultimately imitating God in character. 

And some think "Imitating God? That's impossible!" 

Well amusingly enough, in Ephesians 5:1, two verses before the verse of sexual purity, Paul says "Be imitators of God".

Its right there, Scripture didn't get it wrong, God wants us to strive to have a holy and righteous character, to go beyond simply keeping our hands to ourselves but keeping our thoughts under control. This higher standard comes with greater strength because it is not with our own strength we overcome, but with His. 

Colossians 1:29 NIV says, "To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me." 

 I think I've shared this verse before. I wouldn't be surprised, its one of my favourites. Paul is so overcome with the Spirit of Christ and the power of Christ within him that he can barely contain it. Satan would have us think we cannot maintain this higher standard that Christ taught while on earth and through the apostles, but God would have us know otherwise. 

The famous verse in Philippians 4 clearly says that we can do anything through Him who gives us strength, and here's the cool part: remember that verse in Matthew 24 that said wickedness will increase? Take a look at the verse following it: 

Matthew 24:13 NIV says, "but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."

The same God who made the sun stand still for Joshua and protected Daniel in the den of lions is the same God who can protect us from the Tempter and the sin that lurks in darkness waiting to devour us. 

His promise to give us strength in our time of need in order to maintain this standard do not falter.

His promises remain. God bless you all. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

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