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

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Heights of Purity

Today we will continue our study on purity and the level of purity God requires of us. In the past couple of weeks we looked at first the standard of the world briefly and contrasted that with the standard that Christ gave while on earth and through the apostles (A Higher Standard). We then went further and examined the misconceptions of purity and how purity isn't stagnant but is in continual motion towards Christ in obedience to God (Boundaries of Purity) and we left off hinting towards understanding the extents of purity through His Word. That is where I want to continue today.

Now, when I say 'the heights of purity', what I'm really trying to get at is: what does the purity that God calls us into look like? And, in a way, it can be hard to picture this, especially when we look at passages like Ephesians 5:3 which talks about not even allowing a hint of sexual immorality or impurity among God's children. And like a lot of things in Scripture, this isn't something that can simply be grasped in one simple verse or isn't only confined to the subjects we relate purity to, such as sexuality.

After reading several books on purity when it comes to relationship, they're usually in agreement when it comes to choosing courtship over dating, only a little to no kissing before engagement or even until the wedding day in some cases, refraining from being alone together and so forth.

But I don't want to get too caught up on interpretations because purity encompasses so much more than simply romantic relationships and so I'm going to throw some verses at you and we'll work through them one by one.

The first one I want to look at is Philippians 4:8,

"Finally, brothers, 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." (NIV)

This is one of my favourite verses. The simplicity of the message is astounding and yet it is so radical for this day and age. 'Whatever is true... whatever is pure... think about such things'. 

Paul knows that purity starts with our thought lives.

And notice he doesn't say "Make sure not to think about lust or coveting or greed". No, no. As we learnt, purity is in motion, it isn't about boundaries, just as our faith in Christ isn't about all the "Thou shalt not's" but is about freedom in Christ. It is simply a constant fixation on the glory and splendor of God and all He has done and allowing our minds to be consumed with that. 

1 Timothy 5:1-2 NIV says, "Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity."

Again, just a beautiful passage from Paul as he briefly summarises how we should treat others in the body of Christ and the part that has always fascinated me is the last few words.

Absolute purity. 

It is astounding how simple it sounds and yet so difficult at the same time, and we find ourselves coming back to what was just said about Philippians 4:8, that this isn't about regulations and criteria. Its not about a boundary that is set out and that as long as you're within that boundary, you're treating others with absolute purity. No, not at all. 

Because this all really comes back to Christ's most fundamental teaching: love. And the love we hear about in 1 Corinthians 13 and we know that that passage sounds too cliche in contemporary times. That doesn't make it any less true. 

Not only does love has the essence of selflessness, so does purity. 

And there's a lot more Scripture has to say on purity, but I want to discuss one last verse that I have always been quite fond of as it describes the childlike nature Christ calls us to be as God's children. 

Titus 1:15a NIV says, "To the pure, all things are pure". 

Now, I haven't done any scholarly reading on this verse but the interpretation I have also felt I have received from God has always been this idea that those who are pure, who's minds are fixated on the purity and truth of God, they have this sort of innocence. And some people will interpret this innocence as being naive or ignorant or whatever they want to call it, but I've always seen it as a sort of innocence that refuses to be corrupted by the world. That it is able to see the good where there is good, and doesn't fixate on the evil. That is can hear the worst joke in the world and yet passes it by because the mind is too pure to hold such thoughts so as to understand the joke. 

I hope you are beginning to get this picture of purity that I am trying to paint for you and not only the heights of this purity, but also its beauty. I know I only posted the fist half of the verse and for those you who are familiar with the verse, you know it goes on to talk about those who's minds are corrupted and do not believe and it creates this stark contrast between the purity of God and corruption of the world. 

And I don't claim to hold to this sort of purity all the time but I can say that the times when I have managed to hear a joke and remain so naive as to not understand it and, thus, the devil has managed to take no hold on my mind and God has kept me in peace, and it was such a blessing. 

And there is hope for all who are in Christ because this renewal of the mind must start somewhere and He is fully capable of renewing our minds so that we may attain this purity. 

So, I implore you this week, to just take some time and allow God to refresh your mind and cleanse it as He transforms you from one degree of glory to another in Christ's likeness. 

"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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