One of the things I hear held up as a virtue—and I hear it in our culture as much as I hear it in the church—is the idea of being a virgin until marriage. Interestingly enough, the Bible does not hold up the ideal of virginity – the Bible holds up the ideal of purity.
Purity is not the absence of sex. Purity can be achieved in a marriage that is very sexually active. Purity is, among other things, placing sex in its proper perspective.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how we all have these dynamic, energetic forces within us called sex drives. God gave them to us. His purpose was not exclusively for us to have fun in marriage, nor was it to have children. Certainly, in this world, those are byproducts. Likewise, the harnessing of our sex drives builds civilizations. I maintain, however, the foremost purpose for God giving us our sex drives is that it drives us ultimately, if we channel it well, toward God.
An essential element of this drive to God is purity. To help us visualize this, I want to share with you something I shared with my congregation a couple of weeks ago. I’m calling it THE PURITY PYRAMID. At the base, I’m placing the concept of the holiness of God. It all starts with God. It was God who said, “I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:45.)
Even with the recognition of God’s holiness, it is still difficult to live pure lives in our culture. We do well to remember that, as Christians, we have the PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. He came as God’s gift:
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"Acts 2:38.) [ESV]
Paul tells us that God demonstrates His grace by making us new people when we become Christians. That being so, Paul asks how can we dare live against God’s chosen wishes for us:
So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country (Rom. 6:1-5.) [The Message]
Now, when we become Christians, God does not make us do the right thing. Otherwise, we would simply be glorified computers. Yet, an understanding of God’s grace coupled with the Holy Spirit’s power, should motivate us to choose lives of purity, and live by these choices:
I want you to know that if you have been baptized into Christ, you stand pure before Him. And you have been given the power to live like him. You have the Spirit living within you.
Now we have reached the third level of THE PURITY PYRAMID. Looking toward a Holy God, recognizing the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, we pursue “Godly Choices.” These choices include choices of purity.
I think this is what Jesus had in mind when he told us in his sermon on the mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Mt. 5:8.) [NIV] The heart in scripture typically is not a place of emotion. Rather, it is the location of the will. It is the place we make our choices. Jesus calls us to resolve to make choices of purity. Paul reaffirms this in Romans 12.
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (Rom. 12:1-2). [The Message]
Guys, picture yourself helping your wife wash the dirty dishes. She washes, you dry. Imagine you taking those clean dishes and placing them back in the dirty dish pile. She would probably take one of those dishes and break it over your head! Why? You don’t put clean dishes back into the dirty dish pile. Likewise, after God goes through the cross and cleans us up, do we jump back into the dirty dish pile of the world. No, we make pure choices.
The by-product of each step of THE PYRAMID OF PURITY is Christlikeness. Paul wrote that he wanted to know Jesus intimately, share in the power of His resurrection AND His sufferings, so as to become more like Him (Phil. 3:10.) This is our ultimate desire as well. Sex is not just about sex; it is also about God. The choices we make help us to know him more deeply and walk with Him more closely, or we position ourselves further away. I am struck by how God does not want to rob us of a good time; rather, he wants to enhance our time here on this earth.
He knows us better than we know ourselves. To trust Him is to experience life.
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Say it ain’t so, Stephen Ambrose. For two decades, Ambrose has been, perhaps, my favorite biographer and historian. This morning, Tim Archer sent me a link to an article claiming that records reveal that Ambrose heavily exaggerated the amount of personal time spent interviewing one of his subjects—Dwight Eisenhower. Having already been accused of plagiarism in BAND OF BROTHERS, this scandal does not bode well for his legacy.
2. I am totally pleased about Colt McCoy’s draft selection. He has no pressure upon him and he can show everybody how they were wrong by not drafting him higher.
3. By scrupulously avoiding writing about present-day politics, I have been made aware of how much my political feelings affect my life. It feels like so much of who I am is not addressed in my writing. However, that’s better the alternative.
4. The final day of school cannot arrive fast enough. Some things never change.
5. Ben Roethlisberger received a six game suspension last week from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for exercising poor judgment. Could it be American culture is making a moral shift?
Have a great week!