If I could have several do-overs in life, I know what one of them would be.
I was sitting at a booth in Jason’s Deli at Brookwood Mall eating dinner with a college sophomore who was fairly new to our small group. It was spring time, and she had just become a Christian the summer before. And she had recently started dating someone. Little did I know, she would lose her virginity just a few weeks later.
Fast forward to the next year. She and the guy had broken up. She’s dealing with depression and anger at God, and one of the ways she had started coping with the lack of sexual activity was by masturbating. And masturbating became an addiction.
My regret has to do with what I did NOT ask or say to her at that dinner we had at Jason’s Deli. I could not have known the future, nor stopped her from making the choices she did. But I knew - even that night - that I should have asked probing questions about the physical side of their relationship and about her understanding of mental, emotional, and physical purity.
Because purity contains a MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, and PHYSICAL component.
The Mental Aspect of Purity
I’ve lived a vanilla life…externally. But I am really thankful you can’t read my mind. This is where I battle sin the most.
In So Long, Insecurity, Beth Moore states, “We don’t have to love something for it to become a god to us. All we have to do is devote our most valuable mental attention to it. In its most basic essence, worship is simple focus. Voluntary preoccupation.”
What fills your mind? What consumes your thoughts? What do you gravitate towards thinking about when you’re waking up, going to sleep, in the shower, etc.? What consistently shows up as the content of your thoughts?
How are you loving and worshipping God with “all your mind” (Matt. 22:37)?
For more on how to do this, read this post on “The War Within” or Part 1 or Part 2 of “Shepherding People in Crisis.” Also, read this previous post on fighting sin in the mind and “What Singleness and Marriage Have in Common.”
The Emotional Aspect of Purity
No one cries like the broken-hearted. Trust me, I know. My first college small group (all have graduated at this point) had 22 break-ups happen during the time we were together. I now keep chocolate and tissues on hand for such a time as this.
One reason why break-ups are so hard is because of how emotionally tied we have become to that person. Unfortunately, we often make the mistake of being emotionally involved with someone before there’s any sort of commitment in the relationship (for more on this subject, read this blog post on not letting your mind and heart marry him before the rest of you can).
But emotional purity has to do with more than just how we relate to others in relationships. What or who holds your affections?
Let me ask this another way. What do you want most, love most, and fear most? Your answer to this question indicates what you worship.
How are you loving and worshipping God with “all your heart”?
If God isn’t what you want most, love most, and fear most, then how can you cultivate a greater desire for Him? I can tell you that “the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” We feel the way we do because we think the way we do. So if we want to grow our affection for God, it starts with how we think about God. What’s your attitude towards Him and towards spending time with Him?
How can you take a step this week to grow your affection for God?
The Physical Aspect of Purity
The pursuit of purity serves double duty as both an outward and inward discipline since it involves our thoughts, our affections, and our actions. The Bible has a lot to say about how we should regulate our bodies - and I’m not just referring to sexual purity.
- “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” -Eph. 4:29
- “But now you must put them all away...slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” -Col. 3:8
- “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” -James 1:26
- “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” -Ps. 34:13
- “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” -2 Tim. 4:3
- “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” -Jn. 8:43
- “He who...stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights…” -Isa. 33:15-16
- “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” -Matt. 6:22
- “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless…” -Ps. 101:3a
- “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.” -Prov. 21:14
- “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” - Mk. 9:43
- “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood...” -Prov. 6:16-17
- “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” -Prov. 10:4
- “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” -Ps. 1:1
- “There are six things that the Lord hates...a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,” -Prov. 6:16a, 18
- “my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil,” -Prov. 1:15-16a
Pursuing purity is a whole body endeavor, and it’s one that we cannot do on our own. Attempting behavior modification without heart change is not sustainable.
In Romans 12:1, Paul begins a chapter of exhortations and commands by appealing to believers “by the mercies of God.” God’s work of salvation where He pardons sinners because He sent His Son to take our punishment for sin - this mercy should motivate us to strive for purity in our lives. How can we remember Jesus’ suffering and death without wanting to honor Him? But His mercy and grace are also what enable us to obey. As we spend time with Him, engaging in the various spiritual disciplines, He changes us from the inside out. He gives us both the desire to honor Him with our mouth, eyes, ears, hands, and feet as well as the ability to do so.
Grant us purity of heart
and strength of purpose,
that no selfish passion
may hinder us from knowing Your will,
and no weakness
hinder us from doing it;
but that in Your light
we may see light,
and in Your service
find our perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)
For a great article by John Piper on “Practical Steps to Kill Sin,” click here