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Purity - Our Goal!

The way towards it

    
PURITY - STANDING ABOVE THE GROUND


By Devon Blackwood


And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and
acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2


     Any Christian who has been given the gift of faith is
learning how to trust his Father more each day. We come to expect
a blessing from God-constantly asking Him for, and expecting to
receive, great things. We ask Him to bless us with good health
and strength, to comfort our spirits when we are in distress, to
respond in His own way to those who render injustice to us. We
expect Him to rain down on us all sorts of good things,
prosperity, success. and happiness. We forget, sometimes, that
God has expectations too.
     When God created Adam and Eve, and placed them in the Garden
He had lovingly prepared just for them, they were sinless. Their
minds and hearts were spotless. What joyful communion they had
with their Creator! How disappointing it was when Satan came on
the scene to stir up trouble and to plant the seed of corruption
in their hearts. Mankind fell, and Adam and Eve had to turn their
faces from the glory of Almighty God. The communion was lost,
because evil cannot co-exist with holiness.
     God's plan is to restore us to holiness and full communion
with Him. It should be enough for us to know that He is love, and
this is His plan for us, and all we have to do is submit our
lives to Him-every bit of them-and let Him change us. We should
eagerly anticipate each correction from the Holy Spirit and
steadfastly guard each heart-change He works in our lives. But we
don't.

     So often, we fall short of-or turn back from-the spiritual
milestones that God has brought us to. Some of us have been
walking in the light for years, and we profess Christianity with
our mouths, but in reality, we are not meeting God's
expectations. In I Peter, we read this:

     Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest
     your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you
     at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not
     conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your
     ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be
     holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy,
     for I am holy."
     I Peter 1:13-16 NKJV

     "No one's perfect!" we say. And surely, when Scripture urges
us to "be holy," it doesn't really mean "holy"... does it?
     In a word, yes. It does. But it is a change God works in us,
with our cooperation. Purity is possible to achieve, but it comes
with tough sacrifices, true commitment, and total submission to
God. But it's worth it! Being in step with Christ, walking in
uniformity to His word, means freedom-freedom from guilt, stain,
and sin.

Challenges to Purity

     In a corrupted society there are many things that can
distract the believer, clouding his judgment with invitations to
sexual promiscuity, dilut ed ideology, drugs, homosexuality, and
other elements that don't belong in God's kingdom. Today, our
society is pervasively corrupt; moral decay has hit at its very
heart. In fact, we have become more worried about air pollution
than moral pollution, discounting our responsibility to keep our
bodies chaste and under control. It seems that the quest for
righteousness has faded. In today's world, when you tell people
(even self-proclaimed believers) what God says in His Word, they
end up twisting the truth around to meet their own fleshly
demands. They put a comfortable distance between themselves and
the truth.
     What makes them turn their back on what is ultimately best
for them and for society as a whole? Self-gratification and
selfish gains. For example, the pursuit of the gay marriage
agenda is becoming socially acceptable so quickly that it is
hitting people off guard. If we're not careful, we become wrapped
up in thinking that wrong is right. Patterns like these have
infiltrated the body of Christ and have become a great divide.
     Conscientious living is an expected part of Christianity.
Consider again Paul's words in Romans 12:

     I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
     that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,,
     acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
     Romans 12:1

     It is only reasonable that we live lives acceptable to God.
Everything about us, all that we do, must be pure, clean and
good. We must uphold the standards that God expects from us and
we must reject fleshly gratification that disrupts the quest for
purity. We must be a light in a darkened world, to show others
the way.
     What is ironic, though, is that sometimes our unsaved
friends or associates have more influence on us than we do on
them. We must be cautious to not compromise our own standards of
purity for temporary fame or fortune, or even just to be
accepted. We must stand up for God and we must fight, taking a
firm stand for righteousness. In the end, if it means being
unpopular, laughed at or booed, be willing to accept that. God's
kingdom is not about our likes and dislikes. It's all about
glorifying Him who has all power, and might, and wisdom. We must
shun the vain ideology that makes it seem that it's about us and
realize that Christianity is not about a popularity contest.

Purity, Essential to Christian Living

     When God calls a sinner to righteousness, He hates it if
that former sinner regresses to his past life. If we struggle
with sin, we must continu ally submit it to God, and let our
hearts become fertile ground for His work in our lives. Some
battle past addictions-perhaps pornography, drinking, or
gambling. A former addict who decides that a little sample of the
sin that had him bound is "okay, just this once" will keep
himself from moving forward, because even if he gets back on
track the next day, he has called sin "okay." It is deadly to
compromise with sin. It leads to spiritual stagnation, and makes
living in purity that much harder the next time.
     People who claim to have God in their lives must be careful
to live out the Word. Once they make a commitment to follow God,
they must make the necessary sacrifices to win the battle and
represent His kingdom. When God calls people into His kingdom, He
knows them as unique and precious individuals, regardless of
their socio-economic conditions, race, gender, or upbringing. He
is confident in their ability to stand on moral ground. He
expects it.
     Purity was vital in the lives of Moses, Paul, and Joseph.
These men endured all sorts of temptations, sufferings, and
infightings but repre sented God's kingdom with exemplary
standards. They didn't step aside for fleshly desires or
temporary satisfaction but concerned themselves with the ministry
assigned to them. Don't think, though, that these men had an easy
time with the challenges that confronted them! They faced the
same kinds of temptations we do today. Paul, for example,
reflects on the human conditions he experienced in sustaining
control over his flesh in Romans 7.

     For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
     But I see another law in my members, warring against the law
     of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin
     which is in my members. O wretched man that 1 am! Who will
     deliver me from this body of death? 1 thank God-through
     Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve
     the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
     Romans 7:22-25

     The tug of war between good and evil can be overwhelming. It
can discourage us from moving higher in Christ. The solution lies
in recognizing our flaws, admitting to them, and submitting them
to the Lord. A man who recognizes his personal weakness is more
likely to seek out strength from his circle of spiritual support
and to be real about asking God to help him grow as a believer.

Purity, Not Perfection

     Whether we admit it or not, there are personal struggles
that exist in every human being. The fight between wrong and
right is a constant battle, as we saw a few paragraphs ago in the
passage from Romans 7. A man or woman might have been purified
and transformed by the power of God, reaching higher places in
Christ each day, but still be weak or lacking in some areas. One
might be virtuous, undiluted, and free from sexual sin, but
habitually make sarcastic remarks that leave a trail of offended
people behind them. And what about the faithful church attendee
who is generous in his work for God, maintains fidelity in his
home, and is a loving father who nurtures his children, but comes
up short in tithe and offering? What about a couple who have
established clear physical boundaries through prayer and being
diligent to seek God's will for their relationship, but in an
unguarded moment, they cross the line? How about someone with a
good heart but a tendency to gossip while she is lovingly sharing
a "prayer concern"? What about people that get in vehement
arguments over minor doctrinal issues, little realizing that
their dissension causes more damage than their doctrinal
differences ever would have?
     Humans are not perfect. Even those who have walked with the
Lord a long time are not without flaws. No one on earth can be
exactly like Jesus. He was sinless; we are not. When Jesus faced
trial before Pilate before his crucifixion, Pilate was convinced
that there was "no sin in Him." The writer of Hebrews agrees:

     For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with
     our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet
     without sin.
     Hebrews 4:15

     The enemy knows we are not perfect. He would love to use our
weaknesses to leave us with a feeling of condemnation. But that,
too, is sin. It is unbelief in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Our best defense when Satan comes to accuse us is found in
Matthew 5:25. Jesus tells us "agree with your adversary quickly."
So when Satan tells us we don't deserve heaven, or salvation, or
any other gift from God, we agree. We don't deserve it. But God
has saved us anyway.
     When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of
Matthew, He referred to "the pure in heart," promising that they
would see God. This is comforting to anyone who seeks God with
his whole heart while recognizing areas of personal weakness in
his life. People make mistakes. There are moments of regretful
indiscretion, but these moments should not be used to justify
failures. Asking Almighty God to form and fashion us in His
likeness gives Him authority to keep working on us, molding us,
and keeping us from influences that tend to dominate us.

Purity Begins in Our Minds

     What then, is our part in the quest for purity? Clearly, we
have a choice, on a minuteby-minute basis, about what we allow to
enter into our minds.
     Our minds are the seat of power, a great powerhouse that
stores information. When we study for exams, engage in events
like a Scripture competition, or attempt to memorize something,
it all goes into our minds. We can make our minds good and pure
or fill them with impurities.
     Whatever thoughts fill our minds also influence our lives.
They shape our words and dictate our interactions with others.
And when our and relationships are not pure, the excuses begin
"Well, I wasn't born perfect" or "I am weak in the flesh" or "I
was born in sin and shaped in iniquity." Regardless of the truth
in these statements, pure living is still expected of us. We must
reject impure thoughts and turn away from those things which
corrupt or influence our behavior. Every day, we must work hard
to fight the forces of evil that try to find a way to slip
through the corners of our mind and heart. Evil insidiously tries
to trick us into believing sin is okay, but, in fact, it is not.

     Scripture points out that the same mind which is in Christ
Jesus must be in us (Philippians 2:5). We must be aware of what
we introduce into our system. There are people who refuse to
drink tap water because they believe that putting anything less
than spring or filtered water into their system is poisonous or
otherwise unhealthy. Others become vegetarians for the same
reason. And almost everybody agrees on the importance of washing
food before eating it, especially if it has been exposed to
pesticides. But some of these same people are not nearly as
careful when it comes to what they feed their minds and spirits.
     The mind of a spiritual person should react to spiritual
poisons like the body reacts to allergens. Among the first
reactions of a person who is sensitive to ragweed, grass, or
pollen are sneezing and watery eyes; reactions designed to rid
the body of whatever is causing the problem. The body naturally
reacts to fending off the toxin or nutrient that irritates it.
Likewise, red blood cells fight infections and keep parasitic
invaders from killing us. We should have the same spiritual
reactions to the immoral input that impairs our Christian walk.
Certain types of lyrics and music, some radio talk shows, worldly
fashion, and carnal conversations can be the very things that
corrupt our mental imagery. And once our imagery is infected, it
becomes a strong magnet that pulls us in the wrong direction.

     When my first computer crashed, its file system was
corrupted, perhaps because the operating system installed on it
was outdated, not functioning to its optimal level, or corrupted
by parasites. It became open to all sorts of viruses too messy to
clean up. Eventually, I had to throw it out and purchase a new
system. It would have been much easier to catch the infection
when it first started.
     When rodents or insects set up shop in a dwelling, a
concerned owner is sure to call in a terminator or pest control
company to rid his dwelling of these pesky creatures before they
get so numerous that they do unrecoverable damage.
     We resent it when objects or people come uninvited into our
personal space. We consider them intruders, because our personal
space is a sanctuary. Our bodies and minds-which form a house of
praise and worship to the God who created them-should be
protected and defended the same way.
     What about invited guests? When we purchase a new home, we
proudly invite people we care about to come see it. Before they
come, we are certain to dust, wash, and clean, set out the best
utensils, prepare tasty food, and arrange the decorations so the
house will be ready when the celebration begins. Likewise, we
must recognize the somber reality that the Holy Spirit reigns in
our mortal bodies, but He will only stay in us if our bodies are
clean. We must be vessels of honor, as Paul describes in the book
of Second Timothy:

     Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this
     seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone
     who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. " But in
     a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver,
     but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for
     dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the
     latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful
     for the Master, prepared for every good work.
     Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith,
     love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure
     heart. 11 Timothy 2:19-22

     Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth
     through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one
     another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again,
     not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word
     of God which lives and abides forever.
     I Peter 1:22-23

     Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the
     Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of
     God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy,
     which temple you are.
     I Corinthians 3:16-17

An Analytical View of Philippians 4:8

     Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians to keep them
focused and motivated for ministry. In his conclusion, he
emphasizes the need for purity. Let's examine his points one by
one.

     Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things
     are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are
     pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of
     good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything
     praiseworthy-meditate on these things.
     Philippians 4:8

Things that are true. 

     The old proverb, "Honesty is the best policy," is still true
today, and when a godly person practices it, it carries even more
impact: The person becomes an authentic witness for Christ and
shows true resolve and a firm commitment to following God,
denouncing deception and lies. At the end of the day, our loving
and faithful God will supply your every need, an indication that
He loves honesty.

Things that are noble. 

     There is no substitute for a clean conscience and firm
adherence to godly principles. We must be consistent in the
heavenly things that condition our Christian integrity, be quick
to reject forces that influence us, and stand firmly for what is
Biblically correct. So what if the people around us are taking
pride in wrongdoing? So what if they call us "intolerant" or
"prudish" for the choices we've made? We shouldn't surrender.

Things that are just (justifiable).

     Holding to morally sound standards and taking an ethical
stance even if it irritates others is right in God's eyes.
Believers ought to exercise equality, impartiality, and fairness
in their daily lives as they interact with others. We might not
necessarily hold up picket signs and demonstrate on the streets
for what the Bible says, but our actions clearly proclaim our
thoughts and beliefs.

Things that are lovely. 

     When we walk hand in hand with God, His loveliness infuses
our character and personality, and we become lovely too. Filled
with His grace and His beauty, we show the world that Jesus
resides in us. Those who are lovely have a glow, shining their
light in darkness. Jesus urges us to dispel the darkness wherever
we can:

     Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your
     good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
     Matthew 5:16

     We should be quick to reject behaviors that tarnish us but
embrace those that raise us up to the highest places in God.

Things that are of good report. 

     Biting into a sweet piece of fruit leaves a delicious taste
in our mouth that lingers. As we absorb the taste, we are eager
to eat another piece. Similarly, if we are compassionate and
civil when we relate to others, they will be convinced that we
are true ambassadors of Christ. As such, we should strive to
enhance the lives of all we come across, refusing to be part of
conflict, gossip, or rumors about others.

Things that are virtuous. 

     Solomon writes about virtue (a gracious and temperate
spirit) in Proverbs 31. But what is virtue? More than a mere
expression of graciousness, virtue is an excellence of moral
conduct. A virtuous person rejects bitterness, conceit, and
vindictiveness. Proverbs 31 talks mainly about a woman, but
virtue is not gender specific. Men are expected to have virtue
also, being certain to avoid selfishness and traits that causes
others to grieve.
     Whether we stand on the street corner or quietly go about
our business, people should know we are different. What we think,
even if we never say it aloud, will impact those around us

So hold firm. Be consistent. Rely on the Lord for wisdom. Work
hard to overcome the corruption and immorality that poisons our
society.

Deepening Your Connection By Choosing Purity

1. Write a weekly achievement journal on Philippians 4:8 to
assess your progress on growing as a Christian for an entire
year.

2. In your daily prayer and meditation, ask God to reveal
weaknesses in your spiritual walk, then confide in a trustworthy
friend who can help you grow.

3. Identify specific areas of temptation and develop a specific
plan to deactivate future enticements.

4. Withdraw from relationships, entertainment, or behaviors that
make you vulnerable.

5. Do what Jesus did. Use Scripture to ward off temptation.
Commit to memory verses that will help you when the devil
presents himself in your life.

6. Be open and sincere with people. Without judging them, let
them know specifically about your limits and boundaries. That
way, they know straight up where you stand.

7. Fast and pray, gearing it towards breaking yokes or
strongholds in your personal walk.

8. Don't take a chance with sexual enticement, drugs, or other
forms of psychological pleasures. It is easier than you think to
get addicted to them.

9. Tune out music or lyrics that negatively affect your mental or
spiritual ambitions.

Words from the Fountain

     Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of
     faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience
     and our bodies washed with pure water.
..........


Devon Blackwood is an administrator, education director and
teacher, at the Shiloh Church of God Seventh Day in Baltimore,
MD. All scripture references are from the New King James Version
Bible.

From ACTS magazine - September/November 2010 - a publication of
the General Council Churches of God (Seventh) Day, Meridian ID -
USA.
               

 
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