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Building Lasting Values
“The Value of Purity”
Today in our series on building values that will last, I want to talk about staying pure in an impure world.
As Americans we care a lot about the purity in some areas, but could care less about it in other areas. Today we want pure air to breathe, pure water to drink, and pure organic foods to eat. Yet, we’re not really that concerned about having a pure heart and mind, or maintaining a moral life.
When it comes to our bodies, we want purity, but when it comes to our hearts and minds we’ll let just about anything and everything in. We live in such an open-minded society that almost every kind of immoral and perverted trash ends up filling our minds and changing the way God intended us to live.
It use to be that you had to go to adult book stores and clubs to look at this kind of stuff, but now it’s piped into every American home daily through the Internet. It is seen on Billboards as we drive down the highways. Advertisers are more brazen than ever as they sell products guaranteeing sexual pleasures. And both television shows and movies promote sex of every kind, style, and fashion.
You might say that America has become a sex-saturated society. As a result of this sexual saturation and the bombardment of our minds and hearts, we are seeing not just an epidemic, but also a pandemic of all sorts of sexual deviancies, pornography, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases.
In 2008, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year, and last year, 2018, they say that this number continues to rise. Think about that, not total cases, but new cases.
Why this is happening is because people have ignored and tossed out God’s word, and are living lives completely opposite of how God designed life to be lived. And whenever we toss out God there’s a price to be paid.
The Bible says, “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7), and “Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8).
Regarding moral purity the Living Bible says, “God wants you to be pure and to keep clear of all sexual sin. For God has not called us to be dirty-minded and full of lust but to be holy and clean.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3,7 LB)
Is that possible? Is it possible to live in our sex-saturated society and maintain a pure heart and mind? Is it possible to live in this sex-saturated culture that ridicules those who want to live pure lives in accordance to God’s word?
To answer that question, let me use an illustration of an ocean fish. This fish lives its entire life in salt water. It grows up in a culture where every moment of its life is surrounded by water so salty that we can’t drink it without getting sick. But when this same fish is caught and prepared, salt needs to be added.
Is such a pure life possible? Well, the same God that can take a fish and keep it in an environment of salt its entire life and yet not be affected by the salt, can keep us pure in an impure world.
How? Well it isn’t through imitation, that is, being like everybody else and adapting to the world around us. Neither is it in isolation, that is, not having any association with the world around us. Rather the answer is insulation. Like that ocean going fish, God can insulate us and keep our heart and minds pure in an impure society and culture.
Again, how? The Bible gives us several things to do if we want to remain in pure in an impure world.
Commit To God’s Standards
“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules.” (Psalm 119:9 NLT)
I think that we can replace a word in this passage without getting into trouble, the word “anyone,” and not just those that are young.
We need to get this issue resolved in our minds before anything else happens in our lives. “What is going to be our standard of authority?” Is God’s word going to be our standard for living, or are we going to live by the standards of this world, or make up our own standards as we go along? In other words, it all comes down to whether or not we believe that God knows more about what’s good for us than we do.
Now the things God says in His word aren’t very popular in our world today, particularly when it comes to this issue of sex. But what we have to understand is that God knows more about sex than we do, because He created it for us. He knows and understands the implications far better than we do. Therefore, we have to decide whether or not we’re going to follow His directions or our own.
If we say we believe in God and in His word, the answer is clear; that even though we may not understand it, even though it isn’t very popular with the world around us, we’re going to make a commitment to do what the Bible says.
And until we are willing to make that commitment, then we might as well close our Bibles, because truthfully, we’re not ready to live in purity.
When it comes to this whole idea of sex, we need to understand that God was the One who invented it, and has therefore put parameters around it to keep us safe.
Sex is more than merely the physical act. If it was just a physical act, then it would be nothing more than a handshake, and it wouldn’t matter who we had sex with. But sex is also spiritual and has spiritual consequences, along with emotional, social, and legal consequences.
Thinking that sex is simply physical is the problem with sex education in our schools. They teach that sex is only a biological function, and a matter of anatomy. But sex is more. There are social, emotional, legal and spiritual dimension attached to it.
What God says is that sex is exclusively reserved for a husband and a wife who are committed to each other within in the confines of marriage. Anything outside of that will have profound consequences for our emotional and spiritual life, and may even harm us physically, seeing the increase in the number and types of sexually transmitted diseases out there, several of them being fatal.
Why did God put parameters around sex? Because He knows what it is and isn’t for, and the harm that it can cause when it isn’t used the right way.
Think about it like this. Let’s say we want to get on the freeway and saw an offramp sign that says, “Do not enter.’ Would we get upset at that sign and those who placed it there, because as adults we can decide for ourselves what we want to do and where we want to go. Would we say that the sign restricts our freedom, or is there to save our lives?
When God says this is what sex is reserved for, He’s only trying to help us, not hurt us. He’s allowing us to get the full enjoyment out of it, rather than the heartache, pain, and illnesses that come from it’s misuse.
When we ignore God’s word, thinking that we know more than God, then we’re asking for trouble. We’re asking for regret, bitterness, problems in self-esteem, and relational difficulties.
It’s simple; God has a set of rules for living. If we play by His rules we win, if we don’t, we lose. Sex is a gift from God, but it must be used wisely. Water is also a gift from God, and we cannot live without water, but if we get too much water we’ll drown. Fire is a gift from God. We need fire to get warm and cook our foods, but if we get too much fire, we’ll get burned.
Therefore, since God gave sex to humanity, it is holy and spiritual, which is why it’s to be used according to God’s standard.
So, we need to make a commitment to God’s standard. If married stay wholly devoted and faithful, and if single, commit to remain abstinent until marriage. That takes courage, character, and conviction.
Manage The Mind
Every temptation begins in the mind. This is where the battle is won or lost. When we have an open mind, which is what our society values most, what happens is that it gets filled with all sorts of garbage. So we need to watch what we think.
This is how we fall into temptations. No one wakes up one morning and looks outside their window and says, “Today is a great day to commit adultery.” That’s not the way it happens. Long before the physical act takes place, the mind has been actively pursuing the possibility.
The Apostle James says, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived.” (James 1:14-16a NKJV)
So it begins in our thought life when our desires draw us away from what we know is right. This is where the emotional involvement starts, which eventually leads to the act. Now please understand, it isn’t a sin to be tempted, the Bible says that even Jesus was tempted but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Sin is when we give into the temptation.
Martin Luther gives us some pretty good advice. He said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
The Apostle Paul gives Timothy some good advice.
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV)
To flee is to turn away and run as fast as we can from the temptation. Think about like this; if we’re trying to lose weight, we don’t sit in front of a hot fudge sundae at Dairy Queen trying to resist it. What it means is that we get out of Dairy Queen and over to a restaurant and order a salad with low fat dressing.
Monitor The Media
The garbage that fills our minds today has been deposited through what we choice to read, listen to, and watch.
The Bible says, “A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash (Proverbs 15:14 NLT)
What we feed our minds is just as important as what we feed our bodies. If we feed our bodies only Twinkies we’re going to end up looking like one. Now, the moral equivalent of a Twinkie is some of the stuff that fills our Internet and television screens. It has very little nutritional value.
Here are some stats.
The problem is that what read, listen to, and watch, and what Hollywood produces has no correlation to reality, and over 90 percent goes directly against God’s word. Therefore, we have to monitor our media consumption, because all this garbage lowers our resistance to what is right and wrong.
Here are a couple of verses to memorize and pray before we sit down and surf the Internet, or watch TV.
“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.” (Psalm 119:37 NKJV)
“I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.” (Psalm 101:3a NLT)
Minimize Opportunities for Temptation
In other words, get out of those places where we know we’re going to be tempted. If we don’t want to get stung, stay away from bees. If we don’t want to get burned, stay away from fire. And if we have a problem with alcohol, don’t go into a bar to eat pretzels.
There are three ways to minimize temptations
a. Recognize What Tempts
Recognize those things that get us thinking in the wrong direction.
“If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT)
We need to be alert and aware of temptation’s early warning signs so we can bail early. Further, just because we are Christians, it doesn’t mean we’re immune to temptations. That’s a lie from Satan so we’ll let our guard down.
b. Choose Friends Carefully
“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV)
A wise mother gave this lesson to her daughters. First she had them stand on the kitchen table and try to drag her up on the table. Then she had them stand on the floor while she got up on the table and told them to try to pull her down. While they struggled to pull her up, they had no trouble pulling her down. Her lesson was to be careful who they called their friends, because it is easier to pull someone down than it is to pull them up.
c. Establish Protective Guidelines
“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.” (Ephesians 5:3 NLT)
We need to set up protective guidelines as to what we’ll allow and what we won’t allow. Set up boundaries that neither we or others will cross. Watch what we wear, and what we watch. And make sure that filters are in place, which may include an accountability partner.
This is especially true when it comes to marriage and our need to set up these guidelines to protect and maintain our marriages.
Maintain The Marriage
“Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18 NLT)
God wants us to enjoy our spouses, not endure them. What this means is that we have to put effort into our relationship.
And while this is vital to a marriage, there is another relationship that we need to continue to develop and grow in, both individually and together as couples, and that is our relationship with the Lord.
It is only when we draw closer to the Lord that we will inevitably draw closer to our spouses. But when we draw away from God, then in like manner we’ll draw away from our spouses and our marriage.
This is what get’s us in trouble.
When we make the commitment and put our energy toward our relationship with both the Lord and our spouses, then there would be fewer marriages ending up in court.
Magnify the Consequences of Sin
I have seen and heard the heartaches of faithlessness, broken hearts, family splits, and devastated children.
Sex outside the boundaries set by God damages emotions and lives. When these boundaries are violated, life gets off kilter, because God didn’t make us for these sorts of illicit relationships. Look at the results.
“A prostitute will bring you to poverty, and sleeping with another man’s wife may cost you your very life.” (Proverbs 6:26 NLT)
The problem with what we see from Hollywood is that it sensationalizes and glamorizes sex and rarely shows the lives that illicit sex destroys. Whenever sex is abused or misused it will always cost.
Regardless of what has happened in the past, God is giving us a new start today. Why make the choice to follow God and His word? Here are three reasons
“Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.” (Hebrews 13:4 NLT)
God’s standards for life have never changed. Therefore, any sex outside the confines of marriage between a man and a woman is unacceptable to God and He will judge it in the end.
If we have found ourselves guilty of impurity in any of its forms, then we’ve come to the right place. Church is a place where God’s healing, forgiveness, and restoration take place. God wants to give us not only a clean start but a clean slate.
For this to take place, however, we need to confess our sin to God, and His promise is that He will both forgive and cleanse. Next we need to repent, that is, we need to turn back to God and His word, and make His word our standard for life.
God wants to give us a fresh start today, so lets avail ourselves of it and start living the abundant life God has designed for us to live.
Therefore, it is only through a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ that we can live a pure life in an impure world.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study