“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
What I didn’t say in my last post…
I know that some of the things I wrote in the last post could easily be misunderstood so I’d like to just say a few things plainly so that you know where I’m coming from.
Firstly, living in purity isn’t about earning your salvation or earning the right to hear God. Salvation is a free gift no one can boast about (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thank you Jesus!
As I mentioned, when we live in compromise it’s us that withdraws from God in shame and God who keeps calling out to us to reconcile with Him and be restored.
This might not look like we’re backsliding or rebelling but often we just dial down our pursuit of depth in our relationship with Him and get lukewarm.
Secondly, purity isn’t about being prudish and scared of the world and its ways but Jesus did tell us to be as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).
John Wesley once asked his mother for a definition of sin and she gave him this epic answer: “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”
Will you humour me for a silly analogy? If you shove a toothbrush into your ear, you will damage your hearing! Haha! Not necessarily because toothbrushes are bad, your ears just aren’t made for toothbrushes!
I didn’t say God would stop speaking to you if you indulge in damaging stuff but rather that you’d damage your hearing. His voice continues forever but sin can have the effect of blocking your ears and eyes! That’s partly why He hates it.
What the Heck is Holiness?
Are you still reading? Phew. Many of us run for the hills when we hear the word holiness because of what we think it means. For many of us it’s synonymous with legalism, religion and boredom. I take issue with all of these understandings for different reasons that I can’t really go into but I’d like to propose that holiness is none of these things.
In the Old Covenant God’s people were governed by the Law but God promised a New Covenant where His people would obey Him from a place of love instead. I think we need to make this journey in the realm of purity.
We know that God calls us to be holy because He is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1Peter 1:16) and I think this is actually more than a “Hey, you kids better behave or I’ll get angry” or “You kids better be holy and not embarrass me!”
The word “holy” means to be set apart, separate and different. In calling Himself holy, God is speaking of His own uniqueness and saying that He is separate from the world and all of its sinfulness and corruption. In calling us to be holy I believe God is actually inviting us to be with Him where He is.
The call to holiness is actually a call to intimacy with God.
We know that our righteousness comes from Christ right? (Philippians 1:11) That our garments and ourselves are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb right? (Hebrews 10:22; Revelation 7:14) We know that we’re to be a pure and spotless Bride for our Bridegroom right? (Ephesians 5:27)
Why are we like a Bride who refuses to wear the dress that her Beloved washed and paid for with His own blood?
When we return to the mud after He’s cleaned us up, we are communicating something to Him. I feel like He is really grieved over this. I believe it hurts His heart when we choose to return to the prison cell He liberated us from in the name of comfort, social acceptance or entertainment.
Purity is about the love of our betrothal. It’s about guarding our eyes and ears and hearts because they were made to see and hear and know God deeply. This is about love, not law.
A Decision to make decisions…
I often struggle with living in a way that makes me stand out from other people. I really like fitting in and I really like people liking me and feeling relaxed around me. However the more I’ve grown to know God and His Word, the less I’ve felt like I can fit in with everyone else.
At school I wasn’t swearing or getting drunk at parties. At church I wasn’t enjoying crude jokes or hooking up with girls. At uni I wasn’t gossiping or having sex. People noticed and sometimes things got awkward. Really awkward. Jesus talked a little about this (John 3:21) and Paul brought it up too (Ephesians 5:11).
Have you ever re-watched an old film you used to love years later only to realise that it’s far too sexual for you to watch it any more?
How about listening to a song you used to love partying to that just doesn’t fit your convictions any more?
This is just a sign of our growing in purity and intimacy with God or what the Bible calls sanctification. I’ve heard it put this way: “The closer we get to God, the greater the least sin becomes.” Our pursuit of purity isn’t actually a pursuit of purity, it’s a pursuit of Jesus. We’re following after Him, endeavouring to walk closer and closer with Him each day.
Jesus said “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) This wasn’t blackmail. Following Jesus isn’t a one time decision. It’s a decision to make decisions. Decisions that honour His love, value His heart and fulfil His will above our own.
I remember being at uni and a friend who wasn’t a Christian spotted a song on my iTunes playlist and being shocked told me “You shouldn’t be listening to that!” It was a song about sex. I felt totally busted. She was right! With much hesitation I deleted it.
Not long after the Holy Spirit started to speak to me about some other songs He didn’t like in my playlist either because of their content or because of how I’d acquired them. It might seem childish to say but I really struggled with this at first because I LOVED MY MUSIC!! However, He helped me to understand that there were some things He wanted me to lay down to increase my capacity to carry His presence. My music was getting in the way. It may have been fine for other people but He made it clear that it wasn’t for me.
The Set Apart Heart
It’s really important that we don’t let other people’s standards of purity (or impurity) define our own. YOU are walking with God. As Rees Howells, an incredible man of God from Wales once said “You may live in a crowd but you meet God and face eternity alone.”
It’s really important that we really listen and respond to the hand of the Holy Spirit as He leads us into purity. We can get very good at numbing ourselves to His promptings, especially when obeying them seems restrictive or embarrassing.
Everyone around you may be doing what is wrong and calling it right but He will look at your heart. Does it want to draw closer to Him at the cost of your favourite TV series? Does it want to hear Him clearer or does it prefer to stick with the crude joking that Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:4?
We can’t allow the standard around us to define the state of our hearts. I’ve found that our friends can help us and spur us on but they can also have the opposite effect, not by being antagonistic but simply by being apathetic.
Don’t be discouraged in pursuing Jesus with your whole heart no matter the cost and don’t be deceived and tempted to allow certain things just because others do.
Like the man who found the treasure buried in the field, you might have had a glimpse of something beautiful in the heart of God and you may want to sell everything you have just so that you can buy the field and have the treasure. James Aladiran, leader of the Prayer Storm movement in the UK put it this way:
“Don’t let anyone who hasn’t seen the treasure talk you out of buying the field.”
– James Aladiran
Thanks for reading. I hope you’re being blessed and challenged. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below or on Facebook!
Part 3 is ready to go!
Resources and Further Reading
This a section with a few things to help those who a really hungry to press into this. I’m really wanting to help people who want help. For those wanting to get into the Word, you’ll find and Bible verses below.
Luke 11:33-36 – Pure Eyes
Ephesians 5:1-21 – Pure Speech
Philippians 4:8-9 – Pure Thoughts
1Corinthians 6:12-20 – Pure Conduct