Struggling With Purity
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10
I. What is Purity Anyway?
Apparently, “Purity” is more a case of what it is not. It is defined as “freedom from adulteration or contamination”, i.e. cleanness or freshness. In a spiritual sense, it carries the notation of freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature. Synonyms for purity include virtue, morality, goodness, integrity, ethicality, and more.
II. The Need for Purity.
Purity is both desirable and necessary. Satan loves to use impurity as a wedge to drive between us and God. Once the initial wedge is in place, it becomes easier to slide into true sexual immorality. That longing look at a cute girl (or handsome guy, for that matter) is the first step into the abyss of immorality.
Our society provides continuous opportunities for Satan to attack our purity. Maintaining purity is an ongoing battle, but it is one we can win. What is required is the desire to be free of impurity and the willingness to remain alert to its insidious attempts to ensnare you.
The first step (for me, at least) is to train your eyes.
Proverbs 6:25 “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.”
1 Thess. 4:3-5 ” It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”
Particularly in a campus environment (and only slightly less so in the world of business), your eyes must remain under your continuous and alert control. If your look at someone passing by reveals more than whether it is someone you know or not, you have looked too long. Looking longer than necessary for recognition is SIN (lust): no two ways about it. For single brothers (or sisters), longer looks are inquiries which are counterproductive… to say the least!
Another factor to be considered is that impure thoughts can be the manifestation of stress from numerous sources: relationship changes (recent marriage, change in living accommodations), ministry demands (maintaining D-Times, leadership), and personal struggles (job search, impending relocation). Recognition of these stresses can be an aid to mitigating their unwholesome effect on our mental processes.
Pornography has a strangely compelling allure for many young (and old) men. We all know that it is wrong and is exploitative of many of the young women seen therein. What helped me was the realization that it is also a lie. The ‘performers’ are actors and actresses playing a part. As wonderful and lovely as the act of sex is between a married couple, what is portrayed in porn is a sad parody of life. Does anyone really believe that Hugh Jackman can call forth blades from his hands?
Another aid to avoiding porn’s destructive effect came to me from an unlikely source. An author (Erica Jong) once observed that after watching porn for 10 minutes, she wanted to engage in a sexual act, but that after watching for 20 minutes, she never again wanted to have anything to do with sex. It is rather crudely put, but meaningful nonetheless. The bottom line on porn is that there is no good reason for its existence and that it MUST be kept from your presence if you wish to achieve any measure of purity.
Contemporary entertainment: movies, television, and many video games are not designed to assist you in your battle to remain pure.
1 Peter 4:3” For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”
Many implicitly (or explicitly) offer scenes which simply should not be observed unless you are wanting to feed feelings of lust. Call me old, but much of what is shown in “family viewing time” on television now would have been forbidden in movies of my youth.
III. What’s a Man (or Woman) to do?
So, having dealt for a bit on what we should not do; what should we do?
Maybe I am showing my age here, but I love to read. While there is no shortage of books to be avoided, there are many (frequently older) books out there which are both beneficial and enjoyable to read.
The Bible is an obvious place to start and end your day. It will be of immeasurable help on several levels
John 5:39 ”You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me”.
Additionally, there are inspirational books out there, such as the offerings of Gene Edwards, Francis Chan, and many other contemporary authors. Older authors I particularly enjoy include Philip Yancey, C. S. Lewis, and many others I cannot think of now.
Non-fiction books of value in your efforts to maintain purity include the “Every — Battle” series by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. There are many others. Leonard Ravenhill’s “Why Revival Tarries” is one I have read many times. Robert Coleman’s “The Master Plan of Evangelism” is an excellent read.
Reading books can open up vistas you didn’t even know were there and are a much better use of time than video games or movies (here I cite from the book of II Opinions, found just after the book of Hephzibah).
There is simply no substitute for a zealous and regular prayer life (Gen. 25:21, 2 Sam. 24:25, Ezra 8:23, Psalms 17:6, and many others). Our God wants to help you with your struggles, but He will not intrude where He is not invited. Our fervent prayers are that invitation.
In summary, this is a battle which must be fought daily. It does get easier once you have trained your eyes and altered the stimuli to which you will allow yourself to be exposed to. It IS winnable and if you really want it, victory can be yours. I speak from experience.
Finally, do not think that as you age, things get easier. This is another in the many lies which Satan will throw at you.
YOU CAN DO THIS!