Are God’s people to live pure lives?
Clearly, I am to be pure. It is a matter of the heart. Purity means to be “clean, blameless, unstained from guilt.” Interestingly, the word can refer specifically to that which is purified by fire or by pruning. John the Baptist told people that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
I am pure through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit working in my life. I cannot ignore continuing to miss God’s goal for my life (aka sin). I must change my way of thinking (repent) and act differently. Jesus requires me to be pure in heart! Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery “Go and sin no more.” God didn’t condemn her but we are to be pure.
Jesus challenges me. “Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
The heart is what I am, in the secrecy of my thought and feeling, when nobody knows but God. And what I am at the invisible root matters as much to God as what I am at the visible branch. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Master looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). From the heart are all the issues of life.
What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart . . . For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man” (Matthew 15:18–19).
Because we have died with the Messiah, we have the spiritual power to slay the earthly, fleshly desires that want to control us. Paul called this “reckoning” ourselves to be dead to sin but alive in. Our Master used the same idea when He said, “And if your right eye offends you, pluck it out” (Matt. 5:29–30).
Obviously, neither Paul nor Jesus was talking about literal surgery. Sin does not come from the eye, hand, or foot; it comes from the heart, the evil desires within. Centuries ago in England, if a pickpocket was convicted, his right hand was cut off. If he was convicted a second time, his left hand was amputated. One pickpocket lost both hands and continued his “trade” by using his teeth! Physical surgery can never change the heart.
In Colossians 3, Paul named sins; and some people do not like that.
5 Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, 7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. 8 But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.
These sins belong to the old life and have no place in our new life in the Messiah. Furthermore, God’s judgment falls on those who practice these sins; and God is no respecter of persons. God’s wrath fell on the Gentile world because of these sins, and His wrath will fall again. “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming,” Paul warned (Col. 3:6, NIV).
Fornication refers to sexual immorality in general. Uncleanness means “lustful impurity that is connected with luxury and loose living.” Inordinate affection describes a state of mind that excites sexual impurity. The person who cultivates this kind of appetite can always find opportunity to satisfy it. Evil concupiscence means “base, evil desires.” It is clear that desires lead to deeds, appetites lead to actions. If we would purify our actions, then we must first purify our minds and hearts.
What we desire usually determines what we do. If I create in my children an appetite for candy, then I must satisfy that appetite. If they become overweight and unhealthy, then I must change their appetites, and I must teach them how to enjoy foods other than sweets. “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10) should be our prayer; for it is out of the heart that these evil desires.
After he had named these sensual sins, Paul added, “and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5b). Covetousness is the sin of always wanting more, whether it be more things or more pleasures. The covetous person is never satisfied with what he has, and he is usually envious of what other people have. This is idolatry, for covetousness puts things in the place of God. “Thou shalt not covet” is the last of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17). Yet this sin can make us break all of the other nine! A covetous person will dishonor God, take God’s name in vain, lie, steal, and commit every other sin in order to satisfy his sinful desires.
Do believers in local churches commit such sins? Unfortunately, they sometimes do. Each of the New Testament epistles sent to local churches makes mention of these sins and warns against them. There was a pastor who preached a series of sermons against the sins of the saints. A member of his congregation challenged him one day and said that it would be better if the pastor preached those messages to the lost. “After all,” said the church member, “sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the lives of other people.”
“Yes” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”
- Colossians 3:5 — 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
- Leviticus 18:30 — 30 ‘Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the Master your God.’ ”
- Job 31:1 — 1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?
- Psalm 51:10 — 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
- 1 Corinthians 5:7–8 — 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For the Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
- 1 Corinthians 6:15–20 — 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of the Messiah? Shall I then take away the members of the Messiah and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Master is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3 — 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
- Titus 1:15 — 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
- Titus 2:5 — 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
- Hebrews 13:4 — 4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
- James 1:27 — 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
- James 4:8 — 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
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