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Called to Moral Purity

Young people of the 1982 Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention, we live in a rapidly changing world. It is not difficult for you and me to see that this is especially true with respect to sin. Not that sin has become any worse today than it has in the past. Sin is sin. But it is true that as time progresses there have arisen many more ways that the wicked man is able to give vent to that sin. Jesus tells us this concerning the days prior to his second coming, ‘‘and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” As time marches on God removes more and more his providential restraint of sin until finally the cup of iniquity is filled and the world becomes ripe for judgment. And again, it is not difficult for us to see that this is already true of the days in which we live.

Especially is this true in one area of life in particular: the whole area of moral purity. God has given this idolatrous world up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts. And the result is sexual perversion in the worst ways possible. Not only do we read of such heinous crimes as rape and sexual abuse of children, but we find that other acts of sexual perversion have become an accepted thing.  Homosexuals fight for equal rights.  Divorce, remarriage, common-law marriages, or sex without marriage are but a few examples of the adulterous age in which we live! The world has gone crazy with sex! Surely, the world is madly rushing to its end!

And what manner of people ought we to be? That is what Peter asks us in II Peter 3:11: “what manner of persons ought ye to be?” And here is the answer: God’s people! We must be person consecrated and dedicated to the service of Him who has called us out of the darkness and perversion of sin and into His most marvelous light. And our calling is the same, always the same, as we live in a world growing worse and worse in its sin: “Be ye holy even as I am holy!” That is God’s commandment to his people of all ages. We find that recorded for us in I Peter 1:16. As becomes clear from that passage this was God’s command to his people in the Old Dispensation as well as to us who live in the New Dispensation. That command speaks to you and me of remaining morally pure in a world that is growing increasingly immoral, unchaste, and impure.

Now, it is not my intention to stand up here this evening and throw at you a bunch of “dos” and “don’ts” which you must follow to be morally pure. I’m not going to say for example, “OK, young people, if you want to be morally pure in your ways then take out a pad of paper and I’ll list what you must do. Here are the rules. First, dress code: You may not wear this or that, but you must wear this and perhaps on occasion that. Secondly, dating procedures: on a date you may not go here or there. You may not do this or that with your girlfriend or boyfriend. Instead you must go here and you must do only this. Thirdly, your conversation with one another: you may not say this or that because that has certain undertones.” I could give you this list of rules, you understand. But if I did I would run into two problems. First of all, you would be sitting here all night writing down this list because the list would never end. In the second place, I would not really be explaining to you what it is to be morally pure. Often time’s moral purity and holiness are confused with a mere outward conformity to the laws of God, a mere outward formalism.

I have taken with me here tonight a book written by a man named John C. Ryle. The book in entitled Holiness. In this book he makes a rather interesting observation about this outward conformity to God’s law on the part of many people. On page 16 we read, “True sanctification

does not consist in outward formalism and eternal devoutness. This is an enormous delusion, but unhappily a very common one. Thousands appear to imagine that true holiness is to be seen in an excessive quantity of bodily religion – in constant attendance on Church services, reception of the Lord’s Supper, and observance of fasts and saints’ days – in multiplied bowing and turnings and gestures and postures during public worship – in self-imposed austerities and petty self-denials – in wearing peculiar dresses, and the use of pictures and crosses. I freely admit that some people take up these things from conscientious motives, and actually believe that they help their souls. But I am afraid that in many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness; and I am quite certain that it falls utterly short of sanctification of heart.  Above all, when I see that many followers of this outward, sensuous and formal style of Christianity are absorbed in worldliness, and plunge headlong into its pomp’s and vanities, without shame, I feel that there is need of very plain speaking on the subject. There may be an immense amount of “bodily service,” while there is not a job of real sanctification.  Such outward formalism, such outward moral conduct is not the call we receive as God’s children who are called to moral purity.

That is what is at root wrong with such movements today as the Moral Majority. This is a political movement, under the leadership of a man named Jerry Falwell, which seeks by the power of numbers to bring our nation back to those “good morals” it at one time supposedly maintained. The point is: Falwell and his Moral Majority seek only an outward change of moral conduct without an inner spiritual change of the heart. That is not the call to moral purity which you and I receive in our life. If it were, if that were our calling then we would end up as so many other today, “having a form of godliness (an outward show of a love for God’s commandments) but denying the power of it (not having a love of God and his commandments in our hearts).” II Timothy 3:5.

The text which was chosen as the theme text for our convention this year shows to us what truly is the basis of moral purity when it says, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” In order for us to be morally pure in our ways we must be characterized by holiness and godliness. That is the apostle Paul’s point when in I Timothy 4:8 he writes, “For bodily excercise profiteth little; but godliness is profitable unto all things.” In other words, he tells us that going through the motions has little profit but what really is profitable in our lives is true godliness. Godliness speaks of the attitude of your and my heart. To be godly means that we are characterized by a deep love for God and all of His precepts. It means that we fear God, not in the sense that we are afraid of Him and of His punishment of our sins, but in the sense that we fear Him as a child who wishes to live and move as if he was always before the face of His Father whom he loves. Godliness is a deep respect and reverence for God as the God of heaven and earth and who is our God for Jesus’ sake. That is godliness, and that attitude of our heart is at the very center of our life of moral purity.

Of course, that implies that only we as children of God can ever be morally pure. My ungodly neighbor who seems to live a good moral life really has within him no purity, holiness, and godliness. Even though he leads a good family life and never cheats on his wife, even though his conversation seems for the most part chaste all this does not proceed out of a deep love and respect for God. It was not done out of godliness and was therefore only an outward form of moral purity. Paul tells us in Timothy that godliness and therefore also moral purity is a fruit of the Spirit; something that is found only in the lives of those in whom the Spirit has worked. It is vital that we understand what this means. The wicked, the ungodly are those who stand outside of the realm of God’s grace, outside of salvation in Christ, and outside of that saving work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They are, therefore, wicked and perverse in all their ways. They are unchaste and immoral. The call to moral purity which God places before them falls only upon dead ears. When God says to the reprobate man, “be ye holy as I am holy’’ that ungodly man cannot be nor does he even will to be holy. God has not worked in him a love for Himself and His commandments.

But with you and me it’s different. We are God’s children! At least that is what we profess to be when we gather here this evening to hear this speech. We are God’s children. And we are God’s children because of that work of the cross, the work which Jesus has performed for us. By means of His suffering and death on the cross He justified us: He forgave the debt of our sins, removed our guilt, and made us righteous. We have become worthy, therefore, also in that blood of Christ, to be cleansed from all the filth and corruption of sin. We are sanctified. And here is what the Bible teaches us about this cleansing or sanctification. In Ephesians 5:25 we read, “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it.’’ Or again in Titus 2:14, “Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous in good works.’’ Because of that work of Christ on the cross we are made holy in His blood.

On the basis of that work you and I receive the call of I Peter 1:15, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.’’ So you and I, young people, that church which Christ loved and cleansed, that peculiar people purified by Christ unto good works, receive the call to moral purity. We receive it, and we can through the Spirit of our risen Lord who dwells in our hearts, perform that calling. We are those whose hearts are so purified that in all our lives, in all our conduct, in all our conversation we are able to stand in conformity to the will of God as expressed in the Scriptures. You and I have received Christ. Now we are called to walk in Him. We must walk in Christ not because we have to and are forced to do so. We walk in Christ not because we believe that to do so makes us look better in God’s sight. Our good works are not performed grudgingly. We walk in Christ out of a renewed and purified heart. We perform good works out of a heart which is filled with zeal and dedication to God. If that heart is not in us then there is no way we can fulfill that call to moral purity. But it is! You profess that to be true. If you did not then I would not be speaking to you tonight.

So we receive our calling, young people. Be ye holy! Be young people characterized by moral purity! And when we are holy we will respond to this command of God. Just as a good tree brings forth good fruit so also will we see fruits of good works in our lives too. If you fulfill your calling then the fruits of purity will be evident in your lives. And they will be evidence to us of the cleansing power of Christ in our lives.

Let us see if that is evident in our lives. A child of God cleansed in the blood of Christ will be, first of all, one who will seek after purity of heart. Moral purity is purity of heart. He will hate all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit. He will endeavor to avoid all things that might draw him into filthiness of spirit. He will not follow in the adulterous ways of this world neither make idols of the whores and whoremongers of Hollywood. On the contrary in that purity of heart he will endeavor to shun every known sin and to keep every commandment of God. He will strive to be like Jesus. He will labor to have the mind, will, and desires that were in Christ.

Now, what does that imply for us? What does it mean that Christ has worked in us purity of heart? Remember, if no purity of heart then no moral purity either! What does this mean for us when we are with our boyfriends or girlfriends on a date? What does purity of heart imply? You tell me! I need not tell you what that means! You know! What does purity of heart mean with respect to the clothing you wear? Again, I do not need to tell you; at least not most of you. The way I have seen a few dressed maybe I do have to tell them. But that is not true of most of you. When you have the heart, mind, and desires of Christ in you, young women, will you wear that which will arouse lust in others? Is that what we look for too, young men? Of course not! If it were then what would happen to our purity of heart? Or again what about our conversation with others? I need not tell you that purity of heart demands of us chaste and pure conversation. You already know that.

To be morally pure, then, demands purity of heart, first of all. Secondly, one who is morally pure will also be characterized by temperance and self denial. He will labor to yield his members as instruments of righteousness to God. He will not let sin reign in his mortal body that he should obey it in the lusts thereof. On the contrary, all indulgence in the pleasures of this world he sets aside. The morally pure child of God practices to be chaste and modest in all his ways. He does not absorb as a sponge all the pleasures of this world that he can.

Now, once again what does that imply for us? What does it mean to deny yourself the lusts and pleasures of the ungodly? Can you do that in your entertainment? I need not tell you what you must do to practice temperance and self denial in your life, in the places you go and the things you do. I need not tell you that. You already know. If you do not know then perhaps there is no moral purity within you. Maybe God’s call to holiness is falling upon dead ears. One who is morally pure is able to hold his passions in reign. He is chaste in all his ways.

What more can be said? I do not lay down one law for you. I do not need to. You are the sons and daughters of God! You know what moral purity is. You know that as God’s children you are called to holiness in your life. Let all we do then be done to the honor and glory of that God who saved us through the precious blood of Jesus Christ! Be ye holy! That is the principle. Now you know what to do: put it into practice. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Let us go forth singing the words of the theme song of this convention, “Sincerely I have sought thee, Lord, O let me not from thee depart; To know thy will and keep from sin Thy word I cherish in my  heart.”