Clean, unsoiled, unspotted. White as the morning after a fresh snowfall. Purity is beautiful in creation, but the struggle for purity in thought, word, and action is constant and difficult, especially living in a culture that glorifies all things impure. Still, the admonition of scripture is to follow God and not the world. In this world of great temptation, we are to live not according to the impure desires that belong to our former lives, but according to the great purity that characterizes the holy, beloved bride of the Lamb.
What Does the Bible Call Impure?
Biblically, we are told that impurity includes sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, sensuality, covetousness, filthiness, crude joking, evil desire, lust, and love of pleasure more than love of God. Other things can be inferred from this list: pornography, watching or reading entertainment with inappropriate sexual content, fantasizing about someone other than one’s spouse, and any variation or perversion on God’s gift of sex by oneself or with others.
As we can see, many things fall under the category of impurity, and personal temptations change with our age and circumstances. Can any reader truthfully say they have not struggled with or been assailed by some of these things?
Take a moment before moving forward to examine your own heart, to see which temptations to impurity lurk within your flesh. Part of the gospel, after all, is knowing the devastating reality of our former lives. Before Christ, we lived in impurity, ignorance, and darkness. We made decisions based on our own deceitful desires. We repeatedly searched for water in broken containers that held none to quench our thirst. We were like Esau, who for a bowl of stew satisfied his bodily desire but gave up his identity as heir to the blessing of God. “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Some of us walked in these sins before God changed our hearts. But those who are found in Christ are new creations, no longer enslaved to impure desires and passions. Once we lived in impurity, dwelling in darkness, shame, and secrecy, and living as objects of God’s wrath. But that is no longer who we are. Before, we walked in that which is impure, but that old life is dead—as dead as Jesus was on that first Good Friday. Since we have been raised with Christ, our hearts and minds must be set on different things: that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
We are those who now walk in light. As members of the body of Christ, we partake in his divine nature. Through knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, God is making us look like him. We are heirs to the blessing of our Father. We are chosen, royal, set apart, holy, and God’s very own, purchased for his own good pleasure. By the precious blood of the pure Lamb, we have been ransomed from the meaningless lives we lived. With this beautiful identity—true of you, O child of God—impurity is entirely out of place.
Our calling as holy sons and daughters is to glorify God in our bodies. To be holy, as our Father is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). To put on these virtues: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, meekness, self-control, righteousness, holiness, edifying speech, compassion, kindness, humility, godliness, faith, steadfastness, virtue, knowledge, and brotherly affection.
We must learn to control ourselves, both mind and body. Self-control is an evidence of the Spirit in our hearts, and the life of a disciple of Jesus requires frequent denial of self. Should we just sin that grace may abound? No! That makes no sense if we are living in the Spirit and believe the word of God to us. Paul says those who do not know how to control themselves in holiness and honor are just like those who do not know God. “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 4:7–8). If God has given you his Spirit and the desire to live according to his will in purity, it is an act of love for God to put certain protections into place against temptations. Here, then, are some practical steps for maintaining purity in singleness:
- Stop consuming content that causes discontentment, even “innocently romantic” entertainment. Your desire for marriage and companionship should come from what scripture says about marriage, not from worldly portrayals.
- Learn about God’s design for marriage in his relationship to his church. Seek the benefits of marriage for the kingdom of God, rather than as a means to satisfying your own desires.
- Stop making dirty jokes and sexual innuendos. Don’t laugh at your friends when they do. Shut them down with kindness for the sake of the glory of God and the purity of your mind.
- Be intentional in your dating, set strict boundaries, and be countercultural. Though not easy, it is possible to wait to kiss until your wedding! This won’t be foolproof as you still need to control yourself, but some things will be less tempting physically when you keep yourselves from kissing. Consider that your significant other is only a brother or sister in Christ until the day you are married (1 Tim. 5:2). Don’t push boundaries with sensuality. Love God more than pleasure.
- If there are places and times that lead you to sin, do not enter those places at those times. Watch for patterns that lead to situations in which you struggle, and make every effort to keep yourself from those things (Matt. 18:9).
- Flee from sexual sin. Your strategy should not be to control it by being strong enough. Flee from it! When the temptation arises, say no immediately, even if it must be out loud. Then turn your mind toward those things that are lovely, pure, and honorable.
- Grow in holiness and love for God. Know your new identity as God’s holy and beloved child, called to all lovely, pure, honorable things. See your life as a pathway God has given you to walk toward life with him forever. Find your contentment in delighting in the Lord and living as he designed.
- Seek out an accountability partner. Find someone who will check you and ask you hard questions, someone who will be honest with you. Confessing sin to someone trustworthy is an important step in fighting impurity. Ask for help if you are struggling. Struggles with impurity can breed shame, but you are never alone in your struggle.
We are weak in the area of impurity. Satan knows this too, but thankfully God has begun a good work in us to sanctify our hearts and conform us to his image. We have a beginning of obedience and victory, even in this difficult area of purity. Our hope is not in thinking more and fighting sin harder; we would certainly fail. Our hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Though we have sinned in the past and continue to fight these battles in the future, we are presented before God in white robes. What a beautiful new identity God has given to his children! Out of thankfulness to God, let us live in the purity of the bride of Jesus Christ. Let us resolve to live not as the world, or our former selves, or even how we behaved yesterday, but according to the will of God (1 Tim. 6:11–16).
Originally published June 2021, Vol 80 No 6