Our studies this week are our final studies from Ruth (although I bet there's more here that we haven't yet tapped!) and they are focused on moral and sexual purity. Last time we were talking about several verses that got our heads going in the right direction . . . you can scroll down there to refresh your memory if you like. (Grin) I'm not the only one with a memory like a sieve, am I?
Anyway, we said then that purity was not simply a long set of rules, of what is OK and not OK, and what we should or shouldn't say, etc. Purity is about God -- it's about glorifying Him.
Purity in our morals and in our sexuality is a personal decision to glorify God with all that we are: body, soul, and spirit. Yes, it's true that so many times when a speaker chooses this subject, we hear it put in terms of "dos" and "don'ts" . . . let's see, can I go here or not? Is it OK to see this movie? Is this swimsuit (substitute any other article of clothing here, blouse, skirt, whatever) too revealing? Do I really want to read this book? Should I date this person?
All of these are legitimate questions. But they are actually secondary to the real issue. God has a stake in our moral purity. He has called us to it, and He is glorified when we walk in purity.
Perhaps the better question to ask is "Will this choice honor God?" Then the questions become: will it honor God for me to read this? Will God be glorified if I date this person? Does reading this book dishonor my holy Lord? Will I reflect badly on Him, if I wear this?
When our questions are addressing the real issue, we realize that purity is not about us or our desires. It's about living so that God's reputation is enhanced by our choices.
How important is this actually to God? Seriously.
Let's go back to the Old Testament and talk about a subject that most people spend very little time thinking about, OK? And hang in there, with me.
Way back in Genesis, Abraham did it. Then Moses made sure that all the men of the children of Israel did it. Paul and some of the leaders of the church had an argument about it.
What is it?
Circumcision was a God-ordained sign of His covenant for the patriarchs and for the Jewish men from then on. It meant they were part of His covenant family, and that they lived under His law. Circumcision was something that opened the door for everything else: temple worship, sacrifices, the priesthood. But why did God choose that particular sign? After all, it is painful for the little boy babies, right? Yes, it is. And it's so personal, and private. No one else but a man (and his wife) would even know. I mean, come on, from the outside, no one knows which men are circumcised and which ones are not.
Maybe God should have chosen some other sign. Maybe a mark on the body. Maybe a pierced ear, or a mark on the hand.
Praise God for commentaries, right? When we study we can find nuggets that open our eyes.
I read recently, and I believe it to be true, that God chose this mark in a man's most private parts, so that in the most intimate moments of life, he would remember that he belonged to God. If he chose to sin with a woman, especially with a "foreign" (outside of the Hebrew nation) woman, he would have to do it with a reminder that he had been set apart for God. He belonged to God, body, soul, and spirit, and even what went on behind closed doors must belong to God, too.
We went down that little rabbit trail in order to say this: we can see that purity matters because all of our lives matter to our Father. Nothing is hidden from the Lord, even the things that we may try with all our might to hide. And we can't talk about outward purity unless we are inwardly pure -- the New Testament calls that having our hearts "circumcised." That setting aside to Him still matters; it's the state of our hearts that He really cares about.
(Deuteronomy 30:6)Our hearts.
Do we have pure hearts?
Many Christians will admit that they feel far from God. They long for the closeness that we sing of, in hymns and songs. One strategy is to be determined to pursue purity in every part of our lives. As long as we allow impure thoughts, words, or even deeds, to be part of our lives, we can't get closer to Him. If we continue to cover up the truth, and hide our "secrets" (which He already knows) we can't possibly get nearer to Him.
Oh, for courage to confess our sins to Him, to bring those secrets out into the open. We can be healed, cleansed, and forgiven! But heed this warning . . . the devil will fight us every step of the way! Especially in the area of moral and sexual sins. It's not just the lust or the pride that he uses as tools against us. Even worse is the shame and guilt for what we've done, or said, or thought. We can't shake that guilt until we decide we're ready to do whatever it takes to be pure before Him.
We can't get clean until we decide to wash off that dirt. And then we can stay out of the dirt. That doesn't mean we won't fail, that we won't ever fall back down in the dirt. Nope.
We're going to have to wrestle with the world, and with our own flesh, and with the devil until we go to heaven! But with God's grace, we can get up, and wash off, and walk again.
Perhaps we are feeling defeated. Perhaps we've messed up so badly in the past that sometimes we wonder -- the devil loves to make us do this -- if He can really forgive us. Past sins and moral failures can haunt us. Are we actually dirty and stained with sin for life?
Sin does have its consequences. But Jesus tells us to "rise and walk."
And He tells us to "go and sin no more."
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7)Tomorrow we'll look at some helpful thoughts for us as we strive to "stay out of the dirt."