by Jonathan Daugherty
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." --Ephesians 5:3
I lived my adolescent years and most of my young adult life with a "minimum required" attitude. What was the minimum I could do to get by in life, be it school, career, relationships, whatever. And I would always hover just above the line of mediocrity, convincing myself such a life was "good enough." But I have come to discover that God doesn't save us for a "good enough" life. He calls us to live an "abundant life," and that kind of life doesn't hang around at the line of mediocrity.
Many Christians in our modern world live in fear of being labeled "radical," which is exactly what Satan wants. After all, radical (i.e. "set apart") is precisely what God's people are called to be! But we try to live our lives on the shoreline, not making enough waves for people to take notice. Oh, we'll give money to our church, or volunteer at a soup kitchen once a year, but don't expect us to start a house church in our neighborhood, or tell our neighbors in no uncertain terms our devotion to Jesus, or challenge our pastor to take on topics like porn or homosexuality. That's too radical.
When it comes to purity, the church is, unfortunately, far away from radical. God's expectations of His people regarding purity is that we conduct ourselves in such a way that no one could accuse us of "even a hint" of immorality. Sadly, we could easily be accused of much more. But rather than just throwing the church under the bus, I want to provide some practical advice for what it might take to reclaim our identity as those who God expects to live upright lives of purity.
First, we must establish who we are to emulate. Two verses prior to the one mentioned above, we are exhorted, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children." A good start to living a life of purity above reproach is to imitate God, not the world. This may seem like a no-brainer, until you begin carefully examining your life. Are your entertainment choices imitating God? What clothing do you wear and why? How you speak to friends, family, and co-workers; is it God-honoring? In essence, are you a mirror to others of God, reflecting His character and desires? It's convicting, but purity must be born of God if it is to truly be pure.
Second, we must realize that purity goes beyond simply sexuality and "behaving right." Notice in Ephesians 5:3 it also states, "...or of any kind of impurity." We must not have even a hint of any kind of impurity. Wow, that certainly broadens the scope to cover every aspect of our lives. Are you pure in how you steward your body, the kinds of foods you eat? Are you pure in your work, not cutting corners or lying about work you didn't do? Are you pure in your parenting, teaching, or disciplining? I'm beginning to think that God expects us to be radical in how we live our entire lives, not just how we manage our sexuality.
Finally, we must acknowledge our primary obstacle to such purity is lust, that part of our sinful nature that desires to pursue all that is opposed to God and His best for us. That same verse in Ephesians reveals, "...or of greed." Sure, greed is most usually associated with money, but in this passage it gets directly linked with purity. Greed is about taking, about power, about consuming for selfish reasons. Lust is sexual greed and is not what God expects of His children. To live with not even a hint of sexual immorality will require an aggressive battle against lust.
I have taught for years that there are 4 Pillars of Purity necessary to live each day in sexual integrity. I still believe this is true. A life of purity isn't complicated, but it does require radical dedication to God's basic principles of purity: Confession, Self-Examination, Faith, and Community. I have published a full length book that outlines these pillars. You can get a copy here.
So, how is your integrity? Is there a hint of immorality in how you conduct yourself? Or a hint of sexual greed in how you engage your spouse or view your fellow man? Wherever you find "even a hint" of any kind of impurity, begin to clean up and get radical. Abundant life is only found by the few who take God at His Word and follow wherever He leads. And He never leads to "good enough." He leads to radical, and no one who follows regrets their decision...