The Psalmist asked, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Psalm 119:9 ). This is a question asked in one way or another by all the great religions. Pretty well all spiritual teachers agree that purity is a key to attaining the favour of God.
The problem is, none of us can attain purity of thought or action by our own efforts. We can try, but it doesn’t work. Punishment doesn’t make us pure, working out doesn’t make us pure, reading Bible verses doesn’t make us pure, praying 3 or 5 or 10 times a day facing Mecca or Jerusalem or Rome doesn’t make us pure, giving to the poor doesn’t make us pure, abstaining from food or sex doesn’t make us pure. These practices can all have some value, but they don’t solve our core problem, which is that God is pure (holy, righteous) and we are not. And because God is pure and we are not, we cannot have intimacy with God even though that intimacy is what we were made for, what our hearts long for and what alone can save us.
The prophet Ezekiel, recognizing that his people were irreparably damaged by generations of sin and not capable of obeying God consistently, prophesied that God would do what they could not do. Listen to these words of promise : I will give you a new heart, and will put my spirit within you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
There is one alone who can make us pure – Jesus, who came from the Father to live this human life as one of us, who was born of a virgin and lived a life in perfect obedience to the Father’s will. He has paid the price and carried the burden of sin for us. Impurity is part of our inheritance from the Garden of Eden, the result of the sin of the first man and woman (Romans 5:12-17). But because of what Jesus has done for us, we have a new inheritance – a free gift, already paid for. Because of what He has done, we can have purity – not as an achievement but as a free gift. All we have to do is surrender control of our life to Him and receive His life in exchange. It’s like being born all over again – a fresh start. The Bible says that when we receive this free gift, we are made new – like a whole new act of creation.
Do I still need to make the choice to turn away from impurity? Yes, of course. As long as I am in this life I will still need to make the daily choice to listen to the voice of the Spirit of God and not the whispers of the Tempter. Even Jesus had to make this choice. But because I have surrendered my life to Jesus, He lives in me by His Spirit, so the battle is already won even though I may have to go through some tests. The moment I think I have to win the battle by my own efforts, I’ve already lost, because this way of thinking separates me from the river of life that flows from God’s throne. Instead, what I need to keep doing is turn to the One who has already provided purity for me, and allow His purity and goodness to renew my mind and fill my thoughts.
I am so grateful that the battle has already been won and that in Jesus I have freedom and peace. I would never want to go back to living without Him. Thankfully, I don’t have to, and neither do you, because when we place our trust in Him, Jesus promises to be with us forever. Thanks be to God!