"That’s impossible… no way... no one can do that… there’s no way I can ever reach that high a bar."
That’s the most common reaction to my message this past Sunday about God's standard for our purity - a standard that can be summed up in one verse:
“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)
NOT EVEN A HINT! Not even a hint of impurity in your habits. Not even a hint of impurity in your relationships. Not even a hint of impurity in your thoughts. Not even a hint of any kind of impurity!
IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? CAN WE EVER ATTAIN SUCH A STANDARD?
This might surprise you but the two questions above don’t have the same answer. The answer to one is YES and the other is NO. Huh???
First of all, is that standard possible? NO WAY! There’s no way that anyone can live in the world today and avoid all the impurity and lust that is all around us. You can’t even go to the grocery store to buy milk for your child without being inundated with sexual messages at the checkout line. 3 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE… or THE SECRET LOVE AFFAIR OF CELEBRITY X (of course I only know this because others have told me about it :))
It’s everywhere! You can’t go anywhere without being bombarded with impure sights and sounds which lead to the host of impure thoughts and feelings that plague us today.
So instead of striving for God’s standard of NOT EVEN A HINT – which we feel is impossible and unreasonable – we adapt it. We lower the bar. We water down His standard and create our own. Joshua Harris, best-selling author of many books including Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World, calls this “the diet mentality.”
A lot of us have developed a diet mentality toward lust. We really want to cut back on lust because we know it’s not healthy and it makes us feel bad. But like some rich, calorie-laden chocolate dessert, lust is just too tasty to resist completely. Surely God will understand if we break our diet and nibble a little lust now and then.
The diet mentality makes sense and sounds like a good plan when compared to how the rest of the world is living. But there’s one problem…IT ISN’T GOD’S STANDARD! God’s standard is NOT EVEN A HINT. God says that lust and impurity has no place in your life. I am not saying it is easy, but we have to at least agree that it is what God says. And if God says it, then we have no right to change it or water it down.
Jesus Himself even spoke about this high standard of God and the importance of holding to that high standard in an even more blunt and straightforward way - see Matthew 5:27-30 – as He said that whatever/whoever causes you to sin needs to be cut off and cast away immediately, no matter how precious or dear it might be to you.
NOT EVEN A HINT means we must fight against lust and impurity in our eyes, in our thoughts, in our conversations. We must strive for purity in our music-listening, in our movie-watching and in our web-surfing. We can’t accept the world’s standard for relationships or behavior or TV shows or jokes or anything.
Why? Because “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.”
Is that possible? I already told you the answer is NO. But can we attain it? ABSOLUTELY. Why? I’ll answer that question with a passage from the Bible for now and I’ll elaborate on it more later this week.
"Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s … Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)
For discussion: God’s standard of purity might not be possible but it is attainable. What can we do to get closer to attaining it?