Fall in love with God's purity.

Fall in love with God's purity.

Purity, the Bedfellow of Christ

by Waitsel Smith

Let me know what you think or .

The Fourth Knightly Virtue

In my article on "Wisdom," I said that you cannot boil God down to one quality, like love, and still have God - He's too big for that. I'm also not sure you can say that God has a greatest quality that overshadows all the others. But if you could, it would have to be His holiness. The reason I say that is because holiness is the least human quality of God, the thing that separates us from Him, and the thing we struggle with most.

Holiness, which I am calling "purity" and which the knights of old called "nobility," encompasses every part of our being - body, soul and spirit. It includes physical chastity, moral excellence and spiritual sanctification. I like the word purity, because, as humans, it's easier for us to understand than holiness. Nobility has lost much of its meaning today. But regardless of which word you use, the idea of being free from contamination in body, mind and spirit fascinated the Medievals, and it should fascinate us today, because it is the key to living the best life possible, as opposed to just existing.

Our sin separates us from God; and yet He says, "'You shall be holy, for I am Holy.'" (I Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:45) How in the world are we, imperfect beings, going to be holy?! It's impossible. BINGO! There is a chasm between us and God (you've seen the diagrams) that only one man ever crossed - Jesus. But because He crossed it, when we believe in Him, we cross it as well. What God is saying now is, "Live like you've crossed it. Live like you are with Me on the other side." Hello?! When was the last time you lived like you were a holy person? When for me? Can you imagine - a holy person in America today? India, maybe - but America? Yet, that's what it means to be noble, pure, holy. And that's what it means to be a true knight.

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Christ came to cleanse men's hearts.

Christ came to cleanse men's hearts.

In America, purity seems to be the last thing on our minds. But in the days of the Children of Israel, God's people, it was the number one thing on their minds. Everything in their religion revolved around it: all the washings and cleansings; the foods you could and couldn't eat; the animal sacrifices designed to symbolically purify the sinner; the sprinklings of blood that were supposed to sanctify clothing and articles of worship - it all added up to holiness... they thought. It's amazing how holiness-conscious they were, and yet how unholy they lived!

The Pharisees were the worst lot, of course, thinking they could cleanse the outside of a vessel and leave the inside corrupt (Luke 11:39; cf. II Timothy 2:21). Boy, were they a lot like us! God looks on the heart of a person, not at his outward appearance (I Samuel 16:7). Christ came to cleanse the heart, and He is the only means by which it can be done. Christ is our sanctification (I Corinthians 1:30).

What's interesting is that the Hebrews would take a garment or vessel that was one day being used for some secular purpose, sprinkle it with a little blood from a goat or ram and, voila! - it was ready to be used in the Temple for worship! That is exactly what Christ does with us: He takes an unholy person that one day is living his life in the pursuit of selfishness and sin, sprinkles him with His blood and, voila! - he is now holy and ready to be used by God for His purpose.

It's not magic and I'm not being flippant. It is a mystery that is beyond comprehension. That is the power of Christ's blood, if only we would believe it! And that is the beauty of holiness, if only we would believe that!

Christ's blood - the most powerful of all cleansing agents

Christ's blood - the most powerful of all cleansing agents

We Americans are, perhaps, the least holiness-conscious people in the history of the world. But you can't say that about our ancestors. The pilgrims believed, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." They saw cleanliness as one way to bring God's holiness into the physical realm. But sexual purity is by far the greatest way, and the way in which we in the West are losing the battle big time - and tragically. By changing that one thing about ourselves, we could change our families, the Church, America and the world in revolutionary ways.

Can God use sexually impure people? I ask this as someone who struggles with sexual impurity myself. I don't think the Church has made a very strong case that He does not. So, does He? If the statistics are right, that 50% of all Christian marriages end in divorce and 75% of all Christian men struggle with pornography, then it would be catastrophic if He does not. Does sexual impurity eliminate us from being part of God's plan to win the lost world to Himself, or is there a way He can still use us inspite of our weaknesses?

The Holy Spirit descended like a dove, a symbol for purity.

The Holy Spirit descended like a dove, a symbol for purity.

Let's take a look at what the Bible says. In Scripture, those who stumbled sexually included a lot of the greats. Of course, everyone is familiar with Samson. It wasn't his hair that was the key to his strength, it was his purity. His hair was just the symbol for that. Once he compromised his purity, he compromised everything. But, once he got it back, God once again blessed him. The same is true of David. After Bathsheba, he lost for a time his ability to be used by God, and his entire life became a series of setbacks. But, David did return to God and, even though there were consequenses for his disobedience, he lived to a ripe old age and became "a man after God's own heart."

I think Solomon wins the prize for the most blatantly disobedient as far as sexual impurity. He started out so well, with a godly father, all the wisdom, the King of God's people and riches galore - but he just couldn't stop himself when it came to women. And he just couldn't say "no" to them when they suggested he mix his worship of God with the worship of pagan idols! If anyone should have known better, it was Solomon - after all he had been given.

But look at what we've been given!

Finally, let's take a look at the Apostle Paul. People have debated for years the exact nature of his "thorn in the flesh." Odds are it was an addiction, and odds are that addiction was of a sexual nature. I can't prove that, but since that is what most men struggle with, wouldn't it make sense? Psychologists have called sexual addition the strongest addiction there is. While most men learn to manage it, how many are actually free of it? Look at how many great evangelists and pastors have fallen to sexual immorality, as compared to, say, alcoholism.

If we're looking for a body of people free from sexual struggles, it's not going to happen in this life or on this planet - at least not yet.

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

"You shall be holy, for I am Holy." (I Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44; 20:26)

In spite of what I just said, we cannot approach God in an unholy state. In the Old Testament, people were struck dead when they tried. Only Moses was allowed on Mt. Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments. Only the High Priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies - and that was just once a year. Dealing with God is dangerous business!

So, what's the answer? For us as Christians, Christ is our holiness. He is the only reason we can come to God in prayer. When we pray, God sees Christ praying in the Garden. He doesn't see Joe Blow It or Susie Screw Up: He sees Joe Christ and Susie Christ. I'm not being facetious. The word Christ means "Anointed One." We have been anointed with Christ's blood and God's Holy Spirit. We belong to Him now. We're part of His family. What last name would you like - Smith? When you belong to someone, you take their name. It's time we started acting like the One to Whom we belong - Christ.

Purity is one of the greatest issues in Christendom right now, but so is love. Sexual sin is running rampant in our society and in the Church, but love is not. Why is that? Could the two be connected? Could the fact that we have abandoned God's plan to love Him first and our neighbor as ourself have opened the door to our being hoodwinked into loving something else in His place, the way Solomon was? Could our sexual sin be tied somehow to our idolatry and our selfishness? I think so. Chapter one in Paul's letter to the Romans says as much.

If we truly believe in God's holiness, and that He wants us to be holy, then we might begin by cleansing the temple of our bodies, the way Hezekiah and Nehemiah cleansed God's Temple in their days (II Chronicles 29, Nehemiah 13). If we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), then we might take on His holiness and His purity in our minds and start living it. We might learn, day by day, to crucify the flesh with its lusts and desires, and to lead captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

At the same time, we might consider reaching out to the lost. We might start serving others more. We might try living for someone besides ourselves.

I don't think it's possible to be pure without also being loving. The vessels in the Temple were purified and then put into service. If we try cleaning up our lives while still living for ourselves, it won't work. New wine requires new wineskins.

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Sir Galahad - the noblest, purest of King Arthur's knights

Sir Galahad - the noblest, purest of King Arthur's knights

Sir Galahad was the only Knight of the Round Table to attain the Holy Grail. Why? Because he was the most noble, the most chaste. What do you have to do for the rest of your life? Make money, pay taxes and die? Why not live your life in holiness, serving others and glorifying God? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and here's the icing on the cake:

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)

What a promise! That was what Belloq, Indiana Jones' rival in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, wanted - to see God. Instead, he saw death, because his heart wasn't pure. Christ came to cleanse our hearts so we could see God.

Trust Christ to do what you cannot.

Trust Christ to do what you cannot.

Holiness begins in the mind with wisdom, as I pointed out in my article on "Wisdom." Then it continues to the heart, with purity. And it ends in action, with love. Purity is the link between these two. Without purity, the chain is broken. You have to have purity in your heart to convert wisdom into love. Your motivations have to be pure; otherwise, it's not love - I don't care how many millions you feed, clothe and shelter. Motivation (i.e., what's in the heart) means everything to God, while outward appearances mean nothing.

So, think about it. What is your motivation right now? Is it to glorify God, or to fulfill some lust in your heart?

Think of your mind as a living room, and your heart as a bedroom. We invite people into our living room all the time, right? But we don't invite them into our bedroom unless they're someone very special. When we invited Christ into our hearts, we were inviting Him into our bedrooms - not just to visit, but to live with us and become our Lord and Lover. When we let a lustful thought come into our minds, it's in the living room. If we entertain it, it eventually makes its way into our bedroom as a desire. Can you imagine how Christ feels being in the same room - the room He shares with us in the most intimate way - with a lustful, sinful desire?

One of two things will happen: either He will help us to kick the desire out before it becomes an action; or, He will work with us until we have made up our minds that He is the only one we want to spend our most intimate moments with. Because He will not share a bed with impure, unholy desires.

Either you love that analogy or you hate it, right? Some of us don't want to think of Christ sharing a bed with us, because our beds are a mess. But they've always been a mess. We were a mess before Christ came into our lives. It takes a lifetime (and longer) to clean up a heart, so get used to it! Luckily for us, Christ wants to share in our messes!

Once we realize that Christ is right there in the room with us when we're having impure thoughts, seeing everything we're imagining projected on the wall in 3-D, with us as one of the actors - once we realize He cares enough not to leave the room in those moments - then we'll realize just how important our purity is to Him, and how hard He'll fight to help us achieve it. It cost Him his life. What price are we willing to pay?


Waitsel Smith, July 9, 2009; October 10, 2013; October 15, 2013

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[Send me yours and I'll include them on this page. Let me know what you think.]

"As always, I enjoyed reading your article, this one particularly about Purity. Such an important topic! Did you know that I'm shooting a movie here in NC in the coming weeks that deals with this subject?" - Paul, NC

[Paul Munger is a long-time friend and filmmaker. His film, which is in production, is called Princess Cut. It is being shot in Winston-Salem and surrounding area, including a beautiful 1,300 acre farm called "Oak Haven." I would trust Paul to do a great job. Here are links to the film's Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/PrincessCutMovie - as well as some pictures of the Oak Haven location - http://www.experienceoakhaven.com/]

Congratulations on your upcoming film, Paul! Can't wait to see it! - Waitsel

"Thanks so much for what you produce, Waitsel. I wish every man would commit to reading what you write. It is better than any "devotional" I have read. It cuts to the heart. And I really appreciated your movie list for men! There's none like it out there!" - Danny

"Incredible read! Very thought provoking, next comes the action." - David

"Great article, Waitsel!!!  Insightful and inspiring!" - Steve

"Thanks, Waitsel. Food for thought. I passed it along to my pastor. Not only will it 'preach,' it should be preached." - John, North Carolina

"This article was amazing... thank you!!" - Vince, Atlanta

"WOW! This is good! Are you right sure you aren't called to preach? Or maybe called to do exactly what you are doing because folks might be more prone to listening to what you have to say if you aren't standing behind a pulpit. Thanks.

"Have you ever thought about putting these writings in a book? Or have you already? You really do express yourself quite well and very thought provokingly." - Marietta, North Carolina

Working on both a novel and an inspirational book on the twelve virtues of knighthood. You can see the beginnings of the novel by going here. The Twelve Virtues are pretty much laid out on my Christian Knighthood web site. Thanks for the encouragement! - Waitsel

"Insightful and excellent!" - Brian, Atlanta

"Thanks for the inspirations." - Billy, Atlanta

"Good. Have you ever read Knowing God by JI Packer? He says many of the same things you say in paragraph one about holiness." - Herschel, Atlanta

"I read the articles you wrote, 'The Bedfellow of Christ' and 'A Noble Lady,' today. Nice work. Where do you find the time to write? You must be self-employed. I'm self-employed, yet don't have time to write barely a thing, though I wish I did." - Denny

The answer is God's grace. I have a client that is on retainer, so that guarantees I have a steady income. I work the least number of hours a week that I can (usually around 40). Then I use the rest of the time to do what I consider to be my ministry - praying, encouraging and discipling men and boys, and writing.

When I started out in business, I was working about 70 hours a week. Now I'm down to 40; and if I have to, I can work as little as 25. I just do what I believe God wants me to do each week, and trust Him that everything else gets covered. Since my ministry is my priority, everything else has to take a back seat. That only works if you trust God to cover for you.

I mean, why else are we here? I know I'm not here to work, pay taxes and then die. I KNOW that's not why I'm here. So, why am I here: to do whatever I can to glorify God. I know God will work with me on a goal like that and show me how to do it. So, I don't have to worry about stuff. I just have to do my best each day, and He does the rest. - Waitsel

Thanks for all your great comments!

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Text © 2009 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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