A Call to Moral Purity

As men of God, we are called to a high standard of conduct that demands far more of us, and is so much more rewarding and fulfilling, than just avoiding the so-called big sins. One concern I have for us as Christian men is that we not fall into the trap of “dumbing down” our commitment, especially in the area of sex, to the point that we justify our secret lusts and sins to ourselves because we aren’t acting them out. It’s easy to settle for less than holiness in this area of sexual purity, but nothing less than holiness will please God.

What I want us to do, as pastors, is raise the standard of sexual conduct among the men in our congregation to a level of purity in mind, heart, and body. I want us to challenge our men to lead God-honoring lives, equipping them to win the battle against sexual temptation before it ever has a chance to escalate and steal their integrity, their marriages and families, and their effectiveness for the Lord. We need to challenge our men to be committed to have victory over immorality. I’m talking about an active, positive commitment to holy living that gives us first-strike capability when the enemy brings in his filth.

With this challenge before us, I want to give you four truths you can drive into the wall of your mind, so to speak, and hang some things on as you challenge the men in your congregation to seek to live a life of moral integrity and purity. Since men like to think in concrete terms and want to know how it works and the steps they need to take, putting the truths of God’s Word into a list or some other form for remembering helps me, and I think it will help you too. With that in mind, here are four truths to help you apply the Word, given in the form of an acrostic based on the word P-U-R-E.

It’s Critical That We Prepare for Spiritual Attack

Peter warns that Satan is on the prowl like a lion looking for one to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He loves to catch us off guard and strike when we are not expecting it. But the Bible doesn’t say we have to hide in fear. Instead, we need to be “sober” and “vigilant.”

We tell our kids, “Look both ways before you cross the street.” We don’t do this to try and scare them into never crossing a street, but to prepare them to cross safely. The same is true in the spiritual realm. We don’t have to run from Satan, but prepare for him. Preparation is half the battle in the fight against sexual temptation and failure.

It’s like the boxer who said, “If I see a punch coming, I can usually defend against it. It’s the punch you never see coming that gets you.”

It amazes me how completely the Allies in World War II duped the German army into believing their massive invasion of Europe was going to come somewhere other that the Normandy coast of France. The German commanders didn’t find out the truth until their soldiers guarding the beaches of Normandy say the ships coming and called in the alarm. By then it was too late to rush in the defense needed to stop the Allies.

We don’t have to be caught off guard, because God has already told us who and where concerning the attacks we will face.

Neighborhood crime-watch programs are popular in the Dallas area, as they are in many cities and suburbs. An officer who spoke to one group about home security said, “What you want to do is strengthen the target to make it harder for thieves to break into your home. The truth is that the pros are still going to try, but if you strengthen the target, they’ll give up and move on to easier pickings.”

That’s a great word to us as men. Satan is still going to try, and he will target men who have made an all-out commitment to Jesus as Lord of their lives. But the Bible says that when we fortify our hearts and resist Satan, he moves on.

Brother, we can win over sin and the powerful, damaging consequences of sin in our lives. We don’t have to be Satan’s dopes or his dupes! Don’t let Satan suggest to you that you are a hopeless victim in his hands, because you’re not.

It’s Critical That We Undo Defiling Associations

We read 2 Corinthians 7:1 above. This verse actually is that conclusion of a powerful section of Scripture that addresses our need for moral purity. Paul began this teaching in 6:14 by saying, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” Then verse 17, “‘Come our from among them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’”

Perhaps more than any other issue we will deal with, this is where we need to be absolutely honest with God and with ourselves. Too often Christian men have allowed themselves to become linked with that which is impure and immoral.

Separate Yourself from Evil and to God

Christians used to talk about separating ourselves from the world. We don’t hear a lot about that today, probably because it sounds negative. Well, I don’t know how you can read 2 Corinthians 6 and not draw the conclusion that God wants us to pull away from people and situations that people and situations that are pulling us away from Him.

But biblical separation from the world is positive too. It’s not just turning from something that is not good for us, but turning to something that is infinitely better- or rather, turning to Someone who has something infinitely better for us. When we undo any defiling associations, we are turning from sin and the customs and culture of this world to God and His holiness and power for living.

Our Example Will Have a Powerful Effect on Our Family

One thing that will really ring your alarm clock in terms of having the right associations is fatherhood. Many dads have heard their child come out with something shocking at the dinner table that has the other kids saying, “What does that mean?” as Mom goes into cardiac arrest.

Dad tries to keep his cool as he looks at junior and says, “Where in the world did you hear that!” And when he finds out that junior got it from the kid next door, Dad is suddenly very interested in undoing his son’s unholy associations!

I have a friend who used to tell his son, “I know you have to associate with kids at school, on the team, and even on the church youth group who are not walking with the Lord, and that’s fine. They need to see your witness. Just make sure the influence is flowing in the right direction, that they aren’t pulling away from the Lord.”

It’s one thing for a Christian man to kid himself into thinking it’s okay to subscribe to all the movie channels on cable or satellite because he can control it and, besides he’ll just look away during the bad parts in the filthy movies. But it’s another thing entirely for this father to catch his teenage son watching the same movies.

There’s a story a few years ago of a Mafia member in New York whose wife ragged on him for weeks to do something about their thirteen-year-old son, who was skipping school. Dad didn’t really care, but to get his wife off his back he finally, in typical Mafia fashion, threatened his son if he didn’t start going to school. But the story said the boy told his dad, “I don’t wanna go to school. I wanna be a thief like you.”

Now I’ll grant you that’s not an ordinary example, but that boy was really no different than many others who have said to their dads in words and actions, “I wanna be just like you.”

I’ll tell you, this is where our commitment to be men of God gets very real and gritty. Let me ask you a question: Would it be fine with you if your son or daughter followed your example in the way they relate to their peers, and particularly to the opposite sex?

We can’t Afford to Let Our Purity Be Compromised

A man may say, “Okay, I may laugh at the dirty jokes at work, but I don’t tell any! And I’ll admit I like to flirt a little with the women at the office, but I’m not crude like the other guys. The women know I don’t really mean anything by it. It’s just harmless fun.”   Sorry, but God’s Word says differently. And so does the experience of many men who have fallen into unholy affairs. Someone has called workplace romance the “new infidelity” in our culture. Think about it. In our fathers’ generations, and certainly in our grandfathers day, there weren’t that many women in the workplace. Typically, if an affair were going to develop, it would happen to traveling salesmen, or in the neighborhood or among friends. And wherever an affair developed, there was a tremendous social stigma with it.

But not anymore. Today, the workplace is the number one place for married people to meet potential affair partners. And the stigma is definitely gone. Office affairs are the stuff of sitcoms. What can start as “innocent” flirting, or a rendezvous over lunch or a cup of coffee, can quickly escalate into emotional attachment and sexual attraction.

It can happen to any man, especially if his marriage isn’t what it should be. Here is this woman at work who is building him up and telling him what a great job he’s doing. And all of a sudden, he has a sympathetic female ear, someone who will listen to him and seems so understanding.

I’m not putting women down, because it would take a lot of guts for a woman employee, especially if the man is her boss, to say to him “Please, sir, I don’t want to get involved in your problems at home. You need to work that out with your wife.”

Let me give you a pretty hard gut check here, brother. Are you getting more of your emotional needs met at work than you are at home? Do you find yourself looking forward to getting to the office in the morning so you can see and talk to that certain female coworker? Are you spending time alone with another woman, even if it’s high noon at a restaurant? If so, you’re flirting with disaster! That relationship Satan’s net, and you’d better cut it off now before it snares you. If you can’t do it alone, get someone to help you.

Don’t Set Yourself Up for Moral Failure

A guy may say, “Yeah, but you don’t know my situation here at home. If it weren’t for my secretary, I wouldn’t be getting any attention or affirmation.” Well, if that’s truly the case, then instead of taking your secretary out to lunch, take your wife out to dinner and talk about it. If you’re going to reach out, reach out to the woman God gave you.

Looking for love in all the wrong places just means that now you have at least two problems on your hands- one at work and one at home. Actually, you have three problems, because God is displeased with unholy associations.

What I’m saying is that following the world’s pattern is a sure-fire dead end. When we act like the unbelievers around us, we set ourselves up for moral and spiritual failure.

The question that someone usually asks at this point is, “But doesn’t the Bible say we are supposed to go outside the church and our Christian circle to reach out to the world?”

Of course, it does. Paul wasn’t telling us to cut off all contact with the world. Being “unequally yoked” refers to the primary associations of our lives-partnerships and relationships that bring us into intimate contact with unbelievers in a way that could silence and comprise our Christian walk and witness. Marriage is usually the first example that comes to mind, but the principle reaches far beyond that.

Check out the Old Testament quotations Paul used in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 and you’ll see that they refer to periods in Israel’s life when God’s people were being defiled by the idol-worshipping nations around them. As in the example of my friend with his son, the spiritual influence was flowing in the wrong direction. Israel was not bringing its neighbors to the worship of Yahweh, but was adopting their idols and eventually the sexual perversion that went with them.

I hope you’re not on the alert in your relationships with women besides your wife, to keep those relationships holy and defiled. How about your computer? If necessary, put a filter on it to screen out pornography before it ever gets to you. Just as you put a seat-belt on when you drive, put a filter on in your Internet. And be accountable for the way you use it. Ask your buddy at work or your wife to check you.

Do whatever it takes to undo defiling associations. Don’t comprise, because the minute you start saying yes to some of the seemingly harmless things, Satan has a foothold. The Bible says don’t give Satan a foothold in your life (Ephesians 4:27), because I guarantee you he’ll go from a foothold to a chokehold!

IT’S CRITICAL THAT WE REMEMBER THE CONSEQUECES OF SEXUAL SIN

The third letter of our P-U-R-E acrostic is the need to remember that sin always has consequences. Look once more at 2 Corinthians 7:1 and notice Paul said that instead of yoking ourselves together with unbelievers, our calling is to perfect holiness “in the fear of God” (emphasis added).

God’s Holiness Demands That He Deal with Sin

I have a healthy fear of Almighty God. He is holy, and He demands holiness of us. The Scripture says, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16). If we dabble in sin, God is going to deal with us and discipline us. Yes, Christ has taken away our sin, and God is a God of love. But He is also perfect purity and righteousness who “will not all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). A man of God is one who fears Him.

It’s amazing how many men actually think they can cover up sin and dodge the consequences. But we are told in Scripture, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Remember the consequences of sexual sin: a broken marriage, losing the respect of your children, a possible loss of employment, exposure to disease, the destruction of your witness and testimony for Christ, and the loss of your leadership in the church.

It breaks my heart to say that there are a lot of men who used to be leaders in God’s work who are now on the shelf because of compromise and failure in their moral lives. We know that sin is the promise it holds out of gratifying the desires of the flesh. But the damage lasts a lot longer than any stolen moment of pleasure.

There is No such Thing as a “Free Sin”

I didn’t see it, but I remember when the movie Fatal Attraction was released. It involved a married man who thought he was indulging in a harmless little fling with another woman until he discovered that the woman was a psycho. She began to stalk him until she finally tried to kill him.

That film scared a lot of men straight. There is a bondage and addiction built into sexual sin that begins to feed on a man’s body and mind like a cancer. One man who was deep into pornography and sexual sin told his Christian counselor, “I’m so messed up even my perversions are perversions.” The nature of sin is always to want a bigger kick, just like a drug addict needs ever-larger and more frequent fixes to get the same reaction. Sexual sin distorts your thinking, defiles your body, disrupts your relationships, and defeats your testimony.

We’re talking about the consequence of sin. God can and will forgive sin, but He does not automatically cancel its results. Besides what it does to everyone around you, falling into sexual sin creates a guilt and self-loathing that makes a man barely able to stand living with himself.

I heard this described vividly when I asked a Christian man I knew who had been discovered living a life of immorality. “How could you show up at church every week during that time and act as if nothing were wrong?”

He replied, “Every time I sinned, every time I indulged my fantasies, I would promise God that it would be the last time. I would repent and weep and be broken, only to be defeated again.”

Anyone who is doing something he doesn’t want to do and that he knows is damaging, and yet he cannot stop doing it, is by definition an addict. Maybe the worst consequence of sexual sin is the web it weaves around its victim until he is so tied up he can’t even move.

And lest you think I’m being too dramatic, let me suggest that you sit down with a piece of paper and write out every consequence you can think of that would befall you if you indulged in immorality, and list every person who you would be affected by your sin and the specific way each person would be impacted. It’s a sobering exercise, but one that will help drive you to the Lord pleading for His holiness in your life.

IT’S CRITICAL THAT WE ENGAGE IN POSITIVE  SPIRITUAL ACTIVITES

The fourth and final letter of our P-U-R-E acrostic involves the replacement principle. Instead of saying no to sin, if you really want to defeat it then fill that place with positive spiritual activities. Here are some suggestions.

Fortify Your Faith with the Word of God

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). That’s why reading, studying and memorizing Scripture are so important. If your church doesn’t have a men’s Bible study, help get one organized. I praise God for literally hundreds of guys at our church who are deeply committed to our men’s Bible study. We have seen lives changed.

I said it earlier that biblical separation from the world is positive. It’s not just separating ourselves from wrong, but joining ourselves to that which is right and wholesome and holy. Make it a point to surround yourself with other men who share your commitment to live holy lives before the Lord. Fortify your faith with the rock-solid foundation of God’s Word.

Purify Your Thought Life

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We renew our minds by meditating on holy rather than unholy things.

You know what it’s like to tell yourself you are not going to do something, and then grit your teeth and try not to think about it. A person who hopes to eat less and lose weight simply by not thinking about food will think about it all the time. It’s not enough just to banish the thoughts we don’t want. We need to replace them with the things of God and His Word.

The fact is that you cannot be thinking unholy thoughts if you’re thinking holy thoughts. But it requires disciplining your mind. You say, “That’s a hard thing to do.” Sure, it is. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But you can do it with the help of the Holy Spirit. Discipline your mind by not indulging fantasies and lies and temptations.

Identify Accountability Partners

Find someone you can trust and are willing to open up to. For many men, their wives are their primary accountability partners. But it also helps to have another man or small group of men who have your permission to hold you accountable to your commitments. One of the signs of a man heading for trouble is when he begins to avoid his friends and is evasive and noncommittal when he does talk with them. Be accountable to others.

Magnify the Lord Jesus

We have a greater love than any love on earth, and that is our relationship with Christ. When we allow Jesus to be Lord of our lives, He begins to clean up our minds, our desires, and our actions. When we exalt Christ in our lives, our love for Him will be far greater than our love of sin.

That’s what it comes down to. Jesus said the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

My brother, there are more important things in life than sex. That may be news to men out there in the world, but as men of God we have to get our thinking straight. At the top of our list of life’s priorities is our love for and walk with Jesus Christ. He is the one who calls us to moral purity, and He will give us the power to obey Him so that we become the victor and not the victim in this area.