The dreaded teenage sex-talk arrived from my mother. I was a teenager and imprisoned in her Audi as she drove. As I was held against my will, she blurted, “Keep it in your pants and don’t impregnate anyone.”
Subtle, I thought.
At least the one-way conversation was laconic and practical. And it was relevant. I was beginning my first year at a secular university soon thereafter.
But mostly, it was traumatizing.
Indeed, sexual morality is a salient part of purity—especially from a Christian worldview. For even from birth, youth seem to begin hearing pastors preach abstinence. Today, some of you might even adorn a purity ring to symbolize your celibacy (because chastity belts are too clunky).
Followers of Christ should certainly avoid rounding the bases until marriage. Teachings against fornication are clear in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 7:2). Maybe surprisingly, however, there is another form of purity that is more foundational to the teachings of Jesus than the Sunday-school taught version.
Wholeheartedness Towards God
The crux of Christian purity is an uncorrupted faith and wholeheartedness toward God. It’s not only avoiding certain behaviors but it’s a laser-like devotion to following Christ and His Ways. Purity has the single focus of seeking God first. It lives to please audience of One.
Think of professional archers. Their arrows have but one mission: to hit the center of the target. Christian purity aims at God; its bullseye is Jesus.
Or, think of a full lunar eclipse. When the moon and the sun perfectly align, one celestial body is indistinguishable from the other. For the Follower of Christ, however, not only will her clean heart be visually inseparable from the Father’s but they actually become one in the same. She needn’t ask WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) because God’s Will and hers have already coalesced.
This is exactly why Jesus states “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
From Inward to Outward
Purity is a journey that must originate inward and flow outward. To begin otherwise is to take the dead-end road of the Pharisees. They were so obsessed with doing the right thing that they failed to be the right kind of person. Legalism is born from two sources: a neglected heart and an idolized outward appearance.
This is why Jesus admonished these teachers: “You clean the outside of your cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” Matt (23:25).
Inner purity is most important to God. And it’s impossible to achieve on our own merits. Our state of spiritual depravity is simply too wrecked for good deeds to fix. Thankfully, Jesus incarnated not to only repair our broken hearts but to replace them entirely.
He came to cleanse the inside of our cup.
This is why Titus 3:5 states, “[Jesus] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
And being pure doesn’t mean we don’t screw up occasionally. In fact, it means we recognize our utter depravity not to do otherwise—unless God intervenes. I’ve relied on 1 John 1:9 more times than I’d like to admit: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Even if we’ve avoided hitting home runs before marriage or slept with the entire team, our purity is based on Christ’s work, not ours. It’s simply a theological anathema to define purity by what we do or don’t do.
Purity cannot be lost or gained. It’s a permanent position His followers hold in Christ.
The key is to “fall forward” whenever we miss God’s best for us. This means we repent, learn, and move-on. Thankfully, God doesn’t keep score so neither should we.
Purity is also holistic. Over time, it permeates every dark corner of lives and removes every cobweb. Our motives become unsplintered. Inner and outer duplicity is banished. White lies disappear. Our internal turmoil is muted as we cease managing people for selfish outcomes.
Purity in Motion
Character growth is critical for the serious Christian but it doesn’t end there. The goal of purity is action—to love God, others, and ourselves well. Peter says that “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22).
James states that pure religion is one that looks after “orphans and widows” (1:27). But whatever cause we undertake—whether we’re called to care for widows and orphans, end sex trafficking, protect the environment, engage the business world, stop abortion, or raise a godly family—it’s all fueled from the pristine waters in our spiritual reservoir (see John 7:38).
Everything we do becomes an act of worship.
The 17th Century Puritans had the same goal. They attempted to be exemplars of a pure life in Christ. Not surprisingly, their fashion reflected their faith. It included big hats for men, head coverings for women and an overall frumpy layered system that hid all mesmerizing body parts.
It’s safe to say yoga pants would have been banned in this era.
But muscle shirts and cable TV probably would have been barred, as well. Of course, culture changes over time. Yet, in the end, we’d all agree that purity begins with accepting Christ’s work on the cross, a God-aligned heart, and outward actions that display the love of Jesus.