Sunday, March 7, 2010

The 7 Points of Valor: #4 - Purity

Romans 6:6-14 "Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did.
That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you've been raised from the dead!—into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God." (The Message)

PURITY To be clean in heart, mind, speech, and body is to be strong. Psalm 119:9 Our materialistic society is a breeding ground for idols and temptations. All of who we are needs to ring true to the Good News.

Consider food colouring. You have a large pitcher of cool, clear water. What happens when you put a couple drops of food colouring in it? The food colouring spreads out and tints the whole pitcher, not just one little part. How easy is it to get all the colour back out of that jug - quite difficult. Consider the kid playing with white gloves in the mud. Do the gloves get muddy, or does the mud get glovey? Sin is all pervasive. They say a little leaven leavens the whole loaf. As we focus on purity, let us start by looking at what wrecks purity - sin.

The Fact of sin. There is a standard. Whether you believe it or not, it exists. This standard is universal, applies to everyone. A popular children's toy is a plastic ball with 8 or 10 different shapes cut out of the sides of it; a circle, a square, a rectangle, a cross, a star - you get the picture. You also have a separate shape that exactly matches each hole. The one shape will only fit in the corresponding hole and nowhere else. The child learns over time how to match the shapes with the proper holes. This standard that is out there is like this plastic ball with a cross cut out of it. Though we were originally created in the shape of a cross, our shape got marred and no we look more like a square. Try as we might, we can't fit ourselves into that spot.That is sin at work. Sin is falling short of that standard, of not fitting that one spot. It is like the archer aiming for the bulls-eye, the target that is down the field. I spent several summers at camp and graduated through several ranks of the archery program. As you start, you know all the right stuff, how to set the arrow up on the bow, how to hold it so when you pull back the arrow doesn't go flinging off sideways; how to protect the inside of your forearm from the string hurting it.Unfortunately it is easy to miss the target. It takes no practice to miss. Right out of the gate you miss. Add in practice, discipline, time, and a teacher and you can begin to hit the target consistently. The Bible says, "We all have fallen short" of the mark, or the target, but what does that mean? What sometimes happens is we get confused about where this standard comes from. What is the target to which we align ourselves? The target is the character of God, the image of Jesus. The whole Old testament and its Laws is all about revealing to us that character. All the Laws and rules in the Old Testament simply are trying to show us that shape to which we need to conform. Sin, then, is anything that goes against the character of God. At its most simplest definition sin is selfishness. It is doing stuff for our own image. The heart of sin is not the rule that's broken, but the intent behind it. Let me explain this further, but understand that, as the passage we read earlier says, we are not under the rule of sin. In other words you have a choice. It is a God given choice, and is only presented as we follow Jesus. That choice, to say, "No" to sin is what purity is all about. To understand purity, is to understand sin and how it works in our lives.

Consider the Process of sin. James 1:13-15 says "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." See where sin starts from? It starts from here in our hearts, and here in our minds. We have these desires and wants that are focused on us. These can be very natural things like the need for love or food. But if we allow these natural desires to become the controlling factor in our lives, they get pulled out of proportion and we no longer look like that standard we just talked about. Salvation and Christianity, then, is not so much about the rules and stopping the bad stuff as it is about pursuing the good stuff; the stuff that relates to that image of Jesus. Did you notice the clothes of the athletes during the Olympics? With the exception of figure skating and snowboarding, it was all about speed; and in their pursuit of speed they dropped all the stuff that held them back because they were pursuing the best way to get to the finish line the fastest. They weren't concerned about making a fashion statement. They weren't concerned about wearing stuff just because it made them look like an athlete or made them look fast. They focused on their race and did their best to avoid all the obstacles that would trip them up and slow them down. At points in following Jesus, you have choices to make. Do you do what is selfish and just for you, or do you live out of love. Do you allow yourself to be tripped up by the obstacles of life and get your eyes off of the race. Do you allow your desires to take you out of the race? Purity is the act of keeping your eyes on the finish line and pursuing that to the end.

The Power of sin. What gives sin such power? Why does it have such control over us? Sometimes we are so caught up in issues of holiness that we give power to sin by pushing the Law; the rules. The power of sin is the selfish intent. There is a thinking that we can do it all ourselves. We can be good enough in following Jesus on our own strength, so we don't even need His help. Unfortunately that is pride, and the downfall of countless people, and of Satan himself. Believe it or not, you have a choice in this. Have you ever ticked someone off? Have you ever apologized but they keep coming after you? They keep blaming you for all their problems and they work hard to make you miserable - and you let them. You give power to them when you let them control your emotions, your life. Guilt and shame are 2 key controllers we use on each other, and that Satan uses on us. You don't have to give in to them. In the power of the Spirit you can find release and peace from those things, because you are no longer slaves to sin. That is what freedom in Jesus is about. When you walk in the love and forgiveness of God you walk in purity.

The End of sin. Listen to Romans 8:1-8 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Do you see the choice here, the decision you have to make? Where is your mind set today? Each day you have to ask yourself that question. There are countless men and women who feel called by God. They start out on the road to be all they can be but they don't finish. The simple reason is that they love the world. If you pursue the things of this world you can’t please God. The things of this world are all about how you feel, what you want. There is no room in that for God. Purity is about walking in step with the Spirit – giving these temporary things away so that you may gain eternal things.

Purity is a result of something else, not something to be pursued on its own. The pursuit of holiness is the pursuit of the Law. We make a list of all the don’ts, and try not to do them. We make a list of all the do’s, and try to do those things. All we are doing is trying to change our behavior on our own strength and as Romans 7 indicates, it doesn’t work. Purity is about what God is doing in us. It is about that process of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding and transforming us. We make the decision to follow Jesus with all we have.  The outworking of that choice, that commitment is holiness, or purity. Consider sin as darkness. A big empty room, but full of darkness. What happens when you bring a light in? Does the darkness overcome the light? Impossible. The Light goes straight to every corner, every space and brings illumination. Stay close to the Light. Stay close to Jesus, and you will be a person of purity.

No comments: