In this series we have looked at quite a number things that have to do with our walk of intimacy with God. We are going to look at something in this portion of the study that is sometimes overlooked in our day. This is “Purity.” We will spend some time looking at this in this study.
We know that God desires fellowship with His people. We find this in many passages in Scripture. What many don’t realize is that God has put some conditions on His intimate relationship with us. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:14 verse on through verse 1 of chapter 7:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’
“Therefore come out from them and be separate” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
There is an abundance of teaching material here, but let’s look at a few things that this passage has to say. One theme that is hard to miss is the fact that we should see the difference between what is Godly and what is not. Those things that are not, are things that we should separate ourselves from. There are only two ways to live. It is either the way of God (which is well detailed in God’s Word), or following every whim of our flesh, which leads to total destruction.
Through the centuries, “religion” has raised its ugly head and put all kinds of restrictive rules on what supposedly represents a true Christ-follower and what makes us “holy” as God requires. Much of it had nothing to do with what is taught in God’s Word. Too much emphasis has been put on things that don’t really matter. We’ve all seen examples of extreme dress requirements, strict rules for hairstyles, and even following a lifestyle that denies all modern convenience. These things in and of themselves do not make one holy.
God has given us a conscience that works quite well if we live a committed walk with God. The Spirit of God will speak to us with that still small voice, telling us how we should walk out this life of holiness that He is looking for in us. In our world today, all the noise and glitter of modern living makes so much noise, we don’t listen enough to that voice that speaks within us. We can’t afford to ignore that voice because heeding it is the key to the living intimate relationship that we should all desire with our God.
God’s desire for fellowship and spiritual intimacy with us is made quite clear in verse 16 of the passage above. He said, “I will dwell with them and walk with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The requirement however is for us to “come out from among them and be separate, and don’t touch the unclean thing…” Too often we think we can bridge the gap between the two. It is not possible because God will not compromise righteousness. Neither should we.
Living the Christian life is all about possessing a deepening relationship with God and walking with God in communion and fellowship. If anyone is attempting to live for any other reason than to worship and walk with God, then life becomes very empty and meaningless for the Christian. We are meant to have communication with the One who has saved us and we must decide that we will live up to God’s standards, and that includes Purity.
The believers in the city of Corinth were warned by the Apostle Paul that they were the “temple” of the Holy Spirit and that they must be careful where they go and what they do; what they associate themselves with in their society. In their day that had much to do with the pagan worship which was so common. Many had been raised worshipping pagan gods. Once they became believers, some mixed their worship of the true God with the old pagan gods. This was also the problem in ancient Israel. Many of the pagan worship practices were unbelievably depraved.
This is also the case in our world today. Our own culture is becoming more and more pagan in nature. Materialism and entertainment, particularly in the west and much of the Orient, is drifting further and further from the standards that God has set for mankind. Sex, drugs, and other vices have taken hold in every level of society. These things come straight from the pit of hell and lead right directly back to hell. Christians must protect themselves from the defilement of the things that get between us and our intimate relationship with God.
We can easily see by the Scriptures that ‘Purity’ is a necessary prerequisite to true fellowship with God and any spiritual intimacy that we would like to have. Real intimacy with God must be preceded by cleansing. God said not to touch “the unclean thing.” He has said that He would receive us–but, verse 17 shows us what it is associated with His requirement.
Again, in that day God’s people were associating their lives with idols in a rebellious setting where pagan acts of worship were occurring. This required a radical separation and cleansing. The great prophet Elijah faced off with the evil King Ahab and 850 false pagan prophets. Israel had been without rain for 3 ½ years and Elijah called all the people to the top of the mountain to settle the issue once and for all. He told the people that they were going to have to choose whom they were going to serve; either Jehovah God, or Baal. It could not be both, and Elijah was going to make sure that they all clearly knew who was really God!
If we know who God is today, why is it that we think we can blur the lines between living the pure life required of us as pursuers of God, and chasing after every evil thing presented to the human race today? Good movies have become rare; this is also the case with television. We must make ourownchoice.
The demonic is something that is usually seen as something only experienced overseas in dark jungles or amongst pagan religions. The demonic is becoming more and more prevalent here in the west today as well. The demonic is being made available in a more seductive means–through the entertainment industry. Much of what we allow ourselves to take in through our eyes and ears is much more destructive than many would like to think. Our enemy has an evil goal, and that is the destruction of the human race. Much of what we allow into our minds has a demonic origin. 1 Corinthians 10:21 puts it like this:
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Whether God’s people realize it or not, we become corrupt by wrong associations. Besides this, our involvement with things we should stay away from will steal our hearts away from our God and we will lose that precious intimacy we so badly need with Him. We as God’s people must clean up our act! We must separate ourselves from the things and those places that corrupt us physically and spiritually. It has nothing to do with God being a God that does not want to allow us to enjoy life to its fullest. It has to do with what will or will not damage us in our walk with Him.
We cannot tolerate places where religious apostasy or pagan worship–no matter how modern it may be–is being committed and condoned in some form. We cannot allow ourselves in a place that causes lust, covetousness, and pride to light up in our hearts. We are drawn away from our loving Lord when we do. It is not He that draws away from us; it is we that draw away from Him!
Another passage of Scripture we should look at is found in 1 John 2:15-17. I find the words pretty unique in the “Message” version of the Scriptures and it reads like this:
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world–wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important–has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out–but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”
This passage shows us, as many others also do, that Godly living is much more than just avoiding a lifestyle that avoids “drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.” It also has to do with keeping the soulish part of us in line with God’s way of thinking. The Bible speaks of much that has to do with our attitudes, motives, and agendas. Time will not allow a discussion of every facet of this now, but, the bottom line is, we must keep our minds in line with God’s way of seeing things. There are things that have become 21st century idols and they steal away our hearts from God, and keep us from being able to fellowship with Him fully.
1 John 5:21 tells us “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Today we have idols of sports, hobbies, work, money, the outdoor life, music, pornography, sex outside of marriage, and much more. It all robs us of our intimacy with God.
In a wider application, we harbor covetousness, jealousy, anger, resentment, unforgiveness, sometimes even hatred, and so much more. All it does is hurt us–and those around us. It brings no honor to the One who set us free to live a life of freedom. These things have no place in the life of a true believer in the Messiah Jesus.
Every time we participate in communion as it has been commanded of every believer in 1 Corinthians 11, we are told to examine ourselves. Here is how it reads in the New International Version in verses 23b-32:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
There are those who would like to dismiss the ordinances of baptism and communion as unnecessary because they are really just a “show” of an inward work. Wrong. Because the subject matter of this article is dealing with our Intimacy with God, I will not be able to spend time proving that Scripture commands us to follow through on both baptism and communion. A few comments however are warranted and need to be made about the 1 Corinthians passage because it has a direct effect on the life of a Christian believer, depending on how he or she handle this Scripture and its instructions.
I find it interesting that this passage says that many in the Body of Christ drink judgment on themselves by not recognizing the seriousness of what is being done by taking communion. The Scripture goes further yet and proclaims that many among us in the Family of God are weak, sick, and have even died as a result of our lack of proper introspection at the time of communion! This is a fact that escapes most people who take communion. For too many people it is looked at as just a ritual. Hopefully, with a proper understanding of what this Scripture is really saying, we will learn to judge ourselves–before God has to judge us.
2 Corinthians 7:1 reads like this:
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
The big question that we are left with is: What is it that contaminates us? People will argue both sides of this point from now until the day that the Lord calls us home, but let’s make it as simple as possible. We must use self-discipline and cut anything and everything off from ourselves that gets in between us and our intimate walk with God. None of us has the right to determine what this is for another brother or sister in Christ. We must however make that determination for ourselves. This means that I may need to draw a line with what kind of entertainment I will allow myself to be involved in. I will likely need to limit the type of movies I watch. It may also mean that I avoid some music that others around me happen to enjoy. Modern life is complicated and absolutely full of influences of every type. I must ask myself the question, “What would Jesus do?”
Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that it is not only important for me to stop killing, stealing, or committing adultery; it is important for me to learn to put away hatred, wrath, vengeance, and any other thought that is not appropriate for a representative of the Kingdom of God. Adultery starts on the inside and so our thoughts must be under control of the Spirit of God. That “second look” at a beautiful woman may not be appropriate if it leads to thoughts that don’t belong. This can apply to thoughts of jealousy, anger, or hatred. We are the ones that have the “freedom” to decide how and what we are going to think. This also applies to the temptation to talk about someone else behind their back. God’s still small voice will tell us not to gossip, but our human flesh happens to enjoy doing so. We are often guilty of listening to our carnal self rather than the still small voice of God’s Spirit. Galatians 4:6 describes who we are when we have become part of the family of God:
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (NIV)
A “son” or an “heir” has a different responsibility than the average person. Most Christians today are missing this point. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 we find the Apostle Paul making some comments about the freedom a Christian has:
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (NIV)
One of the keys to keeping ourselves pure and “separate” has to do with whom we associate with. We always teach our kids that it is important that they have good friends. This applies to adults as well. This does not mean that we do not have “non-Christian” friends, nor does it mean that we never go into a place that is not “Christian.” It means that we are careful what influences we put ourselves under. This is addressed in Psalms 1:1-6:
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Most of us are not careful enough with the influences we put ourselves under. It can be by television, movies, or other entertainment that we should not be part of. We need to ask ourselves if the Lord is grieved with what we are taking part in–even if we are just watching others and not partaking ourselves. The disciplined Christian life is not so much a life of “do’s” and “don’ts” as it is being free to live an unhindered life that brings honor to our Master. 1 John 1:7-8 gives us a little more understanding yet:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
John shows us in these verses that we must choose to walk in the light of God’s holiness. That is really the only way we can experience true fellowship with one another. We experience that “oneness” with God and the brethren as we choose to walk as he has taught us to walk. Sin keeps us from spiritual intimacy with God and this is why we need “confession” and “cleansing” as 1 John 1:7 & 9 talks about:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (verse 7)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (verse 9)
When we “choose” to compromise our walk with God, we will have chosen to neglect our life of intimacy with God. It is one or the other. Verse 6 of 1 John tells us that we deceive ourselves if we say that we have fellowship with him when we are knowingly walking in darkness or sin. We can’t fool God. As was made abundantly clear on Mount Carmel in Elijah’s day, the people needed to make a definite choice who it was they were going to serve, and so we also today must make the choice about who it is that we are going to serve.
James 4:8 tells us that God will draw close to us if we will draw close to Him. The same verse instructs us to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. It also tells us we are double-minded until we do so! One of the well known stories in the Bible is of King David’s fall with Bathsheba. David knew what it took to be cleansed so that he could gain his relationship back with his God. We find his words in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” It is the same remedy for everyone. Psalm 51:12 adds, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
David adds these words in Psalm 119:32-33:
I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
Continued in Part 12 with Love and Obedience to God.