Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Purity Plan

Image from: http://allrecipes.com/Cook/18631338/Photo.aspx?photoID=3760

We have this running joke in our family involving the world’s greatest dessert, “Better than ‘S-E-X’ Cake.” Yes, the hyphens in between the letters are to prompt you to spell the word out. I believe my Aunt Nancy first made the cake and told my mom about it. I think Nancy spelled it out as a joke because we were younger---and to this day, I still spell the word out! Or else I replace it with “Better than winning the Boston Marathon Cake!” All kidding aside, I am so very thankful for my parents in the way of educating my siblings and I on the importance of purity at an early age. Sure, I guess you could consider us a wee bit sheltered: I read the books, went to the Rebecca Saint James, “Wait for Me,” concerts and even have a cousin that taught abstinence in schools! You could say that I was set-up with a no-fail system in high school and college. What is crazy though, is that as I am only 40 days out from my wedding, and in all honesty, those things are not what are keeping me from falling into sexual temptation: it’s the Holy Spirit. Even though those things have helped remind me throughout my adolescent years to remain pure, it wasn’t until I hit the homestretch of my engagement that I realized that purity runs much deeper than wearing a ring, setting boundaries and having accountability. I think so often we rely on these forms of accountability within the Christian faith that we almost undermine the power of the Holy Spirit in moments of temptation. We also give credit to curriculum and perhaps even an example rather than seeing the inner-probings of the heart as the most crucial aspect and plan in it all.

Scripture tells us that when Jesus ascended into heaven that he told his disciples that it was better for him to go so that “The Helper” could come. That ‘helper’ is the Holy Spirit. Now I think, in that moment as a disciple, I would have said, “WAIT A SECOND! You’re Jesus---someone better? Huh?”

John 16:7
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for(A) if I do not go away,(B) the Helper will not come to you. But(C) if(D) I go,(E) I will send him to you.
Cross references:
A. John 16:7 : John 7:39
B. John 16:7 : John 15:26; John 14:16
C. John 16:7 : Acts 2:33
D. John 16:7 : John 14:2
E. John 16:7 : John 14:26

John 14:16
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another(A) Helper,[a] to be with you forever,
a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7
Cross references:
A. John 14:16 : John 14:26; John 15:26; 16:7
Why would it be better to have the Holy Spirit instead of Christ? We can flip back a few pages to John 14 and read this!

John 14:26
26But the(A) Helper, the Holy Spirit,(B) whom the Father will send in my name,(C) he will teach you all things and(D) bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Cross references:
A. John 14:26 : John 14:16
B. John 14:26 : Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33, with John 15:26; 16:7
C. John 14:26 : John 16:13; 1 Cor 2:10; 1 John 2:20, 27
D. John 14:26 : John 2:22

Now you may say, “Joni, I am so happy that all you need is the Holy Spirit to keep you pure, but I need something a little more tangible in order to keep myself from falling into temptation.” Which is totally understandable, and I am not in any means discounting the importance of supplementing your relationship with Christ with tangible things such as setting boundaries, having accountability or reminders of pursuing purity—but , (a big but!) we as Christ-followers cannot disregard the power of the Holy Spirit and need to be intentional about approaching purity by asking the One who defines Purity. If we claim that the only reason why we are remaining pure is due to books on purity, or because Rebecca Saint James wrote a song about waiting, we miss the boat completely on God’s original plan for us.

A couple of months ago, I sensed a shift of temptation in the physical component of my relationship with my fiancé and I was frustrated. I was reading in a women’s devotional book (that I cannot recall right now) that dealt with the topic of “Sanctification.” It touched on a passage found in Exodus 31 that describes God as ‘Jehovah-mekoddishkem’ which means, “The Lord Sanctifies You.” And in this passage, specifically in verses 12-18 we read:

The Sabbath
12And the LORD said to Moses, 13"You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.(A) Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15(B) Six days shall work be done, but(C) the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.(D) Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17(E) It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that(F) in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and(G) on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'"
18And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the(H) two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with(I) the finger of God.
Cross references:
A. Exodus 31:14 : Exodus 35:2; Jer 17:27; Num 15:32-36
B. Exodus 31:15 : Exodus 20:9
C. Exodus 31:15 : Exodus 16:23; 20:10; Gen 2:2
D. Exodus 31:15 : Exodus 31:14
E. Exodus 31:17 : Exodus 31:13
F. Exodus 31:17 : Gen 1:31
G. Exodus 31:17 : Gen 2:2; Heb 4:4, 10
H. Exodus 31:18 : Exodus 24:12; 32:15, 16; Deut 4:13; 5:22; 9:10, 11; 2 Cor 3:3
I. Exodus 31:18 : Exodus 8:19

So from this passage, I gathered that true sanctification can only come from God. How does this relate to earthly relationships: in its entirity! God did not create purity for relationships, he created relationship for purity. To sanctify means to set apart, to be holy and/or saint-like. We must understand that we have to be sanctified to be near God because He is so incredibly holy. This can only come from God ---even though the passage also tells the Israelites to keep the Sabbath as a form of worship to God. Verses 12-13 proves this point “I the LORD, sanctify you.”
So although relationships are wonderful and beautiful---they are not what defines you, God specifically uses all areas of our vapor-length lives to shape and mold us; redeem and transform us so that we can ultimately be with Him for all eternity.

This is concept is threaded throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament with verses. Probably one of the most beautiful love letters related to the concept of sanctification is found in John 17 of Christ praying—I encourage you to read the entire passage, but the key piece for this topic is found in John 17:19
“And(A) for their sake(B) I consecrate myself,[a] that they also(C) may be sanctified[b] in truth.”
a. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God)
b. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

Other scripture: Acts 20:32, Acts 26:18, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, and Hebrews 10:29.

Scripture from www.biblegateway.com ESV

Whew. Ok, let’s bring this “Purity Plane” to a landing. So what I felt when I read all the scripture on sanctification is that we should pursue holiness in all areas of life. “Be Holy for I AM Holy.” So even though we are made holy by the blood of Christ---there’s an element of us continuing to pursue holiness. That last passage in the list above, Hebrews 10:29 has some strong words to set some fire under the importance of pursuing holiness, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” So as you can see, it is CRUCIAL for us to not just “Save Ourselves” because of what our parents taught us, Rebecca Saint James sang about, or we don’t want to get pregnant etc…our ultimate purity plan is to the FEAR GOD and to recognize that HE DIED so that we could be made Holy and blameless before the Father. The Holy Spirit bears witness to this truth and therefore, should act as the key to our “Purity plan.” Do I say, disregard boundaries to your relationship? NO WAY HOSEA! In fact, Kory and I are constantly finding we have to, even as much as on a per-day basis, to set some boundaries on how we spend our time together.

Ok, what if you made a mistake? What if you pushed the Holy Spirit aside and indulged a little? Or perhaps you totally ignored Him and fell into the temptation. You will be forgiven--Praise the Lord. God is such a gracious and merciful God and will redeem your waywardness ---but just like the passage in Hebrews says, we do not want to “spurn the Son of God,” and “profane the blood of the covenant by which we were sanctified with.”

So, continue to remind your lovely future spouse of what the Word says. Sexual temptation itself is not wrong—it’s if you fall into it and give way OUTSIDE of marriage. If you sense probing’s of the Holy Spirit in simply sitting next to each on the couch days before you are married, talk about it, pray about it and ask Him for direction. When my fiancé and I find ourselves tempted, we often sit back and say, ‘Whoa, wait a second. Are you ok?’ and then pray about it and go our separate ways. Sometimes it’s easier than others to do this but I cannot stress enough for you to include the Holy Spirit in the time you spend together: He should be number one on your list of your purity plan. And I guess if this all fails (which it won't!) is try implementing “Better than S-E-X cake” into your daily time together and eat it whenever you’re tempted.....I guess, once you’re married, you can compare! :)

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