Two weeks ago, I was in Magnolia, Arkansas speaking at a purity conference for teen girls. We had a great time and I was so blessed by the women there and their hearts to serve, lead and mentor their youth.
I have literally had months to study the topic of purity and to ask the Lord to reveal His ideas and His ways for teaching it. I’ve been angered, convicted and overjoyed all in the same breath as He has shown me what purity really is and how we live it out.
While I could probably write a book, I’d like to share just four key things that may help you as you address purity in your own life or in the life of a young person in your care.
1) Purity is not a program.
I am a conference junkie. Hello, I am a conference and retreat speaker! I think programs can be great tools, necessary and highly effective. I even teach an abstinence program through a local pregnancy resource center called CARE (Center for Adolescent Relationships Education) in public schools. However, perhaps our modern approach to teaching purity needs an overhaul. In the early 1990’s, the True Love Waits program was launched. This program taught abstinence to Christian teens and encouraged them to make a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage. It didn’t take long for musicians, church leaders and youth pastors across the nation to grab hold and the program caught fire. Rings, jewelry, t-shirts, books, Bible studies and even more programs were born out of the True Love Waits movement. Yours truly was right in the middle of it! I remember where I was the night I signed my pledge card and I don’t regret that decision for a moment.
But, here’s the problem: abstinence and purity are not the same thing.
For two decades, Christianity has been screaming this theme. Ask a teenager. They will tell you if they don’t have sex until they are married, they have remained pure. Wrong. There are so many other ways to be impure. On the flip side, if a teen has had sex already, they assume they are no longer pure and never can be again. I won’t even go into the implications of that belief on victims of abuse and rape.
In my experience, most “purity” conferences and programs largely focus on providing tools for remaining pure (or for abstinence). You know, the DO’s and the DO NOT’s.
“Do believe you’re beautiful and worth waiting for, so…”
“Don’t be a flirt.”
“Don’t dress like a floozy.”
“Don’t watch R rated movies.”
“Don’t compare yourself to supermodels.”
“Don’t be alone in the back seat of a car with a boy.”
“Do stand up to peer pressure.”
“Do go on group dates”
“Do make sure your parents approve of the guy.”
“Do wait until you are sixteen to date.”
“On second thought, don’t date at all. Kiss dating goodbye.”
And the list goes on.
While the intentions and motives behind providing this advice and instruction are usually very good and while the information and setting of boundaries can be great, this approach is not best. Giving students tools without foundational truth is a band-aid approach. The minute they find them-self in a heated situation where lust, hormones and emotions are ignited the only thing they will be kissing goodbye is that pledge card! So, purity is not achieved through a good program.
2) Purity to God is ONLY achieved through Christ. No amount of good choices will EVER make someone pure. Walking the aisle on your wedding day wearing white and having intercourse for the first time that night does not make you pure. The fact that Jesus Christ came to this earth and offered Himself as a pure and sinless sacrifice is the only hope you and I have for purity. The fact that God, in His sovereignty, love and GRACE chose to allow us to claim the righteousness of Christ by faith, is the ONLY thing that makes you or me pure in the eyes of a holy and righteous God. Period. Nothing else even comes close. So, stop teaching purity as morality through a program for good behavior. Teach purity from the perspective of the gospel.
3) Purity in behavior is a TOOL for promoting the gospel. Because God desires to have a relationship with us and with others, He works through the Holy Spirit and His word to make our behavior pure so that He can use us to show His glory and spread His gospel to others. He gave us a body, just as He did Christ, so that we can accomplish this purpose. That is why, teen, you were born with a body. Your body — no matter its shape, size or ability — is a tool for promoting Jesus and His work on the cross. (see number 2) This is why we don’t go straight to heaven when we become a believer. God desires to use you here for His purpose.
4) Purity is corporate and purity is personal. The Bible teaches that the body, both the body of believers (1 Corinthians 3) and the individual body (1 Corinthians 6), are to choose purity. Why? Because God decided the body —your body — is a temple. A study of the old testament temple and the new testament descriptions of the body (this is where a book could come in!) lead us to three important facts:
- Like the pre-Christ temple, your body and the church body are to be used as instruments of worship to Jehovah God. Want to live a life of purity? Live a life that focuses on using the body as an instrument of worship, Monday through Sunday. Nothing made Jesus’ blood pressure rise more than the day He approached his Father’s house (the temple) and it had become a den of thieves! (John 2:12-23) So, learn to worship. In other words, put your love for God on display everyday. Don’t feel like you love God enough to really do that? Go back to the gospel. Learn the gospel. (see number 2) There is NOTHING more important. You have a body for the very purpose of worship and this is the method by which God will use you to reach others. When your focus is on worshiping God with your body, making healthy and smart choices about how to use it suddenly become quite simple. Don’t you think?
- Like the pre-Christ temple, your body is a house for the Spirit of the living God. The very presence of God dwells — lives — in you. (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 3, 6) I know when I finally, truly understood this it gave a whole new power to the word CONVICTION. I couldn’t watch, listen to or allow anything impure into my mind or presence without feeling the grief of the Holy Spirit. Teens need no other motive for purity than this; to understand the living God is present in their body. He’s in the classroom, in the movie theater, on the couch, in the back seat of the car, at the restaurant and at the party. He is not hanging around outside the body hiding somewhere in the shadows, watching from a distance. He is right here, IN you.
- God has the right to use your body as His house and for His worship because He owns you. Gaining heaven means losing your rights. For the believer, it’s not, “well, it’s my body and I can do what I want with it.” If you want a relationship with God; if you want entrance into His kingdom, then you give up your body to Him. The word teaches that you were bought, purchased, and redeemed at a price. It cost Jesus His very life with the Father in glory to save you from your sin and to rescue your body from death and total destruction. You did not one thing to deserve this. He freely offers you the gift of this miraculous salvation. He freely offers you life. It comes free to you, but it was not free for Him. True Love didn’t’ wait. True Love died on a cross for us long before we knew Him. If you desire purity, you surrender all to Him because He is worthy of nothing less.
I’m praying God will use this approach to purity in the lives of many youth and adults. I’ve personally spoken to nearly 90,000 teenagers over the last decade and from my experience, sometimes I think we (adults) don’t give them enough credit. We think there is no way they can “get this.” So, we apply band-aids and hope for the best.
Will you just trust the Father? Trust the Holy Spirit to work. Boldly teach your children the truth and allow Him to do the rest.
I know from my own life, I am so thankful that my decisions as a teen (not that I always made the right ones!) were not based on, “what will my parents think? or what will my friends think?” but on “what will my Jesus think?” And, although I often failed Him, I was always confident in His love for me and I knew my relationship with Him would win because He was always faithful to pursue me again. This is only true because I was rooted in His truth. I was taught His word and HIS WORD WORKS.