By Dave Jenkins
My sophomore year in high school, I was approached by a number of people who told me that no matter what I wanted, whether it was drugs or pornography, I could have it whenever I wanted. At this time, I was a youth leader not only at church but also at my high school leading a bible study. Even though I became a believer when I was four and started to sense God’s call to pastoral ministry as early as age six, I was still very immature in my faith at this time and not very knowledgeable about Christianity. As time wore on, I became very depressed as I witnessed the painful divorce of my parents, and I caved into pornography. It was a slow slide into pornography for me, but once it began, it was incredibly addictive. While no one knew of my struggle in high school, I hid in shame as I regularly watched pornography and lived a double life. It was not until my freshmen year in college, when I was asked to be on staff at a church, that I confessed my sin of pornography to the pastor. He responded by saying that I should step down immediately from all leadership responsibilities.
While this event transpired over ten years ago, I have often reflected on how God has led me by the Spirit in the process of progressive sanctification and on what He has taught me. This reflection leads me to write this article on what purity looks like in the home, in the church,
in the workplace, and on the internet. As we go through this topic, I want you to understand that I am not just giving you steps on how to move past this on your own, but rather grounding everything I am saying in the Word of God. I believe the only way to overcome an addiction to pornography is to recognize that it is idolatry, and as such, needs to be repented of. Once you have repented of this addiction, you need to recalibrate your heart and mind with the gospel by reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God both individually and corporately.
As we move through this very frank discussion, understand that I do so not because I have arrived at complete purity in any way, but rather I write on this topic because, I am deeply burdened for the men and women of all generations in and outside the Church. With that as a background, let’s now focus on understanding how the holiness of God relates to purity.
Dr. R.C. Sproul in his classic book The Holiness of God states the importance of purity is because Christians are called saints. He explains, “the saints of Scripture were called saints not because they were already pure but because they were people who were set apart and called to purity. The word holy has the same two meanings when applied to people as it has when it is applied to God. We recall that when the word holy is used to describe God, it not only calls attention to that sense in which he is different or apart from us, but it also calls attention to His absolute purity. But we are not God; we are not transcendent; we are certainly not pure.”[i] Dr. Sproul further elaborates on holiness noting, “True transformation comes by gaining a new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. What we are after ultimately is to be conformed to the image of Christ.”[ii]
The Bible promotes purity in five ways: (1) it purifies (1 Peter 2:1; John 17:17). (2) it gets to the source of the problem (Hebrews 4:12-13); (3) it is our source of equipping (2 Timothy 3:16-17); (4) it promotes approval (2 Timothy 2:15); (5) it illuminates the way (Psalms 119:105). There are five common myths about pornography: (1) people think, it’s just harmless fun. (“I’m not hurting anyone.”); (2) it only affects me; (3) I can control it; (4) Prayer will rid me of it. (“Breaking free is God’s responsibility, not mine.”); (5) I will never again be clean enough to be used by God.
Undergirding my points about purity in the home, in the church and the workplace are six biblically based points that are grounded in the fact Christians have been set apart by a holy God, and are to reflect the holiness of God in the world (1 Peter 1:13-25). I will share these six practical points tomorrow in the second installment of this post.
[i] R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Illinois, Tyndale, 1998), 191-192.
[ii] Ibid, 199-200.
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