Luke 24.13-25; 1 Peter 1.17-23
Imbibing Pollution As a younger man of about 24 years of age, I was persuaded to read a book called All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Was too Afraid to Ask I have never read anything so polluting before or since, in my life. It opened my mind to worlds and to behaviour, and to permission to misbehave, in ways hitherto that I would never have considered up to that point. Amongst the easier things I can share was that made a virtue out of voyeurism and objectifying women as sex-objects, all in the name of sexual liberation. Rather than being shocked one of my closest “friends” at the time just thought it was funny, and found my preoccupation amusing. But my mind was being filled up with concepts and ideas and attitudes that polluted relationships, and preventing healthy, simple relationships especially with women. Praise God, that a year later He grabbed me, and as I used to say then, shook me upside down, cleansed my heart and mind from a lot of the pollution, and filled me in dramatic way with the Holy Spirit. I was enabled to move out the horrible, subtle cloud of pollution that had imprisoned me for that important time in my life. But here’s an important thing for all to note, you don’t entirely forget what you saw or heard or read, and from time to time it can haunt and hurt your walk with the Lord, and your relationship with others. I find I keep needing to recognise the cloud closing in on me and walk free of it in His great mercy and power. The more I live and move in “clear air” the better I relate to the Lord, and the more readily I do what He calls on me to do.
Walking in purity In Peter’s letter I read something that surprised me – perhaps it shouldn’t have, but surprised I was. I’ll come to it as we work through our verses in Peter’s letter. Peter tells us, very wisely, that if we believe that God is an impartial and fair-minded Father, who weighs the behaviour of each of us without favouritism, then our attitudes should be of the deepest and most reverent respect for how God instructs us to live (Peter calls it fear). Since we have been set free by Christ’s precious blood from all the dead-end and empty headed habits and sick traditions of our human environments, our way of living should give active testimony to Christ’s presence in our lives. Peter reminds us that Jesus in His death and resurrection is the reason we came to enter a relationship with God, based on trust and faith in something planned from before the beginning of everything. Then comes a new paragraph that contains these surprising words, you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love. The cleansing we experience in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is just the beginning, from then on purity is sustained and developed by living in obedience to the truth revealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit. As we do what we’ve been shown to do, and commanded to do, and even more, turn aside from what we are forbidden, we attain greater levels of purity, or is it more deeply ingrained purity. Purity becomes our true home morally speaking as we continue to do what the Lord has shown us to do. That while some things seem permissible, certainly forgivable, we can not expect to grow in Christian maturity and confidence if we persist in them. Even if this is only because when you do what the Lover of your souls says is best for you, your ease of relationship with Him deepens to a level where His purpose is all that matters to you, especially in moral choices and in considering and ministering to others. After all how can we truly love others for their own sake if our motives and attitudes are still polluted by self-centredness and sin? How can we even receive love as it was intended if selfish gain still rules our hearts?
Growing in purity The idea that we have purified our souls in any way is difficult for us to swallow, but think of it this way, we have been called, by virtue of what Jesus has done for us, to not only live in purity, but also to grow in purity, to let that miracle spill over into how we live our lives on a daily basis. By looking for what Jesus wants of us, commands us or invites us to do, and seeking to do it, we grow in confidence in His ways. This is not just a reference to behaving morally, but behaving in a way that joins us to the Lord’s work in our place and time; helping the poor, praying for the sick, telling the good news, using our gifts in His service. If we find it hard and give up, falling back to the self-directed routine, then our lives become built around the dictates of the meanest god any of us know: ourselves. Whereas when we seek to obey His many facetted call on our lives, giving our effort to what blesses God (every day), we will most certainly grow in grace, in peace, in confidence, in purity and in love – this last thing being a big part of Peter’s injunction to grow in purity through our obedience. Love will not penetrate the polluted clouds of sin in our lives and thus disenable us to live according to the first and second commandments that Jesus gave. If we are deliberately paying attention to the voice of the Spirit of God we are continually being called to serve and adventure with God in areas that will grow us in every way possible; significantly that will grow us in purity because as we follow and serve Him we grow like Him.
1. Are we made adequately pure for the rest of our lives at salvation, or do we need in some way to work on staying or remaining pure?
2. What role does obedience have in our spiritual development? Obedience to what? What actions, attitudes, adventures may obedience be pointing us?
3. How do we know what we need to obey? Is it the same in every detail for everyone? What would be the ultimate growth point in all this?