The Urgency of Purity

So, the Word Cup 2014 just came to a dramatic conclusion early Monday morning. Germany vs. Argentina. It was billed as a match between a team (Germany) vs. a luminary individual (Lionel Messi of Argentina). But it was a moment of individual brilliance that ultimately decided the match. In the 113th minute of the match (23rd minute of extra time), Mario Gotze scored a beautiful goal to hand the match to Germany.

Now, I wasn’t particularly rooting for either team in the final, but I was slanted towards the Argentinians. Let me explain a little bit of the why. Actually, it was kind of trivial, I suppose. I was maybe hoping for Christian players to glorify God in victory and I didn’t know if there’d be any Christian German players. Boy, was I wrong.

After Mario Gotze scored the winning goal, I went to Google-him. And, for a moment, I was pleasantly surprised. In his Wiki-page, it describes Mario Gotze as a fervent Christian, very religious. On his Facebook page, there is a slogan which when translated to English goes something like this, “Dear God, I want to take a minute. Not to you to ask for something. But simply to say thank you for everything I have.” Awesome, right?

And then I got to reading about who he’s dating. I don’t suggest you go look her up (especially if you’re a guy), but you may, I can’t stop you… but here’s the thing and the reason why I said what I just said. She’s a model, and if you use Google to search for her, many of the images that come up are of her in lingeries, bikinis, even in the nude, but strategically covered. I was like… aww. There was a certain occasion where the paparazzi also captured the couple on a holiday in Spain. They were on a yacht, in swimwear, and they were rather frisky. A little scandalous.

What’s your reaction to this? Would you shrug your shoulders and say, it’s normal. Would you be embarrassed and say, these things should be done in private? Or would you even go so far as to say, they shouldn’t be behaving in this manner, either in public or private! Young people, this is the world/society/culture you are growing up in and attempting to navigate is getting increasingly complex and evil. Pinkdot (the pro-LGBT movement), the recent controversy about books being pulled off the shelves of the children’s section in our libraries. How will you make your choices with regards to relationships, dating, sex?

More importantly, what does God have to say about these matters AND why does He say what He says? We need to know both. Turn with me to 1 Peter 2:9-12 “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

1Pet. 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”  [Let’s pray]

There are three things we need to know from this passage:

  1. We need to know Our Deepest Identity
  2. We need to know Our Fiercest Battle
  3. We need to know Our Greatest Opportunity

 

1. We need to know Our Deepest Identity

Story was told of an airlines who had to withdraw one flight from service, and there was a one attendant rebooking the flight for a long line of passengers. Suddenly, one of them pushed his way to the front of the queue and demanded, “I have to be on this flight and it has to be first class.”

The attendant replied, “I’m sorry sir. I’d be happy to serve you but you have to wait in line while I serve these people in front of you in the queue.” The man was unimpressed and said, “Do you have any idea who I am?” loudly so the others could hear.

Cooly, the attendant smiled, took the microphone and announced over the public address system, “May I have your attention please. We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who doesn’t know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Gate 14.”

Who are you? Upon what is your deepest identity based? There are 4 phrases Paul uses to describe believers here in 1 Peter 2. He calls us… A chosen race. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. A people for God’s own possession. Let’s take them one at a time.

First, we are a chosen race. God chose us. The reason why we are Christians is because God chose us. The doctrine of election (not the political, government elections), is the idea that God, before the foundation of the world, chose us to be a part of His family. Not based upon how good we are, or what we have done, but simply out of His sovereign, free, choice. He loved us, He wooed us, He adopted us into His family. It was not an accident. It was not unwilling (Like… you said the sinner’s prayer and God was like, O man, I really didn’t want you in. But you said the sinner’s prayer, no choice, have to let you in.) No, He chose you, He loved you, He sent the Holy Spirit to convict your heart. You chose Jesus because God chose you.

You know in basketball or football pickup games, you’re chosen if you’re good. A guy would choose a girl to pursue as his girlfriend because she’s pretty, intelligent etc. But when God chose, He chose not because of anything in us, but simply because He is love. He loved you and I and chose you and I because He is love. Friends, people may reject us, whether friends or even family. But God receives us. He welcomes us. He chose us. We are a chosen race.

Second, we are a royal priesthood. What does it mean to be a priest of the Lord? In Old Testament times, the priests were a very select group of people. They were chosen from one tribe of the 12 tribes in Israel, the tribe of Levi. And from that tribe, the priests came from one family, the family of Aaron. And being a priest was considered a very special privilege. They were God’s people’s intermediary to God, that bridge, that connection to God. What were their responsibilities? 3 things.

  • They were the ministers in God’s sanctuary and temple. The ceremonies of worship and the offering of sacrifices.
  • They were responsible for teaching God’s people the law of God.
  • They were the ones who prayed to God on behalf of God’s people when His will was sought for the nation.

Furthermore, there’s the high priest. The high priest was chosen, once a year during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to enter the holy of holies (the most holy place) in the temple to offer sacrifices. It was on this day and in this place that the holy presence of God would descend. So being chosen as the high priest was an even more special privilege. In fact, over the course of a lifetime, a priest could only be selected once for this duty and not all priests would even get chosen over the course of their lives.

But when Jesus was crucified on the Cross, He bore the penalty of our sin, He rose again for our forgiveness. When Jesus died, the temple veil was torn, signifying that access into the very presence of God is made available to all who trust in Him. No longer just the high priest, once a year, once in his lifetime… but because Christ has forgiven us our sin and clothed us in His very perfect righteousness, all of us can enter God’s presence, all the time, all our lives and then for all eternity!

And the tremendous privilege of priestly service is now for all of us: worshipping God, knowing and teaching God’s Word, prayer on behalf of ourselves, fellow believers, non-Christians… being a bridge between God and people. Young people, this is not merely for spiritual giants, worship leaders, bible study leaders, pastors, servers, squires… it’s for all of us. This is your identity dear friends, rise up to this great calling!

We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Holiness is old-fashioned and outdated. It belongs to a bygone era, the past. At least that’s what the world thinks and that’s what the world says. But as Christians, we are called to be holy, because God is holy. The world is ok with God being love. But when we talk about God being holy, and when we as Christians live holy lives, it offends people. It reminds people that there is right and wrong, there is good and evil. It’s not ultimately about my freedom to live life the way I want. There is a God who holds me accountable for my choices and lifestyle.

God is holy, from Old Testament to New. Some Christians wrongly believe that God has somehow changed from the Old Testament to the New. No, His holiness has not changed. His standards have not changed. What has changed is that because of Jesus, God’s demand for holiness has been met and if we trust in Jesus, we meet His standards because Jesus met His standards.

Other Christians wrongly believe that because Jesus met the demands of God’s holiness, and our salvation is entirely dependent on His finished work on the cross, that we have no part to play in living out a holy life before a watching world. That’s not true either. Why did God give us His Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, He is… Our comforter. Our guide. Our help in understanding God’s Word. Our intercessor when we do not know how to pray. But He is the Holy Spirit. He came to enables us to be holy. To live a holy life. So we rely on Him, moment-by-moment, to think, speak and act in a manner that reflects our holy God.

Now, we need a paradigm shift with regards to holiness. A new way of thinking. Because when we think of holiness, often we think it’s about saying ‘no’. No alcohol, no cigarettes, no drugs, no pornography, no vulgarity, no pre-marital sex… no, no, no, no, no. And while holiness has some aspect of saying ‘no’ to it, that’s not where we should start. This is holiness: saying ‘yes’ to God. Holiness is saying ‘yes’ to God, and therefore saying ‘no’ to that which doesn’t honor Him. This applies in the area of relationships, dating, marriage and sexuality. Holiness is saying ‘yes’ to God’s design, His will, His time for all these. We shall discuss this in further detail later on in the sermon.

But for now, seek to live holy lives, not in your own strength, but in prayer relying on God’s Holy Spirit power. Faced with temptations? Pray. Need wisdom to navigate tough choices? Pray? Pray at all times, in all situations. Why live holy lives? Because it honors and pleases our Father in heaven. Do you desire to experience God and have intimacy with Him? Remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. This term uses the imagery of an eastern king, who kept a special treasure chamber, which was distinct from his government treasury. We are God’s personal treasure, we belong to Him, we are precious to Him. This is our identity. Let us embrace this more fully each day. But there’s a challenge. There is a war going on that tries to prevent us from living out our identity. Therefore…

 

2. We need to know Our Fiercest Battle

1Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

In 1992, a group of academics and historians has compiled this startling information: Since 3600 B.C., the world had known only 292 years of peace! During this period there had been 14,351 wars large and small. Unfortunately, this picture, while absolutely devastating, is not entirely accurate; because this only describes physical wars. Biblically, since Adam and Eve were tempted in the Garden of Eden, humanity has been at war. And this war will only fully and finally end when Jesus returns. What war is this? It’s a spiritual war. It’s a battle for our souls. And one of the most powerful weapons being fired at us in our time is fleshly lusts.

Fleshly lusts is very broad and it can cover everything from unhealthy addiction to food, power, approval, money etc. But for the purpose of our theme for these season, I want to focus on fleshly lusts as sexual or romantic lusts. It’s my humble opinion that this battle ground is one of the most important, most urgent spiritual battle of our times. Never before in the history of humanity has marriage and sexuality been under such vicious and sustained assault. So we must do battle and we must fight well.

But we must first begin with God’s design and intention for marriage and sex. Genesis 2 is the template God introduces to humanity for marriage and sex. We read in Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

From Genesis to Revelation, from the Old Testament to the New, the Bible only speaks of this one model for marriage. Jesus affirms it. The apostles affirmed it. Marriage in God’s design is 1 man, 1 woman, for life. And sex is not only allowed but celebrated (even commanded by Paul) in this context! However, any other variation of this model is abusing God’s intent for marriage and sex. Therefore, it’s not merely homosexuality that God prohibits, it’s also divorce, it’s also fornication (pre-marital sex, meaning having sex before marriage), it’s adultery (having sex outside of marriage with someone who’s not your spouse), it’s polygamy (having more than one spouse), it’s beastiality (sex with animals) etc.

And I’m going to assume, none of you are doing or have done any of these things. If you are or have, repent, Jesus forgives you, go and sin no more. But for most or all of us, we have not and by God’s grace will not commit any of these. At your age, the biggest challenge is pre-marital sex. The temptations will be there. Your friends may be doing it. And if you’re dating now or in the future, you will face this.

I’m going to take a risk and share something personal with you and that is, when my wife and I were dating, physical intimacy was an area we really struggled with. Being Christians doesn’t automatically make us immune from this area of temptation. I wish I could tell you that we did well and purity was the mark of our relationship, but it wasn’t. Although we may not have gone all the way, but we definitely went further physically than what would be defined as purity and holiness. The lie we unwittingly believed was that being physically close would draw us closer together. It did not, it actually drove us apart. More importantly, there was a sense of guilt before God, a loss of intimacy with Him and subsequently, the loss of spiritual power in our lives. Eventually, we broke up.

Yes, by God’s mercy, there was forgiveness of sin and cleansing of our consciences as we repented before God. And in His grace, God restored us and brought us back together and now we are married. But the effects of our sin didn’t just disappear when we confessed it to God. It will take time before the breach in our relationship can be restored, healing can take place and weaknesses made strong. So take it from my wife and I, young people, pursue purity in your relationships with all your heart.

Practical tips in dating:

  • Find an adult couple to mentor you (Pastor Ben/myself etc). Be honest and accountable with your struggles.
  • Don’t go for overseas trips by yourselves. It’s good to have an adult presence, even if you’re going with other youths.
  • Don’t be at each other’s homes/rooms when there are no people around; do not be alone in your rooms and do not shut/lock your doors.
  • Avoid being alone in dark, secluded spots.
  • Have planned dates (plan ahead for the activity, plan the timing of the activity, don’t stay out too late.)

Yes, these tips may sound old-fashioned. But the big idea is that we would learn to “abstain from fleshly lusts” (v. 11).

Now, many of you are not attached yet, not dating yet. Doesn’t mean you are spared from the battle. In fact, this battle is for all of us, and it’s just as important a battle to fight. Pornography. Pornography is devastating. Some of you may think, pornography is harmless. It doesn’t affect any one. No one knows. But, that’s a lie. I want to quote a paragraph from a bible study guide on sexuality. It says this… “Pornography objectifies men and women, alters our expectations of our sexual partners, saps our relationships of intimacy, further fuels lustful thoughts and desires, and can lead to sexual addiction and in some cases sexual assault. Pornography is not a victimless activity. It is a sin that destroys our hearts and our homes.”

Guys, pornography is an area we need to fight. And just in case you think I’m only referring to sex videos, let me say that pornography should cover anything that causes your eyes to linger for way too long and causes your heart to lust. I’ll give you an example, the World Cup is over, but I’m quite certain you would have come across on Facebook or Twitter, posts about footballers’ WAGS (referring to wives and girlfriends). You click and you see beautiful women. And so you scroll through, admiring, envying… lusting? Anime is another possible source of temptation. Lots of Japanese anime/manga is really just soft core porn. What your eyes constantly take in, your mind remembers and your heart desires. “Abstain from fleshly lusts” (v. 11). These women are not your wives. They do not belong to you. They do not exist for your pleasure. Stop watching pornography.

Girls, pornography may not affect you as much as the guys, but there are areas you may need to be alert to. Romance novels, teenage magazines etc. You see, generally, guys are more prone to be tempted sexually, and girls, romantically. And the ideas of what love is, what dating is about, what relationships are about etc that comes to you through these sources are just as dangerous as pornography is for guys. Why? Because you may be fed the notion that your identity is tied to being physically/sexually attractive, or being popular with guys, or getting the guy of your dreams etc. “Abstain from fleshly lusts” (v. 11).  Ladies, your worth is not tied to whether or not you are attached. Your worth is not tied to how pretty, sexy, popular with guys you are.

One last point. Abstaining from fleshly lusts is not merely not doing the external acts, it’s fundamentally how we tutor our hearts. How we lead our hearts. Our behavior arises from what we believe. We will either act in love or in lust. So the way to counteract lust is to grow in biblical love. And therefore we must go to God’s Word daily and as we read and as we pray, our minds are being renewed in God’s truth and we receive God’s love, which pushes out the lust in our hearts. This is the key to the battle, that we defeat the power of lust through the power of a greater, higher, deeper love… the love of God.

 

3. We need to know Our Greatest Opportunity

The theme of Point Community this year is… ‘Light: Living in God’s Holy Truth’. The aim is that we would grow in our walk with God and in so doing, our lives would shine with the light of Christ in the darkness that is our society and our world. We are called to be witnesses, we are called to preach the good news of Jesus, not only with our words, but also with our lives.

We see this clearly in our passage today. “… so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (v. 9) and “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (v. 12).

In this current climate of great confusion, great debate (who’s right/who’s wrong), we as Christians must tread carefully, wisely, lovingly… godly. We must share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. We must testify of God’s goodness in our lives, the reality of Him as we walk with Him. How many of you know how to do this? Don’t worry. In the pipeline, we will be teaching you how to do this. How to share the gospel. How to share your personal testimony.

But we can’t stop there. Because God calls us not only to share the gospel, but also demonstrate it with our lives in our behavior and our good deeds. In the arena of relationships… as singles, we demonstrate the goodness of God when we are joyful in Jesus and we are satisfied in Him (we don’t look to having a boyfriend or girlfriend to complete us). As dating couples, we demonstrate the goodness of God when we commit ourselves to purity in dating because we want to honor Jesus. We demonstrate what true love is, patient, not self-seeking, having self-control. As married couples, we demonstrate the goodness of God by staying faithful to one another. By loving one another with Christ’s love. By being committed to one another.

When we live in this manner, our lives with shine with the beauty and glory of Christ and our non-Christian family and friends will be drawn to His light. We are demonstrating to them that God alone satisfies us, above all human relationships. All the issues and debates currently going on is great opportunity for us to engage lovingly with our friends and win them to Jesus.

Conclusion

We have come a long way today. I want to close with a burden from the Lord. Young people, God wants to bring revival into Point Community. The term ‘revival’ may be new to some of you. It is not easy to define, there’s no one standard way of describing it.

Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God. ~ Stephen Olford

Revival is the church falling in love with Jesus all over again. ~ Vance Havner

Revival is the people of God living in the power of an ungrieved, unquenched Spirit. ~ James A. Stewart

In church history, many revivals have started with young people. Young people who were hungry for God. Young people who gathered to seek God in extended prayer, in churches and on their school campuses. Young people who then had a burden to reach out to their friends, share the gospel with them, see them saved in great numbers. Young people who developed a passion for missions and outreach, and started missions organizations.

Point Community, God wants to revive you. As you gather in more intense prayer, seeking God’s face… as you consecrate your lives to God to live holy lives… as you seek to pray for, love and share the gospel with your friends… I believe God will revive us and through us bless CHS. So God is inviting you today…

  1. Live out your identity
  2. Fight the battle against fleshly lusts
  3. Grab all opportunities to share the gospel

Pray earnestly for revival to happen. Let’s pray!

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