The apostle Paul declared, "Herein I also exercise myself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and men always" (Acts 24:16). Two great writers have declared, "Con science doth make cowards of us all" and "O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me." Isaak Walton wisely reminded us that "good health and a clean conscience are two of the greatest blessings of mankind." I believe that far too many preachers have condescended to weak brethren by not teaching plainly on moral purity, so as to accommodate consciences which have already been "seared as with a hot iron" (1 Tim 4:2).
In terms of popular acclaim, however, it is true that moral purity does not have a very high priority. We would not be telling the truth if we left the impression that Christianity does not cost us something. It is also a lie to suggest that sin is never appealing. It is written of Moses that he chose "rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb. 11:25). The devil constantly tempts us, and dangles the "pleasures of sin" before us like bait on the fish-hook.
Satan is not dumb. He knows how to dress iniquity in bright, appealing colors. Read the description of the "harlot" in Rev. 17 for the glitter of gold and the beauty of scarlet! But long after the glamour and prestige of worldly pomp has died out (Jas. 5:1-3), the pristine glory of pure Christianity not only endures, but magnifies the reward of holding to God's unchanging hand. Praise the Lord for the precious peace which the gospel brings. If we would live for Christ, and enjoy His blessings for eternity, we must maintain the moral purity taught in the Scriptures.
We Must Cleanse Our Hearts: -- Jesus made it very clear in Mk. 7 that all evil proceeds from the inside of man. That is where sin begins: "Each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed" (Jas. 1:14). Unless we purify our thoughts, attitudes and motives, we will never receive the rich dividends of moral purity. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). And, as James exhorts, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts" (Jas. 4:8). If we guard our heart, and fill it with proper things, we will prosper spiritually. As the apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8). Peter tells us, "Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings" (1 Pet. 2:1).
Jesus told the church in Sardis, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. But thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels" (Rev. 3:3-5).
The God of heaven demands moral purity. The licentiousness of modern society is sadly parallel to that of Sodom and the decadent Roman Empire of centuries ago. The world has overflowed into the church, with the line of demarcation blurred and even obliterated. We need to count the cost of such foolishness, and pay the price of getting rid of it, or the Lord will soon remove our candlestick!
Moral Purity May Cost You Your Family: -- First of all, it has cost some people a good relationship with their families. Jesus made it clear in Luke 14 and Matt. 10 that such could happen. Also, we learn that during the ministry of Jesus, "There was division among the people because of Him" (Jno. 7:43). Truly, when we take a stand for godliness, we make some folk uncomfortable. When Noah "condemned the world" (Heb. 11:7), he was not voted the most popular man in town.
Sometimes we meet young people who are more spiritual and who have deeper moral convictions than their parents. This stand for righteousness alienates those who are devoted Christians from ungodly family members. I have actually known parents who encouraged their children to dress immodestly, dance, drink and attend filthy movies so that they could be popular, sophisticated and "mature." We are deeply indebted to young adults who have more wisdom and dedication than those parents who care very little for things divine.
It May Cost You Your Job: -- I personally knew a young lady, several years ago, who lost her position as a receptionist because she refused to lie for her boss. But she respected the Bible and knew that telling the truth is mandatory for the children of God (Eph. 4:15,25). That last verse tells us, "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor." Sometimes a faithful member of the church who refuses to "forsake the assembly" because he or she put God's kingdom first (Heb. 10:25; Matt. 6:33) is dismissed of the working scene.
Since being "unequally yoked with unbelievers" is forbidden (2 Cor. 6:14), certain circumstances in the labor arena cannot be tolerated by sincere followers of the Lord. The pattern for our morality is found in the Bible, not in the customs of our society. Sadly, however, some have forsaken the path of gospel living due to allegiance to "the almighty dollar." Of such the Bible says, "Lovers of self more than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:4).
Moral Purity May Bring Persecution: -- Christ Jesus made it clear that walking in the steps of the Redeemer can result in tribulation, just as the prophets of old suffered at the hands of evil men. When we suffer, we need to read again what the Lord said, "Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you" (Matt. 5:12). The apostle Paul told his beloved brethren that true believers will suffer for the cause of the Master (Phil. 1:29). He also told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
When we stand up for Jesus, we will just naturally war against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:10-12) and the devil will see to it that stern opposition will ensue. The path that leads to moral purity is challenging indeed. It takes courage, loyalty and stamina to "withstand the fiery darts of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16), but the struggle is certainly worth it (1 Pet. 5:8,9).
Moral Purity May Bring Mockery And Ridicule: -- Loneliness, mockery and ridicule from the world, and sometimes from shallow brethren, may result from your stand for moral purity. Just as Jesus was "laughed to scorn" (Mk. 5:40), so can loyal followers be scorned by their contemporaries. Peer pressure is more than some folk can endure -- even for the sake of Christ. Many brethren have become so loose in regard to marriage, divorce and re-marriage the plain Bible teaching on that subject is ignored so as to accommodate people who have run roughshod over God's divine institution (Matt. 19:1- 9).
Others have compromised to the core on modesty of dress and the spiritual attitude that would prohibit such folly (1 Tim. 2:9-12). Therefore, when we take a stand for purity, we will be branded with such contemptuous remarks as: "Archaic, harsh, stupid, legalist, unloving, out of date, old fogies, etc." Ridicule from the world, and mockery from some brethren, can be the high price of living for the Lord Jesus Christ. When popularity with people is a high premium with us, we ought to read again the clarion call of Gal. 1:10, "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ".
When we think that we are alone because we courageously live for Jesus, we need to remember the beauty of the promise of the Lord: "Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (Jno. 16:31-33). When Paul was on trial in Rome, he wrote to Timothy, "At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me" (2 Tim. 4:16,17).
When problems like the above, and others, come because we are serving the Lord, remember the assurance of the Lord Jesus: "I am not alone because the Father is with Me." That makes up for any earthly problem.
By Johnny Ramsey in
Gospel Minutes, Vol. 54, No. 49, Dec. 9, 2005.
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