Over a year ago, I posted a #clickbait reflection on instagram:
sex and the city (without the sex)
The context for this was my #creativeexercise challenge on “our greatest fears”. I was about to embark on a challenge with the theme: worries. For each of my #creativeexercise challenges, I choose a topic, or a theme, and I ask for contributions to inspire a poem. Examples have been faith-based questions, paradoxes, songs, etc. In this instance, I wanted to explore what concerns us: the stress, catalysts and anxiety drivers.
The lack of responses I received on this particular topic made me wonder whether we are afraid to even admit that we have fears. So I decided to get the ball rolling, to pave the way by sharing one of my fears first. We can so easily shy away from taboo topics, but if we don’t share, if we keep these things in the dark, there is so much more risk of fear, shame and misunderstanding breeding. In the darkness there is not only a lack of clarity, but arguably there is an appeal to secrecy; an enticement to keep things in the shadows [ John 23:19-21 ].
In the book of John, the imagery of light and darkness is employed to illustrate this: “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” [ John 11:10 ].
i don’t want any of us to be caught stumbling
so here was my initial public-facing post on
P U R I T Y
this may be controversial, but one
of my concerns for our generation is
that we are in a war of P U R I T Y
because we have so much available
to consume, we forget to question
contamination. what we fill our
hearts, minds + bodies with. instead
we become desensitised to dirt. and
overtime the oversexualisation of
our screens becomes norm. we
give our eyes and bodies over to
bondage, caught in these cultural
constructs that promise to fill our
needs, but instead leave us wanting.
we forget that we have the freedom
to choose what we see and think,
how we feel and act. while ads may
appear without our consent, or an
image on our feed without invitation;
there will always be unconscious
ways we are swayed. but instead of
entering comparison games, or
compromising our beliefs, we can
intervene by setting boundaries on
how we see
“to finish, brothers + sisters, fill
your minds with beauty + truth,
meditate on whatever is honourable,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is good,
whatever is virtuous + praiseworthy”
[ Phil. 4:8 ]
Given this was written over a year ago [ July 2019 ], I found it fascinating how much has evolved personally within me and culturally around me since I shared first this. As I have been seeking to understand God’s heart for purity, I can see how God has wanted to deepen my understanding beyond just being able to define and defend His heart for purity.
Culturally, we’ve seen the emergence of even more uncensored social media. A timely example of this is TikTok, a platform where motion pictures appear without our consent. Forget trigger warnings. Forget the ability to control our consumption. Social media offers us an illusion of control. We need to remain cognisant of this, so that we do not become disillusioned. Regardless of the social media platform, we are assaulted by abstractions. These are images, fantasies, ideal; conceptual fronting not concrete backing.
The danger is the sexualisation of this content, often on a subliminal level. The concept of liminality is traced to the latin word ‘limen’, which is defined as a threshold, a point of entering or beginning. If there are undefined thresholds, liminal spaces were we are being sold unhealthy standards and narratives for our bodies, hearts and minds, there is a risk of us internalising and unintentionally allowing these to influence our reality.
The sexualised nature of these images not only assault us, but arouse us; impressing not just on our minds, but our very souls. These cultural constructs can so easily lead to strongholds in our lives areas where sin can cling. We are shown impurity as norm. Our hearts and minds are darkened by this desensitisation. We are led astray by what we see.
In this WAR ON PURITY our desires wage war within us. As my friend articulated: “worldliness wars against godliness.” On this battlefield, we find ourselves fighting not just images, but impulses. The two dimensional attacks the three dimensional, our physiological and spiritual nature enter a state of flux. The fingerprint of God is replaced with fingerprints of the flesh. Instead of desiring to live a holy and pure life, we are tempted to turn to worldliness and pleasures that can provide only temporary satisfaction.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! [ Romans 7:22-24 ]
Personally, I had been convicted that we are in a WAR ON PURITY, but what I hadn’t yet been convicted of was the spiritual warfare that needs to be waged in this space at both a personal and cultural level. God had pressed onto my heart His desire for us to see Him and His purpose for our minds, bodies and hearts; but what I had not understood was how impurity can prevent us from seeing Him and His purpose clearly. I understand this now.
Since my first reflection on this subject, God wanted me to walk closer to the frontline of His battle for our hearts. I can see how He allowed me to come face to face with the deep darkness of this space, where I was tested and tempted in my P U R I T Y of mind, body and heart. I may not ever understand why God allowed me to witness and wrestle with this, but I do know that He did not leave me without a weapon. He has equipped us with His armour of light [ Rom. 13:12 ] and we can learn to yield the weapon of His Word [ Eph 6:17 ] against the idolatry and impurity found both in the world and within.
During my confrontation, I wondered why on earth God allowed me to walk into the fire. In hindsight, I can see that He was with me in the fire, revealing to me that our greatest fear cannot be being burnt by sin, but instead being lukewarm in our love for Him [ Rev 3:15-6 ].
I wondered: Why was I so afraid of impurity, and not more afraid of losing intimacy with God? Why was I afraid of the frontline, and not more afraid and awestruck by God’s angel army, who were there with me on the frontline; arguably His most fear-inducing creations to mortals?!?
For I know that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [ Romans 8:38-39 ]
In my journey of understanding I have discovered that P U R I T Y is both a path and a place. It is a directive and direction for our lives that God has provided to us as a means of revealing His redemptive narrative for all of humanity. It is not a path or place whereby God withholds goodness, but rather, a merciful model to us of God’s good and perfect plan for His people.
There is no doubt that this battle for our hearts is unceasing; our desires are in demand, and our longings dance with light and darkness as we find ourselves looking for love in the shadows, lusting after the temporary echoes of our experience.
Our hearts can so easily be led astray, deceived by the darkness of this age that what we really desire is not found in the light and love of God. This is a war not only for our attention and affection, but for our allegiance. The enemy wants our hearts to be divided in desire, never fully satisfied in God, but instead seeking to fulfil our own desires by turning to everything other than Him. The lust of the flesh and the eyes is not of God [ see below ].
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. [1 John 2:15-16 ]
In His Word, God has spoken to us clearly about this war and what is and isn’t of Him.
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drukenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. [ Romans 13:12-14 ]
Here he informs us how we are to walk and what we are to wear in this war. There are things that we are to walk away from, and there is protection for us to wear. We are to PUT ON the armour of light and the Lord Jesus Christ, and to CAST OFF the works of darkness, making no provision for the flesh or to satisfy our desires. This is a very clear direction and directive; we are told the Way to walk so we may not be led astray by darkness or the desires of our hearts.
We must learn fight against temptation and the powers and principalities of this dark age.
The good news, brothers and sisters, is that God is after our divided allegiances [ listen to the “Divided Allegiances” episode on the John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart podcast ] . He knows our hearts are holding onto this world more than they should, assaulted by images and ideas of an often sexualised nature, the consequences of which aren’t good.
It’s actually good news to have God expose our alternative ways of living that don’t solely rest on Jesus as the trustworthy Lord who both gives us life and leads us in life. God is inviting us to loosen our grip on this world without fear or loss. Our hearts are after an assurance that is additional to God’s heart. But the way to a pure heart and pure life is not an add-on or a subtraction to what we do or don’t do, it is not achieved by a code of conduct or a set of rules.
True purity is found in allegiance to Christ;
by abiding in Him, in His love
[ John 15 ]
where our hearts are not D I V I D E D in desire,
but F O U N D in desire
where our hearts are not captive:
> to lust of the eyes, for we fix our eyes on Jesus
[ Heb. 12:2 ]
> to the lust of the mind, for we put on the mind of Christ
[ Phil. 2:5 ]
> to the lust of the body, for we are temples of the Holy Spirit
[ 1 Cor 6:19-20 ]
True purity is found in Christ;
for in Him we are purified and sanctified
> purified, for He cleanses us and frees us from guilt and shame
[ 1 John 1:7, Heb 9:14 ]
> sanctified, for by His Spirit we are set apart and made holy as He is holy
[ 2 The. 2:13, 1 Cor 6:11, Heb 10:10,14 ]
let’s take a moment
P U R I T Y
In our journey of understanding, we need some definitions. In a basic sense, PURITY is defined as freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature. In science, if you don’t have a pure substance, you have a risk of unexpected results arising, with unforeseen consequences and formations if impurities are present. In theology, purity has slightly different connotations in the old and new testaments of the scriptures.
In the old, the Hebrew word for purity in simple terms is “probably an emptying out or being clean” . There, we see purity in an ethical, moral or forensic sense where purity consists of “clean hands” [gen 20:5], innocence [ps. 26:6, 73:13], and an “empty stomach” [amos 4:6]. There is an association with guiltless, blameless, innocent behaviour. There is also more emphasis on ritual purity. God’s people needed to be consecrated or sanctify themselves.
In the new, there is more focus on moral purity. There is more association with chastity [ 1 Cor 11:2, Titus 2:5 ], innocence in attitude towards fellow believers [ 2 Cor 7:11 ], righteousness [Phil. 4:8, 1 Tim. 5:22, 1 Pet. 3:2, 1 John 1:3 ], understanding, patience and kindness [2 Cor 6:6 ], speech, life, love, and faith [ 1 Tim 4:12 ] and reverence [1 Pet 3:2 ].
The above theological summary of PURITY is paraphrased from “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” circa 1915.
sex before marriage
There is one particular fiery front of this WAR ON PURITY that I would like to call attention to in this post. In the name of all things taboo, I want to discuss the common misperception that when we talk about purity in Christianity that we are only talking about no sex before marriage. While I want to dismantle this misperception, as it is limiting and a legalistic lens on purity, I do actually want to talk about this alongside adopting a fuller frame of purity in Christianity…. So let’s talk about sex before marriage.
Taboo topics are uncomfortable. An example is how we sometimes can’t bring ourselves to say “Satan”; it can be easier to dance around the word by saying “the evil one” or “the enemy”. I mean, both of are biblical and correct don’t get me wrong, but there is also nothing wrong with calling something by name. Sex before marriage is a similar level of taboo. In many cases, it’s like trying to walk on tip toes across a lake of lava; it’s just too sensitive to touch.
For me, I have been increasingly burnt by this topic ever since I joined dating apps [ which was exactly a year ago, November 2019 ]. In fact, a key driver for this post is my desire to not only see us understand God’s heart for purity, but for us to understand how our own personal war on purity impacts not only our own minds, bodies and hearts – but others.
Something in me always dies inside when I am asked regularly for my views on sex before marriage. Despite the fact I filter my dating feed by “Christian”, I find myself forever ghosted and questioned for why I will not sleep with a stranger. The conviction of “no sex before marriage” is uncommon in this modern day dating world, even for a Christian.
Before I say anymore, I just want to be clear that I am not trying to create labels of Christian purity or perfection for us when it comes to our minds, bodies and hearts. If you want a source of truth on P U R I T Y, turn to the scriptures [ I’ve shared a few at the end of this post under categories of mind, body, heart ]. Purity is so much more than morality. Despite this, it is not uncommon in our church experience to walk away with a blanket rule of “no sex before marriage” without really being given God’s heart and intent for sex and for marriage.
Naturally, we see and hear “no sex” and we think this is a freedom stealer, especially when sexual freedom and liberation is norm in this day and age. Freedom, however, has a price.
Let’s step back for a second. Rewind to November 2019. This was when we had a naive 24-year-old Jessie first join dating apps. In the beginning, she was curious, filtering her feed to “Christian” to see what fish were in the Sydney sea. Fast forward to November 2020. This is when we now have a 25-year-old Jessie who has installed and deleted dating apps too many times to count. Now, she is less naive after discovering the degree of games and players in this dark age. Her idealism and hope have been replaced by cynicism and distrust.
This context is important, as I have been increasingly disheartened and discouraged in the dating department. At first, I was shocked and overwhelmed when asked outright if I would be down for “some fun”, “FWB” [ friends with benefits ], “a threesome”, “a personal stripper”.
The apologetic Ravi Zacharias said that evil stems from not understanding the purpose for a thing. To me, this makes a lot of sense of why we sin. In this instance, if we don’t understand the purpose for sex or for marriage, of course there is no incentive for us to abide by this “withholding” of intimacy and pleasure. The result: lust, sexual sin, adultery in marriage, etc.
When we understand more of God’s heart, will and purpose for us, it helps us in our obedience and faith. We start to see God’s commands as His protection and intention for our good, not His prevention or restriction of something good.
It is not my place to judge or invite shame in this space;
I am only here to light a candle in the darkness.
If you want to understand more of God’s heart for sex and marriage, I encourage you to search the scriptures or speak to someone you trust in the church. Transformation Church have an online youtube series called “Relationship Goals” that tackles this topic too, so I would encourage you to listen to more teaching if you’re interested. This article is good also.
For the purpose of this post, I want to touch more on a personal reflection of how our personal war on purity impacts others. Without seeking to shame or point blame, I have come away from on and off “casual” dating with a deep sorrow. There is a deep sadness and hurt when I wrestle with whether my soul can bear the wound of being with someone who has stumbled, who has not waited like me to only have sex in the context of marriage.
I have wrestled with the impurity of the men I have seen and what it would mean to love, to forgive and to give grace to them for sexual sin. I have had to contemplate a marriage bed with a man who has already made love to another woman, a wedding night with a man who has already wed his body to another woman. There is no words for the ache of knowing that the man who gives you temporary attention and affection has already knit himself, his physical intimate form, with that of another soul. There are honestly no words. But. I tried to find words. Not for me. For you. I want us to understand how our own personal war with purity is not just a violation against our own bodies [ 1 Cor. 6:18 ] but against others.
can my soul bear the wound
can my spirit learn to trust
is this what God wants for me?
a man who has not waited for me?
is this what God wants for me?
this questioning of my purity?
does He want to me to know
His love, His grace
d e e p e r
does He want me to know
His intention for sex
His intention for marriage
does He want to protect me
does He want me
to choose purity
to choose Him
to choose Light
His Spirit rests in me
as i rest
that He will strengthen me
P U R I T Y
I would be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt to find a potential partner, only to discover after their openness about sexual history that they’ve had partner/s prior. There is a certain sacredness to sex, an intimacy that comes with investment emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
To discover that someone I am willing to invest in has already shared this sacred act with someone before is heart-wrenching. Sex suddenly feels less sacred, less special; it suddenly seems tempting to give up and give in. It is easy to believe the lie that no one else values waiting, that no one else is waiting. I should clarify that I am not condemning anyone who has stumbled in this department. I too have been tempted. I should also clarify that I am not writing off anyone who has stumbled in this department. I know that, by the grace of God, and by His strength alone, He enables us to FORGIVE as we have been FORGIVEN.
I had a vision a few months ago that I also want to share
because I believe this is for those who have stumbled:
you open your eyes
you are above the clouds
but the clouds are brown
they are stained
n e a r b y
you see Him
the cloud of Glory
you close your eyes
you cannot bear to look
there is too much Light
you know you are not worthy
to set your face towards Him
but you want His healing
you know that only by His stripes
will you be clean and free to shine
so you invite Him near
to create in you:
a clean heart
a clean mind
a clean body
you open your eyes again
but the clouds are still dirty
and you realise
that purity is a journey
it is a Way
of seeing and being and living
it is not given and taken
it is an identity
you are purified in Christ
that is youridentify
He has taken on the punishment
you deserved for your impurity
so you pray
and invite Him to lead you on a path of purity
and as you pray
the clouds turn transparent
you start to see with greater clarity
your darkened heart
has seen the Light
as He creates in you a clean heart
you start to see Him clearer
His glory, His goodness
when you will see Him
face to face
so what is God’s heart for
P U R I T Y
As followers of the Way, the narrow way, our inheritance in the kingdom of God is biblically linked to the life we live here on earth. Paul writes to the church in Corinth, conveying that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God [ 1 Cor 6: 9-11 ]; and to the church in Ephesus, that those who are sexually immoral or impure and covetous have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God [ 5:1-5 ]. Paul writes to those in Rome:
Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [ Rom. 12:1-2 ]
The life we live now is not detached to God’s eternal plan and purpose for humanity; for our bodies, minds, hearts. He desires: a) our bodies to be offered to him, b) our mind to be transformed and renewed, that we may know His will, and c) that our hearts may be surrendered to him, that we may grow in our love and knowledge of Him, in what is good and acceptable and perfect in His eyes. His heart is for our heart to be pure like His, for us to be renewed in our spirit – that we may be steadfast, our souls and hearts assured in Him.
May we, like the Psalmist, learn to accept God’s vision and victory in this WAR OF PURITY and ask Him: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me [ Ps. 51:10 ].
it is hard to do this topic justice, but structure always helps
i want to leave you with some scriptures
[ there are many more! ]
these help us to view purity through the following lens:
PURITY of MIND // PURITY of BODY // PURITY of HEART
PURITY of MIND
1. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [ Matt. 5:28 ]
2. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. [ Luke 11:34-35 ]
3. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. [ Ps. 119:9 ]
Note the following themes: the eyes, mind and heart are closely linked in these passages; how we see and what we lust after impacts our purity.
PURITY of BODY
1. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. [ 1 Cor. 6:18 ]
2. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; [ 1 Thes. 4:3-5 ]
3. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. [ 2 Cor. 12:21 ]
4. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; [ Gal. 5:19 ]
5. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. [ Heb. 13:4 ]
6. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [ Rom. 12:1-2 ]
7. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. [ 1 Cor. 6:13 ]
Note the following themes: the distance God desires us to have with sexual sin, the definitions God gives us for sexual sin, the strategies God gives us for fighting sexual sin: “flee”, “avoid”, “learn to control your own body”, do not give in to “passionate lust”, repenting of impurity.
PURITY of HEART
1. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [ Matt. 5:8 ]
2. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. [ Ps. 24:3-4 ]
3. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [ James 4:8 ]
4. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. [ 2 Cor 7:1 ]
5. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [ Col 3:1]
Note the following themes:
There is again an emphasis on the eyes, particularly, purity and seeing God [ Matt. 5:8 ], Jesus also distinguishes that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” [ John 3:3 ]. What this reveals to us is that there are spiritual barriers to how we see.
Purity is not only a virtue, but it can be a barrier of vision.
The above passages articulate the active state we have in this war for our hearts. We have a choice when it comes to the defilement of our body and spirit, what we set our hearts on. There is an association of purity and holiness, for these are found in those who dwell in the presence of God, where His Spirit is at work in changing our hearts and minds more into the likeness of Christ [ 2 Cor 3:18, Rom 8:28-29 ]
If you struggle to understand the purpose of P U R I T Y
If you struggle to fight for P U R I T Y
If you struggle to choose P U R I T Y for YOU
Can I encourage you?
Choose purity for God
Choose purity for others
Choose purity for your current / future partner
Choose purity for the next generation
So that they may see your PURITY and see GOD
So that they may see your PURITY and see it is possible to LIVE IN THE LIGHT
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. [ 1 Tim 4:12 ]
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful to even speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light” [ Eph. 5:8-13 ]