Purity carries a stigma
Whether you are inside the church or out, when you say the word purity people react. To the world, the idea of sexual purity means restrictive cultures who oppress individuals “normal” sexual desires. They would say that a biblical view of sex traumatizes people and is worse for society.
The Bible paints a different picture of purity. It is a thing to behold and is beautiful in the sight of God.
But what is purity? How far is too far? If I have messed up can I become pure again?
Fortunately the Bible has something to say about this. Matthew 5:27-32 says:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Lets take a look at the text
At first glance it looks like this text is only speaking to men (vs 28). But Jesus uses men as an example (also showing a healthy boundary of men talking about other men when talking about sex), that women can get plenty of principles from.
As you look at the sermon on the mount, a cool parallel starts to emerge. Jesus (God) is giving a set of commandments from a mountain, to his followers (his people). Jesus is doing the same thing that he had done with Moses hundreds of years earlier. What we see Jesus doing is giving a new law.
Jesus is telling the crowd that there wasn’t a problem with the old law, so far as it was perfect coming from God. The problem lies with man’s understanding with it. Humanity messed up understanding God’s word (which is a constant problem), so Jesus clarifies it. God wasn’t after the outward obedience of his people, he desired a changed heart.
Jesus uses the verbiage of heart when he is talking about us sinning. This was because in first century Israel, the heart was the seat of the person. When Jesus is talking about the heart he is talking about all of who we are. Not simply our emotions.
Now we get to the meat of the passage. Jesus tells the crowd that lusting is wrong. But that begs the question, what is lusting?
In his commentary on the book of Matthew, Leon Morris, a pastor and author of many books, suggests that lust is, “Imagining or desiring a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse.” This is - to my limited knowledge - the best and most concise definitions of lusting.
Imagine you are faced with a choice, a man is offering you water to drink. The man is holding in his hands two different cups. The first, a 32oz Yeti mug filled with water from a small stream in a third world country, used for sewage. The other is a 10oz dixie cup with water from a tap. The kicker is you get to keep the cup from which you drink the entirety of its contents. Which one do you choose?
Its a no brainer! You pick the one that won’t - possibly - kill you. No amount of malaria or typhoid is worth a Yeti.
Its about the heart
This is a good illustration to see ourselves from God’s perspective. God loves outward obedience but what he desires in us, is that we become people who are changed by the good news of the gospel and have hearts the hate what he hates.
Essentially, Jesus is telling the crowd that sexual sin is a heart problem.
Jesus wants you heart!
Event though Jesus is actively giving commandments, it isn’t about following the law. It never was. The law that God gave Moses and Jesus is giving the people on the mountain, were never going to be able to save them. In fact most commentators argue that in the sermon on the mount, Jesus is giving us laws that we could never fully keep.
Why would Jesus do that? Isn’t it unfair that he is setting us up to fail. No its not unfair. And yes he is actually setting us up to fail. Why? To point us to himself. We cannot keep the law so we need someone who could keep it for us. We need saving!
As someone who is changed by the Good news of Jesus, we must hate our sin. We must do any thing we can do to cut sin out.
So, how can I become pure, if I; have had lustful thoughts, have done something to make me impure, or someone has done something to me that makes me feel impure?
You become pure because when Jesus died on the cross, when He shed His blood for you, He washed you clean. The Old Testament system was a babysitter for what Jesus came to do. Jesus died not only to make us clean, but so that we could dwell with him. The hard part of getting washed isn’t trying to stay pure, it is belief. When you believe the gospel you are washed by the blood of the lamb. Sin is no match for the blood of Jesus. You couldn’t make yourself clean in the first place, so you can’t make yourself clean after you sin now.
Have confidence in this truth that it is not by your merit that you are clean but by the work of Christ on the cross.