Four days ago, I opened my tap and learned a lesson in purity.
I’ve been drinking tap water from Lincoln’s Municipal Water supply for most of my life–and I consider it to be the best tasting water imaginable. It’s hard water, with lots of minerals–not so nice when it comes to cleaning, but fantastic when it comes to flavor.
But four days ago, I took a swig of water from the tap and almost retched. The water tasted… dirty. There isn’t any other way to describe it.
I almost dehydrated myself that first day, drinking only when I was about to faint.
The second day, I took my water bottle to campus and filled it with the tap there. Surely, it would be better. But it wasn’t. I got some water from the residence halls at lunch–it, too, tasted dirty. I asked others if they felt that the water tasted funny. I got mixed responses, but general consensus was that I was going crazy.
By Friday, I was almost completely dehydrated and I knew I had to do something about it. So I drank massive quantities of hot tea–the tea covering up the dirty flavor of the water.
Saturday morning, I got a call from one of lecturers I TA for. She said she didn’t know if I got the Lincoln Journal Star, but there was an article in the Saturday edition that explained my weird experience.
Lincoln started using a new well recently and that well had unusually high levels of “organic matter”. Apparently only those with super-sensitive taste buds have been able to detect the impurity in the water–but I happen to be one of them.
Purity: the quality or state of being pure
Pure: unmixed with any other matter; free from dust, dirt, or taint; spotless, stainless; free from harshness or roughness and being in tune; free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from moral fault or guilt; marked by chastity;
Maybe you’re living in Lincoln and haven’t noticed anything different in the water. But if you think my taste buds are sensitive, you should see God’s!
I won’t drink water that’s been tainted with “organic material.” God won’t abide in the presence of sin.
“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
I Corinthians 6:9-10
God can’t stand sin–and He’s not going to let anyone with sin enter into His presence. In the Beatitudes, Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). What He doesn’t say–but what is made clear by the verses quoted above–is “Damned are the impure, for they shall be barred from the presence of God.”
pretty much damns everyone, because we’re all by nature impure.
And we can do nothing to make ourselves clean. The Bible says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We are impure. We can do nothing to to make ourselves pure. Impurity cannot abide in the presence of God. Therefore, we can not abide in the presence of God–and we can’t do anything to make ourselves able to abide in the presence of God.
Yet there is hope. God has made a way for the impure to become pure–a distillation process, if you will.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
I Corinthians 6:9-11
Through Christ, the impure can be made pure.
“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:7-9
Jesus Christ is in the business of cleansing and purifying the unclean.
There are three potential responses to an awareness that God cannot abide impurity.
The first response is to try our hardest to be pure. But, as I’ve already mentioned, we can do nothing to make ourselves pure. Any attempts to purify ourselves are only dead works–more of the very thing we must be saved from.
The second response is to recognize and accept Jesus’ cleansing work on the cross and its sufficiency–and to continue to sin however we like. After all, Christ has made the impure pure–and His work covers all our sins (past, present, and future)–so why not keep on walking in impurity? Romans 6:1-4 addresses the folly of this response:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? – Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The third, and appropriate, response is to recognize and accept Jesus’ cleansing work on the cross and its sufficiency–and to desire to walk in purity out of love for the One who has made us pure. This love compels us to ask not “how impure can I be and still be acceptable” but “how pure can I be?”
The Christian should be serious about purity because God is serious about purity.
As we begin to discuss the “practicalities” of male/female relationships, lust, and the like, we need to establish our goals.
Is our goal to keep the “organic matter” low enough that most people can’t taste it? Maybe our goal is to trick our own taste buds into accepting impurity by covering it up with something else (like my making tea out of impure water).
But in the letters to Timothy, Paul makes clear that our goal should be absolute purity.
“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
I Timothy 5:1-2 (NIV)
The words “pure” or “purity” occur six times in the two epistles Paul wrote to Timothy–and each time, it was an injunction to Timothy to be pure, keep himself pure, or act in purity.
Resolve today to glorify God by living a life marked by absolute (complete, unquestioned) purity.