SBC Life Articles

Exercising Moral Purity

Our society has mastered the art of "compartmentalization." Consider, for instance, the term "Sunday Christians." People have used this term for years to describe those whose worship on Sunday was not matched by the exercise of Christian character throughout the other six days of the week.

It is an understatement to say that things have changed! Today, some worshippers are quite comfortable being in church on Sunday morning, hands held high in praise, and a rapturous, eyes-closed smile on their face, all the while anticipating bedding down with another lover by Sunday evening. The other lover by the way may not be their husband or wife, but someone with whom they have established an out-of-wedlock relationship. This is a new and heightened form of compartmentalization; an ability to isolate, or segment, one moment from another; an ability to accommodate certain moral standards in one arena and reject them outright in another.

The "Sesame Street Generation"

I have often referred to ours as the "Sesame Street Generation." Think about it for a moment. Most of us are familiar with this enormously popular public television children's program loaded with interesting characters, both real-life and make-believe. Sesame Street is deliberately designed to hold a child's attention over a sustained period of time. Program segments are often field tested for best results before airing. In rapid succession, scenes, characters, and focus change from one segment to the next. One moment the emphasis is on a specific color, the next a number, and then there is a puppet vignette with a song, followed by larger-than-life characters who interact with normal-sized people.

Sesame Street's success relies on the viewer's ability to compartmentalize, to isolate the events and emotions of one moment from the next. The success of this program is legendary as evidenced by many attempts to duplicate its format. But while interesting and highly educational, the downside of the program is the subtle manner in which it has trained a generation to compartmentalize in other areas of life as well.

Consider, for instance, the highly respected business man with the model family who has "another side" to his life, a secret and immoral relationship he has maintained for years; the housewife who is addicted to Internet romance, carrying on cyber-chat with an unseen lover to whom she tells all; the pastor or church leader whose television or computer now takes him, unnoticed by others, into secret denizens of sensuality; the student who is active in the youth program at church and, unknown to his or her parents, sexually active as well. And only a few years ago we joined the world in witnessing the ultimate debacle of compartmentalization: a national President who somehow saw no contradiction in being in church with his wife and daughter on Sunday morning and involved in an immoral relationship with a girl close to his daughter's age on Sunday afternoon.

Against this backdrop we have God's clarion call to specific moral standards which are to pervade every area of life: You shall not commit adultery! The stern nature of this command would also add, "Not here, not now, not anywhere, anytime, or under any circumstances…period!" To make certain His moral principles would be both indelibly etched in our hearts and unfalteringly practiced in our lives, He both preceded and followed that command with nine other non-optional moral principles. Later, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus underscored this principle by saying "Don't even think about it!"

Members of God's Kingdom Family take seriously their Master's words. They know God has established the family as His first institution on earth. They believe it is worthy of their most noble aspirations and commitments, including their commitment to moral purity, marital fidelity, and Christ-like love for each family member. Because marriage is a picture of Christ's faithfulness to His Bride, the Church, and because the family is a picture of the Father's faithfulness to His children, they have determined that, throughout the balance of their life, they will honor the Lord by being faithful and pure.

But the question is, "How?" How can members of God's Kingdom Family establish and maintain lives characterized by a commitment to moral purity and marital fidelity? What steps can be taken to prevent the kind of moral lapses which devastate lives, dash hopes, and destroy families? How can a child of God become adequately armed to face the temptations seductively offered by Satan and win out over them? And how can an individual, whose past record is one of defeat and failure, live out the balance of life in a manner that both pleases God and promotes integrity and trust?

Your Home … A Sacred Institution

The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family acknowledge that God has established the home as a sacred institution. It is, in fact, God's first and, therefore, oldest institution on earth. The home is to be the place a person's spiritual pilgrimage begins and subsequently is formed. If you have not been blessed to be in a home where biblical principles are lived and taught then you can (and should) ask God to enable you to be the "first in line" of a new generation of God-fearing and Christ-honoring people. After all, someone always must make such an initial choice for any home to be founded upon Christ. You should do all you can to protect and preserve holiness in you home. Your life should be a channel through which God brings blessing into your home. It should not be the means through which Satan enters into your family and ravages it.

Until you understand God's heart regarding the family, it is doubtful that you will give much effort to avoiding those things which will destroy it. Often I have the sad duty of listening to the heart of an unfaithful husband or wife as the consequences of their unfaithfulness are beginning to sink in. The very people who love them the most have been lacerated and left behind as they gave way, first to imagination, then temptation, and finally, the realization of their fantasy. "If I had only stopped to consider the wonderful gift God had given me with my family," they lament, often with tears coursing down their cheeks.

The family is more than God's first institution, (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:24), it is a picture of our salvation, (Ephesians 5, especially verse 32). It is in the family that we are to hear first about God and His ways, (Deuteronomy 6:7). It is from the father that a child first receives a picture of the Heavenly Father (Luke 11:13). It is through the relationships of the home that the principles of authority and respect are communicated, (Ephesians 5:21, 6:1-3), as well as the importance of genuine love, (Ephesians 6:4). The moral principles regarding such issues as work, marriage, chastity, discipline, decisiveness, and benevolence are to be taught and modeled in the home, (See the Book of Proverbs). It is in the family that a child should most readily be able to hear and respond to the gospel, (2 Timothy 1:5, Acts 10, 16:30-34).

Little wonder that God places such emphasis on the home! And little wonder that a high and biblical view of the home is an incredibly effective motivation to shun anything that might damage family relationships. Mess with the family…and you will find yourself dealing one-on-one with God. Ask Isaac and his family about it (See Genesis 25:20-35:29)!

Your Holiness … A Solemn Injunction

In addition to what God has said about the sanctity of the home, He commands each member of His Kingdom Family to live a life of personal holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). Such a life is an absolute contradiction to everything our society now communicates as being normal, natural, and even healthy. As a matter of fact, unless you willingly endorse the sex-oriented, perverted appetites espoused by many (especially through the media) you are charged with denying them their "rights." Or, worse yet, your criticisms of their deviant lifestyle (be it the perversions of a homosexual lifestyle or perversions among heterosexuals) can be challenged in court as a "hate crime."

No doubt about it, God's "Ten Commandments" may still be on the walls of our Nation's Supreme Court but they run absolutely counter to the grain of contemporary society. God says, "Do not commit adultery! Don't put your holiness, your walk with me, your marriage, or your purity "up for grabs." Christ both amplified and clarified this commandment, indicating that it included any lewdness or unchaste thought as well as action: You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

In other words, Jesus is saying holiness springs from the heart. That's where the books are kept!" Our tendency is to think that we are holy and pure as long as we appear that way to others. But it is within the heart that we establish our intentions to be morally pure and maritally faithful, expressing Christ-like love for each member of our family.

Your Heart … A Significant Intention

Members of God's Kingdom Family are committed to moral purity, marital faithfulness (if married, or intending one day to be married), and Christ-like love for each member of your family. You should not wait until you have come to a moral crossroads before making this decision. You should arrive at times of testing, and there will be many, with your moral compass already set in the right direction.

If you have made moral shipwreck of your life, acknowledge your sin and repent of it. Turn to Christ in faith … for salvation, if that issue has yet to be settled in your life; or for restored fellowship and usefulness, if you are already a member of His Kingdom Family. Determine that you will, by God's grace, seek to do the following:

Fill your heart with the Word of God.

God's word is remarkable in its power! By filling your heart with His Word, you first experience a dynamic cleansing of your thoughts. Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you, said Jesus to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion (John 15:3). Positive thinking is not only a good practice but one we are exhorted to follow (Philippians 4:8). But here Christ is speaking of more than mere positive thinking. He is saying that His Word actually cleanses out and replaces the evil thoughts and intents that have lodged in our heart.

Flee anything which is intended to incite lust.

There is a vast difference between love and lust. Lust, a strong, unholy passion, is brought to the surface when we give way before temptation. Paul exhorted young Timothy to flee youthful lusts, knowing that they can quickly become so imbedded in our character that they guide behavior for the balance of life.

A friend of mine is fond of quoting from Proverbs when tempted to give way before inducements to evil thoughts and actions: My son, if sinners entice you … don't consent (Proverbs 1:10)! Later, in that same book, Solomon describes the foolish young man (Proverbs 7) who passed through the street near the house of the harlot, then went the way to her house like an ox going to the slaughter. Her house, he reminded his son, is the way to slaughter.

Today's paths to the house of the wicked scarcely require leaving your home. You can turn down the path of the wicked on your television or computer. But remember, the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his goings (Proverbs 5:21). That's a good thing to remember when incited toward lust of any kind.

Fix your heart on God's plan for your life and marriage.

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed, exclaimed David (Psalm 57:7). This was his way of saying that, by previous preparation, he was focusing on God's plan and provision for his life. Later, he writes of the good man who shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7).

When God first began speaking to my own heart regarding marriage, I prayed that He would give me some "word" of direction for my life. He responded with more than a word! In fact, He gave me the entire fifth chapter of Ephesians as a "template" for the relationship I should have with my wife. There were negatives to be avoided and positives to be accepted. For me, that pattern became the standard which I would hold up as I considered a future mate. Soon I met Jeannie who, by conviction and character, fulfilled the description in Ephesians 5. God had graciously given me that passage so that I might fix my heart upon it, and Him, as I considered the possibility of marriage.

Find a trustworthy individual and become accountable.

If married, this will in all likelihood be your life's mate. But you must be willing to let him, or her, walk unimpeded through the recesses of your heart. Or you may choose a close friend who is willing to ask you the hard questions of life. Iron sharpens iron; so the countenance of a man his friend (Proverbs 27:7).

When Jesus sent out the disciples on their "trial run" (See Luke 10), He sent them out "two by two." There was divine wisdom behind that plan. Each person needs someone else in life to hold him accountable. This, in fact is one of the benefits of being actively involved in a church family where you can "Provoke one another unto love and good works."

To maintain a life of moral purity, someone complementary (not necessarily complimentary!) to you is essential. You don't need a clone but a loving critic; someone whose advice you are willing to heed; someone you respect; someone who will be your greatest ally…and your greatest adversary if they see you adopting destructive moral practices. Ask God to help you find just such a person … and be sure to listen with you heart.

No Need to Be a Statistic

The world is full of dismal statistics regarding crumbling marriages and moral failure…but you need not be one of them. Determine now that you will honor the family, God's first institution, with a life of moral purity and marital fidelity. Purpose to live a holy and godly life. And guard your heart, filling it with the Word of God, fleeing enticements to sin against God and your family, fixing your vision on His plan for your life, and finding a genuine accountability partner.

Adapted from Tom Elliff's, Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family, Broadman &Holman, 2003. A further study of the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family can be found in the newly released seven-week Bible study, Come Home to the Heart of God, LifeWay Press, 2003. Information regarding future Kingdom Family Conferences can be found at LifeWay.com.


Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family

Honoring God's Authority
(Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 5:21; 6:1-4)

Respecting Human Life
(Ex. 20:13; Psa. 139:13-16; Prov. 16:31)

Exercising Moral Purity
(Ex. 20:14; Job 31:1; Matt. 5:27-30; 1 Cor. 6:18-19)

Serving My Church
(Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:11-16; 5:25; Heb. 10:25)

Using Time Wisely
(Deut. 6:6-7; Psa. 90:12; Luke 18:16; Eph. 5:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Practicing Biblical Stewardship
(Gen. 1:28; Prov. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:8-11; Luke 6:38; 12:48; 1 Cor. 4:2, 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7)

Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
(Matt. 28:19-20; John 4:38-39; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Rev. 22:17)

    About the Author

  • Tom Elliff