I remember like it yesterday. The doors in the back of the church swung open wide and there walked in my bride. She was bright eyed and blazing in her white gown. It was, is and will be one of the most beautiful and purest images in my mind. There is no wonder God refers to the church as his bride.
Purity in the Church—the Bride of Christ—is just as important as purity for the individual. Continuing in the thread of Hebrews 13:1-3 the authors shares four rapid-fire characteristics for believers and the church to walk purely.
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.” – Hebrews 13:3-9, ESV
First, honor your marriage (Hebrews 13:4). Today less than 50% of couples get married and the majority of couples are cohabiting rather than marrying. It is more common to test-driving marriage than to actually marry. This has led to a lower level of relational commitment and a greater distancing from moral purity. Yet this is just one aspect of purity. As purity is not just an idea before marriage but within marriage too. God expects the marriage bed to be pure from any form of casual or illicit immorality. In the mind of God, marriage pictures something big—Jesus’ love for the church. When marriages disintegrate so does the testimony of the church, but when marriages fight hard for purity so flourishes the church.
Second, love not money (v.5a). The only sure way to keep your heart pure from a love of money is by being content with what you have, especially in seasons of uncertainty (v.6). Why? Attached to this call for contentment is a mammoth promise—God will never abandon you (v.5b). Allow that truth penetrate your soul deeply. If you divorce yourself from this truth it lead to a lust for money, possessions, and discontentment. Ultimately everything, including money, career, health, security, comes from God.
Third, remember your spiritual leaders (v.7; cf. vs.17, 24). Leaders are to live pure and exemplary lives, and we are to imitate their faith and study their way of life. An issue can arises when we put too much faith in a spiritual leader to meet our spiritual needs. When a spiritual leader has failure or falls we can become disappointed and disillusioned. A good leader will point people to Jesus who never fails and will forever remain (v.8).
Fourth, guard your heart from strange teachings (v.9). Our hearts are easily distracted towards teachings what tickle our ears or stroke our ego. In the process we can commit adultery of the mind as we align ourselves with unbiblical teachings. It is important to weight all teachings against the Word and walk away from teachings contrary to it. If we build on this sturdy and stable ground we will walk purely.
Purity may seem old fashion, yet modern people would not think twice about drinking pure water, eating pure foods, or breathing pure air. When purity in marriage, money, spiritual leadership, or biblical teachings are abandoned the results are as grave on the soul as breathing smog, drinking poison and eating toxins. While purity is a gift from God that we cannot get back once given, it can be forgiven and made anew again.
Are you committed to walking purely? Then “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.” (Ephesians 5:9-10) No matter where you are start today by walking in the light.
Questions for Reflection:
- What is the biblical picture of marriage? How does the word tarnish and diminish this image? How does Jesus and the church redeem the image? How can we help one another keep marriage pure?
- What is something that you don’t have that you wish you did have? Are you content without it? What makes us want what we want when we want it? How is money a huge culprit to a lack of contentment?
- How does God’s never abandoning promise encourage you? How is God your Helper? What are things we want God to help us with that he doesn’t promise to help with?
- Who is a spiritual leader you look up to? How do they mimic Christ? How can you follow their lead?
- What kind of teachings tickle peoples ears and stroke their egos? Why is it good to weigh all words you hear in church against the Word of God? How can you do this without being extremely critical of teachers and pastors?
- Is there an area of impurity in marriage, finances, leadership or teaching that you need to ask God’s forgiveness? Which area of purity is your greatest struggle? How will you allow the church to help or encourage you?