Many people want to know what it means to live a life of purity and what does purity mean. They ask about what activities are acceptable to God and what things are pushing the limits. They might ask, “Does drinking alcohol make me impure? What about smoking marijuana? Can I kiss someone or be physically intimate with them before marriage?”
These are good questions, but in some ways, they miss the mark as to the true meaning of purity. For example, consider someone struggling with bondage to sexual impurity by viewing pornography on their phone and then engaging in self-gratification, who subsequently loses their cell phone. So, for a time, while they are without a phone, they are unable to view pornography. If it takes two weeks to replace the cell phone, would you say this person is living in purity during this time?
The probability is that even though they aren't able to view new pornographic images due to lack of access, their mind remains full of illicit images and their body is craving to be gratified. So, even if they haven’t viewed pornography for two weeks or longer, this does not mean they are living a life of purity.
We could use any scenario for this discussion: an alcoholic who stops drinking for a time, an overweight person who starts a fad diet, two unmarried people who stop engaging in sex for a time, and so on.
To know what purity means, we must first understand that purity does not begin with external behavior but the internal heart. Biblical purity is an internal reality that leads to pure (right, desirable, Christ-like) external behaviors.
Note this biblical description of internal purity, heart purity, which leads to a pure life:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22 ESV
We see instruction in this passage to run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. But what is it that motivates us to run away from lust? The answer can be found in the last part of the verse: “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” In other words, those who have a pure heart are motivated to flee youthful passions.
Peter answers this question for us in 1 Peter 1:
“Christ was chosen before the world was made, but he was shown to the world in these last times for your sake. Through Christ, you believe in God, who raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory. So your faith and your hope are in God. Now that your obedience to the truth has purified your souls, you can have true love for your Christian brothers and sisters. So love each other deeply with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:20-22 (NCV)
We can see from 1 Peter 1:22 that it is obedience to the truth that purifies our souls and enables our hearts to love deeply. But we must not miss the precise “truth” to which Peter is referring, the “truth” that, when believed, purifies our hearts and souls. Specifically, Christ was chosen before time to be crucified for our sins and raised from the dead (verse 21). Putting faith in this message is what makes us pure before God and pure in heart.
From this, we understand that it is obeying the truth of the gospel message, putting faith in it, and resting secure in it, that purifies our hearts. This happens as we read in our Bibles and believe that Jesus was a sacrifice of atonement for our sins (Romans 3:25). We see Him on the cross as the Lamb of God taking our sin away (John 1:29), and we believe by faith that what Jesus has done on the cross applies to us, personally.
It happens as we read that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day to justify us before God (Romans 4:21-25), and by faith, we believe it to be true. We see the Lamb slain on the cross is now the Lion conquering death and rising triumphantly out of the grave. As we see this marvelous sight, we believe in our hearts that once He made full payment for our sin, Jesus rose from the dead.
The Holy Spirit is involved in our viewing and believing the message of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. He applies the truth about Christ to our hearts. We experience the power of the gospel message when we put faith in it. When we believe the gospel message, we are obeying the truth of the gospel, and our hearts are purified by faith through the work of the Holy Spirit.
This looking at the cross and experiencing heart change is what precedes living a life of purity, even as “calling on the Lord out of a pure heart” is what motivates us to flee youthful lusts. The gospel cleanses us from the inside out, so that it affects our hearts, thoughts, desires, loves, and then our actions.
Jesus condemned the actions of “Pharisees”, for they were more interested in changing the external behavior, while leaving the heart untouched:
"How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, but inside they are full of things you got by cheating others and by pleasing only yourselves. 26 Pharisees, you are blind! First make the inside of the cup clean, and then the outside of the cup can be truly clean.” Matthew 23:25-26 (NCV)
What does purity mean? It means having our insides clean. It is to have hearts that daily wash at the cross so that we can experience the power of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus. Purity means we have a heart cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus. Having a pure heart will enable us to turn from behaviors that trouble us and do not bring glory to God.
Seeing our Savior's sacrificial love for us and experiencing fresh grace and new power from the sight, we are happy and joyful to turn away from sin. Meditating on and remembering Jesus' death on the cross and His victorious resurrection energizes and empowers us to die to sin and live in purity. Our external actions follow our hearts that have been purified by believing the good news of the gospel.
One lady who went through our Purity Bootcamp study wrote the following. Notice her change of heart, the change of loves and passions, which results in external behavior change:
Sara writes, “I LOVE the message of the cross because it is personal to me. Meaning, I have personally experienced the POWER of the message of the cross, burial, and resurrection of my LORD! And because of that, I can now live victoriously!
Oh, the resurrection power moving me to have such a BIG heart for other people struggling with sexual sin (or any other type of sin). A fire deep inside of me that's not ceasing! And I desire to SHARE the gospel with as many people as God brings into my life. I wanna follow Him wholeheartedly. And serve HIM with all of my heart!!!”
This is the power of the cross to cleanse, purify, and transform us. To look at Jesus being wounded for our sin and beaten for our wrongs, to see Him dying to remove our guilt and free us from shame, is what is needed to know what purity means. As Sara said, “It is personal!” The Holy Spirit enables us to obey the truth and believe the message. As we obey and believe the gospel, our hearts are purified by faith, and we begin to live purified lives.
When we experience purity through the gospel, we no longer ask how close to the cliff of sin we can get without falling off. Instead, our pure hearts long to flee from gratifying any lust of our flesh. Through the power of the cross of Christ, our hearts are changed, and consequently, our questions change. We now ask, “How far away from sin’s fire can I get?” We begin to run far away from all that would trip us up, because we have seen the bleeding Lamb, crucified for our sin, and the risen King, overcoming the world, death, hell and the grave, for us.
What does purity mean? It means having hearts set on fire at the cross, and burning to live differently than the world, differently than our pasts, differently than our culture.
Our book, Purity Bootcamp, is a 30-day study on this very subject, “what does purity mean?” and can be found here: