As those called to be “imitators of God” (Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children – Ephesians 5:1), holiness and purity are to be our concern and preoccupation and we are to make consistent and concerted effort in our pursuit of them for they represent the very essence of God.
God is Holy and He is pure. His holiness is what we see shining through, overwhelming and summing up everything else in Isaiah’s vision of heaven in Isaiah chapter 6 verse 3 as the angelic host worship God calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth”. Holiness represents the sum total of all of God’s virtues that set Him apart from everyone and everything else. On the other hand 1 John 1:5 states that, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” – not even a fraction – highlighting His unparalleled purity. And in his charge to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:16 the apostle Paul states that God “dwells in an unapproachable light,” again, underlining and reiterating His perfect purity. Finally, we are instructed to strive for and pursue holiness being warned by the writer to the Hebrews that without it, it is impossible to see God – “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). We have to share in His holiness if we are to see God for ourselves.
In our quest to uphold holiness and purity in our lives, understanding the nature of the battle we face and the circumstances surrounding it will better equip us to effectively fight and emerge victorious in it. The terrorist threat level in the UK is determined by the intelligence service, MI5. In order to correctly gauge the threat level MI5 depends on intelligence which it meticulously and continuously collects and collates. We too need to be able to work out and possess a realistic perception of the threat we face to our personal purity and holiness in order to win this battle for holiness and purity.
In 1 Peter 2:11 the scriptures clearly tell us that the passions of our own flesh wage war against our souls – Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
From this one verse we see four important features or elements of the battle we are engaged in.
- The first is the need to realise and accept that this is indeed a battle, a war that we are engaged in – nothing short lest we behave or pretend as if it weren’t. We arein a state of war and the sooner we realise and accept that truth the swifter our victory over it. The apostle Peter does not mince his words but openly declares that it is a war that is being waged against us and it is time we realised it.
- The second is that, clearly, this battle is taking place withinus, between the passions of our flesh, or fallen nature which we have not yet total gotten rid of, and our soul. This is first and foremost a war within ourselves and not from without. This is an important truth to realise and understand as it will determine which way we direct our fire.
- Third, by virtue of the fact that it’s a war that’s taking place within us, it is something that is up close and personal. It is real and closer to home – not distant and remote. In as much as it is within us and happening on home front, it is very real and could not be any closer to us – we cannot miss it nor can we afford to ignore it.
- Finally, the last point to note is that this is an ongoing battle – as long as we carry this flesh, as long as the fallen nature and our soul coexist, the potential for hostilities exist. This war will not be totally over until we depart from this body of flesh we are now living in. This ongoing nature of the battle we are engaged in demands, necessitates and requires us to be permanently alert and on the look out.
Keeping in mind the above four aspects of the nature of the battle we are in, there are also a some key external factors that hugely influence and impact the outcome of our battle that we need to be aware of and factor in take precaution against. In fact, knowledge of these external factors and how they influence us and impact the outcome of the battle we are in is essential in constructing a strategy that guarantees our victory.
- The first is the universal availability of sexually explicit material and the ease of access to it. This is a fact that we need to contend with and factor into our strategy. Not only is there sexual material out there that inflames and fuels the passions of our fallen nature but its explicit nature and the ease with which it can be accessed – literally at the tip of our fingers – make it a formidable weapon of the enemy against us in the battle for holiness and purity. Hence the need to be acutely aware of it and adjust and sharpen our skills and strategies accordingly.
- The second fact that needs to be factored in is more mainstream than the availability of sexually explicit material thereby making it more subtle and giving it an acceptable face. It is this permissive nature and culture of the society we live in that is almost universally prevalent today that anything goes when it comes to sexual activity between two consenting adults. Additionally, the sexual charging of society in general as evidenced in the insinuations, innuendos and subtle (and sometimes overt!) allusions to our sex drives contained in mainstream culture and media play a subtle and almost imperceptible role in blurring the borders of our moral code, subconsciously fanning the passions of our sinful nature.
These two factors on the outside are major in defining and shaping our attitudes and subsequently our actions too, ultimately influencing the outcome of the battle for purity and holiness in our lives. We need to take them into consideration and factor them into our battle plans and not be ignorant or passive about them.
So as we do that, what then are the defence mechanisms available to us and the strategies we are to employ in order to secure victory in our personal battle for purity and holiness?
There are basically two both of which are hugely important and equally valid in our struggle against impurity and sexual immorality. Like bullets loaded and fired simultaneously from the twin barrels of a double-barrelled shotgun, these mechanisms or strategies complement one another and are only wholly effective in unison with one another. We therefore need to intentionally focus and regularly exercise and grow these two mechanisms in our defence if we are to consistently come out on top in this ongoing battle for personal holiness. If used as prescribed these two mechanisms guarantee our victory in the battle for purity and holiness. These are Truth and Flight – the Truth of God’s word and fleeing from sexual immorality of any sort kind.
We have to be proactive and intentional in growing, cultivating and exercising both – progressively amassing firepower while at the same time growing our alertness and preparedness to flee that which incites and inflames the passions of the flesh. These are the two “deadly” weapons we have in the battle against the twin giants of impurity and sexual immorality which are promoted and facilitated by easily accessible sexually explicit material and an increasingly and highly sexualised mainstream culture and permissive society.
Truth represents our firepower and flight our strategy.
In the next blog, we will take a closer look at the twin weapons of truth and flight in more detail to see why they represent our prime firepower and major strategy in this ongoing battle for purity.