Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Hayley and Michael DiMarco’s new book, True Purity: More than Just Saying “No” to You-Know-What (Baker Books, 2013).
It’s crucial to pursue purity in order to grow closer to God, because purity leads to holiness. So Christians often talk about purity – but usually, only in the sense of avoiding sexual immorality. Believers try hard to achieve purity in that limited area, and despite their best efforts, many still end up failing.
There’s a better way to pursue purity. From God’s perspective, purity involves much more than what you do in one area of your life; it has to do with what you choose in every part of your life. Achieving true purity is possible, but not through your own efforts. Instead, you need to rely on Jesus every day to empower you to live in purity. Then your quest for purity won’t be frustrated by your failures; it’ll be a sign of Jesus’ successful work within you.
Here’s how you can develop true purity in your life:
Recognize what true purity is, and why it’s important. Purity means choosing to love God more than you love anything or anyone else, and expressing that love by wholeheartedly devoting your life to God. It’s important to pursue purity because the more pure you become, the more you’ll grow into the person God intends you to become.
Pursue purity in love. Relationships with other people – from romantic partnerships to family ties – can bring lots of pleasure into your life. But it’s important to ask yourself about each potential relationship: “What is the purpose of this relationship – my pleasure, theirs, or God’s?” Keep in mind that you’ll ultimately harm yourself if you look for pleasure in relationships that don’t please God, who is worthy of your honor and who wants the best for you. Decide every day to give all of your devotion (not just part of it) to God, placing your relationship with Him at the center of your life and revolving all of your other relationships around it. Doing so will help you avoid double-minded relationships (focused partly on serving God but partly on serving yourself or another person), which are impure and unstable. Recognize that God’s goal for your relationships is much more than that they make you happy; God wants your relationships to help you become more holy. With that in mind, regularly evaluate your relationships to honestly consider whether or not they’re drawing you closer to God or farther away from Him. Ask God to give you the courage and wisdom to set boundaries in your relationships to protect yourself from people who are tempting you to sin. Never pursue a romance with an unbeliever, no matter how attracted you may be to him or her. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you relate to your family members with love, Galatians 5:22-23.
Pursue purity in community. Carefully choose how you relate to friends, showing love to everyone, yet not allowing people who are less spiritually mature than you are to influence you. Accept advice only from friends whose relationships with Jesus you trust and respect. Limit how close you get to spiritually weaker people so they won’t corrupt your own walk with God; feel free to spend time with them and encourage them, but not to become best friends. Reserve your closest friendships for people who are spiritually strong – those you can confidently go to for advice, comfort, encouragement, and hope. Don’t hesitate to end any unhealthy friendships in your life, such as those in which a friend tries to control you or treats you unkindly. Ask God to help you become the best friend you can be to others. Learn good listening skills and aim to listen more than you talk. Learn whatever you can from arguments that may help you grow spiritually. When dealing with your enemies, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you so you can respond in the power of God’s love rather than react to what they’ve done to you. Choose to forgive them, pray for them, and maintain healthy boundaries to protect yourself from those who haven’t shown any remorse or changed behavior toward you. Relate to strangers with kindness and grace, keeping in mind that every person is someone whom God loves and has made in His image.
Pursue purity in self. The key to pursuing purity in relationship to yourself is to make sure that every day you choose God’s will over your own. Make a habit of saying “yes” to God and “no” to any choices that would interfere with you fulfilling God’s purposes for your life. Ask God to give you humility and help you discern between wants and needs in your life. Don’t focus so much on what you want that your desires obscure what God wants for you. Focus on trusting God to meet your needs and view your wants simply as extra blessings when God chooses to fulfill your desires. Treat your body (which is a temple of the Holy Spirit) with respect and use it to honor God, by pursuing sexual purity and avoiding deliberately harming yourself physically in other ways, such as by abusing alcohol, cutting yourself, or bingeing and purging.
Pursue purity in mind. Every day, pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind, so you’ll be able to think about each situation you encounter from the right perspective, and you’ll be free of fears, worries, and cravings that would otherwise control your mind and harm your soul. Make a habit of replacing unhealthy or deceptive thoughts that enter your mind with thoughts that reflect biblical truth. Read, study, and meditate on the Bible’s words often so you’ll have a lot of biblical truth stored in your mind and ready to access whenever you need to replace unhealthy thoughts with healthy ones. Focus your mind on God often; whenever you do, you’ll experience real peace.
Pursue purity in faith. Rather than relying on your own efforts to be good in order to achieve a pure life (which will inevitably fail), base your purity on your faith in God and love for Him. The more you trust God to work in your life, the more pure you can become. Aim to develop a faith that: obeys God as a way of expressing love for Him, doesn’t run away from God during tough circumstances, confesses and repents of sin, surrenders to God’s will, hopes only in God rather than in anything the world offers (such as money, friends, fame, or success), and spends significant time daily in prayer, listening for what God has to say.