The American Church has gotten the issue of sexual purity backwards. The idea is presented to youth groups across the country that it is utterly crucial for them to “remain pure.” When they are virgins, they have their sexual purity. If they have premarital sex, however, they will lose their sexual purity.
True Sexual Purity Is Given By Jesus Christ Alone
While there are certainly worse things you could tell a teenager, this logic simply does not translate to our spiritual reality explained in the Bible. We most certainly should teach abstinence, but the motivation behind abstinence is often neglected.
The Bible explains that if you truly are pure, then your actions will be pure. The fact that people “lose their sexual purity” shows that they were never truly and spiritually pure to begin with. Our actions are a reflection of who we are and what we believe about our self. A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit (Matthew 7:17). Likewise, a pure tree produces pure fruit and an impure tree produces impure fruit.
Since we were all born impure (Psalm 51:5), sexual purity is not something to be lost. Purity is something that can only be given to us through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT). You can’t lose your purity because you were never truly sexually pure to begin with. If you were pure you would never have done those impure things. The fruit reflects the tree.
If You Think You Are Pure Because You’re Young, You Will Feel Shame the Older You Get
This is one of the biggest lies the American church has fed our young people, specifically our young ladies. Telling them they have a purity they can lose is not only unhelpful in keeping young people from sexual sin, it also only magnifies their shame when they do sin sexually.
We should definitely teach our young people to abstain from sexual sin, but we should explain that they should do so because they are seeking to honor Christ as they live from the purity he has given them, not so they can earn their own purity through their works (or lack of external sexual sin).
We should warn young Christians (and all Christians) of the consequences of sexual sin, but we should also warn them of the consequences of thinking they are pure without Christ. There are countless benefits that we will reap if we avoid external sexual sins. We must preach abstinence for the unmarried as this is biblical and right. But there are also countless consequences we will reap if we think we can earn our purity through abstinence rather than receive it through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
When the Church only teaches Christians to keep something they never had to begin with, they are doomed to fail. Purity is given by Christ. You can’t walk in something you never really had.
The idea that you are born pure and then you can lose your purity is also dangerous because those who do not struggle with sexual sin as much as others believe they really do have a purity of their own. Ironically, people who think they are pure because they haven’t engaged in sexual impurity are probably the least pure of them all because they are most likely relying on their own works rather than on God’s grace. In Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees he explained this point further:
First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:26-28)
We must apply this truth to our sexuality. We must seek the purity only Christ can give on the inside, that our external actions will also be clean.
The side effects of the false notion that you are born with a purity you must seek to keep are truly frightening. Not only will those clinging to a purity they don’t rely posses be prone to spiritual pride, they will also be prone to struggling with shame and guilt.
Even if you believe that you are pure because you don’t engage in sexual sin, internally you will know you are not what you are pretending to be. I have witnessed firsthand how prevalent this is among young women who have grown up in the church. They get exalted because of their abstinence, but internally they feel ashamed and guilty because they know they are not as pure as people think they are.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ Transfers His Purity to Us
One of my favorite Bible verses about our new life in Christ is Romans 6:4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
The Greek words used in Romans 6:4 that are translated “new life” are “kainotes” for “new” and “zoe” for “life.” Kainotes means “newness of spirit.” This is not the type of “new” like when I get a new pair of shoes, which in a year from now will no longer be new. This word denotes that the whole substance is now different. What you were is no longer even the same material as what you are now. Kainotes is that which replaces the obsolete with something that is better, superior, or more advanced.
For example, compared to the typewriter the computer is a new way to print words. Email is a new form of sending information compared to mailing a letter through the post office. Kainotes means different in substance, not chronological order. The computer has been around for awhile now, so it’s not new in that sense, but compared to the typewriter, it’s different, better, and new.
For the word “life” Paul used the Greek word “zoe” rather than the word “bios.” Bios refers to the type of life that is observable on the outside which you can record. It’s where we get our English word for “biography.” Zoe however refers to a metaphysical life, a life force that animates a living being.
Therefore “new life” in Romans 6:4, “kainotes zoe,” does not mean a fresh start, a new chapter in your biography, or a second chance. It means you have a new name written in an entirely different book. You are not a better version of the former you. You are now a totally new and different person. You have a new heart and a new spirit. You’re of a different substance now, unrelated to your sinful nature. Martin Loyd Jones, teaching on Romans 6, helps us apply this theological knowledge in a practical way:
Paul never says that sin is dead; what he does say is that we are dead to sin. Sin is still alive in our mortal body; and if we do not realize that and deal with it, it will soon reign in our mortal body. Sin is not eradicated out of us, and it never will be as long as we are in this mortal body. Sin is in our mortal body and it is always striving for mastery and for control in the Christian. It can never dominate over the life of Christ in him, but it is always striving to dominate his body. It may indeed dominate his body for a time, and when it does so, it is what we call “backsliding.” Sin is there . . . you always have to remember that, and not allow it to do so.”
So what does this mean in relation to sexual temptation? It means your porn problem is not a computer problem. Could you imagine buying a computer, and then trying to return it the next day, “So, what’s wrong with this computer that you want to return?” the salesman asks. “Well,” you respond, “this one seems to be malfunctioning. It keeps causing me to lust over things I shouldn’t?” If computers were the problem I would be a millionaire because I would hire some guys to make one that didn’t tempt people and sell it to all the Christians who are tired of struggling with porn. It’s not as if the engineers and programmers are sitting around the office saying things like, “Hey, did you put the porn tempting program on that new model?”
If we hope to overcome sexual temptation, we must not only believe that our old self is dead to us, but we must also believe that we are new in Christ. We reject the old desires while simultaneously embracing the new desires. When lust is lurking, you have to remember who you really are. You desire purity, you desire to please God, and you desire to live free. You now desire what is good because Christ has raised you from the dead and made you good.
David was a man after God’s own heart because God created in him a pure, clean heart (Psalm 51:10). The resurrection of Jesus Christ does the same for us.