Jack Graham - A Pure Walk in a Polluted World
Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians, chapter 5. This is our MUCH MORE series. What is a "much more" life? It is enjoying the Christ life in your life. It is the abundant life in Christ. It is a life filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit. Life is a journey, and the Christian life is a walk, as we journey with Jesus. And this "much more" life means that God has provided for us in Christ all that we need to live a vital, and yes, victorious life. In the verses that are in front of us today I want to speak to you on this "much more" life as "A Pure Walk in a Polluted World". The "much more" life is a pure walk in a polluted world, an impure world.
These verses tell us, beginning at verse 1 that we're to be, "imitators of God, as beloved children", that is, we have life in Christ, "and walk in love, as Christ has loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. And therein is the Gospel", that's a good news alert, "that God loves us and He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins; and while the cross was a bloody and disastrous end to the physical life of Christ, it was a beautiful sacrifice to God that He accepted, and therefore, it is beautiful to us. And so we are to walk in life, because we are the children of God. We're to walk in love as Christ has loved us".
But then you turn a corner: "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints". And the saints are all the children of God. "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous". And that’s a word which also means lustful. It’s primarily used in this context as a covetousness for sin and sexual sin, greediness and all that goes with it, "(that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God". We live in a hedonistic, sex-charged culture, much like the culture at Ephesus which was a very pornographic culture, permissive in every way.
So what was going on in Ephesus so long ago, as Christians we're facing this battle; we find ourselves in the same battle. Ephesus was polluted; Ephesus was in many ways a very vile and wicked city. And yet Christians were to rise up and to live by a new standard, to walk in life, to walk in the love of Christ and in the light of Christ, as you'll see in just a moment. Second Corinthians 7:1 says: "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion", in your translation it may say perfecting or, "bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God".
This battle for purity is fierce and it never ends! There is no antibody, no immunity against temptation to sin. And unless you think you're by this kind of temptation in your life, the Bible says, "Let him who stands take heed, lest he fall". In other words, be careful that you don't fall. We're told by Jesus when we pray, to pray daily that God would "deliver us from the evil one". No one wins a battle without preparation. If you do not prepare for battle, then prepare to lose. Those who win, those who are victims, or victors rather than victims, prepare against the onslaught of the enemy. And that's what I want to talk to you about today in this message as we consider how to live a pure life. Is it even possible to live a pure life in such a polluted world? Because we do have a choice to live by God's standards or the world's standards.
When you choose God's will, when you choose God's way, you can expect God's blessing and God's favor. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God". But when you choose your own way or the way of the world, you invite misery and ultimately a life destined for disaster. We are God's children, and therefore, we are to live like our Father, like Father, like son. Verse one says, "Be imitators of God, as beloved children, as dear children". He is the model; He is the measure. Jesus said, "Be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect in heaven". So that becomes the standard, the goal. God commands purity and forbids impurity in every way. We live in light, not darkness. Therefore, we are no long indulging the thirst of sensual pleasure but we are hungering and thirsting as Jesus said, for righteousness, for truth, and for God’s will.
My friend Ray Prichard, pastor friend of mine, said it very well. He said, "We are no longer free agents making up our moral choices as we go along. Christians believe something stupendous that the world does not understand at all. We believe there is a God in heaven who has spoken, that His word is authoritative, and that He has the absolute right to determine our moral choices which includes what we say, what we eat and drink, who we have sex with, how we conduct our business affairs, how we spend our money, and all the other choices we make in life. Let us be frank and say that the world finds this strange, somewhat mysterious, possibly anti-social and borderline dangerous. When it comes to things like who we sleep with, we believe that God has spoken clearly, that fornication is always wrong, that homosexual behavior is always wrong, and that adultery is always wrong. In short, we believe something the world rejects: that there is a God in heaven who has spoken and whose words about sexuality should be, must be obeyed".
Therefore, let no impurity of any kind. And in a world that champions and celebrates impurity and immorality, we as believers get a clear warning here. It includes not only our lifestyles, but even our language. Verse 4 says: "Let there be no filthiness, no foolish talk", crude joking, out of place, "but instead let there be thanksgiving". So in other words, not only our minds, and our morals, but our mouths! Get it out of the gutter! We're not to regurgitate filth or sewage. Our speech should be characterized by gratitude. But not with disgraceful, immoral, shameful, depraving, degrading talk. The word here for foolish talk actually means moronic talk, stupid speech, obscenities of all kind, coarse jesting, turning everything into an innuendo, double entendre, sexual humor.
You say, "Well, it's not that big a deal". With God it is a big deal! Because Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks". And so in our mind, the way we think, it affects the way we talk, and certainly the way that we live. It’s clear to me when people come to faith in Jesus and begin living for the Lord Jesus Christ, He begins to clean out and clean up our lives. And that includes the way we speak. We’re to live pure lives in a polluted world. So how? I want us to take the word pure: P-U-R-E. And with it and with this word from God, let's see how we can be pure today.
Number one: PURSUE godliness. P - pursue godliness. Verse one: "Be imitators of God, as His own dear children". The word there is mimic. It is to mimic and measure your own live by your Father. Like Father, like child. And of all the things we can say of God, His primary attribute is His holiness. 1 Peter 1:15 through 16 says: "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy because I am holy.’" The way we maintain moral purity as believers and followers of Jesus is to pursue holiness, of which the Bible says, "without holiness no man will see God".
Now just a brief theological truth right here: We are holy in Christ. We have received His righteousness, positionally by what Christ has done for us, we have received His righteousness. And then the rest of our days until we get to heaven should be the pursuit of that holiness and righteousness, the fulfillment of who we are in Christ. We are called, according to Ephesians 4 and verse 1: to walk worthy of our calling in the Lord Jesus Christ. The goal of our lives, the holy ambitions of our heart should be to live more and more like Jesus; to look more and more like Him, our Heavenly Father. One day we will see Christ face to face; 1 John 3 tells us, that one day "we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is". And until then, on our way to heaven, we're to walk in righteousness, holiness, goodness and in truth!
Now, of course, this is impossible in our own strength! So God has given us the Spirit and His name is The Holy Spirit! God has given us His holiness, His Holy Spirit, and we can live with the strength that Christ gives us. Back in Ephesians, chapter 3 we learned of this power that we have in Christ. Verse 16 of chapter 3 of Ephesians: "that He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being". You have the power because you have the Spirit. Don't say you are a helpless victim of some temptation of any kind and certainly of the sexual kind! Don't say that you are helpless because you are not! The Helper, the Holy Spirit lives in you!
And that is why the Scripture goes on to say in verse 19: "And to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God". The fullness of the Father. The seed of God and His holiness is in us! And our lives are, therefore, to be lived in pursuit of Him; pursuing godliness is the call of every Christian. When we pursue God and His holiness it produces humility because I know and you know we have a long way to go, don’t we? It’s a lifetime journey, and it’s the pursuit of our hearts. Avoid temptation and feeding the flesh. Romans 13 and verse 14 say: "Rather cloth yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (that is, put on Christ) and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh".
We say starve the flesh and feed the spirit. And the more you pursue God, the stronger you will become. Every time you say YES to God, His will, His way, you strengthen yourself against temptation to sin. Every time you say YES and do the right thing to God, it enables you to build spiritual muscles. Faith is like a muscle that must be exercised. And every time you exercise your faith and believe God and trust God to live a pure life, it strengthens you morally. And the moral core of your being and the character of your life is strengthened each day. Purity begins with a priority of "seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things (then that we need to satisfy us) will be added unto us". This is how you live as a victor, not a victim concerning moral behavior.
Number two: UNDO defiling associations. "P" is prioritize and pursue the holiness, godliness in your life. Then undo defiling associations. We read the first five verses. Look in Ephesians chapter 5, verses 6 through 9: "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are the light of the Lord". What a beautiful description of salvation. You’re living in a dark room, and when Christ came into your life, the lights came on. You’re now: "in the light of the Lord. Therefore walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true)", And here it is, verse 10: "And try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord".
So we're saying undo, as the Scripture says, defiling association. The Bible says that we are to live separately from the world. In fact, the whole idea of holiness means separation. God is separate and holy; different from all sin. And therefore, the pursuit, the passion of our hearts is to pursue God and this holiness. And therefore, not to live in the world and like the worldlies; as he calls them here, "the sons of disobedience". To walk like the world, to live like the world. The Bible says, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers". Earlier in Ephesians "Don’t give place to the devil". Don’t give the devil operating room in your life. Undo every defiling association in your life. That includes the media you consume, the music you hear. There is so much sin and sensuality in the media that many Christians have accommodated and accepted as a part of their lives. We’ve gotten used to the darkness. What used to shock us, amaze us, now amuses us. Undo those things.
Number 3 is, REMEMBER the consequences of disobedience. So we read verses 6 and 7 when it speaks of the wrath of God that comes upon the sons of disobedience. We read there of the judgment. When we choose to obey God, we invite His favor, His blessing. But when we choose our own way, we invite judgment and discipline. God will judge sin. We're broken when we break the commandments. The commandments of God are for our benefit and for our blessing. They are God's rules for relationships and life. And when we break them, we're broken upon them! Just think about our culture and the pandemic, the moral pandemic in our culture and what permissiveness has produced.
Sexual addiction and sexual abuse, pornographic plague, serial adultery, systemic sin, homosexuality-transgenderism, physical and mental illness. You're not smarter than God. You play with fire and you get burned. Remember the consequences. Why? Think about this: a broken marriage: losing the respect of your children, your grandchildren; potentially losing your job; your career or your calling in life; destroying your witness; defaming the testimony of your church; losing your own influence! There’s so much to lose when you consider the cost and the consequences for disobeying God.
So "P" is pursue God and the holiness of God. Then undo defiling relationships in your life. And then remember the consequences. And finally exercise spiritual discipline. Now look at verses 9 and 10; look at it again; these are spiritual disciplines: "(for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord". That is our motive! That is everything to us as believers! That we would please God and not live to please ourselves! And in order to do that, we exercise these spiritual disciplines. Fortify your faith with God's Word. It's been said this book, the Bible, will either keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book! Jesus said, "Sanctify them with Thy truth". Psalm 119 and verse 11: "How shall a young man cleanse his way? By paying attention to God's Word".
Again, your faith is like a muscle. When you exercise it, when you feed your body and your soul, feed the spirit, starve the flesh. Even Jesus Himself when He came against the onslaught and the attacks of Satan in the wilderness, He answered by drawing the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and He ran him through and defeated the devil and temptation. Fortify your faith with the Word of God! How do expect to win over sin if you're weakened because you don't have the stamina and the strength of God's Word? Then purify your thought life. The battle is what we think! We’ve already been told in Ephesians chapter 5 that we are to renew our minds.
Romans 12: "Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". Next, identify an accountability partner. Be accountable. If you’re married, starting with your spouse; be accountable to one another in this area of your life. Be accountable to other believers. Don’t isolate yourself. If you need help, seek the help you need. And then finally, magnify the Lord. Exalt Christ in your life. Put Him first in your life. If you love Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, the first and the second commandments as Jesus gave them, and you love God and you love people, then you will pursue the righteousness and the holiness and the purity even in a sinful, sensual world, because we walk now in the light.
You know, this passage of Scripture concludes with an invitation. Those final words of chapter 5 say: "Awake, O sleeper". This comes most likely we’re told, from a song that early Christians sang when inviting people to Christ, much like we have an invitation at our church. "Awake, and arise from the dead, and let the light of Christ shine on you". When the light of Jesus fills your heart and your soul, it changes everything. No more darkness; no more night.