“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.” ~ Psalm 119:9
How high a price is put on purity in the 21st. Century, and what does “purity” actually mean?
According to Wikipedia here are some definitions.
1) Purity is the absence of impurity or contaminants in a substance. The term also applies to the absence of vice in human character.
Purity may also refer to:
2) Purity (gas), an indication of the amount of other gases in a particular gas.
3) Purity (film), a 1916 motion picture.
4) Purity (quantum mechanics), a measure of correlation between a system and its environment.
5) Purity, a song by Slipknot on their debut self-titled album.
6) Purity in Buddhism, a spiritual purity of character or essence.
7) Purity Dairies, a dairy company in Nashville, Tennessee, United States.
8) Purity Factories, a food processing company in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
9) Purity Distilling Company, an alcohol manufacturer involved in the Boston Molasses Disaster in the United States.
10) Black oil (also known as Purity), a fictional alien virus in the TV series The X-Files.
11) Purity, a former supermarket brand owned by Woolworths Limited.
12) Purity, the colorfulness of a light source.
I think the above exercise in referring to a collaborative encyclopedia which isn’t always checked as accurately as it perhaps could be, reveals a lot about the way the meanings of words can be used differently and mean different things to various people in diverse cultures. As a UK citizen, I sometimes delude myself into believing that the version of English we speak some 60 miles from Buckingham Palace must be the “Queen’s English.” However, perhaps 90% or more of the people who read my articles are from other countries and English may be their second, third or fourth language.
In the King James Version of the Bible the word “cleanse” is used in the place of the word “pure.” We know that in terms of our physical bodies, we pick up dirt and pollution which needs to be constantly and regularly cleansed by a wash, shower or a bath. The same principle applies to our thought life and our spiritual life; we need to constantly be cleansed or made clean from that which makes us unclean, smelly or dirty, which is all too easy with the images we see, things we hear and the people we may be involved with at work and in our daily living.
The reason I am writing this article is because, personally, I find it very hard to remain pure or clean in my thought life and in my spiritual life. Whereas, with our physical bodies it is easy to stay clean and pure, provided we have access to soap and water, I don’t believe it is so easy with our thought life and in our spiritual life.
In the question posed in Psalm 119:9 quoted above, the Psalmist refers to young men. However, as someone who can no longer be described as a young man, I can assure you that the problem doesn’t seem to diminish or go away. In view of the fact that we are bombarded by video and audio input into our lives day by day, we remain in need of constant cleansing of our hearts and minds. The answer given as to how a young man can remain pure or in a state of cleanness is given in the second half of our verse, where it says “by living according to God’s Word.” I can only conclude that the same answer applies to someone older like myself.
Notice that the answer is not just that we “read” God’s Word but live according to its principles and standards. Now, that’s not so easy. In counselling people I regularly quote 1 John 1:9 where it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” In the days in which we live the temptations to sin are probably greater than ever, because they have become the new “normal” way to live for so many. Although we know regular cleansing is available through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we still have to live with the memories, consequences and fallout from our shortcomings and failures. The grace of God towards us is unlimited, but we still need to learn to continually immerse ourselves in the Word of God, allow it to renew our minds and enable us to become ever more like our Savior who knew no sin and never gave in to temptation. The more we prayerfully read the Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit apply it to where we are right now, the nearer we will draw near to God and become conformed to our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
I want to finish these thoughts with a challenge or exhortation which Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” As he lived so close to Christ, Paul could then add, (verse 9), “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”