How can a young person live a pure life?
By obeying your word.
I try with all my heart to serve you.
Help me obey your commands.
I study your teachings very carefully
so that I will not sin against you.
Lord, you are worthy of praise!
Teach me your laws.
I will repeat the laws we have heard from you.
I enjoy following your rules
as much as others enjoy great riches.
I will study your instructions.
I will give thought to your way of life.
I enjoy your laws.
I will not forget your word. (Easy-To-Read Version)
There was an actual Saint Valentine (c.226-269 C.E.) who lived and served as a Bishop in Rome. The Roman Emperor of the time, Claudius II, was vehemently opposed to Christianity. Claudius forbad Christian marriages from taking place – which was something Bishop Valentine was unwilling to do, and was supposedly jailed for his refusal to stop performing Christian weddings. Hence, one of the reasons for Valentine being the patron saint of lovers.
That’s certainly one way of helping to keep young Christians pure. I, in fact, have more than once advocated on behalf of a young couple in love. Their parents, who wanted a large wedding and plenty of time to prepare for it, simply didn’t realize what they were asking of their kids and how much that put them in an awkward position.
To be pure means to be holy or set apart for a special or specific purpose. Christians are to be completely devoted to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In order to do that, they will need to pay particular attention to God’s commands and Christ’s teachings.
The whole person must be involved in obeying the teachings given to us. It begins with our will. Notice that the psalmist sets his resolve toward this great task by stating:
- I will repeat (out loud) the divine laws I hear
- I will study God’s instructions
- I will give thought to my way of life with Yahweh
- I will not forget the Lord’s words
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands. (Psalm 119:59-60, NIV)
We need strong affirmations toward engaging our will toward reading aloud, studying, and remembering biblical commands, so that we will succeed in our quest for purity and holiness.
Our affections also need to be involved. We are emotional creatures, having been formed by a Creator with deep feelings. Therefore, our own emotions are meant to be acknowledged and engaged. The psalmist enjoys God’s Law and is emotionally draw to it’s beauty and light.
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies. (Psalm 119:97-98, NIV)
We need strong feelings toward desiring God’s Word, so that there will be effective action toward a life of purity. Overall, we do what we want. Continually doing something we don’t really want to do ends up being either legalistic or loathsome.
Our bodies are the vehicles to doing and accomplishing God’s will on this earth. Thus, our physical selves must be animated toward the good, the right, and the just. The psalmist worshiped and praised God.
I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7, NIV)
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place. (Psalm 28:2, NIV)
Our bodies need to move in physical rhythms of praise and worship to God, so that there will be purity of life. Holiness needs hands and feet to walk into the way of the Lord and obey God’s commands.
Philosophies of Purity
There are some unsound approaches to becoming pure and remaining holy:
- It’s up to me. God is too far away, maybe even absent altogether. This is a philosophy which ignores the gut. Yet, if we seek to connect with our innards, we’ll discover quickly that purity is not all on me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. (John 15:5, CEB)
- Follow your heart. Doing this has significance; however, if that’s the exclusive approach to purity, the mind gets left behind and the heart ends up vulnerable to deceit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)
- Knowledge is power. Yes, of course it is; but by itself, knowledge puffs up. We need the affections, particularly love, or else we become brains-on-a-stick, denigrating the body as superfluous to spirituality. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1b, NRSV)
- Control everything. There are certainly forces in operation in this world; yet we are never called to try and manipulate them. We may will ourselves to do many things, yet God has control of all things. Humanity is called to self-control, which takes up all our energy because it’s no easy feat. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12, NIV)
A sound philosophy of being holy and pure recognizes that we need divine help in strengthening our faith; the assistance of others who can walk alongside us and provide encouragement; and the engagement of our entire person, utilizing all our faculties in order to live a life of purity. Obedience to God’s Word is vital to a holy life; and to obey requires our entire selves.
There is to be a marriage between God’s commands and human obedience. The world may forbade this, but much like St. Valentine, we’ll let love have its way – and not the ruler of this present evil age.