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Friday, June 7, 2013

Purify me

Yesterday we discussed passion and purpose.  We have one more character trait to consider in our "P" List which is purity.  Now, this sometimes gets overlooked in our consideration of character traits to "put on" because we don't live in a very "pure" world, do we?  It is hard to make pure choices when all around you others are bombarding you with all kinds of wrong ones.  Purity is the freedom from anything which debases (reduces in quality or value), contaminates (adding/mixing in that which makes unclean), or pollutes (corrupts or defiles).  In the most literal sense, impurity is the "adding in" of something which does not belong.  That which does not belong actually changes the consistency or integrity of what does.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.  (Matthew 5:8 MSG)

But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.  (I John 3:2-3 MSG)

Purity of heart - mind, will, and emotions untainted by that which "adds in" the things with confuse, bring conflict in our motives, or sets us up to rely upon the unreliable.  It is with pure hearts we are able to see God - for God is pure.  Children like to emulate adults, don't they?  They mimic behaviors they see in the adults they are frequently around.  The same is true of a child of God - we mimic the behaviors of the one we behold the most frequently.  If we are beholding Christ, we mimic his behaviors.  If we are beholding others who are not like Christ, we might just begin to mimic theirs.  

In essence, purity is the absence of something.  I think this is where we sometimes get it wrong, because we somehow think purity is the "adding" of something rather than allowing something to be removed.  Throughout scripture, there are portions which refer to things like the refiner's fire.  The fire of the refiner burns hot, allowing the metals to melt, bringing to the surface the things which are "contaminants" in the metals - those things which will weaken the integrity and strength of the metal.  We also see the idea of the threshing wheel - the place where the grain is turned over and over again until the grain is separated from the unusable part known as the chaff.  The chaff is blown away, the wheat remains.  There is also the idea of the winemaker observing his wine.  As the grapes are crushed, the juices are extracted, leaving behind that which will only add bitterness and impurity to the finished product.  All these speak to the idea of being free from something which contaminates, weakens, or renders less than useful. 

Purity is the absence of the "contaminating" influences which impact our choices in life.  Whenever we are faced with choices, we find ourselves "weighing" the choices.  Why?  One appears better than the other - it has some "merit" which makes us want to make one choice over the other.  When we are making choices from a pure heart, they will be wise ones.  When we have impurities in our heart (mind, will or emotions), we might just find ourselves making choices which don't produce the purest product in the end.

Purity is actually the result of several things:

- Cleansing:  We often think of cleansing as that which is accomplished through some process of scrubbing, sanitizing, or sweeping away.  God might just think of cleansing as any process which actually empties us.  Empty vessels are readied to receive something afresh.  Cleansing actually "freshens" us - readying us for the new thing God wants to do within.

- Sifting:  Mom had a sifter back in the day.  We don't so much use them today.  In fact, they are hard to find.  The purpose of the sifter was to separate.  The coarse parts were separated from the finer parts.  This is exactly how God uses this process in our lives - he separates the coarser (unwholesome) parts from the finer parts.  

- Burning:  Not too many of us want to jump at this one, because the furnace is a "hot" place.  If a farmer has a stump right in the middle of his field, he may work at removing that stump for a long time.  Digging it out may not seem practical.  Leaving it there allows for it regrow and is a hindrance to the plow.  He will often resort to burning it out.  He exposes it as much as possible and then burns it.  As the burning process occurs, the stump is "consumed".  In the consumption of the stump, it reduces in size and strength.  The fire of God's Word is kind of like this in our lives - it consumes us, reducing anything which will present a hindrance to our spiritual, emotional, or relational health.

So, as we wrap up our "P" List today, let's keep in mind passion and purpose in light of our latest trait, purity.  Purpose is the reason we exist, passion is what gives us the "umph" to fulfill our purpose, and purity is the basis by which we see God's purpose fully come alive in each and every aspect of our lives.  So, instead of resisting the cleansing, sifting, and burning in our lives, maybe we'd do well to embrace it as the means by which we come into what God fully purposes for us.  Just sayin!