True love waits.
When I was a student, I was encouraged to sign a card and make a pledge to pursue purity because of this statement: true love waits. Keeping myself pure for my future spouse was a noble goal. However, without even knowing it, I had lost sight of the ultimate goal. Was the ultimate goal being a virgin on my wedding night, or having a transformed heart and radically pursuing purity in every aspect of life? The first wouldn’t necessarily lead to the second, but the second would almost always lead to the first.
A careful critique of my pledge helped me immensely. What happened if my friend slept with his girlfriend? Did he have to throw away his card? What if another friend looked at porn? Did that invalidate the pledge? What if it was simply a lustful thought? By God’s grace, I have grown in my understanding of purity and what the ultimate goal is as a follower of Christ.
We don’t have students sign true love waits cards in GraceStudents, but we do encourage them to pursue purity…every day. If there has ever been a time to talk about purity, it’s right now. The culture and context in which our kids and students are growing up is not helping them pursue purity. In fact, it’s working against them.
I’ve had the privilege of studying 1 Peter this year with our student leadership group. In our last meeting we discussed the second half of chapter one where Peter addresses the concept of holiness. He speaks to Christians who are living as exiles in a world that doesn’t embody the values of the kingdom of God. In that context they are to pursue holiness; they are to be set apart. I believe holiness and purity are closely connected. Both relate to the concept of being set apart.
In verse 14 Peter states, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” In essence he is saying, don’t look the way you used to look before coming to Christ. Back then, you were ignorant about purity in Jesus Christ. Now you know Christ and because He is holy, you should be holy.
What does it look like for a follower of Jesus Christ to be holy as God is holy? It means that each day we look more like Jesus in what we say, do, think about, and long for. It means we let God transform us from the inside out, starting with our hearts. That’s why Proverbs 4:3 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
If holiness starts with heart transformation, then Peter wanted his readers to know that what transforms the heart is a continual reminder of the gospel. That’s why he encourages them in verses 18-19 to pursue holiness because they “were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from their forefathers…with the precious blood of Christ.” Jesus died to set them free, so why would they put the chains back on?
I have counseled a lot of students on issues of purity. I’ve talked to students who are addicted to porn, students who slept with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and students who simply struggle to flee from sexual immorality in any of its forms. Here are some principles I share with them:
Fleeing is necessary. Paul tells Christians in Corinth to run far away from sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18). John Piper’s advice concerning purity is to, “Avoid as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire.” Don’t flirt with sin; it’s not your friend so stay far away from it.
Fighting for purity takes courage. It means that sometimes we don’t do what others have the freedom to do because it’s too tempting for us. I’ve discipled guys who have made their own decision to get rid of their smartphone or who have given me the passcode to their app store because they were too weak to say “no” to sin. That takes courage.
Jesus is better. Purity is ultimately about saying “yes” to Jesus more than it is simply saying “no” to sin. Sin management is not the ultimate goal. Real victory will begin when our hearts see that Jesus is more satisfying than sin. Spending time listening to God in His Word, talking to Him in prayer, and thinking about Him throughout our day are just a few ways to cultivate a greater love for Jesus.
Forgiveness is available. There are times when we fail to flee from sin and don’t see Jesus as better than sin. In these moments, we need to be reminded of what the apostle John wrote to Christians: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Jesus doesn’t need us to have a better streak of purity to prove ourselves; He simply wants our repentance. Forgiveness can’t be earned, only received. Don’t miss what this verse said: Jesus is the One who purifies us.
This means that the best thing we can do when we give in to sin, is turn to Jesus and truly believe that His grace is greater than our sin. Turning to Jesus when our hearts are full of shame may be the last place we want to go, but it is the necessary path to purity. There, we are only greeted with love and forgiveness, not condemnation.
I don’t plan on doing another card signing campaign, but if I did, I’d tweak the pledge card. I’d have students pledge to believe that True Love Forgives. I’d want them to pledge to remember every day that Jesus loved them so much that He died to rescue them from their sins. I’d encourage them to make that their motivation for pursuing purity. I’d encourage them to let that be where they run when they fail. Our only hope to live a pure life is to know the One person who did so perfectly. His power and grace is what we desperately need as we aim to be holy as He is holy.