Draw Near to the Lord in Your Fight for Purity
Feast on God’s Word
Jesus insists, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, quoting Deut. 8:3). As bodies cannot survive apart from food, so our souls will starve if we neglect God’s word. Scripture invites us to a banquet through which we taste and see that he is good (Ps. 34:8; 1 Pet. 2:2–3).
“How can a young man keep his way pure?” the psalmist asked. “By guarding it according to your word” (Ps. 119:9). God’s word keeps us on the path of purity because it changes what we love. We will love the wrong things if our minds aren’t filled with God’s truth. Your sin and your Bible cannot mix for long: either the Scriptures will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Scriptures.1
Listening to God produces love for God. This is why we must regularly step away, turn off our devices, and seek his voice. Come to your Bible as a beggar looking for bread. Note passages that move you. Mark them in your Bible. Meditate on them. Memorize them. Store up spiritual truths in your heart so that when you’re in the heat of battle and not thinking clearly, you have an armory of verses you can grab like a fire extinguisher to put out temptation’s flames.2
Pure in Heart
J. Garrett Kell
In Pure in Heart, pastor J. Garrett Kell shares his own struggles with sexual sin and invites readers to join him in making a lifelong commitment to pursue sexual purity through the power of the gospel.
Along with personal study, God’s people regularly gather to hear Scripture proclaimed.3 Don’t settle for weak preaching consisting of a few verses, some cute stories, and a couple laughs. That sort of preaching will not help you fight sin. Join a church that preaches the glory of Jesus—and feast on it every week. Build word-saturated relationships in that fellowship.
Feasting on Scripture brings you face-to-face with the author and provides power for the fight. Open your Bible and watch his holiness humble you, his wisdom comfort you, his beauty captivate you, and his love astound you.
Why do we begin with God’s word? Because it teaches us how to pursue all the other means of grace.
Delight in God
“Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation,” Jesus warned his disciples (Matt. 26:41). It is very difficult to look at porn if you are on your face in prayer. When temptation calls, your first response should be to cry to God for help. And pray expectantly, like the psalmist:
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. (Ps. 130:6)
But we shouldn’t pray only during attack, of course. Prayer is like breathing for the Christian; if we neglect it, our soul will shrivel. So just as you breathe continually, pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17).
Pray God’s Word.
God promises that if we pray according to his will, he will answer (1 John 5:14). So echo Moses’s prayer to see God’s glory, asking him to fulfill his eternal purpose of making you like Jesus (Ex. 33:18; Rom. 8:29). Pray for a heart that hates sin and hungers for holiness.4 God loves to answer prayer according to his promises, so fill your prayers with his word.
Prayerfulness yields nearness to God and likeness to him.
Pray for Protection.
The psalmist pleaded, “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; / let them not have dominion over me!” (Ps. 19:13). Likewise, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). We pray for protection from the tempter with rock-solid assurance: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Pray with Perseverance.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” This isn’t a call to pray once and quit, but to continually cry out to God.5 You cannot microwave holiness. It must be fought for. By persevering in prayer, your gaze will be fixed on Christ, which God will use to transform you (2 Cor. 3:18).6 So, do you pray? Do you daily retreat from everything to speak with God (Matt. 6:6)? Do you have a spirit of prayer throughout the day in which you converse with him in all you do? Prayerfulness yields nearness to God and likeness to him that we must have to inherit salvation (John 15:1–6; Heb. 12:14).
Do you fast? Prayerful fasting is one of the most potent weapons in fighting sexual sin. Sin is all about self-indulgence; fasting is a way to punch indulgence in the throat. When we fast, we say no to something in order to say yes to focused time with God. By telling our body no to something it’s craving (food, entertainment, etc.), we’re reawakened to the fact that we’re dependent creatures. And this gives us opportunity to cry out, As my body hungers for food, make my soul hunger for you.7
Like all disciplines, mere fasting will not fill you with the joy of Jesus. In fact, God often uses fasting to expose our grumpiness about our discomfort. But when we fast in faith, God starves our sin and focuses our sight on him. Jesus assumes his disciples will fast as they await their bridegroom’s return (Matt. 6:16–18; 9:14–15), so ask another brother or sister to join with you and seek God together.8
We Will See His Face
When Christ returns, we will regain all that was lost in Eden. Sin will be banished, affliction healed, shame silenced, and tears forever wiped away. Yet the greatest wonder of heaven is that we will no longer know God by faith. In that land, we shall “be like him” and “see his face” (Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4). When the hope of seeing God fills our hearts, it has a purifying effect on our lives.9
On the last day, we will stand in God’s light, and all our deeds will be exposed.10 When you are tempted today, remember the last day. Struggling saint, as your flesh pulls you downward, set your mind on Christ above (Col. 3:1–4). When sin promises escape, envision the day of judgment. When temptation beckons, consider that God is watching your response. Make decisions today that you will be grateful for ten thousand years from now. With each passing moment, we draw nearer to that day when we’ll be saved to sin no more.11 Until then, read often of heaven and ask God to make you homesick for that everlasting city where the pure in heart will see him at last.12 God is gracious to supply strength without our asking, but we ought never to presume upon his grace. The Scriptures call us to cultivate our affections through faith-filled discipline. And the Spirit uses these means of grace to awaken our affections, so that our hearts cry out with David,
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. (Ps. 27:4)
- This quote has been attributed in various forms to J. C. Ryle and D. L. Moody.
- Passages I go back to regularly in times of battle are Ps. 16:11; Matt. 5:6, 8; Rom. 6:1–13; 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 2:18; 4:14–16; 12:14; Rev. 20:11–15; 21–22.
- See Heb. 10:24–25; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Cor. 14:23–25.
- Consider these passages to fuel your prayers: Pss. 34:14; 51:10; 97:10; Prov. 8:13; Amos 5:15; Rom.12:9; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:10–11.
- The verbs ask, seek, and knock in Matthew 7:7 are in the present active imperative form. Present means it’s to be an ongoing act. Active means it’s something we do. And imperative means it’s a command. A faithful translation could read, “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.”
- See chapter 2 of Pure in Heart for a fuller explanation.
- Apart from the Bible, the most impactful resource I have found on prayer is the short book A Call to Prayer by J. C. Ryle. I highly commend it.
- One form of fasting is observing the Sabbath. Though Jesus has fulfilled the law’s requirements of the Sabbath, it is wise to regularly retreat and rest in God.
- To further study this fascinating theme, see Matt. 5:8; 24:42–46; Rom. 13:11–14; 1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:1–5; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23; 1 Pet. 1:13; 2 Peter 3:14; 1 John 2:28–3:3.
- 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10; Rev. 20:11–15.
- “There Is a Fountain,” William Cowper and Lowell Mason, 1772, hymnary.org/text/ there_is_a_fountain_filled_with_blood_dr/.
- See Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21–22.
This article is adapted from Pure in Heart: Sexual Sin and the Promises of God by J. Garrett Kell.
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