The Power of Purity
Excerpt from Becoming a Woman of Power: Walking in Step With the Holy Spirit
“Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to have a sincere love for other believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart. For through the living and eternal word of God you have been born again as the children of a parent who is immortal, not mortal.” 1 Peter 1:22-23
Ten-Week Bible Study by Cheryl Sasai Ellicott
I once read about a group of tourists who took a guided tour of a little village in a foreign country. As they wandered through the ancient village, one of the visitors asked an elderly native man, “Were any great men born in this village?”
“No,” replied the old man. “Only babies were born here.”
BORN AGAIN!“Jesus answered, "I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again." John 3:3
Years ago I had the privilege of helping a dear friend (my husband) grow in His faith after he was born again. Like the rest of us, he was born again as a spiritual baby. As a baby, I watched him go through some adorable and humorous stages. We still laugh about the season he was sincerely trying to be “dead in Christ.”
This really isn’t a bad place to start; I remember going through a similar phase. By the time many people decide to surrender to God—to finally stop trying to control their own lives—they’re in the middle of a deep crisis. God is near the brokenhearted, and many of us had to be broken before we looked up.
“And he [Jesus] said to them all, "If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
Laying down our life is a requirement; losing our life (daily) for Christ is how we are ultimately saved. This is a good thing; we should never let this go. But as we grow in our faith, we start to feel the stirrings of His new life inside of us. Instead of continuing to lay facedown at His feet, we begin to sense that He’s calling us to arise and walk.
ARISE and . . . ummm . . . WHAT NOW?While my husband was striving to be dead, and stay dead, God honored his desire to get out of the way—he wanted God to do His work and get all the glory. But it was a very happy day (for both of us) when he realized the Bible doesn’t say we’re to be “dead in Christ.” The Scriptures tell us to be “dead to sin” and “alive to Christ.” Through continual Bible study and prayer, he saw that he was “hidden in Christ,” and then “raised to new life.” He wasn’t supposed to just get crucified and disappear, leaving an empty shell walking around. No, he was to rise from death with a new (fully alive) Spirit and nature controlling Him (Christ’s nature).
Likewise, Jesus wants to reveal His nature and essential character through us. So we ask ourselves, “Who is He?”
He is God, therefore He is LOVE.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“His Son [Jesus] is the reflection of God's glory and the exact likeness of God's being. He holds everything together through his powerful words. After he had cleansed people from their sins, he received the highest position, the one next to the Father in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3 GW
[Jesus said] ...” Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9b
Many worldly people agree that “God is love.” However, as we mentioned in week two, Satan has perverted the understanding of the word “love” in this world. Because God is love, and He invented love, only His definition is valid. Therefore, we need to understand what God says love is. God’s love is described in 1st Corinthians chapter thirteen:
“Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal.”
ARISE and BE PURIFIED!pure: free from everything that is foreign to the true nature of the essential character of the thing specified; without pollution. (Websters)
Because God IS love, these are His characteristics. Romans 8:29 says that God’s will is to mold you into Christ’s image—to make you like Jesus. That’s His plan for your life.
God is love; Jesus is God—and I’m supposed to become like Him? Oy vey! This will take a miracle!
God’s characteristics can be learned about. We can study and memorize them. But His characteristics cannot genuinely become a part of us unless His Holy Spirit enters and controls us. Simply memorizing His character traits and trying to imitate them, with our flawed, selfish human nature, will produce only frustration, failure and hypocrisy in our lives. (It’s called “religion.”)
Being like Jesus, from the inside out, cannot be learned; it’s a miracle—evidence that we’re filled with His Spirit, basking in His glorious presence and yielding to His power.
“The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives.” Galatians 5:25
“You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself.” Galatians 3:27
“So then, my friends, because of God's great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God---what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
Allowing God to transform you inwardly means to let Him make you like Jesus, from the inside out—in other words “purify you.” Read the definition of “pure” (above) once again. To purify is to remove “impurities.” What are impurities inside of a person? Any characteristics that are different (foreign) from God’s nature and character. In essence, anything that doesn’t stem from God’s version of love is an impurity.
“He gave himself for us. He died to free us from all evil. He died to make us pure--people who belong only to him and who always want to do good.” Titus 2:14 ERV
With God’s help, can you identify any impurities within yourself?
Do you remember learning about “context”? Take another look at the verse above—the one that says Jesus died to make us pure—and see if reading it in context helps you to identify impurities within yourself:
“Instruct the older men to be sober, sensible, and self-controlled; to be sound in their faith, love, and endurance. In the same way instruct the older women to behave as women should who live a holy life. They must not be slanderers or slaves to wine. They must teach what is good, in order to train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, and to be good housewives who submit themselves to their husbands, so that no one will speak evil of the message that comes from God. In the same way urge the young men to be self-controlled. In all things you yourself must be an example of good behavior. Be sincere and serious in your teaching. Use sound words that cannot be criticized, so that your enemies may be put to shame by not having anything bad to say about us. Slaves are to submit themselves to their masters and please them in all things. They must not talk back to them or steal from them. Instead, they must show that they are always good and faithful, so as to bring credit to the teaching about God our Savior in all they do. For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all people. That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world, as we wait for the blessed Day we hope for, when the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ will appear. He gave himself for us, to rescue us from all wickedness and to make us a pure people who belong to him alone and are eager to do good.” Titus 2:2-14
WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE?
[Jesus said], “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matt. 5:8 ASV
If you’re anything like me, you trust that God knows best. So you want to be purified. You want to see God, and you realize this is going to take a mighty miracle. But do we have a part to play in this miracle? Yes, we must be agreeable, active participants in God’s purification process. We agree with him in our hearts, and we participate by taking the following steps (with His help):
HAVING FAITH IN JESUS
“God treated them in the same way that he treated us. They put their faith in him, and he made their hearts pure.” Acts 15:9 CEV
“I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love...” Eph. 3:16-17
DRAWING NEAR to GOD with HUMILITY
“Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners! Purify your hearts, you hypocrites! Be sorrowful, cry, and weep; change your laughter into crying, your joy into gloom! Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10
OFFERING MYSELF to GOD EVERY DAY
“Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God---what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
“...you have put off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself.” Col. 3:9b-10
“Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.” Eph. 4:23-24
STUDYING GOD’S WORD SO I WILL NOT SIN AGAINST HIM or BE DECEIVED
“I have hidden Your Word in my heart, so that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 MKJV
“The people in Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica. They were so glad to hear the message Paul told them. They studied the Scriptures every day to make sure that what they heard was really true.” Acts 17:11 ERV
OBEYING the TRUTH
“Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to have a sincere love for other believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
“Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-15
LOVING and FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER
“Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.” Eph. 4:2
“Most important of all, love each other deeply, because love makes you willing to forgive many sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 ERV
MY ACTIONS COME FROM my HEART
Jesus said, “A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
In James chapters 3 through 5 we learn that our tongues can do much evil. But is it really the tongue that’s the problem? No; a vicious tongue is the result of a vicious heart.
When a heart isn’t purified by faith it’s called a “natural” heart. Human nature is called the “sinful nature.” Therefore, the natural heart is sinful; it harbors bitter envy and selfish ambition.
The book of James contrasts what our lives will look like if we live by our natural hearts (selfish and proud) instead of asking God for wisdom, humbling ourselves and letting Christ purify our hearts. Our impure natural hearts will give birth to actions: boasting, bragging, fighting, grumbling. Gossip and bitter words will come from our selfish natural hearts to poison us and others. In the end we’ll be judged and condemned if we refuse to humble ourselves and purify our hearts.
Can you remember a time that you boasted, bragged, fought, grumbled, gossiped or spoke bitter words? Did you know they were the overflow of a boastful, aggressive, slanderous or bitter heart?
LIVING AND LOVING in CHRIST!
“But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.” James 3:17
“But to those of God's selection, Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24b BBE
James shows us that we need to have our hearts purified, and we need wisdom—the wisdom that is gained through humility. We are told that if we ask God for wisdom, He will give it. But, there’s more! Every time we study, trying to find out how to please God, all paths lead us back to the same exact answer:
JESUS is the ANSWER—AGAIN!
You want wisdom? 1 Corinthians tells us that CHRIST IS THE WISDOM OF GOD. In previous chapters we read that Christ is the key to all the mysteries and treasures of God.
Putting this wisdom—Christ—to work in our lives results in purified hearts, and purified actions. The end of James chapter five gives an illustration of what we should be doing instead of the old destructive things:
When we suffer, be patient.
If we’re in trouble, instead of grumbling we must pray.
If we’re happy we must not boast or brag but we must sing songs of praise.
If we’re sick we shouldn’t complain and whine but should call the elders to anoint us with oil and pray for us.
Instead of harboring pride and selfish ambition, we should confess our sins to one another, and pray for one another.
Instead of being deceitful, we should let our yes mean yes, and our no mean no.
If someone has wandered from the truth, instead of gossiping about them, we should bring them back, turn them from the error of their way and save them from death.
BORN to be PURE
God is love. Jesus is God; He’s trying to purify you, from the inside out. You’ll always have the “old self” to deny, crucify and put off. You might hear your old self raging at you because you won’t obey it; you might feel it pulling, scratching and kicking. But the Holy Spirit in you will give you the power to choose to be purified.
You’ll know that you’re allowing God to do His perfect work when you choose to speak true, loving and edifying words. You’ll know you’re in step with His Holy Spirit when you choose to allow true, loving and edifying actions to flow from your purified heart.
“But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is. Everyone who has this hope in Christ keeps himself pure, just as Christ is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3
CONCLUSION: Being purified is God’s plan, accomplished by His power. My job is to trust Him, agree with what He’s doing, and then obey as He holds me up, and urges me to take steps forward.
"The Power of Purity" is an excerpt from my latest book, Becoming a Woman of Power, which is currently in progress. When it's finished and available, I'll announce that here.