31 Days of Purity: The Joy of the Lord

Day 11

22

This day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:9).

Holiness and happiness are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. Holiness produces true happiness, and true happiness strengthens holiness. The proof?

In Nehemiah 8, God’s people had rightly mourned over their sins. But there came a point when their weeping went on too long and too deep, and God said through Nehemiah, “This is a holy day. Therefore let it be a happy day.” The logic is inescapable. Happiness is not only compatible with holiness, it is an essential part of it. Without happiness, holiness is incomplete. Indeed, it is no longer holiness.

But what kind of happiness are we talking about? Nehemiah defines it as “the joy of the Lord.” It is a joy that comes from God and is centered in God. God gives it and God is it.

And as if we needed another reason to pursue, accept, and enjoy the happiness of holiness, Nehemiah adds the motive: “For the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Holy joy, Christ-centered joy, strengthens us. It produces defensive and offensive strength. It powerfully protects us from evil and it empowers us to fight for good. Holiness, happiness, and hardiness. A blessed trinity from the Blessed Trinity!

Ever blessed God, You are so holy and so happy. Help me to believe that my greatest happiness is found in holiness, and that happiness, true Christ-centered happiness, is my greatest help to holiness. Increase my joy in Jesus that I may increase my strength to resist sin and fight for purity. Amen.

31 Days of Purity: Freedom in Christ

Day 10

 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Sin enslaves. It promises joy and life but delivers only deeper and deeper levels of captivity. Freedom from sin and its ugly consequences seems like nothing more than a mirage or an empty promise when, time and time again, you present yourself to sin as its obedient slave. You hear yourself saying things like, “I just can’t help it” or “I tried but couldn’t do it.” The enemy will do everything in his power to convince you that you are enslaved to sin. He will do all he can to make you believe you are powerless to conquer it.

There once was a slave who was treated very badly by his master. From morning until night he would be yelled at, commanded to do this and that chore, chided for the smallest omission, harried at every point. The shouting and abuse disturbed the whole neighbourhood.

One day, the next-door neighbour of the slave-owner knocked on the front door and said, “I want to buy your slave. How much?” A price was agreed and the slave packed his meagre possessions and moved next door.

At sunrise the next morning, shouting and yelling was heard coming from the bedroom of the former slave owner. “Where’s my breakfast? Where is that lazy slave?” The slave heard the commotion and began running back next door, feeling guilty and scared. But before he could leave, his new master said, “Hey, you’re mine now. You don’t have to obey his commands anymore. He’ll yell and scream for a while, but you’ll get used to ignoring him. Go back to bed.”

If you are in Christ you have been set free from sin’s enslavement. You no longer have to live in your own strength—you can now live in the strength of another. The power of sin has been broken in your life. The Son has set you free from your slavery. And now he invites and commands you to live in the joy of that freedom. Be free!

Father, thank you for setting me free in Christ. I confess that far too many times I have presented myself as an obedient slave to sin. I have failed to take hold of the freedom Christ has won for me; I have crawled back into my prison cell and back into my chains. Yet I know and believe that sin is no longer my master. Convince my heart that I belong to you and that sin no longer owns me. Help me to live in the freedom that Christ has purchased for me.

31 Days of Purity: Spiritual Friendship

Day 9

4
Christian Friendship: a gift and a responsibility

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Friendship is a great gift from God. Spiritual friendship, a friendship shared in Christ, is an even greater gift. Proverbs assures us that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17). A brother is born for the times when we are going toe-to-toe with our sin, battling hard against it, committed to putting it to death. In such times we need friends to pray for us, to support us, to speak truth to us, to speak the gospel to us.

Sin thrives in darkness. When we find ourselves tempted by sin, or up to our neck in sin, our tendency is to run and hide from others, especially from friends. Our guilt makes us run from accountability and friendship. Don’t do that. See the godly friendships that God has given you as the gifts that they are. As you battle against sin and as you battle for sexual purity, invite a friend into your struggles. Invite him to pray with you and for you, invite him to ask you deep and difficult questions, invite him to travel with you on this journey. And when these 31 Days of Purity are completed, that friendship will only be getting underway.

Father, I pray that I will pursue and value biblical accountability and genuine friendship. This life is too difficult to do on my own. So I pray that you would grant me that friend, that he and I would be knit together, unashamed, each looking out for the other’s good. And I pray that I will be the kind of friend who loves at all times and the kind of friend who is there for my brother in times of adversity. Amen.

31 Days of Purity: Satisfied in Christ

Day 8

25

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13, ESV)

There is a vast difference between drinking from a fountain of living water and drinking the stale murky waters of a broken cistern. No thirsty man in his right mind would turn down the cool, refreshing water from a flowing stream to drink from a muddy, filthy cistern. A broken cistern will never satisfy his thirst. He might take a small and tentative drink from that broken cistern if this is all that is available. But it is not. The people addressed by Jeremiah 2:12-13 are rejecting living water in order to embrace lifeless cistern water.

This is the foolish choice that we make whenever we pursue satisfaction in the broken cistern of sexual impurity. If we are to find freedom from sin and live in purity, we must learn anew where we can find true satisfaction and true refreshment. The Lord must transform our foolish hearts so that instead of craving cistern water, we pursue deep and lasting satisfaction in Christ.

Father, I thank you that one day, “I shall behold your face in righteousness”. And I thank you that on that day “when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalm 17:15). I pray that while I wait for that day that I would grow in my satisfaction of Christ. Change my heart in such a way that I seek to find satisfaction in him. Renew my mind so that I see broken cisterns for what they are. Create in me a heart that pursues satisfaction in Christ. 

31 Days of Purity: Fleeing Temptation

Day 7

17

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)

We are at war. Our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—are forever opposed to us. A constant battle rages inside us, outside us, and all around us. As humans made in God’s image we can be brave and bold, stand firm and be fearless in battle. All throughout the New Testament we are told to stand, to stand strong in this fight. And yet there is one area where we are commanded to flee: “Flee youthful passions.” We are to flee lust, to run fast and far from the desire and the opportunity to commit sexual sin. “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (Proverbs 6:27-28) Of course not. Only a fool would even try.

Flee, my brother. Learn how and when to run and do not be ashamed to do so. Remember Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Exodus 39). Do not toy with sexual sin. Do not make light of sexual sin. Do not laugh or joke about the very sins Christ died for. Do not allow yourself even the smallest taste or the briefest glimpse of whatever might cause you to stumble. There is no shame in running.

Father, you tell me to flee sexual sin. You tell me that “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). Yet too often I have toyed with sexual sin, I have determined to allow myself just a glance or just a taste. And then, somehow, I have acted surprised when that small taste led to a complete fall and outright gluttony. I have no one to blame but myself, because I chose to disregard your Word. Teach me my own weakness and display to me your great strength. When I am tempted, let me flee to you and take refuge in you, in your promises, in your strength.

31 Days of Purity: Resting in Forgiveness

Day 6

19

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Every sin that you have ever committed has been put on record. Every sexual sin. Every lustful thought. Every shameful action. Every dark secret. Everything. This is your record of debt. What a sobering, terrifying thought!

Yet it is equally true that if you are among those whom God has “made alive together with Christ,” the record is no longer yours. That record of debt that stood against you is cancelled. You are no longer in debt. You will not endure even the smallest measure of the wrath of God against you, because Jesus already endured it all. He paid your debt in full. There is not one sin on your record of debt (past, present, or future!) that has not been paid by Jesus. Rest in that today. Rest in that every day.

Father, because you accepted Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf, I am forgiven. I ought to have a record of debt that would separate me from your goodness for all eternity. Yet, in Christ I am debt-free. Thank you for accepting his payment of my debt. Thank you that even while I was a helpless and hopeless sinner, Christ died for me. Thank you for not requiring that I clean myself up in order to obtain your forgiveness, because I know I could never make myself clean enough. But you can. Help me, Father, to rest in your forgiveness as I fight this sin. 

31 Days of Purity: Confess your Sin

Day 5

26

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)

It took God’s heavy hand of discipline for David to understand a simple truth: we need to confess our sin to God. We do not confess our sin so God will know what we have done—he already knows every deed, and even every thought and intention of the heart. We confess that sin for our own benefit, to acknowledge it before him and to seek his forgiveness. Though God assures us that at the moment of our salvation all of our sin is forgiven—past, present, future—still we confess our sin before the Lord as an acknowledgement that every sin is ultimately directed at him, that every sin stems from a lack of delight in what he promises, and that we have knowingly, willingly, damaged our fellowship with him.

Do you confess your sin before the Lord? A mumbled “Forgive me” once a week seems disingenuous. Confess your sin—even that shameful sexual sin—honestly, humbly and thoroughly. God knows it all, but he will hear your confession and, because of what Christ has done, it will be his joy to offer full forgiveness and reconciliation. Here is his promise to you: “If you confess your sins, I am faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Father, I am a sinner. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). And still, far too often, I seek pleasure in what you forbid. I allow myself to believe that your pleasures are inadequate and that something or someone holds out what I need or what I deserve. I confess my sin to you. I confess that my heart has desired what you say is evil; my mind has pondered what you say is sinful; my eyes have looked with lust instead of love. I confess my sin, I acknowledge it to you, and I joyfully receive your forgiveness.

31 Days of Purity: Putting Sin to Death

Day 4

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This church is in the centre of Nairobi’s most notorious slum. Pray for Pastor Ezekiel and his team. I find that such acts of prayer give perspective to my own life.

Today we have another a guest writer: Dr. Joel Beeke (whose preferred translation is the KJV) who, with his love of Puritan writers, is particularly well-equipped to write on putting sin to death.

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. -Romans 8:13

Every Christian finds himself living out two realities: what he is in Christ, and what he is at present, wherever he happens to be in his earthly pilgrimage. The one reality is the fact of his justification (by faith alone in Christ alone) from the guilt of all sin and his personal union with Christ crucified, risen again, and received up into glory. The other reality is the Christian’s degree of personal sanctification. Unlike justification, sanctification is an ongoing process in this life…

The Christian learns early on that sin still has a hold on him and remains in him, even “besetting” him, dogging his steps and burdening him with guilt and shame. Paul describes this remaining sin as “another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind” (Rom. 7:23). How does the believer respond to this “law of sin”?  We must mortify (put to death) what Paul calls “the old man and his deeds,” and “the lusts of the flesh” (Rom. 8:13, 13:14; Col. 3:15). This mortification is both a gift (of the Holy Spirit) and a duty (ours). In our own strength we cannot accomplish any lasting mortification, without the Spirit’s grace. But by the powerful and enabling grace of the Holy Spirit, we may and must hate sin, strangle it, and put a sword through it. We must meditate often on the horrific consequences of sinning against our beloved, triune God and Saviour. We must know our own hearts and weaknesses, and avoid those situations that tend to promote the temptations that we are weakest in battling against.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  (Gal 6:14)

Sin may assail but cannot master us, so long as we stand firm in Christ, calling upon His name. In Christ we are assured of God’s help in striving against sin. Though we may fall and lose various skirmishes against sin, because of our union and communion with Christ we have by faith the promise of ultimate victory and final deliverance, which, more than anything else, gives us hope and sustenance in the daily fight against sin. The only sin fatal to our cause is unbelief. Unbelief alone can rob us of God’s grace and shut us out of His kingdom.

Ever blessed Triune God, in the light of Thy holy law, I confess my sorrow of heart that I have provoked Thee by my sins. By Thy Holy Spirit, deepen in me more and more the hatred of these sins, and the desire to flee from them, dying unto sin with Christ, and rising again in newness of life, to live unto Thee in righteousness and true holiness, for His sake. Believing Thy gospel promise, I ask Thee to forgive my sins and help me by Thy Holy Spirit to fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion, as a follower of Christ, and one who bears His name before the world.  Amen.

31 Days of Purity: the Grace of Godly Sorrow

Day 3

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

We are all familiar with the ugly pattern of sin. You have just sinned again and you feel the weight of what you’ve done. You promise yourself you will never engage in that kind of sinful behavior again. You wake up in the morning with new resolve, but you just can’t shake the nagging feeling of guilt. But still, over time those feelings of shame and guilt begin to dwindle and fade, and as they do, so too does your resolve. Before you know it you have sinned again and the cycle starts anew. It is just like the Proverb says: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Apart from the grace of godly sorrow this cycle will continue. It is only when we earnestly seek, and when we are granted, a godly grief—a grief that hates sin more than its consequences—that we will pursue lasting change. This experience of godly grief is often the trigger for real repentance.

Father, only godly sorrow will do. I want godly sorrow for my sin, so help me to see my sin the way you do. Rescue me from a worldly and self-centered grief that only produces more death. Deliver me to a grief that cries with David, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). I trust that through the finished work of Christ you meet my repentance with grace and forgiveness. Lord, I plead with you to give me the painful grace of godly sorrow and repentance, today and every day. Amen.

1
Three mates having fellowship. When do you do this sort of thing? With whom?

 

31 Days of Purity: Identity

Day 2

  • Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

As men we face the temptation to gain our deepest identity from our sexuality. For some, identity is found in sexual prowess while for others it is defined by sexual failures. The Corinthians, like us, suffered from identity confusion. They had forgotten who they had become in Christ and they began to define themselves by things other than their Saviour. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us!) that the Christian’s identity is found in a different and better place— it is found in a person. We are no longer identified as “sexually immoral” or “homosexual”. Paul places that old identity in the past by saying “such were some of you”. Our new identity is that of people who have been washed, sanctified, and justified. Because we have been saved by Christ, we have been given His identity. Let us embrace that new and better identity, and let us define ourselves by who we are in Christ.

Lord, thank you for establishing my identity in Christ so that I am no longer defined by sin and failure. Because you have purchased me and placed me in union with Jesus Christ, I know that all He has is given to me. Help me to believe that I am hidden in Christ so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. Help me to live that truth. In the times when I feel like I’m defined by sexual failure, help me to remember who I am in Christ. When I’m driven to find my identity in my sexuality, stir my heart so I will live out my identity in Christ instead. In the times of victory, help me to remember that it is only through the name of Christ that I live in freedom from sin’s captivity. I am yours. Amen.

31 Days of Purity: Beginning with the Gospel

31 Days of Purity is the work of Tim Challies (challies.com). I’ve previewed it and think it suits our purpose and so will republish it (with some polishing up) here throughout January.

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As we begin these days together, I think we ought to begin with the gospel.

  • Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

It is good that you have this desire to pursue sexual purity. It is good that you are joining with us for these thirty-one days. And yet even a good desire can be sinfully motivated or sinfully directed. The sad fact is that we are never far from self-centeredness, from attempting to do these things for our own glory. We are never far from self-reliance. We are never far from legalism, from attempting to do these things to merit God’s favour.

This is why we must begin with the gospel and this is why each of these thirty-one days must be founded upon and directed toward the gospel of Jesus Christ: that Christ died for our sin and that he was raised from the dead. The gospel makes all the difference. The gospel destroys self-centeredness by gripping our hearts with a great and growing desire to see Christ glorified. The gospel destroys our self-reliance by showing that Christ had to do what we could not do for ourselves. The gospel destroys our legalism by assuring us that we do not have to earn God’s favor because through Christ Jesus we already have it. And so, as we embark together on these 31 Days of Purity, we must begin with, dwell upon, and finish with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Father in heaven, please help me to glory in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Please remove from within me any desire for self-glorification, any hint of self-reliance, even the smallest thought that I would ever have to earn your favor. I pray that through these thirty-one days, my desire would be to see you glorified in my life, to grow in my reliance upon you, and to rest in what Christ has done in restoring peace and fellowship between me and you. Make the gospel resound in my heart today and every day.