Read an Excerpt
The Purity Principle
By Randy Alcorn
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2003 Eternal Perspective Ministries
All right reserved.
Eric stormed into my office and flopped into a chair. "I'm really mad at God."
Having grown up in a strong church family, he'd met and married a Christian girl. Now he was the picture of misery.
"Okay ... so why are you mad at God?"
"Because," he said, "last week I committed adultery."
Long pause. Finally I said, "I can see why God would be mad at you. But why are you mad at God?"
Eric explained that for several months he'd felt a strong, mutual attraction with a woman at his office. He'd prayed earnestly that God would keep him from immorality.
"Did you ask your wife to pray for you?" I said. "Did you stay away from the woman?"
"Well ... no. We went out for lunch almost every day."
Slowly I started pushing a big book across my desk. Eric watched, uncomprehending, as the book inched closer and closer to the edge. I prayed aloud, "O Lord, please keep this book from falling!"
I kept pushing and praying. God didn't suspend the law of gravity. The book went right over the edge, smacking the floor.
"I'm mad at God," I said to Eric. "I asked Him to keep my book from falling ... but He let me down!"
The Choices That Ruin Us
To this day, I can still hear the sound of that book hitting the floor. It was a picture of Eric's life. Young, gifted, and blessed with a wife and little girl, Eric brimmed with potential.
His story didn't end that day. Eventually he became a sexual predator, molesting his own daughter. He's been in prison for years now, repentant but suffering the consequences of inching his life toward the edge until gravity took over.
How many of us Christians hope God will guard us from calamity and misery, while every day we make small, seemingly inconsequential immoral choices that inch us toward bigger immoralities? (A survey taken at a Promise Keepers gathering of 1,500 Christian men revealed that half of them had viewed pornography the previous week.)
Tiffany and Kyle also grew up in the church. When the youth pastor warned against premarital sex, they had trouble taking him seriously. Their movies, television, and music focused on sex. One night after youth group, Tiffany gave in to Kyle. It was painful, nauseating ... nothing like in the movies. Afterward she felt horrible. Kyle was mad at her because she wasn't supposed to let it happen.
Tiffany started sleeping around, trying to find a guy who'd love her. She never did-they just used her and moved on. She quit going to church. One day she discovered she was pregnant. A friend drove her to an abortion clinic. Now she's plagued by dreams about the child she killed.
Tiffany could turn to Christ. He would forgive her. But her heart is so broken and calloused now, she doesn't believe it. She's attempted suicide. She's on drugs, a street prostitute. She's been raped. Recently she had another abortion. Her eyes are dead. So is her hope.
Kyle? He's lost interest in spiritual things. He's at college now, an atheist. He's had sex with several girls. He feels empty but experiments with anything he thinks might bring him happiness.
Lucinda, a Christian, decided her husband wasn't romantic enough. A decent, hardworking, church-going guy, he just didn't live up to the Prince Charming images of Hollywood. She got involved with another man, eventually marrying him. Years later, after bringing unspeakable grief to her family and herself, she came back to Christ. "I wish I had my first husband back," she admitted. "But now it's too late." Yes, God has forgiven Lucinda and still has plans for her. And yet ... she has paid a fearful price.
The prophet Jonah, in the digestive tract of a great fish beneath the Mediterranean Sea, made this observation: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs" (Jonah 2:8).
An idol is something more than a grotesque statue with big lips and a ruby in its navel. It's a God-substitute. It's something-anything-that we value higher than God. In order to cling to such an idol, we make a trade.
Our sexual behavior reveals who or what rules our lives (see Romans 1:18-29). Sexual sin is idolatry because it puts our desires in the place of God.
Those who turn from God to embrace a God-substitute suffer terrible loss. Why? Because they were made to find joy in God, not the substitute. They swap God's present and future blessing for something they can immediately see, taste, or feel. But that something never satisfies.
I've done it. So have you. To one degree or another, every sinner trades what they have-and could have had-for a lie. Sometimes the lies get bigger and the stakes get higher. We keep inching our lives toward destruction. To fulfill some hormonal surge, some secret fantasy, we willingly trade our future.
It's a terrible trade. A deal with the devil, who never keeps his bargains.
Every day, Christian men and women forfeit future happiness for the sake of temporary sexual stimulation. Like drug addicts, we go from fix to fix, trading the contentment of righteous living for the quick hits that always leave us empty, craving more.
That's what Eric did.
He forfeited a wife who loved him ... a daughter who would have adored him ... the respect of his family, friends, coworkers, and church. A walk with Christ.
In the end, he forfeited his freedom.
With every little glance that fuels our lust, we push ourselves closer to the edge, where gravity will take over and bring our lives crashing down.
What will we lose? What will we forfeit that could have, would have been ours?
Where would Tiffany be now if she'd kept herself pure? Instead of a prostitute haunted by rapes and abortions, Tiffany could be a light for Jesus, standing up for Him on a college campus, filled with joy and hope for the future. Kyle might be that too-if only.
What about Lucinda? She also forfeited what was hers-and could have been hers. Who knows what God's grace might have included. A clear conscience and a priceless sense of peace? Warm, satisfying years of companionship? The respect and affection of children and grandchildren? An enduring influence on young women watching her example? A ministry touching scores of lives? Rewards-exceeding all imagination-in the life to come?
Yes, God has forgiven her. Absolutely. But the consequences of her choices remain.
Some readers, choking on consequences, feel hopeless and defeated. Many have given up on purity. Others have never tried. We all need foresight to see where today's choices will leave us tomorrow.
Once lost, some opportunities are never regained. We can't live in the "might-have-beens"-except to admit their reality, and then, by God's grace, move on.
In C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian, after disregarding his instructions to follow him, Lucy tried to ask Aslan what might have happened if she had obeyed his voice sooner, following him instead of making excuses. The Great Lion replied, "To know what would have happened, child? ... No. Nobody is ever told that."
Here's what's striking about Eric, Lucinda, Tiffany and Kyle. They all thought they were acting in their own best interests when they followed their lusts. If we could have obtained an honest interview with any of them just before they trashed their purity, they would have said, "This is for me. This is for my happiness."
Yet it wasn't.
Not even close.
It never is.
In fact, they didn't just hurt others. Without intending to, they acted against their own self-interests.
What they did wasn't just wrong. It was stupid.
Since the time we were young teenagers, many of us have heard lists of reasons for walking in sexual purity. God commands purity and forbids impurity. Purity is right. Impurity is wrong.
True? Absolutely. But it's equally correct to say purity is always smart; impurity is always stupid.
There it is-what I'm calling The Purity Principle:
Purity is always smart; impurity is always stupid.
Always. You're not an exception. I'm not an exception. There are no exceptions.
A holy God made the universe in such a way that actions true to His character, and the laws derived from His character, are always rewarded. Actions that violate His character, however, are always punished. He rewards every act of justice; He punishes every act of injustice.
That doesn't mean God always intervenes directly. This moral law is like the law of gravity. God has set it in place. When a careless driver speeds on an icy mountain pass, loses control, and plunges his car off a cliff, God doesn't suddenly invent gravity to punish the driver's carelessness. Gravity is already in place.
In the same way, God doesn't need to punish the pornography addict for every wrong choice. The punishment is built into the sin. Shame, degradation, and warping of the personality follow as a matter of course. Scripture describes those who have surrendered to their lust to live in immorality as "receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error" (Romans 1:27, NASB).
That's the way God's moral universe operates. We get to choose our own path. But with each path comes inevitable consequences.
The roads of life are sometimes hazardous. But God loves us enough to place warning signs: "Don't commit adultery" and "No sex before marriage." We don't have to obey. We do have to live with the consequences.
Purity is safe. Impurity is risky. Purity always helps us. Impurity always hurts us. Purity is always smart; impurity is always stupid. Write it down. Bank on it.
Consider Christ's story of the wise man:
"Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
Jesus measures obedience not by its virtue, but by its wisdom.
He measures disobedience not by its wrongness, but by its foolishness. The man doomed himself to a "great crash" by his own stupid decisions. The obedient man isn't called "righteous," but "wise."
He's just being smart.
Satan's greatest victories and our biggest defeats come when he gets us to ask, "Should I choose what God commands me ... or should I do what's best for me?" The very framing of the question shows how badly we're deceived.
We will not consistently choose God's way until we come to understand that His way is always best for us.
"But wait a minute," you may say. "You're talking about a selfish, unspiritual motivation here. Shouldn't a Christian's only motivation be loving God?"
No, apparently not.
Scripture provides us with multiple motivations for obeying God. Love is one. But the Bible clearly supplies us with two other motives that appeal directly to our self-interest: fear of God and hope of reward.
If we think these are unspiritual motives, then we're failing to grasp a central biblical doctrine.
The fear of God is a profound respect for His holiness, which includes a fear of the consequences of disobeying Him. Weighing these consequences can motivate us to purity.
We can also argue for purity because God is by nature a Rewarder (see Hebrews 11:6), and He will surely reward us for making choices that please Him. Obedience to His will and His way forms the underlying lattice for that rarest and most wonderful human condition-joy.
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life." Deuteronomy 30:19-20
We can choose blessings: joy, peace, life, hope, and laughter. Or we can choose curses: misery, scars, a handful of ashes.
When Cain, humanity's firstborn, stood at a moral crossroads, God gently reasoned with him. "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:6-7, NASB).
God was saying, "If you choose My plan, you'll find happiness. There will be a smile on your face. Sure, this is a fallen world. But if you say no to your sinful desires that want to master you, if you walk with Me, you'll experience My peace. If you reject My standards, you will be surrendered to forces that will tear your life apart."
The rest is history.
The Smart and Stupid Argument
Does God really argue for sexual purity on the basis that it's the smart choice, while impurity is stupid? Judge for yourself:
Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife? For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.
Why avoid adultery? Because God will see it and He will bring judgment. But even before judgment day "the cords of his sin hold him fast." The adulterer will be ensnared; he will die. He's the primary victim of his foolishness. In contrast, the man who remains pure can "rejoice" and "be captivated" by his wife's love, enjoying their sexual union (Proverbs 5:18-19).
In the next chapter God asks,
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. Proverbs 6:27-29
Proverbs also depicts the man who is seduced into adultery as "an ox going to the slaughter" and like a deer or bird being killed by a hunter (Proverbs 7:21-27).
A believer recovering from sexual addiction told me, "Addicts always think they can get away with it. You won't change until you realize you can't."
Excerpted from The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn Copyright © 2003 by Eternal Perspective Ministries
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.