Purity Isn’t Only About Sexual Attitudes

The first thing we think about when we hear the word “purity” is sexual impurity. Maybe that results from our sex saturated culture. Or maybe it exposes the depth of our own preoccupation with sex. Either way, it is the first thing that comes to our minds, isn’t it?

Perhaps we do need to begin with that connection when the subject of purity comes up, precisely because sex permeates so much of our consciousness. Sexual purity has fallen out of favor even among evangelicals. For the first time in history, evangelicals openly live together outside of marriage and see nothing wrong with that practice. Obviously, fewer and fewer professing Christians believe that sexual behavior should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman until death. In this regard, I agree that purity in sexual conduct can’t be emphasized too often or too strongly.

Was the apostle Paul thinking about sexual purity when he told Titus how older women should mentor younger women?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)

Certainly, teaching women the importance of modesty and chastity would have been a key reason for women to teach other women. It would have caused incredible temptation for a man to counsel a woman on such intimate matters. Women can (and sadly do) fall into sexual sin just as easily as men do, making it necessary and crucial to address this type of impurity. Therefore, we cannot and must not neglect this area of instruction.

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Self-Love — Does Scripture Really Endorse It?

No.

That’s right. I answered the question in my title immediately, and with only one word. By doing so, I probably killed any incentive you had to read a full blog post on this topic. But please stay with me. There’s a reason we need to look at this issue.

This question once again popped up on Twitter last week, making me heave a sigh of exasperation as people twist Scripture to accommodate the idea that Jesus advocated self-love as the prerequisite for loving others. (Mark 12:31 quotes Jesus as saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself”). The logic goes that we can’t properly love other people until we’ve learned to love ourselves. Therefore, we must first cultivate self-love. That cultivation, the logic continues, gives us the ability to love others. The argument concludes with the confident assertion that Jesus taught us to love ourselves.

There’s a modicum of truth to the premise that, to care for someone’s physical needs, you must first attend to your own. If my Personal Care Attendant neglects her health so that she can’t come to work due to illness, I’m stuck in bed until we can find an available backup. Obviously, I need her to take care of herself in order for her to take care of’ me.

But the concept of self-love goes well beyond the practicality of making sure you’re physically able to help others. Look at this opening paragraph from an article in Good Therapy:

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It’s A Good Time To Remember The Gospel

We’ve changed our calendars, put away the Christmas presents and started trying to keep our resolutions. Our brand spanking new Bible reading plans invigorate us. As with every January, we find pleasure as we anticipate making a fresh start. And that pleasure can motivate us toward positive changes that actually do honor the Lord. So Happy New Year, ladies! Let’s pray that 2023 will be a year of wonderful growth in Christ for each of us.

If January is a turning point moving us into the future, perhaps it’s equally a time to reflect on our relationship with God. Most of us are genuine Christians who may have gotten so caught up in doctrine that we’ve kind of lost sight of the miracle of our salvation. Others reading this blog may believe you’re Christians, but are really false converts depending on your own efforts to either achieve or maintain salvation. And a few of you don’t claim to be Christians, and read this blog for your own reasons. No matter which group you fall into, this is an excellent time to think about the Gospel and our response to it.

Let’s begin this discussion by simply going over the basic Gospel message. I’m drawing my main points from my page, What Is The Gospel Anyway?, which shares the Gospel briefly and succinctly. I want to expand on that page a little, perhaps helping you gain a deeper appreciation of salvation. Note: I posted that page before I switched from the English Standard Version, so all linked references in this post will be from that translation, whereas quotes will be from the New American Standard Bible 1995.

The English word “gospel” means “good news.” With Christmas being just over a week ago, we easily remember that the angels announced the birth of Christ as good news to all people (Luke 2:10-14). And Mark begins his gospel narrative by saying that Jesus entered Galilee preaching the Gospel of God (Mark 1:14-15). Clearly, the arrival of Christ and the kingdom of God is good news that deserves proclamation. That being the case, we should understand what the Gospel is and how we should respond to it.

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52 Years Later, The Fascination Only Grows

He sat cross-legged in front of the white brick fireplace in his parents’ living room, balancing his Bible on one thigh as almost a dozen high school kids surrounded him. It seemed like it was going to be a typical Thursday night Bible Study as we sang upbeat praise songs to begin the evening. But his opening prayer came with an odd intensity. He forcefully praised Jesus for being God in the flesh, his voice swelling with passion at each sentence.

Before he could finish his prayer, a girl I’d never met lept from her seat and, covering her ears, ran out of the house yelling, “Blasphemy! Blasphemy!” The Bible Study leader watched calmly, saying he’d pretty much expected that reaction, though he’d hoped she would stay and listen.

Only a few months old in the Lord myself, I was quite confused by the incident. I asked point blank why he’d intentionally prayed something when he knew it would offend her. I didn’t think his actions modeled Christian love.

Patiently, he explained that the girl was a Jehovah’s Witness, which meant that she denied that Jesus was God. He had wanted to take a bold stand against the false teaching that kept her from knowing the true Jesus Christ. Looking back, I’m still not sure his methodology totally pleased the Lord, but I believe his motives came from a sincere desire for her salvation. He knew that she’d been deceived into believing in a false Jesus.

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Who Should Come And Worship?

Origianally posted December 17, 2017:

The hymn I present today may begin with angels, but it quickly moves to various groups of human beings. Each stanza highlights a unique aspect of doctrine that compels that group (and by extension, all of us) to come and worship.

As Christians, we now have the responsibility of calling people from all walks of life to come and worship. True, only the elect will respond, drawn by the Holy Spirit, but the Lord has decreed that we be His instruments in putting forth the call to salvation. Since God alone knows whom His elect are, we must proclaim the Gospel to all people, just as angels from the realms of glory did.

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A Familiar Christmas Hymn With A Wonderful Surprise

Originally published December 10, 2017:


When I first started playing this version of O Come, All Ye Faithful on YouTube, I didn’t really like the sound quality. As my husband will attest, I’m finicky about the hymn videos I post each Sunday.

They must, of course, contain sound doctrine, but they also need to include certain verses, have specific wording, be pleasing to the ear and have good graphics. I also avoid artists that I know represent bad theology (like Hillsong).

I can’t always meet all my criteria. While I never compromise on doctrine or artists, sometimes I settle for boring graphics or slight updates in lyrics. Rarely will I tolerate poor sound quality.

So, as verse 1 played on YouTube, I began moving my mouse cursor up to the “Back” button in order to search for a version I would like better. But before I could reach it, verse 2 startled me. I’d never heard it before.

I love its bold pronouncement of Christ’s deity.  What could possibly get to the heart of Christmas more than an unashamed declaration that God Himself was born in that manger? Listen to this familiar Christmas hymn and enjoy the wonderful surprise of verse 2.

The Incarnation Never Gets Old

Originally published December 18, 2016:

I love many of the traditional Christmas hymns, with their bold declarations of the Lord’s Incarnation. Indeed, His Incarnation is one of my favorite doctrines! Those Christmas songs usually contain verses that secular people, presumably embarrassed by the frank theology they convey, omit. Evidently, the moral implications of Christ’s deity bothers them.

But I digress. As much as I love traditional Christmas hymns, occasionally I find a  contemporary Christmas song that focuses on the Lord’s Incarnation. So today, just to do something a little different, I thought I’d feature a contemporary song that still expresses the wonder of God made flesh to dwell among us.

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Christmas: The Teacher Of Humility

As a Christian blogger, I feel a different sort of pressure at this time of year than most people feel, especially when other bloggers start writing about Advent and Christmas before I can even digest my Thanksgiving turkey. I scratch my head at my reticence to join their ranks, particularly due to my fascination with the Incarnation. Wouldn’t you think that I’d be chomping at the bit to blog about the wonder of God becoming Man? But honestly, I’m just not interested in writing Christmas themed articles right now.

A lot of the problem comes from knowing that I don’t have anything original to say about the Incarnation. Or at least feeling as if I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. In my pride, I demand that I come up with a fresh angle on it to dazzle my readers — skillfully displaying both my cultivated talents as a writer (my college professors would be so pleased!) and my grasp of God’s Word.

Did you catch the phrase, “In my pride?” What an ironic attitude to harbor after my pastor, in preaching through Ephesians, recently did an entire sermon on humility! Look at this passage:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. ~~Ephesians 4:11-6 (NASSB95)

My pastor focused his sermon on the first three words of verse 2: “with all humility.”

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Throwback Thursday: Speaking The Truth In Love Does Not Mean People Will Feel The Love

Originally published September 21, 2020:

Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.

In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.

And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.

Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. ~~Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB)

Doesn’t it sound as if Paul emphasizes truth in this passage? He concedes that truth must be presented lovingly, but actually love compels us to present truth and refute error.

Obviously, you can speak truth unlovingly. We’ve all read discernment blogs that, although they pointed out the errors of a given false gospel with extreme accuracy, evidenced no desire to see either that teacher or the followers of that teacher repent and receive God’s mercy. We must acknowledge the sad reality that sometimes the truth is spoken without love.

Usually, however, we don’t detect the love that inspires a blogger to say the truth about a given false teacher. Many times, our anger and hatred toward falsehood — an anger and hatred that Christians should feel and express — makes it difficult to see the love for truth that motivates the blogger. Although their demeanor certainly appears unloving, love very much compels him or her to call out that false teacher.

It’s easy to throw brickbats when a discernment blogger names a false teacher. It’s much more difficult to investigate that blogger’s claims by measuring the false teacher against God’s Word.

Most discernment bloggers have done their research, and consequently know why a teacher threatens the doctrinal purity of the Church. Rather than vilify someone who loves Christ’s body enough to warn them about dangerous teachers. perhaps we ought to appreciate their courage. Perhaps we should thank them for loving us enough to speak the truth.

“I Don’t Need To Be Taught To Love My Husband And Children!”

Like most 21st Century brides, I was totally in love when I wheeled down the aisle in that white gown and veil. Being almost 49, I didn’t cultivate as many romantic illusions as younger brides do, but I definitely enjoyed the euphoric anticipation of spending my life with such an incredible man. How could loving him be anything but easy? And actually, 20 years later, I still find it easy to love him most of the time. In fact, it often puzzles me when people say marriage takes a lot of hard work — it has been relatively effortless for me.

Although I couldn’t be a mother, I was pretty close to my two nieces while they were growing up. Occasionally I’d inwardly grumble about playing with Barbie dolls or teaching them to lose graciously at checkers, but mostly I savored my time with each of them. Loving these little girls came effortlessly. I treasure memories of tender conversations and funny remarks, and I’m proud of the beautiful young women they’ve become. Loving them is difficult now only because marriage took me 3000 miles away from them. If I have such strong feelings as a mere aunt, I can only imagine the incredible love mothers have for their own children!

Doesn’t a women’s love for her husband and children come naturally? In one sense, it does. But let’s go back to Titus 2:3-5, focusing on verse 4.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

Why would younger women need encouragement to love their husbands and children? Was Paul really that ignorant of female emotions? To answer that question, let me take you to the two Greek words translated as “love,” and then discuss how to apply them as we relate to our families.

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