How Can a Young Man Keep His Way Pure?
In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we are told, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Pet. 1:13-16). As Christians, we strive to live holy lives and follow the example of Jesus. But at times, this can feel overwhelming. In a world that's saturated in sin, we can be left feeling like the Psalmist who writes in Psalm 119:9, "How can a young man keep his way pure?"
As humans, we are all tempted with the same basic sins: anger, pride, lust, deceit, fear, drunkeness etc. The Bible tells us that "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind" (1 Cor. 10:13). In today's society, things that the Bible tells us are sin, popular culture tells us are "normal," "fun," "letting loose," and "having a good time." This is especially true of sexual immorality. It is no secret that our music, movies, tv shows, magazines are sex-saturated. As a result, Christians are caught in the tension of trying to live a lifestyle of holiness in a world that is governed by the "if it feels good, do it" principle.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, that in the battle that we are up against, God has given us "weapons of divine power to destroy strongholds." We are also told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God has provided us with an escape from every temptation that overtakes us. In Psalm 119, the Psalmist answers his own question "How can a young man keep his way pure?" "By guarding it according to your word."(Ps. 119:9).
Here are three ways that we can guard ourselves:
1. Guarding our eyes
2. Guarding our thoughts
3. Guarding our relationship with God.
In Luke 11:34-35, we are told, "Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness" (Luke 11:34-35). We need to be careful of what we will allow into our spirit by guarding our eyes. If you find yourself in the struggle of guarding your purity, as most people do at one time or another, take a moment to ask yourself, what darkness and impurity are you allowing in through your eyes? Do you watch television shows and movies that are graphic in a violent or sexual nature? Consider the music you listen to. Does it glorify a lifestyle that is immoral and sinful?
However, even when we guard our eyes, it's not enough. As much as we may try to guard our eyes, we are still going to see things we shouldn't and hear things that we would prefer not to. We need to learn how to guard our thought life. I read somewhere recently about the importance of "bouncing our thoughts." Because we are human, all kinds of thoughts will come in and out every day. Some of these thoughts will be less than holy. The thoughts in themselves are not sinful, unless we choose to dwell and focus on them. When a bad thought comes in, we need to learn how to bounce it right out of our minds by choosing to focus on something else instead. My pastors talk often about the importance of moving in the opposite spirit of whatever sin is attempting to overtake you. If an angry thought comes, turn your mind to focus on the love of God. If a lustful thought comes, turn your mind to focus on purity as described in the Word of God. We can take each thought that comes through and "make it obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5). We can choose to follow the principle of Philippians 4:8, "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8).
Most importantly, we need to guard our relationship with God. Our aim cannot be to simply avoid impurity and sin. Rather, we need to be proactive about filling ourselves every day with the love, life, truth and grace of God. Every sin we commit poses itself as a counterfeit to fill a void and a need that we perceive in our lives. If we are proactive about allowing God to fill each deeply felt need of our heart, the amount of temptation we experience will be less. When we draw close to God, it causes Satan to run and hide. As it says in James 4:7, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Our primary focus needs to be God's grace. It tells us in Titus 2:12-14 that it is the grace of God that teaches us to say no to "ungodliness and worldly passions" and to live "self-controlled, upright and godly lives." If our main focus is to not be tempted, we will inevitably find ourselves lacking in power to overcome the temptation that we are facing. This way of thinking, whether or not we realize it, relies on our own strength and power to resist sin. As humans, we lack the power to resist temptation for very long. However, when our focus is pursuing God's love and grace, we shift over into relying on the Holy Spirit to enable us to be overcomers. With the Holy Spirit as our driving force and power, there is no temptation that we cannot overcome. Nothing, then, will be impossible for us. We can say with confidence, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13).