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Since We Have These Promises

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Since We Have These Promises

A Pocket Paper
from
The Donelson Fellowship
______________

Robert J. Morgan
April 1, 2007


Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

***

Recently there have been a lot of newspaper reports about dog food that somehow became contaminated with rat poison, and as a result people across the United States unwittingly poisoned their pets when feeding them. The word contamination means that a poisonous element has crept into something that would otherwise be wholesome or healthy. It’s a word we hear a lot in today’s world.

We read about contaminated water, contaminated soil, contaminated lettuce, and contaminated beef. We worry about nuclear contamination, and about chemical and biological contamination. It’s a word that means to become impure, corrupted, or infected by a dangerous or hazardous element, to become unfit for use by the introduction of unhealthy or undesirable elements.

This verse says that can happen to the human soul.

This is one of the strongest verses in the Bible on the subject of purity, holiness, and temptation. And the question in today sermon is – Has any impure or unhealthy element seeped into your body or spirit? Is there any contamination in your own life? Let’s read the verse again: Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Biblical Background

You can tell immediately that even though this verse is the first verse of the chapter, it is the last verse of the paragraph. It’s one of those times when the chapter division falls at a bad spot. The very first word of the verse – Since – links verse 1 with the preceding verses and shows that it is concluding the logical thought that flows from the end of chapter 6.

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Since we have what promises? Well, let’s back up and survey the context. Paul begins in verse 14 says: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. In context, Paul seems to be concerned about the Corinthian Church developing close and comfortable relationships with false teachers and false prophets. He’s going to bring this up again later in the book, especially in chapters 10 and 11. So the context is talking about a church environment. Paul had brought the true Gospel to the city of Corinth, as we read about in Acts 18. He had come to this great city, preached Jesus, and established the church in the power of the Holy Spirit. He had nurtured the church like a father nurturing a child. He had written to them from the soundness of his own theology and from the love of his own heart. But during his absences, other so-called teachers had visited the church; and some in the congregation had rejected Paul’s authority and were advocating these false apostles. Later in chapter 11 he’s going to say that they are preaching another Jesus than the one he preached, and the church should not link up with or be yoked together in the same harness as these false teachers.

We’re facing that in the church of Jesus Christ today. Let me read you just one article that appeared the other day in the newspaper.

Two leaders of The Falls Church, one of the largest Episcopal parishes in Virginia that voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, said they left the denomination because the American Episcopal Church “no longer believes in the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers.”

“The core issue in why we left is not women’s leadership... It is not a ‘leftward’ drift in the church. It is not even primarily ethical -- though the ordination of a practicing homosexual as bishop was the flash point that showed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone.”

“The core issue for us is theological: the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. It is thus a matter of faithfulness to the lordship of Jesus, whom we worship and follow,” the pair wrote, noting that some leaders within the Episcopal Church “expressly deny the central articles of the faith.”

“The ‘sola scriptura’ (‘by the scriptures alone’) doctrine of the Reformation church has been abandoned for the ‘sola cultura’ (by the culture alone) way of the modern church,” they wrote. “(It has so destroyed) the credibility of faith that there is hardly anything left in their theology that is distinctively Christian.”


So on the one hand we have the mainline Protestant movment in the United States that has been drifting from the integrity of the faith for a hundred years, and on the other hand you have scores of television preachers and evangelists, some of whom are propagating all kinds of strange doctrines. Well, the apostle Paul was acutely concerned about the purity and integrity of the doctrine of the church; and so he told them not to be yoked together with those who were preaching another Jesus. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. We can only be yoked together with Him who said, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me.”

Now, to drive home his point, Paul asks five rhetorical questions.

Ø For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

Ø What fellowship can light have with darkness?

Ø What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (a lawless person, Satan)?

Ø What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

Ø What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

Then Paul makes this dramatic statement: For we are the temple of the living God.

In the Old Testament, God had set aside the Jewish people to be His chosen vessel for bringing the Messiah into the world. They became His channel of redemption, and therefore He had a special relationship with them. He gave them certain promises. He dwelled in their midst in the Temple and lived among them. Those Old Testament promises have application now to us as New Testament Christians. His Old Testament presence now dwells in His church. We are His temple. And now, Paul repeats four Old Testament promises and applies them to you and me. You can locate the promises here by the words: I Will. The Lord promises what He will do for His people.

For we are the temple of the living God. AS God has said: “I will live with them and walk with them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

“Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. Touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Ø I will live with you and walk with you.

Ø I will be your God.

Ø I will receive you.

Ø I will be a Father to you.

Those were God’s promises to His holy people, Israel, in the Old Testament, and they are His promises to us now. As Christians, we are His people. We are His temple. We are His set-apart ones. We represent His holy presence in this world, and we are heirs of these remarkable promises. He has promised to live with us and to walk among us. He is our God. He receives us and embraces us and He is a Father to us. Those Old Testament promises, according to 2 Corinthians 6, are available to be appropriated by you and me for ourselves. The Lord Himself is here in this room, walking among us, and when you leave here He will walk out to your car with you, drive home with you, go into your house with you, and live with you all this week. He surrounds His people He draws near. The unseen presence of the Lord Jesus Christ is the single greatest blessing in our lives.

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Since we have these promises and since the Lord Himself lives with us and walks among us and walks with us and is constantly at hand, make sure that you live a pure life. Make sure that your television viewing, your movies, your computer screens, your motivations, your love, your joy, your daily attitudes, your integrity are pure.

Now we live in a toxic world, and it’s hard to keep our lives free from contamination. Some time ago, I spoke on the subject of pornography, and that’s perhaps the most obvious illustration of that. If we really had an accurate number, how many people in this room logged onto internet pornography this very week? Was it two or three, or twenty, or fifty, or what? I have no way of knowing, but the statistics I read in the newspapers and journals is alarming. As I said a few weeks ago, surveys tell us that the average age in which a child is exposed to internet pornography is age eleven.

So in a world such as ours, how can we keep our minds and our lives and our homes pure? This verse gives us three ways to withstand the pressures of temptation.

Claim His Word

First, claim His Word and focus your life and your mental image on the promises and the presence of God in your life. The verse says, Since we have these promises…, indicating that the promises of God are a reason and a resource in withstanding temptation. The most powerful tool we have in fighting personal contamination is the Word of God. I’ve advocated for years that all of us may be tempted in different ways by different things, but there are verses in the Bible to equip us to fight whatever temptation we’re facing.

Ø You can be contaminated by alcoholic and chemical and drug addiction; but one of the greatest weapons in fighting off this impurity is by memorizing and claiming Romans, chapter 6.

Ø You can be contaminated by a love for money and by materialism; but you have 1 Timothy 6 to help you with that.

Ø You can be contaminated by anxiety and depression; but you have Philippians 4 to help you deal with that.

Ø You can be contaminated by laziness, boredom, loneliness; but there are verses in Romans 12 that can help you with that.

Ø You can be contaminated by anger and bitterness; but not if you memorize and claim Ephesians 4.

Ø You can be contaminated by sexual sin, but Ephesians 5 can be a big help to you.

The Bible says, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not (be contaminated by sin).” The devil has a very hard time doing anything with someone who is regularly memorizing and meditating on the Word of God, particularly when that person has become aware of his or her points of weakness and has ferreted out specific verses that meet that need.

I think Paul is telling us something about himself here. This is a very autobiographical book, and we know that Paul himself faced temptation. He was a single man. He was exposed to all kinds of pressures. But he had some Old Testament verses memorized and those verses helped him withstand temptation. What verses do you think Paul claimed?

Let me show you two Old Testament verses that really helped the apostle Paul:

Ø One was Leviticus 26:12. It’d be interesting to know if there is a single person in this room who has ever memorized a verse from Leviticus to help in the struggle against some personal temptation; but Paul did. Leviticus 26:12 says: I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. Paul took that seriously. If God is going to walk beside me, and walk among me and my companions; if He is literally here, walking around me with His invisible presence, how can I just commit that sin right in front of Him? And this verse became a powerful detriment to personal sin.

Ø Let me show you another Old Testament verse that Paul depended on. Isaiah 52:11 says: Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure…. To Paul that was a very powerful command: Touch no unclean thing. When beset with temptation, I think he probably spoke this verse, perhaps out loud.

These were some of the verses, as you can see, that Paul listed here at the end of chapter 6. If they worked for him, they’ll work for you, along with many other verses. God has put over 31,000 verses in this Book to help us withstand the temptations we face in life. It’s like having 31,000 rounds of ammunition; and there’s no excuse for having your arsenal empty.

Cleanse Your Life

Second, cleanse your life. You have to determine to remain pure in life. Look at the verse again: Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit….

He puts the onus on us to do it. The Greek verb that Paul uses here for purity is καθαρίζω, and it occurs 31 times in the Greek New Testament.

Ø When the leper said to Jesus, “Will you make me clean?” this was the word he used. It had to do with cleaning his skin from the loathsome corruption of leprosy.

Ø When Jesus told the Pharisees that they washed the outside of their bowls but the insides were filthy, this was the word He used. It was the term used for washing the dirt and filth off dishes and bowls.

Ø In the epistles, this word is used repeatedly to describe how God washes and cleanses us from sin.

But here’s the interesting thing. Most of these passages talk about how God cleanses us, how we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, how we are washed by the water of the Word. But here in 2 Corinthians 7, the Bible says that we have a part in this; we have a responsibility. It says: Let us purify ourselves….

God has purified and cleansed us in terms of our eternal souls; but in terms of our daily habits, we have a responsibility to stay pure. We have to make the right choices. We have to have the right boundaries in our lives. We have to install the right disciplines, with His help.

Literally in the Greek, it says, Let us purify ourselves from every defilement… We have to tell ourselves that there are forbidden zones for us. When I was growing up, my Aunt Louise owned a factory in Bristol, Tennessee, that produced large metal pipes and fittings. It was a dangerous place with forklifts and electrical machinery and acid vats and huge pieces of metal flying through the air on cranes. Very often people would come for a tour of the plant, so she had a pathway drawn through the factory. There were two white parallel lines that defined the path, and as long as visitors stayed within those boundaries they were safe.

God’s Word has drawn the moral boundaries for our lives, and sin occurs when we step outside of that pathway; but it is never necessary to do so. We have to reach within us, by the Spirit’s help, and draw forth the discipline to live an uncontaminated life.

I have a daughter who lives in Louisville, and she works out regularly at the YMCA near her house. She told me last January how frustrated she was by all the “Resolutionists,” as she calls them. There are people who make a New Year’s Resolution to get back into shape, and they flock to the YMCA and she has a harder time getting a parking spot and getting the treadmill she wants and so forth. “I’ll be glad when the Resolutionists drop away,” she said, “and things get back to normal.”

Well, it takes more than a good intention to remain pure. You have to make a serious life commitment and stick with it.

Come of Age in Your Christian Walk

The third strategy in verse 1 is one of continued growth; come of age in your Christian walk and experience. The best way to overcome temptation in your life is just to keep growing stronger spiritually. Look at verse 1: Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

That last phrase means: Let us keep growing more and more perfect in our personal holiness out of reverence for our holy God. For example, pornography has always been around, but the difference is this: In the past you always had to search it out; and now it searches you out. It’s very aggressive, showing up on your computer screens, on your portable electronics, on your television sets. You used to have to go out of your way to find pornography; now you have to go out of your way to avoid it. And it’s highly addictive. It is contaminating our society, and it is contaminating the bodies and souls of many Christians.

I want to read to you a letter sent to me by a man in our church. I’ve edited the letter so as to make it appropriate for a Sunday service, but it isolates a critical issue that many people are facing in our churches and in our society.

I’m writing to you on the topic of pornography. It is something that is rarely talked about in church, at least openly, and I applaud your willingness to speak on it. It is something that is so prevalent in our society today. Many think they are above it and have never been tempted. That is where I believe you should start. We’ve all been tempted. Whether it is a catalog, a calendar, a commercial or a storefront, we have all been enticed by it. It is the driving force for almost every advertisement directed toward men: from shaving cream to car tires.

Some say that isn't pornography, but it is in its smallest state. Christ said it isn't about the physical act, but about the thought process. You linger too long on a cheerleader on TV, stand too long at the magazine rack on the store, think you’re old enough to handle the R rated movie, or just look at the back of the calendars at the mall. You may not be immersed in online porn and paying for the shows, but you have been tempted to LUST.

Just this past week in order to send a message to a friend on MySpace, someone said they had to create their own account. Once done, they were inundated with ads with scantily clad females with captions like: "Is it naughty to be nice or is it nice to be naughty?" Their profile said they were a married male and a proud parent, but they still got the ads. Do you know how many teenage fellows have MySpace accounts? Do you know how many have been lured to online porn? It is just a click away.

Yes, I do struggle with porn. I have for nearly 30 years. My job requires computer use. Some days that’s like asking an alcoholic to work in the liquor store. You have got to be prayed up every minute of every day. Your mind has to be on God and His faithfulness. And more importantly His Grace and His Mercy that are new every morning. Guilt can tear you down and send you into a downward spiral that takes weeks to get out of.

This is the battle many people are facing right now, but it’s not the only one. Temptation comes to us in many guises and disguises. If you are caught in this or any other sin that is contaminating your body or soul, I want to ask you to claim the truths of this passage of Scripture. Search out and claim the promises of God. Make up your mind to purify your lifestyle and your personal habits from any sin that can contaminate (or is contaminating) your body and soul, and perfect holiness out of fear of God. Do it with the help of Jesus Christ whom you love and who loves you.

Claim His Word. Cleanse Your Life. Come of age in your Christian experience. And…

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

“Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

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