Faith General Identity Self-Management

One Little Letter

Mentoring Warriors welcomes Nick Stumbo to the contributing writers team! Nick is Executive Director for Pure Desire Ministries. www.puredesire.org Welcome Nick!

It’s amazing the difference that one little letter can make.

Take, for example, an embarrassing reality from my childhood, where I sang about how ‘angels prostate fall’ in the hymn, Crown Him With Many Crowns. I am sure this would be a very different experience for the angels, who are probably content to fall prostrate before the King of kings.

Or another time, when I was preaching and in the sermon, I invited the church to consider a passage from the New International Virgin. Perhaps Mother Mary was involved in writing up this translation! Okay, so that is technically more than one letter, but when you say it out loud, “virgin” and “version” feel like they are only one letter apart.

Small things- minor shifts in perspective- can make a major difference. This is especially true when it comes to our journey towards freedom and sexual health. Rather than being driven and controlled by our hormones, desires, and behaviors, we are seeking to be human beings who are surrendered to the Lord, able to give him absolute control of our whole selves.  

In this endeavor, we are seeking purity. We want a life free from corrupt thinking, lust-filled desires, and hearts bent towards evil. It may seem like this is an epic battle FOR purity. Purity is the goal- the great plateau of freedom- we are seeking to attain.

But what if pursuing purity- working FOR this ideal- is actually the wrong aim from the beginning? I know that might sound counter-intuitive, but let me explain. When we set up purity, this becomes a goal we are aimed at achieving. What happens, though, is that we can turn purity into a destination that we are hoping to reach- ‘one day, I will be pure!’ But what does that mean? How pure? When you really stop and think about it, you realize that the purer we become, the more aware we are of our lack of purity!

We become like Paul, who late in his life described himself as the ‘chief’ or the ‘worst’ of sinners. How can this man, who planted churches all over the Roman world, and wrote half of the New Testament, call himself the worst of sinners? Was he actually sinning more? Absolutely not. But in his pursuit of God and holiness, he actually became more aware of the places where he didn’t measure up.

The same thing happens to us. The more we grow in purity, the more keenly aware we become of our fallenness- that my thoughts are selflish, lustful, or impure more often than I realized! In this condition, purity can become a bar that is perpetually lifted higher and higher. We wonder if we will ever achieve ‘real’ purity, and we may become discouraged at our lack of purity.

What if purity was not a place we are trying to reach, but instead a foundation from which we were already operating? What if purity was the firm foundation for all of our choices and behaviors? Not only is this possible- I believe this is how faith in Christ makes this whole journey possible! Through Christ, we recognize that we have been given His righteousness. When you and I stand before God, He sees us through the lens of Christ’s righteousness.

Do you realize how amazing that is? No matter what you and I have ever done, through faith in Christ we ARE righteous- pure- before God. Our identity has been changed so that we are pure already. What this means is that rather than striving to become something we are not, we instead seek to become more of what we already are. We are pure because of and through Christ. With this in mind, we have the power and ability to walk in agreement with our new identity.

So how about you? Are trying to avoid pornography, end patterns of selfishness and stop lusting so that you can be pure? Or are you doing these same things because you are pure already? The first mindset is all about performance and being good enough for God. This will never work. The second mindset is about gratitude for who God has made me to be and contentment with who I am right now through Christ.

How do we walk in this new mindset of purity? Let me give you three quick ideas in closing:

  1. Remind yourself through prayer each morning who you are. As you get up each day and your feet hit the floor, pray something like this, “Heavenly Father, thank you that in Christ, I am pure. Help me today to become more like the person you have already made me to be.”
  2. Take every thought captive to Christ. By this, I don’t just mean our lustful thoughts. We should always take those to Christ. No, I mean your negative, self-doubting, self-critical thinking. When we begin to beat ourselves up (What’s wrong with me? How can I think things like that?), we need to remind ourselves that Christ says we are pure.
  3. Focus on progress, not perfection. Rather than being consumed with arriving at a state of purity, look for signs that you are making progress. Were your thoughts more often on God or loving others today? Progress! Were you aware of triggering situations or images and made a healthy choice? Progress! Celebrating our progress keeps us moving forward rather than becoming discouraged at how far away perfection in purity might feel.

Are you working FOR purity, or FROM purity? One little letter can make all the difference in the world.

Nick Stumbo
Executive Director at Pure Desire Ministries | Website

Nick Stumbo is Executive Director of Pure Desire Ministries. www.puredesire.org Pure Desire exists to provide hope and freedom from sexual addiction by educating and equipping church leaders in the development of a healing ministry. You can also check out their Conquer DVD series at www.mentoring-warriors.com/resources

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