God's Standard of Sexual Purity

Ephesians 5:3-4a

Tom Pennington  •  September 20, 2009
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Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of the day my family and I arrived in Texas. This week, someone asked me if I had become accustomed to Texas and really settled down here and considered it my home and my answer was immediately, 'Absolutely yes.' We love the church. We love being here. We love the area in which we live. We're glad the Lord placed us here. But I was also thinking this week because we live in Texas, we live in a culture where certain topics are just considered off limits. They're considered inappropriate, impolite. And in addition to living in that sort of a culture, as Christians, we live in a Christian subculture that often still has remnants of the Victorian age. So I think we can be tempted to think that there are certain Biblical passages or certain Biblical topics that maybe we should just skip, certainly publicly. But we need to think like Christians and not like Texans and not like Victorians.

Paul, in the letter to the church in Ephesus, directly addresses issues of human sexuality and sexual sin in a public letter that was to be publicly read in all of the churches in Ephesus and the surrounding area with everyone present. And the Greek words that Paul used were often far more explicit than the vague English words that we often use to translate them. What all of that means is that God, our Creator, doesn't think we ought to avoid these things because they may be uncomfortable or because they may violate our sensibilities. God's standard for sexual purity isn't ignoring these realities, acting like they don't exist, but instead He wants us to understand both His standard for moral and sexual purity, what sexual activity is forbidden and the beauty of the gift that He has given us in this life. That's exactly what Paul does in this passage that we're studying together in Ephesians chapter 5.

Paul continues in the second half of his letter to explain how it is that we can walk worthy of our new position in Christ, how our lives should match what God has done. Last week, we began to look at a paragraph that runs from chapter 5, verse 3 down through verse 13. Let me read it for you again. Ephesians 5, verse 3: "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light, for the fruit of Light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, 'Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'"

Paul clearly states the theme of this paragraph in verse 8: "you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light." If you want to walk worthy of your position in Christ, then you must walk as a child of light. And as we saw last week, in the context it's clear that to walk as a child of light means to live a life of moral and sexual purity. If we're to walk worthy of Christ, if we're to walk worthy of what He's done for us, then we must walk in sexual purity.

But we all know from experience that that is much easier said than done. So exactly how can we live consistently pure lives? Is it even possible? Well, in this amazing passage, our Lord gives us the resounding note that it is possible and He gives us very practical instruction in how to live clean lives in a dirty world. But at the same time, as we walk, walk our way through this passage, it becomes obvious that this doesn't happen easily. It will always be a war in our souls. Christ ultimately won the war on the cross. And although at the moment of salvation, He set us free from our former slavery to sin, even sexual sin as we saw last week, we will spend the rest of our human lives here rooting out the already defeated enemy of the nooks and crannies of our souls. And folks, it will be a constant battle until we die or Christ returns. And our progress will be foot by bloody foot as we take back the ground of our souls. But in this difficult area for all of us, we can experience real progress. In fact, in the next few weeks as we work our way through this passage, we will see that here in this text our Lord provides us with several very practical strategies absolutely essential to our daily battle for sexual purity.

Today, I want us to look just at the first practical strategy that's necessary if we're gonna win the battle for sexual purity. And the very first strategy is this: adopt God's standard of moral purity, adopt God's standard of moral purity. Look at verses 3 and 4: "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."

Now in the Greek text, this is one sentence, these two verses, one unit of thought. And you'll notice that verse 4 begins with several words in italics in our English text – "there must be no…" Those words don't appear in the Greek text. Those were added by the translators to help clarify. But what you have here is one sentence, one unit of thought. There are two sets of three sins each. The first set of sins is in verse 3: immorality, impurity and greed. The second set of sins is in verse 4: filthiness, silly talk and coarse jesting. All six of those sins share the same verb and the verb is a negative command. These six sins, Paul says, "must not even be named among you." This command is about sexual purity. We know that because four of these six words occur often of sexual sin, sexual impurity. And one of the six words occurs at times in that context. Only one of the words here is a bit of a surprise to us and we'll talk about that a little bit when we get there. So the theme of this paragraph then is putting off sexual sin in all its forms and putting on sexual purity.

Now folks, as we begin our way through this passage, it's very important for us to understand that this is not a command that Paul intends for someone else. This isn't for the person sitting next to you. Every one of us in this room faces these temptations in some form. My temptation in this area may not be yours and yours may not be mine, but the temptation to sexual sin is universal (why is that?) because God in His goodness to mankind has given all humanity the gift of sexuality to be used within the context of marriage and to be enjoyed as a good gift of His. But because we are sinners, because we are fallen, we do with that gift what we do with the rest of God's gifts. We distort it, we abuse it, we pervert it. There are no exemptions on this one. As First Corinthians 10 reminds us, "there is no temptation taken you but (what?) such as is common to man (to mankind)" because sexual sin doesn't merely come from the outside. Certainly there can be temptations from the outside, but our problems are within, part of our fallenness. So that means that this passage in Ephesians 5 is speaking to every person in this room. We all need to hear this as all of the believers in the Ephesian church needed to hear it.

Now let's look at these six sins because together, the six sins that Paul lists here help us understand what God's standard of moral purity, of sexual purity is. I've broken these six sins down into three categories. There are sexual sins of action, there are sexual sins of thought and there are sexual sins of speech. The first category Paul addresses is sexual sins of action and he does so in the first two words, the words that are translated in our text, verse 3, 'immorality' and 'impurity'. These words have to do with acting physically in a way contrary to God's law. Let's look at them – sexual sins of action.

The first one is 'immorality'. The word 'immorality' is a bit of vague English word. It's not a word we use very often except, frankly, when we're talking about the Bible. Most people don't use this word and so it can be a little unclear. The Greek word is not unclear. The Greek word is a word you'll recognize. It's the word 'porneia', the word from which we get our English word 'pornography'. If you go back to the Old Testament and you look at the Septuagint – that is, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament – you'll find this word 'porneia' is used primarily to refer to two things: to unfaithfulness in marriage or adultery and to prostitution. But as all words tend to evolve over time, we see this often in our own English vocabulary, this word did as well. So that when you come to the New Testament, 'porneia' has a much broader application. It includes all sexual intercourse that the Bible forbids. It starts before marriage with premarital sex, forbidden by God clearly in the Old Testament law and forbidden in this word 'porneia'. It includes adultery – that is, sexual intimacy with someone other than your marriage partner. It goes on to include a litany of other sins including homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, bestiality. By using this word, God forbids all illicit sexual intercourse with another entity, acting out our sexual desires outside of the confines of marriage.

The second sin in Paul's list is also a sin of action. It's translated here 'impurity'. This is a general word, kind of a catch-all. It literally means 'uncleanness'. In fact, the root of this word is the word from which we get our English word 'catharsis', to clean something, to cleanse something. And the alpha privative is added, a, an 'a' that negates it. So this is a person who is unclean, uncleanness. It's described as that which renders a person either ceremonially unclean or morally unclean. You go to the Old Testament, there were certain actions that rendered you ceremoniously unclean. There were other actions that rendered you morally unclean before God. This word was used for both. Practically, what that meant in the Old Testament – if you were either ceremonially or morally unclean, you were not qualified, you were unable to come before God at the temple or the tabernacle to worship. You were unable to come into the presence of God. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, this word often occurs in the context of sexual sins. For example, an Old Testament example would be Leviticus 20 where it's, it's used to describe marrying too close a relative. It's called uncleanness, impurity.

But I want you to look at Romans chapter 1 because here Paul makes it very clear what this word means, the context in which it occurs. Romans chapter 1. You remember Paul is indicting all of mankind for their sinfulness. They have become, we all have become worshipers of idols, verses 22 and 23 of Romans 1. "Therefore (verse 24) God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to (here's our word) impurity (uncleanness), so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." He's talking about the fact that with idolatry came a propensity to pursue sexual sin. He is using this word 'impurity' about the dishonoring of the body in sexual sin.

When you look at where this word is used in other places in the New Testament, it is often grouped with other words that speak of sexual sin. For example in Second Corinthians 12:21, it's used with 'porneia', immorality and a word for sensuality, giving one's self over to the pursuit of the sensual, the sexual. Galatians 5:19 – it is one of the deeds of the flesh and it's mentioned alongside 'porneia' again and sensuality. First Thessalonians 4:1-7 – again with 'porneia' and passion and lust.

So then this word 'impurity' describes those sexual sins not included in 'porneia', but sins that bring real uncleanness and that make fellowship with God impossible. And notice Paul adds the word back in Ephesians chapter 5, he adds the word 'any', literally 'all' - all kinds of uncleanness or impurity in all its forms. Sadly, there are all kinds of misuses of the gift of sexuality. Impurity includes all of them that are not included in the word 'porneia'. A couple of examples, just so you know kind of where this word is going, the word 'uncleanness' or 'impurity', would be perversions like various fetishes or sadomasochism, perversions of God's good gift of sexuality that aren't included in the word 'porneia'.

So in the two words then, 'immorality' and 'impurity', Paul forbids any sexual act, any sexual intercourse except the honorable and undefiled enjoyment of a sexual relationship in marriage. That's God's standard.

There's a second category of sins Paul attacks - not only sexual sins of action, but secondly, sexual sins of thought. It's in verse 3, the word 'covetousness' - very interesting choice of words because that word is usually of coveting things. But here in Ephesians, it's only used one other time. And in this letter, it's clearly used of sexual sin. Go back to chapter 4, verse 19. In Ephesians 4:19, Paul, you remember, is telling us not to walk like the Gentiles, not to walk like them anymore. We used to do this. Don't do it anymore. And so he's describing what it's like to live as a pagan. Verse 19, you have a callous conscience. And having a callous conscience, "you give yourself over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of (here's our word) impurity with greediness." So you have uncleanness with greediness. The word 'greediness' is exactly the same Greek word that's translated 'covetousness' down in verse 3 of, of Ephesians 5. So in other words, this word is used in a sexual context in verse 19 of chapter 4. He's saying before Christ, we gave ourselves over to sensual, sexual pursuits, every kind of uncleanness and we pursued those things with greediness, with covetousness, with a desire for more.

So in the context then of Ephesians 5:3, Paul is not talking about coveting things. He's talking about coveting another person. It's a reference not to the act of sin, but to the sinful thinking behind the act. It is all sexual desire to have someone other than your spouse. That's what's forbidden in this word. It's used much like we use the English word 'lust'. One commentator in commenting on this passage, Lincoln, writes: "It is the sort of unrestrained sexual greed whereby a person assumes that others exist for his or her own gratification. It's a greediness of mind to have another person." Paul is here forbidding not merely sinful acts, but the sinful thoughts that give birth to those acts. It's like the tenth commandment, you remember? Exodus chapter 20, verse 17: "You shall not (what?) covet…" And he goes on to say you shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

So what does it mean to sinfully covet or to sinfully lust after someone else? I want to be careful here because I think it's so important that we understand this. I'm afraid because we're fallen, we tend to take everything sexual, because we've already perverted it because of our sinful hearts, and make it all dirty. That's not at all what God intends. So what does it mean to sinfully covet? Let me first tell you what it doesn't mean. Here's what it doesn't mean to sinfully covet or lust. [Number one: it is not sinful lust to find someone physically beautiful or attractive. Secondly, it is not sinful lust to have a strong desire to have sexual intimacy. God made us with that desire and He made us with that desire to enjoy it as part of what it means to be human in this life within the confounds of marriage. So it is not sinful lust to have a strong desire to have sexual intimacy. God made us that way. Number three: it is not sinful lust to anticipate and to be excited about enjoying sexual intimacy with your spouse. That's not sinful lust. Number four: it is not sinful lust when the body becomes sexually excited without sinful thinking or a conscious decision to do so. And number five: it is not sinful lust to experience an external sexual temptation. ]* None of those things is sinful lust.

So what is sinful lust? What does it mean? What is God forbidding here in this verse? Well, let me give you just a few of the expressions this sin of sinful, sexual coveting takes. Number one: physically looking at another person and sexually desiring them, physically looking at another person and sexually desiring them. This is what happened with David, you remember? Turn over to Second Samuel chapter 11. You remember, David stayed home from the battle, he stayed at Jerusalem, Second Samuel 11:1. Verse 2: "Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance." So far, there's no sin. He's walking around. He accidentally sees something that he shouldn't have seen. He didn't choose to see it and he acknowledges that she's physically attractive, she's beautiful. But now it transitions into a desire to have, verse 3: "So David sent and inquired about the woman (learned that, who she was)." And verse 4: "He sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her." It transitions from looking to desiring sexually.

In Proverbs 6, verse 25, Solomon tells his son: "Do not desire her beauty in your heart..." Don't desire her beauty for yourself. Don't sexually desire her, speaking of the, the adulteress woman. Matthew 5, verse 28, Jesus said: "everyone who looks upon a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" - to look in order to crave, to sexually desire, to have.

Now folks, let's just be honest. We live in a culture where it has become common for both men and women to let their eyes wander over the bodies of others and then to translate that look into a desire to have them. Understand this. That may be acceptable in our culture, it may be the butt of jokes of comedians, but it is a sin against a holy God.

Another expression of sexual covetousness in our culture – not only physically looking at another person and sexually desiring them, but similar but slightly different is pornography. This has become a scourge in our culture - looking at explicit sexual images to satisfy our sexual desire. I read statistics this week that around sixty-five percent of men in America today are looking at pornography more than once a week on the internet – sixty-five percent. I would hope and pray that number wouldn't be as high in the church, but I know this is a struggle undoubtedly with many here. Understand God forbids it. His standard does not allow even a little. This is an increasing problem with women. In a survey by Today's Christian Woman magazine, so this is a Christian magazine for Christian women, thirty-four percent of the women responded that they had intentionally sought out pornography on the internet. According to the Nielsen NetRatings, which is similar to the other Nielsen ratings services, nearly one in three visitors to adult websites is female. So this is a serious temptation for men and it is a growing temptation for women. But tragically, the largest group of viewers of internet pornography are not men and not women, but are young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen according to Family Safe Media. This is a huge issue. And understand that there is no way to justify even a little. It is a sin against God. Next week, we'll talk about how to deal with this sin in your life, but let me just give you a preview. Jesus said pluck out your eye, cut off your hand. He wasn't saying literally do those things. He was saying be willing to get radical with your sin. We'll talk more about what that means next week.

A third common form that this sin of lust or sexual coveting takes is one specifically for women and it is sinfully craving a relationship, and often the physical intimacy that comes with it, with someone other than your husband. This is a real temptation that is presented in much of the fiction that's out there in the world today. The romance novels, even Christian ones, can leave a woman craving a relationship with a man who is not her husband. This is much of the appeal of soap operas. It's a chance sometimes for a woman who is dissatisfied with her relationship with her husband to live out vicariously what it would be like to have a relationship with a different kind of man, a different kind of relationship. If you're a woman, perhaps you've been tempted to look with disgust or even self-righteousness on those who struggle in other ways. But if you constantly find yourself longing for a different kind of relationship with someone other than your husband, then you are guilty of the sin of sexual covetousness. Paul says sexual sins of thought, looking at and longing for what you don't have, is sin.

So far Paul has addressed sexual sins of action, sexual sins of thought. That brings us to the third category in Ephesians 5: sexual sins of speech. Look at verse 4: "there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting…" This is the only time in all of Scripture these three words appear. They're unique words that each contributes a nuance of the sins we're to avoid when it comes to sexual sins of speech. The first is 'filthiness'. This is a word that describes that which is filthy or obscene. It's a general word. It can include both filthy talk and filthy actions, but since Paul has it here with two other words of speech, it's most likely that he's emphasizing what our speech should be like. Paul then is commanding us not to engage in filthy, obscene, dirty talk. In other words, we're not to talk about obscenities, we're not to use obscene words. We are not to speak in a way that evokes illicit sexual images. We are not to have a sexually dirty mouth. We're not to have the mouth that speaks the words and, by implication, we're not to listen to those who do whether it's in everyday speech, whether it's in our school friends, whether it's at work, whether it's in our entertainment, in the books and magazines we read or some 900 number. Don't talk like this, Paul says, don't listen and don't laugh to those who use it as a joke.

The second sin of speech Paul forbids here is translated 'silly talk'. That's just one word in the Greek text, but it's a word made up of two parts. The first part of the word is the word from which we get our word 'moron' or 'moronic'. The second part of the word is 'logos' which means 'word'. So literally then, this word means 'moronic or foolish words'. Now notice that it's sandwiched between two words confronting sexually explicit speech. So Paul here isn't just talking about your normal run of the mill foolish talk. He's talking in context about silly, moronic talk about sexual things. He's referring to crude, sexual humor like dirty jokes intended to get a laugh or crude comments about body parts. This is gutter, bathroom wall kind of talk. Paul says our speech is to have, number one, no obscenity, no, no speech that paints an illicit picture of sexual activity and, number two, no crude, silly talk about sexual things.

Paul adds a third sexual sin of speech in verse 4 – 'coarse jesting'. Very unusual Greek word - it literally means 'well-turned', meaning a well-turned phrase. It means to be witty. In classical Greek, it's even used positively. But even by Aristotle's time, the Greek philosopher, it had begun to describe someone who was witty but who used his wittiness in inappropriate ways, for unacceptable things. Bishop Trench in his book 'Synonyms of the Greek New Testament' says that this person who does this is different typically from the kind of person who engages in silly talk, sexual moronic dirty jokes. The person who tells dirty jokes is explicit and crass and unrefined. But the person guilty of coarse jesting, Trench says, has polish, "refinement, knowledge of the world, presence of mind and wit." You see, foolish talking describes someone who uses base sexual humor, who tells dirty jokes. No subtlety - his humor is crass and vulgar. But coarse jesting is smooth, witty, intelligent. It's repartee. This person usually won't tell explicit dirty jokes; instead, he uses sophisticated sexual innuendo and double entendre. And if you call him on it, his immediate response is, 'Huh, you must just have a dirty mind.' It's clever wording intended to communicate a hidden sexual meaning. All of these are forbidden.

John Stott, commenting on these three sins of speech, writes this: "All three refer to a dirty mind expressing itself in dirty conversation." But whatever form it takes, Paul says all of these sexual sins of speech, notice what he says, "are not fitting." Literally, he says they don't measure up to what Christians should find appropriate. So we must not be guilty ourselves of sinful, sexual speech. We must not listen to and tolerate it in others whether it's family members or friends or coworkers or fellow students, whether it's in a television program or a movie or a book.

Now the question that came to my mind as I studied these two verses is why does Paul spend as much space dealing with sexual sins of speech as he does with sexual sins of action and thought combined? I think it's because our mouths not only reveal what's in our hearts, and they do that, but our mouths actually direct our hearts. Now I know it's been a long time, but we learned this in James chapter 3 (I want you to turn back to James 3) when we went through this book now several years ago. But look at James 3. James makes this very point. He's talking about the tongue and its power. In verse 3, he introduces us to two images. Verse 3: "Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well (verse 4, ships). Look at ships also, though they are great and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires." Now what's, what's the point James is making here? Notice in verse 3 and in verse 4 he uses the same key word: 'direct' or 'directed'. That's what a bit does to a horse. That's what a rudder does to a ship. So then he makes the conclusion in verse 5: "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts (like the rudder and like the bit) of great things." You see, in context, he's not saying, 'Oh yeah, we have tongues and with our tongues we tend to boast and say things that we can't do.' That's, that is true, but that's not what he's saying here. In context, these aren't empty boasts. He's saying that just like a small bit can boast of controlling and directing that huge, powerful horse and just like a tiny rudder can boast of controlling and directing a great ship even in strong winds, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it can legitimately boast of controlling and directing the entire body. The tongue can direct us, lead us in a certain direction. It's absolutely true. Not only are you responsible to control your tongue, but there's a very real sense in which your tongue controls you. What you talk freely about today you will ultimately be willing to do. So we need to be as concerned about sexual sins of speech as we are about sexual sins of thought and action.

Again, Lincoln writes: "Thinking and talking about sexual sins creates an atmosphere in which they are tolerated and which can even promote their practice." You know, that's what really disturbs me as kind of an aside about a trend in the church today among pastors. More and more young pastors are following the trends set by men like Mark Driscoll, a pastor in Seattle who, much of whose theology we would agree with. But in a desire to be culturally relevant, Driscoll and others intentionally pepper their sermons with all three of these sexual sins of speech – sexually explicit language, crude sexual humor as well as the more refined sexual innuendo and double entendre. Paul says these aren't fitting for any Christian, much less for a pastor preaching the Word of God.

So those are the six sins that Paul spells out. Now notice the command he gives us about those sins because in the command itself, God gives us His standard of sexual purity that we have to adopt. Look at what he says in verse 3: "they must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints." That doesn't mean you can't use the label. Paul does here and in other places. It doesn't mean you can't teach against these sins. Paul does here and in other places. It doesn't mean you can't practice church discipline because then you gotta say the sin. Paul urged the Corinthian church in First Corinthians 5 to put out the incestuous man. So what does it mean? It means that these sins should be so foreign to the life of the Christian church that you don't even need to use the label. I think the NIV has it right. The NIV translates it like this: "But among you there must not be even a hint of (these things)..." That's God's standard of sexual purity. We can't tolerate a little of these and just not fall over the cliff. God's standard - and if we're gonna be successful in the battle with sexual sin, we must adopt His standard which is not even a hint.

Now what are the practical implications of adopting God's standard of sexual purity, of not allowing even a hint of these sins in our lives? And how do we do that? Well, we're gonna look at that next week, but today I want to leave you with just one implication of adopting that high standard from God. God's standard of sexual purity reminds us of the importance of justification. You see, folks, when you think about that standard, if you're honest with yourself and I'm honest with myself, we realize we have never once in our lives met God's standard in a way that would make us acceptable to Him and we never will perfectly in this life. But here's the gospel, here's the good news. Christ has in our place. For thirty-three years, Jesus led a life of perfect sexual purity, the life we should have lived. He perfectly met God's standard, He was never once guilty of one of these six sins. And His sexual purity along with the package of His complete righteousness has been credited, believer, to our account. If you are in Christ, God credited every dirty thought, every dirty act, every dirty word you have ever been guilty of to Christ on the cross. And on the cross, God poured out on Jesus everything that sin deserved. He treated Jesus as if He had done those things, as if He had had those thoughts, as if He had spoken those words. He got the wrath our sins deserved. And now in grace, God treats us as if we were as morally and sexually pure as His own Son. That's the wonderful reality of justification. And that's not an excuse for sin. When Paul finishes explaining justification in Romans 6, he says: "Does this mean we ought to sin, that grace may abound? (And what does he say? God forbid!) May it never be!" Instead, the reality of what God has done for me in crediting every dirty thing about me to Christ and treating Christ as if He had done them should drive me to pursue holiness, should drive me to pursue God's standard of sexual purity in my life. Justification – that's what we celebrate in the Lord's Table.

Our Father, we thank You so much for this wonderful reminder of what our Lord accomplished. And Father, I pray that You would seal these things to our hearts. Lord, remind us of what our sin cost You and cost our Lord and give us a holy hatred of our sin. Father, may we adopt Your standard of moral purity - not even a hint. And Lord, may we pursue that foot by bloody foot as we battle with the sin in our hearts. Lord, may we never grow comfortable with sin, may we never tolerate it as a friend, but may it always be an enemy whom we battle every day and, by your grace, begin to see an increasing pattern of righteousness and a decreasing pattern of sin. We pray it in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen.

* This helpful material comes from a book that we can no longer recommend because of its author. For that reason we have deleted the specific reference to the author and book title.