In the northern United States, there is a short-tailed weasel known as the stoat. The stoat is known to be very territorial and an opportunistic predator which preys upon rabbits, birds, and large rodents. However, what they are most known and prized for is their winter fur. During the fall molting season, the winter coat becomes a silky, snow white. This fur is known as ermine. In Europe, these furs are a symbol of royalty and high status because of their purity of white. Hunters of the ermine use an interesting tactic in order to make their capture. Once the burrow of the ermine has been discovered, the hunter will smear some kind of filthy substance on the entranceway of the burrow. As the dogs pursue in their chase, the ermine runs for its burrowed den. But, when the ermine sees the filthy substance, it turns around and gives itself up to the hunters rather than risk defiling itself. The ermine is willing to die before allowing its pure white coat to be made dirty or stained.
Our world is in a moral crisis that seems to be spiraling out of control. Values, principles, and holy things are not only ignored, but they have become a source of ridicule and mockery. The new morality is the acceptance of open filth and perversion that was once reserved for the back alleys. There are now fewer safe places we can turn to avoid contact and contamination. The temptation we all face is to heed the cry of the world, “Give up and give in.” Such was the case with the young prophet Daniel. Daniel was living in a day when there were forces wanting to seduce, pollute, and corrupt him. However, in Daniel 1:8, we are told, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself...” Against the rising tide of public opinion and social pressure, Daniel viewed his purity as a greater asset than fame, fortune, and fitting in. Although he endured persecution, when every hour of crisis came, he was found to be the most trusted man in the world. Matthew Henry wrote, “Those who keep themselves pure in times of common impurity God will keep safe in times of common calamity.” Make no mistake about it, there are some intimidating forces today seeking to pollute the minds and conform the hearts of this generation. But, God has never been swayed by cultural coercion to change His standards. In chaotic times, God’s light will always shine the brightest through those that are the purest. With the stakes so high, consider with me what it takes to withstand the social push of impurity.
We must make a firm refusal. In Job 27:5, Job said, “...till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.” While Job had no control over the tangible things he had lost in life, he understood clearly that he was in control of the intangible things of the heart. What we are watching happen in America is that far too many of us have lost the ability to say, “No!” Whether it is due to being ashamed, afraid, or apathetic, we are living in a time where the masses are content to violate their conscience and simply go with the flow. We are desperate for moral courage. From parents, to politicians, to preachers, to the pew-sitters, we need the courage to start saying, “No, I am not going to do that!” Goodness has little chance to succeed in the absence of courage. The Greek essayist Plutarch wrote, “Courage consists not in hazarding without fear, but being resolutely minded in a just cause.” A man who is sold out on principle is a man that cannot be persuaded otherwise. Naboth refused to give his inherited vineyard to the wicked King Ahab. Nehemiah refused to come down from the wall to answer his critics. Queen Vashti refused to defame herself for the king’s perverted pleasure. Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” It is never easy to face the headwinds of cultural change. But, the cost of standing for what is right will never be greater than the cost of remaining silent about what is wrong.
We must mark a faithful relationship. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, the Greek renders Paul’s words like this, “...bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul understood that the sterling quality of a godly friend is their ability to bring out the best in others. As “iron sharpens iron,” a godly friend keeps a keen edge on your life. Anybody who calls themselves your friend but encourages you to impurity, and makes it easier for you to do wrong is not a friend at all. When David’s son Amnon was overcome with lust for his half-sister Tamar, the story of his defiling her began with these words, “But Amnon had a friend...” His friend helped him plot how to do evil. A true friend is someone with your best interest at heart. You are richly blessed in life if you possess friends that will challenge and confront you when you have done wrong. Solomon said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend...” Puritan preacher William Secker wrote, “He who would be good must either have a faithful friend to instruct him, or a watchful enemy to correct him.” Esther was blessed to have a Mordecai who reminded her of God’s purpose for her. Ruth was blessed to have a Naomi who was more concerned with Ruth and her future than she was her own grief. David was blessed to have a Nathan who would not let him get away with sin. We all need a godly friend who strengthens us with their presence and their prayers. Such friendships are never an accident in life.
We must measure a fixed reward. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” The idea is that of living with a single eye that cannot be distracted from its purpose. The old adage is true that eyes are a window to the soul. But, just as dust and film will gather on a window and blur our vision, impurities of the heart will make one blind to sin, blind to danger, and blind to God. People want to see God, but often do not make the connection of a pure heart with the reality of God. There can be no deep, intimate fellowship with God apart from a pure heart. The measure of a man’s purity can be gauged based upon what he loves and whom he loves to please. This concept of pleasing God is directly related to how thoroughly a man deals with himself until there is nothing left in him that is displeasing to God. Adrian Rogers said, “If you please God, it doesn’t matter whom you displease. If you displease God, it doesn’t matter whom you please.” It is those that pursue the pleasure of God that become aware of God’s reality in the most unique of ways. Enoch “had this testimony that he pleased God,” and he given an up-close walk in the presence of God. Moses made choices in life to please God alone, and was rewarded by “seeing Him who is invisible.” Purity brings pleasure that is always blessed with perception. For this reason, living pure is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
In Psalm 24: 3-4, David would ask and answer his own questions, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart...” That may sound easy enough, but the pull of society reminds us that maintaining purity can be a difficult task in life. Scottish minister Thomas Boston wrote, "They that would keep themselves pure must have their bodies in subjection, and that may require, in some cases, a holy violence." How sad it would be to tarnish your life before the finish line. I would rather God just bring me home than to surrender the treasure of a pure life.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2016 Alan Stewart