Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Steve] It’s a beautiful sight to see a crystal clear river, lake, or even an ocean. Just look at the water and you can see straight down to the bottom. There is no silt, no debris, just clear clean water.Our minds can be like that water. If we pursue what’s good, our minds can be like crystal clear water, with nothing polluting them. Pure—It’s truly beautiful.But it can be a struggle for all of us to be consistent Christians—to maintain purity in our minds. What can we do? There are practical things that can be done to sustain godly purity, or to attain purity when we’ve fallen short.Join us on Beyond Today as we discuss “Sex, Sin and the Pursuit of Purity.”[Announcer] Join our host Steve Myers and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today ![Steve] You try to attend church services every week. Listen to the sermons. You may read of biblical examples illustrating the kind of person you’re supposed to be.You know what’s right—but why so often does wrong seem acceptable? Okay, not necessarily what’s blatantly evil, but those things that we tend to justify, ignore or convince ourselves that it’s not that bad.You might say: I don’t cheat on my mate. Well, I may look at a little porn but that’s not really cheating. Right?Or, you might think: I’m not an alcoholic. But, maybe I drink a bit too much once in a while. It’s not really that big of a sin. Is it?Certainly there are those powerful influences in society around us. Human nature impacts our choices. But do you find that all too often you rationalize your behavior? The lines blur between right and wrong, between what we want and what God commands for our good.Well how can we be more consistent as Christians? We’re told very clearly, “…Can right and wrong be partners? Can light have anything in common with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, GW). The NIV says, “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”So can we be marginal Christians and still claim to be Christian? Is there a happy medium between doing what’s right and sin? God says no. Here’s what He instructs: “So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18, MSG).We’re told that compromise is not acceptable to God. We can’t be okay with things that pollute us or simply try to ignore them. A little pollution is still toxic. Yet, we’re constantly challenged by impurity that surrounds us.Impurity comes in so many different forms. You may be someone who views pornography on the internet. Perhaps you’re a young mom who watches “mildly” scandalous movies while your children sleep. Or maybe you’re a grandmother who reads racy romance novels like 50 Shades of Grey .You see, these are all very different activities, but they’re all forms of the same thing: impurity. Even though we may think it’s minor—Don’t be fooled. The Word of God describes it as a very serious problem. Notice what the Bible says: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3, NIV).We must remove every bit of these things from our life! But, it’s not enough just to oppose evil, we must also do good. We have to replace these negative activities with the positive ones. We have to change our mind, transform our thinking—so that our actions will be different.Here’s another way to think of it: Our mind can be compared to a river—thoughts that flow through it are like the water in a stream. Have you noticed that waterways have interesting features? They have many different colors.Here’s China’s Yellow River. Why is it called yellow? Well because it crosses a plateau that’s blanketed with almost 1000 feet of fine, yellowish wind-blown soil and it picks it up along the way.The Río de la Plata is a brownish color. It’s because of sediment the river has carried from the Paraná and Uruguay rivers. You can see it flows into the beautiful blue waters of the South Atlantic Ocean.The Sava River in Slovenia has a water color that’s always murky gray-green. This color comes from the existence of certain minerals at the river bed.And then there’s the Black River in Alaska. It gets its namesake “dark color” partly because of organic material that it flows over.Here’s where there’s a connection with the way that we think.Just as these rivers are colored by the substances that they pick up as they flow along, so are the streams of our minds. Our thoughts are shaded by the material that we channel into our minds. Just as a river is tinted by what it touches, our minds are affected by what we see, by what we read and by the things we hear.Evil tries to influence our thoughts: pornography; immoral or immodest people; music, video games, entertainment—even bad language. You see, if we’re not careful, like that tinged river water, those things will stain our minds to an off color. Instead of clean clear thoughts, they’ll turn cloudy, yellow, black or green! A silty mess that separates us from the Christian that we really want to be.We know that we should avoid all things that bring wrong thoughts and attack our spirituality. So when an immoral or wicked thought enters our minds, no matter how small it is, we must wash it out it immediately. But it’s difficult because we live in a world that’s flowing with evil.Like those rivers that run—we have to be Christians who run. Now what do I mean? Well over and over again the Bible instructs us that we should run. Now, from what should we run? Flee sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). Flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).Flee these things (1 Timothy 6:11). And like Timothy, we’re told to run from the love of money and the desire for material things.So if we are true people of God, we have to keep on fleeing—continually be on the run. Constantly running from wrong influences. In fact, it’s a continually running away.The original word in the Greek is the word, pheugo . In fact, we get the word fugitive from that word. So the Bible doesn’t simply compare us to a sprinter running on a track. We have to be like someone who is running to escape a pursuer.Think of it this way: Sin is chasing us and we have to run. Like running from an attacking enemy, or running from a mother grizzly bear—we have to run from the ways of this world. In fact, not just once in a while, not occasionally, not just every so often. At all times Christians are runners. We can’t stand still—we flee and we run from things—and those are those things that taint us, that corrupt us. Those evil things. And of course, it’s possible to be successful.In fact, in a moment we’ll talk about the many benefits from the pursuit of purity—including right relationships—a right relationship with God, better relationships with others and even a better perspective of yourself. We also have a special interview with a clinical counselor that you won’t want to miss.But first, I’d like to help you understand what the Bible says about purity and how you can change your life for the better—through the powerful and ever-present help of God. Here’s how you can learn much more about this vital subject. Order our free, valuable study aid: Transforming Your Life. Go to BeyondToday.tv Living a Christian life is a 24-hour / 7-day a week responsibility. So to discover much more about the wonderful rewards of following Jesus Christ, be sure to request your own free copy of Transforming Your Life by calling us: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online to BeyondToday.tv to read or download, Transforming Your Life . It can make a real difference for you.Now if you live outside North America, please write to us at the address shown on your screen throughout the program [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].Being distracted by the pleasures around us is a common affliction for Christians today. But wait—let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s not label them simply “pleasures”—they are sin! Being distracted by sin is a common affliction for Christians today. All too often, we justify ourselves when we do what’s not right.Even though most of us don’t struggle with what we call serious addictions, perhaps we can learn a little from those who do—those who are truly addicted. I interviewed clinical counselor, Lena VanAusdle for some insight.[Lena] There’s one story—and I’ll call him Nate for these purpose—He was an alcoholic. And he had hit rock bottom. He had lost his job. He had lost his home. His family had just had enough and they left him and he was homeless. And when I met him, it was at the homeless shelter and he, like I said he had hit rock bottom. He had nothing left. And he knew he had to change. He knew something had to change for his life to get better.So we came up with a case plan for him. He was staying at the homeless shelter, so he wasn’t sleeping on the streets anymore, and we helped him stay sober. He was going to AA meetings several times a week. He had to meet with myself once a week and he also had to do daily Bible study, daily prayer. And he managed to get a job. And he was doing so well. He had been sober for three months and he was saving money—He was going to get an apartment. And he was hoping that in time, he could rebuild the relationship with his family.And then, he slept in one day—missed his Bible study and his prayer and rushed off to work. And, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s just, one day. I just missed one day. But then it was another day, and then another day. And, we kind of say when someone relapses, it’s not when they take that first drink. It’s really when they stop replacing those things—using those good things to replace the bad things. I was really concerned about him. He quit meeting with me. He quit meeting with his mentors and he quit going to AA meetings. And within three week of that initial, “I missed my Bible study and prayer time,” he had relapsed completely.He lost his job. He was once again…he wasn’t saving anything anymore. And it was just really sad to see because it seemed so simple. It seemed so innocuous. Something so little, just prayer and Bible study. But it’s so important to have that positive thing to take the place of these negative behaviors.[Steve] Here’s the challenge. We have a tendency to convince ourselves to think, “Well, I’m not as bad as some people. Certainly, I’m not as bad as Nate. I’m not addicted like he is.” So we kid ourselves and try to minimize the issue—thinking that some things aren’t “big sins” and some things are “little sins.” Of course, if I have sins, they’re the little ones.But Jesus Himself said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). You see it’s true that not every sin leads to an automatic addiction—but, think of this: we are all addicted—not just to this sin or that, but we’re all addicted to sin itself.We’re told that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”(Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). You see, our normal, natural, everyday heart is extremely sick and addicted to sin. So what can we do?Even though all Christians should be runners, it’s not good enough just to flee from evil. While continually running from wrong, we must also constantly be running toward what’s right. “Turn away from what is sinful. Do what is good. Look for peace and go after it (1 Peter 3:11, NLV).God gives us the pattern. He tells us again, in other words: “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).Yes, there are things behind us—sins that are out to get us—that we must avoid. But there’s something ahead of us that we want to catch. The wording in these passages indicate that we must continually be pursuing, constantly chasing, always running after what’s right.So as Christians, we’re not only fleeing from the negative but we’re replacing that negative by pursuing the positive, chasing what’s godly—the good things.So in a nutshell, our life is not just running from what’s wrong, it’s running toward and replacing it with what’s right.[Lena] I had a client who—awesome guy. He went through the program. He was there for a year. He did such a good job. He was clean and sober for a year. He got a job. He was rebuilding his relationship with all of his family. He was writing them. Having visitation with his kids and he got a job and he was going back to school. And everything was really coming together for him.And he got really busy and he stopped—He missed some of his meetings. And he wasn’t meeting with his mentor. And it had been about two weeks and his mentor called him up and said, you know this is a problem. You’re already on that road. You’re missing your meetings. You’re not doing all those things that you need to do. And he said, you know you’re right. And he came back to the program and checked himself back in. He hadn’t taken a drink. He hadn’t done heroin which is what he had done before. He had stayed away from those drugs but he knew he was on that path because he wasn’t replacing those negative behaviors with good ones.[Steve] The lesson is: if we stop running from what is evil—it’s going to catch us, and if we stop pursuing what is righteous—it will elude us.So it’s not just a lesson for those addicted to drugs, or alcohol, porn or anything else. In this life, we as Christians will never be at a point where we’ve run so far that we’ve finally outdistanced what’s wrong. And it’s also true that we’ll never be at the point where we’ve fully captured what’s right.So our whole life as God’s people is in pursuit of what’s godly and a fleeing from what is not. Here’s the way our clinical counselor put it:[Lena] One of the keys that works best is that you have to replace the bad behavior with a good behavior. It’s not enough to just say, I am not going to drink anymore or I’m not going to watch pornography anymore. Because that leaves a void in place of that and you need to fill that void. And the way to do that is to fill it with good things. So prayer and Bible study and mentors and good wholesome activities to replace those wrong ones, those bad ones. [Steve] How do you think God feels toward those that strive to fill that void? “The Lord loves the one who pursues righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9). That’s what Scripture says. He loves those that strive to catch what is good in their life.So we have to ask ourselves: What do I pursue? Where do I direct my energy? What is it that occupies my mind? Is life simply about success, promotion, possessions? You see that’s the question: Are we really chasing what’s spiritual?God says that we should be pursuing “…righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, [and] gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Or said another way: pursuing “peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).That’s the sign of a Christian—shown by what they run from, and by what they run after. Most importantly, we should realize that God has not called us to fail but to succeed. He is on our side! We can overcome even those so called “little” sins. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).Now that’s a promise—God can and will help us to overcome. Here’s how it can happen:[Lena] The key is to one—understand yourself and understand what those bad behaviors are. You know, are you looking at naughty pictures on the internet? Are you reading racy novels like 50 Shades of Grey ? Are you, maybe just watching inappropriate movies? And maybe it’s not you know, you have an addition to heroin or you’re an alcoholic. Maybe it’s those little things. And you just, “I can’t seem to get past it. I can’t seem to stop doing that.” Some of the things you can do is one—identify what they are. Write them down—the things that you want to get rid of in your life. Write them down and say okay, these are the things I really don’t like. But then you also need to write down the person you want to be. The steps that you want to take and what you want to be known for. Do you want to be known for someone who watches trashy movies all the time or do you want to be known as someone who takes care of others? Whatever it might be and focus on adding those things in. Because it’s not enough to just say no to these bad things. You have to say yes to the good things. And you have to incorporate them and it takes work.And, so I say the steps are simple. The steps are simple. It’s replace the bad with the good. But it’s tough in actuality but you can do it, especially if you have God in your corner and you pray about it every day. This is the person I want to be not this person. Help me, give me the strength that I need to be this person, not this person.[Steve] When we repent, and commit ourselves and our thinking to God and trust in Him with a faithful heart—He guarantees to help us through the struggles and the obstacles of life. He says, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).So God tells us to be passionate and say yes to the good things—because it’s worth it! Just think of the emotional benefits: Freedom from the guilt. Freedom from emotional wounds that would scar us for life. Liberty from the worry, the fear and the anxiety.And the blessings don’t stop there. When we pursue purity it changes our relationships. It changes our values. It transforms our character and even changes how we view ourselves.Most importantly, it changes our relationship with God. We no longer have to be marginal Christians. We can have a pure conscience before God. We see His perfect clear will for our own life and we’re motivated to have a right, pure, growing relationship with Him in every way.Now that’s the kind of purity that’s within reach. And you don’t have to feel that you’re out there on your own. I’d like to help you develop that kind of a wholesome, optimistic relationship with God. You can begin to do that by ordering your free copy of our study aid, Transforming Your Life .When you do, we’ll also send you a free subscription to our unique, 40-page, bi-monthly magazine. Each issue is filled with articles designed to assist you in living a true Christian life as well as helping you to better understand the spiritual significance of Bible prophecy. Throughout the publication you’ll find many stimulating articles that will really make a difference in your life.To order your free copy of: Transforming Your Life and receive your free subscription to our magazine, call us free: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online to BeyondToday.tv . If you live outside North America, please write to the address on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254]. We provide all our literature entirely free of charge as an educational service. So, be sure to request yours today!Today’s topic has been living a life of purity. To discuss this further, I’m joined by fellow host of the program, Gary Petty.Now really quickly Gary, what practical way can we become more consistent Christians?[Gary] You know the problem, Steve is we’re all inconsistent. There is no perfect Christian. And none of us can do this ourselves. In fact, it’s—borrowing your Bible here for a moment—it’s something that Paul said. He said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).A sacrifice was killed. So a living sacrifice. We live our lives learning and growing in this, in becoming Christ-like. And he goes on. He says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). The renewing of our mind requires God’s Spirit. We can get discouraged. We’re all addicted to sin in one form or another, but we can overcome sin through the power of God’s Spirit indwelling in us.[Steve] So remember our free offers today including our Bible study aid: Transforming Your Life and our bi-monthly magazine as well. Both are yours free of charge. To order your free study aid and magazine subscription, just call us toll free: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv .Plus, if you’d like to learn much more about the wonderful truths of the Bible, be sure to watch our live, bi-weekly, Wednesday night Beyond Today Bible Studies on the Web. To find them, simply go to our Beyond Today website and click on the “Bible Studies” tab.Join us as we cover a variety of biblical topics. They’re designed to give you practical ways to help improve your life today while pointing to a genuine and positive hope for tomorrow.While visiting our BeyondToday.tv website please check out BT Daily. These are short daily videos on various topics including prophecy, doctrine and Christian living. In addition, they frequently provide analysis of breaking news in the light of the Bible. When you join us throughout the week for BT Daily, you’ll discover much more about God’s great purpose for you and all humanity.You can also watch Beyond Today and BT Daily anytime on YouTube, our Roku channel and other streaming-enabled devices.You should also know that the United Church of God has hundreds of congregations in many cities around the world that meet each Sabbath. We’d love to hear from you.There is real hope. You don’t have to kid yourself that wrong choices are not really sins or that somehow “living in the gray area” is okay. We can’t honestly claim to be Christian if our lives are constantly compromising between wrong desires and purity.God reminds us that “All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming, seek to purify themselves just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3, VOICE).So let’s be dedicated to stop hurting ourselves and wholeheartedly seek what’s best. We can have clean, clear minds; free of debris and silt, and have crystal clear waters of a pure heart. God assures us that with His help and guidance, change is possible.Let’s make it our aim to run from anything and everything that leads to wrong—and then pursue, running as fast as we can—to replace the wrong, with all the things that are good and godly.Thanks for joining me. Now don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week for another edition of Beyond Today and join me in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today !