"Lord, Make Me Pure But Not Yet"

This quote from Augustine’s Confessions tends to be quite relevant to the state of the Christian Church today. We pray, “Lord, make me pure…but not yet.” This is the honest cry of the redeemed soul pit against the wiles of the flesh. There exists a very real sense in which the Christian desires holiness, for the principle of new life is in the soul bringing the faculties into a glad submission to the Word and will of God. When one undergoes the spiritual operation of the new birth, they are given and called to live a new life – which is why many reject the notion.

But there exists in a very real sense the flesh and its correspondent desires too. We are conflicted at every point. We are like the apostle Paul when he wrote to the Romans, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” 7:15. Who that belongs to Christ cannot associate with this battle?

It is a great desire that I have to promote the pursuit of the prize of Christ and eternal life in Him, to converse and teach and love in such a way that the Church’s heavenly citizenship will become what it is, namely, more real and more immediate than our citizenship in this world. With the grasping of this truth, this world would be turned upside down for the glory of Christ. We would pray, “Lord, make me pure…and hedge me in by Your Spirit and Your Word,” and then we might boldly guard ourselves against impurity…or sloth or worldliness or discontent or anxiety or any manner of sin. The true appropriation of the Spirit is that moment when we practice what we pray, do what we hear; we go beyond a mere profession and enter into obedience.

The problem is that we too often love the world, and neglect Christ; we take great pride in our earthly citizenship, and set aside as a light and far off thing that heavenly citizenship, and so it is easier, and a thing more appealing, to go with our flesh rather than with God’s Spirit. But the Bible teaches us that our heavenly citizenship is the place of our heart, and that we ought to be growing up into it.

Read Paul’s comparison of the two (Philippians 3:17-20), one who has his mind set on earthly things, the other that greatest citizenship and example:

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

When a youth refuses to share the Gospel for fear of confrontation, although it is a common fear, the earthly mentality is yet revealed and doubled when the parent becomes a friend rather than the spiritual leader and instead of encouraging the child and teaching the child about joy and obedience, agrees with the child and places a smothering pillow over what could have become the flames of evangelical passion. The deception is evidenced everywhere: in the marketplace, in the home, at the dinner table, in the stadium, on a date, on the couch, and it infiltrates the sanctuary of God. We are lawyers and teachers who happen to be Christians instead of Christian lawyers and teachers. We advocate the sports and hobbies and clubs of our spouses and children, and this is good, but horrible when they are advocated to the negation of the worship of God on Wednesday nights or at any time. When was the last time you or I forsook the dinner table for prayer or meditation or evangelism? In the athletic arena we cheer and shout for and uplift our gladiators, but do we uplift the Son of Man with such passion? Will you argue for your favorite team and not for Christ? Student, will you perceive the passing fancy of lust a greater satisfaction than holiness, respect, and love for God and the necessary love of what is good and hatred of what is sin? And what of television? Our minds and souls are starved for the eternally Sovereign King and Almighty God but we sear the conscience with the most damnable shows that the world has to offer. And then we wake up on Sunday, late enough to powder our faces and comb our hair but not to plead with God for mercy and grace, and after the service wonder, “What is missing?” “Lord, make me pure…but not yet.”

This will not do brothers and sisters – it will not do for me, nor you! The Gospel is at stake within the witness of our lives. I would rather you not profess Christ, than to profess His name and not practice it. We must take hold of what is already ours, given to us by grace – a preeminent citizenship in heaven. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2:9). This is our truest identity and calling…and you may be a doctor as well! We ought to take everything in our path and convert it to Christ, to the Bible, to theology, to Gospel, to God’s glory. If we stumble in one place, we may lose our witness forever(Matthew 5:13).

Have you ever considered why, having been plucked from the fire as it were, God kept us on earth for a season? To bear witness of God’s Word through our joy in that Word; Jesus gave us the Word, and the Word (by the Spirit) sanctifies us and separates us in a sense from the world so that Christ could say of us, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world,” (John 17:16). And we are sent of Christ to share the Word of Christ. So long as we follow the enemy, enamored with the world, how is it that we can be what Christ says we are in Him?

Understand that when I say, “must”, I do not intend to bring you under law again, for you are under grace as a believer, nor is it my aim to bring to you a legalistic system. No, rather, the must that I speak of is the must of grace, not of the law, and true grace is not without law; that is, we have a new desire, a new principle of grace in us, a new leader in the soul that compels us to love holiness and set aside the desires of the flesh. Grace is the motivation of true godliness. Remember, the Gospel is not a new set of commands for you to obey, but rather the news that none of your obedience merits a claim for you upon God or His glory, and that Christ has done what the law could not do. Therefore, the “must” that I write of, I write of with the intent of grace.

1. We must be wielded by the Holy Spirit; that is, we must follow His leadership, His Word, and in so doing, mortify and crucify the flesh with its desires. In our glad submission to Him, we are distinct from the world who is not possessed of Him. And to be possessed of Him is to be passionate for the souls of the world.
2. Quite simply, we must be drenched with Jesus Christ. Fellowship with Christ now is time spent in heaven on earth.
3. We must appropriate our heavenly citizenship. We have no reservations about appropriating our earthly citizenship in order to get what we desire. Our desires must change, or at least be raised to Christ and the glory of God. And if these things be our greatest desires, then we will appropriate that citizenship and its privileges for the attainment of those greater purposes.
4. Lastly, we must have a great earnestness about us in the pursuit of God’s glory in all things. By our earnestness for heavenly things, we might win others to a like passion and the reality of our heavenly citizenship.

May God grant us the grace of awakening to the realities of His kingdom, that our praise would be that we have, indeed, prayed, “Lord, make us pure. Thank You for we have been pure!” In Christ’s name. Amen.

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