[Philip Grist has served with Grace Baptist Mission (GBM) in India and as a co-ordinator of GBM’s literature ministry]
Psalm 119:9 gives a straightforward answer (although carrying out the instructions will be a battle!): ‘How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your word’.
The New Testament equivalent is 2 Timothy 2:22 (easy to remember – all ‘Ts’ and ‘Twos’): ‘Flee also youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart’.
Some who are older may look back with shame on aspects of their youth, and pray the prayer of Psalm 25:7. Thank God that we have the assurance that God has ‘blotted out our transgression’.
That is surely evidence of his remarkable grace. A dying servant of God was asked by a colleague how he was. He replied that he was throwing his own works overboard and ‘sailing into heaven on the plank of God’s free grace’.
One of the best examples in Scripture of youthful purity must be Joseph (though the principle behind Proverbs 6:25 applies to either sex). When he started work in Potiphar’s house, everything went well for him (Genesis 39:1-6). That’s a dangerous time, when we need to be on our guard!
Joseph was clearly a handsome young man. In his History of JosephGeorge Lawson points out that Potiphar’s wife, who lusted after Joseph, ‘must have been lost to all sense of shame when she barefacedly tempted Joseph to violate her chastity … Few young men could have resisted the strong temptation which he was enabled to encounter’.
Yet Joseph held fast his integrity. Reason? The fear of God.
Adultery is not only sin, it is a great wickedness. It is a rejection of God’s whole purpose for marriage, established at creation. God declared that a man and woman should be united and become ‘one flesh’ – to Adam, his wife was ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’. Committing adultery is like tearing one’s flesh apart.
Joseph knew this and cried, ‘How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ His greatest concern was sinning against God. Knowing God’s Word in his heart prevented him from bringing God’s holy name into disrepute.
Regulated by God’s Word
Joseph’s spiritual walk was kept pure because it was regulated by God’s Word. Is this the effect the Bible has on us (whatever our age)? Does God’s Word lead me to reverence God and his absolute purity? Does knowing that keep me from the by-path of sin?
Another example is young Daniel. When we meet him, he is probably in his early to mid teens. In his book Daniel, Geoff Thomas points out what ‘leaps out at you [in the first chapter of Daniel] – it was a struggle for young people’. It always has been and it certainly is now.
A fierce battle awaits every young believer and the temptations to compromise are legion. Knowing his time is short, the devil is out to trip up every young person.
Daniel refused food from the heathen king’s table (Daniel 1:8). The food, or at least some of it, would have first been offered in a religious rite to idols. As a Jew, Daniel would have been contaminated by it. This holds a lesson for us.
Blameless and pure
The world dishes up so much that is poison to the soul. It is dispensed on television, on the internet, in places of entertainment, and by pop idols and music that exalts sin and degrades both body and mind.
If indulged, it can pollute and tempt the soul from Christ and his Word. Are we, like Daniel, prepared to take our stand? What a challenge to society of the twenty-first century if we were!
Have we renounced the attractions of the world because of our love for the Saviour and his people – and specially because we want the Lord’s holy name to be honoured?
Paul reminded the Philippians that they lived ‘in a crooked and depraved generation’ (2:15). Present-day society is no better – for youth or anybody else. Paul wanted his readers to be ‘blameless and pure’. That’s exactly what the psalmist was saying to the young people of his generation.
The Bible is always relevant because God does not change. His truth endures for ever. To love the world is not only to disobey God – it also indicates that the Father’s love is absent from the heart.
Is that a harsh thing to say? John, the Apostle of love, thinks not: ‘If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him’ (1 John 2:15). Reader, especially young reader, are you treading the path of purity? Is your life ruled by Scripture?