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The Discipline of Purity and the Growth of the Church

Yesterday, in our Tuesday morning Men’s Bible Study, we tackled one of the toughest issues of life – the discipline of purity. We’re currently studying through R. Kent Hughes’ book The Disciplines of a Godly Man (I’d highly recommend it to all men, more on that in a future post). Allow me to allow Hughes to introduce the topic…

“Sensuality is easily the biggest obstacle to godliness among men today and is wreaking havoc in the Church. Godliness and sensuality are mutually exclusive, and those in the grasps of sensuality can never rise to godliness while in its sweaty grip. If we are to “disciples [ourselves] for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB), we must begin with the discipline of purity. There has to be some holy heat, some holy sweat!”

One of the issues raised early in our study time was the correlation between purity and church growth. I’ve been reading church growth material for a dozen years now. I’ve read most of the “hot” books on the subject and there is an element that is almost always missing. Most address the need to better market the church, to teach more relevant material on Sundays, and to be more entertaining in our worship styles. Almost none raise the issue of divine blessing.

The question is, will God bless a church with true “growth” when her leaders are compromising their moral integrity on sexual issues? I know that many will point to some large churches that have grown under the leadership of pastors who were later found to have significant behind-the-scenes moral failures. But I’m not really addressing the numerical boastings of megachurches, but rather the actual, visible impact that local churches are having on their communities today.

We live in an age of limitless conferences on church growth, contemporary worship, communicating and preaching in today’s culture, evangelism and missions, etc. We are surrounded by Christian bookstores whose shelves are stocked with all the help one could ask for. Seminary training is a click away and most pastors are a short drive away from some kind of campus or extension center. Our resources abound, but something is amiss. Richard Dawkins and the new atheists seem to be having almost as much impact on culture as the church. Why? Could it be that we’ve lost our sense of awe for a holy God, who demands holiness of us?

Let me close on a practical note. Man (or Woman), if you’re struggling with sexual purity, seek help. Make it known and avail yourself of the church’s assistance. If it’s a potential affair, or a current one, seek an altar of repentance, seek counseling, and scramble to salvage the marriage into which God has sovereignly placed you. If it’s pornography, seek help. Check out pureintimacy.org for some answers. Download a filter and some accountability software and have your spouse block the bad stuff on the TV. Take action now!

One of the most encouraging aspects of our Bible study was the discovery that though men are wired to be visually stimulated, and though our world taunts and bombards us with sensual imagery at every turn, it is still possible to be pure. God has given us the Holy Spirit who will, at our willingness, stand guard over our hearts. He has given us the Scriptures to feed our minds on His thoughts and His will. And He has given us each other as brothers and sisters in a family of faith.

I want the church in America to grow again, to have a real impact, to see a lasting difference made in our surrounding communities. But it will only happen as holy men of God lead the charge!

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