Purity Is More Than a List of Rules

I was that girl. The girl who grew up in church, saved sex for marriage, wrote letters to her future husband, and tried to do all of the “right” things a good church girl should do. Check. Check. Check. I was marking off the boxes that a good church girl should check off. I was following the rules and being “pure.” Looking back on my thirty years of life, I see a stark contrast in the way that I used to view the concept of purity to the way that I view it right now. As much as I hate admitting this, I was (and still am at times) a rule follower and a Pharisee. I was the girl saying to God, “Look God! Look at how I love You! I follow all of these rules, and I’m pure!” I so wanted to do all of the right things that I often lost God in the midst of it. I often did things for the sake of my own name and reputation rather than for the name and glory of God. I’ll never forget the day that God did some serious heart work in my life. He helped me to see how I had been striving to measure up, to be enough, to follow the rules . . . to be pure as a result of my own efforts. God helped me to see the gospel in a new and fresh way. He helped me to see that He didn’t die because I was “good”; He died because I wasn’t good. He died because I needed a Savior. From that moment on, my motivation to embrace certain standards and convictions really began to change. Instead of saving kissing for marriage because I wanted to be “good enough,” I saved kissing for marriage out of a desire to honor God. My heart’s focus was no longer on “rules” but on honoring Christ from the inside out. It was a heart shift for me. My hope and prayer is that God will use this blog to help each one of us see God’s heart for purity. My hope is that we will be changed and that our actions will flow out of a heart completely focused on loving God and bringing honor and glory to His name alone. That our desire to “do good works” will flow out of our love for Christ. Here are a few of the most important things I’ve learned about purity over the past few years:

1. We can’t add to or take away from our worth!

This is an area that God is continuing to help me grasp. I have the tendency to want to add to my worth. I want to earn my salvation by doing “good” things. God has graciously shown me over and over again that I can’t add to or take away from my worth. It’s not about what I do; it’s all about what He’s already done. This is an area many of us tend to struggle with, whether it’s by demeaning ourselves and viewing ourselves as “less than” because of sinful choices we’ve made or by elevating ourselves and doing our best to be acceptable to God. Both mindsets are wrong and prideful. One says, “My worth is up to me. Thanks for what You did on the cross, but I’ve ruined myself. Not even You (God) can redeem this mess.” The other says, “My worth is up to me. God, Your work on the cross wasn’t quite enough. I need to follow rules and be sufficient in myself to be ‘acceptable in your sight.’” Both of these mindsets are wrong. Both put the responsibility of worth on ourselves rather than on our Creator. This passage is a great reminder of who does the saving: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). I touch on this very topic in Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl’s Heart. I say:

If we, as women, have the ability to contribute to, or to take away from our worth, the gospel is meaningless. Jesus’ death on the cross would have been pointless. We need to remember that every single one of us is incredibly imperfect and in desperate need of Christ and His perfection. We are all impure before God (Isa. 64:6). We all need His saving grace and perfect righteousness to make us pure. Instead of striving to earn our worth through our pure actions, let’s accept the worth that Christ has already given us. We don’t have to earn it. He gives it freely.

2. There aren’t pure people and impure people.

Christians have associated purity with certain physical actions for way too long. Think about it. If a girl has sex before marriage, we often hear things like “she’s lost her purity.” What an awful and unbiblical mindset. Since when did the word “purity” equate to virginity? When we look inside the Bible, we see that purity isn’t something that some people are born with and some aren’t. We see that ALL are impure before the Lord. We are all “lost sheep.” We are all imperfect and in need of a Savior. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23–24). Instead of dividing people into separate camps (the pure and the impure), let’s instead recognize that we are all in need of a Savior. There is not one person more holy, pure, or righteous than the other. It’s only by the grace of God that we can be redeemed and clothed in Jesus’ holiness. If we’ve accepted Christ as our personal Savior, we should strive (through the power of Christ) to become pure and holy as God is holy. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16). The goal should be a pure heart that desires to follow God’s Word and become like our Savior. Every action and choice we make to live out God’s design for sex and sexuality should flow from that heart.

3. God’s gift of sex should not be demeaned.

Many Christians have been scared into saving sex for marriage because they’ve been told that sex is “bad and terrible.” No. Sex isn’t bad or terrible. Sex is wonderful in the right context. God created sex. It’s a wonderful, beautiful, amazing gift (to be enjoyed within the context of marriage). Instead of scaring people into waiting, we should learn to view sex through a biblical lens. As I say in Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl’s Heart:

Sex should never be cast in the light of being a bad or scary thing. If this is your perspective of purity, then your choices to abstain from sex will most likely be rooted in fear. You’ll be left wondering things like, “if sex is such a bad and scary thing, why did God create me with longings? Why did He give me desires if they are so wrong?” Instead of embracing this wrong narrative, we need to reject it. It’s not biblical and it’s not helpful.

If you’d like to dig deeper into God’s design for sex and sexuality, grab a copy of Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl’s Heart.  Chapter 7, “Imperfect Purity,” fully unpacks this topic we’re discussing. What is your perspective of purity? I’d love to hear more from you.

  • When you hear the word “purity,” what comes to mind?
  • How do you feel your current perspective lines up with God’s Word?

About the Author

Bethany Beal

Bethany Beal is the co-founder of GirlDefined Ministries and co-author of several books, including Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity and Identity. She is passionate about spreading the truth of biblical womanhood through writing, speaking, and mentoring women, and you can catch her unpacking exciting and controversial topics every week on her podcast, The Girl Defined Show. Bethany is married to her best friend and husband, David, and they have one son, Davey Jr.