|Volume 21 Number 8 August 2019||
T. Pierce Brown
The grass was turning brown, for it had not rained for many days. As the lightning began to flash and the thunder rumbled, I sat on the front porch and watched and prayed. When I said, “God, if you see fit to let a few drops fall, I will be grateful, but if not, thank you for the thunder and lightning,” it began to rain. I am not implying that my prayer had anything to do with that, but it did have to do with the title of this article as well as some of the thoughts that came to shame me.
We have sung many times, “There shall be showers of blessings. Showers of blessings we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” The thought struck me with force: We have had showers of blessings all of our lives and have in blind ingratitude only thought of them as “mercy drops,” always wanting more, but not properly grateful for what we have. I sat there with tears in my eyes. Perhaps tears of gratitude for God sending the rain, but also probably tears of shame for not being as grateful as I should have been for God’s infinite grace and thinking of the multitude and magnitude of His blessings merely as “mercy drops.”
Not a day passes that I do not thank God for many blessings, but when I examined my heart, I am ashamed to confess that probably many of those expressions of thanks were more than likely mere surface expressions rather than a result of a profound sense of gratitude which would cause me to express that gratitude in deeds of service and homage, rather than in mere words. I have little doubt that I have often more or less taken for granted the fact that God in His grace allowed me to have a precious wife for more than 54 years, everything I needed to sustain life and make it happy, and indeed God has already blessed me exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think. Yet, I have sung, and probably meant, “Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead,” as if these blessings were but a small portion of what I deserved or wanted. If we are really grateful, let us act like it, not merely say, “Thanks.”
In our cupboards or pantries are items that state “pure” on them. For instance, vanilla flavoring is “pure,” and the only ingredient listed for sugar is “sugar,” so it is pure. We all know that means there have been no changes to the original product—no additives such as preservatives or coloring. The product is what it says it is; it is 100% pure and free of alterations. This is always good for people with allergies to know because some additives stir up allergies when ingested.
However, most of us don’t have to fret over such a thing as purity, that is, until it comes to our spiritual well-being. In that light, any changes, alterations or additives become a thorn to our spiritual lives. Christians must guard against foreign matters of any sort that will separate them from God’s favor.
From the beginning, God’s people were to remain pure and free from inter-marriages with other people. He said in Leviticus 20:24, “I am the Lord your God Who has separated you from other people.” Why did God do such a thing? Listen to why: “Neither shall you make marriages with them…for they will turn away your sons from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you and destroy you suddenly.” God demanded purity in order to keep the people true in service to Him, for their own good, too. God still expects that of Christians today. “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing and I will receive you and will be a Father to you” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). God’s followers cannot intermingle with those who would diminish and dilute the true Word of God, which specifies how Christians are to live.
King Solomon may be the most renowned person ever to be drawn away from God by the impurity of foreign worship. Solomon was king of united Israel for about 40 years. He fortified Jerusalem and built Solomon’s Temple. Solomon had a large army with many chariots and horsemen, and he controlled a navy and had a lucrative sea trade. However, Solomon also had a problem. “King Solomon loved many strange women” (1 Kings 11:l). These women came from nations that God had forbidden the Israelites to befriend, “for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love” (v. 2), and “his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God” (v. 4). Solomon built high places “for all his strange wives who burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (v. 8). God warned Solomon what would happen, and it occurred!
Paul spoke frequently to the young, impressionable Timothy about the matter of purity. He instructed him in 1 Timothy 5:22, “Don’t lay hands suddenly on any man nor be partakers of other men’s sins but keep yourself pure.” He instructed Timothy to “be an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Christians are not to exhibit a holier than thou attitude over those who are not part of the Lord’s family. Contrariwise, they are to be Christian examples in all manner of life. Christianity reveals itself by what one says, one’s manner of living, showing love toward others, having fervor for serving the Lord, letting faith shine through in all one does, and remaining pure and free from evident sin.
James explained what purity in religion is, “Pure and undefiled religion before God, the Father, is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Christians are to physically minister to the needs of others (as Jesus did!) and strive to keep sin out of their lives. Christians represent God to the world and must do the things that will cause others to want to become a part of the good they observe.