Philippians 4:8 - part 4
“…whatever is pure…think about these things”
The fourth word Paul uses is “hagnos”, which can be translated as pure, modest, chaste, immaculate, and (figuratively) clean. “Hagnos” has a close connotation to the word “hagios” (holy) – they share the same root. The bible uses ‘holy’ as an adjective to describe both people and things, as well as a noun to describe believers in general (saints).
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘pure’? Perhaps you think of pure gold, pure water, or pure motives. Whatever the case, purity conveys important ideas to us regarding our thoughts.
As a whole, the bible describes purity as that which is absent from sin, and defines dirtiness as that which is stained with sin. For example, sexual immorality is equated with being impure (Ephesians 5:5), while sexual chastity is equated with being pure (Hebrews 13:4).
Purity is the antithesis – the literal opposite – of dirty. Do you wash clothes when they are clean, or when they are dirty? Do you wash your body when you are clean and smell like fresh linen, or after you’ve been working hard all day and are dirty? The answer is obvious and directly correlates to what we should be thinking about. Our thoughts are not to dwell on things that are morally dirty, risque, and immodest, but on what is clean and pure.
Imagine this – the largest hotel in the city has a septic tank in which all of the building’s waste is collected. If you swim in the septic tank for 8 hours every day, all the liquids will seep into your pores, mouth, ears, clothes..everywhere. Would it be any shock at all when you struggle to get that smell off of you? It is no surprise then that our lives stink when our mind is dominated with dirty, impure thoughts.
Secondly, purity excites reverence – not lust. Two men walk up to a mountain. Both see it as beautiful but for very different reasons. The first man sees it as a display of God’s creative power, his might and steadfastness, and is reminded of a Psalm, “Your righteousness is like the mountains…” (36:6). He bows his head in worship of God. The second man envisions the mountain with tunnels throughout it, all the trees in the area cut down, and a stream of money being generated by exploiting nature while working people to death.
One man’s mind is centered on what is pure – God. The other man’s mind is centered on what is un-pure – self. Our thoughts affect how we live – what we say, and how our eyes view the world. Most people around us can tell that our thoughts stink, because our life and attitude is more self-centered than others-centered.
God is the ultimate measure of purity. He is absolutely perfect. God even took on a human body and lived in this world (1 John 1), yet remained unstained from all of our moral filthiness (1 Peter 2:22). Yet, on the cross the pure One took on all of our dirt, “he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He never sinned but bore our sin to free us from it. He did this “…to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:21).
The good news is that the blood Jesus shed on the cross not only saves us from the eternal consequences of sin, but has power to clean us up in this life. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Because even the good things we do are tainted (Isaiah 64:6), we do not have the power to make ourselves clean. This is why God tells us to reason with him when he says “…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson” (Isaiah 1:18).
We actively participate in the process of sanctification, after believing the Gospel and having Jesus clean us up. We place our hope in Him and we can then purify ourselves (1 John 3:3) becoming more like Jesus.