Families and Purity

That sweet family sitting in worship may have secrets. Dad and his teenage son probably visit the same pornographic websites. Mom may be flirting online with her high school sweetheart. The middle school daughter may be sexting photos to her boyfriend. And grandmother may be reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

Most church leaders know the research and are aware that most of the men and boys of the church struggle with pornography, that women and girls increasingly struggle with pornography and impure chatting, and that emerging technologies will only make matters worse.

Most leaders know that adults are as likely to be sexually involved outside marriage as are teenagers. The U.S. is quickly following Western Europe, where cohabitation has almost completely replaced marriage among young adults.

Most leaders know that the issues of gender confusion, gender change, and same-sex “marriage” have come or will come to every congregation.

And bottom line, most leaders know that the church cannot fulfill its mission to make disciples of all peoples while a cancer of impurity impacts a large percentage of members. Could sexual impurity be a major cause of the spiritual lethargy in the church today? Timothy Keller succinctly states, “Whatever controls us is our lord.”[1] Derek Rishmawy notes:

When you’re engaged in behavior you’ve been raised to believe is wrong, but is … powerfully enslaving, you want to find reasons to disbelieve your former moral convictions. … Illicit sex is an idol in our generation that cannot be ignored, but must be dethroned if the worship of the true God is going to fill the Temple of His Church.[2]

Most church leaders believe the issue of purity is important, but they also know that a return to the moralism of the previous century is not the solution. Legalistic lectures and commands to “try harder” are dead-end strategies. Layering on shame tends to keep people in their sin.


Thoughts and behaviors will not change until hearts are transformed. The idolatry of impurity will only lose its power if such idolatry is replaced by something more powerful and precious—and nothing is more powerful and precious than a personal awakening to much more of who King Jesus is today.

By God’s grace, I preach in a different church every Sunday. Many Sundays, my sermon includes a focus on the ascension of Jesus. My mentor David Bryant calls that day “the moment all authority in heaven and on earth would be bestowed on Jesus visibly, in perpetuity—the day he would be inaugurated before saints and angels as monarch over all, openly elevated by the Father to the everlasting throne of glory.”[3]

Lifting eyes to the power and glory of Christ enthroned awakens something in believers. For many, the moment is almost like meeting Christ again for the first time. Such awakening leads to heart transformation. Gratitude for the Gospel, amplified by a new vision of the King, may prompt believers to worship Jesus with jaw-dropping awe and intimacy that transcends the marriage bed. Such heart transformation, informed by the clear teaching of Scripture, can lead to movement toward purity.


A growing number of pastors and church leaders now say, “Our church celebrates the family. We champion parents as the primary spiritual leaders in their homes.” Perhaps the time has come to move from words to actions.

Perhaps the time has come to see the home as ground zero for heart transformation leading toward purity. That does not mean just calling parents to be the morality cops who try to catch their hormonally crazed teenagers doing bad things.

  • That does mean inspiring family members to worship together, study together, encourage one another, watch one another’s backs, and share grace-filled accountability.
  • That does mean “we present an alternative view … of sex that is beautiful, but different than the one offered in the dominant cultural narratives; affirming of the goodness of sex, but presenting it within a God-intended framework that imbues it with meaning and value.”4
  • That does mean acknowledging that Christ-followers stumble, experience cleansing grace, and continue on their journey toward purity.
  • That does mean giving believing dads the lead role with their families (and cheering on single moms who must stand in the gap).

Has the time come for a new movement in the church?

  • To see believers awakened to the glory of God’s beloved Son…
  • Leading to adoring Him with greater gratitude, love, and awe…
  • Leading to believers with hearts transformed…
  • Leading to movement toward sexual purity…
  • And for all of this to happen in families of one or many…
  • And for dad to take the lead with those families.

The time may be right for a new movement in the church, a movement that might be called Pure Hearts at Home.

[1]Counterfeit Gods, xxiv.