Innocence or Purity?
The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship; it establishes a mutual regard for the fact that the basis of life is tragic. Always beware of an estimate of life which does not recognize the fact that there is sin.
Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical, never suspicious, because He trusted absolutely in what He could do for human nature. The pure man or woman, not the innocent, is the safeguarded man or woman. You are never safe with an innocent man or woman. Men and women have no business to be innocent; God demands that they be pure and virtuous. Innocence is the characteristic of a child; it is a blameworthy thing for a man or woman not to be reconciled to the fact of sin. (My Utmost for His Highest, June 24)
I find this reading for today to be very instructing, helpful, insightful and convicting.
It is helpful in that it gives me some clues as to why I so often feel cynical and suspicious.
It is insightful because it alerts me to a key and significant difference between innocence and purity.
It is convicting because I realize that my bent toward feeling suspicious about others may be partly due to my lack of mature purity myself as hinted at in this reading.
It is very easy to slip into the kind of thinking that is all pervasive in this world that human nature has at least some natural goodness in it that needs to be cultivated and might prove to assist us in getting right with God in some way. This is the very foundation of all false theology, yet it permeates every religion of the world. I have not seen any group, even those believing they are closest to following God's instructions, that is not infected to some degree with this subtle attitude to some extent.
The past couple days I have been internally grappling with deep questions regarding certain ministries that have had a powerful impact both on my life and on my view of religion. Other people have challenged the validity of at least one of these ministries very seriously which has caused me internal consternation and confusion to say the least. I feel challenged to reexamine who I am to believe, if anyone. I can see faults in the teachings or at least in the spirit of everyone who claims to be following truth which makes me wonder how I can ever really know truth myself. I also struggle to know how God expects me to relate to spiritual authority in respect to the church when I can clearly see spiritual deficiencies in those who have been placed in positions of authority.
On the other hand, it is obvious that I am not going to ever find a human somewhere around me who is perfect and complete in every way. Even if I do, I would then be in danger of making that human my focus of attention more than a personal and total devotion to Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think that Jesus causes me to see faults in others for that very purpose – to remind me that only He can be trusted fully. But that still does not help me sort out who or what is right many times.
There are so many things and so many areas where I still find confusion at times more than clarity. But then, is clarity what I really need as many seem to insist? Or is that too missing the main point and keeping me distracted by focusing on the wrong thing? Without clarity it seems I am doomed to live in confusion all of my life which I find hard to believe that God wants for me. My quest for more clarity in life has been one of the main motivations that has kept me in pursuit of the real truth about reality I have been pursing for a number of years now. But maybe it is time for my motives to change to something more legitimate(?)
This issue about the difference between innocence and purity I find very intriguing. Clearly this has been a source of confusion over the years for many including myself. My mind is immediately alerted to Bible verses speaking of God declaring us innocent. But is that really the case or do those ideas come more from tradition than from biblical reality? I just did a search through the whole Bible and could not find one instance of this being the case. We can be declared righteous before God, but I find no evidence yet of being declared innocent.
What I am perceiving here is that innocence is along the lines of what is seen in childhood that comes from simply a lack of exposure to much of the infections of sin in the heart. This is coupled with the fact that a child by nature is immature. Immaturity is not a bad thing in itself if it is the condition of a young person who is supposed to be at this stage in their development. But it is a very troublesome thing when immaturity continues to remain long after a person should have advanced to more mature stages of character and thinking.
On the other hand, the kind of purity that I see Oswald speaking of here is more along the lines of the kind of maturity that comes from much experience and quite possibly experience involving mistakes, pain and resulting consequences endured through many tough situations. The purity of an innocent child and the purity of a seasoned adult in some respects are a very different thing although in a few respects they might be similar.
Purity is another one of those words that I am realizing has been seriously distorted in our assumptions and thinking. We often think of purity as the absence of any mistakes or sins, particularly in the arena of sexual experience. But purity as I am starting to perceive it may be something quite different from that narrow view. Purity has much more to do with a state of mind and character that is cultivated over time through much effort and many painful experiences along the way that tend to purify the motives and spirit and thinking of a person. It is a process of distillation, of removing impurities through trials much like the purification of any physical thing like water or gold or other things that start out with many impurities and need cleansing to be more useful.
With this analogy, an innocent child might be likened to a clean, small mountain spring that emits life-giving water that could easily be used to refresh one's thirst without fear of being sickened. I have long enjoyed watching little children in their innocence and have been intrigued by their responses to various situations. As I watch and observe and sense their simplicity I feel that I am catching a glimpse of a closer version of what God designed humans to be before all the distortions and deceptions of sin have taken their toll on a life. During those times I often feel a deep longing emerging in my own heart to be able to live life with the joyful abandon and trust that I can only find in little children who are yet largely undamaged by those around them.
On the other hand, the purity of a matured spiritul adult would be likened more to the bottled water that may have been passed through many processes to remove impurities that were encountered after that clear mountain stream passed by polluting manufacturing plants and all sorts of debris and poisons may have been thrown into the rivers as they passed toward the sea. This is the kind of purity where God takes heavily polluted water that may even be filled with sewage, heavy metals and all sorts of impurities and distills it back into something life-giving and usable – 'potable' as the technical term is applied.
I firmly believe that when Jesus spoke of the necessity of becoming like little children in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven that this is the aspect He was referring to. I am aware that the innocence of a little child, as important as that is to protect and admire, is not the state that the redeemed will be in when they reach a much later stage in their development. Innocence has much more to do with the absence of contaminates due to lack of time or opportunities than it has to do with choices made by the person in that state. Children are not usually innocent because they choose to be but they are that way to start with simply by default.
This sort of innocence is very valuable and needs to be protected for as long as possible. But because we live in a world where sin is unavoidable and permeates the life and heart of every person born onto this planet, God has arranged a secondary state into which He desires to grow us because of all the contamination we unavoidably experience from all the sin and abuse we experience during our lives. This is where purity comes in and is not necessarily at all the same as the innocence that is seen in little children.
Purity is very much something that is produced by many choices made intentionally in that direction. While it is true that an innocent child may also be pure by default, they do not possess the strength of character, the stamina, the developed resistance to the onslaughts of deception and evil that can only come about from repeated exposure to such things. That is not to say that we should go looking for problems in order to achieve purity – that is God's schedule and responsibility, not ours.
I also believe that this state of being, this sort of mature, hammered out, struggled through sort of character development is unique from anything that other unfallen beings can even understand to a great extent. This is why unfallen angels stand in amazement at the transformations that they see taking place in sinners who have been saved and transformed over time into reflections of God that were never even imagined before sin entered into the picture. It is impossible for them to relate much to such a purity that can only be arrived at through a total immersion in the grace of Jesus Christ and in no other way. Since they have never experienced the sort of contamination that we have been infected with on this planet they cannot know how grace rescues one from such tenacious infection.
The key point of this devotional partly quoted above is that to come to this level of purity and maturity, one must come to terms with the inherent presence of sin within the heart of every person. If we fall for the deception that we have inherent goodness that can be trusted to hold up under pressure, we will have missed the most important aspect of redemption. For it is only by depending totally on the righteousness of Jesus that transforms our relationship to God that we can ever be prepared in heart and mind to be able to live in the presence of a holy and awesome God for all eternity.
Thus, purity and innocence may at first appear to be similar but are in fact very different things. Any ultimate innocence can only be viewed through the covering righteousness of a Savior who took upon Himself all of our sins and suffered the consequences, the pain, suffering and death that those sins caused Him in our place. Legally and technically it can never be said that we are innocent of sin ourselves. But we can, and we must, be made pure and holy which is as close to original innocence as can happen with a person who has been born into this world of sin. This is the only way that God will be able to finally reunite the rest of His truly innocent children throughout the universe with the damaged and repaired children that He has redeemed from this planet. He has to hide us and unite us so thoroughly with Christ that when anyone comes into contact with us that all they will be able to see is a reflection of Jesus.
Father, continue to purify me for Your glory.