Let me start off by saying this: I could have just as easily made cats a positive piece in this illustration. I had to choose. So I apologize, cat lovers, but cats fit the impure portion of this illustration rather well. Don’t take it personally – the cats don’t.
Last summer I purchased a new bed. More accurately, I purchased a new used bed. And that new used bed did not completely fit up my old, narrow stairway. After not much debate, I made the decision to relocate my bedroom to a room on the main floor. I was generally happy with this change save for one detail: our two cats liked my new bed as well. In particular, they liked being underneath it. I did not like that they liked that.
In fact, it became one of their favorite places to go. If my bedroom door was mostly shut, but not latched, they would pull the door open in order to go in my room and under my bed. Given the size and placement of my bed, I had no way to shoo them out. Also, I could not always tell if they were in my room or not. Thus, the quandary: if I closed my bedroom door, would I be keeping them out or keeping them in?
Finally I resolved to solve this problem and purchased three under-bed storage containers. Only after doing so did I realize that I was still stuck. Because of the six-to-eight inch gap between the mattress and the footboard, the cats would still be able to get under my bed if they were in my room.
On the day that I was attempting to solve this problem, I decided to tackle the project all the way. I moved the mattress and the box spring in order to vacuum underneath my bed. When I moved the box spring, I noticed some extra weight and a bump. The extra weight and bump in my box spring was, in fact, one of the cats. Whether the lining at the bottom of the box spring was torn at the time of purchase or not I do not exactly recall. But it is now. And that was all the room that the cats needed to find, for them, a very comfortable and safe place to be.
You may be reading this and wondering how this is even remotely connected to purity. If the dots are not quite connecting yet, allow me to explain. In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul exhorts the readers – and us today – on how to live out our faith. Speaking in particular on anger, verses 26 and 27 read as follows:
“In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
(Side note: either this iPad is smarter than I realize, or God is giving me confirmation. After looking up those verses in different versions on the web, I went to open the YouVersion application of the Bible. Those verses popped up as the verse of the day.)
If you climb at all, you understand the properties of a foothold. It is something that is used to position and propel yourself further toward your goal. Therefore, if we give the devil a foothold, we are giving him something that he will use to position and propel himself closer to his goal. What is his goal? To steal, kill, and destroy. Destroy what?
Not what, but who.
And that who is you.
You see, when it comes to purity, we may allow ourselves to believe something is “not that bad.” Or that engaging in an impure act “isn’t hurting anyone.” Those are not your words, those are the words of your enemy. Even if you do not believe in Christ and you claim the devil as your ally, he is your enemy. He plots your destruction. The problem with any act of impurity, with providing a foothold, is that it cannot be undone. You cannot unsee. You cannot unsay. You cannot undo.
If I leave my bedroom door open and unattended, I cannot vouch for my room being cat-free. The only way that I can maintain a cat-free room (short of transfer of ownership, which is in the works) is my constant vigilance. The same is true of your purity.
Suppose that you, as a man, find yourself looking longingly, lustfully, at a woman who is not your wife. You may believe that it has hurt no one. But how do you intend to erase that image? This is not Men In Black, that image is there. And whether you are married or not, the enemy will use that foothold to work upon that selfish desire that has been sparked. The desire is to know, or to have, contact with that woman. Or a woman like her. Or a woman who looks like her. Somehow, you will seek to satisfy that thirst that was initiated. What you will be doing is drinking a drink that will not satisfy.
Or suppose that you, as a woman, initiate a conversation with a man who is not your husband. Though the surface appears innocent, the underlying motive of your heart is to know him and allow him to meet your emotional needs even though he is committed to another woman. But your goal, because he met your need once, becomes that he will meet your needs more often. Because again, just as with the man, a thirst was initiated. A foothold was given. And the enemy is one step closer to his goal of destruction.
The only way that I could establish a cat-free room was to do a clean sweep. And even then I had to prod and poke the cat to leave. There was no initiative on the cat’s side of the deal to leave the space it had found. I had to uproot the area and maintain constant vigilance afterwards. I am now at almost a month cat-free.
The same is true of purity. If you are not in a relationship, your confession needs to be before The Lord and to others who will help you in your walk. Do a clean sweep. There is a group of men at a local church who regularly meet to discuss this very issue. They are frank and forthright because they know they have to be. Any act of covering up is simply allowing the foothold.
If you are in a relationship, you should be striving to create a space where the honesty of your struggles and successes is welcomed. I assure you that you cannot keep it hidden. If it does not come out directly, it will certainly come out indirectly. You cannot hide a cat in a box spring forever. Maybe it shows up in your irritation that then becomes anger. Maybe it shows up in your failure to communicate with your mate. Maybe it shows up in you not wanting to spend intimate time with your mate. It will show up. I promise you.
The verse from Psalm 51 reminds us that this walk is a process: “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” Anything that is created takes time. It will take crafting. But everything that God created he also declared to be “good.” This would be the same.
I would safely wager that the enemy has established a path for your destruction as it relates to purity. I would safely wager that there is a foothold within your life where the enemy has begun his entrance. And he is in no mood to leave. So what do you do? You knock him down. And when he begins his climb again (he will), you knock him down again.
Speak truth over your life. Remind yourself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Remind yourself that you are in Christ Jesus. Confess to one another. Confess to God. Ask for and receive the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Ask for and receive forgiveness. Ask for and receive grace.
And give grace.
And give forgiveness.
One of the things that we, or at least I, have a tendency to do is find fault in those who do what we once did. How quickly we forget. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Whether you can see it or not, those you encounter and must give grace to are made in the image of God – just like you. They need grace – just like you. They need forgiveness – just like you. They need help – just like you.
So once you make a clean sweep, guard the door of your heart. Be vigilant. Ask for help. The last thing that you want to do is accept defeat when it seems that the enemy has nearly succeeded. The enemy doesn’t stand a chance. You are always, always, a mere five letters, two syllables, one name away from victory:
There’s just something about that name. The enemy may have a foothold. He may have climbed close to victory. But Jesus is King of the Mountain. I am just as certain of that as I am that cats do not belong in box springs. Be vigilant, brothers and sisters.