Realizing the Kingdom (4)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure…
- Philippians 1.9, 10
We often hear it said that spiritual growth occurs from the inside-out. In many ways that is true. This is why the Scriptures put so much emphasis on the need to rid ourselves of thoughts, affections, and priorities that are contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and to work hard to put in place and keep in place those that are consistent with what God desires.
As we cleanse, renew, refocus, and re-establish our hearts, minds, and consciences, the practices of righteousness will increasingly be evident in the ways we speak and act. So by all means we need to work at becoming righteous from the inside-out.
But not merely that way.
Diving in to purity
Paul’s phrasing in our text is a bit enigmatic. He says that when we are abounding in love and approving what is excellent, we will “so” – or “thus” – be pure. Purity is an inward disposition of the soul. But purity is not complete until it is evident in some area of our lives. How can purity be known unless it is expressed?
Moreover, there is something about expressing love and excellence that, we might say, not only confirms but reinforces purity. The more we express the purity of our hearts in love and excellence, the more that purity is, well, purified even more – bolstered, strengthened, made even more pure.
It’s a little like the first time I dove off the high diving board at the pool in Wilson Park, back in my home town. I took a long time building up to that feat. For the better part of a whole summer I climbed the ladder, then climbed back down; climbed it again, and then jumped off the board; jumped off over and over again, to gauge the actual height of the dive; stood in a dive position on the end of that board, only to jump; and then, at long last, dove off for the first time. All that preliminary stuff was in order to get up my courage and confidence. The first time I dove off the board I got right out of the pool, climbed the ladder, and dove off again. Then again. And again. Each time I dove I felt my courage and confidence growing. But each time I went back to the pool after a few days I had to do a kind of a run-up to diving off – setting my mind and determination to the task – just to regain my courage and confidence.
Purity is a little like that. We work hard to attain it in our minds, hearts, and consciences. We have to search the Scriptures, spend long hours in prayer, talk with others, and read some authorities in order to understand which thoughts, feelings, and values are pure and which are to be discarded.
Then there’s the struggle to put that purity in place in our souls. Once there, we need to express it – in love and excellence. When we do, this confirms the soul-building we’ve been engaged in and strengthens the purity we have attained, refining and strengthening it, bringing purity, as it were, full circle from the soul to the life and back to the soul again.
This is the way we grow in righteousness, for every time, through love and excellence, we manifest the purity of our souls – whatever the extent of that purity may be – we confirm and strengthen that purity. This, in turn, makes it more likely that we will show love and excellence again, with more of each, and more consistency, the effect of which, of course, is to confirm and strengthen the purity of our souls.
So it is that we grow in righteousness from the inside-out, but also from the outside-in. Therefore, along with love and excellence, let us also seek purity as the third facet of the gem of righteousness. Righteousness – love, excellence, and purity – is the primary attribute of the character of the Kingdom, which we as followers of Christ are called to seek as our highest priority in life. And righteousness consists of love, excellence, and purity.
For more insight to the character of the Kingdom of God and its impact on our lives, enroll in the course, PT 1 Spiritual Maturity 1: Revival. This free online course will help you to realize more of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God in your everyday life.