I went to a birthday party for my nephew Josh, who just turned 21. Each of us was asked to write out a blessing for him and read it. This is what I said:
The Apostle Paul told Titus to urge young men to be sensible. In some translations this is rendered “self-controlled.” It’s the same thing, really. It makes sense to be self-controlled, to manage your passions and to mitigate your weaknesses.
In writing Timothy, Paul puts it this way:
Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
I know you have heard about the importance of fleeing youthful lusts. And you have also been admonished to pursue righteousness. Both of these are important, and you have probably been reminded of them again and again. But we often miss the rest of the verse. We are to do these things “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
Neither the fleeing or the pursuing can be done very well alone. They are not solitary tasks, where we just hunker down and try harder. To do them, we surround ourselves with those who call on the Lord. Sanctification occurs in a community of believers, where we are encouraged and even admonished. This means, of course, that it does not occur in a community of unbelievers.
Proverbs warns young men of the dangers of hanging out with those who seek ungodly gain and selfish ambition. “Do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths,” it says. Every young man would do well to memorize Proverbs chapter 1.
But it’s not enough to avoid bad influences. You have to surround yourself with better ones, men of all ages who call on God with a pure heart. You are 21. You need some godly friends in their 30’s. And you need some godly friend’s in their 60’s as well.
Basically, find a healthy church that teaches God’s Word with clarity and without apology. Then go to it. Make new friends. Have important conversations. Contemplate deeper truths. Pray with these people and for these people, “calling on the Lord with a pure heart.” Jesus says these are the ones who will see God.
A pure heart is a treasure, which must be defended and cultivated. Surround yourself with people who can help you do this, because responsibility and accountability flourish in community.
Psalms 24:4–6 says:
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Be part of a generation that lifts up its soul to that which is true. A pure heart should be the thing you seek, even on Sunday morning when you want to stay in bed.
A community of believers can help.