I was recently reading an article about a battle fought by some Australian battalions during World War 2, on the southeastern coast of Borneo. After they had taken the enemy territory, one of the most critical steps was securing the perimeter.
“The only means of securing this perimeter was by constant offensive patrolling. The enemy had not evacuated the area. Every day there were patrol clashes, and at night the enemy continued their infiltration tactics.” I like that phrase offensive patrolling. You must offensively/proactively patrol the perimeter of your integrity.
I need to secure the moral perimeter around my life and behavior.
If you read last week’s article you know that we talked about holiness not just being a legalistic set of rules. True holiness always starts with relationship. And the highest motive for keeping ourselves pure is our love for God, not the fear of consequences.
But ultimately a heart of purity always translates into action. We walk out holiness by our decisions, behaviors, and choices.
In Proverbs 4:23-27 (NLT), Solomon says…
Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
What a great picture of the pursuit of holiness. It starts with guarding your heart, but then it get operationalized in the choices you make and the actions you choose.
I want to give you 3 practical challenges in your pursuit of holiness.
1. Be ruthless in guarding yourself against small compromises.
I once had a conversation with a man who had an affair. “I remember the exact moment I crossed the line. I was walking out of a meeting when I stopped to say something to a woman who was still sitting at the table. I put my hand on her hand and I could tell she was receptive.” The truth is, he had crossed the line in his mind long before that moment where he took action. But that small compromise in a conference room led to a full blown affair that ended up wreaking havoc in both of their lives.
It’s kind of like the Titanic. The disaster of the Titanic wasn’t just a collision with an iceberg. There were 3 million faulty rivets that held the outer steel to the ship’s hull. The company, in order to save a little money used sub-standard iron. The rivets catastrophically failed in the collision with the iceberg. LIFE IS ALL ABOUT THE RIVETS. It is the small details and decisions that hold our lives together.
In Ephesians 5:3 (NIV) Paul said
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people
This is not only about sexual compromise. It could be about honesty, about not taking advantage of people or about inappropriate jokes. It could be making empty promises, cheating someone out of some money, watching an illicit movie in a hotel room, or manipulating a conversation.
2. Beware of the cringe factor.
When you are faced with a situation, is there a check in your spirit? Is there something inside of you that hesitates? This is often about your conscience and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. God has given you this wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. And it is His job to convict you, nudge you, and prompt you. Listen to those inner promptings.
Here is a wise rule to live by when it comes to the pursuit of holiness….When in doubt, don’t!!
Another way to ask this… would you mind if other people knew you did this?
And sometimes it’s not just about something that is morally wrong. Sometimes it is about poor judgment and being unwise. Another question I try to ask myself is “What’s the wise thing to do?”
3. When you blow it, call it “sin” and “repent”.
One of the things I despise in our culture is how we keep relabeling everything so we remove any personal responsibility. As long as I can label it a “disease”, I can be the victim.
I understand that there are external factors that influence all of us, but the Bible says I have everything I need to live the Christian life. I have everything I need for victory!!
Repentance and confession is the pathway to restoring the relationship. Repentance honestly acknowledges the darkness of my own heart and my propensity to cut corners and act with less than full integrity.
Face it; name it; renounce it; replace it.
Before you get on with your day, I want to ask you a question…
How is God coming to you right now? Is there something right now in this moment that the Holy Spirit is shining the spotlight on? Is there some secret sin or hidden compromise that you need to confess?
Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us has it all together. The great news is that God uses imperfect, sinful people like you and me. But God’s power flows best through clean and pure vessels. May you this week pursue a life of holiness, not out of the fear of consequences, but out of love and relationship.