Most often in our lives, sin does not suddenly clobber us over the head with a major failure, but rather it creeps in by one little choice at a time. So when the “big” sin happens, it really is not surprising because there have been so many “little” sins leading up to it.
The same is true when it comes to killing sin. Most often, a sin is not suddenly and emphatically eliminated from our lives with one major decision or prayer or commitment. Instead, it gradually loses power over us with each little decision to fight against it. So the habits we need to develop to war against sin are the daily little things that help us move away from sin and toward Christ in the 1001 everyday moments of our lives. Here’s another one of those sin-killing habits to develop: Set up guardrails.
Sin may be pleasurable for the moment, but the consequences of sin are always dire. Eternity in hell apart from God for those who reject Christ is not the only dire consequence of sin–Christians also experience devastating results from sin, even though that sin is forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore setting up guardrails to keep ourselves away from the danger of sin is a wise habit to form.
If you are hiking the narrow rock fin called Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park, and there are 1000-foot sheer cliffs on both sides of the path, you would be wise to stay on the path rather than seeing how close to the edge you can get without falling off. Likewise, if you don’t want to experience the deadly consequences of sin, then rather than just assuming you’ll never go there, put guardrails in place to keep you as far away from the sin as possible.
So if you are not yet married and you want to save the beauty and wonder of sex for the context for which God designed it, then don’t ask “How far can I go with my girlfriend without sinning?” Instead ask “What will help us keep this God-designed good gift of sex in its proper context?” And then construct a guardrail like deciding not to kiss each other until your wedding day, or to not say “I love you” until you get engaged.
Or if you struggle with an addiction of any kind, you know it doesn’t work to just say “I’m not going to give in to that again.” But instead set a guardrail that keeps you away from the places or situations where you are most tempted to give in to that addiction:
- Make it a rule to only access the internet in a room where other people can see what you’re doing, or set up filters and password parameters that require a trusted friend or spouse to grant access to certain places.
- Agree to regularly show your credit card statements to a trusted friend or financial advisor.
- Make yourself a shopping list for the grocery store rather than wandering through it, and stay away from the alcohol aisle or the candy aisle (or in my case, the ice cream aisle).
- Give someone else the TV remote and ask them to turn it off after an agreed upon time. Or get rid of cable entirely, and learn a new hobby instead.
Some might argue that “rules” like the above are just legalistic, and that we should enjoy our freedom in Christ. But it is not legalism to put up guardrails that make you stick to the straight and narrow path–it is wisdom. And it is not freedom that moves you off the path and onto the edge of the cliff–it is foolishness.
[For a much more detailed teaching on this subject of guardrails, check out Pastor Andy Stanley’s series called Guardrails here.]