In that pursuit of personal holiness, and inner happiness, let me share with you the teaching of Dan Corner as he suggests some safeguards against the stronghold of sin derived in part from the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Spiritual safeguards are real, very important, and should be taken seriously. Listed are several safeguards for spiritual health and wellbeing. The more of these act upon, the more will be the benefit.
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same thing to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil. 3:1).
Rejoice in the Lord. Because the Christians at Philippi were going through (and enduring) sufferings and struggles (Phil. 1:29,30), Paul issued the command (safeguard) for them to “rejoice in the Lord.” Similarly, Jesus told the disciples, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven,” Luke 10:20. What an incredible, but real and glorious future you have as a Christian beyond the grave. In 2 Corinthians 9:15, eternal life is called an “indescribable gift.”
Also remember that no Christian ever had it ideal in this life! You are not alone with your troubles and sufferings (John 16:33; 1 Peter 5:9). You are living in a cursed age, with rampant deception, sin and injustice everywhere. Also, this world is now the devil’s turf and he hates Christians. Obviously, this world isn’t the saint’s haven. Paul wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18).
Be humble and stay humble like a little child. Jesus shockingly warned his disciples that they would never enter the kingdom of heaven unless they would change and become humble like little children (Matt. 18:1-4)! In other words, though they were saved at the moment, their selfish ambition to be greater than the other disciples (Lk. 9:46-48; 22:24-26) would prove spiritually fatal in the future for them; that is, they would not stay saved and enter the kingdom of heaven in the end, unless they would become humble like a little child, who doesn’t aspire for such greatness over his peers the way they were!
Peter later wrote, “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time,” 1 Pet. 5:5,6. Verse 6 from the Amplified Bible reads, “Therefore humble yourselves (demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation) under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.” See also Jam. 4:6.
Hide God’s Word in your heart. Psalms 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” To strengthen your own ability to resist sin’s temptations, store up God’s word in your heart! You can accomplish this by meditating in and memorizing Scripture. One method that might work well for you is to make little flash cards with the Scripture verse you desire to memorize on one side and its reference on the reverse side. Verbally reading the verse/s out loud and writing them out will enable you to memorize almost any passage after a while. It would also be wise to listen to the Bible on cassette tape every chance you get, such as in your home and car.
Stay fully committed to God and 2 Chronicles 16:9 will apply to you: “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. . . .” It’s one thing to “build yourself up” (Jude 20), but it’s totally different to be strengthened by God!
Do not even think about the “pleasures of sin”. “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:15, 16).
Remember the awesome truth of Numbers 11:5 where this is exemplified, that is, the Israelites thought about the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic that they regularly ate while in bondage in Egypt (a type of the world), but couldn’t find contentment with their God-supplied food, manna. Because they focused in upon the good things while in Egypt, they had totally forgotten that they were worked ruthlessly and their lives were made bitter with hard labor (Ex. 1:13,14)! The misery and emptiness of their lives in Egypt had escaped them! They now, incredibly, thought they were better off in Egypt (Num. 11:18)!
We should always be looking forward and never back. Peter wrote: “. . . We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13). Similarly, Heb. 13:14 reads, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
If you follow this principle, you will nott disobey Romans 13:14b, “. . . Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” To avoid watching adulterous TV shows, and places such as public swimming pools and beaches will definitely be a safeguard for your soul! See Matt. 5:28. Also, ponder the truth about how your thought life influences your behavior (Rom. 8:5, 6).
Consider Jesus, so you will not grow weary and lose heart in your race. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:3, 4).
The word “consider” in Greek means, contemplate. Therefore, we are advised to contemplate the unfair, unjust and merciless treatment the perfect and sinless Lord Jesus was subjected to. He didn’t deserve any of it. (This would be an excellent Bible study for you to do.)
Learn the Bible. This is the all-inclusive safeguard. Hos. 4:6 reads, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” The only way you can learn the Bible is to spend quality time in it for yourself. Start in the New Testament, reading and rereading it so that no zealous and sincere false prophet or false teacher can shake the true message from your heart.
After you learn the New Testament, move to the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written to “teach” and “warn” us in New Testament times (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). It was also the only Bible the earliest Christians had before the New Testament was written! There is much in it for you.
Witnessing to others about Christ will add to your understanding of spiritual things: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ,” Philemon 6. A good, reliable, easy-to-read translation like the New International Version or the New King James will help you greatly in learning the Bible.
Do not envy the unsaved. Read Psalm 73. Asaph envied the wicked and “almost slipped” spiritually. He noticed the prosperity they have, their healthy bodies, them being carefree and free from burdens common to man and not plagued by human ills and he thought “in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence,” verse 13. Asaph was oppressed until he focused in upon their “final destiny” (v.17).
Do not envy the wicked because they might be popular, happily married, with a good job, physically healthy, good looking, live in a nice home, drive a new car and have lots of money. They are on their way to the lake of fire where they will be tormented forever (Matt. 25:41, 46; Mk. 9:43-48; Rev. 14:10, 11; 20:10). To envy the wicked is a subtle satanic temptation designed to get you to stop living godly and to pursue the temporal pleasures of this life.
Maintain a Biblical view of physical death and your life here. This will be especially helpful in extreme persecution, where martyrdom prevails. For the Christian, physical death is “gain” (Phil. 1:21) and “better by far” (Phil. 1:23). Only then will you really be at “home” with your real family, that is, your Heavenly Father, your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and your brothers and sisters in the faith from all parts of the earth. It’s also where your treasures are. This life is not your home! We are “strangers in the world” (1 Pet. 1:1) and we are to live our lives “as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Pet. 1:17). You are just passing through this life, so don’t be engrossed in the material things of this world! Think in terms of eternity. Remember, “…The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Pet. 3:10).
Maintain the hope of being like Jesus when He returns. 1 Jn. 3:2,3 read: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” How will we be like Jesus? We too will have a glorified body of flesh and bones like his (Lk. 24:39; Phil. 3:21), that is, a tangible body that can enter a room with the doors locked (Jn. 20:19) and disappear from a location (Luke 24:31).
Pray to stand firm in all the will of God. In Col. 4:12, we read, “. . . He (Epaphras) is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Be quick to pray about everything you face, casting all your anxieties on God (1 Pet. 5:7). Pray for other people, too.
Be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18-20 read, “. . . Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To keep a godly tune in your heart will help you greatly in your spiritual battles, as will maintaining a thankful attitude for what you do have and what God has done for you. Focus in upon what you have, NOT what you do not have but would like to have! In other words, learn to be content in your non-ideal circumstances. This is a “safeguard” in itself. Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11). Remember, he was in chains and in prison when he wrote this (1:13)! Furthermore, he wrote, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
Avoid godless chatter. 2 Timothy 2:16 reads, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” Secular TV shows are prime examples of godless chatter! Furthermore, they promote a value system which is highly antithetical to the Scriptures. Beyond all of this, lust is generated by many TV scenes. Study Matthew 5:28,29
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:20, “. . . Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” The danger of godless chatter is evident from this.
Stay self-controlled, alert and continue to resist the devil. This is the way we can protect ourselves from our spiritual enemy. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings,” 1 Pet. 5:8,9. The seriousness of this spiritual warfare is shown here.
Avoid “bad company.” Surprisingly, the Bible teaches that Christians are to avoid certain people (Prov. 20:19; 22:24,25; 24:1; Rom. 16:17,18; 1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-15), places (Prov. 4:14,15; 5:8; 2 Cor. 6:17) and things (Prov. 20:3; Acts 15:29; 1 Thess. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:23; Jam. 1:19,20). Not to do so, when you can, is to needlessly open yourself up to spiritual danger. Paul wrote: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Please note, according to that reference, bad company tends to adversely affect the Christian and not the reverse. This, however, does not mean that we willingly should never associate with the unbeliever, for we are called to evangelize them. Jesus ate with the sinners, but He did so with an evangelistic motive only.
Especially destructive to one’s spiritual condition would be to marry someone that does not “belong to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). This is evident by what happened to Solomon when he married pagan women. See Neh. 13:26. If you are a single Christian, please know that it is much worse to marry the wrong person than to remain single, though it can be painfully lonely at times!
Know that persecution comes to all of the godly and you must testify about Jesus. In Jn. 16:1, Jesus said, “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.” To find out what “this” is in this verse we must go back to chapter 15. There we will see the Lord assured the disciples that the world would hate and persecute them (15:18-20)! Furthermore, He added that we must “testify” of him. These two truths, internalized and acted upon, will keep us from going “astray,” according to Jesus.
Fear God. He is the only one that can destroy your soul in Hell (Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5). This command is past (Deut. 10:12, 13), present (1 Pet. 1:17), and future (Rev. 14:7). While the fear of man will prove to be a snare (Prov. 29:25), only good can be said about the fear of God! If you truly fear God, you will never backslide or turn from God (Jer. 32:40).
These safeguards will help to preserver the soul. I am praying that God will so move upon His people afresh that we take a hard look at the root of righteousness. When we do, we will discover that righteousness stems from a fundamental pursuit of holiness. Let us remember, without holiness, no one shall see God.