From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 8 – Further advice on how we can become more faithful
On a similar theme, there is a temptation, as you get older, to become casual and to assume that you have now learned how to handle pressures and temptations. You may then begin to loosen your standards and to think that it is safe for you to cut corners slightly, or to compromise a little on ethical issues relating to money, sex, work, relationships, or your use of power. It is precisely when you think you cannot, or will not, fall that you are in greatest danger of falling.
A person who is aware of their weakness, and concerned that they may fall, will take care to avoid tempting situations. But a person who has begun to trust themselves is in great danger. Therefore never trust yourself. Never consider yourself to be above temptation, or immune to falling into any kind of sin, especially the ones that you feel drawn to, or about which you have ever felt tempted to compromise. Those are the very areas where you particularly need to redouble your vigilance, and keep yourself on a short lead. As Malachi puts it, we need to guard ourselves:
So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.Malachi 2:16(b) (ESV)
Resolve to become more radical, not less, as you get older. Balance is good, but moderation may not be.
It is usually assumed that young people are radical but that as we get older we mellow, moderate ourselves and become more pragmatic, rather than more principled or idealistic. But why should that have to be so? If anything, as we grow older, we ought to aim to become more radical, not less. We should set higher targets for ourselves and aim for greater levels of personal faithfulness.
The more we get to know Jesus, the more we ought to seek to please Him and to honour Him in ways we never even realised existed, or which we never noticed when we were younger. So, following our conversion, when we are only a new believer, Jesus’ main objectives for us might be, for example, to give up sexual sin, excessive drinking or drugs.
However, as we get older and gain self-control in those areas, Jesus will turn His eye towards other areas of sin in our lives which might appear less important, but are still crucial if we wish to continue to make progress as a disciple. These areas might include sins such as pride, gossip, over-eating, cowardice, laziness, selfishness and so on.
We need to get all of our thinking, and all our actions, in line with Jesus, and to gain the mastery over every new area of sin that He shines the ‘spotlight’ on. Instead of considering such things less important, or less urgent, areas in which to obey Him, we should become more radical and less satisfied with ourselves as we grow older.
We never ‘arrive’ and therefore we never have any basis for being self-satisfied. So you should be just as determined to cut out gossip or pride as a new convert should be to cut out pornography, lying, drunkenness etc. There is no area of sin which is too small for you to care about and to tackle. Neither is there any sin which you can safely indulge in or compromise over. Every sin is toxic and will damage you and your future.