Imagine that you have been entrusted with the care of someone’s brand new house and its surrounding property. The owner is gone, but you are told he will be back soon. You are also told that you will be held responsible for whatever happens to his property. It is no ordinary structure. It is the house everyone is already talking about in the community. No expense has been spared in its architectural planning and construction. It has also been fully furnished. Persian rugs, walnut tables and leather furniture fill the many rooms. On the walls hang exquisite, expensive works of art. Attached to this mansion is a three-car garage. Any of the three cars parked inside are worth more than an ordinary dwelling. The landscaping is incredible, the pool in the back yard massive, and the newly planted garden a pleasurable sight. And YOU are responsible for it all. During the past few months a number of homes in the area have been vandalized and robbed. So what will you do? What measures will you take to protect this valuable property?
When you arrive to begin your task, you are surprised and rather disturbed by the ease of access to the property. There are no fences, no gates, no security cameras, no alarm monitoring system, no deadbolts, no dobermans and not a single “No Trespassing” sign posted anywhere. Thankfully, along with this tremendous responsibility you were also given the authority to purchase whatever you deem necessary to protect this property. So up goes the fence, the signs, the cameras and the dog house. The best deadbolts are installed and there’s even money left over to hire a security guard by the new front gate.
There is another option, however. You could do none of the above and hope for the best. After all, it sounds like exhausting work to make all the necessary phone calls, schedule work crews, purchase materials, interview security guard candidates and take care of a temperamental doberman. Why not just enjoy the house and its surroundings and take it easy?
Here’s where the imagining stops. You have been entrusted with the care of someone’s property. That someone is God, and that property is you. God created you. Your body, spirit and soul (made up of mind, will and emotions) all belong to God. And this property for which you are responsible has a value worth more than the gold of this whole world (Mark 8:36). But God also purchased you. The purchase price was the blood of His only Son. Therefore, Paul says, “You are not your own…you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1Cor.6:19, 20, NKJV) He will hold you accountable for how you have treated HIS prized property (Rom.14:12). What measures will you take to protect it all?
There is an intruder out there that wants to break in and do you real harm. He is an expert thief, relishes destroying valuable property, and has many who work for him. Peter describes him as follows: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8, ESV) Unless you have in place effective security measures, Satan and his host of demons can easily break in and wreak havoc of your life.
Perhaps the most effective, and certainly the most seductive, tool your enemy uses against you is what the apostle John calls “the world.” John isn’t referring to the physical sphere we call Earth. Rather, “the world” is a system of thought, motivation and ideas that are contrary to God’s. Sadly, much of what we see around us has components that are a part of this anti-God world system.
Satan is actually called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31;14:30;16:11). So it should come as no surprise that John says, “Don’t love the world or anything that belongs to the world” (1John 2:15, CEV). John makes a distinction between the world system itself and the things in this world system. Among those things are “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1John 2:16). The devil will use any and all of these to harm your body, infect your mind, or disrupt your fellowship with God because he knows you are God’s property. And although he cannot alter your destiny to heaven, he can make the journey a miserable one. This is why you need state-of-the-art security.
I’m confident that the owner of the above-mentioned mansion would be extremely upset if you allowed robbers and vandals to wander onto his property and destroy it. When we open the door of our minds to sinful thoughts, when we allow ourselves to watch what we shouldn’t watch, when we allow our bodies to do what we shouldn’t do, God will hold us responsible for vandalizing His property. We need fences. We need deadbolts. We need boundaries. We may even need a “No Trespassing” sign! And it’s quite possible that you also need surveillance. In the physical world, these things are easy to see and identify. In the spiritual realm, they are just as real, but often harder to identify. But we must have them. Your fence might mean that you agree not to watch or read anything that will harm your mind. Your “No Trespassing” sign might mean that there are certain harmful people you cannot afford to be around. Your deadbolt might mean that there are certain items you cannot allow into the front door of your life. And your security cameras might mean that you are willing to put aspects of your life under the watchful supervision of someone else. Are you willing to stop reading at this point and write down what security measures you will take to protect your…God’s property?
People need to know and respect the property lines and implemented security measures of that expensive house. Similarly, people need to know and respect the boundaries you have established for your life. There are times when these boundaries need to be explicitly communicated. One of the first words we learn as children is a word that may have slipped from your vocabulary. You need to learn how to say, “No!” to other people. It is the clearest, and shortest way to let others know where the property lines of your life are. You might use other words like, “I would appreciate you not using language like that around me,” or “I’m not comfortable with you touching me like that,” or “I don’t believe going there will be helpful to me.” These examples communicate a clear message to others about the borders you have established and expect them to respect.
There also needs to be clear consequences when others fail to respect your boundaries. If a thief were to disregard the security measures in the example of the house, the consequences would include things like jail time, the taser or pistol of the security guard, the teeth of the doberman or maybe all of the above! In your interactions with other people, this might mean saying things like, “If you do this again, our relationship is going to have to end,” or “If you keep speaking like this, we can’t be together.” Scripture is full of exhortations to separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways (1Cor 5:9-13). Allowing the communicated consequences to take effect may cause this person who has crossed your boundaries to change his or her behavior (Matt 18:17-18).
Using the Gate
Going back to the house analogy, it’s possible to build such an impenetrable defense system that we are closed off to things we definitely need to bring in (like food, water, and other basic necessities) while at that same time making it impossible to remove things that need to be removed (like garbage). We all need fences to protect ourselves, but we also need gates to be used at the appropriate times. Sometimes we have bad on the inside and good on the outside. In these cases, we need to be able to open up our fences to let the good in and drive the bad out. In other words, we need to have gates in our fences.
If I have sinned against God, I need to open up, communicate with God, confess it to God and remove “the garbage.” Otherwise, further harm will be done to God’s property. The good news is this: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) On the other hand, there are times we need to use the gates to let in what is good. We always need to open our hearts to God’s truth and let it change us. There are times when it’s necessary to “open up” to other believers who can help us when we need it. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, “Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (ESV) We must have gates.
The Owner Returns
In the above scenario, you were told to expect the owner’s return, although you are unsure about the timing. You only know it will be soon. With the real possibility of vandalization and theft looming, there is no time to waste. You must protect this property. You must protect it now because he has left you responsible.
When Christ, who is God, returns, what will His property look like? Will He see by the security measures you have taken that you value what He values? He paid such a high price to make you His. Although His property can never be condemned (Rom 8:1), will He return to discover that His goods have been damaged because you decided too much work was involved to protect it? You must preserve His property. You must protect it now because He will hold you accountable. At His coming, will He be grieved or will He be glad?