“What in my life is not okay anymore?”
That’s the question Havilah Cunnington recently challenged me to ask God in one of her books.
I know I’m not perfect. Oh, how aware of that fact I am.
Most of the time, though, despite all my imperfections, I usually feel like I’m pretty good at living “above reproach.” Or, at least, I thought so.
What exactly does “above reproach” mean? You’ve probably heard it tossed around in Christian circles, but this is what it means to me: to the best of my ability, living my life at a higher standard than the world so that when the world looks at my life, they don’t find anything to hold against me as a representative of Christ.
“Above reproach” basically means blameless, pure, or held to a higher standard. It means setting a good example and trying to follow Jesus’s ways so nobody can find fault with the God you serve when they look at your behavior.
Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless, and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe, offering them the words of eternal life. I haven’t labored among you for nothing, for your lives are the fruit of my ministry and will be my glorious boast at the unveiling of Christ!Philippians 2:14-16 TPT
All of us are human – living above reproach doesn’t deny that fact. We’ve all made mistakes and we’re all works in progress. But as Christians, we are called to be different. We’re called to be “in the world but not of it.” If we are truly following Christ and growing in our relationships with him, our lives are not going to look the same as the rest of the world. We live for God’s approval and no one else’s. We don’t want to be hypocrites who proclaim the truth of the gospel yet don’t follow it. We want to hold ourselves to such a high standard that it’s hard for nonbelievers to criticize our behavior…otherwise our life isn’t that great of a witness.
As an example, take alcohol consumption. The Bible may not explicitly forbid drinking (although it does speak against drunkenness), but as a representative of Christ, I don’t want to be responsible for causing someone else to stumble in this area (and I never know for sure who may be struggling with addiction). I also don’t want one of my unsaved or newly-saved friends to spot me sitting in a bar with a glass of wine and say, “Hey, I thought Christians weren’t supposed to drink! You’re such a hypocrite!” or “See, you’re exactly like me…being a Christian is no different. What’s the point?” For these reasons, my personal choice is to abstain from alcohol altogether. I’d rather err on the side of having standards that are too high than not high enough, because I don’t want to put other people or my own testimony in jeopardy.
We will not place obstacles in anyone’s way that hinder them from coming to salvation so that our ministry will not be discredited.2 Corinthians 6:3 TPT
Living above reproach can take many forms, though. Maybe it means you don’t listen to music from certain artists. Maybe it means you don’t go to R-rated movies. Maybe it means you don’t spend time alone with anyone of the opposite gender who’s not your spouse.
If people think you’re crazy, well, then you’re probably right on track.
These decisions are between you and the Holy Spirit and each of us may have different convictions, but the ultimate goal is to grow increasingly like Christ. And when that’s the path we’re on, our lives are going to look increasingly different from everyone else’s. Those W.W.J.D. bracelets were everywhere in the 90s for a reason: to remind us to continually ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”
Call me old-fashioned or what you will, but here’s the reality: the more I grow in my faith, the less I think is okay.
I used to think nothing of watching shows that were full of perversion and listening to absolutely any song on the radio. Actually, that’s not true – I didn’t think nothing of it; I had that nagging feeling inside and ignored it, because I didn’t want to be told what to do. As long as there were other people out there with “worse” habits, I told myself my own habits were fine. Comparison should never be the standard for our behavior, though; God’s Word should be! God’s conviction should be. The Holy Spirit’s prompting should be. (This ties in with what I wrote last week about identity.)
Who cares what the world is doing? The world is evil! The world is okay with a whole lot of things the Bible clearly forbids. You don’t want to be in line with the world’s standards when you meet Jesus. You want to be in line with his.
I will fully admit that the second I read Havilah’s challenge – “What’s not okay anymore?” – something came to mind immediately. There’s a certain outfit of mine that I instantly knew needed to go. Even though I’m sure no one except maybe my grandma would fault me for wearing it, it doesn’t meet the standard of “above reproach.” And, honestly, I’ve always known that, but because everybody else wears the same thing (What a great reason to do something, right?!), I’ve rationalized my own habit.
No longer! From now on you’re going to see me dressed like a nun!!
Just kidding, but I truly was convicted about a certain behavior and I’m determined to change that behavior, starting now. (As much as I don’t want to…thanks Havilah and thank you, Holy Spirit! Sigh…😉)
This isn’t my first rodeo. Although I’ve always had pretty strong convictions, God has asked me to surrender plenty more things as I’ve grown in my faith. Sometimes things that were once okay just aren’t anymore, and it’s up to us to hear what God’s saying and obey him.
Here are some examples of things I’ve chosen not to engage in or have been prompted to give up (whether permanently or temporarily – sometimes it’s just been for a fast!) in order to live above reproach. Most of these are intentionally vague because I don’t want to saddle anyone with shame or legalism, but they can give you an idea of where God often wants to raise our standards:
…To name a few. I’m guessing you can relate to some of these, and if that’s the case and you feel God telling you something needs to go, too, I encourage you to heed that voice! I’m right there being pruned with you.
I’ve read so many prophecies lately about how God wants to refine us and take us higher. I’ve been getting the same message from him, and I know this is an important time of preparation for everything he’s about to do.
What in your life isn’t okay anymore? Now is the perfect time to make the necessary changes. Let’s obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting and live above reproach together so we’re ready for what he has next…you in?
We’re going through the fire, but we’re coming out gold! ✨
Each of them must be above reproach, devoted solely to his wife, whose children are believers and not rebellious or out of control. The overseer, since he serves God’s household, must be someone of blameless character and not be opinionated or short-tempered. He must not be a drunkard or violent or greedy. Instead he should be one who is known for his hospitality and a lover of goodness. He should be recognized as one who is fair-minded, pure-hearted, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the trustworthy message that he has been taught. This will enable him to both encourage others with healthy teachings and provide convincing answers to those who oppose his message.Titus 1:6-9 TPT