Therefore watch yourselves very carefully . . .  beware lest you act corruptly . . . (Deuteronomy 4:15,16) 

By now the lapsing of evangelical religious leaders fails to surprise us. We’ve almost come to expect it. After all, we reason, they’re only human. True, but that’s no excuse for scandalous sin that compromises not only some highly-visible ministry, but the credibility of the Church and her message as well. I can’t help but believe that many of the spectacular moral failures of the past couple of decades could have been avoided if those leaders had practiced a more consistent self-watch. 

The Scriptures over and over call believers to exercise a careful watch over their lives. Moses, Solomon, David, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John, not to mention most of the prophets, could all be cited exhorting us to pay careful attention to how we use our time, expend our energy, invest our affections, and engage our thoughts. 

Our lives and everything of which they consist are precious gifts of God. He has bestowed them on us so that we might make the knowledge of His glory known in every area of our lives. This is a daunting challenge, to be sure, especially given the lingering presence of sin in our hearts, coupled with the relentless spiritual warfare in which we are every day engaged. The person who fails to exercise a careful and consistent self-watch vulnerable to falling into some trap or snare of the devil, often resulting in scandalous sins that damage more than just his own reputation and standing in the community of faith

The self-watch is an aspect of the discipline of circumspection (Ephesians 5:15-17), part of that spiritual regimen by which we train our hearts, minds, and consciences to engender actions and works consistent with our calling as the followers of Christ. The discipline of circumspection includes paying attention to the goings-on of the day (1 Chronicles 12:32), making wise use of our time (Psalm 90:12), attending carefully to all the details of our everyday lives (Proverbs 4:21-27; cf. Luke 21:34-36), guarding against false teaching (1 Timothy 4:16), and amending any ways that turn out to be contrary to the Word of God (Psalm 119:59,50). 

Such an active discipline of circumspection requires daily renewal (Romans 12:1,2), persistence (1 Timothy 4:16), and faithful friends to encourage us and hold us accountable (Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:24). Central to the discipline of circumspection is the self-watch, the caring for our souls and lives that enables us to stay on the path of righteousness according to the will of God. 

Moses’ exhortation to the people of Israel, as they prepared to enter the land of promise, marks out the general parameters of the kind of self-watch every believer in God is called to exercise. We may make four observations concerning the rationale for and nature of this self-watch. 

The Incentive for Watching Ourselves

Notice first of all the incentive for exercising a careful self-watch: God has called us into a covenant relationship with Himself, in which He intends to bless us, and to use us as witnesses to all the nations concerning His greatness, goodness, and wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:1-8; Acts 1:8). God has bestowed on those who believe in Him precious and magnificent promises, by which He is determined to transform us increasingly into the image of His own dear Son (2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

We do not become believers in God in order to remain the same person we’ve always been. God intends to change us, to separate us unto Himself — “sanctify” us — and to fashion and mold us increasingly so that we reflect His beauty, goodness, and truth. This is full and abundant life (John 10:10). Indeed, this is eternal life (John 17:3), life spent in the very presence of God, abounding in joy and wholesome pleasures (Psalm 16:11).