It begins with the people we're with. When baseball great Lou Gehrig was starting his career, the Yankees sent him to Hartford to get some practice in the minor leagues. Until then, Lou had lived at home. Now for the first time in his life, he was living with a rough crowd of minor league ballplayers who cursed, drank heavily and spent their time in bars and speakeasies. Gehrig began experimenting with alcohol and consorting with the wilder men on the team. Consequently his game went into a slump.
The manager of the Hartford Senators, a small, wiry man named Paddy O'Connor, took Gehrig under his wing and mentored him like a father. One night, O'Conner invited the player to his home for dinner. "Lou," he said, "you have a great career ahead of you. Nothing can stop you, except Lou Gehrig. That gang you're traveling with is poison...."
O'Conner talked to the young man about choosing friends and working hard, and he ended by saying, "Think it over." Gehrig did think it over. He quit the gang and went on to become one of the greatest figures in the history of baseball.
Perhaps we need to think it over, too. Think of the people you most enjoy seeing. The ones you relax with after work or on weekends. The people you call if you have exciting news or feel depressed. Do they build you up spiritually? Is your walk with the Lord stronger after you've been with them? Or weaker? One of the Bible's "EPA" regulations for the soul says, "Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
We must avoid toxic places, too. There's always a corner of the magazine shop at the airport that isn't healthy. If you use your Internet, there are thousands of noxious sites to avoid. If you join your friends for a movie, there are some films that can contaminate the milieu of your mind.
The Bible says, "Ponder the path of your feet" (Proverbs 4:26). "Make straight paths for your feet ..." (Hebrews 12:13). Think of these commands as God's EPA regulations for your life.
We also need to guard against toxic practices -- habits in our lives that defile us. Too often we allow our culture to infringe upon our lives, creating the opportunity for Satan to influence our choices whether it be in our language, our reading material or the television shows we watch. The radios in our cars, turned to the wrong stations, can pollute the air with profanities and obscenities. Toxicity is everywhere, but we can avoid it.
Wherever we are, it is important to remain committed to pursuing righteousness, knowing that God has called us to "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). We can remain "uncontaminated" by our environment if we remain diligent and alert.
It's vital to maintain vigilance and discipline to avoid the many temptations and snares that are available in our culture. The pollutant could be anything from pornography to pessimism, but the Christian must work to preserve an environment where our Holy God can dwell. Someone said that first we make our habits, and then our habits make us.
Backsliding begins with small steps, but improving the environmental quality of our lives begins the same way. Let's ask ourselves: What one thing can we do to provide a cleaner, healthier environment for our souls? How can we develop a quality system of living? What little change can yield lifelong results? Perhaps it's as simple as changing what we do on Friday nights, or meeting a Christian friend for coffee and forming a new friendship. Maybe it's installing a filter on the home computer or cancelling some of the cable services.
Keep the landscape of your life, the waters of your mind, and the atmosphere of your home healthy and holy. Give a hoot -- don't pollute.
Jeremiah is the founder and host of "Turning Point for God" radio and TV, and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
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