Keep close accounts with God and man.
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4
“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:16-19
It is a wonderful thing to walk through life with a clean conscience. This is a vertical thing with God, and a horizontal thing with man. What energy we waste grappling with the consequences of our actions that are not immediately confessed to God (Psalm 32:5) and/or man (James 5:16)! You might say I can handle squaring with God, but with man? Proverbs 3 helps here; simply let kindness and truth be your calling card. Then when you stick your foot in your mouth, others are quick to forgive.
As for the really “doubtful or gray area things” that might be on other people’s “worst sins in the world” list and bring potential condemnation, we operate on a different plain, focusing instead as mature men on the “righteousness and peace and joy that are in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, none of the petty stuff was important to Jesus, so it isn’t to us. He was self-disciplined for other more lofty reasons. We should be too!
Flee evil in all of its forms. Flee immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). Flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14, 1 John 5:21). Flee the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10). Flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).
You know, we are taught to stand firm (Ephesians 6:11) and resist the devil (1 Peter 5:8) and he will flee from you, and then there is the school of thought that says “run away!!” If you look at the sins that we are taught to run away from, it’s pretty apparent that they are toxic, especially immorality. Joseph is our hall of famer on this one. The other dangers are more corrosive. They will eat away at your soul and they are not so easy to spot. Anything can become an idol–anything. I’ve hoisted cars, bass guitars, bikes, job, houses, wife, and kids up on the pedestal at one time or another, and all these–especially the wife and kids–are good things. But they’re not when they occupy God’s place. The pursuit of money has driven me to the point that huge–and I mean huge bonuses–were disappointing and depression producing! Oh, for those days again! Finally, when you’ve put some miles on the ole engine, you start to understand that succumbing to “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16) leads to utter destruction and disaster. Paul tells Timothy, hey, don’t put yourself through the pain! Train yourself early in life to run away from these things! Besides, I need you in the game, qualified to lead (1 Corinthians 9:27).
If you want to lead in the church, you must be a track star.
Be faithful in the little things. (Matthew 25:21).
One of the requirements to be a leader in the church is that you first be tested, and that you be found “beyond reproach” (1 Timothy 3:10). The Lord has a take on this in the Parable of the Talents. But this concept is far more sweeping. A man of integrity has humbly mastered the little things in every realm. You must demonstrate that you can be trusted across the board. It’s the employee who works just as hard when the boss is on vacation (Colossians 3:22). It’s the young father who carefully handles his household finances and regularly tithes. This is the guy you tap to make financial decisions in the church after years of consistent application of God’s truth.
There is a certain degree of desperation to get a quick buy-in on these concepts by all who disciple young men. If you screw up early on with the little things, it may be never that you are entrusted with the big things.