facelessIn my little section of the world a recent ministerial failure is big news.  For us in Northwest Alabama it’s similar to Jimmy Swaggart’s or Ted Haggard’s failure.  It is so public (On radio and in newspapers) that I’m providing a link to the article from the Birmingham News (Click here to read the article). This is the response from the church about their fallen pastor.

Because I knew this was going to be a hot topic (The minister in question was scheduled to preach a revival last week in Muscle Shoals), I delivered a message on March 25, 2007 about how Christians should conduct themselves in relation to such events in keeping with Philippians 1:27a.  Below is an edited version of the message manuscript for your consideration.

This event should call us to examine OUR lives before condemning a brother who has failed.  Thus what I present below is focused in that direction… to help us.

Thought 1: Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”  No person can hide their sin forever from either God or man.  That includes you… it includes me.

Thought 2: 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who stands take heed lest he fall.”  When we hear of other people’s moral failure it better make us stop, think, and repent rather than jumping on a condemning bandwagon.  But for the grace of God that is you… it is me.  Thus there is the need and importance of regular self examination and daily repentance.

Thought 3: Seeds become roots become shoots become trees become forests.  We need to ask God… “What seed is there in my life that, left alone, in 20 years from now could have me in a similar situation?”  Then, whatever God reveals, we must deal with it as God would have us to without delay.

Thought 4: God’s blessing has little to do with the purity of the person themselves.  God used Baalam’s donkey.  God used Judas to lead people to salvation even though he wasn’t saved.  The reason God allows one to preach on Sunday is the same reason He allows you and/or I to continue breathing.  It is called God’s grace and mercy.

Aside: Indeed sin is sin, but there are differing consequences.  Both speeding and murder are breaking the law.  In that way they are the same… with different consequences.  Murderers aren’t given a ticket and speeders aren’t given the electric chair.  The consequence of a preacher’s moral failure carried a greater consequence than were he guilty of a lesser failure.

Application: In 2 Peter 3:15 it is written, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…”  That God allows any of us to live another second means He is giving us time and opportunity to repent of our sin.  The question is whether or not we will.  Which leads me to my next thought…

Thought 5: 1 Corinthians 11:31, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”  Every person has blind spots which by definition means they don’t see them.  Failures of others should bring us to our knees in repentance, otherwise God will do His work of discipline.

Thought 6: We would do well not to use “You who are without sin cast the first stone” to justify, hide, or rationalize our sin.  We all tend to hide our sin and put off dealing with it, rationalizing our failures is not a Godly way to deal with our sin.

Thought 7: Read Hebrews 12:4-11 (Click on the link and then read the passage S-L-O-W-L-Y)

Thought 8: 1 John 1:9… “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  The whole point of this message is not so much to condemn one who has failed (That’s God’s job), but to bring ourselves to a point of self examination. THEN to turn to God in repentance.  When that happens, THEN God cleanses us from… guilt, our sin, the stigma of our sin.  But note this… the consequences in this life for our sin is not taken away!  Thus the next paragraph… (Not included in Sunday’s message).

Read 2 Samuel 12.  The consequences in this life will still be in place even though we repent and are forgiven.  This is observed with David over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband.  Even though David repented (12:13}, the consequences were still carried out because He gave the enemies of the Lord a reason to blaspheme {12:14a}.  David’s consequences were: 1) Members of his own household would rebel against him {12:11a); 2) His wives would be taken from him {12:11b}; 3) He would be at war the rest of his life {12:10}; and 4) The baby born to him and Bathsheba would die {12:14b}.

This shows us how serious God is about sin (See another event from David’s life as found in 1 Chronicles 21:9-19).  Sin cannot be “just forgiven.”  There are consequences.  For the Christian the consequences are not eternal, but they are temporal. thus Hebrews 12:4-11 above!  God’s discipline for our sin brings about a harvest or peace and righteousness for those who are trained by it.

ADDTIONAL THOUGHT:  Godly versus worldly sorrow.  Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 by clicking on the link.

The way to know if repentance is genuine or false is the fruit it produces as found in the text above.  Godly sorrow produces: 1) Repentance… turning away from sin to God; 2) Earnestness… a drivenness to make things right; 3) Eagerness to clear yourself… willingness to do whatever it takes to make things right; 4) Indignation… the person is apalled that their sin has wounded others; 5) Alarm… distress over the event and it’s consequences; 6) Longing… passion to not let the matter go until correction is made; 7) Concern… a genuine care for those wounded by sin; 8) Readiness to see justice done… the person will submit themselves to whatever necessary to correct the sitaution without hesitation.

If a person does not have all these, they do not have godly sorrow but worldly sorrow.  Worldly sorrow brings death.

Conclusion: We need to pray for God’s healing upon all who have been wounded… this includes The church, individual churches, and individuals who are hurting over this event.  We also need to pray for the family of the one who fell along with praying for the person himself to be restored.  Last… we need to take this as an opportunity to examine ourselves so that there is not a seed of sin in our life that one day could cause many to stumble.  “First take the log out of your own eye so that you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye…”