Falling. Not the “trip over the rug” falling. Not the missed the curb falling. I’m talking about real falling–the moral and spiritual falling. Last week I heard that a friend, colleague, and fellow pastor fell, and fell hard. Now those of you who are close friends, please do not ask me who or where–because I will not tell you. My friend and fellow pastor and his family are going through the unimaginable right now and such details will do nothing to bring healing and restoration, for them and that congregation.
I remember way back, the Jimmy Swaggert event. And I remember thinking and saying, “Well, what should you expect from someone who considers themselves a superstar in the church?” I know, I know, that was not very gracious, merciful or kind. Truthfully, it was very self-righteous on my part. Add to that, the recent fall of Bill Hybels. I’ve heard Bill in person and followed him and the Willow Creek Church closely, reading many of his books. After the recent move, I put those books on the bottom shelf, questioning his credibility. But I am not judging him and I’m not throwing away those books. There’s some good stuff in them, but I wrestle with the question of credibility. That what sin does to us; it brings questions to our credibility.
And now, another fallen preacher and this is one I know personally. Though I will not share the who, what and where, I now understand the why. The why is true whether the preacher is on TV, writing books, or in the trenches. They forgot–forgot 1 Corinthians 10:12. From the New Living Translation it looks like this:
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
And this morning I have a shameful confession to make. I had forgotten that verse, too. Up until last week I said, “I could NEVER do such a thing.” Now I realize that I’m setting myself up for that fall. In my local Tribe every 3 years I am required to attend “Clergy Integrity Retraining”. Fail to attend and I would not be appointed. Another shameful confession. I would say about these trainings, “Well, my integrity is about to expire, so I need to get it back.” A more shameful confession: I signed in and really didn’t listen. After all, I wouldn’t do such a thing!”
So what am I going to do now? Well, in 2 years when it’s time for “Clergy Integrity Retraining”, I will listen. But I’m going to do more right now. I am going to guard my heart and mind. In Proverbs 4:23 Solomon reminds us all: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” To think I am immune to adultery or any other sin–it simply opens the door for Satan to come in, pull up a chair, and whisper in my ear counsel that is meant to, in Jesus’ own words, kill, steal and destroy.
Those who confidently say, “Well, I would never do such a thing!” are standing on a spiritual San Andreas fault line. What can we do? I want to speak especially to pastors now and church leaders, but for the rest of you, take heed because it applies to you as well. Follow Solomon’s advice, guard that heart of your’s. And I would add, also your minds. This is where our Enemy sneaks in and attempts to change our logic. Let us all become more intentional, not only in the realm of sexual sins, but in every sin–lying, cheating, gossiping, rejecting our Crosses, judging others by their appearance or their sin. Even “small sins”, as if they actually existed, will lead us to even “bigger sins”.
How do we guard our hearts and minds? So glad you asked that question. Let’s read the rest of Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in verse 13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” How will HE do it? Look at this quote from D.L. Moody.
But you need more than a printed Bible. You need that Source of power that comes from beyond you. That Source Of Power is the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will guide you through that Bible to strengthen your inner being. Fellow Pastors and Church leaders, I pray Ephesians 3:16 over you: “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.” I’m praying this now over you, and myself, and ask that you pray this over me.
I close with a joke, that I used to think was very funny, but now it’s very poignant. A preacher was walking down a street and saw 4 boys with 1 puppy. He asked them, “What are you doing?” They replied, “Well, Preacher, we found this puppy but all of us want to take it home. So we decided the one who could tell the biggest lie wins the puppy.” With the eyes and voice of a preacher, he sternly told them, “Boys, when I was your age I would never do such a thing.” The boys hung their heads down. The one holding the puppy raised it up towards the Preacher and said, “OK, you win.”
One more time, 1 Corinthians 10:12, but this time from the New Life Version:
So watch yourself! The person who thinks he can stand against sin had better watch that he does not fall into sin.
Stay close to Jesus, very close with eyes and ears open to Him. And love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! Oh, and watch yourself…