Serving an international
Vol. 10 No. 2 February 2008
After a restless night of weeping and praying, I felt that I had to write this article, asking help of some wiser, more experienced brethren who may know some answers I may not know. For almost half a century I have been answering questions, both in articles and in private teaching, concerning who, why, what, when, where, how, and so what of many Bible questions and human responses. But now I need help.
There was a Christian brother to whom I had taught something of the grace of God, a deacon who could and did teach and preach. His wife called and told me that she was divorcing him because he had been carrying on an adulterous relationship with another woman for more than eight years. With a breaking heart, I wrote and asked him how and why it could happen. I told him I could understand David. I could understand Peter. I could even understand something of how and why Judas could betray the Lord as he did. However, I could not understand how a man who has any understanding of God or any love for anything that is holy, sacred or worthwhile can persist in sin for that long. I received no answer, but he eventually repented and his precious, heartbroken wife took him back. I conducted his funeral, but never got a good answer to my questions.
Then a young preacher of the Gospel, a graduate of a school of preaching, with unusual ability, insight and dedication openly took off with his secretary and turned his back on his wife, his friends and the Lord. How and why could it happen? Another friend, whom I felt that I could trust with my own life, an astute student of God’s Word, one whose reputation is worldwide, and whose influence was far greater than mine will ever be, was found to have been carrying on adulterous relationships for years.
I can understand why a denominational preacher whose whole ministry is built upon hypocrisy and deceit might deceive himself into thinking that he could get by with something like that, at least for a while. However, I can not understand how a man who can write and speak accurately and movingly about the redeeming, sacrificial love of the Savior, the certainty of Divine retribution against sin, and the possibility of being hardened beyond repentance—a man whose upholding of the Truth of God has seldom been surpassed—can persist in sin for years, while preaching, teaching and lecturing all across our great land.
Perhaps the thing that disturbs me as much as anything else besides the terrible hurt my Lord must feel at such a betrayal and breach of trust, is the question, “Could that sort of thing happen to me?” That is one reason why I need so desperately to know how and why! If I can not trust a man whom I thought had greater insight into God’s Word than I, and greater love and devotion than I, can I trust myself?
I know that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, but I cannot see how that could be the root of those particular sins. I know that love of popularity is the cause of many hypocritical actions, but I cannot see any relationship between that and these actions. I know that the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life have been the downfall of man since Adam, and only Christ was able to resist them all. Further, I can understand how even a man after God’s own heart could, in a moment of passion, look down from a roof top on a beautiful woman and yield to temptation, but how a man with any conscience at all, or any love for the Lord, can persist in it for years, I do not know. Nor how a man with any sense at all can assume that he can keep it covered, I do not know; and even if he kept it covered from man, does not any student of God’s Word know that when a person persists in any sin that he knows to be sin, he is eroding the foundations of character, blunting and dulling his conscience, and getting himself into a position where it may be almost impossible for him to repent?
I can explain many denominational areas of blindness
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The answers I have given up to now are these: First, be careful that you do not have undue familiarity with those of the opposite sex, but what is “undue familiarity,” and what will cause one to be careful if the love of the Lord and his own integrity will not? These brethren appeared to love the Lord and have integrity! So, is there something else in that warning that I have missed?
Second, anytime you make a mistake, commit a sin, do a wrong thing in any context, admit it, repent of it and stop it even before someone else finds it out. That is still good advice, but what was in these brethren that caused them to fail to do that? Is that same thing in me? How can I be sure?
Third, so fill yourself with the love of God, knowledge of the Truth, and desire for service for God and man that there is no room for worldly things (Philippians 4:8), but these brethren had apparently been doing that, at least before the temptation presented itself, yet something failed. What and why? Of course, I know the easy answer is that they failed to make the choice to “resist the Devil,” knowing that he would flee from them (James 4:7). However, knowing what they did, and having taught others, why did they not do that? Was it merely lack of faith in God? They seemed to have great faith. Do I have any more? They knew the same Scripture that I know, “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18), but if it is merely the lack of faith that caused them to fail to do that, why did they lack that faith?
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), but they had heard and taught the Word of God! “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), but they had done many good works!
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So far, I have warned that any time you feel the pricking of your conscience to change your evil way, no matter how small the sin may seem, or how well it may seem to be hidden, and you refuse to heed that pricking, you are treading on terribly dangerous ground. However, are all these warnings enough? Have I missed something, or is it possible that after teaching all these warnings (which these other brethren knew as well as I) and trying to practice them, there is still an unseen danger somewhere of which we need to be aware?
Perhaps there is a brother reading this article that has traveled that pathway and has returned. If he would write, even anonymously, he might give some of us an insight into why and how he managed to go that far into hypocrisy and sin, and what it was that eventually reached him and got him to return. I know that the love of Christ constrains us (2 Corinthians 5:14), but why did it not restrain them in these cases? And if one rejects the restraining love, what will cause him to accept and respond to the constraining love?
I have known and quoted for half a century, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” but are there many things of which to take heed of which the average man does not think? If anyone can cast more light on the subject of how and why a man who apparently was walking in the light as He is in the light and who had the promise that God would give him the power to overcome the temptation could deliberately and persistently decide not to use that power and walk in that light, it is my judgment that he would do service to many.