I’m sorry today’s post is so late. I try to get Monday’s post done over the weekend so it can be ready to magically appear at 8 am Monday morning. However, this weekend I learned of something that just made it hard for me to write. Even through this morning it consumed my mind so much I could hardly think of anything else. So, despite the fact that I know it will upset some, I’m going to write about what has been consuming my mind the last two days.
On Saturday morning, I learned about a brother in Christ, a preacher of the gospel, who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I had not even heard of the brother until that news report. I spent the day praying for him off and on. On Saturday night, I learned he had faked his disappearance in order to commit sexual immorality with a 13-year-old girl. My heart broke for him, for the girl, for their families, and for their congregations.
*****EDIT: If you have already read this post once, I am adding in a clarifying statement based on some private comments I have received. I want to clarify some things before you read my initial thoughts. I guess you could say I want you to hear my second thoughts before you get to my first.
I do believe what our brother Jody did was reprehensible and wicked. I do believe he should be prosecuted for breaking the law. I do hope he comes to realize what damage he has done to that little girl, to her family, to his congregation, and to his own family. I hope having seen that bottom, he will turn to the only power that can help him overcome this sin. Please do not take my post that follows to mean I am turning a blind eye to how awful this sin was. It is its awfulness that scares me and causes me to fear for my future if I dabble in sin. It is its awfulness that prompted my thoughts.
My prayers and my heart go out to the little girl and the family. The damage done to her is immense. The damage done to her family is equally immense. I am praying for them as they strive to recover from being victims of sin’s awful effects.
Please understand, my point in this post is not to defend Jody’s sin. My point is to help us see the warning that Jody’s sin should provide for us. With that in mind, I realize I probably can’t clarify enough to make everyone happy or even agree with me. But I hope you can at least see my point.
As news of this leaks out to more and more people, the responses will be myriad. Here is what saddens me the most. It breaks my heart to know how Satan is going to use this. Satan will twist this so that many people will glory in their own power. “I may have made some mistakes in my time, but at least I never did that.” Kind of sounds to me like, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” (Luke 18:11).
Instead of using this as a testimony for our own power, we need to see it as a testimony to the power of sin. We need to take the warning about what sin can do to us. Romans 7:14-24 describes this power. I’m going to include the whole passage here because we need to read it again and again.
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
This brings to my mind what God said to Cain near the beginning, “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). Sin wants us. It wants to run our lives. If we give it an inch, it will take a mile. No wonder we must all concede what Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-3:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Every single one of us gave sin control. Every single one of us became by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. Do you see what this means? This means instead of saying, “I’ve made some mistakes, but I would never do that,” we need to be shaking in our boots saying, “That could be me. Sin could do that to me too.”
Perhaps the sin that has had control of you is not lust and immorality, but arrogance, outbursts of wrath, slander, malice, drunkenness, greed, materialism, gluttony, or on the list could go. It doesn’t matter what sin you have given control in your life, it will take you farther than you ever imagined and it will destroy you. How many gluttons have abandoned their families after a heart attack? How many materialists have destroyed their families in pursuit of more and more things? How many covetous have driven away every relationship they’ve had as they wasted their money on the lottery and at casinos? How many who consistently had angry outbursts ended up killing someone even in their own family? Did they flee with a 13-year-old? No, but was the end result much different?
Five years ago, if anyone had asked our brother, Jody, about sacrificing his family, his work, even his soul in order to have a few moments of pleasure with a 13-year-old, he would have reacted exactly as we do today. “Absolutely not. I’ve done some bad things, but I would never do that.” Yet, he did. That makes me think of I Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Today, I want to say, “I’d never do that.” But if I let sin have control, that is exactly where sin will take me. If you let sin have control, that is exactly where it will take you. If your favorite flavor of sin is some other matter, it will destroy your life in some other way. It will lead you to do things you had never imagined. We cannot control and enjoy sin at all.
This is not just the obligatory reference to King David, but think about him for a minute. Here was a man after God’s own heart. But he let lust weasel its way in to that heart. I don’t know exactly what happened. Perhaps it all happened in one fell swoop of sin’s axe. He may have seen her, called for her immediately, and before the night was over had committed the sin. But I can also imagine a different scenario. He lusted for Bathsheba, thinking how great it would be if she were one of his wives. He fed that lust a little bit by inquiring after her. He found out he was one of his mighty men’s wife. So he tried to put it out of his mind. But he lusted some more. He argued with himself about how wrong it was. But that lust kept tickling his heart. He finally called for her. I can even imagine that the first time she came he didn’t do anything but meet her and perhaps flirt a little. Finally, he committed immorality with her. Then, to cover up what he had done, he didn’t fake his own death; he actually killed the woman’s husband. At least our brother Jody didn’t do that. This is the power of sin in our lives.
Sadly, many of us think we can control and enjoy some level of sin. Let this story be a warning to us. Sin will take over. It will take us where we don’t want to go. None of us is immune from its power. In the end, it will destroy us.
My friends in 12-step-recovery programs have a saying about their addiction. They explain that they only have three choices: 1) locked up, 2) covered up, or 3) sobered up. That is, if they stay in their addiction it will either send them to jail or kill them so their only solution is sobriety. While Christians everywhere will be saying, “I’d never do that,” my friends in recovery will be saying, “Have I done that? Not yet.” They will understand if they don’t surrender their acting out behavior to God and start giving him control, there are all kinds of things they think they would never do that they eventually will. This attitude shouldn’t just be for those recovering from alcoholism, sexaholism, gambling addiction, or drug addiction. This attitude should also be in all of us who are recovering from our sin enslavement. (Dare I say sin addiction?)
Let me say something specifically to anyone who is reading this whose favorite flavor of sin is right up this alley. If lust is your problem and you’ve been looking at pornography, let me assure you, this could be you. It will be you if you don’t surrender this sin now and start surrendering it every day. Take a good long look at where sin took even a gospel preacher. I guarantee you when he became a Christian 15 years ago, he thought he would never commit the sin of lust and immorality again and that he would never, ever do anything like he did this weekend. But sin is relentless and progressive.
If you are a preacher and you’ve been looking at pornography, do not say to yourself, “At least I’ve never done that.” If you keep looking at pornography, you’ll do something like it eventually. That is what sin does. You cannot control and enjoy it. It will control you. Please, no matter what it costs you get some serious help for this.
However, Paul didn’t end Romans 7 with despair. He asked the question who will deliver me from this body of death. Then he gave an answer in Romans 7:25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus can deliver us.
This doesn’t mean Jesus will simply forgive us. No, it means Jesus will actually deliver us from the body of death, the body that is being controlled by the law of sin. Let me tell you what won’t deliver you. You won’t deliver you. You aren’t strong enough. You can’t set up enough rules, enough accountability partners, enough safeguards to deliver yourself from a sin-controlled body of death. The lion is attacking you (cf. I Peter 5:8). Quit thinking you can beat him. Instead, retreat into the only protection you have. Let God be your fortress of protection (Psalm 18:1-3). Put on the armor of God and be strong in His might, praying with all perseverance and petition (Ephesians 6:10-18). Live by faith in Jesus, not by faith in your power to keep Jesus’ rules, but by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20) and He will deliver you from your body of death.
Don’t let this story cause you to glory in your own supposed power. Instead, if you haven’t done anything like this, thank God for His grace that He hasn’t let your sins take you this far. Develop some respect for the power of sin, recognizing that it could have been you, and start surrendering it to God. Give praise to God for His power that despite all of sin’s power, we can rule over it by the power of God.