Some have asked me about recent reports of secret sins with various Christian leaders, and specifically in the sexual area. I do not want to speak to specific situations; each of us can form our own opinions. But I wanted to share a few thoughts as a warning and an encouragement.
1. God’s Name is dishonored
The greatest tragedy in all such cases is that the Name of Jesus is being dishonored. Jesus taught us that we BEGIN our prayers to the Father by saying, “Hallowed be Your Name!” In this, Jesus was teaching us that God’s Name being honored must be paramount in our lives – even above our daily need for food. Every sin bring dishonor to God’s Name, but public failures by Christian leaders give special occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme His Name (2 Samuel 12:14). So at the very outset, let us adjust our hearts to mourn, because the Lord’s interests are damaged through things like this.
2. My INNER LIFE is everything
There will never be a massive fall or shocking revelation for the Christian who is LASER-FOCUSED on his inner life.
So for me as a man, and as it results to my sexual desires, I must be very, very careful to watch and guard my thoughts about an attractive friend. And the co-worker with a fun personality. And the old high school friend that wanted to reconnect with me on Facebook or Instagram. And the Internet sites that I visit. And the advertisements that pop up or show up on a sidebar when reading something innocent. I must pay close attention to the temptations that these things bring.
Jesus explained the practical New Covenant life in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). And Jesus could not have been clearer in teaching me that adultery, murder, lies, etc. – all began in my heart and mind. For me to walk in the New Covenant (the narrow way that leads to eternal life), I must pay foremost attention to my hidden inner life.
The Lord Jesus has made this very clear to me: “Sandeep, you take care of the small sins in your inner life, and I will lead you to safety – and away from every temptation and evil that would ever result in a big outward fall (Matthew 6:13).”
3. Keep my conscience sensitive
For this journey on the narrow way, my conscience is my indispensable guide. My conscience remains unspoiled ONLY as I remain faithful to fight for purity in my inner life on a daily basis (Matthew 6:22-23).. And it will become faulty if I quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
I can also jeopardize my conscience by subjecting myself to incorrect teaching. We at NCCF are most fortunate to receive teaching that is trustworthy and well-tested. We can confidently calibrate our conscience to the clear teachings we have undeservedly received. So let us remain watchful that our lives stay constantly nourished by the faithful teachings of the New Covenant that we have received (1 Timothy 4:16), and to not quench the Spirit who groans for holiness within me, wanting me to be pure as Jesus is pure (Romans 8:26-29; 1 John 3:2-3).
4. Do not be fooled by spiritual gifts
Matthew 7:21-23 – 21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Jesus clearly warns me to beware of certain kind of people that we would not easily see as dangerous wolves or worldly and lawless ones. Because:
They proclaimed Jesus as Lord.
They prophesied in Jesus’s Name
They cast out demons in Jesus’s Name
They performed miracles in Jesus’s Name
But yet, Jesus clearly warned us that there would be MANY who did all of this, and to whom Jesus would still say, “Get away from Me because you made a practice of sinning!” So there is no doubt in my mind that I can live an externally clean life and have a wonderful reputation in front of others, while my inner and hidden life is even growing increasingly corrupted (and no one sees that, and I might be even sly enough to hide it from my wife and children for quite a while).
So let us take this stark warning from Jesus to heart. We have been blessed with many talented and gifted people at NCCF. But the strength of NCCF is not in inspiring messages with great analogies, or our Bible studies, or our fun events, or even our doctrine. The church of God will never flourish by any of these, and not even by spiritual gifts. The genuine fuel for the true New Covenant church is holy love (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).
5. Idolize People Or Imitate People’s Faith?
So how do we interact with Christian leaders? How do we know whom to trust?
We must guard against idolizing any single human being (1 John 5:21). Christ is our only reliable Example. Paul does tell us to imitate him but AS he imitates Christ (1. Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1). So we never take our eyes off of Christ, but if we see other Christians ahead of us in imitating Christ, we can choose to imitate them as well.
And what is it about someone else that we primarily imitate? Hebrews 13:7 – Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
We are to imitate their faith in Christ to make them like Him and complete what He has started in them (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6). Not their style of speaking, not their personality, not their mannerisms, etc. So as we think about all those who have led us and have spoken God’s Word to us, our instructions are clear: Look at the RESULTS of their conduct (holiness not giftedness), and based on that, imitate their faith in Christ.
Let us follow and imitate only those leaders who zealously demonstrate a die-hard commitment to imitate Jesus in His humility and gentleness of heart (Matthew 11:29). This will protect us from much disappointment and fear.
Tozer: It is our belief that the evangelical movement will continue to drift farther and farther from the New Testament position unless its leadership passes from the modern religious star to the self-effacing saint who asks for no praise and seeks no place, happy only when the glory is attributed to God and himself forgotten....
Within the last quarter of a century we have actually seen a major shift in the beliefs and practices of the evangelical wing of the church so radical as to amount to a complete sellout; and all this behind the cloak of fervent orthodoxy. With Bibles under their arms and bundles of tracts in their pockets, religious persons now meet to carry on "services" so carnal, so pagan, that they can hardly be distinguished from the old vaudeville shows of earlier days..
Our only hope is that renewed spiritual pressure will be exerted increasingly by self-effacing and courageous men who desire nothing but the glory of God and the purity of the church. May God send us many of them. They are long overdue.
Finally: Do not be afraid of the devil
The great trick of the devil is to have us live in fear. He will get us to think that he is too crafty for us, and that we have no chance of living a life of increasing victory over sin. He would love to convince that if we go all out for Jesus, he will trap us just like he has trapped so many “famous” Christians before.
Beloved family of God, this is a lie from the pit of hell. The good news of the New Covenant is that Jesus will save us to the uttermost (not just forgive us) from our sins (Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 7:25).
So let us guard against all fear and tentativeness in our walk with Christ. Jesus is our Example and Forerunner. He surely did not live in fear. He was perfectly secure in the Father’s love for Him, as long as He stayed humbly submitted to the Father. And He asks us to take His easy yoke upon ourselves too, and learn humility and gentleness of heart from Him.
If we do this, we can live with great confidence, knowing that the Shepherd of our souls will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:6-11).