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Joe McKeever Christian Blog and Commentary

Joe McKeever

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Joe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
"So, you were the one praying for me!"
 
Something about heaven was brought home to me by a testimony in the latest issue of Christianity Today (July/August 2014).
 
In "A Grief Transformed," Tara Edelschick tells of being brought up the daughter of a secular Jew and a lapsed Lutheran.  She learned to be fairly self-sufficient, went to a great college and married a super guy.  “Weaker souls might need a god,” she thought at the time, “but I needed no such crutch.”
 
“That belief was obliterated when my husband of five years, Scott, died from complications during a routine surgery. Ten days later, I delivered our first child, Sarah, stillborn.”
 
Oh, my.  Talk about a double whammy.  Life suddenly took a tragic turn, blindsiding the unsuspecting young woman.
 
Many would never have recovered from such a blow.
 
However, within a year, Tara had become a Christian.  She writes, “Nothing miraculous happened–no defining moments, blinding visions, or irrefutable arguments. But slowly, imperceptibly at first, I was drawn into a life of faith.”
 
Mostly, what happened, from her perspective, at least, is that friends witnessed to her. One friend in particular got her reading the Word.
 
 
A Christian acquaintance named Tony introduced Tara to the Gospel of John.  Each Saturday morning over the phone, they would read a portion of scripture and talk. “Tony was the only Christian I knew who didn’t try to explain away the loss of my husband and baby.”
 
Eventually, Tony convinced Tara to start going to church. That’s where she made the commitment to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
 
On the surface, the story seems simple enough with no complications.
 
But this is where the story gets good.
 
Run the tape back to the time when her husband and baby died.  Tara’s little family was living in New Jersey.
 
“A woman from Massachusetts named Liz stood up at her church for several weeks on end and asked people to pray for me.”
 
“Liz lived with my friend Ora, and Ora had told her about me.”
 
In that Massachusetts church was a man named Jeff.  He joined Liz and Ora in praying that “God would take care of my body and heart.”
 
Tara knew none of this was happening.
 
What came from it is a God thing.
 
Liz, the praying friend of Ora, moved off to England.  Then one day several years later, Liz contacted Ora to ask how her friend Tara was doing.
 
Ora was delighted to be able to say that Tara had become a Christian, was doing great and had met a nice guy named Jeff, a chaplain at Harvard, and they had married.
 
Liz said, “Jeff Barneson?”
 
He was the man in Liz’s church who had joined them in praying for Tara, all those years back.
 
Jeff had been praying for Tara years before they would meet.
 
Tara goes on with her story….
 
“One afternoon six years ago, after I finished telling this story to my friend Kathy (a member of Tara’s prayer group–Joe) she said, ‘So was I!’”
 
Tara said, “You were what?”
 
“I was praying for you, too.  Liz was in my prayer group.  She came to our group so distraught by your story that she asked us to pray for you. We prayed for weeks, and then I forgot about that story.”
 
Kathy continued, “When I met you, it never occurred to me that you were the same woman. In fact, Jean and Julie would have been there at church as well, so they were also praying for you back then.”
 
Tara spent the rest of the day crying. Jean and Julie are also in her prayer group.
 
Three of the five members of her prayer group had been interceding for her in prayer years earlier when she had gone through the greatest crisis of her life, without any of them having any idea they would ever meet, much less become best friends.
 
Tara writes, “Knowing that Jeff had been praying for me before we met had always touched me.  But learning that my spiritual sisters had also prayed for me left me shaken.”
 
She continues, “Piecing it all together, I wept and wept, unable to imagine the grace of it all.”
 
Think of it.
 
In 1997, when Tara was an agnostic widow living in New Jersey, a group of Christians in Massachusetts was interceding for her.  She says, “While my own attempts to find a faith never adequately explained my conversion, this did.”
 
“I had been prayed into the kingdom.”
 
God does not like to waste suffering. So, to no one’s surprise, these days the Lord is using this young mother to minister to others who are hurting the way she did. Tara has worked with middle school students whose parents had died. God is using her to counsel men and women who lose children and spouses in death.  She has taught classes at Harvard on bereavement.  She says people sometimes come up to her “in lowered voices” at parties and in grocery stories to unburden themselves of their stories of loss and grief. She says, “I pray for God’s love to do what I cannot: to bind up the wounded places, leaving their scars to bear witness of the power of both loss and love.”
 
This made me think of two big things that will happen in Heaven.
 
One: People will be coming up to thank you for praying for them. “God used your prayers to make the difference,” they will say. And you had not known it until that moment.
 
You will be so glad you prayed.
 
One of the inescapable realities of prayer in this fallen world is that most of the things we pray for, we will never know in this life whether the prayers were answered or how they were answered. We will pray by faith that God hears, cares, and answers, or we will grow discouraged and quit.  (See Luke 18:8 and 2 Corinthians 4:1,16.)
 
Two: You will find out that many of the great blessings in your life resulted from people praying for you. You had no idea they were praying, and might have even thought those blessings were pure luck, sheer coincidence, or the result of your hard work and sincere effort.
 
In Heaven, you will find out you were “prayed into the kingdom,” as Tara put it, and that prayer played a huge part in God’s guidance in every area of your life.
 
When I was 19 and recovering from my freshman year of college and working on our Alabama farm, something happened that changed my life forever.  Two phone calls, actually.
 
The first call came from my sister Patricia to say that her young family would be transferring to Birmingham. Since her husband James would be traveling, would it be possible for me to switch to a college in that city and stay with them. Free room and board for me, and security for her and the baby. I loved the idea.
 
The second call was to a cousin who was a year ahead of me in college in Birmingham. I asked about Samford University and Birmingham-Southern College, the two primary choices for higher education in those days.  As a result of her counsel during that call, I turned right around and called ‘Southern to ask for an application.
 
Near the campus of Birmingham-Southern, I began attending a great Baptist church where in a course of three years (that is, during college), I was baptized, met my wife, was called to preach, married, and ordained.
 
What part did prayer have in this?  I have no memory of praying much about any of it.
 
Was someone else praying? Is my Christian life and ministry of the gospel the result of the prayers of someone whom I do not know?
 
We will find out in Heaven.

“…and they shall never perish….” (John 10:28)

Can you unfry an egg? Then, after being saved–genuinely forgiven and accepted and transformed by the Holy Spirit of God into something far different from what you were, more than any hen’s egg ever dreamed possible–you cannot undo it.

Once saved, always safe.

To say otherwise, and to preach it, might be something akin to insulting the Holy Spirit.

It might be. Certainly, it’s worth giving this some serious thought.

My friend and her husband have been visiting around, trying to find the church where the Lord wants them. She sent me a message.

“We found a great church that we really like in a lot of ways. But we found out they believe a person can lose his salvation. That troubles us.”

She asked me to remind her what Scripture says on this subject. I was glad to do so.

Question 1. What are some primary scriptures teaching the security of believers?

John 10:28-29 is as solid as one could ever ask for. For that matter, so is John 3:16. In fact, every scripture that calls our salvation “eternal” or “everlasting” is making this claim, that salvation is forever and cannot be undone. (For us to say, “Well, it’s eternal so long as I keep up my end of the bargain” is insulting to the Lord.)

But there are plenty of others which speak of the eternal and lasting nature of the salvation we have in Christ. Some of these are….

Luke 10:20 – Disciples should not focus their thanksgiving on variable blessings (like results, numbers, baptisms, etc) since they are inconsistent, present sometimes and absent at other times, but should rejoice in this, “that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus clearly thought salvation was secure and unvarying, not dependent on anything external, and thus was everlasting. (I suspect it upsets Him to see how little people value what He achieved on Calvary, to think it’s a temporary situation won or lost by our doings.)

Ephesians 1:13 – Believers were “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” If that’s not eternal security, it’s nothing. He has literally made believers “tamper-proof.” How good is that!

Ephesians 2:8-9 – Everyone agrees that this teaches salvation is not of works, but of faith. The funny thing, however, is that some will turn around and teach that, while good works cannot get us saved, bad ones can undo the Lord’s salvation. Interesting logic. I suspect they’ve just not thought this matter through. If that’s the case, then we are indeed saved by our works.

The entire Epistle to the Hebrews addresses this in numerous places. For instance, Jesus is a better priest and a superior sacrifice than under the former system because while those priests were forever slaughtering sacrificial animals, “through His own blood, He entered the holy place one for all, having obtained eternal salvation” (9:12). One for all. One time for all time.

The priests of the temple had no chairs because their work was never done. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for all time, sat down at the right hand of God….” (10:12). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (10:14). And then, after saying in 10:17 that our sins would be remembered no more, Scripture says, “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Get it? No more offering because there’s no need. Once saved, forever safe.

Question 2. What about Hebrews 6:4-6? Doesn’t that teach one can lose his salvation?

I was listening to a television broadcast in which teachers in a certain denomination were spouting their flawed doctrine in answer to rigged questions (purported to have been called in by listeners). Someone phoned asking about Hebrews 6:4-6. The teacher said, “This passage teaches it’s possible to lose your salvation.” And he went on to other subjects.

Not so fast, friend. That scripture states that something is impossible. “In the case of (certain things), then if they have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” See that?

I grant you that it’s not an easy text for any of us, regardless of the position you take on this issue. If you believe, as I do, that the Bible presents salvation as an irrevocable gift from God which cannot be undone, then you have to admit this passage at least teaches the possibility of “falling away.” I answer that a) it does not say someone has done that, only that “if” they did, so the writer is posing a theoretical situation; and b) “if” they did fall away, getting them saved the second time is impossible. For that to happen, it would be necessary for Christ to return to the cross and die all over again.

Interesting that the television teacher’s denomination, which teaches one can lose his salvation and get it back, lose it again and regain it, does not baptize the person each time he/she “gets saved” again. And yet they teach baptism is an essential part of salvation. Anyone looking for consistency in many denominations’ doctrines will be endlessly frustrated.

Question 3. Is there any place in Scripture that flat-out teaches about some saved person losing his salvation?

I know of none. In fact, when the Apostle John spoke of people who had departed from the faith, he said, “they went out from us because they were not of us” (I John 2:19). He adds, “If they had been of us, they would have remained with us.”

They were never truly saved in the first place. That’s what he’s saying.

Question 4. Are there Old Testament allusions to the security of believers?

The best one I know concerns the priesthood. When a man became a priest, he was given a ceremonial bath. From head to toe, he was drenched. He stood there, passively “taking it.” However, the process was never repeated. From then on, every time he arrived at the tabernacle (and later the temple) to do his priestly work, on entering he went first to the laver (wash basin) and washed his hands and sometimes his feet. No one did it to him; he did it himself.

This is a picture of believers–in Christ we are priests of God (I Peter 2:9)–receiving salvation as a gift from God, through no works of our own. We stand there and take it. Thereafter, we never need to be saved again. However, each day of our lives, on our own initiative we come to Him and receive the daily cleansing as we pray, confess, and recommit ourselves.

See Exodus 40:12-15 for the initial washing of Aaron and his sons, and then 40:32 for the daily hand-washing. I cannot take credit for this. Woodrow Flynn, the man who preached the ordination sermon for Billy Graham, spoke to our seminary class one day in the 1960s and shared this insight with us. I think it’s pure gold.

Question 5. Why then do some entire denominations (and a lot of wonderful pastors and churches) teach the possibility of losing one’s salvation?

I’ll give you my opinion. I think it just makes sense to think, “Hey, I came in on my own and I can walk out on my own.” It’s all about free will. It just seems it would be this way.

For instance, we look around at people who once were faithful church members and now are living in big-time sin, and it seems logical to think they’re no longer saved. However, applying that test–concluding that what seems logical must be so–would also lead us to a doctrine of works salvation. It seems logical to the average person that good people go to heaven and bad people to hell.

This is why Scripture says “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:14). They are foolishness to him.

My wife’s step-grandmother, a devoted Catholic if ever there was one, said, “Joe, don’t you think when we stand before the Lord, He will add up our good works on one side and put our bad works on the other and if the good outweighs the bad, we’re in?” All over her apartment, Grandma Ethel had pictures and images of Jesus on the cross. I gently asked, “What do you think the point of the cross was all about?” She recited the proper words–”He died for our sins”–but the meaning of that seemed not to be able to penetrate the mind of this one who had spent a lifetime believing in works salvation. (Was Ethel saved or not? I vote for “saved.” We are not saved by proper doctrine, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.)

Question 6. Are people who get this wrong bad people? Or do good people disagree on it?

Clearly, there are (you will understand the expression) good people on both sides of this issue. And yet both cannot be right. We are not calling “the other side” bad people or saying they are ignorant. We love the brethren. We believe they are mistaken because they choose to discount some of the great teachings of Scripture for the simple reason that “it doesn’t seem right to me.”

Question 7. Are there other reasons for believing in the security of believers?

Let me give you two that mean a lot to me.

First. Scripture teaches that the saved are “sons of God” and “children of God.” (See John 1:12, Romans 8:16; and I John 3:10.) Now, if we can have salvation and become God’s children, then lose salvation because of what we did or did not do, and thus are no longer God’s children, it’s a terrible metaphor the Lord chose to use. And yet Scripture uses it repeatedly. (See 2 Corinthians 6:18 and Galatians 4:7.)

Or should we believe that God will have sons and daughters in hell?

My wife and I have three adult children. We love them dearly, but as they were growing up each one gave us their share of headaches and worries. We spent sleepless nights worrying about them and praying relentlessly. They went through periods of rebellion against us and God (and came through it, thankfully). At no point did they cease being our children. Once my child, always my child.

Second. When we come to Christ and are genuinely saved, something happens at that moment which is divine, life-changing, eternal, and irreversible. We become children of the Heavenly Father, our names are written in the Book of Life, our sins are forgiven, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and nothing is ever the same again. This is why one cannot walk out the way he walked in. From this moment on, he/she is not the same person. In Christ, we are “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I hope this helps.

It does not answer every objection, of course. Huge books would be required to do that. But it’s important to emphasize this is not (as some accuse) a man-made doctrine to give sinning church members carte blanche to come and go and they please and still go to heaven. Far from it.

The person who goes on sinning as before, as I John puts it in several places, is not saved and never was.

The person who has no desire to live close to the Lord Jesus and to please Him and never has had, is probably not saved and never was.

However, that said, we say without fear of contradiction that in Heaven there will be people we never expected to be received. We will be surprised again and again. And, just as certain, there will be people we expected to find in Heaven who never made it.

God is the judge and not us. We see through a glass darkly, the same way we do everything else. We see doctrine through that darkened glass also, and no doubt get some things wrong.

Let us always come with humility to these matters of eternal significance. And let us pull back from the foolish who have all the answers and tolerate no dissent.

Help us, Lord.

What qualifies me to write this piece, if anything, is that I am a pastor who has been married most of my life. My wife Margaret and I did this entire ministry thing together, having married the same year I started pastoring, and that was 52 years back. Every church I served as pastor, she was there and deeply involved. She has heard more of my sermons than anyone else, and knows me in ways I do not know myself. Therefore, her assessment of me is probably more dead-on than anyone else’s, including my own.

And that’s what frightens me.

They asked Dwight L. Moody if a certain man were a Christian. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t talked to his wife.”

If anyone knows, she does.

(Note: I write–as is obvious–from the standpoint of the pastor being a man. There are godly and faithful women leading churches across the world, and we thank God for them. I have no experience with their situation or knowledge on how their ministries are different from mine. It would be presumptuous for me to pontificate on what they need.)

The pastor’s wife can hurt or help him “better” than anyone else.

When two people go into a “hug,” they drop their guards and become vulnerable. Some individuals we meet in life refuse to allow themselves to love and be love, lest they be hurt by the one they were trusting. Most of us decide that’s too big a price to pay, that we are willing to run the risk in order to receive love and express our affection.

When a pastor and his wife divorce, the departing spouse can wound him for life.* If the split is her doing, the rejection can be devastating. No words cut as deeply, find his soft spots, and leave him gasping for air the way hers do. While that is true of any divorce situation, it has special significance for one called by God into the ministry. After all, this man is doing the strangest work on the planet: He is representing the great invisible God with the message of Jesus Christ to a people who do not always appreciate either the God or the messenger. And now, the departing spouse has just about made it impossible.

(*I’m not naive. I know that sometimes the husband is the one betraying his wife, and that divorce can be a mutual decision and have a thousand causes. However, I have observed in far too many cases wives divorcing their preacher-husbands because “I do not want to live that life,” “I did not sign on for life in a glass-bowl,” and “He was not a preacher when we married and I am not cut out for this.”)

The spouse who stays with the preacher through thick and thin, believing in him all the way, loving and praying for him, is a jewel in the Heavenly Father’s crown. And, truth be known, she’s rare as one too, I expect.

My wife was attending one of these women’s ministry events our denomination puts on from time to time. A number of pastors’ wives sat on a panel, discussing the preacher, his fragile self-esteem, and how the wife keeps him tethered to reality. One said, “I tell him, ‘You may be Doctor So-and-So up there in that pulpit on Sunday. But remember, I saw you two hours earlier in your boxer shorts.’” Everyone laughed, but not everyone appreciated what that woman did.

I’d give a dime to know what her husband thought. (Turn the tables and ask how she would have felt had he announced to the world that he had seen her this morning in her undies.)

The pastor’s self-esteem is something like loose cargo on board a storm-tossed ship. It careens from side to side, sometimes high and sometimes low, always threatening to do damage. Unless someone helps him bolt it to reality, that unstable ego is going to get him in trouble.

That’s what a faithful wife can do: help him fasten down his self-esteem.

The pastor does not need his ego inflated.

Some women read these magazine articles saying men are vain creatures, that they need constant assuring that they are wonderful and sexy and attractive. The woman who lures a straying husband away from his faithful wife, those articles say, made him feel important, listened to his fears, and bragged on his accomplishments.

A wife will read that and come away disgusted that men are so self-centered, so needy, and so weak. And, if she takes that as gospel, her way of helping her preacher-hubby will consist of telling him how wonderful he is, inflating his fragile ego, puffing him up. All the while, she’s feeling guilty for lying to him and ashamed for not being able to speak the truth.

That is not what he needs.

He’s not stupid.

He knows he’s no more wonderful than anyone else. He is not on an ego-trip for Jesus. He does not need a constant reassurance that “You’re the best preacher,” “You’re great,” and “You’re the best looking minister in the denomination.”

Any wife who does that and any preacher who feeds on it has more problems than we can address here.

What a pastor needs is encouragement.

Pure and simple. He needs someone who knows him well and loves him still to assure him that what he is doing is the most important work in the world, that God is using his sermons and pastoral care in ways that honor Christ and will eventually bless the recipients, and that he is serving well.

The pastoral ministry–that is, a man called of God to shepherd His flock made up of every kind of collection of “sheep”–can be a sinkhole for a pastor’s self-esteem. Most congregations have people who see their calling as cutting the preacher down to size, reminding him of his human frailties, and finding the flaws in his sermons and the omissions in his pastoring.

The pastor takes this as a given. He does his work, takes his lumps, goes home to his family, sleeps off the aches of yesterday, and rises to face a new day and try this all again. He keeps reminding himself that “the mercies of the Lord are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23) and that he can “do all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13).

But it’s hard. Anyone who says it isn’t either hasn’t been in the work very long or isn’t paying attention.

The pastor needs his wife to pray for him. She knows better than anyone the pressures he faces. Her prayers may be the most valuable ones ever raised for him.

The pastor needs to know his wife is on his team. He’s not real sure about certain deacons, and some old curmudgeon told him yesterday that he is a failure, but there is one person he can always count on. His wife believes in him.

The pastor needs his wife to listen with discernment when he is asking for input, and to give her thoughts freely and confidently.

In the same way, the pastor needs his wife to know when to be quiet and keep her opinion to herself. It’s not an easy assignment, believe me.

He needs the occasional reminder from her that she is proud to be married to a man doing the most important work on the planet, spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Honestly, I can understand a woman saying, “This is more than I can do. I’m not cut out for this.” Her life is as difficult as his, and in some ways, more.

Pray for the pastor’s wife.

Pray for your pastor.

When you get to Heaven–make a note of this and hold me accountable, please–you will find out how the Father treasures every time you lift these two people of His to Him in prayer.

One final word: Please do not approach the pastor or his wife to ask something like, “Tell me what pressures you are facing so I can pray more intelligently.” This is private information which they will not be able to share with you. Please take it by faith and pray with the assurance that the Father knows their needs and will apply the blessing of your prayer wherever it’s needed most. Thank you.

"You have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife" (II Samuel 12:10).
 
A minister falls into adultery and it becomes public knowledge. This becomes a sad, sad day for everyone who knows him.
 
(And yes, I am aware it takes two people to commit this sin.  However, this blog is directed toward pastors and other church leaders, so the minister is the focus of our comments here.)
 
“I think we all should consider this a wakeup call,” said a colleague of a friend who had fallen into sin and lost his ministry.  The other ministers nodded in agreement.
 
It can happen to any of us. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
 
Will anyone tell you “otherwise”? Oh yes.  He is called by various names such as Satan, the devil, Lucifer, that old serpent, and the slanderer.  Remember, friend–he’s not called the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing (Revelation 12:10).
 
Jesus called him a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
 
“Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Beware of feeling this sin or any other sin could not happen to you, friend.
 
“If Thou O Lord should mark iniquities, who would stand?” (Psalm 130:3). You know that you are just as bad a sinner as the adulterer, don’t you?  If you do not, if you believe that your sins are of a nicer variety and deserve less severe treatment from God, you have more problems than we can deal with here.
 
If anyone should be above the law and able to come and go sexually as he pleases, it ought to be the king, right?
 
One king of Israel seems to have bought into that myth.
 
When King David sinned with Bathsheba, and then committed manslaughter to get her righteous husband out of the way, he was in major trouble with God.  Second Samuel chapter 12 tells the story.
 
David received many surprises when God called him to account for his behavior.  He was surprised to learn that…
 
–God took his sin personally. “You have despised me,” the Lord said (II Samuel 12:10).  Later David prayed, “Against Thee and Thee only is my sin” (Psalm 51:4). We can beg to differ with that–and we do–but to the one struggling under that great load of guilt over his wrongdoing, it felt that way. In the same way, the Apostle Paul called himself “the chief of sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). Was he the worst? Not even close. But he felt that he was, and that’s the correct way to assess one’s own guilt before God.
 
--God took his sin as a rejection of His Word. “Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight?” (II Samuel 12:9)
 
–The enemy took his sin gleefully. “By this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (II Samuel 12:14).  We can hear the enemies cackling, “Oooh, he was so righteous! But look what he’s doing.  He’s worse than us!”
 
–The sin David committed injured him permanently. “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house….” (II Samuel 12:10).
 
–While David thought his misdeeds were done in private, God meted out the punishment publicly. “Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun” (II Samuel 12:12).
 
We keep getting surprised by our sin. We are surprised that we get by with it as long as we do, surprised when we get caught, surprised that people were as hurt as they were, and surprised that God took our sin as a personal insult.  We are surprised that the price we pay for our sin is not the slight thing we had envisioned for spiritual misdemeanors but massive and far-reaching, as though God considers our transgressions as felonies deserving the harshest treatment.
 
When a minister of the Gospel commits adultery, he does the most stupid thing of his life.  No bad thing he ever does will have as far-reaching consequences as this.  He will live with the effects of this foolishness the rest of his earthly days.
 
Everything about it is sad.
 
There must be a hundred bad things that happen when a minister falls into sexual sin. God alone knows what they are. But my observation is that when a minister falls and his act becomes public knowledge, these ten things happen:
 
1) HIs ministry is gone. Until he has undergone a period of counseling with his wife and receives the endorsement of friends with influence, his influence will be slim to none.
 
2) His humiliation is severe. The shame is a heavy burden to bear.
 
3) Those who believed in him and supported him feel betrayed. He could have told them from the first how mortal he is and how prone to temptation he is–like the rest of us–but still, they have been hurt. We can hear them saying, “We thought he was above that.”  No amount of explanation can salve the pain.
 
4) People whom he was trying to reach for Christ now have a convenient excuse to fall away. "I thought he was so Christlike,” they will say, as they lay aside the Bible and no longer consider coming to Christ. Whether they actually did think that or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that the devil has taken the weapon he’s just been handed by a foolish servant of the Lord and is now battering the church with it.
 
5) His family is wounded, perhaps irreparably. Counseling can help and must be done.  The family can be restored, and in many cases will be “stronger in the broken places,” as the saying goes. But such seems to be rare, sad to say.
 
6) Atheists and others hostile to the Christian faith have a field day. Like the Philistines with David, these people delight in pointing out the hypocrisies of God’s preachers, particularly those who have been outspoken against sexual sin.
 
7) His future ministry–once it's re-established–is more limited. We are not saying God is through with him, only that how the Lord chooses to use Him will probably be different from the original plan and in a lesser way. However–and we emphasize this–God is sovereign and can do whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). If God chooses to reach the entire world through this one, He has the right.
 
But generally speaking, the future ministry of a “fallen and then restored” disciple is a miniature version of what it couuld have been.
 
8) Other ministers are tainted by being in the same profession as he. The next time some pollster asks people to name the profession they trust most, they will remember this and drop all ministers lower down their list.
 
9) The pastor's victim has been wounded and her family has paid a price. Whether they know it or not. Compounding that tragedy, in many cases some will accuse her of being the aggressor.  No good comes from any of this.
 
10) The guilt from this will hound him the rest of his life. When he's 60 years old and the sin lies in the distant past, he will be saying, "Lord, I am so sorry. Please forgive me." The Lord, of course, forgave that the first time he repented and asked. This sin was nailed to Jesus’ cross. God’s forgiveness is so total He says He actually forgets our sin (Hebrews 10:17). But the memory of his deeds and the sorrow for the pain he has caused will never leave.
 
There is however, a little good news. At least two good things can come from this tragic situation…
 
1) The pastor is going to find out who his friends are. This is of course the worst of all possible ways to find that out, but you do learn it.
 
2) The church is going to find out what it really believes. And so, incidentally, is the minister who has fallenEvery church talks a good game of grace. But only when one near and dear to the members falls into gross sin and rebellion does this  test reveal whether they believe in showing mercy and love to sinners. As with "finding out who his friends are," this is the most brutal of all ways to make this discovery.
 
Pray for your ministers. Oh, one more thing: If your minister takes extraordinary steps to guard himself from temptation, do not take it personally.
 
A woman wrote recently saying that after her second counseling visit with her pastor, he informed her that he would like his wife to sit in on future sessions. She was offended. She said, "Why doesn’t he trust me?" She indicated she will probably not go back.
 
It would have been simple for me to have told her, "It's himself he's not trusting." But that would not necessarily be true. He is simply being wise. This is for the protection of everyone. I suggested to the woman that she give it a try, to return to the pastor for at least two more visits, and see how it goes. She can always stop the sessions and find another counselor. But I would not be surprised if she finds herself connecting with the pastor's wife, and forming a friendship with the blessings of Heaven.
 
Pray for our pastors. And support them whenever they take steps to protect their relationships, their ministries, the people around them, their families, and the name of Jesus.
GO
Example: "Gen 1:1" "John 3" "Moses" "trust"
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