Fallout from the Ashley Madison scandal continues. The company's CEO has resigned; several people who used the adultery website have committed suicide. And some 400 clergy resigned publicly from their ministries last Sunday.
Let's put that number in perspective.
One pastor who seeks to have an affair is one too many. Infidelity shatters the spouse, devastates the children, and wounds the congregation. Pastors who violate their marriage vows sin against God, their family, and the sheep they are called to shepherd.
At the same time, 400 pastors constitute 0.00125 percent of the Ashley Madison database. They make up 0.067 percent of the estimated 600,000 vocational ministers in the U.S. Critics who draw lines from Ashley Madison to Josh Duggar and recent exposes of materialistic televangelists slander hundreds of thousands of faithful ministers. Clearly, some condemn fallen believers so they can justify their rejection of our faith.
Here's the irony: those who criticize sinful Christians are more right than they know.
In today's reading from My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers states: "We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness." Chambers elaborates: "At all costs, a person must have a right relationship with God. . . . God has only one intended destiny for mankind—holiness. His only goal is to produce saints."
Our holy Father intends his children to live holy lives. How can we cooperate with him in accomplishing this goal?
One: Make holiness your definition of success. (Tweet this)
You may think that sinful people cannot be made holy, but it's not true. Chambers explains: "Atonement through the Cross of Christ means that God can put me back into perfect oneness with himself through the death of Jesus Christ, without a trace of anything coming between us any longer." Jesus's death for your sins means that you can now live in unbroken relationship with your holy Father.
There is no sin you must commit. Scripture promises: "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Don't blame sin on your fallen nature and fallen world. Settle for nothing less than God's best for you.
Two: Reinforce your commitment by daily discipline.
Aristotle observed, "Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way." Admit your sins (1 John 1:8). Claim God's forgiveness (v. 9). Ask before every decision, "What is the holy thing to do?" Chambers urges us: "Never tolerate, because of sympathy for yourself or for others, any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God."
Three: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be holy.
Your Father wants intimate relationship with you even more than you do with him. (Tweet this) Chambers: "When we choose deliberately to obey him, then he will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with all his almighty power." So pray for your Father to make you like his Son (Romans 8:29). And know that he always answers that prayer.
Jonathan Edwards resolved "never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life." And God used his integrity to spark the First Great Awakening. Do we need more holy people today?
NOTE: For more on living in holiness, see my Ashley Madison and the Leader's Soul.
Publication date: September 1, 2015
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others?
Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.