Forgiveness, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Can unforgiveness cause you to you lose your salvation?

 

Can unforgiveness cause me to lose my salvation?

Forgiving (or refusing to forgive) others as it relates to our salvation is such an important issue. I’m so glad you asked!

Let’s break this question down a bit.

Can you lose your salvation?

The first thing we need to tackle is whether or not someone whom Christ has genuinely saved can lose her salvation – for unforgiveness or any other reason. And the answer to that question is no.

Why? The short answer is that if God saves someone, and that person can subsequently “unsave” herself, that makes her more powerful than God, which, as we know, can’t happen. You can’t save yourself, and you can’t unsave yourself. Salvation is all of God.

When God saves you, you are His new creation in Christ. You can’t “uncreate” your new spiritual life any more than you can “uncreate” your body, or a tree, or a planet. You can kill or do damage to those things, but you cannot reverse God’s creative process. To use another example, oh so relevant to today, God created you female. You can mutilate your body til kingdom come trying to appear male, but that will not change the fact that at your genetic level – the very essence of your being – you are female. And you can’t undo that because God created you that way, and you’re not more powerful than God. If you can’t even change God’s creation of your physical body, how in the world can you change God’s creation of your spiritual being?

In addition to the fact that you can’t uncreate the new creature God has created you to be, you need to remember that the moment God saves you, He forgives all your sins, past, present, and future, and robes you in the righteousness of Christ. That swear word you’re going to say next week? Already forgiven. That lie you’re going to tell five years from now? Already forgiven. And if you decide to commit the sin of refusing to forgive someone, that sin has already been forgiven too. (So since all our sins are already forgiven, we can just commit as much sin as we want and we don’t have to worry about it, right? Wrong.) We still need to confess those sins to God and be cleansed from them because they disrupt our fellowship with God, but in His accounting office, that sin debt has already been marked “paid in full”.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us plainly that if He’s got you, He’s got you:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

No one. That includes you and your sin. The power of your sin is not greater than God’s power to forgive that sin.

They will never perish. To say that a person about which Jesus Himself has said, “I give them eternal life,” can lose her salvation is to call Jesus a liar. He says that person “will never perish.” End of story.

Still not convinced that someone whom Christ has genuinely saved can’t lose her salvation? Try these passages on for size.

Now the reason it can look to us like someone can lose her salvation comes from two places: experience and misunderstanding the Bible.

Experience:
It’s happened plenty of times in the past, but in the last few weeks, we’ve seen two high profile evangelicals “walk away from the faith,”: Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson. Maybe you know someone personally – a friend, a loved one, even a pastor – who gave every appearance of being a Christian and then suddenly left Christianity, and the church, behind.

How does this compute when the Bible teaches that genuinely born again Christians cannot lose their salvation? Well, we need to remember something else the Bible teaches that’s very important:

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is one.

Some people consciously know they’re not really saved and are just trying to pull the wool over the eyes of others. But many (my guess is “most” – these days there’s not a lot of social cachet in calling yourself a Christian) are deceived into believing they’re saved. Maybe they heard some sort of unbiblical gospel presentation and have put their faith in a decision they made in response. Maybe they just assume they’re saved because they’re good church-going people and their church doesn’t teach them otherwise. Who knows? It could be a lot of things. But we know for sure that there are many people who call themselves Christians and believe they are Christians who aren’t. Why? Because the Bible says so:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

Many will say”…False converts are common, not few and far between. And it’s not just your average Joe or Jane in the pew, either. People who “prophesy…cast out demons…do mighty works” under the auspices of Christianity? They’re pastors, elders, deacons, Bible study teachers, seminary professors, “Christian” authors, evangelical celebrities. And Christ does not know them, because they don’t know Him. They talk the talk, and might even look like they walk the walk, but they’ve never truly believed the biblical gospel, repented of their sin, and trusted the Jesus of Scripture to save them. First John 2:18-19 puts it this way:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.

People whom Jesus has genuinely saved may fall into sin for a season, but they do not fall away from the faith. Those who leave the faith were never part of it in the first place, despite appearances or their claims to the contrary. It might be difficult, but this is one of those occasions when we have to believe what Scripture says over what we can see.

Jesus also tells us in the parable of the sower that there will be be “rocky ground” folks who will appear to be Christians, but because they have no root, they “endure for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.” Jesus follows up this parable with the parable of the wheat and tares which further drives home His point that there will be impostors in the visible church.

So even though we observe people who appear to be Christians “falling away from the faith,” through unforgiveness or any other sin, we know that what’s really happening is that a lost person got tired of pretending to be saved and went back to being a lost person. Second Peter 2:22 puts it this way:

What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

If Christ has never fundamentally changed your spiritual nature from dog or pig into a new creature in Christ, you’re still a dog or a pig. And even if you manage to clean up on the outside you’ll eventually return to the vomit of being a dog and the mud of being a pig because that’s your nature.

Misunderstood Scripture
There are passages in the Bible that, when misunderstood, when taken out of their immediate context, or when taken out of the overall context of Scripture can seem to teach that a person can lose her salvation. But as we’ve seen, there are way too many rightly handledin context passages of Scripture that refute that idea.

You mentioned in your original question that you believe unforgiveness can cause someone to lose her salvation because, “It is so clear in so many ways in Scripture, even parables that Jesus told.” But, you did not mention any of the Scriptures you think teach this. My guess is that one of the Scriptures you’re thinking of is Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In context, we can see that these two verses come at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. In verse 12, Jesus has just taught us to pray that God would “forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and He’s giving us a little addendum on this in 14-15.

Remember, even though all our sins from birth to death were forgiven at the moment of our salvation, we still need to confess our sins in prayer and ask God to cleanse us from our wrongdoing to bring us back into right fellowship with Him. But if you’re willfully in the middle of committing the sin of unforgiveness against someone, you’re still actively sinning. You haven’t turned from that sin in order to be cleansed. You’re essentially rolling around in the mud and asking God to cleanse you while you have no intention of getting out of the mud. How is that supposed to work? It doesn’t make any sense. If you want to get cleaned up (“forgiven”), you have to get out of the mud (stop committing the sin of unforgiveness – “forgive”). Otherwise, you’re asking God to restore the fellowship you’re still actively damaging with your sin.

Another passage you might be thinking of is the parable of the unforgiving servant. The takeaway from this passage is not that God will rescind the salvation of Christians who commit the sin of unforgiveness. This passage doesn’t say that and we already know that idea conflicts with what Scripture teaches about the security of the Believer.

The takeaway from this passage is that God has forgiven us a sin debt that is incomprehensible. Knowing and having experienced that forgiveness, how could we not forgive some paltry little sin another human commits against us? First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us,” and the way He loved us was to forgive us our sin. So we also forgive because He first forgave us. And if we can giddily and unrepentantly harbor unforgiveness in our hearts against someone else, we’d better start testing ourselves against Scripture to see if we’re really in the faith. Because that kind of unforgiveness is not the fruit of a redeemed life, it’s the fruit of someone who’s unsaved.

 

No, a genuinely regenerated Christian cannot lose her salvation by committing the sin of unforgiveness. But if she is genuinely regenerated, she will repent of that sin and forgive.

Additional Resources:

Walking Away from Faith? at A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

Am I Really Saved? A 1 John Check Up


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

A couple of months ago, I “beta tested” a new feature here at the blog, which I alliteratively titled Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources. People seemed to like it … or … at least the majority of readers didn’t seem to hate it too much. So I decided to bring it back every once in a while when I’m feelin’ it.

I’m feelin’ it today. Buckle up, Buttercup. 

I’m Sorry…

I need to kick things off with an apology. God has graciously seen fit to convict me that my tone has been too harsh in some of my articles recently, particularly in the first part of this article. If you’ve ever been offended or hurt by the tone of that or any of my other articles or remarks I’ve made on social media, I wanted to say I’m sorry and to humbly ask your forgiveness.

And even if you weren’t offended or hurt, I know where my heart was as I was writing that article and the tweet it was based on, and I know it wasn’t right. I failed to exercise self-control and selfishly spewed my emotions in a way that was designed only to vent my own frustration and get it out of my system (which was pretty hypocritical since I was writing that we shouldn’t be slaves to our feelings!). I wasn’t even thinking about how a new Christian, someone going through a difficult time, or someone weak in the faith might have taken the tone in which I was saying those things. Romans 15:1 says:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Well, I don’t consider myself all that strong, but I guess each of us is stronger in the faith or in a stronger position of life circumstances than somebody. And for those who are weaker in the faith than I am, or walking through a time of pain or discouragement, I did the exact opposite of what this verse says to do. I pleased myself at your expense, and that’s not what someone who serves you in the name of Christ is supposed to do. So, again, my deepest apologies and I hope you’ll be able to forgive me.

If you’re so inclined, I would like to ask you to pray for me about this. Tone is an extremely difficult and confusing sea to navigate, at least for me (that’s one of the many areas in which I’m weak). It is important to speak biblical truth firmly, unequivocally, and unapologetically, but some Christians see that, in and of itself, as being harsh. It’s also important to demonstrate gentleness, kindness, and compassion, but other Christians see that as being wishy-washy or not standing firm on Scripture. I have written articles to which some have responded that I was too harsh and others have responded that I wasn’t harsh enough – to the same article! Add to that the fact that Jesus, Paul, and others in Scripture sometimes used phraseology that we would consider very harsh today…..but yet Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” And, add to that that there are different expectations in the evangelical mind of how women are to address things versus how men are to address things, and you can see what a fine and perplexing line it can be to walk. But I really, really want to get it right in God’s eyes, because I want to please Him.

I can’t promise my tone will never offend you again. That would be foolish. I have over 11,000 blog subscribers and over 10,000 social media followers. Everything I write is going to offend somebody, even if I don’t mean it to. Also, I know my heart, so I know I’m going to sin again by being selfish and uncontrolled. Furthermore, I can’t attempt to please everyone. That’s not only an exercise in futility, it’s unbiblical. What I can tell you is that I will do my best to think more about how I’m coming across, edit more to keep my own words, approach, and personality from becoming a stumbling block, and pray more as I write, asking God to grow me in wisdom and self-control, in order to honor, and be pleasing to, Him.

About five years ago, I wrote an article called Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone. While it’s incumbent on us as readers and listeners to be able to put tone aside in order to discern whether or not what the speaker or writer is saying is true, it is also incumbent upon those of us who speak and write not to burden our hearers and readers with the necessity of doing so.

Thanks so much for your prayers as I pursue obedience to Christ in this area of my life. You are such a blessing to me, and I love and appreciate each of you.

Fill it Filled to the Rim

Didja hear? I’m doing a women’s conference with the ever-awesome Amy Spreeman at the end of March. It’s free, including a couple of meals, and it’s in Princeton, Illinois.

(In case you were wondering, that’s not where Princeton University, former home of Jonathan Edwards, is located. That’s in Princeton, New Jersey. I know this because I was wondering about it, too, and had to look it up.)

If you’re still trying to make up your mind about whether or not to come, lemme help you: come. And you need to hurry up and register too. Last week the event planners said they were already at 83% capacity (one of them must have been a math major!).

Here’s all the info. Be sure to check out the app and other links for resources on accommodations.

Illinois is too far away? Being from Louisiana, I get that. Look, plan your own conference, and I’ll come to you. “Impossible!” you say, “I go to a tiny church with an even tinier budget!”. Get together with a couple of sister churches to share expenses. Do a bake sale or a garage sale or crowdfunding. Take up a love offering and/or sell tickets at a modest fee. If you’re at all able, offer a doctrinally sound conference option to the women of your church and community. Christ’s ewe lambs are hungry for truth.

UPDATE: As I go to press, this conference is at capacity (“sold out”). If the organizers are able to open up any more spots, I’ll let you know. Also, if you’ve already registered and end up not being able to attend, please contact Princeton Bible Church and let them know so they can give your spot to someone else.

Scandal in the SBC

By now you’ve probably read the Houston Chronicle article that came out last weekend: Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms. If you haven’t, you should, regardless of whether or not you’re Southern Baptist. But, maybe especially if you are. It’s horrifying. And the way some have responded to victims over the years is downright disgusting.

Unless God leads me differently, it’s currently my plan to write an article about this, but I wanted to take the time to give it plenty of thought and prayer. In the meantime, I commend to you this stellar article by Tom AscolSouthern Baptists, Sexual Abuse, and a Far More Serious Problem. It covers a couple of points that I had already rough drafted into my own article before I read his. (So, when you read mine later, just know – it’s not plagiarism, it’s two like-minded Christians drawing the same conclusions.)

This also seems an appropriate time to share this vlog with you explaining how I decide which kinds of evangelical current events to write about, and when, and which I don’t, and why:

And Speaking of Scandals…

This has been in the hopper waiting for me to write about it since the last high profile pastor “fell from grace” (I actually can’t stand that expression. If you’re saved, you’re “in grace” and you can’t fall from it, and if you’re not saved, you’re not “in grace” so you can’t fall from it. It makes no biblical sense. But, I digress…). And, with the recent news of Harvest Bible Chapel firing James MacDonald after years and years of spiritual and financial abuses, I was reminded of it again.

There’s a dynamic that happens on social media that you see nearly every time something like this happens. A Christian celebrity falls and other Christians re-post the news story and/or comment about it. In the circles I run in, the comments are usually

biblically appropriate (“This is so sad,” “We need to pray for his family,” etc.). But there will always be someone who will comment to the effect of: “Why is everybody commenting and re-posting about this event? How can it possibly be fruitful or necessary to share this information?” It’s not that people are commenting unkindly, but that people are sharing this information at all that bothers this person.

There’s probably an extent to which this person is right, and you can share or not share as your conscience dictates, and I’ll admit that there have been times when an event has been so over-shared that I grew weary of the dead horse being beaten. But God has very good purposes in sinful events coming to light. And He demonstrates this Himself in Scripture.

God could have omitted from Scripture every sin, failure, and foible committed by every Bible character, and we would never have heard about them. But He graciously pulls back the veil and lets us see some of them. Why? For His glory and our good. And the same could be said about the public availability of information about the sins of today’s high-profile Christians:

💡 These stories, both in the Bible and in yesterday’s newspaper, allow us to learn, and develop a holy fear of the consequences of sin without having to go through it ourselves. “Stay home from the war and seduce my neighbor’s wife? Um, no thanks. Look how that turned out for David. I’ll just avoid that altogether.”

💡 These stories emphasize to those in leadership that they must walk circumspectly because the world, and the church, are watching them. There is a heavy price to pay for setting a bad example.

💡 These stories are a reminder that we cannot hide our sin.

💡 These stories are a call to pray for everyone involved in the situation. You cannot pray about what you do not know about.

💡 When churches and other Christian organizations properly handle a sinful situation, it is a testimony to the world that the church is not “full of hypocrites” – that there are Christians who strive for holiness and obedience to God. It sets us apart from the world, and from “CINOs” (Christians In Name Only).

💡 When the high-profile Christian repents and submits to church discipline, it paints a picture for the watching world of the way sin is supposed to be dealt with by the individual, and the way God and the church deal with sin in grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. It can be a testimony of the gospel.

On “Dating” your Daughter…

There are a lot of great, godly dads out there. I love hearing them talk about leading their families in worship, talking about their love, hopes and dreams for their kids, and seeing them spend time with their children doing special activities. All of those things are absolutely awesome, and more dads should be doing them.

So maybe it’s just me (it wouldn’t be the first time), but it’s a bit disquieting when I hear men label spending time with their little girls as “daddy-daughter date night” and doing things like bringing them flowers and candy, ringing the doorbell to “pick them up” for the date, dressing up as if for the prom, etc.

Listen, it’s not a sin, and the guys I know and love who do these things are doing them for all the right reasons. And, if they want to keep on using the “dating” terminology and motif, more power to them – they won’t hear a peep from me and I will still have the utmost respect for them as godly men and godly fathers.

But if I could just throw out some food for thought…

♥ There is a difference between a father’s role and fatherly love and a (potential) husband’s role and romantic love. Are we blurring the lines and confusing our daughters when Dad mimics boyfriend? Could we, instead, make sure those lines are clearly defined and teach our daughters (and sons) the beauty and goodness of the two different roles and types of love?

♥ We want our children to be safe from predators. If we introduce and normalize the idea that it’s good and godly for an adult man to engage in behaviors with a child that are usually associated with romantic love, is it possible that we could unwittingly be making it harder for our daughters to recognize when a predator is attempting to groom them?

♥ If we have both sons and daughters, how is this affecting our sons? Are they getting the impression that their sisters are more special and loved by Dad than they are?

♥ How is this affecting the relationship between mother and daughter? Is Dad showing as much attention to Mom as he is to daughter? Is there potential for any undercurrent of rivalry or jealousy for Dad’s attention to develop between Mom and daughter? Could the daughter come to see herself as being on equal footing with Mom instead of submissive to her authority?

♥ Why is the “dating” terminology and motif necessary? Is there a biblical or practical reason why simply spending time with your daughter – whether it’s at home or even on a special outing to a restaurant, movie, etc. – without calling it a “date” or acting like it’s a “date” isn’t good enough?

♥ If the purpose of “dating” your daughter is to demonstrate how her future husband should treat her, what happens when she grows up, gets married, and her good and godly husband is just kind of inept when it comes to “date night”? Have we not created an opportunity for her to unfairly compare him to Dad, find him lacking, and resent him?

♥ If the purpose of “dating” your daughter is to demonstrate how a husband should treat his wife, couldn’t we be confusing our children by putting Dad in the role of the daughter’s “husband”? “I’m not his wife, I’m his daughter,” she could think, “so why is he acting like my ‘husband’?” Would it not make more sense to model for our children how a husband is to treat his wife by Dad treating his actual wife in a godly way?

Children are very impressionable and – if you remember back to your own childhood – highly susceptible to misunderstanding things and believing things that aren’t accurate. I’m just wondering if maybe we need to think through this whole “daddy-daughter date night” thing a bit more deeply.

Women of Genesis Bible Study

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 35

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 89, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34

📖📖📖📖📖

Read Genesis 47:27-50:26

📖📖📖📖📖


Questions to Consider

1. Briefly summarize, in your own words, Joseph’s story and how Jacob and his family came to live in Egypt, reviewing previous lessons (links above) if necessary.

2. Compare 47:27 with Jeremiah 29:4-7 and these New Testament passages. Think about the concept of God’s people living among pagans, displaced from their Promised Land, and waiting for the day when they can enter and possess it. Describe how this concept fleshes itself out in each of these passages. What is the Christian’s “Promised Land“? How does God want His people to live during the time of their exile? In the Genesis and Jeremiah passages, are there any general principles for godly living that you can apply to your life in “exile” on this earth today?

3. Examine 47:29-31 and 49:29-32. Where did Jacob (Israel) want to be buried? Why was it so important to him not to be buried in Egypt but to be buried in Canaan? Consider family/tribal bonds, the Abrahamic Covenant, and God’s promise to Jacob in 46:4 as you answer.

4. Explain 48:5-6 as it pertains to the establishment of twelve tribes of Israel (49:28, 49:1-27). What group do Israel’s twelve sons point ahead to in the New Testament?

5. Compare Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh (48:8-20) to Isaac’s blessing of Jacob and Esau. What are the similarities? The differences?

6. Consider Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim, Manasseh, and each of his sons. (48:15-49:28) What was the significance of the patriarchal blessing of the sons? Was it prophecy? Good wishes for a bountiful posterity? Instructions for the future? Information on the inheritance? Examine the cross references for each of the people Jacob blessed. How did his predictions for the future come true for each?

7. Which of the twelve tribes of Israel was Jesus descended from? Examine 49:9-12 as well as the cross-references. What do these verses call to mind about Jesus?

8. Revisit your answers to question #2. What was the result of Jacob’s and Joseph’s godly living while in “exile”? What sort of impact did these men have on the Egyptians? (50:2-3,6-7,9-11)

9. Examine 50:15-21. How is this a picture of the permanence of God’s forgiveness and of salvation? What was Joseph’s reaction (50:17) when he realized his brothers didn’t trust his forgiveness?

10. Compare Joseph’s request about his remains (50:24-25) to Jacob’s (47:29-31, 49:29-32). What were the similarities? The differences? How did Joseph’s request demonstrate his faith that God would keep His promises of the Abrahamic Covenant and serve as an introduction to Exodus? Where did both Jacob’s and Joseph’s remains eventually end up?


Homework

Compare 50:20 to Romans 8:26-30 and James 1:2-4. How does God’s ability to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” demonstrate His sovereignty? What are some of the ways God can bless and grow us during times of difficulty? How can these passages inform our prayer lives when God allows or causes difficult circumstances in our lives? Write out a prayer that lines up with these passages that you can pray the next time you face a trial or tribulation.


Suggested Memory Verse

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis 50:20

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Dis. Grace: Responding Biblically to Church Scandal

Originally published June 30, 2015

scandal

It happened again last week. Another scandal. Another high profile pastor stepping down from the ministry in disgrace. Another family broken. Another church stunned and bereft.

And it’s not just the money grubbing televangelists anymore, either. This was one of the theological good guys. Sadly, pastors and Christian leaders – both those in the public eye and those right around the corner – seem to be dropping like flies these days. Adultery. Financial sin. Pornography. Abuse. Fraud. The list of sinful behavior goes on and on, leaving a wake of destruction in its path and giving Christ and His bride a black eye in the process.

So, what is the biblical response to scandals like these for Joe and Jane Christian? We view the situation through the lenses of Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

How can God use this scandal, awful as it is, for my good and the good of my brothers and sisters in Christ? It’s an opportunity to learn, teach, and minister in so many ways:

Fully grasp the destructive power of sin…

Imagine the agony the pastor’s sin is creating in so many lives. What must his wife be going through? His children? His church? What about his own relationship with God? What about the lost people he was trying to win to Christ? What about the fact that his career may be over and he may lose his house?

It’s been said that sin destroys completely and completely destroys. It’s a good time to reflect on the fact that sin is not something to be trifled with. Count the cost. Would it be worth it to you to commit the same sin in your own life?

Realize your need for Christ…

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re better or holier than the person who sinned, therefore, you would never do what he did. Instead, let his sin push you towards the cross, realizing that you’re just as weak and susceptible to temptation as he is. Let it amp up your prayer life and drive you to cling to Christ and His word lest you fall into sin.

Dive into God’s word…

What does the Bible say about the sin in question? Learn what God’s word says. Apply it to your life, your work, or your marriage. Teach it to your children. Share it with those in your circle of influence. Build up your brothers and sisters in Christ so they might stand firm against temptation.

Implement safeguards…

People don’t just wake up one day and decide to commit adultery or embezzlement or whatever. Every sin starts with a wayward thought, which, when left unchecked (or entertained), snowballs into action. What could the scandalized pastor have done, practically, to prevent his sin? What are some concrete, proactive steps you can take to guard against sin in your life? Maybe your husband should hold the credit cards or you should cut ties with that certain male friend. Don’t wait for sin to find you. Build some walls before it arrives.

Use the scandal as a springboard for prayer…

Pray for those involved in the scandal. Ask God to protect you, your husband, and your loved ones from that particular sin. Realize that your own pastor and church staff are tempted to sin every day, pray for them regularly, and let them know you’re praying for them.

Practice the Golden Rule

What if you were the one who sinned? How would you want people to talk about and treat you and your family? Call a sin a sin, but let’s remember, when it comes to scandals, to watch our words and actions, and treat others the way we would want to be treated.

Use the scandal as an opportunity to share the gospel…

Inevitably, some lost people will see pastoral sin as one more candle in their “Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites” cake. Don’t be embarrassed if an unbeliever approaches you with this line of fire (and whatever you do, don’t try to make light of or justify the pastor’s sin). Own it. Admit it. “You’re right. This guy sinned. He needs to repent and be forgiven by Christ. He needs to make things right with the people around him. Just like me. Just like you. By the way, Christ was crucified for sinners like him and me and you. Have you ever repented of your own sin and trusted in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the payment for your sin? Mind if I tell you how?”

Repent and Forgive…

It’s hurtful when someone you trust and look up to lets you down. But because we’re sinful humans living in a broken world, it’s going to happen. The pastor who sinned needs to repent. When he does, the people around him need to forgive, even though there will probably still be disciplinary consequences to his actions. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of and face the consequences for? Is there someone who has sinned against you that you need to forgive? God extends the grace of forgiveness to repentant sinners and the grace to forgive to their victims. Repent. Forgive.

 

Scandals among Christian leaders are heartbreaking, disappointing, embarrassing. But the God who sent His only Son to the cross to turn sinners into saints has a wonderful way of taking offenses and turning them into opportunities for His kingdom.


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.
Faith, Salvation

Throwback Thursday ~ Making a U-turn on the Road to Emmaus

Originally published September 2, 2016

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That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:13-35

It had been a long, confusing, emotional couple of days. Eventful? The word could hardly capture all that had taken place. As they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Cleopas and his friend rehearsed the trials, the scourging, the crucifixion, and the reports of the empty tomb, trying to make sense of it all.

How could this have happened? It just didn’t add up. Everything their beloved Jesus had done, taught, and said fairly screamed, “This is it! This is the Messiah!” Jesus was the one they had been waiting for. The one who would throw off the iron-heeled boot of Roman oppression, take the throne of His father, David, and reestablish Israel as a sovereign nation, restoring her former glory.

But…a crucifixion? His body missing? It didn’t fit the narrative they’d been weaned on. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. Their hopes for the future, so recently a roaring flame, waned at the cross and dwindled to an ember at the tomb.

Try to put yourself in the sandals of Cleopas and his companion. Every day of your life has been lived shivering in the shadow of the evil Roman empire. Unclean Gentiles, pagans, haters of God and His people, who ruled with impunity and maintained pax romana by any means necessary. Crosses laden with the corpses of criminals and insurrectionists lined the road leading into town, lest there be any question as to the fate of those who dared rebel. There was no real right of redress. No true due process. And since Rome ruled the known world, virtually no way of escape.

“Someday,” Jewish boys and girls learned for hundreds of years at their mother’s knee, “Someday God’s promised Messiah will come and deliver us. This will all be over. We’ll be free.”

This was the Christ – the Messiah, or “anointed one” – most of God’s people hoped in. A Christ who would save them from earthly suffering. A Christ who would set things right and make their temporal circumstances better. No thought to their need for atonement. No concerns about eternity. Never mind the Bread of Life, just give us bread.

And Cleopas and his fellow disciple had found him. Maybe they were afraid to believe it at first. Could Jesus really be the one? But as they followed him for days, or months, or years, they began to believe. Finally, He was here. Finally, things would turn around for them. Everything was going great.

Until.

And just like that, in a matter of a few days, all hope was lost.

They stood still, looking sad.

Was it because Jesus had, in reality, failed to fulfill His mission? No. It was because they had poured every drop of their faith into a false Christ. A christ of their own imagination and design. An unbiblical christ who had been passed down to them over the years by false or misinformed teachers.

And, to this day, people are still placing their faith in that same false christ of their own imagination, promulgated by false or misinformed teachers. A christ who will solve all their earthly problems. A christ who will heal their diseases, fix their broken relationships, grant them power, imbue them with influence, and shower them with wealth.

Sure, their hope in this christ will burn brightly for a while, but just like that, in a matter of a few moments, hours, or days, that hope can be extinguished forever. A car accident. A house fire. An affair. A child gone prodigal. Wasn’t Christ supposed to make my life better?

But – thanks be to God – that’s not the end of the story. There’s a true Christ. The true Christ of Scripture. The Christ that Jesus showed the two disciples from Moses and the Prophets on the road to Emmaus. The Christ that God reveals to us today in the New Testament. The Christ that all of Scripture points to – not as a life enhancement genie – but as the spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

This is the Christ in whom we find the hope of sin forgiven. The peace of being made right with God. The joy of knowing He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Are you foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the Bible says about Christ, or does your heart burn within you as the true Christ of Scripture reveals Himself to you in God’s word?

A false christ promises hope, but brings only despair and discouragement when hard times come and his promises go unfulfilled. But all the promises of God find their fulfillment in the Christ of Scripture. He will never fail you nor disappoint you.

The road to Emmaus is a two-way street. Cleopas and his friend started their journey going the wrong direction, but they repented of their unbelief, turned around, and walked the other way. If you’ve been following a false christ, you can repent and trust the true Christ of Scripture today. He’s only a you-turn away.

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