I read an article that has been with me all week. I can’t shake it and I think the reason why I can’t is because the point it made is so important that it might be life-saving.
This was a controversial article written by a former youth pastor and current prison inmate. Christianity Today posted it on their website and then pulled it because of the negative response from “Christians”. Why was it so controversial? Because the man who wrote it was caught in a relationship with one of the members of his youth group. He wrote very openly about how this relationship began with “friendly” chit chat, social media posts, and text messages. How in the beginning it was innocent…but even in those innocent exchanges, he saw red flags. He wondered why he wouldn’t divulge details to his wife. He wondered why he felt the need to be secretive about it…to keep it in the dark. He recounts how very slowly it became flirting and then crossed the line into the physical arena until finally, he was committing not only gregarious sin, but also transgression of the law (the girl was 17).
This morning our pastor preached from the Psalms and related to us the sin of David that he found himself caught in. If you read the Psalms, you will find many, many accounts of repentance and full description of how sin eats away at us until we come to that place of repentance. David likens sin to a trap, to a net, to darkness, to drowning, and to hell on earth. The effects are brutal on the body, on the mind, but especially on the soul. The most dangerous thing about sin for the Christian though is that it rarely shows up as a blowout. We don’t wake up one day and say “Ya know, I think today is a great day to start an affair.” No, rather sin is a slow fade. As a matter of fact, it is such a slow fade that in its beginnings, it may not be sin at all. It may look more like a neglect of Scripture or a failure to pray or innocent exchanges with a person of the opposite sex or one beer a day or consistent fellowship with the wrong crowd for the purpose of witnessing. The thing about sin though is it will not stop at temptation. Pastor Catt put it this way… “Sin never stays small.” This is why Paul warned us several times to be on alert in our Christian walk and why Jesus told us to watch and pray. We can not afford to let down our guard…we just can’t…the price is too high.
This youth pastor, he let down his guard and he ignored the promptings from the Holy Spirit in the beginning of this relationship. As the relationship progressed, he tells how it became more and more difficult to hear these red flags. When the sin became full bore he says something even more scary. Not only were the red flags gone, but so was his ability to stop from sinning. He said that both he and the girl tried to break it off…tried to stay away from each other…tried to confess…and couldn’t. The sin became so strong that they were entirely controlled by it and unable to escape. I don’t know about you, but this scares me. We can say that “we’ve got this” all we want to, but the truth is that at some point, it had us instead. And when that happens…when God gives us over to our depravity…we are in trouble.
I tell my boys often that the only way to get rid of darkness is to shine light on it. The sooner sin is brought to light, the sooner it loses its power over us. This is why AS SOON as we notice red flags in any instance we must respond immediately by confessing our sin and bringing it into the light. As difficult as it may seem at the time we first realize we are caught in sin, the repercussions will worsen as we continue walking the path we are on. It’s almost a picture of a wide road with a fence on both sides. As the road continues the fence gradually gets taller and taller until finally it turns into a concrete wall that we could never scale if we tried. The only thing that is going to get us off that road is rock bottom…a tunneling under it and back to the right place. And not only are tunnels HARD to dig, but they come with their own set of dangers…cave ins, injuries, claustrophobia, darkness, dirt…until you finally see the light of day on the straight and narrow.
This man went there. He ignored. He crossed boundaries. He followed his flesh onto the road of sin. He never even noticed the fence line was turning into a concrete wall until he noticed he could no longer see the Son…and by then, he was trapped. He only started digging his tunnel when his wife found text messages, totally lost it, and left him on the spot taking their children with her. He then faced firing from his position as youth minister and a loss of any success he had known in his ministry. His name was completed ruined and his reputation now sits on all the child molester searches in the country. The girls’ family pressed charges and so he not only faced divorce court, but also a criminal trial that ended him in jail. I think it is safe to say that sin destroyed him.
And we can sit back and judge and “Whew, I’m glad I’m not as bad as this guy” and rail about how he’s a sicko and believe that we “would NEVER”, but can I just tell you…we are all capable. But for the grace of God, there go I. We think way too much of our old, evil, destructive sin nature. We think that we are better than that and you know what? Without the Holy Spirit…we are all capable. David, he was a man after God’s own heart. He loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength and all it took for him to commit adultery and murder was a season of letting down his guard.
As I type out this blog, I feel weighty. I feel the responsibility of this message and the implications of what I am saying and it makes my heart hurt. It makes my heart hurt because there are some of you reading this who are thinking of someone else right now. Instead of examining your own heart, you are thinking “Yep! This reminds me of so and so who did such and such.” But I am talking to you and me…who are just as capable as so and so of doing such and such. Are we examining ourselves and testing ourselves DAILY to see if we are in the faith? Are we ignoring “small” unnoticeable sins in our lives while nosing around in other people’s “huge” obvious ones? Because those huge obvious ones…they started just as small and unnoticeably as the ones we ignore. Does pride rule in our heart to the point that we cannot any longer see how capable we are of falling if we do not have HIM DAILY? In a world that is sliding off the cliff quickly, we can no longer afford to trust ourselves. On CHRIST the solid Rock I stand…ALL other ground is sinking sand.
“But there is no sin in my life.” Have you asked Him? Have you said “Search me. Try me. Reveal my sin to me and lead me in the path of everlasting.” It is very easy for us to overlook our own failures when there are so many people around us with more obvious ones. We would rather distract ourselves with people like this man who we believe did something because they are just evil and sick. All the while, unconfessed sin sits at our door ready to pounce. We pray for revival. We pray that the Lord would have mercy on our nation. We pray that He would send justice. But we pray while subconsciously thinking that we have no need to be revived, that we have nothing in our lives requiring mercy, and that the justice is of course for someone else. We pray as the Pharisee did… “God, I thank you that I am not like other people —robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector.” And all the while the Lord is waiting for the church to pray the tax collectors prayer “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus puts it this way… “I tell you that this man (the tax collector), rather than the other (the Pharisee), went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As for this youth pastor who has stayed on my heart this week, the world may never forgive him, but Christ does. His confession has evidently led him to use this failing for good. His article is a wake up call and warning to anyone and everyone…”Let him who thinks he stands, be careful lest he fall.”