February 17, 2021
I feel a chill, a certain numbness that has nothing to do with the temperature outside (-4 when I got up this morning). Last fall, when the highly publicized implosion of Jerry Falwell Jr. was fighting with Covid for front page status of worst news, I was disgusted, even frustrated. Every moral or theological defection makes our mission a little bit harder. Two of our elders are graduates of Liberty University. They would like to wear their hoodies and display window stickers touting their alma-mater, but can you do that now? Jerry Jr. was never a theologian, a pastor, a preacher, or a conference speaker at any event I attended. Though there were plenty of sordid details one could read, I didn’t have that much of a connection. I shook my head and kept moving. I was more frustrated than anything. But now this.
Ravi Zacharias’ ministries released the results of their investigation of his life behind the scenes, and many of you are likely aware that the news is beyond bad. It feels as if we were just informed that one of our generals who taught so many of us skills and strategies was found out to be a traitor. We assume that we heard it wrong. But, sadly, we didn’t. I stopped reading. I didn’t want to think about it anymore, and I certainly did not want to write this blog about it either. I feel numb. The fingers of my soul don’t want to type. My heart doesn’t want to form word pictures and try to process it all. So, why do it?
I was reminded this week that from time to time it is helpful for you if I address certain matters that are more of a public nature, but do not fit into a sermon or service. I do not always do so, since many leaders, more capable and more public than I, do, and therefore, I do not feel the need to simply tack on my “amen.” I could just provide you a link. I am a local pastor, not a national spokesman. I try to stay in my lane. But, as your pastor, I realize that some of this is in my lane. So, address it I must, though I do not want to, but why not?
Is it embarrassment for the reputation of the gospel? Is it fear that I would go down a similar road? Is it how I tend to approach most things unpleasant? (If I ignore it, it will go away.) Is it the naive prospect that you haven’t heard about any of these, and therefore, my addressing it is neither necessary nor helpful? Perhaps it is a combination of the above. But, the unveiling of this moral defection has taken some of the fight out of me, and here's why.
Every Sunday that I preach, I look into the faces and eyes of believers who are thirsty and drink in God’s word. I love them/you. I also look into the faces (not usually the eyes) of some unbelievers who are there, but not by their choice, and whose chiseled foreheads and crossed arms let me know that they are not having it, not one bit. I love them too. I pray for them. I pray for the moment when the Spirit of God fires His truth like a heat-sinking missile through the walls of rebellion and into the center of the ammunition room in their unbelieving hearts igniting a spectacular and beautiful explosion of faith, repentance, hope, love, and joy. Some of them I have known from infancy. I know their parents, and I know that my prayers are joining with theirs. Humanly speaking, we are competing with a world that promises your best life now. With the pleasures of this world appearing to be theirs for free, right now, no questions and no consequences, what can I say that would compete with that? And yet, I know that the road they are on will betray them. It always does. It always does. But that betrayal does not always result in humble admission. So, I pray for God’s mercy because I sincerely want what is best for them. Then comes the news of a high profile moral defection and the walls around their ammunition
rooms just got another layer of steel.
Jude says that we should remember that even the apostles said that these things (moral and theological defections) were going to happen. I am not supposed to be surprised, but I know that doesn’t mean that I should be used to it. What do I do? I’ve determined to do three things, and perhaps this will help you.
The enemies of the Lord have another excuse to blaspheme. The unbelievers have another excuse to not believe. The agnostics have more questions and fewer answers. Faithful believers have taken another one on the chin. We’re not down, but our jabs aren’t stinging the target either. Lament, grieve, mourn.
Consider my ways, my heart, my affections and my habits. Consider that the reason why these defections hurt is because they matter, and they matter because the battle we are in is real. There really is a lot at stake, and that is worth fighting for, and persevering for, no matter what. Consider that we are not first nor the last to live with the fallout of public hypocrisy, yet the gospel still reached us, and by God’s grace, it will still reach others. All of this matters to us because there are things that matter. There are things worth being faithful about.
I smiled in hope as I wrote this because I thought once again on the promise that Jesus made to build his church so indestructible that the gates of hell could not prevail against it. I also smiled in hope as I thought of the benediction of Jude. Here is another good reason to memorize this benediction and another good reason for me to keep saying it to you and me.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
For King and Kingdom!
Sunday’s text: Jude 17-23