We are living in times when scandal among Christian leaders is making headlines almost alongside politicians and celebrities. It’s like we are just waiting for the next man of God to fall which is sad and ungodly. But perhaps we need to ask ourselves when our own scandal might befall us. You see as much as we receive such news with wonder and disbelief we know it doesn’t happen overnight. No one sets out to be an abusive leader, a greedy televangelist or to be a pastor known all over for sexual scandal. Actually I would assume they do the very best to fight it or hide it. Just as none of us wants to succumb to our temptations or be known for it.
But as we pray for our leaders and earnestly seek God to shield them from sin and scandal we might also need to apply this prayer to our own lives. You see as much as our scandal won’t make headlines still it’ll dishonour God, bring disrepute to the Christian family and cause us much grief if we are genuine believers. We need to pray for ourselves but our prayer shouldn’t just be, dear Lord shield me from sin and scandal, Amen.
First, we need to ask God to bring to light those things of which we are prone to fall into. We need to ask, which idols most beckon our hearts for worship? When we are alone and in private which sites seem to call us to click? When we are left with unsupervised money what lies come to our ear? And when we are in positions of leadership how do we treat others? Might we be blamed for what we see in our superiors? To kick off this reflection I want to suggest 3 things we need to know about sin especially habitual sin to inform our prayers and fuel our war with sin.
Habitual Sin begins by Luring us in
I bet many who fell for abusive leadership didn’t even realise how firm their hand was. They just thought they make a strong case and people followed them unanimously. They never realised no one seemed to oppose them or they didn’t let anyone in who could oppose them. Or do you think the man caught up in sexual scandal went out seeking such a reputation? They started with a bit of flirting, a private meeting here, just a lift there, an innocent compliment and before they knew it they were deep in scandal.
What about the money trap? You start by an innocent need with unsupervised money which you vow to return. You tell yourself you are harming no one and you need it. Then it’s for a project that will take a few months and you think I’ll use it and then return it. Sin has a way to lure us in and before we know it we’ve done the unthinkable.
Think about Cain and his brother. It started off with a bit of jealousy, grew into anger and finally it led to murder. God warned Cain, Sin is crouching at your door with it’s desire toward you but you must rule over it, see Gen 4:7. He warns all of us with that sin that so easily seems to captive us if we would only listen. If you want to kill sin start by indentifying it, look out for its triggers and what it promises. Bring it to the Lord before it’s too late. Come and ask for the strength to kill its desire. The allure of sin is where the battle begins and where it needs to be won.
Habitual Sin Thrives in Privacy
Like a thief in the night sin has a courage that seems to thrive in private places. It’s like all over sudden this harmless man transforms when he’s alone. As evil lurks in the dark sin lurks in the secret places. It breeds in privacy and hatches in the dark corners. Or who steals from the money bag when everyone is looking? Who clicks that site when his family is having dinner? It’s the secret unsupervised places and times that sin enjoys.
For this reason the first line of defence with sin ought to be confession and accountability. Bring the temptation to the light and the roaring lion becomes a little cat. Still it can’t be ignored but the environment is different to fight it. When I have confessed a temptation to a brother I often find that though I’m exposed my sin is also exposed. Being vulnerable is said to make you weak but actually in the right company it makes you strong to fight sin. It’s when we hide sin that it’ll have its day with us. We’ll look strong but deep inside we know just how weak we are.
Think about Judas. All those years of taking from Jesus money bag in secret before he sold out his Saviour. What if he told Peter or John his temptation? He may have lost the treasurer’s job but I bet we would be reading of his powerful ministry in the book of Acts. Confessing our sin and seeking accountability gives us the weapons we need to slay the sin monster.
Habitual Sin is Stubborn
One of the things I long for in the new creation is saying the battle with sin is finished. You know why ? Because on this other side it’s never finished. Haven’t you found yourself stuck in a sin you thought you overcome years ago? You prayed many times for God to help you overcome your anger and for sometime it seemed like you won the battle only for the war to sneak in on you. Or maybe it’s that site you used to frequent. You overcome it, got a more healthy, practical and spiritual rythm then one weekend while you are tired and alone there you go. Sin can feel like it has more lives than a cat. Worse it seems to have the ability to resurrect.
Think about Saul with his rage and jealousy. How many times does he seem to forgive David and turn away from his plotting? You think now that David has spared his life he’ll let him be. Unfortunately sin doesn’t say goodbye that easily. Just because you overcome it last time doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Don’t get me wrong sin can be overcome and will be overcome but I’m saying we need to watch out lest we deceive ourselves with early victory. The battle with sin will be won when we see Jesus in glory. We might win several fronts on this side but we should never let our guard down.
We started this line of thought with stories of Christian leaders making headlines. But I hope by now you’ve realised we are all together in a bigger fight with sin especially with habitual sin. As that African proverb goes, don’t laugh at a boat being tossed forth by winds in the sea for your brother might be in it. Worse with the waves of sin we are all in this boat. We need to pray for our leaders and the church as whole. We need to watch out for the sin that so easily entangles. As John Owen said, we need to be killing sin before it kills us.