Spiritual Implications
When a Pastor or Evangelist Falls

Am I a Genuine Christian if a Fake Christian has Impacted my Life?

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The following provides a fascinating glimpse of an often forgotten facet of our amazing God. My primary goal, however, is to support those worried about their spiritual standing, after discovering that someone who contributed to their salvation, or their walk with God, has been exposed morally or theologically as an impostor.

What are the implications for your relationship with God if someone who has profoundly influenced your spiritual life is exposed as a spiritual fraud or falls into blatant, repeated sin? Does it call into question your own salvation if that person led you to Christ? Should you reject everything that person has ever taught? I not only understand your confusion, I have much biblical comfort for you.

Over and over, Jesus, and then the rest of the New Testament, insisted there will inevitably be deceivers in the church (Scriptures). Theoretically, given this biblical emphasis, it should not surprise us when certain deceivers are eventually exposed. It invariably shocks and hurts us, however, because it ends up being someone we never suspected. Remember the shock the disciples felt when, just before it happened, Jesus said one of them would betray him. They were so unaware of who it could be that, instead of pointing the finger at each other, each began to wonder if he himself could be the one (Mark 14:18-19). Their failure to detect the evil in Judas’s heart in no way called into question the genuineness of their own walk with God.

No human brings about any spiritual transformation or growth within us. Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6). There is salvation in no one but him (Acts 4:12). People come to Jesus only because God draws them (John 6:44). It is those who listen to God who come to Jesus (John 6:45). Moreover, in the inspired words of Paul, speaking of the spiritual development of the Corinthian Christians:

    1 Corinthians 3:6-7 I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (Emphasis mine.)

So much is the truth and power of the gospel independent of character and motives of the preacher or pastor that Paul could even write from prison

    Philippians 1:14-18 most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and strife, and some also out of good will. The former insincerely preach Christ from selfish ambition, thinking that they add affliction to my chains . . . What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice. (Emphasis mine.)

Do you find that as staggering as I do? How could the terrifyingly Holy One, the omnipotent Lord who at any moment could have burst his chosen one out of prison, let the apostle languish in chains and, instead, let such self-centered, mean-spirited people be Christ’s ambassadors and use these corrupt big-heads as evangelists and ministers of the gospel to advance the kingdom of God? These people, while in the very act of pastoring and evangelism, were hoping to add to the torment of Christ’s apostle, who was already suffering for our Lord at the hands of non-Christians. Moreover, by this despicable behavior, they were torturing Christ himself. Remember when Paul ignorantly thought he was serving God by attacking Christians (cf John 16:2), the risen Lord appeared to him in blinding light, saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)? Remember when Jesus spoke of the final Judgment, saying that those who failed to visit his “brothers” in prison (Matthew 25:40) were doing that to him, and their eternity hung in the balance (Matthew 25:44-46)? Nevertheless, the apostle was confident that God is so powerful as to override the corrupting effect of their atrocious motives, and use their words for spiritual good in the lives of their hearers.

Actually, the real mystery is that God would dare let his name be blackened by using any human. It is nothing but human arrogance not to be flabbergasted that God would so degrade himself as to speak or act through a human. I am so acutely aware of this truth and of how hazardous it is to people’s souls, and insulting to God, it is when anyone loses sight of it, that I have sickened and insulted many people by how much I put myself down. Perhaps I go over the top at times, but I consider it better to repulse people by the way I belittle myself, than risk their eternal welfare by tempting them to exalt a creature rather than their Creator. We dare not idolize anyone, because at any moment that person could fall or it be revealed that he or she is already more flawed than we ever imagined.

Study the implications of this Scripture:

    1 Corinthians 1:26-29 For you see your calling, brothers, that not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, and not many noble; but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong. God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that don’t exist, that he might bring to nothing the things that exist, that no flesh should boast before God.

God choosing people for special service is not proof of how wonderful they are. He deliberately uses unimpressive people so that we might get our eyes off people and focus, instead, on the greatness of God. He alone is our Savior (Isaiah 43:11). He alone is utterly trustworthy, the eternal fount of all wisdom and power. To lose sight of this is literally as spiritually dangerous and repulsive as worshipping false gods.

When I commenced writing this webpage, I never dreamed of reaching the point of regarding the fall of our spiritual heroes as a blessing. The more I ponder it, however, the more I realize that we need these tragedies to purge us from our tendency to worship flesh rather than the One who alone should be the focus of our worship. We even need it when we do not hero-worship others, but are in danger of becoming our own heroes:

    1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

    Psalm 49:12-13 But man, despite his riches, doesn’t endure. He is like the animals that perish. This is the destiny of those who are foolish, and of those who approve their sayings.

    Isaiah 5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes . . .

    Jeremiah 9:23 The Lord says, “Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom. Don’t let the mighty man glory in his might. Don’t let the rich man glory in his riches.

    2 Corinthians 10:18 For it isn’t he who commends himself who is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

    Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Take to heart Jesus’ words: “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers. Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. Neither be called masters [teachers or leaders], for one is your master, the Christ. (Matthew 23:8-10).

God might use gynecologists, mid-wives and ambulance drivers, but when you were born again, it was a virgin birth. To change the analogy: even if God uses humans to weed and spread fertilizer, spiritual growth comes from God.

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The biblical account of Solomon’s life sheds much light on the issues raised by the discovery that someone we have highly regarded is not the devout person of God we had thought. Solomon was the man divinely chosen to build the temple of God. This was such a holy task that despite King David’s yearning to do it, he was denied because he had participated in many wars (1 Chronicles 22:7-8).

Later on, Solomon rebelled against God not only by marrying pagan worshipers of disgusting gods, but by letting them seduce him into corrupting himself spiritually by serving their gods and goddesses. He “did that which was evil in the Lord’s sight” by worshipping “Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians,” and “Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. He even built places of worship for “Chemosh the abomination of Moab,” and “for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon,” (1 Kings 11:1-10; Nehemiah 13:26). There is no indication that he ever repented.

Can you grasp the hideousness of Solomon’s apostasy? He abandoned monotheism, choosing polytheism and idolatry; unrepentantly engaging in spiritual adultery with false gods; habitually cheating on the God who had anointed him and blessed him with unprecedented wisdom and wealth. In fact, he exalted such a variety of gods that he probably embraced polytheism more extensively than even most heathen in surrounding nations. Moreover, as shown over and over in the inspired accounts of the nation’s kings, his brazen acts would have surely enticed many of those who honored him as their anointed leader, to likewise turn from the one, true God.

Did the holy Lord reject the temple as defiled because its builder ended up worshipping grotesque gods and sacrificing to demons (c.f. 1 Corinthians 10:20)? Absolutely not. For generations, that temple remained sacred in God’s eyes; the place where he dwelled in a unique way, and the focus of true worship.

I believe this has a deeper, divinely ordained significance than is initially apparent. You see, the New Testament repeatedly declares that Christians – individually, and the church collectively – are the living temple of God (e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:9-10, 16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 3:12). The divine pattern, established in the Word of God even before the church existed, is that no matter how much a builder of the temple disgraces himself, the temple itself (that is, each part of the living church in any way shaped by a human builder) remains holy and accepted by God. That touches me.

Even if you find that last paragraph a little esoteric, the Bible’s treatment of Solomon’s works has still more to teach us. And this time the implications are as unmistakable as a sledge hammer. Let’s remind ourselves of two biblical books: Proverbs and The Song of Solomon. There’s no need to even consider the authorship of Ecclesiastes. These two alone are enough to drive home a point. The Old and New Testaments were originally written in quite different languages (Hebrew and Greek), so I might as well use an English translation for statistical purposes. If we remove the last two chapters of Proverbs (stated to be the work of other men), and add The Song of Solomon, the total number of words is significantly more than Daniel or Mark or Revelation or Hebrews or Romans or any other New Testament letter. In fact, it is longer than Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy and Titus combined.

In Proverbs we find divinely-preserved words not only in the Old Testament but cited multiple times in the New Testament, from a man the Bible says ended up disgracing himself, and gives no hint that he ever repented.

Glance at this tiny sampling of Solomon’s words:

    2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

    Proverbs 1:10  . . . if sinners entice you, don’t consent.

    Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.

    Proverbs 5:21 For the ways of man are before the Lord’s eyes. He examines all his paths.

    Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

    Proverbs 29:23 A man’s pride brings him low, but one of lowly spirit gains honor.

Could there possibly be any sin in the universe so atrocious that by falling into it, Solomon could nullify the truth of such words? For all eternity, truth remains truth, no matter how many other falsehoods a speaker might utter.

Having seen how God treats Solomon’s wisdom by retaining it in Scripture, despite Solomon later ending up atrociously turning from monotheism to polytheism, let’s move to another sizable chunk of the Bible; this time uttered by people who were wrong even as they spoke. A significant part of Job, one of the longer books in the Bible, are the words of Job’s friends of whom God says, “My wrath is kindled against you . . . my servant Job shall pray for you . . . that I not deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me the thing that is right . . .” (Job 42:7-8). Even Job, who contributed so much to the book, said much that was so off-track and expressed such folly that God ended up saying to him such things as, “Will you even annul my judgment? Will you condemn me, that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8 cf Job 32:2). After being confronted by God, Job finally confessed, “Behold, I am of small account. What will I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 40:4; 42:5-6). Nevertheless, the preservation of so many spiritually inaccurate words in this biblical book is obvious proof that God believes he can use them to minister to God’s people.

“For in him we live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28) is an even more astonishing example. It is not only part of Scripture, and an eternal truth, it is beautifully expressed. It is one of my favorite Scriptures; welling within me warm feelings toward God, every time I recall it. The words originated not with the Apostle Paul but, as Paul acknowledged, came from a pagan.

For anyone interested, I will later provide a link to many other biblical examples of God speaking through people who not merely went off the rails later in life, but many were even ungodly at the time that God chose to speak or act through them.

Now for a practical, present-day application of what the Bible, by word and example, is teaching us: I heard of a skilled Christian apologist who was a prolific writer before being publically and credibly exposed as having disgraced himself morally, with no evidence of any repentance. I had not heard of him until after this scandal became public. I’m a cheapskate. Put another way: living on a planet where so many live in appalling poverty, conscience will not allow me to be frivolous with money. Anyhow, the thought came to me that since few would want to read his books now, this would be an opportunity to pick up some very cheap, high quality books.

Reading such books is especially safe, since the facts and logic of apologetics remain true, no matter who the source is. Rather than receiving spiritual revelation, apologetics involves applying one’s intellect and debating skills to elementary Christian beliefs. In the realm of Bible teaching, however, one needs to be a little more discerning. It is a more spiritual exercise because:

    1. One needs spiritual discernment in deciding which parts of the Bible to expound and which to omit

    2. It involves interpretation of Scripture, and the Bible emphasizes how conditional that is upon one’s relationship with God (Scriptures).

If someone had been a secret hypocrite, or had some weakness that ended in a scandalous fall, it could possibly be reflected in some way in this person’s interpretation and selective citing of the Bible.

In her younger years, my wife was spiritually maimed by the teachings of certain world-renowned exponents of the Bible. Through their teachings, she knew many scriptures, but they had been cherry-picked for her. She remained unaware that the contexts proved those scriptures were actually saying the opposite of what these teachers claimed. We all need to be equally cautious with every Bible teacher (including me) if we lazily rely on them to read and explain the Bible, instead of us prayerfully studying the Bible ourselves.

Despite my wife’s earlier understanding of Scripture having been distorted, I reminded her of the Apostle Paul. Straight after his conversion, the man who until then had felt convinced that Scripture proves Jesus was fake, began powerfully using Scripture to prove the opposite. “Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God,” says Acts 9:20. Thereafter, he “grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22). Obviously, this Bible scholar could do this to Bible-believing Jews far more effectively than someone of lesser Bible knowledge. His previous years of intense Bible study had not been wasted. With the Spirit empowering him to reinterpret them, scriptures he had memorized were now more valuable than ever.

For a while, I was able to teach and encourage my spiritually-wounded wife, but I am now in awe of what our Lord is doing in her life and there are many ways in which her spiritual development has outstripped mine. Her past suffering under the hands of mistaken people has only strengthened her resolve to help others who are spiritually confused.

The Almighty keeps on winning. In the lives of those who love God, he uses not only the most devout, Spirit-filled Christians but all things, declares Romans 8:28.

For biblical examples of God speaking through the ungodly, and a discussion about it, see The Almighty Can Speak Through Anyone.

Not to be sold. © Copyright 2021 Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged; if used in a webpage, the new page is significantly different from this one. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give.
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