Discouragement is not an emotion with which I am very familiar, but over the past several weeks I have felt it acutely. My sadness has been induced by the steady drip of ministerial sex scandals and the destruction they have wrought.
In fact, I have found myself not wanting to check social media, dreading to learn about the next scandal. Most prominently, the Ashley Madison expose has shaken church after church, ministry after ministry, and family after family. And, as Russell Moore has written, it is likely just the beginning.
Aspects of all of this are truly baffling, and we find ourselves asking, “How could he…?”. Yet, upon sober reflection, we are reminded of how dangerous our sin nature truly is; and that Total Depravity is not just a theological point, but a malignancy within each one of us. Therefore, we must intentionally guard our hearts, and one way of doing that is to meditate on the catastrophic ruin that accompanies sexual sin.
Our Ministry Depends
Upon Our Character
The qualifications for ministry listed in I Timothy 3 are almost entirely character related, and they are binding on all who are called to ministry. First Timothy 3 is not a one-time threshold to cross; it is an ongoing accountability to God’s Word and God’s people. One can be a godly man without being a pastor, but one cannot be a faithful pastor without being a godly man.
We Are Stewards of God’s Glory
Every church is a prism of God’s glory and every pastor is a steward of it. When a pastor falls into sin—and especially when it is uncovered—God’s glory in his church is sullied. The pastor’s scandal lands like a bombshell in the church and community. The reverberations are often never-ending, lasting decades into the future. When this happens, it is not just our name that is tarnished, but Jesus.’ Our sin impugns his name and undermines God’s glory in his church.
We Are Stewards of Our Call
Every pastor enjoys a double call on his life: the call to both salvation and ministerial service. As Paul challenged Timothy, so we must kindle afresh the gift of God within us, and guard what he has entrusted to us. One’s call to ministry is indeed a sacred stewardship, a call we must cherish and guard. Moreover, countless people have invested in our calling. Pastors have mentored us, friends have supported us, congregations have followed us, and our families have sacrificed much for us. All of these dimensions—and much more—amplify the stewardship that is ours.
The Price of Falling
is too High to Pay
The wise pastor will soberly reflect on all the pain he will cause if he falls into sin. Imagine explaining to your children why you must resign your church. Contemplate forfeiting years of study and ministerial service in one act of indiscretion. Reflect upon your wife’s response to an act of sexual betrayal. And, most of all, remember that God’s all-seeing eye is upon you. Even if, for a season, sin is hidden from the brethren, it cannot be hidden from God.
Guarding our hearts will take more than accountability partners, Internet filters, or even pondering sin’s catastrophic consequences. Ultimately, our hearts are most guarded when they are most satisfied in a person: Jesus Christ.
As C. S. Lewis famously observed, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The heart that is best guarded is the heart most given over to Christ. May we find our true joy—and our lasting pleasure—in him.