Tag Archives: preaching

Addiction and Spiritual Malpractice

Below is the video of yesterday’s ADDICTION sermon.   It’s a sermon I would never have been able to preach a few years ago.   Why?  Because I was committing spiritual malpractice.

For many years as a pastor I would look at pornography or engage in other lustful pursuits during the week before preaching a sermon on Sunday.    I knew I was committing sin, and felt terribly guilty about what I was doing, but justified it by convincing myself the good I was doing on Sunday outweighed the evil I was doing the other days of the week.   I convinced myself that God can and does speak through donkeys and would bless my efforts despite my habitual ass-likeness.

I realize how outrageous this sounds to many of you.  How can you be so  blind!? you ask.   But this is precisely what sin does to us.  It blinds us to the truths of God.  Paul calls us “darkened in our understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us, due to the hardness of our hearts” (Eph. 4:18).  It doesn’t happen overnight.   The spiral of degradation takes time, dragging us deeper and deeper into it’s grip until the things which seemed so obvious before are now blurry, unclear, and suspicious.    When living in sin the Bible reads less black and white and a lot more gray.

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Jesus called such practitioners of religion “whitewashed tombs” (Matt. 23:27).   They looked good on the outside but inside their hearts were decaying, ugly, far from God.   They were blind to it, though, just as I was blind to the darkness of my own heart and the effect it had on others.   A blind shepherd cannot lead sheep anywhere good, nor to any place they have not been themselves.   A preacher who is looking at porn on Saturday cannot expect God to bless his or her efforts on Sunday.    We grieve the Holy Spirit, and thus short-circuit the mighty work God wishes to do in our churches when we live under the bondage of habitual sin.

Oh the number of Hail-Mary-Prayers I threw out there on Sunday morning!  Hoping that somehow, someway, God would be pleased to overlook what I had been looking at all week and bless “the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart.”   What a fraud!   Granted, all good things come from the hand of our Father, and it is only because He is rich in mercy that I was not struck down dead in the pulpit and, I pray, I did not make a shipwreck of too many people’s faith (A couple years ago I wrote a letter to my former church, repenting to them for my spiritual malpractice, asking them to please forgive me.  To this day I pray for them and anyone who had the misfortune of sitting under this “blind guide,” that God would bless them and keep them and fill their heart and minds and souls with every good thing.   I praise God today that they have a pastor whom I believe loves Jesus and knows His power to save.  Praise God for answered prayer!).

The truth is, pastors, if we cherish sin in our hearts God will not listen to our prayers (Psalm 66:18).    If our private lives are such that we are not walking in the Spirit but in our flesh then our prayers that God bless our people, heal their wounds, superintend our words, and pour out His Spirit on His church have no guarantee of being heard.   We are committing spiritual malpractice and must repent.   We must cry out to God to give us a spirit of repentance, that He would open our eyes and our hearts so that we might see ourselves in light of His Holiness.   We must cry out that He would soften our hearts so that we can see our sin and how much it displeases God.   When we do this, the scales will fall from our eyes and we will know.    No longer will God and His word be gray to us.    The delusion will dissipate and we will begin to expect God to heal the wounds of His people and pour out His Spirit in a mighty way on Sunday because He has done it in our own hearts every day of the week before.

Pastors, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the state of our churches as they are in this country are signs of God’s blessing.   Many of them stand today only because of God’s mercy.   Jesus died on the cross to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).   If we are not witnessing strong-holds coming down in our churches, then we must not point fingers at them but at ourselves.    What strong-holds are in MY life?   What am I not believing God can deliver me from?   Stop committing spiritual malpractice on yourself and your sheep.    “Repent, and turn again, so that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20).

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Is It Well With Your Soul?

I am reading a book on John Wesley’s theology for today titled, The New Creation, by Theodore Runyon.   A passage about assurance, and Wesley’s quest of it, spoke to me because it named what I think was once a cancer in my own heart not very long ago. 

In the years leading up to Wesley’s conversion experience, where his “heart was strangely warmed” and he knew that Christ had died for him, for even him, he was convinced that there must be some inner witness of the Spirit with his spirit that he was a child of God.  Yet he didn’t posses it.  

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August Spangenberg, a Moravian leader, posed questions to Wesley which unsettled him.   Questions like, “Have you the witness within yourself?  Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?”   Wesley reports,

I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”  I paused, and said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.”  “True,” he replied, “but do you know he has saved you?”  I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.”  He only added, “Do you know yourself?”  I said, “I do.”  But I fear they were vain words.  

I identify with the father of Methodism in these words above.   I recall preaching and speaking of Jesus being the Savior of the world, and believing it to be true, yet not truly laying hold of this for myself.   The cross was good news for my listeners but I did not know it’s power in my own spirit.  

How difficult it is to lead anyone where you yourself have not been.  

It is so easy to get swept up into the tidal wave of causes, of programs, of things that in the end are nothing but works and in the doing of all this stuff we gain a false sense of assurance that we are children of God.   As Jesus said, we should have the one but not neglect the other.  We ought to be concerned with our neighbor but this ought to arise out of a deep love of God.   Holiness, what Wesley defined as a “recovery of the image of God, a renewal of soul after his likeness,” must become the heart’s cry of us all, particularly those of us who bear the name “pastor.”  

I have great respect for Wesley because he saw the deficiency in his own heart and was honest enough to confess it, and repent.   On May 24, 1738, he found that assurance he so desperately desired and as a result the world was turned upside down through the preaching of a man who laid hold of God, convinced that God had laid hold of him.  

So I ask you, as I ask myself:

Do you know Jesus Christ died for you?  Do you know that Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of your sins?   Does the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead, bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? 

Lord, may Your grace and mercy give us no rest until we can say with assurance, Yes!  It is well with my soul!