I confess that one of the first questions I always ask is, “Why?” When a Christian leader whom I respect falls into sin, I’m always left looking for some clue that I missed. I scroll through their social media feeds; I dig up past blog posts. The shock of it all makes me think that I should have known.
The reality, though, is that I shouldn’t be. We humans have ways of justifying our sin—whether we’re a well-known Christian leader or just the guy in the back pew. No matter how long we’ve walked with Christ, sin always crouches at the door and waits for us to open it (Genesis 4:7). Only by constantly walking in the Spirit and keeping our eyes on Jesus can we ever hope to run this race of life (not to mention relying on His grace when we do mess up).
But rarely does sin happen all at once. Usually, we slowly slide into it by allowing our standards to fall one by one, little by little. That, according Pastor Shane Idleman, is at the heart of 7 dangerous things that Christians do. When we follow these steps, we’re already on the road to failure. Here’s his list from Charisma News:
1. Say, “It Will Never Happen to Me”
Pride makes Christian leaders believe that they would never lie, steal, or commit adultery. But it’s precisely when we begin to think that we’re not susceptible, that we fail to keep our guard up. We ignore conviction and the voice of the Holy Spirit.
2. Claim They’re “Too Busy”
According to Idleman, “Nine times out of 10, when a leader falls, he or she has no meaningful prayer or devotional life.” Busyness can become the excuse we use not to seek God and spend time with Him in prayer. But we cannot face the temptations of the world without this crucial practice. In other words, get on your knees more.
3. Compromise Holiness
Failing leaders often think of holiness as another word for “legalism.” But holiness is the very defense we need against the attack of our enemy (Ephesians 6:14). Without striving to live a life of purity, we begin rationalizing our moral failures instead of seeing the need to repent. “Sadly, Hollywood, not the Holy Spirit, influences many. We cannot fill our mind with darkness all week and expect the light of Christ to shine in our lives.”
4. Build Unhealthy Relationships with the Opposite Sex
When Christian leaders fall into adultery, we often find out that they had slowly developed a relationship with someone of the opposite sex—usually through small compromises here and there. They failed to build in the accountability structure that could have prevented the failure.
5. Fail to Strengthen Weak Areas
It’s much easier for us to hide our weak areas or to act like they don’t exist. But we all have temptations that are especially difficult for us, whether drugs, alcohol, anger, pornography, or others. Denying those weak areas, however, will only allow Satan a foothold into our lives. We must get help right where we need it.
6. Breach Accountability
No accountability system is perfect. We humans have ways of getting around just about anything when we want. Sometimes embarrassment keeps leaders and Christians in general from asking for prayer when the temptation arises or for allowing others to ask hard questions.
7. Use Loneliness as an Excuse
When leaders feel lonely, they often use that as a reason for bad choices. But we must choose a better path, as Idleman says: “Sin can be silenced in a thankful heart set on worshipping God. God has given us the privilege to serve Him, proclaim His truth, and help others. Don't allow frustration and negativity to lead you down the wrong path.”
In a recent article on Crosswalk.com, Jennifer O. White wants to keep husbands and wives from journeying down the road to compromise and regret. She offers 4 powerful prayers to protect your marriage from divorce:
“Five years into my marriage to David, those same fears were suffocating me. It took far too long to arrive at the conclusion that I was the common denominator in the two marriages. That morsel of humility helped me begin crying out to Jesus for help. The simple ‘Help me Jesus’ prayers were the beginning of a beautiful story of healing and restoration.
“God answered my prayers with opportunities for biblical counseling and extended Bible study. Time in His Word revealed a God I could trust. I had learned about God for thirty plus years, but I had not been relying on Him the way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego modeled for me. I had not been honoring Him the way Daniel chose to when he risked his life by praying to Him. But today, I believe with my whole heart that nothing is impossible with God. And I’m positive that doing marriage His way is the only way.”
Your turn. What steps and reasons would you add to this list? How can we better protect ourselves from moral failure?