Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
-1 Corinthians 10:12
This morning I was met with a shocking punch to the gut. Another prominent pastor fell. Another herald of God's word followed the forbidden woman whose feet go down to death. Her lips dripped sweet honey, her words were smoother than oil, but in the end she was bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword (Proverbs 5:1-6). Yet another church was writing an open letter describing the fall of their beloved pastor. Again.
Typically, when I hear of such men falling I think of words like "charlatan", "false teacher", "hypocrite", etc. because it doesn't seem like the real Bible teachers have such intense moral lapses of judgment. They have strong devotional lives, right? They study the word all the time, right? They preach the truth faithfully and powerfully, right? How could they possibly have time for such sin to occur when they're spending 30+ hours in their study and then the rest of their time with their families? This time it hurt, though. Instead of being one of those megachurch prosperity teachers or doctrinally-weak, topical preachers, this guy was solid. His book on preaching has powerfully impacted the way I preach. His guest appearances on podcasts have greatly benefited my sermon prep. His Spirit-empowered preaching and exegetical precision benefited my soul tremendously over the years. His vivid illustrations and passionate delivery was featured on some of the most impactful Christian hip-hop albums I've ever heard. This was a much-needed gut punch for me.
This morning, with a heavy heart, I sat down to meditate on 1 Corinthians 10:12 in light of the shocking news. As I read the passage and jotted down some notes in my journaling Bible, I noticed a word in the passage that never stood out to me before. It's a simple word that could be easily missed in a cursory reading of the passage. The word was "thinks". This word hit with the force of an NFL linebacker hitting a running back head on as he crosses the line of scrimmage. Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
The point Paul, through the Spirit made with this precise, punchy word is that standing in our own strength during temptation is an illusion. I remember as a child watching the street magician, David Blaine, "levitate" on television for the world to see. I believed every second of it because it looked so realistic. A few years later, though, a masked magician revealed the secrets of the greatest "magicians" and proved that the "levitation" was nothing more than some eye tricks and theatrics.
If we are the Bible readers we should be, we know that the Old Testament is filled with examples of folly, sin, and idolatry. Paul calls us not to be unaware that these were written for our example so that "we might not desire evil as they did" (1 Cor 10:1-11). We must not read of the sins of the Israelites and think that we are any less fallen than they are. We must not look at the sins of Noah, Abraham, Aaron, David, or Solomon and think we are any less capable of committing the very same sin. If we do, we think we stand when really we are about to fall.
The command isn't complicated, but it must be something we actually do. God, through Paul, calls us to "take heed, lest we fall." To take heed means to listen carefully to the warnings of scripture and guard our hearts from the very sin we think we are incapable of. Taking heed means remembering our sinfulness and relying on God who will not let us be tempted beyond our ability but will "provide the way of escape" (1 Cor 10:13). Ultimately, we must remember that God is faithful to us in our temptation if we will but seek Him in faith rather than following Adam and Eve into hiding behind silly fig leaves. The Holy Spirit will be our assistance during times of temptation and weakness.
If we look at this pastor and our first response is to go to social media or the blogosphere to lambaste him for his sin, we need to first make sure we have taken heed, lest we fall. If we don't use this as an opportunity to repent of our prideful responses to other prominent pastors who have fallen, we need to take heed. If we think we are beyond such a gross and ridiculous sin, we need to take heed, lest we fall. If we automatically assume that our devotional lives must be better than this former pastor's, we need to take heed, lest we fall. If we minimize this man's sin because he is a reformed expository preacher who frequently spoke at our favorite conferences, we need to take heed lest we fall. His sin is evil and it must be taken seriously. Your sin is just as evil and must be taken seriously. We all need the blood of Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit to cover and help us overcome our wickedness.
From what I know, this fallen pastor is a godly brother in Christ who will submit to church discipline and be brought to restoration according to Galatians 6:1-5 and James 5:19-20. He has lost his pastorate. He may lose his vocation as a seminary professor. He may lose his marriage. He has lost credibility in the eyes of many of his readers, church members, friends, family, children and maybe even his spouse. However, as a child of God, he hasn't lost his sonship and adoption. Before we write him off as an unbeliever and a fool, we must remember that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ if we are truly in Him. We must remember that passages like Psalm 51 apply not only to David's sin or our "little sins" but also to this man's grievous sin as well.
Perhaps you have fallen. If you're in Christ, you will be picked up now and raised to life at the coming of Christ. Don't run from the Savior. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Perhaps you've played with sin and are on the brink of falling. Take heed. Don't dabble in "little sins" any longer. If you keep trifling with sin, you will fall. Run to the throne of grace. Don't let the deceitfulness of sin harden your heart. As my mentor said, "It takes very little to fall. It's subtle. It's insidious. It's seductive." Take heed, lest you fall.
Chrys Jones is a Christian, husband, father of three, pastor, and teacher. He is also a recording artist and producer for Christcentric Records and a book briefer for Accelerate Books. In his free time, Chrys loves to spend time with his family, roast coffee, read good books, and listen to beat tapes and jazz.