In light of many prominent pastors and Christian leaders falling from grace, I decided to re-release this article from a few years ago.
Why do they fall? They fall for the same reason that all Christians fall. Each of us are drawn away by our own evil desires and enticed. When these desires are acted upon, they lead to sin (cf. James 1:14-15). Sin has a life cycle—it either grows or withers depending on whether we feed or starve it. John Owen, the prolific Puritan author wrote, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”
Consider the following ways that sin gains entrance:
1. ‘It will never happen to me.” 1 Corinthians 10:12
reminds us that if we think that we are standing firm, we should be
careful that we don’t fall. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty
spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride says, “I’ve never
committed adultery. It will never happen to me.” Humility says, “By the
grace of God, I haven’t, but I can.”
Strength is found in admitting our weaknesses: “For when I am weak I
am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Pride opens the door to compromise and
unwise decisions; it ignores conviction. Conviction is not always a
hammer to the head, it’s a still small voice to the heart. Sadly, many
confuse God’s patience with His approval. C.H. Spurgeon rightly noted,
“We are never, never so much in danger of being proud as when we think
we are humble.”
2. I’m “too busy.” We are all susceptible to putting God second and ministry first. If we’re too busy to cultivate a prayer life that places God first—we’re too busy. Men would live better if they prayed better. We’re often too busy because we’re doing too much. “When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live” (E.M. Bounds). It’s hard to fall when you’re always on your knees. Moral failing cannot gain a stronghold in a broken, praying heart that spends time in the Word and obedience to it (cf. James 1:22). Nine times out of ten, when a leader falls, he or she has no meaningful prayer or devotional life.
3. Holiness is compromised. The enemy attempts to
draw us away from God’s holy standard. I vividly remember a story of a
young boy who kept falling out of his bed. He finally asked his mother
why he kept falling. She wisely answered, “It’s because you don’t stay
far enough in.” In the same way, many of us fall back into sin because
we don’t get far enough into God’s framework of safety and protection
via holiness. In the words of Isaac Watts, “True Christianity, where it
reigns in the heart, will make itself appear in the purity of life.”
Of all the attributes of God described in the Bible, holiness is seen
most often. Holiness is a vital weapon of defense against the enemies
attack (cf. Ephesians 6:14). But holiness must come from brokenness and
humility not legalism. A low view of holiness always damages morality . .
. we rationalize instead of repent. I’m convinced that today’s media
plays a significant role in the decline of holiness. 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. Many build unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex. We
must be on high alert in this area and have tremendous steps of
accountability in place. The devil doesn’t show those involved in
counseling appointments, inner office meetings, and private “fellowship”
the pain and anguish and the years of regret that moral failure brings;
he deceives them with a false sense of freedom in ministry . . . that
we are simply “helping” the other person.
If you are married and attracted to another person, or if the
potential is there, take steps now and remove yourself from the
environment. Adultery begins with small compromises. We’re often too
smart to take deliberate plunges, but we’re easily enticed to take one
step at a time, one compromise at a time, one bad choice at a time until
we’re at the bottom. Don’t fight sexual desires; don’t entertain them .
. . flee (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18).
5. We fail to strengthen weak areas. The demands of
life often tempt us to seek gratification in alcohol and other things.
We must be on high alert. The enemy uses “opportune times” to draw us
away from God. (cf. Luke 4:13.) The line is so thin that it is often
hard to determine when we cross over. Weak areas such as drugs, alcohol,
pain meds, sex, anger, marriage issues, and so on are “opportune times”
for the enemy to strike. We must expose these areas through repentance,
and install safeguards and accountability. To be forewarned is to be
6. Accountability is often breached or minimized. Accountability
is a safeguard, but its not bullet-proof. Accountability, by itself,
doesn’t work—it’s not realistic to ask others to hold you accountable.
Your heart must be focused on honoring God’s Word. Accountability simply
adds another level of security in the battle against sin. It’s healthy
to say to those we trust, “I’m struggling in this area. Can you pray
with me and ask the hard questions from time to time.”
The enemy loves to work in darkness and deceit. Exposing cracks in
the armor helps others keep an eye on them as well. This is one reason
why I’m upfront about avoiding addictions. My new book, HELP! I’m
Addicted was just released for this very reason. Please share the free
download links with those who need help.
I also have accountability software that sends all websites visited
to my wife’s email every week. This is a major deterrent and it makes me
very conscious of even seemingly innocent sites. To some, this may seem
extreme, but we need to be armed for the enemy who steals, kills, and
destroys. The greater our influence, the greater the need for
accountability: spiritually, financially, and relationally.
7. Loneliness becomes an excuse. Ministry is hard
and can easily take it’s toll. Feeling a sense of entitlement if often
the beginning of justifying wrong choices. We can easily become jealous
and judgmental of those who seem to have “all the fun.” As Oswald
Chambers states: “God buries His men [and women] in the midst of paltry
things, no monuments are erected to them; they are ignored, not because
they are unworthy, but because they are in the place where they cannot
Luke 16:10 should be a great encouragement, “So you also, when you
have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy
servants; we have only done our duty’.” Sin can be silenced in a
thankful heart set on worshiping 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 closing, if you are on the cliff or have already fallen, take time
now and repent. It will hurt, but the fruit of repentance far outweighs
the fruit of exposure that will surely come (cf. Numbers 32:23). God’s
grace will see you through. A penitent person turns from sin. They
accept full responsibility for their actions without blame, resentment,
or bitterness. They seek forgiveness without conditions and
stipulations. They take full (not partial) responsibility for their
actions. There can be no “but’s” when repentance is genuine. “I am
sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me,” are often (although not always)
healing words and signs of repentance. Excuses need to stop before
healing can occur.
There are consequences for past mistakes, but it’s best to live in
God’s healing arms of forgiveness, rather than to live broken outside of
His will. Which way will you turn?