I often feel guilty when I am with others who know what kind of person I have been.
Wish this was not true of me, but I have to admit this will happen to me. For years now I have avoided those who knew full well what a jerk I have been. Seems though now that I am easing up on this guiltiness, in fact, in recent sermons I have even mentioned this.
Yes, two weeks ago, last Sunday in April of 2023 I mentioned one of my divorces and how badly I felt about it even to the point of resigning from the church I now pastor and disappear into the world. I was amazed at two people, one man and one woman, who looked intently at me and nodded their heads in agreement. And I knew both of their pasts and I think it was a relief for them to hear this from me, and from the pulpit.
I wonder how many people there are like me who could no longer face a congregation who knew the truth. Okay, I know it may be argued that it is better to keep silence, but then again, maybe not.
Is it not true that all have sinned? And I am not talking about only our pre-Christian lives, but ongoing lives as well.
Right now I am thinking of what happened with those who believed in John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church movement, when toward the close of his life he said it was possible to live a sinless life, which then spawned the holiness movement. It was not long before some of the ordained leaders of this off-shoot of Methodism failed. Indeed, some of the leaders proved they were not all that holy, and though the history is convoluted and complex, it spooned the Pentecostal movement. So the great gift of the Holy Spirit became speaking in tongues. And in my opinion, this was a step in the right direction.
Some may say, well Philpott, you are given out a license to sin, or you are saying that it is not a big deal if a Christian, especially a Christian leader, sins. Absolutely not, we are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and flee from sin. And especially for those of us called to the work. Yet, I know that I am not without blame, I know I am vulnerable to attack. Let me say that I face temptation each and every day. Most of the time I am able to turn away from sin, and I am not talking about the big stuff, but little stuff like tooting my own horn, exaggerating something I did not did not do, making excuses to avoid difficulties, failing to follow though on ministry to someone I knew needed encouragement, not pouring myself into the preparation for the Sunday sermon, and on and on I could go.
Do I ever have sexual temptation? Certainly I do, goes with the territory. Such is not sinful, but could be a step in the wrong direction. Porn, hmmm, anyone reading this guilty here? A large percentage of Christian men in particular, but women too, so engage. It is a powerful and twisted impulse. Every so often a man, almost always a male, will feel safe enough with me to tell me of their compulsion. A case of this occurred two and half weeks ago. Porn addiction is probably one of the major stumbling blocks we face today. More are messed up over perverse sexuality than ever before. It stares in the face daily.
1 Peter 5:8 is a verse that has been in mind for a couple of years now. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Based on lots of pastoral experience, I have come to see that the one who insists he or she is not vulnerable is. In fact, most vulnerable.
Indeed, we have to tell ourselves the truth, we have to admit our weaknesses, and be quick to ask our forgiving Lord for forgiveness and also those whom we might have harmed.
It is no simple thing to be a follower of Jesus in this sin scarred world we live in. We are called to be honest with ourselves, with others, and the God to whom we pray.