Above all things the heart is deceitful, and desperately sick…

Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23

The recent news of the frivolous sexual dalliances of Ravi Zacharias is a disturbing case in point. I met Ravi at a conference at Gordon Conwell many years ago. We were the same age. He was beginning his upward rise as an apologist and I was just beginning as a young pastor of a church in New England which (ironically) just had a pastor leave because of alleged sexual liaisons.

An article in Christianity Today relates that on the day of RZ’s funeral, in May 2020, where he was eulogized by such notables as VP Mike Pence and retired football player Tim Tebo, one of his victims was there and wondered why no one had set the record straight. She had googled a website put up by an atheist who had story after story of women who were sexually abused by RZ. Of course, no one wanted to believe the word of an atheist about a man of God. She finally contacted Christianity Today who did their own investigation which led to a 4-mo. investigation by the authorities and eventually by RZ’s own organization. His computers revealed contacts for more than 200 massage therapists in the US and Asia, as well as hundreds of pictures of young women, some of them unclothed. He also owned several massage parlors in the Atlanta area. He used tens of thousands of ministry money to pay for 4 therapists, providing housing, schooling, and monthly support. One woman told an investigator that after he arranged her support, he required sex.

I could tell you stories of other pastors I’ve known who have crashed and burned, who have lived double lives (literally). They deceived themselves into thinking that somehow the laws of God did not pertain to them. In fact, they were so self-deceived that their sinful behavior was transmuted (in their minds) into something righteous, holy, and justified. They had been bitten by the snake of pride and co-opted by the father of lies. Seeking to deceive others they themselves were led into self-deception. They became hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13) to the extent that they could “honestly” think they were being faithful to God while they were being unfaithful to him. Therein lies the hardness—they crossed the line between hypocrisy and self-deception.

I’m not judging these men, as much as I am terrified by them. I know that I have the capacity to “bring it all to destruction” – to quote Luther. I know the feelings of pride in my accomplishments and the secret sins of my heart, which never broke out into the open, probably because I was too chicken. (I wish I could say it was because I was too holy.) However, by Grace and Mercy, I have never crossed the line for in my own halting way I know how essential it is for me to begin every day and fulfill every task from a place of repentance and humility— literally, bowing before my Creator, Redeemer, and Father in child-like dependence. I am aware that while have the skills and gifts to do the “job,” I am also fully aware that I have the capacity to use what God has given me to puff myself up and build my own kingdom. I never want to be like Samson who, when he went to snap the cords that bound him, was not even aware that the Spirit had departed from him.

Listen to what RZ said during one of his teachings, about a year before he died. Those of you who have seen me in public have no idea to what I am like in private. God does. God does. And I encourage you today to make that commitment and say, “I’m going to be the man in private who will receive the divine accolade, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'” Either this was a cry for help and a wish to come clean or he clearly evidenced self-deception.

Come clean before God for he knows your heart! Don’t be a lone wolf, like Samson or RZ; stay accountable to others, which is an act of humility itself, especially if you think you’re a big shot. Stay humbly on your knees before the Lord; be in the Word daily to feed your own soul. And if you have a secret life developing, bring it to the light now no matter what the cost. God knows, God knows… confess it and deal with it now!! Don’t find a hiding place except in Christ. Don’t cross the line!

“But I the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10