I have been asking recently, “How do I keep myself from falling into sin?” Counting the people that I know in ministry that have made some pretty massive mistakes, losing their ministries in the process, averages out to about one every two years. These are not all “big names”; most are “normal” guys who were serving Jesus in their local church. Early in my Christian experience I saw pastors getting off track – some with false teaching, others with sinful decisions. Some of them I’ve known as personal friends; others I knew from a distance but they were very influential in my life.
I said to my wife the other day, “Who is there that will be left standing? Who is not going to fall?” We talked about that for awhile, and, thankfully, there are those who have finished well, and those who, by the grace of God, will finish well.
Nonetheless, it left me thinking about my own life, as well it should. Do I need to make any changes in my personal or “professional” life to insure that I will keep on the straight and narrow, which, by the way, seems to be becoming straighter and more narrow!
Here’s a couple things that I’ve come up with to keep myself from falling into sin.
1. Talk about my temptation.
Temptation seizes me. It does you too. There are times when I am very tempted. That moment is quite scary. The desire to sin is terrifyingly real. But seeing my comrades in ministry fall, it left me thinking, “Nobody is going to condemn me for being tempted. I’d rather talk about my temptation, then try to explain my sin.”
This is a big one. Let’s not hide our temptation. I don’t think we should share it openly with the whole world (like I am doing now!), but we should, in my opinion, be in the habit of talking about our tempting times with a close brother and, perhaps, our wives. The results of this can only be good. We will certainly get more prayer. The mere fact we are talking about it will make our hearts more resolute in turning from sin.
1 Corinthians 10:13 is a good one to tattoo on your forearm: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” One “way out” is communication.
2. Have consistent quiet times.
You’d think this is so fundamental that it doesn’t even need to be mentioned. Well, because it is so fundamental it needs to be mentioned. Everything flows out of our relationship with Jesus. We need to spend time at His feet, prayerfully reading His Word.
When I was in high school, I took trumpet lessons. My teacher, Dave Banks, to illustrate the importance of practicing every day, told me about a famous trumpet player that said, “When I don’t practice one day, I know it. When I don’t practice two days in a row, my band knows it. When I don’t practice three day in a row, everybody knows it.” It’s been hundreds of days since I practiced the trumpet! But I believe this holds true for our time with Jesus. If I go one day without prayer and meeting with God, I know it. If I go two days, my wife and kids know it. If I go three days, everybody knows it!
Be a Mary and constantly be sitting at the feet of Jesus. When you are with Him often, He will keep you from falling into sin.
3. Invest in my marriage.
I love my wife so much. She’s a truly amazing woman. I really love spending time with her. I’m sitting right now in a hotel room in Washington D.C.. I drove here from my home in Oakville, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. On the drive, I listened to many teachings from Calvary Chapel pastors. One of them was Pastor David Rosales from Calvary Chapel Chino Valley. In his message, he mentioned that every morning (except Sunday) he goes out for coffee with his wife Marie. Every morning! That’s what I’m talking about!
Pastor Razz Vazquez of Calvary Chapel Miami told me once, “Your wife will be there long after everyone else is gone.”
You can’t invest in your marriage if you are not spending time with your spouse.
4. Don’t be a rock-star.
Ok, let’s be vulnerable. At some point in our lives (ministries) we think too highly of ourselves. We think we are better than we really are. That’s not news, is it? Why else would Paul write, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
When I was a kid, I used to put on The Osmonds 8-track, start strumming a tennis racket, and lip sync to the music. In my mind, I was being a rock star. (You might disagree if you don’t like The Osmonds!) Like every kid, I wanted to be famous. We all want to succeed, we want people to like us, we want attention. Oh, may all of that be replaced by a true desire to please Jesus, to really love Him, and to love Him supremely.
I was talking to a friend of mine who works at a big church. He told me something like, “This thing of rock-star pastors is just not working out.” We can’t isolate ourselves, we can’t think we are above anyone or anything. We need the heart of a servant.
I could be wrong here, but I am not so sure that God intended pastors of large churches to be put up on pedestals and live isolated lives. This might make sin a bit easier. Just a thought…
It’s far too easy to ruin your life and your legacy by falling into sin. Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Temptation rages. Good soldiers are being taken out by enemy fire. The stakes are high. We each need to examine ourselves and make sure that we are standing strong in Jesus.
What else do you think would helpful to keep from falling into sin?