Moral failure. My stomach churns when I hear the phrase. There have been so many moral failures, some in the lives of friends and authors my team works alongside. The phrase reminds me of the devastation left in the wake, the devastation that impacts families and ministries. I have learned there are common warning signs in the lives of those who fall. Sometimes these warning signs are more apparent after the fall and people gather around tables and say to one another, “Looking back, we see what was going on.” Sure, it is possible for one to hide these warning signs, but because sin makes us incredibly stupid, those caught up in the cycle of sin often don’t see the signals their foolishness is sending. Here are five warning signs of moral failure.
Christians want to be channels of the Holy Spirit at work in the world. We can’t do that, however, if we’re constantly worried about having others meet our needs. When we realize the Holy Spirit has already filled our cup through the gospel of Jesus, we begin to see ourselves more as need-meeters than need-takers.
Friendship with my new brother Ahmad has revealed to me many of my biases, blind spots, and cultural sins. Likewise, it is a blessing to watch the Gospel reshape his heart and challenge his own cultural comforts. The American church stands to learn from our refugee brothers and sisters, and we would be foolish to miss out on their friendship due to fear, ignorance, or indifference.
When we arrived in California, I hoped for some reassurance we hadn’t made a big mistake. Instead, I walked through our tiny apartment with tear-filled eyes, wondering how this could ever feel like home.
I wish I could say it’s all been improving since, but, honestly, the transition has been hard. There are mornings I’d rather just stay in bed and try again another day. But the Lord is faithful; his mercies are new with every sunrise (Lam. 3:22–23).
Here are four truths he’s impressed on my heart as I grapple with all the change.
A man who had long sexually abused children sat in front of his pastor, wanting to confess his crimes. He began cautiously, mentioning that there had been accusations against him. He got no further, as his minister broke in, “Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” the minister said quickly. “You’re the last person I’d believe that of. End of conversation.”
It’s just as important, though, to understand our listeners. We must know our cultural context well enough (and the people to whom we speak) to have an idea of the way our message will be heard. Exegesis of the text must be combined with exegesis of the church, and exegesis of the church on mission will include exegesis of the culture.
A favorite from the archives:
In modern times, we tend to look at the world around us and say, if only we were X—whether X is hip, trendy, socially active, or whatever—then we’d win the culture to Christ. We act as though there’s some magic formula to this. That somehow we can make everything go exactly our way if we could just unlock the secret.
Now, imagine having these sorts of aspirations—of winning your people with your powerful and prophetic preaching—and rather than turning to God in repentance, they turn on you with murder in their eyes. That those plotting your demise are not strangers, but your childhood friends.