Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Another Testimony Bites the Dust

Beginning a few years back with the then-teen band Hanson, it seems like stories like the one I'm about to relate have become a steady litany. We've seen it over and over again. The story is the same—just change the names. Young talent phenomenon gets major attention. Young talent proclaims a love for Jesus Christ and commitment to His biblical principles. Time marches on, and the once-vocal commitment seems to fade into the distance. Eventually, there's a meltdown. The testimony for Christ is in shreds, and little repentance or regret is visible.

The latest story comes to us courtesy of Fox News, and deals with singer/musician Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. He discusses how Miley Cyrus and his ex-girlfriend introduced him to marijuana, and how he lost his virginity at 20—tossing the much publicized "purity rings" he and his other brothers wore into the dustbin.

Let's walk down memory lane. The Hanson guys described themselves as "evangelical Christians" whose faith "is very important to us." Yet they didn't want to talk about their faith much, which I found unusual considering the Lord's command not to hide our faith under a bushel basket. Brother Taylor got his future bride pregnant out of wedlock, and there went the testimony. Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber—one and all have been very public about their purported Christian faith. And one by one, their behavior in public and private degenerated into something to bring shame to Christ and to their Christian brothers and sisters. Of course, this all assumes that their faith was genuine, saving faith and not a false faith.

Why does this bug me so much? Why do I write about it and highlight it when it happens? How dare I be so judgmental? I'm glad you asked.

I don't write about this with any joy at all. It grieves me. The foundational truth of Christianity is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. None of us has the right to take a "holier than thou" attitude toward anyone else. We need to be clothed in humility, as Scripture says, hoping to "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, taking attention to yourselves, lest you too be tempted." This assumes that the one who has stumbled has recognized their sin, acknowledged and confessed their sin, and has REPENTED of their sin, and who is intent on walking uprightly and in holiness before God, by His power that enables us to live lives pleasing to Him. The one who recognizes and admits—"Yes, I screwed up. Badly. I have sinned and brought shame on my Lord by my un-Christlike behavior. I compromised my testimony, and may very well have caused others to stumble by my actions. Lord, forgive me, and enable me to walk rightly from this day forward. Brothers and sisters in Christ, forgive me for the shame I have brought on you and the church by my behavior. Come alongside me, walk with me, hold up my arms, help me and hold me accountable for the glory of our Savior, who bought my salvation with His precious blood."

Let's be clear. I cannot and will not judge the heart or inner motivations of anyone. Only God can do that. However, the Word of God is crystal clear that we in the church are to hold one another in the church accountable for our behavior. Sin in the camp is not to be tolerated, and will eventually result in serious damage to the church if it is not addressed and dealt with in a biblical fashion. If these young professed Christians have no church fellowship that preaches and teaches biblical truth, and will hold them accountable, they need to find one. Now. They need to examine their hearts, and again as Scripture commands, "test yourselves to see if you're in the faith. Examine yourselves!" If you have not really repented of your sin and entered into a true, saving relationship with Jesus, you need to do it now. You might not have another opportunity. The Spirit of God will not strive with men forever.

You see, herein lies a vitally important difference. Can true Christians sin? Yes! Can true Christians fall into serious sin? Yes! Can true Christians fall into rebellion and denial for a time? Yes! But a true Christian indwelt by the Holy Spirit will never be able to live in sin and rebellion in comfort and ease. That persistent conviction and still small voice will prompt, prod, poke, plead, convict, and not relent. In the end, He may need to break you entirely before you come to repentance. In the worst case scenarios, He may well elect to end your life and take you home before you can do too much more damage. But if you profess Christ, and you can live in and engage in a sinful lifestyle—AND YOU DON'T CARE—then I would have serious doubts about whether you indeed have saving faith. It's a question you need to resolve.

If I can't appeal to you in any other way, think about this. The Lord gave you your gifts and talents for a purpose. Your purpose for being is to bring Him glory, and to testify to others about what He has done for you. Your purpose is to be an ambassador for Christ, representing Him before a fallen humanity and offering them the hope of the Gospel. In human diplomacy, when an ambassador is disgraced or offends his/her host country, they are expelled under the diplomatic term "persona non grata." God forbid that we become "persona non grata" over engaging in wicked behavior.

Many young people admire you and follow you. Your words and actions carry great weight. Fame is a gift, but it is also a responsibility—all the more for those who are in the public eye. All eyes are watching you. What you do. What you say. How you act. And you have a Savior who is God Incarnate, Who came to earth in the form of a Man, humbled Himself, gave Himself over voluntarily to His enemies, endured enormous physical agony, dying on the cross for your sins and rising again from the dead for your justification. He gave His life for you. You have been bought and paid for with a price. And how is lewd, vulgar, and in some cases even criminal, behavior repaying this dear loving Savior who gave his all for you?

I pray that my loving remonstrance will resonate. Instead of bridling in anger, hear the love in the direct, plain words spoken here—as much as to myself as anyone else. As a recently retired broadcaster, I know what it means to be in the public eye, and I know what it means to compromise my testimony. I know what it means to grieve my Lord and Savior. I wish I could undo it all, but I can't. I would like to spare as many as I can from the pain of regret—again, assuming that genuine saving faith is truly involved here.

God forgives. He heals. He cleanses. He does not always remove the consequences of our actions, but He will use us to bring glory to Himself. Read Scripture, and see the many biblical accounts of the heroes of the faith who stumbled, but repented and God went on to use them in mighty ways. Heed this loving warning while you can. Don't let your life and testimony be shredded beyond repair. Remember your first love. He can do greater things through you—greater than you can imagine. But he needs hearts and lives yielded wholly to Him.

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