Consider Your Ways

Nothing can warp your priorities like an unhealthy dose of self-interest. When your view of the world can’t extend beyond the mirror, your spiritual vision becomes clouded. When you over value your self-image, you will discipline your kids for misbehavior because they have embarrassed you, not because they have disobeyed.

Being too interested in your own image in parenting means you care more about how others perceive you than you do about your own child’s heart. When you are driven by selfish ambition, your family, friends, church, and God will inevitably take a back seat. You can’t pursue God’s glory with your life if you are pursuing your own.

Haggai’s first sermon-like message to the people of Israel was a call for them to “consider their ways.” The Lord himself said the Jews had reasoned among themselves that it was not the right time to rebuild the house of the Lord. The time didn’t seem right because their priorities weren’t right. Rebuking them, the Lord calls the Jews “these people” rather than “my people” indicating that their pursuit of self-glory was reorienting the focus of their worship.

While the Jews were diligent to rebuild their own homes, they feared there weren’t enough finances or materials to take on a temple reconstruction project. But the fact remained: their homes were complete, while God’s house was in ruins. God didn’t need a home in order to have a place to dwell, but the temple was the central location of God’s dwelling place with his people. The problem is clear: God’s people prioritized their prosperity over God’s presence.

If we aren’t careful, we will fall into the same trap as the Israelites. If we don’t stop to consider our ways, we will find ourselves pursuing personal prosperity over the Lord’s presence. Through Christ, we have access to God’s presence that ancient Israel never even dreamed of having.

To neglect the presence of God by prioritizing anything in our lives over pursuing him in his Word, prayer, and the gathering of believers is to turn the gospel on its head. We have been brought near to God through the work of Christ, so it would be foolish to intentionally move away from him for the sake of personal prosperity that will soon pass away.


Morning Mashup 04/03

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


Praying the Bible | Donald Whitney | $3.19 (Kindle)


Prayer | Timothy Keller | $7.58


A Praying Life | Paul Miller | $10.19


Praying with Paul | D.A. Carson | $13.25



Are We Victims of Sin? | Head Heart Hand

David Murray: One of the keys to the Christian life is getting the right balance between confessing personal sin and lamenting the universal consequences of sin.

4 Surprises in Bible Publishing | TGC

Trevin Wax describes the biggest surprises he encountered in his role in helping publish the Christian Standard Bible.

You Cannot Raise Snowflakes in Jesus’ Name | Prince on Preaching

Excellent article for parents as they consider raising their children in a world where we can’t protect them from pain.

FAQ on the Collected Works of John Piper | TGC

Justin TaylorOur basic criterion for selection has been to include everything that John Piper has written for publication in printed books, magazines, and journals. The result is forty-five books, sixty articles and reviews, twenty-three forewords, and forty-two chapters—totaling around three million words.

How Calvinists Miss the Key to Happiness | Desiring God

Tony Reinke:  The joy of Calvinism is a joy purchased by Christ and emerges from the ever-present Spirit within us.

Graceless Dads, Overly Spiritual Pastors, and Sticky Notes | Gospel Centered Family

Jared KennedyWhen I am disciplining one of my girls, I may even go beyond misbehavior and shepherd her heart motivations. But like an older brother in Christ, am I willing to confess my own sin and repent before my daughters as well? If not, I’m in danger of being a graceless dad.


How to Depict the Beauty of Complementarity? | TGC

Paul George vs. LeBron James in OT

Sin Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against You

people-men-fight-challengeHave you ever been in an intense wrestling match? Wrestling matches between siblings are often much more entertaining and dangerous than WWE wrestling matches because, frankly, they are much more real. Growing up, I was about six years older than my brother, so I always had a physical advantage over him when we would fight. We didn’t fight all the time, but we always fought when we played games with each other. A game couldn’t pass by without one of us starting a fight. Our fights didn’t just begin the same way; they also always ended the same way—with me on top of my brother and my brother crying for help. In our fights, my brother didn’t stand a chance.

Romans 7:14-25 is all about a bitter struggle that occurs within the soul of every Christian. Paul emotionally and painfully cries out for deliverance at the end of Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul is describing the nature of the war that rages in the Christian mind and heart. It is an intense wrestling match against a formidable opponent. Sin is strong. If you give in to sin very quickly, it is because you are either not in Christ or underestimating the strength of your opponent. In fact, if you are giving in to sin quickly, you don’t even realize the bell has rung! From the moment your heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, there is a struggle with sin that doesn’t end until you die or Christ returns.

Genuinely fighting sin is exhausting. There is a serious temptation to give in because the fight is hard. But the greatest motivation for staying the course in our fight against sin is found in one simple, yet life-changing statement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Our struggle against sin is one we cannot lose, so it is one we must fight! No matter how hard sin fights against you, and no matter how many battles it wins, if you are in Christ, sin doesn’t stand a chance against you. Because Jesus died on the cross in your place, you will never have to face God’s wrath. He was condemned, so there is no condemnation for you. He became sin. You receive righteousness. Sin doesn’t stand a chance against you because you are united to the one that condemned sin. Nothing provides more freedom and hope to fight sin than knowing God’s wrath has been fully absorbed by Christ and there is none left for you. Justification not only leads to sanctification, it fuels it.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Who Will Deliver Me From This Body of Death?: The Slow Death of Sin

pexels-photo-167964A cry for help is unmistakable. My son, Jude, cries a lot. Anyone who keeps him in the nursery understands this. He is also loud. He laughs loud, babbles loud, and cries loud. As his parents, Erica and I can tell the difference between his real cries and fake cries. Sometimes he cries just to get our attention. Sometimes he cries because Jack is crying. Sometimes he cries when he’s hungry or sleepy. Sometimes he cries, because, well, I have no idea! Maybe he cries when he’s bored. Who knows! But there are times when Jude cries because something is really, really wrong.

One day, Jude accidentally locked himself in our bedroom. I was on the phone and Erica was fixing lunch when Jude went in our bedroom, shut the door, and turned the lock. Of course, he didn’t know what he was doing, but when he realized that he couldn’t get out, he lost it! He let out an ear-piercing scream that caused Erica to immediately drop what she was doing and run to the door. This cry for help was unlike any of his other cries. It didn’t take us long to get to him, but for those few minutes, Jude was desperately screaming for help.

After passionately describing the struggle Paul continues to have with sin, you can tell he is on the brink of despair. A Christian who is growing in holiness also grows in awareness of sin. The more we obey God, the more we see how much we don’t obey God. This struggle can lead to despair. Soldiers grow weary after fighting battle after battle after battle with no end in sight. Paul feels the weight of sin’s power and the flesh’s deceit, and cries out in desperation, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The deliverance Paul is crying out for is not related to justification. Paul sees himself as a wretched man because he has realized he cannot escape his sinful nature. As Tim Keller has said, “The more holy you become, the less holy you will feel.” This seems to be the experience of Paul at the end of Romans 7. The He is not crying out for a justifier. He is crying out for a final deliverer. He is groaning inwardly for the final and complete redemption of our mortal bodies. He is longing for the day when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on the immortal (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Your fight against sin within yourself will cause you to long for the day when your desires and actions are no longer divided. You will one day always and perfectly do what you want to do and you will never do the thing you hate.

While longing and groaning inwardly for the day when sin and temptation are no more could conceivably lead to despair in the moment, the purpose of such yearning is to increase our confidence in the hope of Christ’s work on our behalf. In World War II, D-Day was considered the effectual end of the war even though fighting would continue for another year. Once Nazi Germany was faced with a closing two-front war, defeat was inevitable. But harsh fighting raged on. In fact, as the Red Army surrounded Berlin, Hitler sent the youngest boys and oldest men to defend the city. Evil tyrants die hard, and they don’t go down without a fight. Sin and Satan have been conquered on the D-Day of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

When Jesus walked out of the tomb, their defeat was sealed. But they have not surrendered. Sin and Satan will continue to fight until they are tossed into a burning lake of fire. Until that day there will be an ever-increasing tension between who we once were in Adam and who we now are in Christ. Only the continual presence of Jesus Christ can solve the problem of sin in the life of a believer. Though sin’s penalty and power have been vanquished in the cross of Christ, the presence of sin is waiting final destruction. Jesus delivers us from sin now by pardoning us before God and empowering us to win our battles with sin. And Jesus will one day deliver us from the presence of sin forever.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Struggle is Real: Indwelling Sin and the Fight Against It

fightWhy did you become a Christian? I’m not talking about the underlying work of God to regenerate your heart. I mean, what was your motivation to follow Jesus? Of course, God has drawn you by his grace to himself. But what was it about the gospel that caused you to turn from your sin and trust Christ? There are many people who come to Christ for all the wrong reasons. We must be careful, because coming to Christ for the wrong reason could mean you haven’t come to Christ at all.

One of the most common wrong reasons for coming to Christ is comfort. If you became a Christian because you were looking for an easy life, you will be sadly mistaken. The Christian life is hard, not because of any outward struggle against other people. The Christian life is hard because of the inward struggle that exists within each person who is being remade in the image of Christ.

Romans 7:14-23 is a vivid description of the inner struggle of every believer. Even though we have died to sin and have been given a “new self,” sin still dwells within us. Sin will continue to dwell within us until we die or Christ returns. To use big theological words, sin will remain in us throughout our sanctification and will only flee our bodies when we are glorified. We walk in victory over sin and death, but not perfectly. We fail to perfectly triumph over sin.

In light of what I believe to be a genuine struggle with the flesh and indwelling sin in the life of a mature believer in Romans 7, it’s important to make a distinction between struggling with sin and succumbing to sin. Paul seems to give us an example of a normal Christian’s experience. Paul’s battle with the flesh rages on because the closer he has drawn to God, the more keenly aware of his sin he has become, which means it is normal for a Christian to struggle against sin.

The more we grow in holiness, the more we will grow in awareness of our sin. And the more aware we are of sin, the more we will fight against it in our inner being. Christians struggle with sin. We are not perfect people who are morally superior to non-Christians. The desires we have to do good and to live righteously are at times thwarted by the flesh. We desire to do good, a desire that comes from the God-wrought work of regeneration. But sometimes our actions don’t always match up with our desires.

What happens when a Christian, who is no longer a slave to sin, capitulates to sin? Believers have been set free from the power of sin, so what does it mean for a Christian to sin? Is a sinning believer a contradiction? No. The tormenting reality of the Christian life is that we are currently living in the eschatological “already, not yet.” It’s important to remember that we are free from the penalty of sin in justification; we are free from the power of sin in sanctification; but we are not free from the presence of sin until glorification.

We await full and complete redemption. We await the removal and destruction of indwelling sin. But as we wait, we struggle. We fight. We war within ourselves until we die or Christ returns. So, the Christian life doesn’t end with the removal of sin on this earth. We don’t reach a state of moral perfection, perfected sanctification, or glorification during our lives on earth.Therefore, it is normal for Christians to sin, so long as they are fighting against it.

However, it is categorically abnormal for a Christian to live in unrepentant sin. It is abnormal for a Christian to habitually succumb to sin. Christians who do not fight against sin aren’t struggling, they are succumbing. This is why I lament small group conversations about ways we are struggling with sin that only describe defeat. If your relationship with sin is only in terms of defeat, you are not telling the story of a Christian. At the beginning of every Life Group, I ask our group to share struggles with sin. But, I clarify that I want them to share ways they are being knocked down by sin and ways they are kicking sin’s butt. This is because indwelling sin is an inherited reality that is not removed even after regeneration. But despite the power of indwelling sin, those of us in Christ have been released from its power and now live as conquerors over sin.

A Christian who habitually succumbs to sin is at best a weak or young Christian who has yet to grasp his new identity in Christ, and at worst he has not been converted. So, how should a Christian respond to indwelling sin? How can we struggle rather than succumb to sin? In the following ways:

  • Love the law of God (Rom. 7:22)
  • Hate personal sins (Rom. 7:15)
  • Refuse to give in.
  • Live in the way of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6; 8:2)
  • Join a church and small group of fellow believers who will help you in the struggle

John Stott once said,

“The Christian life is a life of continual struggle, of victories and defeats, and Christian victory comes only when we totally distrust self, and rely on the provision of God. How frequently we throw works out the front door of justification, and invite them in the back door of sanctification.”

Only Christians can have desires to obey and love the law of God, and even God himself. Christians aren’t people who perfectly conquer sin. Christians are people who refuse to lie in the ruins of defeat. We genuinely struggle against sin without habitually succumbing to sin. We are free to be honest about our struggles with sin because we have access to the power to overcome sin, even when we fail many times along the way.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Don’t Lay Your Crown at the Feet of a Dethroned Dictator

pexels-photo-119562Too much freedom, it has been said, can be dangerous. In fact, in the debates over the abolishment of slavery in the 13th amendment to the Constitution, some leaders who hated slavery were unsure of granting freedom to African-Americans because they weren’t sure what freedom would mean for them. They believed freedom could bring with it more problems than they were ready to handle. Sin is so blinding.

Similar questions could be posed to God, “Isn’t it dangerous to offer grace to rebels? Isn’t it dangerous to set spiritual slaves free? Won’t they only sin more if they know you will forgive them?” Is the freedom of grace dangerous to a person who has been ruled by sin for so long? Should we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?

Paul’s answer is simple and clear enough: “By no means!” Being set free from the power of sin doesn’t mean you have been granted power and privilege to freely sin. By the power of God’s grace in the gospel, you have been set free from the tyranny of sin and its stranglehold on your life. This doesn’t mean you have been set free to openly walk in sin. You have been set free from one kind of slavery into another kind of slavery. We have been set free from slavery to sin and set free to slavery to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). And we cannot serve two masters. Either sin or righteousness. Not both. Nothing but lawlessness (more sin) flows from slavery to sin. But sanctification (more righteousness) flows from slavery to God.

How do you know if your master is sin or righteousness? Ask yourself, “Who do I obey?” Paul says, “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” For the believer, the power of sin is broken, which means we are now free to obey God. Obedience to sin for the Christian is a return to an old kind of slavery that maims, steals, and kills. Sin robs God’s people of joy in him. But Christians are not under the yoke of slavery to sin any longer. So, who do you obey? Sin, which leads to death. Or righteousness, which leads to life.

Christian, God has freely provided his grace in Christ to release you from the tyranny of sin. He has pardoned you from the guilt of sin and he has unshackled you from the power of sin. Rather than trampling over God’s grace through willful or neglectful disobedience, resolve yourself today to trample over sin through concerted and intentional acts of obedience. Growing in grace means learning to live as a free man or woman. Your relationship with your former master will feel strange. He’s still there. He still tries to assert control over your life. For so long it was just natural to give in to him. But now, his commands are null and void. They are empty orders from a trounced tyrant.

One day God’s people will fully reign in power with Christ the King for all eternity. But that reign has already begun. By your divinely declared righteousness on the merit of Christ’s work on your behalf, your coronation over sin and death has begun. Don’t lay your crown at the feet of a dethroned dictator. Sin will never stop demanding your allegiance, but so long as you are connected to Christ, you will never have to bow at its feet.

Walk in the liberating power of God’s grace today. Conquer sin and obey Christ.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Worst Kind of Approval

handI have found it true that when you struggle with certain sins, you are more sympathetic with others who struggle with that sin. But if you don’t struggle as much with a certain sin, you will tend to be more impatient with those who do. For example, kids who struggle to obey their parents think it is hilarious when other kids disobey their parents. They get it. But for kids who always follow the rules, their gasps at their friends’ disobedience can be heard for miles. We sadly tend to take the sins of others more seriously than our own. But when we are stuck in a pit of repetitive sin, we more easily give our approval to those who are in the pit with us.

One of the cardinal sins in the current stream of American culture is the sin of non-approval or non-acceptance. People of all lifestyles desire to be accepted for who they are and what they do. The deep desire for approval was a major driving force for the LGBT agenda in the same-sex marriage narrative and it continues through a similar push for the legalization of polygamy from the Sister Wives. It has become increasingly difficult for Christians to navigate the waters of pluralism while having to dodge the bullets of accusations of bigotry and intolerance. Refusing to approve of a particular lifestyle, behavior, or identity is seen as prudish and regressive.

But the worst kind of approval is that which approves of what kills. The Bible teaches that sin in all its expressions leads to death. To approve of what God has condemned serves no one. It is self-condemning. It is the opposite of love. Who in love for his friend refuses to call out to him as he walks blindly toward the edge of a cliff? As easy and comfortable as it is to approve of cultural permissible sins, God’s people must not be found in the position of cheering their neighbors as they march gladly toward eternal death. In the words of Landon Dowden, “Sin should produce tears, not cheers.”

Paul closes his scathing section of Romans 1 by saying, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). Probably the greatest evidence and most serious result of God giving us up to ourselves is when we not only sin, but give our approval of sin in others.

People know that certain actions like the ones listed in Romans 1:29-31 are deserving of death. This moral code is written on the heart of every person under the sun. But they are so lost in their sin that they not only commit those sins anyway, they also give a thumbs up to others who commit these sins and more.

It is dangerous to both human souls and human societies when people begin to approve of sin. When we justify sin in ourselves and in others we are approving of the things God justly pours his wrath against. It may sound obvious to you that it is wrong to approve of sin, but it is very easy to fail in this way. How easy is it to join in gossip? How easy is it to justify your friend’s gossip in a large group? For the sake of perceived unity with friends and family, many Christians have capitulated on many hotbed issues. But it should be remembered that while capitulation on social or sexual issues God condemns may make you friends with men, it will cause you to stand in stark opposition to God.

When you ignore sin in your heart, you will ignore sin in your neighbor’s heart. Only when you confess sin in your own heart will you be able to helpfully confront sin in your neighbor’s heart. Deal seriously with sin in your life. See it as a deadly disease that callouses hearts to goodness and truth and joy. If you truly love your neighbor, you cannot offer your support and approval for their sin.

Only in Jesus do we find life and freedom from the curse and power of sin. Indeed, “those who practice such things deserve to die.” Jesus never practiced such things. He never sinned. Yet, he died the death we deserve, so we can have life with him. Jesus never approves of that which kills. Instead, he died to kill the disease of sin so we can have approval with God.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Root of Sin: Usurpation, Not Imitation

wood-nature-sunny-forestLast Wednesday night, a student asked, “What is sin?” The question sounds simple, but the idea and reality of sin is anything but simple. It is much more and much worse than just doing bad things. Sin is an enemy, a condition, a slave driver, and a poison that causes us to rot from the inside out. When we only view sin in terms of bad things we do, we will never be able to see the root of the problem and then fully appreciate the only solution to sin—the gospel.

At the heart of every sin is a desire to be God. This is completely different than wanting to be like God. When we desire to be like God, we honor him as supreme and superior. God is glorified by a desire to be like him in the same way Michael Jordan was glorified when every kid in America wanted to “Be Like Mike.” But a desire to be God is the sinister root of every sin.

Every act of disobedience and distrust begins with a desire for personal glory in the place of God. We naturally want to call the shots, set the rules, and make the plans. We think we know what is best and if what God says is best is different from that we reject God and his ways.

In its most basic form, sin is idolatry. It is worshiping the created things in the place of the creator. Sin is a foolish exchange of glory and a refusal to be grateful. Even though all people receive general knowledge about God through creation, many do not “honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom. 1:21). A failure to give thanks to God results from a prideful heart that desires glory and honor for itself.

In order to give thanks to God, we must look to God as an abundant fountain of goodness and grace. But this means we must look to ourselves as debased, depraved, and dependent on him for life and blessing. Left to ourselves, we will try to be God. We will seek our own glory in the place of his. We will exchange truth about God for a lie. We will claim to be wise and become fools.

The worst thing that can happen to a person is for God to look at him and say, “Your will be done.” We cannot be God, so our desire to take his place will only result in a downward spiral until we look more like animals than God. We desperately need God in the gospel. We need him to change our hearts and give us a desire to be like him, to honor him as God and to give thanks to him. We need him to replace our hearts, so the only exchange we experience is Christ’s righteousness for our sin, instead of God’s glory for idolatry.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Mess and Mercy of Being Caught in Sin

7304614700_104fa308f5_bWe’ve all been there. Heart racing. Eyes bugging. Sweat dripping down your forehead. That oh-no feeling of getting caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing. When I was in 4th grade, I used to make fun of my Sunday School teacher. It was awful! I made fun of the way he talked. My parents heard me make fun of him one day at home and told me to never do it again. Well, one day at church I was making fun of my teacher in the hallway before Sunday School started. As I went through my disrespectful skit, my friends went from loud laughing to scary silence. The look in their eyes told me everything I needed to know. My teacher was right behind me! I was caught.

While David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah was much more serious than making fun of my Sunday School teacher, he was also caught and called out in his sin. David tried to cover his sin with Bathsheba by having her husband “accidently killed” in battle. Anytime you try to cover your own sin, you will only dive even deeper into sin. It’s kind of like when you are eating chips and salsa on the couch. Maybe you’re watching a movie, get distracted, and spill some salsa on the couch. Quickly, you try to cover the mess with a pillow. Instead of hiding the mess, you have only made it worse. Now, the couch and the pillow are covered in salsa. Not that I have any experience with this or anything! While David was trying to hide and cover his sin, the Lord who sees all things planned to call him out and deal with his sin.

The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David. Nathan called David out in his sin by telling him a story about a rich man who had flocks upon flocks of sheep and a poor man who only had one little lamb that was like a family pet. A traveler came to visit the rich man, and he wanted to have a cookout with some delicious lamb. But instead of going out to get one of his thousands of lambs, he took the poor man’s one and only family pet to cook for his guest. Now, David assumed this story was true, so he was really, really angry with the rich man. He said that the rich man deserved to die for being so selfish and cruel to the poor man. David didn’t yet know that he was caught in his sin and he was being called out in his sin.

No one enjoys being caught in sin. It isn’t pleasant. I felt awful when my teacher caught me making fun of him. I’ve never wanted to be invisible more than in that moment. Do you think David enjoyed being caught and called out in his sin? Do you like being caught in sin? It hurts. But nothing was better for me and my heart than getting caught and called out in my sin. Nothing was better for David than to have someone like Nathan confront him in his sin. And nothing is better for you than to have someone catch you in sin and correct you by pointing you to Christ who alone can sufficiently cover your sin. Even though it hurts when they do it, you should thank God if you have parents or friends who love you enough to stop you in your sin and send you running to Christ.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Shock of Sin and Grace in the Life of a Leader

pexels-photo-26691It’s always difficult to see someone you really respect fall deep into sin. Even the slightest accusation of moral failure in someone you respect changes the way you look at them forever. When we see crucial authority figures in our lives fall into sin, we struggle to trust not only that person, but that position in the future. If you catch one of your parents having an affair, you will struggle to ever trust them again. And you will also have a negative view of marriage, which likely means it will affect your own marriage if unchecked. If you hear about your pastor, teacher, or coach indulging in sin, your trust in them and their position will be shaken. It is so hard to think about people you respect sinning so deeply. It’s one thing to know we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), but it’s quite another to see sin creep out of the hearts of those we most respect.

I think about popular pastors who have recently been relieved of pastoral duties due to moral or leadership failures. There was a literal shockwave that ran through my social media feeds when Darrin Patrick and Perry Noble were outed for deep, latent sin in their lives and ministries. In our celebrity pastor culture, it is easy to forget that even the most charismatic leader is not immune to sin. I have lamented the number of times I’ve seen “This doesn’t surprise me” or, “I told you so” in response to the meteoric fall of evangelical leaders like Driscoll, Tchividjian, Patrick, Noble, and others. There is no place in the church for this kind of proud posturing. The shock of sin has drastic immediate and long-term effects on a church when one of her leaders falls.

I believe the life of David is a testament to the shock of sin and grace in the life of a leader. There are many lessons to be learned from David’s fall into sin, but two that help us when leaders in our lives sin revolve around the shock and awe of sin and grace.

David was a man after God’s heart and handpicked by the Lord to lead Israel as king. God even promised that David’s kingly line would culminate in a kingdom that would never end. One day, a Davidic King would sit on his throne and never give it up. David was righteous and desired to obey the Lord. But, David surprised his own people and even us by falling into a deep spiral of sin. He fell for a woman who was not his wife, and was in fact someone else’s wife! Then, in an attempt to cover his sin, David had the woman’s (Bathsheba) husband (Uriah) killed. David gave in to temptation and brought everyone around him down with him. Failing to kill his sin led him to continue in his sin. Instead of confessing his sin and trusting God to cover it with his grace, David tried to cover his sin by killing another man.

Despite David’s shocking downward spiral into dark sin, God’s shows him tremendous mercy. When David was confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet, he confessed his sin to God and received his compassion. David shares what this experience was like in Psalm 51. There are a couple things that do surprise us about David’s sin and God’s grace that really shouldn’t.

First, we are surprised that a man like David can sin the way he did. While we should expect to grow in Christlikeness throughout our Christian life, sin remains in our hearts until we die or Christ returns. Anyone is capable of dreadful sinful actions, because the dreaded enemy of sin has invaded the heart of every person. So, don’t be surprised when you or people you respect sin. Sin should always be unwanted, but it should never been unexpected.

It is a sign of either a healthy or deceived church when the people are shocked when a pastor falls into sin. It is healthy, in one sense, to be shocked at deep sin in the life of a pastor. Christians are on a path of righteousness. They are being conformed into the image of Christ. Day by day, sin is being rooted out of their hearts. However, sanctification isn’t an overnight process. It is a lifelong process. There are many battles–some won, others lost. But, we fight knowing the war has been won by Christ on the cross as he defeated the dominions of darkness and death. While we should expect sin to still be in the heart and life of ourselves and our leaders, our hearts should be broken and in one sense shocked by unrepentant sin in the life of leaders.

Second, we are surprised that God would show David such compassion in the midst of his deep and dark sin. But, we know the character of God. He is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). We should never be surprised at God’s grace, but we should always be amazed by it. Learn from David’s sin and God’s grace that covering your own sin with more sin will never satisfy. However, trusting God’s grace in the cross of Christ to cover your sin will always satisfy.

As deep as sin goes in the human heart, the grace of God in the gospel goes even deeper. Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, Darrin Patrick, Perry Noble, and any other Christian leader who has fallen into deep sin has not exhausted the riches of God’s grace in Christ. The tank of God’s benevolence toward them isn’t on empty. It is as full as it has always been. And assuming these men are in Christ, there is a fountain of mercy and forgiveness for the mountain of sin they have allowed to grow.

The fall of leaders in our lives is devastating. It is detrimental to the influence of a local church and the Church as a whole. No one is helped when a pastor bullies his way to power, commits an affair, or launders money from the church fund. We should guard our hearts from the treacherous lure of sin, knowing that none of us are beyond a Davidic descent into a pit of sin. But we should always marvel at the grace of God, which he bestows on unworthy and fallen sinners like us. As devastating as the fall of broken leaders is, the restoration of repentant leaders by God’s grace is an incomparably sweet reality. Whenever you see a leader in your life fail morally and fall into sin, don’t point your fingers and shake your head in arrogant self-aggrandizement. Instead, bow your head in humble prayer that God would restore these men to himself and their people.

God pursues us in his grace like a relentless mother searching for her lost son at the mall. He will not rest until his children are found! And for those of us in Christ, he will bring to completion the work he began in us (Phil. 1:6).

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.