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Most of you have heard the recent news regarding Joshua Duggar of the Duggar family reality TV show called 19 Kids and Counting. The news burst on the national scene when a police report was leaked that Joshua had been investigated for molesting under-age girls when he was 14. There is a lot we don’t know, but this we do know. While I have never been a watcher of this reality TV show, there is an issue here which most of the public debate is over-looking.
a) Some in the media, especially supporters of gay rights, have used this situation to call the Duggars hypocrites for opposing gay marriage and gay rights, while this offense is hidden in their own family.
b) Others want to excuse Joshua Duggar in that he was 14 when the offenses occurred, that this was 12 years ago, and that he has repented. Neither he nor his family have defended his behavior.
May I offer some biblical insight:
1) There is an element of hypocrisy here. Scripture warns us not to judge others when our own house is not in order. The Duggars should not be public spokesmen for Christian righteousness when they cannot govern their own home. (Matthew 7:3-5; Romans 2:1)
2) The media is equally hypocritical. They are guilty of excusing gay leaders like Harvey Milk (guilty of molesting a boy) and Barney Frank (whose live-in male partner was running a gay prostitution ring out of their apartment), et al. But they are quick to jump on an evangelical conservative when they smell blood.
But the overall riding principle here which many are missing is the fact that the Bible teaches there are some sins which do disqualify a person from public ministry. If Joshua Duggar was sincere in asking God for forgiveness, then there is no doubt in my mind that he can be forgiven and grow spiritually in his relationship and service for God.
However, this offense may limit the future usefulness for the Lord’s work of both Joshua and his family. The Apostle Paul took great care not to fall into a scandalous sin which would disqualify him from serving God. (I Corinthians 9:26-27) Sexual sins in particular put a stain on someone which may limit their future public ministry. Proverbs 6:33 says that the “reproach” of an adulterer shall not be wiped away. God can forgive a repentant adulterer. But public reproach will not be taken away in this world. People do not forget. Similarly, the Apostle Paul tells us in I Timothy 3:7 that a pastor (minister, servant of God) must have a “good testimony” of those outside the church. This does not mean he must be perfect. But they cannot be guilty of scandalous sins which make the world mock the church.
Years ago an experienced pastor friend of mine told me that a young man came to him and said, “God has called me to preach.” This pastor said, “No, He has not.” This young many had a child molestation conviction in his past. The pastor told him God can forgive you and use you – but it will not be as a minister in public. The record of that conviction would have been used against him to haunt him throughout any such public ministry. His future usefulness of God was limited by his past conduct.
We do not all expect a minister to be perfect, nor to have a completely unblemished record. We believe in redemption. But there are certain sins which limit (or even disqualify) someone from public ministry. All of us faced the temptations of hormones as we grew up – but normally in the guy-gal relationship. The idea of temptation to molest under-age girls, however, is so foreign to most of us as to be completely unacceptable behavior – even when there is later repentance. Coming from an evangelical family background, Joshua Duggar had to jump over a lot of hurdles to fall into such behavior. It will now be the first thing we think of when we think of the Duggar family. For example, what is the first thing you think of when someone mentions the name Jimmy Swaggart? Or Jim Bakker?
The Duggar family should work out their problems behind closed doors – not on a national televised reality show. Someone else can be the spokesperson for standing for family values and opposing various forms of sexual sin.
Pastor Jim Wigton
It is interesting how both society and the church frequently come up with new “buzz words.” I try to use some of them, so as to connect with younger generations and be effective in communication. Quite often these new terms refer to things we have been doing or saying for years – but using different words.
For example, being “missional” in the evangelical world has become popular in recent years. It is sort of replacing terms like being “focus-driven” or missionary-minded – which replaced terms like evangelism or witness. I actually like the term “missional.” But many of us were already missional without using that term. We have taught for years that a Christian witness is not going to be effective – and people are not going to be interested in coming to hear the gospel at church, unless they see a (missional) Christian exhibiting the living Christ in daily life – and being an effective witness out in the “real” world.
Another newly popular term in evangelical circles now urges people to become a “Christ-follower” or a follower of Christ. That is certainly biblical. Jesus commanded the disciples to follow Him, as the disciples dropped everything and did so (Matthew 4:18-19). We should follow Christ, and we should urge others to become Christ-followers.
However, it is important to emphasize the supernatural miracle of the new birth which transforms a person – if they truly become Christ-followers. As Jesus commands us to follow Him, He also commands us to be reborn spiritually (John 3:3, 7). We do not want any misunderstanding on what it means to be a Christ-follower. In India, the Hindus worship some 330-million (yes, you read that right) gods. A Hindu would not hesitate to follow Christ – along with several other gods. Or he may become a “seeker” — following after the truths of Christ (but not yet convinced). We would want him to understand that a decision to follow Christ entails being transformed by receiving Christ by faith as our personal Savior – and following Him alone.
Certainly in a case like that of the Hindu who “adds” Christ to his other gods, such a person has not truly become a Christ-follower. But to prevent such confusion or misinterpretation, we should always emphasize the nature of the new birth in Christ – the wonder of being “born again” of the Spirit of God (Titus 3:5). Similarly, the person who chooses to “follow” after in seeking Christ — without making a definitive commitment — needs to understand the need for spiritual rebirth.
So, yes, I am a Christ-follower. But more than that, I am a new creature in Christ, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit – and that regeneration is what empowers me effectively to follow Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).
The older I grow, the less combative I find myself. I have no interest in compromising the Gospel or the truth of the Bible, but it does not bother me a great deal if other preachers and Christians do not agree with me on every jot and tittle. However, every now and then I see arguments put forth in public which need to be countered biblically.
I saw a hot topic by a well-known preacher – a man whom I greatly admire and respect – arguing that the term “accept” Christ and the “sinner’s prayer” are not found in Scripture. His conclusion was that a great many people who “accept” Christ or pray the “sinner’s prayer” are not genuinely coming to Christ, and that, in fact, we are therefore misleading them if we use these terms and methods.
This is not a new argument. I have heard it for years. It is a specious argument.
While the term “accept Christ” is not used in Scripture, any number of theological terms are not used in Scripture – but they do describe Scriptural truths. For example, the word “rapture” is not used in Scripture, but the description of the rapture is clearly given in Scripture (I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:50-54). The word “trinity” is not in the Bible, but the triune truth of the Godhead is clearly described in Scripture (Matt. 3:16-17). Likewise, expressing faith in Christ. The prayer of the sinner with the publican (Luke 18:13), and the prayer of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42) were both shorter prayers than anything we use today in evangelism.
The key to the act of salvation is the transfer of trust in the heart (John 6:47; John 11:25-26). While a person can clearly get saved without verbalizing a prayer at the moment of salvation – as was true in my life, we normally express that trust in our hearts in some kind of words. The goal of the evangelist is to lead the sinner in a prayer which helps facilitate that spiritual transfer of trust in the heart. By the way, “heart” is also a figure of speech. It represents the volitional faith part of the mind and soul. And it is also used in Scripture (Romans 10:9)
Personally, I have never been a big devotee of the word “accept” in regard to receiving Christ (John 1:12). However, I believe that the Bible-believing world has used that term for many years in order to show that the act of salvation is clearly of grace and not of works – that the sinner is now “accepting” the completed work of salvation which was already accomplished on the Cross by Christ – the rewards and blessings of which already await anyone who will respond in faith. And I have noticed in my readings (biographies, church history, etc.) that many of the most accomplished preachers and missionaries have commonly used the word “accept Christ” through the years. I am talking about servants of God who were sincere and committed to evangelism and missions.
The frustration we see in people who do not follow through in their Christian commitment – after “accepting” Christ through the sinner’s prayer – is not due to the choice of words in the prayer. It is due to the incompleteness of their commitment to Christ as they turn to Him in faith. Follow-up and discipleship will continue to be an on-going challenge for those of us who are active in evangelism and missions.