It was a hot summer day in Eastern Europe. My wife and I were working with the leadership of a youth movement as missionaries and were helping host their annual summer camp. Teens from around the country had gathered to spend a few days in worship services, fellowship and a schedule of activities aimed at bringing excitement and camaraderie to these young Christians. The atmosphere was charged with enthusiasm as each day passed.
Although no one would have suspected it, but much of my free time was given to pursuing the pornography, drug and alcohol addictions that ravaged my life. I was the last conference speaker, and as the final day drew closer, I felt apprehensive. Ministry had become drudgery and carrying on the religious façade was becoming increasingly wearisome. Yet, even in this condition, pride was welling up in my heart. “I’ll show the other speakers how this is done.”
As I approached the pulpit, I breathed the usual “Help me, Lord” prayer that had become the extent of my prayer life. My sermon was about the Holy Spirit, and I knew that if He did not touch the teenagers like I told them He would, I would look like a fool. Yet I had little reason to doubt that He would, based on the track record of our ministry. As I began to share the Word of God with these young people, speaking about the reality of the Holy Spirit, He showed up. Many began to weep as I preached, and when I gave the altar call, there was a beautiful time of seeking the Lord.
While I should have been on my face repenting before the Lord in that atmosphere, a very opposite reaction occurred. As so often before, I walked away feeling good about my relationship with God. “Surely everything must be fine if He would anoint me like that!” I thought to myself. I had learned to cling to “the anointing on my life” as the last shred of evidence that I was still right with God. It had been a long time since my character and lifestyle provided any hope that I was walking with Jesus. Was His anointing not proof that everything was okay? He would not use someone in ministry if they were not in right relationship with Him, would He?
Ministry had become a covering for my secret life of sin. As long as I was under the umbrella of serving Jesus, I was convinced that somehow it made bondage to sexual sin excusable.
A year later, I found myself sitting in the chapel at Pure Life Ministries. I cannot remember which staff member was speaking, or the context of the meeting, but I will never forget the truth that the Lord revealed to me that day. The reading was from Matthew 7:21-23, which says:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
I had read these verses many times before, but had never allowed the truth to penetrate my heart. Years of rationalizing my sin had enabled me to read through the Bible with a film over my spiritual eyes. I had become a master at distorting Scriptural truths to comfort myself in my rebellion.
But, in a moment my eyes were opened that day to the meaning of Jesus’ words that day. What shocked me most was the fact that the people in these verses who were coming to Jesus were not your average “Sunday Christians.” Their argument for being allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven was that they had prophesied, cast out demons and performed miracles. Certainly, they had to have a good deal of spiritual understanding to accomplish these feats. Jesus did not disagree that they performed these works. He simply drew the line at the fact that He did not know them.
The implications of this passage were startling. I realized that if someone can perform miracles and not know Jesus, certainly I could preach an anointed sermon and have some fruit in my ministry without knowing Him as well. And in my case, I was banking on the fact that, not only would my ministry be evidence of a true walk with God, but also that the blatant sin I was involved in would somehow be overlooked. How many times throughout my life had I leaned on the fact that the Lord seemed to be using my ministry as evidence that I knew Him? Yet this Scripture clearly shows that being used of God does not make up for a life of lawlessness.
So why would the Lord use someone in sin? Why would He pour through a vessel whose heart is not truly His? In processing these questions, I have come to two conclusions.
- God honors His Word. The Word of God is the truth, regardless of the messenger who delivers it. The fact that the Lord will touch people’s lives at the preaching of the Gospel is simply proof that the words being spoken are true. It does not necessarily mean the Lord has put His stamp of approval on the minister.
- The Lord loves the people who are being ministered to. The teenagers in that summer camp were deeply loved by God. He gave the life of His Son for each one of them. His presence touching their lives was not evidence of a godly preacher, but proof of His mighty love for those in the audience.
In short, professing Christians who believe that somehow the lawlessness of sexual addiction will somehow be overlooked because God is using them in some way, need to examine Matthew 7:21-23 carefully. There is still time now to repent of habitual sin and allow the Lord to bring them into a true relationship with Him. Waiting for the Judgment to find out if their works are ample evidence that they should be allowed into the kingdom of heaven would be absolutely foolish. Rather than hearing the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” the last words they will hear Him speak are, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Dustin Renz is a graduate of Pure Life Ministries and currently the Associate Pastor of Kettering Assembly of God in Ohio. He is the founder of Make Way Ministries and the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy. Dustin has a passion to see the Body of Christ awaken, mature and arise to its full potential in these last days.
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