February eNews: For the Love of Truth
A few years ago, Kathy and I invited the employees of Pure Life Ministries to come to our house for a Labor Day barbecue. Four of us owned quads at the time and we eventually decided to go for a ride. I jumped on mine first and raced out in front of the other three. It seemed like I was doing 80 mph as I tore down the long driveway. I quickly reached the bottom of the hill, spraying rock as I fishtailed onto the gravel road. I deftly gunned it, pushing my way up through the gears. Those who know me understand that at times I have a ridiculous amount of confidence. With a certain degree of pride I was certain that I had left the other three young guys far behind me—the only question being how far back they were. Turning around, I discovered to my shock that they were right on my tail as if to say, “Get out of the way, you idiot!” Isn’t it funny how we can think things are a certain way only to discover that they are nothing like we supposed?
This is a comical story, but there is nothing funny about the way many deceive themselves about their spiritual lives. People often possess a level of confidence in their spirituality that simply doesn’t match the reality of their lives.
This should not be a surprise to any of us, though. Scripture warns us over and over again that during the last days we can expect deception on a massive scale. Paul said that one of the characteristics of those who will be deceived by the spirit of antichrist is that “they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” (II Thessalonians 2:10) The Living Bible paraphrases it: “they have said ‘no’ to the Truth; they have refused to believe it and love it, and let it save them.”
Most Christians think that the most important aspect of truth is having correct doctrine. But was this the “truth” that Paul was referring to? No, I think truth has a lot more to do with the integrity of our relationship with Jesus than it does with mental consent to orthodox theology.
The fact is that Americans by the millions have filled their heads with biblical, “orthodox” truth. The greater issue is how much they have allowed that truth to transform their lives. How many people are there who attend church services, listen to sermons and read inspirational books but don’t really live out what they are learning?
One of the reasons so many lives are radically changed at the Pure Life Ministries Residential program is that the men who come to us for help are held accountable to respond to the truth they hear. They don’t have the luxury to blow off the words of the preacher like they did before coming to us for help. They are expected to allow the truth to search out their hearts for everything and anything that stands in the way of them drawing near to God.
Even more effective than hearing a convicting sermon is when the Lord uses one of our counselors to deal personally with a guy. It is in the intimate setting of the counseling office that the deep-seated attitudes in a man’s heart begin to come into the light. Everyone has different aspects of their fallen natures which cause him to keep the Lord at arm’s length. But our God is a jealous God and if He is given the opportunity, He will most surely move in on a person, confronting him about his sin with the hopes of repentance.
One such situation happened in the early 90’s when I accepted a Major League baseball player named “Jack” into the Residential program. His career had been successful but began to disintegrate when he became addicted to sex and crack cocaine.
It soon became clear to us that Jack’s greatest problem was not greed, nor drugs, nor even his obsession with sex. His great, besetting sin was the inordinate amount of pride that had been fostered and nurtured by years of stardom. Even though his entire life had fallen apart, he remained essentially unbroken. It wasn’t long after his arrival that his pride began to rear its ugly head at Pure Life.
At first, it was just over trivial things. He did not like the rules in the Residential program and would simply disregard those which he thought were unnecessary. There is a 10 P.M. curfew in the facility, but if he wanted to eat a snack or talk to one of the other guys, he would do it. When approached about his non-compliant behavior, he would minimize it or shrug it off. As time went on, he grew more arrogant and rebellious.
After several frustrating months of working with him, his counselor finally attempted a desperate move: he had what is coined a “light session” with him during our weekly accountability meeting. With Jack sitting there center stage, each man in the program was asked to share his perspective on the ballplayer’s walk with God. Every single man related to him some situation where he had been hurt or offended by Jack’s prideful attitude.
Had he sincerely wanted the truth about himself, this could have been a marvelous turning point in his life. The staff had bathed the situation in prayer beforehand. Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that he was rejecting the truth about what he was like.
In the meantime, his graduation date was moving toward us. I had to make a decision. I knew he was counting on that graduation as proof to his wife that he was indeed a changed man. And, after all, it’s not like he had committed some terrible outward sin. Of course, we were under tremendous financial pressure and there was a huge temptation to just give him what he wanted. He could solve our problems by writing one check. However, in the end, I knew I could not graduate a man who was so hard-hearted and unbroken. I reluctantly called him into my office and told him he would have to leave the facility—without graduating.
Of course, my hope was that he would be immediately shocked into repentance. It was one last effort to reach him. Indeed, over the years I have seen a number of men in that situation burst into tears pleading with me to allow them to stay.
Unfortunately, Jack didn’t repent; he got angry. It was obvious that he was not accustomed to people crossing his will like that. He exploded in a rage. “Oh, you’re just like the rest, Steve!” he roared. “I hear a lot about mercy around here—but I don’t see any!” At this he stormed out and slammed the door so hard that it split the wood on the frame. I sat there in tears. I had had so much hope for Jack, but in the end, he did what all rebels do: he turned against the one who was attempting to help him. Eight months later he was dead of a drug overdose.
The price of his rejection of the truth came quickly, but how many others experience a long, drawn-out spiritual death after turning away from the truth about themselves? Oh, they still go to church and go through the motions of Christianity, but they are full of dead man’s bones.
For myself, there have been many times over the years that the Lord has confronted me about ungodly attitudes and thought patterns. And I have to admit that I don’t like being told there is something wrong with me any more than the next guy. In fact, there have been those times that I have ignored the conviction of the Holy Spirit, only to find myself having to face the same confrontation again later.
On the other hand, there have also been those times when I have acknowledged the truth about myself and repented of my sinful attitude. Looking back over my years as a believer, I have come to realize that every time I have responded to the Lord in this way, He has been able to set me free inside just a little bit more. And it is because of this that I have come to the place where I truly do love the truth.
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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