Above all things the heart is deceitful, and desperately sick…

Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23

The recent news of the frivolous sexual dalliances of Ravi Zacharias is a disturbing case in point. I met Ravi at a conference at Gordon Conwell many years ago. We were the same age. He was beginning his upward rise as an apologist and I was just beginning as a young pastor of a church in New England which (ironically) just had a pastor leave because of alleged sexual liaisons.

An article in Christianity Today relates that on the day of RZ’s funeral, in May 2020, where he was eulogized by such notables as VP Mike Pence and retired football player Tim Tebo, one of his victims was there and wondered why no one had set the record straight. She had googled a website put up by an atheist who had story after story of women who were sexually abused by RZ. Of course, no one wanted to believe the word of an atheist about a man of God. She finally contacted Christianity Today who did their own investigation which led to a 4-mo. investigation by the authorities and eventually by RZ’s own organization. His computers revealed contacts for more than 200 massage therapists in the US and Asia, as well as hundreds of pictures of young women, some of them unclothed. He also owned several massage parlors in the Atlanta area. He used tens of thousands of ministry money to pay for 4 therapists, providing housing, schooling, and monthly support. One woman told an investigator that after he arranged her support, he required sex.

I could tell you stories of other pastors I’ve known who have crashed and burned, who have lived double lives (literally). They deceived themselves into thinking that somehow the laws of God did not pertain to them. In fact, they were so self-deceived that their sinful behavior was transmuted (in their minds) into something righteous, holy, and justified. They had been bitten by the snake of pride and co-opted by the father of lies. Seeking to deceive others they themselves were led into self-deception. They became hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13) to the extent that they could “honestly” think they were being faithful to God while they were being unfaithful to him. Therein lies the hardness—they crossed the line between hypocrisy and self-deception.

I’m not judging these men, as much as I am terrified by them. I know that I have the capacity to “bring it all to destruction” – to quote Luther. I know the feelings of pride in my accomplishments and the secret sins of my heart, which never broke out into the open, probably because I was too chicken. (I wish I could say it was because I was too holy.) However, by Grace and Mercy, I have never crossed the line for in my own halting way I know how essential it is for me to begin every day and fulfill every task from a place of repentance and humility— literally, bowing before my Creator, Redeemer, and Father in child-like dependence. I am aware that while have the skills and gifts to do the “job,” I am also fully aware that I have the capacity to use what God has given me to puff myself up and build my own kingdom. I never want to be like Samson who, when he went to snap the cords that bound him, was not even aware that the Spirit had departed from him.

Listen to what RZ said during one of his teachings, about a year before he died. Those of you who have seen me in public have no idea to what I am like in private. God does. God does. And I encourage you today to make that commitment and say, “I’m going to be the man in private who will receive the divine accolade, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'” Either this was a cry for help and a wish to come clean or he clearly evidenced self-deception.

Come clean before God for he knows your heart! Don’t be a lone wolf, like Samson or RZ; stay accountable to others, which is an act of humility itself, especially if you think you’re a big shot. Stay humbly on your knees before the Lord; be in the Word daily to feed your own soul. And if you have a secret life developing, bring it to the light now no matter what the cost. God knows, God knows… confess it and deal with it now!! Don’t find a hiding place except in Christ. Don’t cross the line!

“But I the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10

19 thoughts on “Above all things the heart is deceitful, and desperately sick…

  1. Powerful viewpoint, Dave. Ravi was one of my favorite teacher/preachers and always seemed sincere and humble. It is indeed a struggle to be the same godly person in private as we reveal to the world, and to a degree we all fail. Nevertheless, every word…and deed must be captive to the obedience of Christ, lest we become hypocrites or simply lost souls, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof…and being useless to God and humanity. Lord give us strength. Apart from Him, we can do nothing…Thank you, dear brother. You are in my prayers. Thank you for continuing to do the Lord’s beautiful work, despite incalculable adversity. You are often in my deep prayers, as is Gloria. Blessings and love always, John.

    1. Carol Sakaguchi

      Thanks for your comments Dave. My heart was broken when I heard about Ravi’s fall. He had been my favorite apologist to point un believers to. It’s a lesson for all of us. It’s so hard to process but then I look at the cast of characters in the Bible, almost all flawed.

  2. Cathie McCoy

    I remember when there was a similar fall from a pastor/author I admired (a single instance of adultery) and I was shaken. Ed C., a friend I was serving overseas as a missionary with at the time, saw the headline and said, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

    It was a clarifying moment for me – we are never “beyond sin”. It is insidious.

    Thank you for all your years of helping me grow in depth and integrity.

    1. Art Gay

      Thanks dear David!
      A remarkable word and appreciation for our days together in NY. God kept us close to Himself. You and Gloria were models of faith and Godliness before our congregation.
      Dave, our relationship has been a kind and godly walk. Let us walk together with repentance and pass to Jesus with integrity. My prayer now in my eighties. My heart aches for RZ and others who lived lives of duplicity and destruction to the family of faith.
      I agree, I must keep my heart close to Him, lest I fail this walk. Art

  3. Pam Hiser

    Thank you, Dave, for this reminder that none of us are above sin and its temptation. But God, in his great love and wisdom, provides the way of escape. I so enjoy your sharing of your heart, and it gives me a reminder to take a moment and pray for you and Gloria, and your family.
    Thank you for the reminder to strive for godly integrity; God is always with us, and knows our heart.

  4. Mark Anderson

    Healthy fear is a good thing.

    It’s always difficult to find out people we know or love are deeply flawed. It’s more difficult to see when we are .

    Jesus raises the bar :

    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    The sinner who is forgiven .
    The sinner who is not .

    Are these the only options we have?
    Is there another option, have I missed one?

  5. Jeff Longbons

    Thanks Dave for this sobering reminder that evil is all around us tempting us and wanting to destroy us. I pray that the Lord protects me from the temptations that I see and those that I am blind to.

  6. Mark

    Hi Dave
    I am sorry for the scattered text. I had many thoughts all tied together that made my text confusing. Please let me state one thought fully.

    When I first started reading the Bible I gravitated to the Old Testament. I stumbled upon a king called David who loved GOD. As I read about King David and all the great faith he possessed risking his life over and over. Taking a stand for GOD even looking foolish and small to honor GOD.

    Then the Fall killing a man to steal his wife commuting adultery.

    This in no way takes away all that he had done .
    It does not take away his salvation.

    I do not know of this man who stumbled on the path but I do know GOD, All mankind falls. GOD picks us up dusts us off and we continue.
    With all the political and financial folly I only believe what I investigate . The facts of this man could be worse then stated or not as bad as stated.

    “Cursed is the one who trusts in man.”

    Above all things the heart is deceitful, and desperately sick…

    The topic of you post is the truth of all ( we cannot trust ourselves,)

    it’s like a garden, weeds keep coming you have to be diligent and keep an eye out for the next weed because you know it’s coming. Each man must develop safeguards to prevent committing sin and being a victim of sin is crucial in these days.

    1. That is why I would never question another mans salvation, because I know we continue to be sinners and we can all point to David’s sin to demonstrate that. However, David was a man after God’s own heart not because he was sinless but because he knew had committed his sin against God and deeply repented. He also continued to serve God though the consequences of his sin haunted him at every turn.

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