The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead- Acts 17:30-31 ESV
We all know that person.
The man or woman who has somehow managed to achieve the sad feat of becoming the very worst version of themselves possible.
Perhaps the person is hostile, mean, judgy, bitter, prideful and/or ridiculously self-serving (Hebrews 12:15, Hebrews 3:12, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:8-9). It might be they are just so oblivious to the needs and feelings of others they just go around unknowingly causing the poor hapless souls unfortunate enough to be caught in their orbit immeasurable hurt and pain. It might be they are sexually immoral in some way. Perhaps they are addicted to pornography or they cheat on their spouse or they just sit around indulging in lecherous thoughts about the opposite sex all day long. They might lie or cheat or steal or go around boasting about their own awesomeness to anyone who will listen. Maybe they drink themselves into oblivion routinely or are addicted to drugs. To some degree the sordid details of their behavior is less significant than the fact that they have chosen to indulge their very worst tendencies and character traits.
Christians are not exempt from becoming the worst version of themselves (1st Corinthians 10:12). It happens all the time. It happens to famous mega-church pastors like Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz and Ted Haggard. It can also happen to local pastors, ministry leaders, their spouses as well as your average Joe or Jane church attenders. It’s horrifying anytime anyone becomes the worst version of themselves. It’s extra gross when it happens to a Christian.
Here’s how it happens:
The whole messy mess starts out innocently enough, just like all the other messy messes people get themselves into (Hebrews 12:1). It all begins with a subtle shift in behavior or attitude that gradually transforms into a habit. The person knows what they’re doing or thinking is at best, not healthy, and at worst, super sinful. However, because no one says anything and nothing truly catastrophic happens they keep doing their thing in spite of any reservations they have.
Then God gets involved in His indirect and subtle but distinctly God way.
The person hears a guilt-producing sermon, or a reads a convicting article or blogpost, or something happens in a relationship and they are confronted head-on with the problem. At this point if the person does not repent posthaste, things go one of two ways: the person might choose to get offended. When a person chooses offendedness it’s not long before they begin the process of actively shutting out anyone who is isn’t either one-hundred-percent supportive of their behavior or willing to ignore it.
They go into full-on denial mode concerning the seriousness of the situation. They assure the person or people challenging them they have a handle on things. Then they slowly convince themselves their behavior isn’t really a problem. The same behavior might be a problem for other people but not for them. They have so many other awesome qualities they are above being destroyed by the petty little sins that doom other people. Besides, they tell themselves: they’re a Christian, God loves them. If God wasn’t okay with what they’ve been up to He would force them to stop. He hasn’t so He must be okay with it.
So, the behavior or attitude persists.
At this point, things get interesting. In the very worst way. Blindness sets in and the behavior or attitude takes root. The Christian spends more time looking at more porn, they think more lecherous thoughts more frequently. They get to the place where can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. They go into full-scale addiction. They lose the ability to even muster up false humility. At the same time, they become increasingly more oblivious to the effect their behavior is having on others. They become harsher and meaner and less concerned with the feelings of others. Ironically, at the same time they become much more judgmental towards other people, especially towards those who have the same problems they have (Matthew 7:2-3). They become a twisted version of what they could have been, a parody of their sin and a sad joke to non-Christians.
So. Here’s the thing:
No Christian is doomed to becoming the worst version of themselves. Self-destruction is a fully preventable tragedy for anyone who knows Jesus.
We have to understand that the devil wants more than anything in the world to see every Christian on earth become the very worst version of themselves possible (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves it when Christians fall into this trap. It ruins the believer, their ministry opportunities and their Christian witness. This is a triple win for Satan.
To avoid this trap:
We must understand that even in our redeemed state we are capable of great sin and self-deception. To avoid the self-deception that makes becoming the worst version of ourselves possible we have to make every effort to grow in our knowledge of God and nurture the Christian virtues of faith, goodness, humility, godliness and self-control in our lives (2nd Peter 1:3-10). We must make a regular practice of examining ourselves honestly before the Lord (1st Corinthians 13:5) and we must listen when other people attempt to speak truth into our lives. We must be quick to humble ourselves and apologize when we hurt others because we have indulged our worst tendencies. We must make things right when we have done wrong. When we humble ourselves and do those things God is quick to bring joy to our hearts, healing to our relationships and health to our souls (Proverbs 22:4, James 4:10, 1st Peter 5:5, Romans 12:3).