6 Ways to Avoid a Moral Failure in Ministry and Leadership

Rick Warren
Rick Warren (Facebook)

One of my gravest concerns about the witness of the church to our current culture is the threat to our evangelistic integrity caused by moral failures among ministry leaders. Every time a leader falls, we all suffer with that leader and his family and friends.

And our collective witness to God's truth suffers as well. For Jesus' sake, for the gospel's sake, for your sake and your family's sake, decide daily that you're going to live with integrity by God's grace.

First Corinthians 10:13 in the Living Bible says, "The wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. God will show you how to escape."

I find this verse incredibly reassuring. First, it says everybody faces temptation. It's man's oldest problem, since Adam and Eve. We've all had problems with temptation. I'm tempted; you're tempted. It's not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. And God will provide a way out, a way of escape.

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Here are six ways to take that escape, to avoid fatal attractions:

1. Make a commitment to keep God's standards. Be willing to do in advance what the Bible says. Psalms 119:9 says, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word." The best place and the safest place to get your values is to consult the Creator and look at God's instruction manual, the Bible. It's stood the test of time. It's provided guidance for years and years. It won't lead you wrong. Make a commitment to whatever God says—whether it's right or wrong in the eyes of other people.

Until you settle that God's Word is the standard for your life, you're going to fall for all kinds of temptations.

2. Maintain your marriage. This is the greatest insurance for a happy home life. Rekindle that fire, that romance. Prov. 5:18-19 says, "Rejoice in your wife. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight." The grass is not greener on this side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it. The problem in most marriages is that there is no spontaneity. If there were more courting in marriages, there would be fewer marriages in court.

The fact is while you're married, you will be attracted to other people. God says redirect that toward your mate. Rejoice in your own mate. 1 Corinthians 7:5 teaches that sex is a spiritual responsibility. The Bible says you are not to deprive each other of it.

3. Manage your mind. You need to understand how temptation works. James 1:14-15 says, "Temptation is the pull of our own evil thoughts and wishes. These thoughts lead to evil actions." The battle starts in the mind. Thoughts determine feelings and feelings determine actions and the key is to change your mental thoughts. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Adultery starts in the head before it gets to the bed.

Lust is not physical attraction. That's just humanity. Lust is not desire. Lust is the desire to possess. You say, "Please take away all of these desires." Are you saying, "God, don't make me a woman/man?" Lust is the desire of "if I could I would"—I'd possess. It's what you do with those feelings. Manage your mind.

4. Monitor your media intake. We are in a sex-saturated society. We are bombarded by visual and verbal stimulation every moment of the day. In advertising, sex sells everything from bingo to batteries. Lust is big business. A lot of love songs are not love songs, they are lust songs. We've all heard the stats on Internet pornography, but it often begins with browsing things that only border on pornography.

The Bible says that the eye is the gate to the soul. Matthew 6:22-23 says, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good then your whole being will be full of light." What you see is what you become. Every time you look at that screen in living, visual color at the movie, it goes off that screen and comes into the screen of your mind. It's in your subconscious.

In Psalm 101:3, David said, "I will set no vile thing before my eyes." If you're serious about victory in this area you're going to have to give up about 80% of the movies and shows that are out there today. The Bible says what you allow in the gate of your mind goes into your soul.

5. Minimize the opportunities for temptation. If you want to avoid a fatal attraction don't allow yourself in situations where it happens. Matthew 6:41 says, "Keep watch, and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Jesus said here keep watch and pray—two preventive techniques. Know the situations that tempt you, that get you off base. Are you aware of the things that trip you up?

What do you do if you're caught off guard? You pray. Right there on the spot. You say, "God, help me get out of this situation."

Choose the friends you have very carefully. I Corinthians 15:33 says, "Bad company corrupts good character." People who condone or encourage lust or make light of it are not your real friends. When you choose your close friends you'd better be certain that they're committed to faithfulness in their marriages or they'd better not be your best friends. Minimize the opportunity. It would be better to change jobs than to be unfaithful to your mate.

6. Magnify the consequences. Ask yourself with every temptation, no matter where it is or what level it is, "Is this worth it?" Temptation is incredibly short-sighted. There are enormous consequences to breaking God's laws. I have heard the hurtful cries and the damage that has been done, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and mentally. When we break God's laws we don't break them—they break us.  It always causes bitterness, guilt, disillusionment, strains in relationships, hurts, breaks fellowship with God, brings judgment on our lives. It's just not worth it no matter what society says. Magnify the consequences.

Also, magnify the consequences of running from the temptation and the benefits of doing so. James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under temptation, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor's crown, the life God has promised to those who love Him." The result of fleeing temptation is a crown in heaven.

If you've already experienced moral failure or are in the middle of one right now, there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Ask forgiveness, make amends, offer forgiveness to others, restore relationships, and run back to God. There is forgiveness, and the conscience can be cleared and clean. And always be about the business of preventing it from happening again by living under God's truth and grace.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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