I'm still midprocess, but wanted to share thoughts on what God is teaching me. This week, I read that the President of our family of churches was voluntarily stepping down for a season of discipline and restoration because of sins of pride, sinful judgement, lack of submission to accountability, and even spiritual blackmail. We were assured this has been a year and 1/2 long process and he had already been restored to many he had wounded in his sin, but is stepping down to help healing personally and in Sovereign Grace Ministries as a whole. One (godly) man compiled 600 pages of documents of accusations and emails that he sent to CJ and that were posted online. I read through much of it as I grieved and wondered what this means for the church we've loved these past 6 months and our family.
Andy and I prayed. I cried. And then I poured over websites of hurt former members and the official documents. They were written personally to CJ and I admit it felt wrong to read them, but I continued reading all night long. Somewhere in the midst of the final document, I realized I wasn't concerned for CJ, known in our circle as the "humble Pastor", or even the people hurt by his pride. I was reading just hoping that the Pastor I had loved and cherished for years (Josh Harris, CJ's disciple) was not fallen as well. Woh.
God so gently revealed a deep sin in me. At some point, I stopped just being thankful for a Pastor who God had used (we attended Covenant Life Church whenever we visited family and supporters in DC) to renew my love for Him and His Word and revived my weary heart. It became more- I have been following man, not God. Josh Harris became my idol. And I had a pride in our family finally becoming a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries, who I had deemed the best churches. What horrible pride and idolatry. And it came out as I read about CJ's very public confession and accusations of his sinful pride.
A passage God used to reveal this depth of sin- "All men are like grass and all their glories like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord stands forever." I have always thought of celebrities when I read this. Some people just seem like really pretty flowers. They just stand out beautifully and we fall in love with them as a culture. This is exactly what I've done with Pastor Josh. He just shined as this really sparkly flower: solid, humble, and with an incredible ability to point to Jesus. Ironically, I admired the pretty, but fading flower and have missed the Creator. I have set "part of" my hope away from God and to a godly man instead. I'm bawling as I type because I long to love Jesus with my whole heart and life and I'm finding myself surprised by how quickly I turned from Him. I proudly believed I was above idolatry. I'm not. Ouch.
I cannot begin to share in one post how sweetly God has forgiven me and is lavishing grace and rest on me. I'm studying 1 Peter 1 this week with my bible study ladies (hence the "flowers fading" passage striking me) and verse 7 jumped out to me. God uses trials to test the genuineness of our faith. If sin is present in those who are His, the fire will reveal it. This is exactly what has happened to me. It's revealed. I have painfully confessed my sins to Andy, and some trusted friends, and now I'm posting here. I believe God has revealed them because He wants my hope to be "set fully" on Jesus- our living hope (1 Peter 1:13). He doesn't want my heart divided, but pure and full in Him alone.
"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright."- Proverbs 14:9I'm thankful for CJ's public confession and for this whole process it's started in me. We've been continuing to pray for those who have been directly and indirectly wounded by CJ. We've been praying for his family, for Covenant Life Church, for so many in other SGM churches, and for our own local church as we begin looking to our own sins and confessing to one another. We're praying for healing and restoration. And we're encouraged by a few really awesome steps we've seen already take place:
1) Larry Tomczak, the man CJ spiritually blackmailed and hurt by his sinful actions (in the 90s) wrote an incredible letter sharing his forgiveness of and full restoration to CJ and shared how CJ met with his wife, son, and in laws as well. It was an incredible picture of the work God does to restore all that our sin has destroyed!
2) Our local Pastors shared everything in detail on Sunday, offered to meet personally with anyone who wants to talk through deeper, and did not make light of sin and repentance. I'm thankful they were so open and vulnerable and praying that may become a normal practice in our church.
3) Josh Harris (yes- the very idol of my heart God is lovingly taking from me) shared a very timely and needed sermon on God's discipline in light of all the church is experiencing with CJ's sins revealed.
I'm reminded how deeply sin wounds. And yet, I'm coming through this with such a greater picture of how God redeems and how freeing it is when sins are confessed and healing can begin.
May we be people who humble ourselves, set our hope fully on God's grace, and seek restoration.