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Bringers of that good news

By Thurman Hayes

In last week’s column, I was making a point about the sacrifice and selflessness that is often demonstrated by those who serve in the military. Military men and women are trained to put others first and to place themselves in harm’s way to protect others.

To make this point, I quoted from an article in The Wall Street Journal, written by a former Navy SEAL. What I did not know was that this particular person has a rather tarnished reputation in the SEAL community. I had no idea that serious character issues have come up in the life of this man. The quote that I used was good and inspiring. Yet had I known about these issues in his life, I would have chosen to quote someone else.

This whole issue got me thinking about something I’ve been wrestling with. Over the past year, several men that I’ve looked up to in ministry have failed morally. They’ve betrayed their spouses and engaged in behavior that is antithetical to the message they preached.

Each of these heartbreaking situations was a blow to me. Obviously, it was not as painful for me as it was for their families, but it was a blow nonetheless. These men had taught me so many wonderful things. I looked up to them. How was I to make sense of the fact that a true message was coming from a compromised messenger?

Here are a couple of things I’ve thought about, that I would like to commend to you:

First, we must all keep a close watch on our hearts. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” There is a reason God commands us to guard our hearts. He knows our hearts are deeply flawed. They are prone to wander, prone to distraction, prone to selfishness and prone to sin.

On top of that, there is a supernatural enemy who desires to take us down and out. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.”

Second, we have to separate the true message from those who bring it. Sometimes, we Christians can get lazy with our language in talking about the gospel. I’ve heard believers talk about “being the gospel” or “showing the gospel.” I know what they mean: They are talking about living in such a way that our lives point to the good news of Jesus.

But friends, our lives are not the good news of Jesus. Thank God! The gospel is about Jesus, not us. It is the news that he died for sinners like you and me, and rose from the dead so that we can have forgiveness and eternal life. It is about His work on our behalf, not our work on His behalf.

You are not the good news. I am not the good news. We are merely bringers of that good news, and hopefully our lives won’t undermine the message we bring.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.