In July 1969, Theodore John Conrad showed up for work as a bank teller in Cleveland. According to authorities, at the end of his shift, the then twenty-year-old stole $215,000 (the equivalent of $1.7 million today), stuffed it in a paper bag, and vanished.
Friday, the FBI announced that it had identified the man considered one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives. He had been living in Boston since 1970 under the name Thomas Randele. Investigators had chased tips in California, Hawaii, Texas, and Oregon. His case was featured on America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries.
Financial documents helped them finally identify Conrad. However, he had already died of lung cancer in May of this year at the age of seventy-one.
You may think you have nothing in common with Theodore John Conrad. You’ve likely never robbed a bank or lived under a fake identity. You’ve committed no crimes worthy of the FBI’s attention or national publicity.
But you and I are more like Mr. Conrad than we’d like to admit.
Could deer spread coronavirus to humans?
Veterinarians at Pennsylvania State University reported last week that they have found active SARS-CoV-2 infections in at least 30 percent of white-tailed deer tested across Iowa during 2020. Their study raises the urgent question: If the entire human population becomes immune to the virus, could deer then spread it back to us?
Scientists have not yet determined whether deer can actually transmit the virus to humans. However, since there are an estimated thirty million deer in the US, the answer is obviously vital.
Less obviously, the story also illustrates a vital spiritual principle.
Christians are a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have been “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). But the virus of sin in our fallen world can still infect us.
Paul spoke for believers everywhere: “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21).
When we yield to temptation, however, we don’t want others to know it. We want to maintain the façade of external godliness. Like Theodore John Conrad, we’re living under a false identity, projecting an image to the world that is untrue to our real selves. And like Mr. Conrad, we think we are getting away with our “private” sin.
All the while, we continue to serve God publicly. We stand for the unborn and against abortion; we stand for biblical sexuality and against LGBTQ activism; we stand for biblical purity and against pornography and prostitution.
So long as no one sees our hidden sins, no one needs to know.
But Someone does.
A fact you may not have considered
Scripture attests, “The eyes of the Lᴏʀᴅ are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). There are no exceptions: “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
You know this to be true already. But here’s a biblical fact you might not have considered.
In Romans 2, Paul states: “In passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (v. 1). The apostle does not mean that we have heterosexual affairs or commit homosexual sins. He means that we commit our own versions of the same sins we condemn in others.
For example, “You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (v. 22a). According to Jesus, lust is adultery (Matthew 5:28) just as pornography or sex outside of marriage is adultery.
Paul continues: “You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (v. 22b). Idolatry is putting creation in the place of the Creator. It is valuing money more than our Master, pleasure more than moral principles, and personal promotion more than glorifying God. If we steal God’s creation for ourselves, we “rob temples.”
Then, when our personal lives contradict the faith we proclaim, secular people feel justified in continuing in their sins and in rejecting our Lord: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (v. 24).
The vital question
In Zephaniah 1, we read of “those who bow down and swear to the Lᴏʀᴅ and yet swear by Milcom” (v. 5), the god of the pagan Ammonites. Commenting on this text, Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Duplicity is abominable with God, and hypocrisy his soul hateth.”
Then he added: “The idolater who gives himself to his false god has one sin less than he who brings his polluted and detestable sacrifice unto the temple of the Lord while his heart is with the world and the sins thereof.”
The great preacher concluded: “Christ will be all or nothing. God fills the whole universe, and hence there is no room for another god; if then he reigns in my heart, there will be no space for another reigning power. Do I rest on Jesus crucified, and live alone for him? Is it my desire to do so? Is my heart set upon so doing?”
The good news is that the Christ who reigns over the universe also lives in us by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we ask him to show us any secret sins in our hearts, he will do so (John 16:8). If we confess them and ask him to forgive us and cleanse us, he always answers our prayer (1 John 1:9).
For every follower of Jesus, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Now the Spirit will help us love Jesus so much that we hate sin. He will help us love our Lord so passionately that we want to please him privately and serve him publicly.
But our Lord can give only what we will receive (Revelation 3:20).
Here’s the vital question: Do you want to love Jesus so much that you love all that he loves and hate all that he hates today?
NOTE: It’s been encouraging to see how many have requested He Came to Change the World, my wife Janet’s book of daily Advent readings. But I must let you know that copies are going quickly, and I do not want you to miss out on being enriched by this resource. So please request He Came to Change the World soon. May God bless you through it this Christmas season.