Robert Morris, Tony Evans, and the path to spiritual victory

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Robert Morris, Tony Evans, and the path to spiritual victory

June 18, 2024 -

Man holding bible. By narawit/

Man holding bible. By narawit/

Man holding bible. By narawit/

Bryson DeChambeau’s faith has been making headlines since he won the US Open on Sunday. The same is true for Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla after his team won the NBA Finals last night for an unprecedented eighteenth time. (If someone had to defeat my Dallas Mavericks, I’m glad it was him.)

However, other headlines in the world of public faith have been anything but positive.

Before resigning on Tuesday, Robert Morris was the senior pastor of Gateway Church in the Dallas area, one of the largest churches in the country. He now stands accused by a woman of sexually abusing her from when she was twelve years old until she was sixteen.

A statement posted to X by the church’s executive pastor said Morris “has been open and forthright about a moral failure he had over 35 years ago.” According to the statement, his restoration process was closely administered by church elders and included professional counseling. Morris also made a statement to the Christian Post after his church was asked about the allegations.

Dr. Tony Evans, the highly respected pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, also made headlines with his recent announcement that he was stepping down from his pastoral duties for a “healing and restoration” time.

He told his congregation, “The foundation of our ministry has always been our commitment to the Word of God as the absolute supreme standard of truth to which we are to conform our lives.” He added: “When we fall short of that standard due to sin, we are required to repent and restore our relationship with God. A number of years ago, I fell short of that standard. I am, therefore, required to apply the same biblical standard of repentance and restoration to myself that I have applied to others.”

Dr. Evans wrote: “While I have committed no crime, I did not use righteous judgment in my actions.” He is therefore submitting to a restoration process established by the church elders to afford him “a needed time of spiritual recovery and healing.”

“The church is full of hypocrites”

I have never met Robert Morris and do not know any more about the allegations against him than has been reported. I have been on a few platforms with Dr. Evans and introduced him once to an event in Dallas; however, as with Pastor Morris, I do not know any more about his recent announcement than has been reported.

Here’s what I do know: both issues, whatever they were, took place many years ago. And yet both are now in the news.

One reason is obvious: the past failures of Christian leaders can be relevant to their present ability and credibility to do ministry. In this sense, the media is doing its job by reporting the news so that those who might be affected by it can respond accordingly.

A second reason for such headlines is less redemptive: stories get published because media professionals know what people want to know. And we are drawn to stories about the failures of Christian leaders in part because we can use their failures to excuse our own. We feel justified in rejecting uncomfortable truth claims if their ambassadors do not live up to their message.

We say “the church is full of hypocrites” when we don’t want to go to church, even though our attendance would only add one more to the mix.

Private sin never stays private

None of this excuses Christian leaders from failing to live up to the standards they promote. In fact, the opposite is true.

We should remember that private sin never stays private and that the enemy will use our failings as publicly as he can to damage as many people as he can. If we think we’re “getting away” with sin, that’s probably because Satan is biding his time until revealing our sin can do even greater harm to the cause and body of Christ.

We can certainly confess our sins and be forgiven (1 John 1:9), but their consequences remain. We can and should ask others to forgive us (Ephesians 4:32), but forgiveness (in the sense of pardoning or choosing not to punish) is a gift we receive, while trust is a privilege we earn.

All this to say, the next time you face temptation, stop to consider the worst possible outcome this sin could produce. Then know that Satan intends at least this, if not far worse than you can imagine. Because he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), he is willing to offer apparent pleasure or gain only if he knows he can leverage it into far worse pain or loss.

How to “unify our inner lives”

The key is to live every moment of every day in the presence of Christ and for his glory.

A. W. Tozer wrote: “One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace that the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas—the sacred and the secular.” His solution to spiritual fragmentation is simple:

“The knowledge that we are all God’s, that he has received all and rejected nothing, will unify our inner lives and make everything sacred to us.”

Jesus could say of his relationship with his Father, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Then he promised that we could do the same: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31–32).

Will the truth “set you free” today?

Tuesday news to know:

*Denison Forum does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in these stories.

Quote for the day:

“Do not seek to empty your cup as a way to avoid sin, but rather seek to fill it up with the Spirit of life, so there is no longer room for sin.” —John Owen

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