Yesterday, I shared with you that our church body is reeling right now. If you missed that post, I hope you’ll click over and read that now.
One of our own, one of our respected leaders, has publicly confessed to hidden sin. We are reeling from the pain and sense of loss. How can one who appeared to follow God be leading a double life?
How can that happen?
Can he be recovered?
I’ve been grappling with these questions as we’ve been walking through this shocking event. Through these past few weeks since this has come to light, I’ve kept mentally returning to a story I read decades ago. It has run repeatedly through my mind. Before I share it with you, I need to give you the context for the story.
This may sound lame, but I’m a fan of reading old stuff. Really old stuff. When I was in college, I found a section in the library’s resource room that had several volumes of writings from the first 800 years of Church history. (You can read from these same volumes online by clicking here.)
Recorded in one of those thick volumes, is the story I’ve been thinking about. It’s a story of redemption. And redemption is what every painful event in our lives aches for.
After John the Apostle returned from his exile on Patmos, he was traveling through a Gentile area, appointing pastors to newly established churches. According to Eusebius, the aged Apostle left a young believer under the care of a new pastor before the Apostle left for Ephesus. The young man was immature in his understanding of God and wasn’t well established yet as a new believer. The pastor who was supposed to be discipling him relaxed his requirements on the young man and, after a season, he fell in with the “wrong crowd.” He tasted sin and began to develop a hunger and thirst for that lifestyle rather than for righteousness. At a certain point, he struggled some with conviction over his sin, but he believed he was beyond redemption and spiraled deeper and deeper into debauchery.
As the story goes, John the Apostle was making his rounds checking on the newly established churches in the area, when he came to the pastor who he’d left in charge of the young disciple. When John asked about the young man, the pastor told him the young man was “dead.”
I’m inserting a copied portion of the remainder of the story below:
But when he (John) said, ‘I demand the young man and the soul of the brother,’ the old man (the pastor), groaning deeply and at the same time bursting into tears said, ‘He is dead.’ ‘How and what kind of death?’ (John asked) ‘He is dead to God,’ he said; ‘for he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.’
But the Apostle rent his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation, he said, ‘A fine guard I left for a brother’s soul! But let a horse be brought me, and let someone show me the way.’ He rode away from the church just as he was, and coming to the place, he was taken prisoner by the robbers’ outpost.
John, however, neither fled nor made entreaty, but cried out, ‘For this did I come; lead me to your captain.’
The latter, meanwhile, was waiting, armed as he was. But when he recognized John approaching, he turned in shame to flee.
But John, forgetting his age, pursued him with all his might, crying out, ‘Why, my son, do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death as the Lord suffered death for us. For you will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ has sent me.’
And he, when he heard, first stopped and looked down; then he threw away his arms, and then trembled and wept bitterly. And when the old man approached, he embraced him, making confession with lamentations as he was able, baptizing himself a second time with tears, and concealing only his right hand.
But John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Saviour, besought him, fell upon his knees, kissed his right hand itself as if now purified by repentance, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church, furnishing a great example of true repentance and a great proof of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.1
What a beautiful picture of restoration. “A proof, a trophy of the visible resurrection” that is what I’m asking God to do in this young man’s life. May God’s redeeming power become so evident in bringing visible change—a new mindset, new heart, new way of living—that the watching world will see and the power of the gospel will be placed on full display.
Are you praying for a brother’s recovery?
Will you join me in praying for this one?