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Recovering a Brother

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?

1 http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/early-church-fathers/post-nicene/vol-1-eusebius-pamphilus/eusebius-pamphilus/book-iii.html

4 Comments

  • Justin

    Hi Sister Kim,

    Thank you for sharing this resource and beautiful story of redemption. And YES, I will join you in fervent prayer for this young man, his family, and the church as he walks in repentance. As you probably know I have been an on-and-off reader of your blog since its development. Over the past several months this has been one of those off times, as I have been filling my time with other studies. A couple of weeks ago the Holy Spirit drew me back to your blog. I didn’t know why but I read and gleaned and even made a couple of comments. As I read your bogs concerning this young man (yesterday and today), I realize why The Lord drew me back to your blog. When I first heard of this tragedy like you, my heart was broken. I spent much time that evening with tears in my eyes praying, as I did all that I could to share the burden with this brother. My heart was broken because I have a huge burden for men caught in the bondage of immorality, because I have personally been there and have seen first-hand the devastation it causes. I know that you and Leroy intimately know the details of my personal situation, but for the sake of your readers, allow me to paraphrase the redemptive work God has done in my own life….

    Six years ago I kicked my wife out and began an adulterous relationship with a young lady that I worked with. I had just previously returned from a deployment to Iraq for 14 months and made the rash decision that I didn’t want the responsibility of marriage, or kids anymore. I had prepared a divorce and made arrangements for my wife to be served papers. After wallowing in my sin for several months, I didn’t know it at the time, but The Lord began to work on my heart. I returned to my wife as a “prodigal son” and she along with her family and church welcomed me home much like the prodigal son’s father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
    After returning home my wife and I attended a revival on March 28th 2008, where I solidified what God was doing in my heart and gave my life to Him. For a while there was a zeal in my life. I was active in church gleaning all that I could and applying His Word, but sin crept in again. As that passion and zeal faded and the reality that “Christian life” is not a synonym for “easy life” I began to fade back into sin and give myself over to internet pornography. For at least two years I lived the “double life”, with a deep dark secret sin. I was wonderful on the outside, praising God, raising my hands in church, listening to Christian music, going to bible studies with other men, all of the things a good Christian should do. But I had secret sin in my life and at the time didn’t even realize the devastation it was causing. I knew it was wrong, and a thousand times I confessed, repented, and told the Lord “no more”, only to return to my sinfulness. A little over a year ago my world was turned upside down, and again I was contemplating divorce. During that time my wife asked me about my purity and after initially lying I confessed to my wretched filthiness.

    This would be a sad story if it had ended there. But, I have shared all of this with you to tell you that victory is possible through Jesus. After confessing to my wife, the Lord led us to reach out to our church and seek council. I then walked through an “overcomers at home” program through Pure life ministries. Victory did not come easy, and it did not come the day I confessed, or even the day I began the Pure life program. In fact I was caught by my wife viewing pornography after completing three weeks of the program. Redemption does not come in a day. But only as you walk faithfully with the Lord in repentance daily He will free you from the bondage of your sin and remove the sinful desires as he gives you a new heart and transforms your mind. The Lord has given me two scriptures that I embrace daily as I continue to walk in purity:

    “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3)

    “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

    There is hope:

    My wife has stood beside me faithfully as I bumbled through life learning lessons the hard way and I am thankful for her loyalty not only to me, but to the Lord. She has been a pillar of forgiveness even when the pain was visible in her eyes and through the tears she never gave up on me. Nowadays I guard my purity by taking every thought captive, and then dragging the beast out back and shooting it! We, as a family have implemented safe measures regarding internet usage in every faucet of our lives and are careful to confront the enemy when he raises his ugly head.

    We have now been married for 13 years and for the first time I feel as though we are in a home build on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. I am currently pursuing a degree in biblical and theological studies through Liberty University and praying about God using me and my family to fulfill the Great Commission in pastoral ministry. I have a heavy burden for two things: Purity, and discipleship, and feel that I have been called to share my testimony and spread the good news of the gospel.
    Kim, embrace this young man for me and please let him know that he is loved much, and that he is being prayed for diligently all the way in Alabama. The walk ahead of him will not be easy, but it will be rewarding. I have every confidence that Jesus can take this messy season of this young man’s life, and turn it into a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, bringing Gods people into a deeper love of Him. The world is desperately in need of a spiritual awakening concerning the importance of purity.
    “It is not weakness to acknowledge the daily safeguards that you must implement in order to protect you from your flesh – it is wisdom!” (Dr. Ben Gutierrez, Living out the Mind of Christ)

    What a Savior!!
    -Justin

  • Vivian Etherington

    What a wonderful story of pursuit and real love for the sake of Christ! You know I am praying! CanNOT get you and him off my mind! May the power and glory of God be evident! Also, much comfort and grace.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Justin ~

    Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I know many people will find great encouragement from reading how God has worked to bring freedom and redemption for His glory! I’ve shared your comment with several people already and think it will be beneficial for those who are struggling with this right now. Thank you so much for your prayers, we greatly appreciate it ~