Thoughts on Ravi Zacharias

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There aren’t too many people who are known simply by their first name. Ravi is one of them. He is gone now, but instead of leaving a legacy of great work, we are left with worse than nothing.

An independent investigation by the law firm, Miller and Martin, through sufficient interviews and examination of cell phone photos and messages, concluded that Ravi engaged in extended sexual misconduct. As Miller and Martin point out, though, we are left with only the prosecution’s case and do not have the opportunity to hear from the defendant. We do not know if there would be deep remorse and repentance from Ravi or rebuttals or open defiance.

It is of no value for us to detail those allegations here, nor is it my intent to heap more condemnation upon a dead man. If the allegations are true, then we are confirmed in our disgust of sin.

My desire, however, is to address us, the Body of Christ, and several things come to mind. Maybe I am mostly speaking to myself here. You are welcome to listen in:

  1. The Scripture is proven right again: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) Ravi was a gifted teacher and had a great impact upon many, including kings and princes. But his failure will bring it all to naught. Harper & Collins are pulling his books; radio stations have silenced his broadcasts; his ministry, RZIM, could well end up shutting down. Some people are writing and telling us that they will not use the Truth Project because Ravi is in them. Even though he is in a small fraction of the videos, a few minutes compared to thirteen hours, there are those who will be so disgusted with him that they will reject anything that he was associated with. These are some of the earthly “judgments”. We do not know what awaits him in heaven. We are told in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 that believers will stand before Christ to have our works tested by fire. The jewels will remain, but the wood, hay and straw will be burned up and such a one will “escape, but as through fire”. I will not be throwing away Ravi’s books, because there is much biblical wisdom there and I hope people don’t reject the Truth Project because the words he says, though relatively few, are spot on. But the Scripture warns us rightly. There are too many who want to be teachers. I have met them. My sense is that they want the significance of being a teacher more than the weighty responsibility of being a teacher. If you are such a one, beware. Not only must your teaching be right and true, but your life must be consistent. Of course, we all sin. But when we do, and we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, we repent and return. If you are walking a life of consistent sin and are unwilling to leave it, then for your sake and the sake of the Body of Christ, stop teaching! Leave the pulpit or the podium!
  2. There is danger here. If we are not careful, we can allow the devil to get a foothold and play havoc with our mind and heart and soul. He is the Accuser and he wants us to become little Accusers along with him, becoming skeptical of every teacher, every pastor, every husband. Is he playing havoc with you? Remember when Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed? It was the devil that came along and plucked up the good seed. Are you now wanting to pluck up the good seed that was sown by Ravi because his private life disgusts you? You will be in good company. Our culture is tearing down Abraham Lincoln statues because they have found negative things in his life. I adjure you! Do not give in to the Accuser’s wiles! If God were to strip any of us of the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness we would be found oozing with death sores. I say this not to excuse Ravi, but I say this to prevent you from giving in to the snares and schemes of the devil. I want to spare you from the sharp rebuke of our Savior to the self-righteous one who beat his breast and said “God, I’m glad I’m not like that sinner over there!” As Jesus said, if you exalt yourself by putting others down, you will be humbled. In Galatians 6, we read: “Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.” Ravi is dead, so we cannot restore him in a spirit of gentleness, but we can most certainly look to ourselves so that we are not tempted by the sin of self-righteousness.
  3. This leads us to comment on the danger of elevating man to positions in which they shouldn’t be placed. Jesus told us that the first would be last and the last would be first. We honor the king; we honor our parents; we give honor to our church leaders; but when we elevate people to positions such that we blindly follow them or become needlessly dependent upon them for that which we should be doing for ourselves, then we are in error. The vision we are trying to pass on in the Engagement Project is that God has entrusted the primary work of the Kingdom to the common Christian family. This is why He has graciously preserved and provided His Word to us; He has blessed us each with a rational, thinking mind and mouth; and He has come to dwell within His people, not just the clerics or the Ravi-famed of the world. Have you made yourself dependent upon leaders and teachers such that you don’t engage in your own study of the Word, praying for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to His teaching, wrestling with Him and engaging in rich dialogue with fellow believers immersed in His Truth? We have seen what happens in the earthly things when man becomes dependent upon the state and he loses his desire to be fruitful. This is not to be for the child of God who has been richly blessed with everything he needs to be a fruitful servant of the Lord.
  4. The Miller & Martin report stated that there were some in Ravi’s organization that raised questions of appearances of impropriety and Ravi “sent them to Siberia” so to speak. This should never happen and should never have been allowed to happen by either the Board or by anyone in Ravi’s organization. There were women who did things they shouldn’t have done because of the high place Ravi held. So, too, there were people in the organization that should not have allowed things to either slip by or be covered up because of the awe of a man. Do you lead an organization in which you demand such loyalty to yourself that others are in fear of being anything but a “yes man” to you? Are you part of an organization like this? Get out if you can’t speak the truth! We are blessed with a heritage of brothers and sisters who gave their lives rather than bend the knee.
  5. The Lord gave us two, yea three commands: Love God, love our neighbors, and love one another. The third is before us now. It is impossible to love one another without being in close fellowship with a small number of people. True love requires it. You can have the Hollywood gush “love” that says “O, I just love you all!” but it means nothing. If we are to carry out our Lord’s command, then we must be in a close enough relationship with fellow believers such that we can “confess our faults” and “admonish one another”. Almost every time we see a person of position fall, we find that they were in isolation in these terms. They did not have people close enough to them who could look them in the eye and say “you are wrong” or “you are in danger” or “you are being stupid!” Do you have that kind of close fellowship? If not, set your mind and will to do so. The Lord has commanded us to this and it is easy for the enemy to pick us off when we are running the race by ourselves. Even wolves and lions know this.
  6. Sin is deceptive. We live in a fallen world that has been turned upside down. The gravity of a fallen world pulls us toward death and decay. It also pulls us toward sin. It is therefore easier to sin than to resist. It is easier to fall than to climb. It is easier to give in and give up than to persevere. If you float in this world you will descend. To follow the Lord means you must fight and you must fight every day. I am frequently reminded of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia when Peter and Susan and the others would mount up every day on their steeds and ride off to battle, coming home at the end of the day, tired, sweaty, dirty, sore, yet filled with satisfaction having done battle for Right that day. As long as you and I are in this world, we are in a constant battle. I have often used the illustration of picturing yourself in your home at night and hearing someone shaking the front door knob or pounding the windows trying to get in. This is the constant pressure from the world. “Be sober! Be alert!” the Scripture warns, “For your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour!” (1 Peter 5:8) I suppose we ought to hang that on a sign on our bathroom mirror so that we see it every morning. Do not ever think that you can play around with sin. It will consume you and control you. If you think you can play with drugs and not be swallowed up in its addiction, you will be sadly mistaken. Think of sin the same way. If you are merely thinking of the sexual sin of Ravi, then you are foolish. Bitterness can consume you as well; so too worry and anxiety, self-righteousness, hunger for significance, love of money, gossip, video games, pornography, romance novels, victimism and blame, controlling, manipulating, etc. and etc. Treat sin as a flesh-eating virus. Abhor it. Run from it.
  7. Don’t lose sight of the Meta-Narrative of God. We are in a war on earth. Internally, the flesh is at war with the Spirit and the Spirit at war with the flesh trying to keep you from walking rightly. Externally, the world and the enemy are pounding you with enticing words or crushing rhetoric. The enemy wants you to either give up or give in. We live in days where it is easy to think he has won and he will tell you constantly that he has. But he is a liar and the father of lies. Yes, the enemy has taken down a servant of the Lord. But don’t let the enemy now multiply his spoils through this in you. Resist the temptation, on one hand to become a cynic or pessimistic or a skeptic, or on the other hand, to act self-righteous, sniff and hold your nose in the air, beating your breast as if you are better than the one who has fallen. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12) Learn from this. Keep the faith. Fight the good fight. Be humble. Seek the correction of a brother or sister. If you find yourself in sin, confess, repent and take up the fight again. This is the perseverance of the Saints.

May God grant us grace and mercy in these days.

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