Stones, some as large as a pickup truck, lay broken in multiple pieces at the foot of the mammoth wall before me.
It is no wonder the disciples, awestruck and fascinated as they exited the temple, could not get over the size of these stones, turned to Jesus saying, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mk. 13:1)
I remember the overwhelming impression as we stood before the only remaining wall of the Jewish temple, built by Herod the Great. The same stones which captured the eyes of the disciples…now captured mine.
On this day, however, I was standing not in the front, but on the backside of this world-renowned wall. On the back side of this wall, there was no noise or crowds. Several chipmunks scurried about looking for remnants of food left by tourists. A crow squawked from the ledges of the enormous wall. Indeed, the stones and the wall were impressive—even some two-thousand years later.
Impressive as it was, Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple which would occur some thirty-seven years later. Jesus said, “Not one stone would be left upon the other.” So it was, except for one section of wall—the Western wall.
History records that when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans in 70 CE., the Roman commander instructed his soldiers to topple these massive stones and execute absolute destruction of the temple—except for one section. Why let one section of wall remain? This was the warfare of which the Romans excelled in—brutal psychological cruelty to ensure their enemy would never forget what they once had. This remnant of wall would forever speak, or perhaps weep and wail, psychologically taunting them of what once was—is no more.
Today, this wall hears daily the wails of the many who stand before it.
Should those massive stones yet solidly held in the wall speak, I suppose they would have much to say.
Might the toppled stones, laying broken at the foot of the wall for the past two-thousand years also have something to say?
A number of years ago, Shirley and I were invited to hear Ravi Zacharias speak at Messiah College. The large gymnasium was filled to capacity. An energetic crowd, with standing room only, awaited the world-renowned apologist and preacher to grace the platform. Like many, I deeply appreciated the ministry of Ravi Zacharias. Ravi was truly a world-renowned, gifted apologist. His ability to preach was a such unique gift which seems to grace our world once every few decades. That night at Messiah College, as he preached, I was deeply touched by Ravi’s compelling presentation of the Gospel. I remember thinking, I wish I could preach like that.
What has been disclosed in recent weeks from RZIM regarding the late Ravi Zacharias’ personal life is nothing short of gut-wrenching. Moral impropriety and blatant sin, initiated and covered up by Ravi, went unchecked for decades and occurred repeatedly across the globe.
Only two months before, November 2020, 41-year-old Carl Lentz, the celebrated “hypepriest” who planted the first Hillsong church in the United States, also fell as a result of moral indiscretion.
What on earth is going on?
In 2006, I attended a week-long pastor’s conference at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Moody President Michael Easley shared a comment which is forever burned in my memory. At the onset of his ministry, Easley started keeping a list of names written in his Bible. The list was made up of great pillars of faith who fell from ministry as result of moral or ethical failure. Every time he opened his Bible, this list coldly stared at him and served as a reminder of his own vulnerability and capacity to fall. Sadly, he said, every year a few more persons were added to the list. By 2006, the list included forty-two names. I wonder how many names are written in the cover of his Bible today.
“Look teacher, what massive stones, what magnificent buildings.”
How easy it is to focus on the stones or to become mesmerized by the building and forget the One standing right beside us.
Jesus clearly instructed us to not put our faith in the stones nor behold the beauty of the building. Such things will tarnish, rust and topple.
As it is with stones, so it with people.
So, what do we do with the hurt, the pain, the disappointment, and the betrayal felt as a result of celebrated spiritual superhero Ravi Zacharias, who, by all appearances, lived a double life for decades? Do we discard his many books and purge our libraries and memory of all his contributions?
Perhaps the answer to this question is deeply personal and best determined by the conscience of each person. I ponder several authors, yet, on my bookshelf from fallen pastors and theologians such as Bill Hybels, Bart Ehrman, and John Howard Yoder. Each, whose name, like Ravi Zacharias, would be added to Easley’s growing list.
On who, on what are our eyes fixed?
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Lk. 17:20-21
A caution remains abundantly clear: Do not place faith in a personality or a system. Do not declare “Here it is,” or excitedly point, “There it is.”
So, the fact remains, the Kingdom of God begins and ends with me and what is going on within me.
The Kingdom of God begins and ends with you and what is going on within you.
Is the Kingdom of God flowing from within ?
While working in the marketplace and in ministry, my beautiful bride of thirty-six years has steadfastly and unapologetically held three reminders before me to avoid pitfalls and snares of the enemy:
- Do not become full of yourself.
- Be brutally accountable to someone.
- Fear and avoid those who fear and avoid accountability.
Can a life lived faithfully to the glory of God be as simple as implementing these checkpoints? At the end of the day, these above mentioned fallen pillars failed one, two, or all three of these simple checkpoints.
Frankly, we do not need more names to add to a list as evidence of the capacity and bent of the human heart. What we do need, however, is the courage to name and own our vulnerabilities and vices and boldly raise up a standard against it.
It begins by fixing our eyes—not on the massive stones, but on the One standing beside us.
When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him. Is. 59:19