rebelling against low expectations

What My Generation Can Learn From Moral Failure


“There goes another one,” I thought after I heard the news of yet another esteemed, conservative preacher falling from grace—or purity, rather.

“Is it even possible to become a well-known pastor or teacher and maintain your integrity, or do they all have skeletons in their closet?”

If you’re like me, it’s easy to become cynical when it seems like increasingly more preachers and teachers, either well-known or local, are continually being exposed of yet more despicable moral failures.

I would be a fool to stand up and arrogantly criticize these great men of God, as if I know any better how to maintain purity. To point out the error of their ways and pretend my feet are stable. Any of us who do this should, in the words of Paul, “Take heed lest we fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

The reality is the majority of those men probably understand better than anyone where they went wrong. The least helpful thing would be for another blogger to call them out and berate them for their mistake.

After all, it’s the kindness of God that leads people to repentance—it certainly was in my journey of overcoming pornography (Romans 2:4). Where church discipline comes in, I don’t exactly know, but I’ll leave that to the people actually responsible for the care of these men’s souls.

As I observe these “falls from grace,” it shakes me up quite a bit inside. I think it’s because I put myself in their shoes: Would I fair any better? If I were to become a pastor or an author, what would keep me from making the same mistakes?

More to the point, what can I do now to prevent myself from making those mistakes? Because I know me: I’ve seen my thoughts—and they freak me out.

Will we as a generation repeat their mistakes? Will we fall into all of the same holes they did because we didn’t learn the right way around them?

Is there a right way around them? Because, it seems to me, it’s the greatest teachers of strategy and promoters for purity who fall the hardest.

Surely Jesus died for more than this. Surely the Gospel and the grace and power of Jesus Christ are greater than the power of sin and death. Where is the victory?

And so, I’ve thought to myself “We need to develop self-control while we’re young. Then we will grow up a strong and vibrant generation.”

It makes sense: If we learn how to say “No” to all the wrong movies and music and restrain ourselves from too much food and dirty jokes, we’ll build self-control. If we commit ourselves to reading more Scripture in the morning and getting more exercise and maintaining better routines, we’ll build self-discipline. With self-control and discipline, we will be prepared to say “No” when presented with an opportunity to compromise our sexual purity.

“Self-control is the key,” I think.

But then I realize these Christians, these great preachers and celebrities, athletes and politicians are some of the most disciplined people in the church.

You don’t get through seminary by sitting around all day. You don’t become a renowned teacher and speaker without having a significant level of self-control and determination.

Yet great men with incredible self-control fail. Regularly.

Sin, at its core, is misplaced adoration. You only pursue what you most adore. What you adore is simply whatever you value most.

If pleasure is what you most value, then when presented with the choice to eat more food, you are going to choose what feels best until it stops feeling best (your stomach starts hurting, your friends start laughing, your money starts dwindling).

Similarly, if self-gratification is what you most value, then the temptation to lust—commit adultery—is going to eventually wear-down all the self-control you muster to guard yourself. This is because you’re adoring self-gratification more than Christ.

If you focus on the headlights of oncoming traffic, you’re going to veer towards them. If you want to drive in the right place, you have to look in the right place.

If sin is misplaced adoration—wrong focus—trying to avoid what you adore will merely drain your energy. Freedom from sin results from adoring Christ (looking in the right place). When you are satisfied ultimately in Christ, Satan’s temptation to find ultimate satisfaction in anything else loses power.

I don’t know exactly where the great men and women who fell went wrong. But I don’t think the problem was their lack of self-control. It goes deeper than that, way deeper.

Likewise, I don’t think purity and freedom for our generation will come from focusing on what “not” to do. Rather, the answer is found in focusing on and satisfying ourselves in Christ.

If we want to be a strong and vibrant generation, we must make God our ultimate. Everyday we must set our affections on him, delighting in His beauty, resting in our adoption as His children, adoring Him as entirely enough.

And by His grace alone, we will stand.

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About the author

Christopher Witmer

is the 24-year-old Editor-in-Chief for Originally from Northern Minnesota, he lives with his family in Los Angeles where they moved to plant inner-city churches. He loves sports, travel, and music, but his passion is writing for God and lifting high the name of Jesus through his writing.


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  • Thanks for the reminder, Christopher. I totally agree that these issues go way deeper than self control. We can always say that we would be able to control ourselves in certain situations but we don’t know until we get in one. Focusing on Christ and relying on Him instead of our own strength is what can get us through!

  • “Freedom from sin results from adoring Christ (looking in the right place).”

    This is some really helpful insight, Christopher. Thank you so much for writing. 🙂

  • Absolutely excellent article. You have been trained well.

    Psalm 119:9-16 How can a young man keep his way pure?By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you;let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart,that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord;teach me your statutes! With my lips I declareall the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delightas much as in all riches. I will meditate on your preceptsand fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes;I will not forget your word.

  • You’re very welcome, Camden.

    Excellent thoughts. Your point about fasting regularly is right on. Thanks for sharing! God bless you in your journey.

  • This is very insightful and reached me in a deep way. Thank you Christopher W. for shedding light on a very important subject 🙂

  • Wow – that is SO true!!!!
    This article managed to put words to something I’ve been thinking about for a while:
    “When you are satisfied ultimately in Christ, Satan’s temptation to find ultimate satisfaction in anything else loses power.”

    “I’ve seen my thoughts—and they freak me out.” yup…..and it’s only by looking at Jesus that I can manage to erase those worrying thoughts.

    When you look at Jesus, the light from Him becomes so bright that it fills your mind to the brim and spills out over the top…..and shines like a light for everyone to see – which is just what Jesus wanted us to do! 🙂

    Reading this article really helped me to refocus on this again – Thank You so much for writing, Christopher! 😀

    • Amen! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      And your welcome! I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Yup, focus on Jesus and temptations won’t look so good. But it’s not easy! It’s a battle. That’s why prayer is so important. To keep our focus on Jesus. Thanks for the article! It was encouraging! 🙂

rebelling against low expectations

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