Ravi Zacharias was a fiercely intelligent and highly- respected evangelist, apologist, and eloquent defender of the Christian faith before audiences worldwide. As he lay dying of cancer last spring, however, dark secrets began to emerge about his life while he traveled alone to his international speaking engagements.
One by one, women who had been sexually exploited and abused for years by Zacharias came forward. Their stories revealed that this eminent figure had long been leading a carefully-concealed double life.
Ravi’s actions in secret did untold damage to his victims and his family. They shook all those who had heard him and respected his work. His conduct not only earned him, posthumously, the Scarlet H of the Christian world—hypocrite— it cast doubt on the message he proclaimed in the minds of many.
Tragically, this gifted man failed to apply a simple but profound truth: the Christian life can only be lived by faith. Just as we could never be right with God by our own efforts, neither can we live the Christian life in our own strength.
Believing in Jesus is the beginning of a life changed by God from the inside out. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, exchanged His perfect life for our broken one when He died in our place on the cross. As Jesus was raised from the dead, so He gives everyone who believes in Him new life now.
The apostle Paul sums up this truth beautifully: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)
We receive Jesus as Lord through faith: that’s the ONLY way we can live out the new, changed life He gives us. Those strong impulses to engage in sin— selfish, manipulative behavior— still exist in every follower of Jesus. We will be quickly overwhelmed if we view Christianity as a performance standard. We deceive ourselves if we think God’s forgiveness grants us license to live in self-indulgence.
Does this mean Ravi wasn’t a Christian? Of course not. He was a brilliant man who forgot God changed his life for a good reason, and Jesus alone provides the ability to live that new life.
Only God can give victory over any sinful habit or addictive behavior. When we turn to Jesus in faith and turn away from our failure and self-effort, that’s the starting point for real change. We’ve all been dismayed by our own failure or disillusioned by the conduct of others. But trusting in Jesus and living each day in His strength will not result in disappointment.
Don Baumann is Outreach Pastor, Hilltop Community Church.