Rev. David Holwick
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
October 4, 1998                                          
                                                         Joshua 7:19-26

                     IT JUST TAKES ONE TO BRING US DOWN

  I. No one is immune.

      A. An exemplary pastor.

         Many people have been deeply impressed with the writings of a
            man called Gordon MacDonald.
         Billy Graham said of one of his books: "It struck me right
            between the eyes with conviction and I wish that I had
               read it many years ago."
         Another prominent Christian leader described him as "one of the
            most Godly men I have ever met."
         He was the pastor of the largest church in New England and
            taught at my seminary.
         He became the president of the Intervarsity evangelistic
            organization, one of the biggest in America.

         Then it came out.
         A sin from a few years previously was exposed, and MacDonald
            was forced to resign.
         The sin was adultery.
         Celeste was so shocked she has never trusted him since, and
            it's been over ten years.
         He was forced to step down as president of Intervarsity.
            It made most pastors aware of our own spiritual frailty.
         If this man, with all his much vaunted spiritual discipline,
            could fall so hard, then no-one was immune from danger, ever.
         Last week MacDonald appeared on TV with Tony Campolo, because
            both of them have been meeting on a weekly basis with
               President Clinton.
         Do you know how the commentator introduced him?
         "Gordon MacDonald, a leading pastor who was exposed after
             committing adultery."
         He will never live it down.
      B. Humans assume we can make an impact on society.
          1) History is largely the study of leaders.
              a) Everyone wants to get credit for good accomplishments.
          2) Sin can make an impact that's just as large.
              a) Hitler is only example needed.
              b) Many credit deep problems in their lives to an abuser.

      C. Will YOU cause someone to fall?
          1) Jesus says it would be better to tie a millstone around
                your neck and jump into water.                  Matt 18:6
          2) Take sin seriously.

 II. Such a small thing, really.
      A. God's clear instructions for destruction.                   6:17
          1) Herem - religious dedication of city to God, by destruction.
          2) No looting.

      B. Achan's subtle sin.
          1) He saw, he coveted, he took, he buried.                 7:21
          2) A small coat, a little silver and gold.

         After his fall from grace, Gordon MacDonald recalled an
            encounter with a friend that had taken place some time before:
         "My friend asked a strange question: "If Satan were to blow you
            out of the water," he asked, "how do you think he would do it?"
         "I'm not sure I know, I answered.
         "All sorts of ways, I suppose; but I know there's one way he
            wouldn't get me."
         "What's that?"
         "He'd never get me in the area of my personal relationships.
          That's one place where I have no doubt that I'm as strong as
             you can get."
         A few years after that conversation my world broke wide open.
         A chain of seemingly innocent choices became destructive, and
            it was my fault.
         Choice by choice by choice, each easier to make, each becoming
            gradually darker.
         And then my world broke - in the very area I had predicted I
            was safe - and my world had to be rebuilt.
      C. The resulting defeat.
          1) Israel's army trashed at Ai.                             7:5
          2) Not huge loss, but demoralizing.
          3) The Lord reveals the reason.                            7:11

      D. Finding the culprit.                                        7:16
          1) Narrowing the field, probably with casting of lots.
              a) (imagine how Achan was feeling - I know I'm not only one
                    - maybe they'll get caught first, take all the heat...)
          2) Achan's confession of guilt.

      E. Burn, baby, burn.                                        7:24-25
          1) Gathering of him, family, animals, possessions.
          2) Stoned by group.
          3) Burned to ashes.

III. Five principles on sin.
      A. A holy God cannot tolerate sin.
          1) One sin can make all the difference in the world.
              a) It made a difference for Israel.      (defeat)   
              b) It made a difference for Achan.       (death)
              c) It can make a difference for you.     (damnation)
          2) God does not "grade on curve," but on absolutes.

      B. Sin is never purely private.
          1) ISRAEL has sinned, THEY have stolen, THEY have lied.    7:11
              a) Yet Achan is only one to be revealed.
          2) One bad apple ruins the barrel.
              a) Reason - toxic gas is given off, encouraging rot.
              b) Same in churches.
              c) Unchecked sin by one person can pull everyone down.
          3) Private sin off-limits?  Not to God.                   22:20

             Lonely woman met widower at church, had an affair.
                She had no guilt or remorse.
             She confided in Tony Campolo, "He makes me feel wonderful
                about myself and I help to meet some of his needs.
                   Nobody's hurt.  Nobody suffers."
             "What about Jesus?" Campolo responded.
                Her sin causes him to suffer, even if no one else does.
          4) Danger of Clinton scandal.
              a) Many commentators have said his behavior is not an issue.
                  1> Only abuse of power or perjury really matter.
                  2> Effect could be that adultery becomes acceptable.
              b) James Dobson - the problem is all of us.
                  1> Our standards have slipped, we are unshockable.

      C. Secret sin is still sin.
          1) What are you hiding from others?
          2) What are you hiding from God?

      D. Sin will be found out.
          1) God can reveal it.                                 Num 32:23
              a) Gordon MacDonald and fling in hotel room.
              b) Ananias and Sapphira in book of Acts.
          2) Christians should expose sin.                      Eph 5:11
              a) Pastors harp on sin too much?
                  1> Maybe we harp on petty sins.
                  2> Sign of genuine church is concern for sin.
                  3> Becomes more harmful if allowed to go on.
              b) Duty of genuine prophets.                      Lam 2:14
              c) Be careful: Final judgment rests with God.     1 Cor 4:5

      E. Pain of exposure is better than pain of concealment.
          1) Should pain be avoided?
              a) Clinton - rip apart nation?  Hurt economy?
              b) Some argue church leaders should be exempt.
                  1> Bible says leaders set an example.
          2) Punishment is not most painful part of sin.
              a) It eats away at our soul.
              b) Even when hidden, it corrupts us and our relationships.
              c) A little yeast works through whole dough.    1 Cor 5:1-6
          3) Pain is inevitable, but healing can come.

                Matthew Dougherty was dying when paramedics sped his
                   limp body to the hospital emergency room.
                His fingernails and feet were blue.
                   Glucose dripped through a tube in his arm.
                A "coma cocktail" of glucose and Narcan, a narcotic
                   antidote given to unresponsive patients, had been
                      injected a half hour earlier - with no effect.
                The cause of the coma was a mystery until an anonymous
                   caller told them Matt had snorted heroin the night
                Dougherty's heart, liver, kidneys and lungs, starved
                   for oxygen, were damaged.
                Fortunately, these could heal themselves.
                   His brain could not.

                Today Matt, 24, is in a wheelchair.
                His eyesight, once 20/20, now requires glasses but he
                   still cannot read properly.
                He can converse normally and has begun to use a walker -
                   more than four years after the coma that finally
                      ended his drug use.
                "You can't tell an addict to stop.
                    They have to find out for themselves.
                 I thought I was invincible."
                After beginning with other drugs, at age 18 he started
                "Once you tried it, it set you free.
                    That's what we thought.
                 It made me feel like I didn't care, almost like a
                    bubble of protection around me...
                 It made me feel, 'Now I have found peace,' but in a
                    very fake way."

                The packet of heroin that sent Dougherty to the hospital
                   was emblazoned with what could have been a warning:
                      the word Satan, a brand name used by the dealers.
                His friend Joseph Loia's death from a heroin overdose
                   has helped put Dougherty's own tragedy in perspective.
                "I used to think, man, life is rotten.
                    I'm in a wheelchair, this is horrible.
                 Then I went to Joe's funeral and I thought: This could
                    be worse."
                And without alcohol or drugs, Dougherty is beginning to
                   feel in control of his life.

 IV. Here come de judge.
      A. Everyone is a sinner.
          1) Some just get more publicity.

      B. Sin is serious stuff.
          1) We tend to soft-pedal it.
          2) God's judgment.
              a) In this life (as Christians).
              b) In next life (if not).

      C. Judgment is not God's last word.
          1) Forgiveness is always available.
          2) Gordon MacDonald:
          "My perception is that broken-world people exist in large
             numbers, and they ask similar questions over and over again.
          Can my world ever be rebuilt?
             Do I have any value?  Can I be useful again?
          Is there life after misbehavior?

          "My answer is yes.
             That is what grace is all about.
          A marvellous, forgiving, healing grace says that all things
             can be new.
          The escape route from sin is Jesus.
             The wellspring of forgiveness is Jesus.
          The power to mend broken lives and set us on our feet again
             is Jesus.
          The one who can guard us against the devastation of sin is
      D. Come clean before it is too late.
          1) Achan was remembered by a pile of rocks.                7:26
          2) What will your life be remembered for?


#376, Internet:  Online Sermon entitled "Achan" by Rev. Jonathan Pryke,
        Jesmond Parish Church, dated 9/14/97.

#758, "Who Switched The Price Tags?" by Tony Campolo, page 35, 1986.

#4394, Daily Record Newspaper, Morris County, New Jersey; "Lucky To Be Alive,"
        by Jennifer F. Steil; page A-1; 10/1/98


These and 4,300 others are part of a database that can be downloaded,
   absolutely free, at

CATEGORY: Commitment, Hidden Sin, Haiti, (Achan)
TEXT: Josh 7:1,18-26, Matt 5:29F, 1 Cor 5:6F, Eph 4:31, Heb 12:1*, 1 Pet 2:1,
Jam 1:21
Number: 2070           Hard copy:
SOURCE: Leadership
TITLE: Total Commitment
AUTHOR: Dale A. Hays
PAGE:             DATE: 1983 Spring     Typist: ge        ENTERED: 4/27/92
: On a recent trip to Haiti, I heard a Haitian pastor illustrate to his
congregation the need for total commitment to Christ.  His parable:
A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000.  Another man wanted very
badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price.
After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the
original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one
small nail protruding from just over the door.

After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new
owner was unwilling to sell.  So the first owner went out, found the carcass
of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned.  Soon the
house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the
owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor's conclusion:  "If we leave the Devil with even one small
peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it
unfit for Christ's habitation."
CATEGORY: Guilt, Conscience, Sin, Forgiveness, Confession, Defeat, Hitler,
Sacrifice Of Jesus, Cross
TEXT: Col 2:13, 1 Jn 2:2, Isa 53:10, Isa 44:22, Ps 103:12, Ps 51
Number: 728            Hard copy: y
SOURCE: Faith - International Bible Society
TITLE: How Much Can God Forgive?
AUTHOR: Erwin W. Lutzer
PAGE: 8           DATE: 4/1/89          Typist:           ENTERED: 3/23/89
: Many Christians are defeated because they cannot get rid of guilt or feel
forgiven.  C.S. Lewis says Satan's strategy is to get Christians preoccupied
with their failures; from then on, the battle is won.
1. Christ's death on the cross was a sacrifice for all sins, past, present
     and future.
       (Even Hitler could be forgiven.  Billy Graham was asked this.)
2. The punishment for our sins has been laid on Christ.  We cannot be
     punished for them.
3. God does not become weary in hearing our confessions of sin.
CATEGORY: Fallen Leaders, Exposing Sin, Restoration, Repentance
TEXT: Gal 6:1, Jam 5:19, 1 Jn 5:16, 1 Tim 5:19
Number: 00417          Hard copy:
SOURCE: Biblical Evangelist
AUTHOR: Dr. Robert Sumner
PAGE: 8           DATE: 88/09/01        Typist:           ENTERED: 88/11/09
: Report of Truman Dollar's fall into sexual sin.  Refers to editorial in
June edition, page 8.  Quotes H. A. Ironside, "Better that 'the cause of
Christ' be disgraced before the world than that His people be permitted to go
on in sin.  God will vindicate His name in His own way and time."

Three reasons for exposing sin:
1. It's better for the cause of Christ.
2. It warns the unwary of having a "disqualified brother" in to preach.
3. They had exposed others like Bakker and Swaggart.

CATEGORY: Secret Sin, Hypocrisy, Exposed, Hidden Guilt, Arthur Conan Doyle
TEXT: Num 32:23, Ps 26:4, Matt 7:5, Matt 23:25-28*, Rom 2:16, 1 Cor 14:25,
Eph 5:11-13*, 1 Pet 2:1
Number: 2672           Hard copy:
SOURCE: James:  Faith That Works
AUTHOR: R. Kent Hughes
PAGE: 161         DATE: 1/1/92          Typist:           ENTERED: 6/19/94
: Christians should be unhypocritical.  Not fake.
        Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock
           Holmes mysteries, loved practical jokes.
        Once he sent a telegram to each of twelve friends.
        All were men of great virtue and respected in
        The telegram said, "Flee at once, your secret is
        Within 24 hours, the story goes, all twelve had left
           the country!
        There may be some playful exaggeration here, but the
           point is usually true that many people, including
              Christians, are not what they seem to be.

"Pastor Holwick's Sermons"

Copyright © Rev. W. David Holwick, 1998

First Baptist Church; Ledgewood, New Jersey

This document last modified December 4, 1998