Fighting The Temptation To Call Out 13 Year Old Sins, Or Christian Illusion Tricks

John James, formerly of the Newsboys, who had a less than glamorous exit from the band.

So, as usual, I’m super behind on the times. I still haven’t seen The Matrix. My cell phone isn’t smart (though it is tough and survived being frozen in snow for 6 days). And I just found out recently that the wildly famous Christian band had a singer before Peter Fuler (who has since been replaced by Michael Tait).

That man, John James, left the band in late 1997. It was announced he was returning to their homeland of Australia to start a preaching ministry. That wasn’t what happened, and it’s not because it fell through. The whole preaching ministry thing –  it was a bold-faced lie. The kind of lie that had no truth clinging to it, not even a thread.

 As it turns out John James was a strung out alcoholic, and the band knew it (though it took ‘em awhile to catch on). He had been living the rock lifestyle – drinking in the morning, performing intoxicated, sleeping around – so he obviously had the leave the Newsboys. Since the reasons were incredibly embarrassing to a popular religious band – they lied, saving their good name (and ministry, and the money that came along with it).

There’s a fascinating interview that exposed all this – and which almost inspired a couple of different rants (the band was making a LOT of money). And truth be told I nearly condemned the Newsboys for lying about why John James left – but why bring up 13 year old sins? That’s just being judgmental.

So instead of pointing out all the mistakes (which is about as helpful as apologizing years after blowing something up) I want to gleam something else. I understand why the band lied so outright – they didn’t want to show they weren’t perfect Christians. 

Of course every preacher in the world has denounced the idea that Christians aren’t perfect, and that God doesn’t expect us to be, yet we all fall for the idea just as hard as falling in love.

Christianity is founded upon people radically meeting Jesus and being transformed. Paul, of course went from persecuting Christians to being one of them. Jesus is the God of the turn-around, the 180, dramatic conversion. I think we fear that if we show we aren’t perfect (or even worse, that we have big gaping flaws) it calls into question whether we have been transformed – whether we are even a Christian.

And since religion is so easily diverted into legalism, we hide behind being good and not committing Technicolor sins (drinking, smoking, cheating – which is really funny in the most non-humorous way because Christians get into these all the time).

So let’s all calm down and realize that when we met Jesus it merely began a work in us – he didn’t finish it. And let’s remember that whole strength in weakness thing, which is one of those backwards truths that we have difficulty believing. This is why Jesus seemed to call the sinner, because the religious people were off being white-washed tombs. As it turns out, the temptation to make ourselves appear perfect is still alive and well today.

Everything doesn’t have to be fine if you’re a Christian – if anything Christians join with the suffering of the world and things shouldn’t be fine. Human beings learn from struggle, and its difficult to learn from people who aren’t experiencing any.

A God who demands pefection and for his people to be speckless? That sounds like every other relligion in the world, going back to the cavemen. You know what kind of God I can believe in? A God who gives permssion for his followers to be people who struggle, still screw up and don’t get it right. That’s the kind of thing that will catch on and ignite hearts.

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10 Responses to Fighting The Temptation To Call Out 13 Year Old Sins, Or Christian Illusion Tricks

  1. Amanda says:

    Agree except for the last para. God does expect us to be Holy as He is Holy… It’s just that He MAKES us holy by seeing us through Christ.

    But I really like the distinction you make between God beginning a good work and having finished it.

    • thanks Amanda – as I note in my reply to David I don’t do a great job of communicating how God wants us to be holy but at the same time doesn’t freak out on us and shun us when we sin.

      But I definitely think that the idea of meeting Jesus radically in our minds suddenly becomes “totally and utterly cured” – when as I said Jesus’ work has only just begun in our hearts.

  2. David says:

    Great blog, Charlie! I think the missing link between the blog and your last paragraph is this: when we really know God and love him, we will want to please him by doing as he asks. When our Christian walk is about being obedient to a rule book, it will never work, nor make sense. So many of us see holiness as something we do, when it is something that God gives us; it becomes a desire.

    There is a lot of talk about the flesh and the Spirit, but God made this much easier then I have heard it preached. The new man is not at war with the old man. As there is spirit and flesh, there are two realities. We simply need to let the new man out, and in the process, the old one dies. It is not a war, but a choice that is easy to make for those that are intimate with Jesus.

    Dear I say that in America we have so many comforts and so much entertainment that we don’t need to think about this choice? I think I can.

    BTW – I am often disappointed by the Christian music scene, however; one of the coolest Gospel messages I ever heard came from the bass player of the Supertones.

    • I have difficulty communicating that we are to be a holy people, yet it’s not as though God condemns us when we fall short.

      I’ve been trained all my life to “strive” for holiness, to try to obtain it – not once did I ever hear it described as a gift. I’d like to explore that more.

      Oh how freedom and comforts are so enslaving…

  3. Su says:

    It’s like we all know in our heads that we are all screwed up, and the next person is just as imperfect as me, and yet… we hold ourselves & each other to such high expectations. No wonder people are afraid to let their guard down, when they think they are the only ones struggling with sin! I don’t have a solution, unfortunately, but the problem definitely exists. 😦

    • Letting our guard down is opening yourself up to shame, judgment and condemnation – and who in their right mind wants to invite that? Yet mysteriously its in opening ourselves up that we can indeed improve.

      We are only as sick as our secrets – I think about that on a weekly basis.

  4. jay @ bethegospel says:

    First off I loved the Newsboys growing up. Going Public is one of my most favorite albums every. These days they are no longer the Newsboys, they are DC boys, nothing close to the former.

    So I’m slightly confused. Are you upset with John James or the boys for what they did. Or are you defending them cause they felt like they had to hide behind a perfect persona? I’m not trying to start a fight, i’m just trying to understand what all you were wanting to say.


    • good question – I wasn’t trying to make a statement about whether or not I agreed with them lying about John James, but I can see how you’d be confused especially since I spent so much time talking about them – I was merely using them as an example of how we all feel this impulse to look perfect and redeemed around other Christians.

      I can definitely understand why they lied to cover their public persona, and I think most people/bands in that situation would do similar things, but I just have a difficult time with, well, lying.

      I also really wasn’t looking to condemn the newsboys for something that happened over a decade ago. We do this forgiveness thing ’round here!

  5. Pingback: Who Will Call Out The Christian Merchandise Industry, Or I Still Probably Won’t Quit | Charlie's Church of Christ

  6. I had absolutely no idea that this ever happened with the Newsboys. Always something to learn.

    I’ve got no condemnation at all for them. It’s sad that they didn’t feel they could tell the truth, but the only hope that any of us have is in the forgiveness for our sins through the death of Jesus. That’s definitely the only hope I have.

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