Josh Duggar, Christian Celebrities and Misguided Choices of Idols

So here we go again. Another Christian celebrity is in the spotlight for something, and the Christian army is going to war to fight for him.

Josh Duggar, one of the “19 Kids and Counting” on TLC, was investigated in 2006 for inappropriately touching minors when he was a teenager. In Touch magazine reported it recently. It was all over Twitter. It was all over television. It was a big deal.

In a statement of response, Duggar said:

I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.

The response from the Internet was vitriolic, blasting Duggar, his family and TLC for covering it up. The network has since pulled the show from its schedule.

Of course, the Christians had to come save the day. Mike Huckabee, in a Facebook post:

Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.

There’s more, but I want to say what most people aren’t going to say about this. A couple things.

First, Christians betray their self-proclaimed “moral high ground” by supporting Duggar and bashing every other celebrity who does something bad.

The guy that comes to mind first for me is Justin Bieber. Oh how many Christians I’ve heard that have very negative things to say about Bieber and every other young guy that has made a fool of himself in public. “He’s a terrible role model for the children!” “What a shame and a disgrace!” When we get so defensive about Duggar and his actions and refuse to offer others the same type of second change we’ve given him, there’s an incredible hypocrisy.

And I think it’s a symptom of Christianity in general. If it’s a Christian who’s repented and their life has changed, it’s OK! He’s changed, so there’s nothing to worry about. But if the person is still in the middle of the issue, BASH BASH BASH. We refuse to let grace and the possibility of grace permeate every situation. We’re forgiving of Christians we agree with and unforgiving of everybody else. We hesitate to give the benefit of the doubt.

Jesus loves Josh Duggar just as much as he loves Justin Bieber, Robert Downey Jr., and Michael Phelps, all celebrities who have been in trouble with the law, whether or not they have professed any connection to Jesus.

Second, Josh Duggar is just like every other Christian out there. He’s messed up. And he still is. We shouldn’t idolize him.

A lot of the Christian blogosphere will probably tell you – and rightly so – that Duggar is an example of the power of Christ to change someone and that mainstream society just doesn’t get the Gospel. And they’re right.

But what they won’t talk about is that Duggar is a Christian who has done some bad things in his past and still does. I don’t know him. I’ve never watched the show. I’ve never thought twice about watching the show. OK, maybe I did once. But I’m pretty darn sure that he’s not the best poster child for Christianity. Here’s the thing: there is no poster child for Christianity except the one who lay in a manger over 2,000 years ago. That’s the problem when we prop up sinful people as our idols. Jesus is the only idol we should have.

As human nature, it seems that we are searching for people to look up to. That’s why we follow people on Twitter, buy their books, listen to what they have to say, watch their movies/TV shows/sermons/messages/music videos, etc. But our idols are often the wrong ones. And situations like this expose our flaws in choosing our idols. Can we look up to people? Yes. But we should never see any man as the pinnacle of Christian obedience. And anyone who paints themselves as such is lying.

So before you rush out to defend Duggar, please keep these things in mind. And maybe perhaps I don’t need to be so cynical. If he’s a Christian, he is forgiven. He is loved. He is a new creation in Christ. And the Gospel is so unbelievable to society that they do miss it.

But let’s try to treat everyone the same. Just like Jesus did.

A Better Possession and an Abiding One

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a BETTER POSSESSION AND AN ABIDING ONE. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done with will of God you may receive what is promised. – Hebrews 10:32-36

In his book Desiring God, John Piper points to Hebrews 10:32-35 as an example of having joy in the midst of trials. He talks about how the people mentioned here had joy despite being persecuted, thrown in prison and being stolen from. Piper questions if they were losers:

No. They lost property and gained joy! They joyfully accepted the loss. In one sense they denied themselves. But in another they did not. They chose the way of joy. Evidently, those Christians were motivated for prison ministry the same way the Macedonians (of 2 Corinthians 8:1-9) were motivated to relieve the poor. Their joy in God overflowed in love for others.

They looked at their own lives and said, “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (see Psalm 63:3). They looked at all their possessions and said, “We have a possession in heaven that is better and lasts longer than any of this” (Hebrews 10:34).

This passage has been hitting me hard the last couple of days. I’ve been in a situation where I’m dealing with some serious struggles, both publicly and privately, that have been stressing me out, giving me headaches and causing a lot of thinking. It’s hard for me to remember the phrase “a better possession and an abiding one.”

I keep losing sight of what I have a hope for in heaven. I let worldly troubles and earthly drama and hardship bog me down too much that I forget who I am.

Let’s unpack this Hebrews passage. The author says the hardships came after the Hebrews were “enlightened.” I found when I truly accepted Christ, things became more difficult. Life became harder because I started living with a different standard in mind, the Christ standard.

The word “standard” has two meanings. First, it’s a “level of quality or attainment.” Second, it’s “an object that is supported in an upright position,” specifically a military or ceremonial flag carried on a pole or hoisted on a rope. Likewise, I think the “Christ standard” has two meanings. First, it’s the banner we fly and we adhere to, our “Jehovah-nissi” (means “the Lord is my banner” in Hebrew). Second, it’s the level of holiness we should desire to attain.

When we make Christ our standard, our flag we fly when we are “enlightened” by the truth of the Gospel and the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it is our job to live and compare ourselves to the “Christ standard,” an unmatched level of holiness we are still called to adhere to.

As I was saying, life became harder after Jesus came into my life. I faced many “hard struggle(s) with suffering” (v. 32). I was mocked for my faith a couple times, struggled with sins that I previously had no problem with and became offended by things that didn’t normally bother me. Verse 33 says that the Hebrews were, “sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” When we are Christians, it is inevitable that we will face some kind of public reproach or disgrace unless we hide from the world forever.

That’s the life of a Christian. In 1 Corinthians 4:9, Paul says,

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, became we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.

If we are truly living out our faith, like the Hebrews who visited those in prison and “joyfully accepted the plundering of (their) property” in verse 34, we will be a spectacle to the world. When I think of spectacle, I think of a circus. People and animals do ridiculous things. Other people watch those things and laugh, cry, applaud, etc. The difference with Christians is that our spectacle may cause some to scoff, mock and make fun of us.

The Hebrews faced all of this. But they kept going! Why? They had a BETTER POSSESSION and an ABIDING ONE.

What is this possession? Look no further than 1 Peter 1:3-5, one of my favorite Bible passages:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

I could spend a whole other blog post unpacking these verses. I filled out around 7 or 8 full notebook pages with notes on these verses. The message is basically: we have an awesome inheritance through Christ, a salvation that leaves us in heaven with God when we die.

That is our better possession. That is an abiding possession, one that won’t go away; it’s imperishable, undefiled and unfading.

In his book The Slumber of Christianity, Ted Dekker writes about how Christians live their lives worrying about what’s going on at the time and forget about the great reward we have at the end. The 1 Peter passage above was discussed, but I want to pull a quote he uses from C.S. Lewis’ book The Weight of Glory:

Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We get distracted by trying to find pleasure here on earth that we forget the better and abiding possession we have in heaven. I’m not saying that earthly pleasures are worthless. They’re awesome, especially when they’re God-given and God-honoring.

But when things on earth don’t go our way, we should cling to the fact that we have something awesome waiting for us. That’s what the Hebrews did.

When things on earth don’t go our way, we easily lose confidence in ourselves and in God. The writer of Hebrews says to not throw that confidence away, it has a great reward! Regarding this verse, John MacArthur says, “They are closer than ever to the eternal reward, it is no time to turn back.” If you’re following Christ and facing ridicule for it, stay strong! It means your faith is being lived out and people are noticing. You are obeying Christ and doing His will!

Verse 36 is probably my favorite part of this passage.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may received what is promised.

That endurance gained through going through trials will be a huge help when going through other trials, and is a testimony to the greatness of Christ within us. There is great honor in doing the will of God. It’s obedience, what Christ asks of us. Plain and simple. When we do God’s will, we will receive what is promised: eternal life.

I want to come back to Piper for a second. Right after he talks about how the Hebrews looked at what they had and said they had a better possession, he quotes a poem (I think) by Martin Luther:

Let goods and kindred go/this mortal life also/the body they may kill/God’s truth abideth still/His kingdom is forever.

That kingdom is a better possession and an abiding one.

The Heart of the Contrite

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” – Isaiah 57:15 (ESV)

I was reading John Piper’s Desiring God this morning and was in a chapter about worship. He wrote in that chapter:

…because we are all sinners, there is in our reverence a holy dread of God’s righteous power. “The Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13). “I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you” (Psalm 5:7).

But this dread is not a paralyzing fright full of resentment against God’s absolute authority. It finds release in brokenness and contrition and grief for our ungodliness: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). (Desiring God, 86)

Then the Isaiah 57 verse popped up. Piper had quoted a part of it earlier and I had looked up the verse and been encouraged. Then he quoted the entire thing. Obviously this is an important verse, one that I needed to look at further.

My favorite part of the verse is “to revive the heart of the contrite.” The heart of the contrite is something the Lord will revive. In my Bible’s commentary, John MacArthur wrote, “After all the years of Israel’s sin and backsliding, and of Israel’s punishment, God’s grace will prevail and spiritual healing and revelation will come.”

The only way that our heart and mind can be revived after a pattern of sin and disobedience is for us to be genuinely contrite. The Hebrew word used for “contrite” is “daka’.” Other uses of the word in the Old Testament include “crushed” (Job 5:4, 6:9, 22:9). Possibly my favorite use of the word is Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

Jesus was “crushed for our iniquities.” His body was destroyed, His emotions were crumbling and His will was most assuredly shaken. Otherwise He would never have asked His Father to “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He was broken.

When we sin, we must be broken. We must honestly feel like a train has run over us spiritually and emotionally for God to revive us. Psalm 51:17, as Piper quoted earlier, says, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” We must be “broken and contrite and trusting in the Christ,” as Lecrae said in his song “Desperate.”

To do it honestly? We need to have the Holy Spirit working inside of us to feel that way. Our sinful flesh will not respond negatively to sin that “satisfies” or “pleasures” us, for “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

That same verse tells us that “the spirit is willing.” The Greek word for “willing” (which is prothymos) is only used in this verse, in the same story in Mark 14:38 and in Romans 1:15 where Paul tells the Romans that he is “eager to preach the Gospel” to those that are in Rome. Our spirit must be shaped by God’s will and be broken by the sin in our life.

Contrition is a conscious decision of our mind to feel bad or convicted about something, but our minds must be shaped by the Holy Spirit to truly feel it about our sin. In those circumstances, God will “revive the heart of the contrite.”

Working here at Snowbird this summer has taught be a lot about contrition. I’ve been broken about so much in my life that it gets to the point where I almost live in a state of contrition. While conviction and contrition are great things and necessary to be revived by God, we need to be accepting of His grace and salvation because we serve a loving and holy God who wants to use us. Even though we struggle with sin and go through numerous trials, they’re made to strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4) and encourage us to love him more.

God bless.

A Ransomed Soul.