Please pray that you don’t become too familiar with the word around which I am framing this post.

There is a kind of darkness far worse than major depression. “Oh Lord, use my reflections on this one alarming word to keep us out of that darkness.”


The Heart of the Matter

There’s a word for the person who puts too much trust in his or her own heart and its inclinations.

A best-selling author assures men that after they put their faith in Christ, they can “trust their hearts.”* That’s his way of motivating men to reach their potential for Christ, to grab the reins of winsome leadership in their homes and churches, to dream big for God.

Oh, how I wish he had qualified his words.

When I read the book, I scribbled “No!” in the page margin. Why did he neglect what Proverbs 28:26 says? “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” Why didn’t he pay more attention to Proverbs 4:23? “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Keeping my heart carries the idea of guarding it. Am I the only one who has experienced the grave consequences of trusting his heart?  If I could trust my heart, why would I need to guard it? Yes, God’s Spirit may tuck a plan or a dream into a converted man’s heart that requires follow-through. God seeks men who’ll go all out for their Savior. But that doesn’t negate the truth of Jeremiah 17:5, which applies to women as well as to men: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Unreservedly trusting my heart reveals a flippant view of the foes I face on a daily basis: the world, the flesh and Satan.

What is this troublesome word?

There’s a word for the Christian who isn’t convinced that the potential for heinous wrongdoing still lurks inside him, no matter how many years he has faithfully followed or served the Lord.

This troublesome word describes the person who doesn’t grasp or believe the doctrine of the “indwelling sin of believers.”** Over 300 years ago, the Puritan preacher John Owen fervently warned  listeners of the potential for sin within their hearts. He also emphasized that tapping into the Holy Spirit’s power helps us to kill sin. Yet he feared that believers neglect an awareness of their indwelling sin to their own peril.

The harsh word on my mind today is experienced by the individual who doesn’t believe that an inherent bent toward sin still crouches in his heart, ready to pounce at vulnerable moments.

But you wonder,  “What is this word?”

There’s a word for the pastor or counselor who thinks he needs to view a porn movie for the purpose of understanding why so many men become addicted, who thinks he can expose his mind and heart to vile images without paying a steep price.

Over 20 years ago, I heard an internationally known pastor and author tell his large audience at a conference that he and a few other seasoned staff members viewed a porn video together so they could better understand its lure to men they counseled or mentored. My heart lurched when I heard his words. “I don’t need to view porn to grasp why sexual images are such a lure!” I thought. “All I need to do is look within the dark corners of my own mind and heart. There I see all the smut that’s necessary for an understanding of the allure.”

He trusted his own heart too much, naive to the long-term effects of such viewing. Eventually, the word on my mind today described him to a “T.” Is it any wonder that years later, he resigned his pastorate in disgrace after accusations from multiple women of flirtation and inappropriate physical touch?

A friend in vocational ministry, who has maintained fidelity during a decades-long marriage, tells me that as a young man, he viewed one porn movie. Though God forgave him and rescued him from the cusp of an ongoing addiction, he admits that scenes from that movie still surface in his mind, especially when he is alone in a motel room. He faces persistent, daily warfare that’s fueled by the scenes he observed in the 1970s. (Hmmm…I’ve never heard a sermon on the theme, “the consequences of forgiven sin.” Why not?)

Oh, let’s revel in the fact that we’re forgiven for past indiscretions, even the heinous ones. But let’s stay alert lest those forgiven sins resurface and we ‘re slammed to the mat and pinned once again by this pain-inducing word.

To what unfortunate word am I referring?


Counselor Alert!

There’s a word for the male Christian counselor who doesn’t take precautions when his client is a woman who complains about her husband’s neglect and lack of affection.

Who may have a genuine pastoral yearning for the lady to feel more loved and worthwhile, yet who starts complimenting her appearance and gives her a parting hug so she’ll feel special to someone. It’s an appropriate word for the caring pastor or therapist who doesn’t realize that many women start fantasizing over their male counselor because she views him as the caring, affectionate, spiritual man her husband isn’t. Who doesn’t guard his heart when he first feels attraction for a client.

I know more than one counselor whose vocational ministry and marriage turned topsy-turvy because he kept telling himself, “I won’t let it go beyond a hug.”

What grim word best depicts these counselors?


Warfare Is Forever

There’s a word for the Christian who assumes that temptations will decrease as he ages. 

It’s an apt word for the person who figures that battles involving sins of the flesh will wane after decades of faithfully following and serving Christ. Who figures that physical decline will help shield him from marriage infidelity or sexual addictions. Who is unaware that some Christian women engage in affairs not based on the man’s physical attractiveness, but whether he meets her unmet emotional or spiritual needs.

Dare I tell you about the 68-year-old retired pastor who left his wife of 46 years for the secretary who had assisted him in a previous church? Or the Christian leader who boasted publicly, during a discussion about the prevalence of adultery among Christin workers, “That sin will never happen to me!”

Well, it did.

What grievous word am I talking about?


Keeping It To Yourself

There’s a word for the man or woman who keeps secrets. 

Who won’t disclose his or her areas of strong temptation to anyone because he or she will be embarrassed by such self-disclosure. Who doesn’t have one or two mature, trustworthy friends who will ask the hard questions about his or her thought life, marriage, relationship with the Lord, decisions and online viewing habits. Such a person is more prone to experience this word because he or she believes that accountability*** is primarily for the new believer or for the Christian after he has failed.

What is the wretched word that describes the Christian who lives year after year with too much privacy?


The Snare of Success

There’s a word for the individual who’s convinced that the greatest test of his or her faith is adversity.

This word aptly describes whoever isn’t convinced that success, even an accomplishment or blessing which God gives, is a far stiffer test of faith and loyalty to Christ than painful setbacks.

This word is for the person who doesn’t guard himself against pride due to the persistent compliments he receives for his teaching or preaching. Who doesn’t think of this verse when he receives accolades from others: “A man is tested by the praise accorded him” (Proverbs 27:21). This word haunts the individual who doesn’t realize that he’s more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks after a great spiritual or personal victory: immediately following a retreat where eight teens prayed to receive Christ; after a rousing business success that he had been praying for diligently; after a ministry or business trip when he or she resisted an enticing opportunity for marital infidelity. When some form of ministry prosperity subtly causes him or her to rationalize that it will be okay to skip utilizing spiritual disciplines (“means of grace”) for a few days. Subtly, he or she rationalizes: “After all, look at all I’ve accomplished for the Lord.”

Take a half hour to study 2 Chronicles 26, the story of King Uzziah, and you’ll see what I mean. Identify what spawned radical disobedience in this God-follower. See what happened to the man whose reign God had radically blessed….until the peril of prosperity ensnared him and he came face to face with this alarming word.

What is this word?


The term victim refers to someone who has suffered loss, injury or harm due to another person’s abuse or mistreatment. Undoubtedly, the Christian who trusts his own heart too much, who’s blind to his potential to sin, who doesn’t erect solid boundaries as a counselor, and who is naive about the test of faith posed by success will leave damaged persons in his wake. But in this post, I’m putting the spotlight on how such persons victimize themselves. Ultimately, the negative consequences of his choices tarnish or destroy him as well.

It is likely that at some point in the future we will view ourselves as a victim. Let’s take pains now to ensure that our own choices don’t generate the suffering.



*A number of incisive thinkers have blogged on the subject of trusting our hearts. Here’s a link to Jon Bloom’s short article on the subject.

**See the book, Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen. Edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. A huge section of this book discusses the prevalence and power of indwelling sin.

***Here’s a link to a blog I wrote years ago, listing questions I gave my accountability partner who checks up on me. Adapt these questions for yourself. It is titled, “10 Questions Your Accountability Partner Should Ask You.”

10 questions your accountability partner should ask you











Please note: comments are closed after two weeks. You are welcome to contact me directly after that time if you would like to share your thoughts.



Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email

Pin It on Pinterest