April 20, 1993
Imprisoned television evangelist Jim Bakker is now saying, “I have been convicted twice...”
A small news item reports Bakker is asking former supporters to forgive him. He claims that a study of the words of Jesus has deeply convicted him of his guilt in teaching false doctrine. He admits that he once believed having money was a sign of God’s favor on a person’s life. He now says, “if that is true, then crooks, pimps and drug lords are blessed of God — and that cannot be.”
Bakker’s downfall produced far larger headlines than did this story. Perhaps that’s because his reputation seems forever scarred by deceit. Few editors want to publicize what seems like another false claim by an exposed has-been.
But what if the change is real? Could it be that the Bible has the power to transform lives, just as God claims?
This lack of publicity concerning Bakker’s confession could indicate society is more interested in bad news than good news. Certainly the sordid stories of Bakker’s sins, complete with photographs, gained attention. However, isn’t it newsworthy that reading the Bible can turn people from lies to honesty? from sin to godliness? This is good news and good news should attract attention too.
Yet some people don’t want to hear about the power of God to make bad people good. It is acceptable to fantasize or talk about a world of wonderfully good people, but in reality, does anyone care to know if God can make us that way?
Notice the Bible knows what we are like. It says, “There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they have all become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one” (Romans 3).
According to God, no one is interested in being holy. He says that whenever we try to be godly, our efforts are a mere “form of godliness” lacking divine power. Even though some “religious” people pretend to be holy and some “good” people try hard, He says none of it holds a patch on the true holiness He wants and will even give to us.
Some might wonder why God would bother giving anything to a religious traitor who preached a false gospel of prosperity and kept wanting more, bigger, and better (to prove God favored him?). When this man became blinded by his lies, tripped over his own error and fell into disgraceful immorality, onlookers even mocked the Christian faith he claimed to have. For months after his trial and conviction, he still insisted he was not in the wrong. Why wouldn’t God simply let a hopeless case like him fade out of the picture?
First and contrary to the way we tend to think, God is interested in hopeless cases. Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. Working a change in the likes of a convicted hypocrite is just what He loves to do.
Second, if Bakker really does know God, then God is committed to change him. The Lord does not accept sinners because they are already righteous but because He plans to transform their lives and make them into godly people. He does it all the time. But this good news seldom makes headlines.