CAN IT HAPPEN TO ME? (What can we learn from the fall of Ravi Zacharias?)

The fall of Ravi Zacharias has been a devastating blow to many in the Christian world. The details of an independent report into the sexual abuse and immorality this man engaged in, are egregious. Over the course of more than a few decades toward the end of his life, he literally ran his own private world of pleasure. The one question we need to answer is how does this happen? And can it happen to us?

In the first place, “it” happens because it is not an “it” but begins with a gradual breakdown in a man’s personal passion and seeking of God. Perhaps, because of “commitments” or “ministerial responsibilities”, so called. I could be dead wrong, but Ravi Zacharias most likely did not begin wanting to manipulate woman for his own depraved sexual pleasure. He most likely began desiring to serve God in some way, if not fully wanting to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as an act of thanksgiving and love. I had heard him enough to know he knew the precepts of the doctrine of Christ better than most. Assuming this was the case, let us consider that our past, unhealed, and untouched by grace, will sneak up on us.

For the sake of time, let us consider that Ravi Zacharias, had a difficult upbringing to say the least. Growing up Anglican in Madras India, he was not a believer and at 17 attempted suicide by swallowing poison. This may come as a shock to you, but suicide is not a product of mental illness. It is a product of demonic suggest, to destroy the image of God. Living in a nation, 98 percent giving to idol worship and demonic ritualism, has an effect. We must also understand, his relationship to his father was not affirming. This led to his perfectionism and being driven to succeed, for the purpose of patriarchal affirmation. Remember, that even after a person finds salvation in Christ, these issues must be reconciled with our relationship to Abba Father, or they remain hidden.

These are unexploded bombs, still armed. It is our Father’s intention to disarm them practically, but only good discipleship, which is not academic but Holy Spirit led and executed, will surface these for removal (I Peter 1:6-7).

It is important that I state clearly, we are not using these elements to excuse this man’s behavior but making clear that Satan will exploit the unsanctified and unhealed areas of our lives. In Zacharias, a man who professed salvation in Christ and had years of what is considered fruitful ministry, we must see where he potentially came off the tracks. We must remember that we can begin to love God with all our heart yet fall away as an entire church was characterized.

Revelation 2:2-5 (NKJV) “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

Although Ephesus was commended for being a solid biblical church, their loving devotion for Christ had been left behind. Jesus did not admonish them for their sin, but rebuked them and warned them of loss, should they not repent. It is clear to me, that the bulk of the Ephesian Church, left loving Jesus, without even knowing it as they loved the ministry and what is brought to them. In essence, their purpose was no longer loving Jesus with all their heart, soul and mind, but professing to love Jesus through serving him, while actually ministering (and expressing loving devotion to ministry) to serve themselves.

To be clear, therefore many pastors move on after short stints and why many pastors move on, when it appears, they have large and growing ministries. Enough is never enough, because their soul is not being filled with God’s presence, power and desire. They need more affirmation, numbers, programs, effectiveness or their lives and feelings disassociate. They begin to look for satisfaction, relief from their gnawing emptiness and pain, in outside areas. This is when the Devil begins his campaign of suggested compromise.

As you can already tell, I am not only speaking of Ravi Zacharias, but all of us. Yes, this can happen to us, in many varied areas of sin. Did he have success, sure enough. Was that success monumental and exponential, absolutely. Did it give him access and authority? Yes! Did that authority isolate him from fellowship with other’s who could have held him in check? Yes.

I spent time in the denomination Zacharias held ordination in and can report that most of the ministers referred to him as if he was a cut above others. It is not too much to say, Ravi was revered and wrongly so. The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, where he was ordained (as was I), began with its only emphasis being Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and soon Coming King. This denomination’s founding, under A.B. Simpson, was full gospel and filled with Acts of the apostles preaching, transformation and miracles. Sometime in the late 1950’s there was a shift, which pushed the Holy Spirit out, especially in the way of manifestation gifts and divine healing.

They became very intellectual and continued to have solid teaching on the Holy Spirit and sanctification, even concerning the return of the King, but the power and presence of God made too many uncomfortable. Into these circumstances Ravi Zacharias flourished. His stellar intellect opened doors and gave him affirmation. But his fall, most likely not until the last 30 to 40 years of his life, began with a compromise based on his deteriorating physical health.

At some point, a man who should have sought divine healing, decided to take massage. At some point a man who seeks divine healing, who does not get healed, needs to hold to the words of  God in Paul the apostle…

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Let us be clear, Abba Father did not give Paul relief through healing, only power in His weakness to love and glorify God. Paul accepted what western Christian’s seldom do, which is do only what the LORD commands or allows.  Let us also be honest, we Americans hate that, because we are socialized in getting what we want and if we want relief, no matter the cost we should get it. We believe that God affirms that. He does not.

How did this lead to Zacharias compromise? He would get massages for his back from women. Women who would spend more time touching him, intimately and for his benefit than his wife. Before you label me a prude, a massage, even not one sought for sexual gratification, is sensual and intimate. It really does not matter whether it is a woman or a man giving it (look up Ted Haggard for context).

It was most likely this compromise, which opened Pandora’s box for the man. This is what led to his opening up a massage parlor business, which his denomination should have discerned as a bad and unbiblical idea, with tremendous opportunity for disaster. Again, lets be honest, do massage parlors have a good connotation in our vernacular? With the potential for sin and entanglements, did anyone counsel the man to… 

1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV) Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Precipitous falls from the Lord can happen because.

  1. We never deal with painful wounds from our life before Christ, which become the very inner weakness that drives us away from loving Christ with all our heart.
  2. Because, rather than hold to God’s promise of His fullness, transformation, healing and presence with us (to satisfy our souls), we begin to feel disassociated, as our minds are being pulled from God’s word.
  3. We consider and engage in compromise that is not expressly forbidden with a “Thou shalt not…”. In this we have pleased our flesh and the hook is set.
  4. Having isolated ourselves from accountability (or having none in place), we get picked off and begin to sin, as if we deserve to.

So yes, we can fall away from Christ into sin, as Ravi Zacharias did, for these same reasons, because Satan is the one looking to exploit the unsanctified areas of our practical life—Satan is tempting us daily to water down what God’s word clearly declares for our practical life, by focusing on what the world has to offer that is good, and not specifically to be avoided with a “Thou shalt not…”—Satan then easily leads us to devise ways to be undetected and avoid accountability.

The word of God clearly states this…

1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

James 1:13-15 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

As we can see, pride does come before the fall, as does a person’s life controlling frustration, despondency, fear, and entitlement. Most do not have the wide birth granted a man of Zacharias’ supposed intellectual astuteness or supposed spirituality. That said it happens over and again to ministers and laity, everyday as we slip into compromise, with no conviction of the Holy Spirit.

This should not be the case as we are commanded to cleanse ourselves from every filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1). This should not be the case when the Lord has provided what we need for this task in His word and the presence of His Holy Spirit.

How do we fall?  It is as easy as being distracted and wasting time.

Ephesians 5:15-18 (NKJV) See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

What are the schemes of Satan in your life, to drag you off, where a fall brings shame on the Lord Jesus Christ, and potentially undermines the faith of others? Let us consider Ravi Zacharias’ fall as a wake up, to the apostacy waiting to pounce, as the Devil is looking to devour.

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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1 Response to CAN IT HAPPEN TO ME? (What can we learn from the fall of Ravi Zacharias?)

  1. Stephen says:

    it started with a trail of lies about false credentials dissimulation (hiding) and seeking physical pleasure under a false pretense of spirituality see genesis chapter 3