Australians generally don’t have a very high opinion of televangelists. They are the preachers, usually in the US, who appear on TV with their highly charged sermon or talk, urging you to consider eternal issues.
I have no problem with them—except when it comes to money. And I think that’s where they become unstuck. Their reputation has been harmed. Send me your donation now and I’ll pray for you. You probably know what I mean. And they like to shout and yell at you.
The Fallen Televangelist
Not all of them are like that of course. But two of the better-known televangelists from America were Jim Bakker and his then wife Tammy Faye Bakker. Do you recall these people? The one-time king and queen of religious TV. The big news of the time was his sentence to prison. In 1989 Jim Bakker was sentenced to jail for 45 years. It was an extraordinary sentence. He was convicted of fraud: asking his viewers to donate money for houses that did not exist.
He had fame, fortune, and respect as the most successful televangelist in the world in the mid to late 1970s. The harsh jail sentence was changed to five years imprisonment. But the damage was done—and Jim Bakker and his wife were laughing stocks around the world, and many were critical of church generally. Many Christians were disappointed and disgusted with his business dealings.
Not too long ago, Larry King did a live TV interview with both Jim and his ex-wife on CNN. Apparently it was extraordinary and powerful television, as you would expect. Here’s part of what Jim Bakker said:
It was like God had walked away from me. I know millions of people have gone through experiences saying ‘Why me?’ But it was my faith in God that got me through. My faith was growing after 5 years. And I had to forgive everyone. I learned that prison was God’s plan for me.
It was amazing television. He was released after being found not guilty, and he lost his wife, his money, and many friends. But he never gave up. The hardest thing he had to do was forgive himself—his dishonesty and sexual misconduct which resulted in his divorce.
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It’s one thing to forgive others—it’s something else to forgive yourself. Many people beat themselves up for mistakes done in the past. And it’s not easy to resolve this issue. Forgiving yourself is essential. It’s to do with our own mental health. There is a tendency in all of us to hold ourselves more accountable than we do others. To be hard on ourselves.
But there is a limit. Forgiving yourself is simply letting go of what you are holding against yourself so that you can move on with God. If you have confessed your wrongdoing to God, and made amends where you can, you don’t need to be crippled with self-hate. How soul-destroying to say, I hate and despise myself. Your self-image is in big trouble if you say that. So many Christians say, I can forgive others,but how can I ever forget what I have done? I know God forgives me,but I can’t forgive myself.
Life is full of choices—and every choice we make will either take us in a positive, life-giving direction or rob us of the opportunity to be a life-giving individual. Forgiving ourselves does not let us off the hook, it does not justify what we have done, and it is not a sign of weakness. Forgiveness is a choice that takes courage and strength, and it gives us the opportunity to become an overcomer rather than remaining a victim of our own scorn.
Let the Healing Begin
And God wants you to move on. Yes, acknowledge the wrong and sin, but don’t stay in a bad state. It is not good for you, or those who love you. At some point you have to move on. And you can with the help of Jesus Christ, the Saviour who died on the cross, taking your sins and mistakes.
Jesus Christ took all your sins and mistakes as he died on the Cross.
The reality is that you cannot change what has happened. You cannot restore lives to where they were before the event. However, you can make a difference in the lives of others. You can give back some of what you have taken away by finding a different place to invest your time and compassion. Forgive yourself and let the healing begin!
Forgiving yourself will change the direction of your life. You may have woken up this morning sensing your mistakes and sins, and felt despair. How can I turn back the clock? Maybe guilt has taken over your life. Remember Jesus died on the cross for your mistakes. Don’t let this fear cripple you.
Gracious God, I try to excuse my own failures, and explain to myself why they occurred, because I want to be free from the feeling that I am unworthy. But I find it easier to accept your forgiveness than to forgive myself. When I try to forgive myself, it seems I only remember and replay my failures in my mind, and a sense of hopelessness floods over me. Help me to know that my past actions are a part of my growing humanity and that even when I fail to live up to what is your will for me, every single moment can be lived anew. Amen.