Dr. Jack Hyles
People often ask me questions like these: “Can a divorced man pastor? If a divorced man cannot pastor, can he be a missionary? Can a pastor have a divorced wife?” There are few people alive who have not done something that has caused them to forfeit, to some extent what would have been at that time, the perfect will of God. God will often remake His will so that we can be in the perfect will of God from here on, though we were not in the past. I hope to help you to understand to what extent God can use us again if we forfeit the purpose for our lives.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:16
God wants to salvage everything He can in the way of service from everyone of us. So, we should be looking for ways to use people instead of ways not to use people. God is more interested in whom He can use instead of whom He cannot use. I am afraid the average church and the average preacher are more concerned with whom not to use, than whom to use.
As long as a person bears fruit, God is going to purge him just like we purge the limb of a tree, so it will bring forth more fruit. However, it says in the Bible that if a branch bears not fruit, He taketh it away. There are Christian people whom God takes on to Heaven, and those are people who do not bear fruit. As long as there is some fruit that God can see coming from your life, God will allow you to stay on the earth.
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11
God said that the purpose of our creation was for His pleasure. What is God’s pleasure?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:36
God’s pleasure is that we praise Him. We praise Him by bringing forth fruit. Let me give you five principles that are very important to this study.
1. God saved us for the praise of His glory.
2. We can praise Him better in Heaven than on earth? Why did God leave us here if, in fact, He saved us to praise Himself and we can praise Him better in Heaven than we can here?
3. He leaves us here to get others to praise Him. God can get more praise from us if we get others to praise Him, which is why we are to go soul winning. God saved us to praise Him. We can praise Him better in Heaven than we can on earth, but He left us here to get others to praise Him.
4. If we do get others to praise Him, then He gets more glory and praise than we can give Him in Heaven. If I can take people to Heaven with me to praise Him forever, then God will get more praise by leaving me here than by taking me to Heaven.
5. If we do not get others to praise Him, He will get more praise by taking us on to Heaven. God saved us for the praise of His glory. We can give Him that praise better in Heaven than we can on earth. He leaves us here to get others to praise Him. If we can get others to praise Him, by getting others saved, then we can eventually give God more praise by staying here than by going there. If we do not get others to praise Him, we can go there, and He will get more praise from us than if we praise Him here.
There are only two positions in the Bible for which God gives qualifications. One is pastor and the other is deacon. There is no other job in the church or in the Christian life that the Bible says you can forfeit your right to fulfill. There is nothing you can do to forfeit your right, if you get right with God. For example, if you get drunk and then get right with God, the Bible does not say you cannot sing in the choir. God does not say that you cannot be a soul winner. God does not say that you cannot be a Sunday school teacher. There are many Christians who have done something that has caused them to think they are disqualified to teach a Sunday school class. However, God is concerned about your present, not your past.
There are some things that can forfeit a man’s right to pastor. There are some things that can forfeit a man’s right to be a deacon. The Bible says the pastor is supposed to be the husband of one wife. It also says that a deacon is supposed to be the husband of one wife. The Bible says the pastor is supposed to be sober and hospitable. There are several things listed in I Timothy 3 that a pastor and deacons are supposed to be.
That means that all Christians are qualified to serve the Lord in some way, regardless of what they have done or how many times they have fallen. The purpose for which we were created was to praise God, regardless of what we have done. We could praise God better in Heaven than we can here, so there must be a reason God has left us here. That reason is to get others to praise Him by winning them to Christ. If we win souls to Christ, we have a better chance to praise Him here than we do in Heaven, but if we are not winning souls, God might as well take us on to Heaven.
The Bible says that when a branch does not bear fruit, God will purge or prune it. Then it says that if it still does not bear fruit, God will take it away and cast it into the fire. God wants you to give Him all the praise you can give Him. If I stay here on earth and never get anybody else to praise Him, He can get more praise out of me if I go to Heaven now. If I can get others saved to praise Him forever, He will get more praise from my life by leaving me here. That means that we can forfeit the right to do anything if we do not get other people to praise Him. God may choose to take us on to Heaven. If I wanted to live, I would become a soul winner. It does not say to bring forth a bushel, a truckload, or an orchard. It just says bring forth fruit. If God sees that you are not going to bear any fruit, God says that He’ll take you on to Heaven because He will get more praise out of you there.
I do not know of a single thing mentioned in the Bible that a woman can do, that will forever cause her to forfeit doing anything that a woman can do. A woman cannot be a deacon or a pastor, so I find nothing in the Bible that says a woman can do anything to forfeit her right to serve God. I can find nothing in the Bible that says an evangelist can do anything to forfeit his right to serve God. I can find nothing in the Bible that says a non-pastor missionary can do anything to forfeit his right to serve God.
It is not there. We have created our own qualifications that cannot be found in the Bible. A person may temporarily need to stop, so as to be restored from a sin, but the Bible does not say that he cannot resume his place of service. The Bible says nothing about something that you could do to forfeit forever the right to be a Sunday school teacher or a bus worker. The Bible says nothing about qualifications for a preacher’s wife. Since the Bible does not say anything about it, I will tell you what the practical application of this should be. Let me give you some examples.
I know that a man can commit murder and still come back some day in his life and be a leader for God. You say, “Who said that?” Moses is the example. He killed a man in defense of his countryman. That is one reason why he stayed in the desert for forty years. Did it ever dawn on you that much of the Bible was written by three murderers? Paul, Moses and David wrote much of the Bible. It was after Moses murdered, that he got water from the rock at Horeb. It was after Moses murdered, that he led the Israelites to the very door of the Promised Land. It was after Moses murdered, that he used the rod to smite the Red Sea and cross over on dry ground. It was after Moses murdered, that he led the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness. I am not advocating murder. I am not advocating any kind of sin.
I know a man can write and be used of God with his pen after committing adultery. David did. The greatest songs David ever wrote were after his sins with Bathsheba and against Uriah.
A man can be filled with the Holy Spirit and win a great battle after carelessness with women. Samson did. It was after Delilah that Samson was once again filled with the Holy Spirit. He won a great battle where he lifted the pillars of the temple. I am not suggesting that we ought to go out and live the way we want to and God can still use us. I am saying, that we ought to live clean and right, so God will use us to His fullest. God will not use you to your fullest if you mess up your life, but He will use you anyway.
If Moses could kill somebody and still be used of God, what did Moses forfeit? Forty years. Moses waited forty years before he led the Israelites out of Egypt. I have no doubt, but that most of that forty years would have been unnecessary if Moses had not killed a man. Moses could have done more if he had not killed a man, but he was able to do something in spite of killing a man. David could have done more had he not had the affair with Bathsheba. Samson could have done more had Delilah not come into the picture. God still did something with David and Samson. There is not one child of God on Earth, who is still breathing, that God cannot use.
I was told that a soul winner went to the prison and won John Wayne Gacy to Jesus Christ. Could a man kill all those people and still get saved? I believe that if John Wayne Gacy got saved, he is in Heaven. You do not go to Hell because you kill people. You go to Hell because you do not trust the Saviour. If John Wayne Gacy had lived, God could have used him to some capacity.
It was after Jacob’s dishonesty that his name was changed to the Prince of God.
It was after he tricked Esau out of his birthright that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and he became a Prince of God. Any child of God who is alive can still be used by God.
It was after Paul had compromised that Paul still became a great pastor.
It was after John Mark quit and went back home from a missionary journey that he became a missionary again and penned one of the books of the Bible.
It was after Peter cursed, swore, denied the Lord, denied the church, and denied the faith that he preached at Pentecost and had three thousand people saved.
It was after Aaron had built the golden calf and led Israel to idolatry that he continued being the high priest.
When the Bible says a deacon and a pastor should be the husband of one wife, I do not know whether that is talking against bigamy, polygamy or divorce. Since I do not know, I take the safe route and not ordain divorced men to pastor. Since I also do not know, I am not going to criticize a man who is divorced and chooses to pastor. I am going to practice the strictest position and allow others the lenience of an easier position. I have never ordained a man who is divorced and remarried. Our church does not choose a deacon who has been divorced and remarried, but it is not because I can prove it in the Bible to my own satisfaction. I know preachers who are married to divorced women. I never advise a man to pastor who is married to a divorced woman because I know the heartbreak that could come. I know of preachers who have been divorced and remarried. I am going to practice the strictest position, but I am going to be lenient to those who practice it differently.
There is only one sin that seems to forfeit someone’s right to be used of God and that is the sin of homosexuality. I do not know of a person in the Bible ever used of God after they committed the sin of homosexuality. The reason seems to be that the sin of homosexuality is the terminal sin of the decadence of a society because society is built around the family unit. That which totally would destroy the family unit is the last step in the total decadence of a society.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause, God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Romans 1:21-28
This shows the decay of a society. First, it says a society knew God. The first step down toward a decadent society is when we quit glorifying God. They knew God, but glorified Him not as God, but God did not give them up. God still has hope for them. Keep your joy, your shout, your amen, your thrill, and your excitement. That will keep you fundamental. We were made for the praise of His glory, so the first step to decadence is when we quit praising.
They became unthankful. Gratitude and praise are twins that go hand in hand. The Bible says they worshipped the creature more than the Creator. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” That is the doctrine of humanism. God still did not give them up. When they committed idolatry, God did not give them up. When they committed adultery, God did not give them up. When they dishonored their bodies between themselves, God gave them over to a reprobate mind and homosexuality. The homosexuals have a reprobate mind.
God made you and me for the praise of His glory. If you are allowed to live, that means you can still do something for God. If you are not sending anybody to Heaven to praise Him with you, God would get more praise out of your life if He were to take you on to Heaven. He leaves you here because He can get more praise out of your life if, in fact, you take more people with you. If you do not bear fruit, He cuts you off. That means that any living child of God, no matter what he’s done, can bear fruit. In fact, the Bible says you can bear fruit before you get cleaned up. It says every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it. A man can smoke and still bear fruit, but if he bears fruit, God is going to take those cigarettes away so he can bear more fruit. God will continue to purge you so that you can bring forth more and more fruit.
I know Christians who have been divorced and remarried four times, but are bearing fruit for Christ. They decided that they could still do something for God, and I agree with them. Too many Christians put qualifications on others that God did not author. Obviously, it is best if we keep our lives clean and pure so that we can be used to the fullest. No matter what we have done, God still wants us to bear fruit and be used for Him. If God will not give up on people, then I will not give up on them either.
We had a deacon at our church who had smoked before he got saved. One day I saw him on a street corner smoking a cigarette. I called him into my office and talked with him about it. He told me that he was still having a battle with giving up cigarettes, so I asked him to resign as a deacon. He graciously agreed that it was the right thing to do. I was still his pastor. He still had a right to be a church member. The Bible does not say smoking violates your right to be a church member. Finally, one day he quit smoking. After a of couple of years I suggested that he run for deacon again. He was elected, and he never smoked another cigarette.
God put me in the rebuilding business, not the business of putting people on the shelf. He did not ordain me to disqualify people from being used to reach more people for His glory. He called me to do my best to get Him more praise. If I can get lives rebuilt and help them reach lost souls, I can accomplish that purpose in a greater way, and He will get the praise He deserves. I do not care what you have done, God can use you to get more people to praise Him if you will decide that you are going to bear fruit!