News Articles

In Washington, they don’t see the problem: James Merritt

ATLANTA (BP)–James Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, told his congregation Sept. 13 that “in Washington, they don’t see the problem.”
“The problem is not sex. The problem is lying under oath. The problem is perjury. The problem is tampering with witnesses. The problem is abuse of authority. The problem is not being morally fit to be president of the United States of America. That is the problem,” Merritt said, according to the Atlanta Constitution in a front page article Sept. 14 which included remarks from area pastors in their sermons on Sunday.
“Both the Bible and the Constitution say nobody is above the law,” Merritt said. “If you go before a grand jury and you lie, I don’t care if you’re lying about sex or college football, you’re going to jail.”
In an earlier speech at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., Merritt said President Clinton’s nationally televised admission last month that he had a relationship with a White House intern which was “not appropriate” fell short of a biblical confession of sin.
Merritt said authentic confession of sin is defined biblically by confessing the sin specifically, requesting forgiveness from those wronged and resolving to not commit the sin again.
Merritt described Clinton’s critical attack on Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr as an effort to cover sin instead of confess it. “When you have uncovered, unconfessed, unconquered sin in your life, you will try to blame others with your problems whether it is a preacher or a special prosecutor,” Merritt told a near-capacity Binkley Chapel audience Sept. 1.
“To blame a special prosecutor for your failures and your faults is like a drug dealer who keeps getting arrested on the street corner for selling dope and then blames the city for paying the policeman,” Merritt said.
Merritt said the Holy Spirit leads Christians to confess their sins specifically. He said the Holy Spirit never says, “You’ve been a bad boy,” or “that relationship was inappropriate.” … “We want to sin retail and confess wholesale. … If a person really wants to confess his sin, he doesn’t want to argue with God, he just wants to agree with God.”
A contrite heart is another sign of sincere remorse, Merritt said. “If a person wants to confess and get right, he doesn’t need a good lawyer, he just needs a good conscience,” said Merritt.
Merritt said that without repentance confession of sin is meaningless. “(Confession) is no substitute for forsaking your sins,” he said. “Confession must be followed by repentance because the mercy of God is only triggered by the act of repentance.”
He said true confession is evidenced by apologizing to everyone who has been wronged and avoiding the words “if,” “but” and “maybe.” Look the person you have offended in the eye and say, “would you please forgive me?”
Merritt said a contrite heart is exhibited by a willingness to accept the consequences of confessed sin. “That might mean going to jail, that might mean being formally charged with a crime, that might mean resigning from office, but you do what’s necessary,” he said.
Going back to the Garden of Eden, Merritt said mankind has been born with an innate desire to cover up sin rather than confess. “What the President has done for the last seven months is exactly the same three-step procedure the Word of God says we all try to do when we try to cover our sins,” he said.
Citing I John 1:6, Merritt said lying is the first step toward denying sin.
“That means that we will look right into the camera, we will lock our jaw, we will point our finger, we will squint our eyes, and with millions of people watching we will say, ‘I’m only gong to say this once, listen to me, I did not have sexual relations with that woman’,” Merritt said in reference to Clinton’s initial denial of any sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Referring to I John 1:8, Merritt said lying to one’s self is another means of attempting to cover one’s sin. “We will convince ourselves that we have done nothing wrong so we we’ll say things like, ‘My answers were legally accurate;’ or ‘I smoked, but I didn’t inhale;’ or ‘Based on the definition of the act, I was not guilty’.”
According to 1 John 1:10, Merritt said, people will attempt to cover their sin by lying to God. After a while, living a lie becomes habitual, he said. “You get past the point where you will not tell the truth, and you come to a point where you cannot tell the truth.”
Merritt pointed to King David’s example in Scripture as a picture of a leader who eventually became repentant after first seeking to cover his sin. Describing King David as a liar, cheater and adulterer, Merritt said the difference between the Old Testament King and the President of the United States was that the sins “grieved David.”
“He wrote Psalm 51 to describe not just how God had restored him, but what covering up his sin had done to him,” Merritt said. David was bothered by his sin because “he was not only a sinner, he was a saint,” Merritt said.
“Sinners and saints both sin, but there’s one difference,” Merritt said. “Sinners sin and then they sleep, but saints sin and then they suffer.”