Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Free Moral Choice

A local columnist in Terre Haute once again took on the conservative evangelical right in regard to their view of life, sin and politics. As is always the case with criticism, some of it usually is valid. In this case some of it was, but not all. The columnist joked about our "Flip Wilson" mentality at times concerning sin; "The Devil made me do it." The writer would rather opt for Sigmund Freud.

I for one want to weigh in on a much needed view that sometimes goes amiss at times like this. Each of us in my understaning are "free moreal agents." Meaning that in the very complicated understanding of spirit and flesh, each of us as humans is free to choose our behavior. Even Chirstians! Paul in Romans 7 is a good snapshot of a righteous man struggling with personal sin. I always find it easier to talk about Paul than someone like Ted Haggard.

For my liberal friends, yes I believe someone like Bill Clinton sinned. Inspite of that, I hold a high regard for the office of President of the United States and would not destroy that office or its integrity because of the sin of one president. Can we not do the same with Ted Haggard? I hope so. I get so tired of people generalizing personal sin; it is exactly that. Now I am not saying we are not to speak about sin, I am just saying we ought to be a whole lot more like Jesus than the media.

It is always true that with leadership comes higher expectations and greater exposure to failure. Lot's of pastors unfortunately have made the same ethical mistakes that Ted has made. But their leadership is of a much smaller followership. It is true, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall."

Ted's sin doesn't justify homosexualty or infidelity. Don't go there. We do have a very hard lesson in hypocrisy and deception for sure. It is a stern warning to pastors, church lay leaders, denominational leaders and members of God's family. We are all capable of moral duplexity. Just like Paul. Evil is powerful and can control, if you will, to the degree we as free moral agents allow it to.

I am not saying that addiction in any form isn't controling, it demands strong intervention on the part of humans and God. We cooperate as part of our failure or recovery. I am so very pleased that Ted is now being open honest and cooperating in the process of getting his behavior back in line with biblical ethics.

I apologize if as a conservative evangelical I have not been compassionate and fair in dealing with immoral behavior evenly or fairly. I believe in a world where Jehovah God has given a moral code of behavior that all people are accountable to it. The only means of ever being forgiven for breaking that code is found in the person of Jesus of Nazereth.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4 NIV)

I understand that in any given community of followers of Jesus there are people living hypocritical lives just like Ted. I know that I too must constantly be on guard against my own self deception and allow the Holy Spirit and Word of God to search me and convince me of my personal sin. I can lie and hide from people, I can't do that with God. He will know, He will blow the whistle on me. To all of my fellow hypocrits, let's clean up our act! If you have unconfessed sin in your life, confess it. If you need help, get it.

Let's bring fame, not shame to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ted Haggard

I was shocked Friday morning Nov. 3rd as I looked at my news reader and found out about Ted's stepping down from the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and his stepping down from being the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. He had been accused of a very ugly thing; a homosexual relationship for three years.

This was especially disturbing to me because I have held Ted up in such high esteem as one of the most dynamic leaders within the Evangelical Church and a great spokesman of biblical ethics. I was disturbed at the comments by the new associate pastor who said that "there was truth in some of the allegations." As the day wore on it became apparent from Ted's admission that he had purchased Meth but did not use it and did order a massage from this particulare person who had accused him on the radio.

I am angry! At Ted, at the Devil and at the great shame that was brought on the bride of Christ through the unfaithfulness of a leader. I know that leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ have failed in many differrent ways, many right here in my own city. But when I know someone personally and I see this person as a frontline warrior of great importance it really grieves me. I have a great loss in my heart and soul.

Don't get me wrong, I know the grace of God, and I am sure that when Ted repents he will be forgiven and restored. But he will never be the same. He will have lost moral integrity and gerat moral leadership. His church will suffer great harm and grieve for a long time. Pastors in the church will never quite have the respect and trust they once did. Great damage, the need for some very great healing.

I want to reflect on this crucial moment from my own experience. I know from my study and my previous experience that God's leaders are human and very vulnerable to the attack of the enemy and the giving in to their flesh. Both are so true and so frequently exoperienced by us all. The Devil is after the leaders of the Bride of Christ and the Army of God. He has in this case won another battle------but not the war! We in the church do not shoot our wounded and we know that God can and will heal and restore. As long as repentance comes there will be another day to fight!

God's leaders will fail, just like Moses, just like David, just like Peter; but failure is why Jesus came! Our ability to be forgiven and made holy again can only be accomplished we we connect with the saving blood of Jesus. This connection comes through our repentance.

Heb. 6:4 ¶ It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,
Heb. 6:5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,
Heb. 6:6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

The key to this passage on "falling away" is the lack of repentance. This lack is like crucifying Christ again!

When God's people repent, they are forgiven, made clean and and holy. They don't lose their place in the family but they may lose their place in leadership. That has always been true with leaders. When you look at passages about leadership it is always important to note the importance of character. When our character and integrity are damages, so is our leadership.

Here is my plea, to myself, and to you. We must be repenting on a regular basis for the enemy to be unable to take advantage of our weakness. We are weak, we will always be, but we don't have to allow the enemy to get a foothold or in some cases a strangle hord on our lives. By our constant confession and repentance we stay humble and useable.

It is always a given that we confess and repent of obvious misbehaviors. But what I am talking about is our deeper problems of moral vices. Behind murder is hate. Behind adultery is lust. Behind addictive behavior is insecurity. Now you may not agree with all of my comparisons here; especially addiction. Put whatever underlying cause you believe is more accurate from your perspective----maybe it is pain, maybe it is grief, maybe it is anger; whatever.

If we are not constantly seeking to be aware of our internal vices, confessing them, and repenting of them, we will become vulnerable. God's leaders are no exception, I am no exception. I know that but for the grace of God and my constant confessiona and repentance I too could be just like Ted.

"Search me O God," don't let my tendency to sin be covered up or trivialized. This is serious business, staying clean before you and before the enemy. I must be the confessor and not the Publican. I cry out to God on behalf of a brother and a sister congregation who are in ashes. God give them a garment of praise! Restore, heal and protect. Do what you have to do to makes us deader to our sin and always aware of how close we all are to being an unfaithflul family member and a traitor to your causes.