November 6, 2006

Lessons to learn from Ted Haggard

For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed,
and nothing hidden that will not be known.
Matthew 10:26, NKJV

Last Thursday, just a few days before election day, I read on-line and heard the allegations on television, against Ted Haggard regarding his suspected involvement with drugs and relationship with a male prostitute. My heart ached once I heard this news.

I wanted to believe that the allegations against him were completely false. Since the state of Colorado was set to vote for a ban on same-sex marriage, I had thought that this was a crude tactic to destroy the credibility of a man who was a strong advocate, to the state of Colorado and the country, regarding a ban on same-sex marriage. As the events unfolded and the truth began to emerge, Ted Haggard admitted to the allegations against him that he had been sexually immoral, a deceiver and a liar. While this situation was more than embarrassing, I began to take a look at this to find a lesson to learn and appreciate from it.

Larry Stockstill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana said, "God chose to reveal Pastor Ted's sin," he said. "In this case, God chose at this particular moment to allow this sin to be exposed. Now we can be mad at God. We can say that's not fair. The timing is terrible. Or we can say Blessed be the name of the Lord. One of the things I've learned about God is that he is wiser than me. ... What's going to happen in the nation? You know what? I don't think that's your concern or mine. God is a holy God and he chose this incredibly important timing for this sin to be revealed, and I actually think it's a good thing. I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually.

In an article published by Pastors.com, Wayde Goodall wrote, "President Clinton commented about his liason with an intern in the oval office by saying, "I did it for the worst possible reason of all - because I could." His honesty with that comment is an admission that he had a battle going on in his mind. And every day people fight their own personal battles - whether they are the leader of a nation or the head of a household."

Here is a hard question, what if God chose to reveal the unconfessed sin in your life? Proverbs 10:9 says, "He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known." A person who spends quality time in prayer and studies the Bible, on a daily basis will strengthen his or her walk with Christ. It will not prevent them from being targeted with temptation to sin, but it will certainly give them the strength to resist the temption. Having an accountability partner will reinforce this too.

Over the past few years, the leaders of the men's ministry at my church have continually stressed, the importance for each man to have an accountability partner. One man holds himself accountable to another, more mature Christian, whom can be trusted with the most intimate aspects of his life to help him grow and mature in his relationship and walk with Jesus Christ. This requires openness, voluntary submission to a trustworthy partner and consistency. Openness with an accountability partner is the foundation for building a relationship with a mature Christian brother or sister in Christ. If only the minor struggles are revealed, time and effort to help someone continually grow spiritually becomes pointless. The area of a person's life that has the potential to cause the greatest harm to the body of Christ, is probably where the deepest commitment to accountability is needed. In the book of Ephesians 4:22-24, the bible says, "that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the decietful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."

An accountability partner's role is to make themselves available to another person, at any time, if they feel they may be tempted to sin. Also, they have the right to ask some very difficult questions too, like:

  • Have you compromised your integrity in any way?
  • Has your thought life been pure?
  • Have you committed any sexual sin?
  • Did you put yourself in an awkward situation with someone of the opposite sex?
  • What one sin plagued your walk with God this week?
  • Did you look at someone of the opposite sex in the wrong way this week?
  • What are you wrestling with in your thought life?

Tough questions aren't they? You bet and I have been on the receiving end of some of those questions and more too. The first time those questions were asked to me, I lied. When my friend followed up with another question, this one did it for me. He said, "Did you just lie to me about anything we discussed?" Again, I lied. It wasn't until a few days later when I had seen my friend did I confess to him that I was not telling the truth to the questions he had asked me a few days earlier. While I felt horrible to confess my sin to another brother, which the Bible calls each one of us to do, I felt relieved that I did not have to bear the burden of this lie anymore.

The Bible says in James 5:16, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." This is what Ted Haggard had done which I believe will bring a great deal of healing and restoration to his life.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "I beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1) Whether it is a sexual temptation, alcohol, drugs, smoking or being overweight and doing nothing about it, is still destructive to God's creation of the human body and it should not be abused. Sadly though, Ted Haggard's sexual immorality was a pleasing offering to Satan rather than to God.

So, the lesson that I have learned and appreciate even more, is the relationship I have with my accountability partner so that I can be a stronger witness for Jesus Christ. My accountability partner wants to make sure that there is not even a hint of sexual immorality in my life (Ephesians 5:2) that might ruin my testimony and witness for Jesus Christ to others. It is also important to note that, God wants to see that each one of us are above reproach in His sight (Colossians 1:22) and that is done when we personally accept Jesus' death on the cross as the satisfactory payment for our sin. Each one of us holds ourselves to a level of accountability at work, to our families and even our finances, shouldn't keeping ourselves spiritually accountable be important too?

Lewis Drummond (2001) in his book about Billy Graham said, "Billy Graham is forthright in laying down the principle that before purity of life can be experienced, all sin must be confessed and forsaken.'" (p. 131). Ted Haggard had not been living a pure life for approximately three years, nor had he confessed his sin and forsaken it until it was exposed. Many people are guilty of not confessing their sins and not forsaking them and without Christ in their lives, those sins are not "hidden from God's sight, but naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)

There are too many people in this world who take for granted, God's grace. His unmerited favor and love, where He did not deal immediately with punishing us for our sins as we deserve. Instead, God has dealt with the guilt of each one of our sins, through the innocence and sinlessness of His Son Jesus Christ. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) Furthermore each person needs to recognize that, "The law of Moses (the Ten Commandments) was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." (emphasis mine, Romans 8:3, New Living Translation)

No matter who you are, nothing can be done to satisfy the punishment of sin that is greater, than when God punished your sin, my sin and the sin of the world, in Jesus Christ. The problem is, people have not acknowledged or received God's forgiveness and they continue to live with judgment waiting on their time of death.

Ted Haggard had to face the embarrassment of his situation to the church congregation (14,000 people), his family, countless pastors and churches around the country (30 million+) and even embarrassment to the President of the United States. While I would rather not have to face the embarrassment of my failure to obey God and sin against Him, to the entire world, I would rather face my accountability partner and his correction, even correction from my Pastor.

The more that I can spend quality time studying the Bible, devoting quality time to prayer and staying in contact with my accountability partner, the less likely I am to fall into the temptation to sin.

"so that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." Among these you shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of Life, so that I may rejoice with you in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain nor labored in vain." Philippians 2:15-16

References:
Gorski, E. (2006). Haggard: "I am a deceiver." Retreived November 6, 2006, from http://www.denverpost.com/comics/ci_4609054

Goodall, W. (2206). Great men may fall, but they don’t have to stay down. Retrieved November 9, 2006, from http://www.pastors.com/rwmt/?id=284&artid=9980&expand=1

Drummond, L. (2001). The Evangelist. Nashville: Word Publishing

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Additional resource info: What are the consequences of sexual immorality?

Critical Reminders for Pastors from Pastor Ted Haggard's Fall - Greg Stier

5 comments:

Joe Rossi said...

Excellent!

Tim Seibert said...

Fantastic article Kurt!

Edwin Rivera said...

We should pray for him...he needs us more now than ever.

Joe Quattro said...

Very good words Kurt. It is so true that we need accountability. Dawn and I have discussed this situation when it was first revealed and we came away with the same thought you just shared. I am sure there is a great weight lifted from Pastor Haggards heart and now he can begin the reconcilation process. I understand that Dr. James Dobson team is going to be front runner to help him. In addition to your thoughts, I also have another thought as well. If you look in the books of Acts (Chapter 2:42-47), you will notice this a model for church growth and church planting. I am not in agreement with megachurches at all!!!!!! If you look at the big superstar pastors who unfortunately fell, they were over megachurches or organizations. (I'm not saying that all pastors/leaders who are over megachurches will fall). My thought is that I truly do not believe God ever intened a pastor/leader to be over such a big congregation or group. Just like you stated, the accountability factor just is not in place. Secondly, the fellowship of the believers is not as in a small group. Thirdly, if the church is so large - do you have time to pray with people. I am all in favor of cell/small groups if they are managed properly. Because if they are not then you have "little" church pockets in your congregation. This situation definately has had an impact on the church as a whole. It really has not affected me personally because I did not even know who Pastor Haggard was until this happened. I pray for him and his wife that God will restore the trust, peace and love in the relationship. I appreciate your thoughts Kurt and continue to lift you up in prayer each morning. God Bless you my friend. Joe

Nathan and Amy said...

Kurt, well put! I know that you have read my blog about this, and what you have stated is true, and I truly believe that Pastor Ted would agree.

I am a man who have fought with an addiction to pornography and immorality for years. It destroyed one marriage, and has threatened another, but by the grace of God I have seen His hand, his forgiveness, but I have also come to understand his justice.

It is vital that we understand that each of us are human, and then a Christian. A Christian is just saying, "I have put my life in Christ's hands, and He has forgiven me. It doesn't mean I will be perfect, and I embrace this, but it does mean I now have a standard to live for."

It is like what the military does. I have spent twelve years in, and still am in. When I first raised my hand I had no idea what it meant to become a soldier, but it didn't change the fact that at that time I was pledging I would uphold myself to a new set of standards that other's would not be. If I break those standards then I am held to a different rule (Uniform Code of Military Justice).

Brothers and Sisters, there are others out there, and some who may read this, who are looking for that ear, that support, that person who they can lean on with their temptations. We are out there, and we know, and we are not perfect, but we are striving toward victory!

Stand steadfast!
Nathan and Amy

Why Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

Last Friday, I had the privilege to minister to a family in our congregation, in the loss of the patriarch of the family had gone home to b...