Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are You Haggard?

Pastoral Letter to the Springs Reformed Church (RPCNA):

I write to you today in the most somber of moods. In light of the recent fall of Ted Haggard, it is truly, a time to weep…a time to mourn (Eccl. 3:4). Many biblical principles come to mind at a time like this…

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor. 10:12)

Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Gal. 6:7)

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5)

You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom. 2:23-24)

…many more passages could be, and probably should be, added here. Yet, as I think of you all during this time, and consider some of the public statements and public reactions that have surfaced, I have a particular concern that I wish to address with you in this letter. In Mr. Haggard’s letter to the New Life congregation, he stated:

“Through the years, I’ve sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me…When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me.”

On Monday, Nov. 6th, United Press Independent writer, Julie Bogart caught this statement as well, quoting it in her article entitled: “Scripture little help for Haggard’s sex addiction”. She goes on to say,

“What if evangelicals admitted that breaking bad sex habits is beyond the scope of its ability and is not a promise in Scripture?...When people say that Haggard should have been more honest with himself, I want to say that evangelical theology is guilty for his dishonesty. The promises are lies. They make a mockery of leaders who depend on the promises and find no relief. What else does a pastor do but lie when the practices he preaches don’t work for him?” (emphasis added)

We cannot simply respond to this by saying, “Well, we’re all sinners.” Yes, that is true, but that has already been stated by Michael Jones, Haggard’s accuser! As Christians we must have more to say than the unbeliever who brought Haggard down!

More than simply having something to say, what do you do with Mr. Haggard’s statement and Ms. Bogart’s contention? Have you tried it all and none of it has been effective in you either? Does this resonate with you? How do you respond to the charge that, “The promises are lies”? When you examine your own life, are you Haggard/haggard? What advantage is it to be a Christian? Of what value is your baptism?

Paul addresses these questions effectively in the midst of a similar discussion in his day:

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar… (Rom. 3:1-4)

You see, one man’s lapse does not nullify the promises of God. In fact, if everyone on earth who claimed the name of Christ fell from grace, this would still not nullify the promises of God: Let God be true though every one were a liar! Mr. Haggard’s fall has opened God up to the charge of lying. Ms. Bogart has clearly seen this and states clearly: “The promises are lies”.

But neither Ms. Bogart nor Mr. Haggard, nor most of the Evangelical world, understand what the promises of God are, and particularly what He has promised in the area of our deliverance from sin. It is most telling that in Mr. Haggard’s letter, he never once mentioned explicitly, nor even implicitly, our Lord Jesus Christ. What he articulates in his letter and describes about his struggle with sin is in fact a Christ-less religious experience.

But the Bible tells us of a God who really saves sinners: A Father who has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), a Son who gave His life for us to save us from our sin (1 Jn. 3:16), and a Spirit who not only raised Jesus from the dead, but who also works just as powerfully in us to mortify sin within us (Rom. 8:11). The great divide between biblical religion and the religions of the world is the contrast between faith in Christ and works—between grace and human effort.

The hard fact that many of us will sooner or later need to swallow is that modern Evangelical Christianity is not biblical Christianity. Evangelical Christianity offers gimmick after gimmick for people to try, in order to overcome their sins—accountability groups, certain kinds of devotional exercises, deliverance ministries, etc. But God promises us the absolute efficacy of His Son to deliver us from the penalty and power of sin:

He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30)

What are you to do to be sanctified? The same thing that you did to be justified—Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col. 2:6-7)

Are you Haggard/haggard? Are you also struggling with besetting sin? Has the current situation made you question the promises of God? Are you distraught because you have tried to change yourself, but have utterly failed? Heed Christ’s call to you today (Matt. 11:28):

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Affectionately in Christ, Pastor David Reese