Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Lord, have mercy..."

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard the sad news about Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I don’t want to comment on that story other than to encourage you to pray for all involved.

I do, however, want to tell you what I think about when scandalous sin is brought to light within the Body of Christ.

I think about my own sins.

There are times I wish I had selective memory. I wish I could only remember the true, the honorable, the just, the pure, the lovely and the commendable things in my life—the things Paul exhorted the Philippians to think about (Philippians 4:8). Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I clearly remember innumerable failures in my life. I remember things I’ve said—sometimes 15 or 20 years ago—which still bring tears of regret to my eyes. I remember thoughts I’ve entertained, for which I still feel shame. I remember things I’ve done that, if it were possible to turn back the clock and live my life over, I would not do again. I’ve made choices that, but for the grace of God, could have resulted in personal scandal for myself, if the Lord had not mercifully stopped me from making a total fool of myself.

Then, there is the potential for evil that exists in my heart by nature. I shudder to think what I would have become had the Lord not saved me. As sinfully flawed and failing as (Lord knows) my life has been, it would have been far, far worse for me had the Lord not saved me. Who knows where I’d be? Dead, in prison, in the insane asylum…?

I don’t know!

I do know this: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Those who are quickest to call for harsh punishment for Haggard, I fear (and suspect) haven’t probed their own hearts deeply enough. Who can consider and meditate on the holiness of God and their own sinful heart, and be quick to condemn anyone? We all deserve to suffer torment in hell, and we’d all be on our way, too, but for the grace of God.

When a brother or sister in Christ has been caught in sin, church discipline should be carried out by the local church, in accordance with the guidelines set down in Scripture (e.g., Matthew 18:15-20). I do not, in any way, advocate overlooking sin within the church body. But, for us mere onlookers and spectators, our time would be better spent looking into our own hearts, rather than tsk-tsk-ing someone else’s fall. Could not scandalous revelations like those in Colorado Springs be God’s way of mercifully warning His people that they need to be about the business of killing sin in their own lives? Some of us just haven’t been caught...yet. God has given us another chance.

Notice how, in a way, 1 Corinthians 10 could be applied in light of our modern-day church scandals:

“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6).

“Now these things happened to them as an example… Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Do you see any relevance for us? I do.

That’s why, when I hear of scandals in the church, I think of my own propensity to sin. I think, “Lord, have mercy on me! Keep me from falling!” I also think about checking my own life. How am I doing with killing sin? As the apostle Paul urged, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1b). I also think we should pray for our pastors, especially those pastors and Christian leaders in high-visibility positions: “Lord, keep them from falling!”

May this terrible and sad news out of Colorado Springs cause all of us to humble ourselves before God, consider the sinfulness of our own hearts, and commit ourselves to killing sin—every sin—in our own lives.

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