“If Ted Haggard can fall, what hope is there for me?”
Most of your have heard about Ted Haggard, pastor of a huge church in Colorado Springs. He is no longer the pastor after revelations of misconduct.
As the story unfolded, he said that there was a dark side to his life that he had been battling for years. Sometimes it got the best of him, and now the whole world knows. He is paying a dear price for giving in to the dark side.
How could this happen to such an outspoken Christian leader? And if it could happen to someone that big in Christiandom, then what chance do I have? How can I win the battle against the dark side?
Here is my opinion. That is a battle you don’t want to fight, because you are going to lose.
Each of us has a dark side. It’s called our sinful nature.1
I like the visual in Genesis, when Cain was battling the dark side, thinking murderous thoughts about his brother Abel. The Lord said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it.”2
So imagine Ted Haggard, with sin crouching at his door. He said he had been battling this dark side for years.
Here’s the thing. I think sin is more powerful than we are. When we do battle with the dark side, we end up losing.
God told Cain, “You must master it.” But there is no mastering it. On our own, there is no victory over sin.
Imagine a big list of dos and don’ts. Sometimes we want to do the don’ts, but we fight off the temptation. A popular word in Christian circles is “boundaries.” We put boundaries in place to keep us far away from the don’ts.
That is a good thing. I believe in boundaries. But now I’m thinking of a song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by, ironically, The Temptations. In the long run, there ain’t no boundary high enough to keep us from sin.
My wife was talking about me one day, and she said, “Doug has set very high boundaries for himself.” Later I told her, “You know, it’s not really about the boundaries. It’s about drawing near to God every day. It’s about growing closer to Him, and desiring to be filled with His Spirit. It’s about listening to His voice, and worshipping Him, and appreciating Him, acknowledging His influence and importance in every atom of my existence.”
If I had to fight the battle against the dark side, I would eventually lose. Honestly, I don’t even try. Instead, I have a well-worn path to the altar of God. I bow my head and say, “Lord, I need You. I can do nothing without You. Apart from You I am an idiot. I have nothing to offer anyone except as You work through me. You are my all in all.”
I don’t look at my sin, my dark side, my temptations. I can’t.
Have you ever seen the old Disney cartoon, “The Jungle Book”? You know the snake, Kaa? You can’t look in his eyes when they get all swirly, or you become his next meal. I can’t look at my dark side. I can’t even think about it. To think about it is to toy with it.
I say, run to Jesus.
Second Corinthians 3:6 tells us of a new covenant, “…not of the letter, but of the Spirit…” – talking about the “letter of the law.” We can’t keep the letter of the law. When we try, we fail. The letter of the law reveals our sin and brokenness. We can’t live up to it. We just can’t seem to avoid the don’ts.
But thank God there is a new covenant, a new deal with God. It is a “covenant of the Spirit.” “The Spirit gives life.” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”3
One friend of mine said, “We don’t have to ‘white knuckle it.’” We don’t have to hold on for dear life to avoid sin.
We can all relate to Ted Haggard at some level. We all know what it’s like to have sin crouching at our door, to do battle with the dark side.
But it’s a fight we won’t win. Instead, we need to turn completely away from that battle, fixing our eyes on Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we’ll have our victory, not because we fought and won, but because the Lord set us free. And he whom the Lord sets free is “free indeed!”4