News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Ted Haggard, a hypocrite?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–I love hypocrites.

So many of them are good people who need God’s love, such as hypocrites like Ted Haggard and, uh, hypocrites like me and perhaps you.

Haggard, as you know, has been terminated as pastor of a prominent Colorado Springs church and has resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “I am guilty of sexual immorality,” he has admitted. “There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.” Haggard’s confession followed accusations by a male prostitute that he and Haggard had engaged in homosexual relations for three years and that Haggard had used methamphetamine during their alleged encounters.

The prostitute, a Denver man by the name of Mike Jones, has defended going public with the allegations by saying, “I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind, and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody’s back.”

No doubt, there are hypocrites, imperfect people and even addicts of all kinds within the Christian community.

To their credit, however, these individuals have the courage to embrace a faith that challenges their sin and seeks to redeem their lives.

Sadly, people outside the faith have no such resource. Hypocrites, imperfect people and addicts who lack the transforming dynamic of Christian faith have only the frailty of human will and manmade psychology/psychiatry upon which to build lives of integrity.

Followers of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, gain a new foothold for battling the dark facets of their humanity.

The Apostle Paul well understood these inner wars, writing in Romans 7:21-25: “… When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God –- through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Rarely are addictions to various forms of depravity easily broken. A relationship with Jesus always will prove to be an uplifting, precious addition to a believer’s life, and some believers may see their weaknesses and addictions quickly fall away. But, for others, struggles with the inner churnings of sin may continue to exist after they have turned to Jesus for salvation. Some believers may find that their earlier addictions remain ever-ready to erupt. It may be months or years before all of their sinful habits and inclinations are eradicated.

And so, it is entirely possible for a believer to be what the world calls a “hypocrite,” to believe with all of his or her heart that such-and-such a behavior is sinful yet, in a weak moment, commit that sin.

In the interim, the communion with Jesus increasingly becomes a desperately needed place of refuge after each defeat. The believer cries out to God, placing the entirety of his or her life under the Lord’s forgiveness as promised in Scripture. “If we confess our sins,” as 1 John 1:9 notes, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The believer knows that sooner or later, “… you may be sure that your sin will find you out,” as Moses declared to the Israelites long ago, as Scripture recounts in Numbers 32:23.

When that moment of truth and tumult finally comes, the believer’s faith in Jesus will provide the grace and fortitude to face even public embarrassment or great personal loss if, ultimately, such tragedy is required in order to attain a long-yearned-for, more complete life of purity with God.

An accusatory type of guilt often sweeps over believers throughout these struggles. Whether quietly nagging at their souls or aggressively pounding against their minds and even their bodies, the guilt seems to have a demonic energy, demanding an answer to such taunts as “You’re despicable. How can someone like you call yourself a Christian?”

This guilt is not confined to Christians. Open-hearted nonbelievers likewise are beaten down after various episodes of sin by the roar of such taunts as “You’re a hopeless mess. How can someone like you ever think of knowing God?”

Sadly, we greatly underestimate God’s forgiveness, refashioning His grace into something on the level of our humanity. We who have found new birth fail to live in all its glorious dimensions. For non-Christians, this can be especially tragic if the taunts cut short their quest for faith, derailing their dreams of a new birth and a rescue from the despair of godlessness.

Teachings about forgiveness, however, abound in Scripture. Among the most frequently quoted:

— “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2).

— “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.…” (Romans 8:1).

— “… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

God’s forgiveness is best experienced when taken at its face value from Scripture. Just as the new birth supernaturally gives people a totally new start in life, so God’s forgiveness supernaturally provides that same new start each time His followers realize they have acted wrongly and, turning anew to Him in prayer, ask for His forgiveness.

By God’s supernatural grace, we gain the opportunity to become as fresh as the first day He entered our lives, poised to venture forth again in ever-more-rejuvenating faith.

If you have not yet embraced God’s gift of salvation, know that it is the most wholesome, healthiest experience a person can have this side of heaven. There is not a reason in this world to spend a minute longer separated from God.

Just pray.

Ask God to forgive your sins.

Ask Jesus to come into your heart.

Trust Him with every facet of your life from this day forward.

Begin reading the Bible regularly to grasp more and more of the glory of new birth.

And begin searching out a Christ-centered, Bible-believing church where, even if you’re a hypocrite at times, you can worship God and become involved in sharing this life-saving faith with all who need a rescue from their sins.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. He can put you in touch with a good pastor and a good church to help you grow in faith. E-mail him at [email protected].