Two weeks ago on a Sunday morning, I sat immobilized in a chair, unable to get to church because of a fully locked lower back and unable to focus on reading because of the lingering effect of muscle relaxants.
My options were limited, so I flipped on the television, hit the guide button, and hoped I would find an engaging movie to keep me from thinking about the fact that I should have been at church. I found the message I needed to see on HBO. (Yes, I did say HBO.)
It was a documentary entitled “The Trials of Ted Haggard.” You can watch the trailer below.
I don’t know Ted Haggard, and I’m not extremely familiar with the mega-church in Colorado he pastored prior to his removal from that position last year. But what struck me about this documentary was the true cost of sin to a leader. This man counseled President Bush, led a thriving church, and was a source of inspiration to thousands of people. God had given him everything—a great family, a platform, and many people to shepherd.
Now it’s all gone. Everything. He and his family are vagabonds. They have no home and no good way to support themselves. One of his biggest worries is that prospective employers will type his name into Google and find out about his sin and the sordid details that continue to unravel in the most public and repulsive manner possible.
So, what did I learn that I can pass on to you, fellow leader in ministry?
Don’t touch sin. Don’t even think about it. It will take down your life so quickly and so horribly that you won’t even know who or what hit you. If you think you’re above your own self-destruction, you’re probably already heading to the slaughter. But if you’re a leader who, like me, acknowledges you’re always just inches from lapsing headlong into destruction from sin, here’s what you can do:
Psalm 119:133 says simply, “Make my steps steady through Your promise; don’t let sin dominate me.”
Ask God to dominate you instead—your thoughts, your actions, your attitudes—with His holiness. It’s very hard to get on your knees honestly before God and then get up, turn on the computer, and look at porn. Or get up and begin verbally ripping someone to shreds.
Give up communicating with God and you give in to sin.
I was introduced to pornography in college, and I know that if I watch television alone after 9 p.m. or get on an unmonitored computer in a room by myself, then my mind runs to garbage, literally—especially when I’m stressed out. So, I have to act, to put safeguards in place to make sure I’m not in either of those situations.
I’m one of those crazy Christians who takes the hard-core teachings of Jesus literally. Matthew 5:29 is one of the wisest ones in the Bible: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
Talk to a porn addict, a drug addict, or anyone who worships at the altar of addiction. They will tell you that they’d rather live with one eye than be an addict. I would take being a Cyclops over having ever looked at porn. Seriously.
Act to protect yourself from sin. By the way, HBO is out of my house at the end of the month. For me, it’s like Jack Bauer regularly handling biological weapons on 24. Sooner or later, it will get you.
The more I am in the Word, the harder time I have living in sin. Psalm 119:11 says it best: “I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You.”
Don’t live on an island without people who care enough about you to keep you from walking off a cliff. Give them access to your life, your thoughts, and the sin cycle that can trap you. Give them authority to give you tough-love in this area. We all must have it.
Find the friend who sticks closer than a brother or a sister (Proverbs 18:24), and let that person love you and challenge you honestly and regularly.
The cost of doing nothing is much too expensive. Ask Ted Haggard.