Most of you have probably heard in the news about Ted Haggard, but in case you haven’t. He a guy who was in the leader of the National Evangelical Association and the pastor of a 14,000 member church in
Ted denied it all at first but later admitted that some of the accusations were true. He stepped down from being the leader of the NEA or and he was asked to resign as the pastor of that church.
How should we respond to a news story like this? There are a few different ways…
- We can be mad that a leader fell because he made other Christ-followers and God look bad.
- We can be sad for him, because he embarrassed himself, his church and hurt his family and lost everything he had.
Both of those ways are normal, natural ways to respond.
But what if there’s another way to respond to what happened that could actually be used to help US?
I want to talk to you about this third way to respond today. It’s a way that could help free us and protect us from making choices that could destroy our lives and make us lose everything we have.
In John 8:1-11 there’s a pretty well-known story about an adulterous woman who was caught. I want to show you something that we don’t always notice in this story…
Jesus is at the temple and he’s teaching a crowd that’s gathered there. (These people are God-followers.)
While he’s in the middle of teaching, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees bust in with a woman that’s been caught in adultery and then stand her in front of the crowd.
Then they ask Jesus, in front of everyone, 4"Teacher, this woman was just caught in adultery. 5The law of Moses (God’s word) says to stone her. What do you say?”
(They were doing this to try and trap Jesus into saying something they could use against him.)
Can you imagine the pressure on Jesus at this point? If he says to stone her, her life is over. If he says don’t do it, he goes against God’s word. So,, what does he do?
He turns the pressure/tension back on them by not answering them. Instead he just starts scribbling on the ground with his finger.
The teachers of religious law and Pharisees couldn’t take the silence and kept pressuring him for an answer. Finally, he stands up and says to them and the whole crowd…
"All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" 8Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
They all are standing there thinking did he just say, “those who have never sinned throw the first stones”?
They start to realize they’re not any better of a person than she is. She just got caught and had her sinfulness exposed.
So they started slipping away one by one, starting with the oldest, until only Jesus was left with the woman.
So it’s just the woman who was caught and had no excuse, and the one person worthy enough to pick up a stone and punish her: Jesus.
But this is the cool part…
Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, "Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" 11"No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."
Do you see what Jesus did? He didn’t justify what she did. He just said to her, “Go and sin no more!” He told her to go and be free from the desires and actions that could destroy her life and others.
But, I want you to see the real lesson Jesus taught the crowd that day…
He taught them that we should let someone else’s sin/failure cause us to look and focus on ourselves, NOT on them!
I want to take this event that’s happened in the news and use it to do a 2-Sunday series called “LOST” – Finding The Way Out.
I want to help us to let what happened to Ted Haggard remind us all about the most terrible and dangerous power we all have – the power to destroy ourselves.
Let’s pray for him, his family, but we shouldn’t focus on him!
That doesn’t do us any good! Let’s use this to turn the focus on ourselves!
We all have the ability to destroy ourselves. We’re all weak enough and dumb enough to do it. I know I am!
James Russell Lowell US diplomat, essayist, & poet (1819 - 1891) said this…
“Whatever you may be sure of, be sure of this, that you are dreadfully like other people.”
We’re all the same in this way! Some of us might be stronger in some areas than others people, but those same people are weaker in areas where other people are strong!
Henry Ward Beecher, a famous preacher from the 1800’s said it like this…
"All men are tempted. There is no man that lives that can't be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, put in the right spot."
You have a weakness that can break you down if you’re tempted with the right temptation at the right time!
- How can we really have more victory in our lives?
- How can we really overcome our sin and ourselves?
I’m about to tell you something that will be a real relief to all of you. Ready?
You can’t be good enough. Stop trying.
Until we realize this and admit it to ourselves we’re stuck!
What’s the stereotypical problem that people say men have with directions?
Men won’t stop and find directions! What happens? They wander around forever saying, “I don’t need any help. I know where we are. I can get us there!” And the whole time the wife is saying, “Can we please just stop at the gas station and get directions?”
What would happen if us guys just admitted they were lost right away? We’d get the right directions and get there a lot quicker!
But instead we stay in denial and stay lost! It’s the same with us in our struggle against our weaknesses!
There are two things I’d realized recently that we need to do EVERYDAY if we want to have more victory and overcome our sin and ourselves:
- Admit daily we’re lost and can’t find our way out of this mess.
- Admit daily we’re weak and can’t do what’s right.
There’s a lot of power and freedom in confession – in admitting you can’t make it on your own!
That’s what Paul did in Romans 7:14-25
This the apostle PAUL talking here! He’s admitting that he’s totally weak and lost in a letter to the Romans that will probably be passed onto other churches! He goes on…
Did you hear what he says? When we mess up and finally admit our weakness and lostness it should prove to us what God’s word warns us about sin is TRUE. It should remind us of the fact that we need a savior! He goes in verse 18 to say…
18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.F28 For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Do you hear how hopeless he says he is on his own strength?
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but 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.
Listen to this last part…
24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
25Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a program that’s helped many people, who struggle with alcohol, to finally find freedom. It’s a program that, at the beginning, was started on a lot of Biblical principles.
The first step that Alcoholics anonymous teaches people is that they have to admit that they’re an alcoholic. They have to stop living in denial. Until they do that they can’t get better!
Our first step to seeing victory is the same thing! We have to become like Paul and realize “What a wretched person I am?”
How can we get to the place where we can really admit we’re lost and can’t be good enough? We need to look to God’s word.
W.P. Mackay in an old book from 1888 called “Grace & Truth” said, “We all have one authority to refer to, and it is within your reach; will you take your Bible and remember one thing, that it is God who speaks? Turn to Romans, the 3rd chapter and 22nd verse, and at the last clause we read, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” This is what God has said.
We have to not only see that we lost and weak, but we need to realize we’re sinners and we have no way to save ourselves. We need to realize that our bad choices (sins) have made us guilty before God.
W.P. Mackay says it like this, “The one question is, guilty or not guilty. There are no degrees as to that fact of guilt. “He that offends in one point is guilty of all, and nothing more. He that offends in all points is guilty of all and nothing more. Therefore while there are differences among offenses, there is no difference as to guilt. Therefore, all men in the world (that means you and me are included), have been brought in guilty before God.”
This whole thing about saying we’re lost and weak and believing we’re a sinner who needs someone to save us is NOT about beating ourselves up or condemning ourselves!
It’s all about admitting the truth. If we don’t do this, we’re lying and fooling ourselves into thinking we can do it on our own!
It’s not a negative thing. It’s a freeing thing – just like it frees an alcoholic.
If I worked out a lot and got really strong could I ever lift 10,000 pounds by myself? Could I do it with someone with a crane to help me?
How long would it take me to find my way out of a rainforest if my legs were amputated and I was given a map? Could I do it with someone with a helicopter who knew where I was?
But my first step in either of these situations, would have to be to admit the truth: there’s no way I can do either of these things without someone’s help. Until I do that I’ll keep failing and falling.
The impossibility of us being strong enough on our own to resist sin in our weakest areas is just as impossible and just as improbable! Until we get to that place where we admit we can’t do it by our self, then we won’t and can’t get help. We won’t be able to fight against those dangerous desires we all have.
But admitting we need help is just the first step. Our weakness and lostness won’t suddenly be gone just cause we admit they exist!
Our only hope to win the fight against these weak areas is to be saved from what we’ve done and what we are. We need to be born again! We need a fresh start – a new nature!
There’s another well known story I want to look at that’s in John 3:1-17…
1After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, 2came to speak with Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you."
This is Pharisee he probably lives a holier life than any of us here. But he has a problem, he doesn’t think he’s weak and lost. He hasn’t taken the first step we talked about. He’s still fooling himself. But, not only that, he’s still living his life, trying to fight his weaknesses from his old nature.
But he’s a pretty amazing person! He’s one of the only Pharisees who’s ever said, “we know God has sent you… your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.” I mean that’s pretty amazing for him to realize this! And what’s Jesus say to Him?
3Jesus replied, "I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the
Jesus isn’t condemning him. He’s not clowning him. He’s telling Nicodemus the truth: He can’t ever see God’s Kingdom unless he’s born again!!
Nicodemus, this man that knows God’s law and does amazing things to live it out – this Pharisee who realizes Jesus is from God – he’s totally confused!!!
4"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"
Jesus tells him what I want you to hear today…
5"The truth is, no one can enter the
Poor Nicodemus is even MORE confused NOW! 9"What do you mean?" Nicodemus asked.
10Jesus replied, "You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don't understand these things? 11I assure you, I am telling you what we know and have seen, and yet you won't believe us. 12But if you don't even believe me when I tell you about things that happen here on earth, how can you possibly believe if I tell you what is going on in heaven? 13For only I, the Son of Man, F18 have come to earth and will return to heaven again. 14And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so I, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on a pole, F19 15so that everyone who believes in me will have eternal life.
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.
Jesus is telling Nicodemus who as a Pharisee has done everything he could do please God and gain his acceptance and enter into God’s kingdom that it all won’t work!
W.P. Mackay says… Pg. 39 bottom “The majority of respectable religious people…”
Jesus tells him that seeing the
Nicodemus knew that’s what Jesus meant when Jesus reminded him of the story of Moses lifting up the bronze snake to save the Israelites lives.
Most of us don’t know or don’t remember this story, so Jesus’ example goes over our heads! Here’s what happened…
Numbers 21:4-9 (***READ FROM SCREEN)
4 Then the people of
6 So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among them, and many of them were bitten and died. 7 Then the people came to Moses and cried out, "We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes." So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the LORD told him, "Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to the top of a pole. Those who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!" 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to the top of a pole. Whenever those who were bitten looked at the bronze snake, they recovered!
Why did God have them do that? It wasn’t to get them to worship a snake! No!
By having them do this, they were showing that they trusted (had faith) in God completely and would do whatever he said even when they didn’t understand it. It stopped them from trying to DO anything to survive and just rely on God’s way of DOING it!
The only way to be saved from what we’ve done and to even start being able to have victory in our lives is to stop looking to ourselves and our strength, stop looking for the right information/method to help you fight your weakness.
Instead all we need to do is LOOK TO (rely on Jesus) and what he did on the cross to pay for our sins! When we look to anything else we’re still dead in the water!
W.P. Mackay says… pg. 40 second paragraph and 3rd to “educated people are lost”
We HAVE to be born again! We have to have a new nature planted within us! We can’t fix or clean the one we have! Jesus is the ONLY way!
That’s what Paul realized after he confessed his weakness and lostness in Romans 7! In the next verses in Romans 8:1-16… 1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,F29 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,F30 God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.F31 And so he condemned sin in sinful man,F32 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Think about this…
If God made some other way to be saved: money, knowledge, self-control, then it would limit who could be saved, because some wouldn’t have enough money, or wouldn’t know enough or would be too weak.
But since God offered us salvation through faith (believing and receiving what he’s done), then anyone can receive it who wants too! (I got this idea from W.P. Mackay.)
Ed Young a pastor of a huge mega church in
“In biblical terms, a fall from grace is not the sinner saved by grace who is caught in moral failure. That is a fall to grace. A fall from grace is the self-righteous person who tries to earn his or her salvation through the guise of moral living, declaring that Christ's work on the cross was unnecessary—at least for them…”
A little later he says…“People say to me, "I don't go to church anymore, because churches are full of hypocrites."
Let's just lay our cards on the table. We're all hypocrites! Being a hypocrite means assuming a role that is not yours to assume. Sadly, too many churches are communities of criticism instead of communities of compassion”
Today’s the day for all of us to come clean and admit the truth to ourselves and Jesus.
You know I bet Ted Haggard kept thinking “I can beat this. I’m a pastor. I know how to defeat this.”
Finally after the scandal hit in a letter to his church that was read last Sunday he finally came clean with himself… ”I am a deceiver and a liar. 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.
“For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.”
And later he said…
“2.) Please forgive me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.”
You know now that he’s at this place of complete truthfulness with himself and God I know that one day God can/will use him again! How do I know?
When King David had the affair with Bathsheba and later caused her husband die, he suffered. He lost the child Bathsheba was carrying. But, when he repented and admitted his weakness, lostness and need for God. God forgave him and used him. He was called “a man after God’s own heart!”
Let’s let this scandal cause us to come clean with ourselves and God now. We’re lost, we’re weak, we’re sinners.
We need to look to Jesus and not ourselves. If you’ve only heard about Jesus and it’s all been head knowledge, but you never committed and submitted your life to him, then today’s the day! If you’ve been born again, remember that and stop looking to yourself!
NEXT WEEK: I’ll show why it’s actually good if you struggle with sin in some areas of your life. We’ll talk about how to see this new life/nature that God’s given us through Jesus have more victory over our old life/nature that’s still in us. And more!