I just read this insightful article from the Leadership link in "Christianity Today." It's called "Going to Hell with Ted Haggard." He has clearly taken over the whipping boy from Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.
The ecclesiastical hang-up indicated in the article persists and becomes an obstacle to the advancement of Jesus' purpose in the world.
Jesus may have been born in Bethlehem, but he really emerged at the Jordan River with some radical concepts of God's intention on earth.
Jesus made some very bold claims while he walked on this earth and taught the earliest followers about what God’s reign looks like. Many in his time fully expected some kind of theocratic culmination – where every political oppressor would be eliminated. They desired to be a part of a political atmosphere where godlessness was absent. Many today desire a similar dominance where God’s ways are fully established.
In John, chapter 14, the disciples characterize this kind of mind-set. The conversation begins with a request by Philip in verse 8 and is followed immediately by Jesus’ answer.
“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
“Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father’?”
Jesus provides some corrective lenses for Philip and all who hear and read. Who do we see when we look at Jesus? According to him, we see God. Whatever we observe in Jesus is indicative of who God is.
Paul asserts in Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
This truth creates some modern challenges with strongly held notions, much as it did with those who first heard Jesus teach.
Michael Hardin, in his 2010 book “Jesus Driven Life” states:
“There is a substantive difference between the way ‘God’ acted in the Old Testament and the way God acted in Jesus. No amount of interpretive gymnastics can hide this; it was a key question wrestled with in the early church. Christians are saying something essential when they assert that God has been revealed in the figure of Jesus. God is known, no longer unknown, no longer hidden, no longer mysterious. God is fully present in Jesus, not partially present, but fully, completely present…”
God is often presented today as a “sheriff” rather than a “shepherd.” The enforcement of righteous behavior becomes the paramount mandate of those who claim to follow. It becomes duty to coerce godly obedience in all. But is that what Jesus presented?
A very close and honest look reveals something much more rigorous for those who desire to follow. The mandate becomes the principle of self-examination and not the behavioral enforcement of others.
Jesus implies that in Matthew 18 with the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector praying in the temple. The principle is created by a turnabout that dispels the conventional thinking of that time – especially with the characters used.
It is the very person who apparently needs the behavioral adjustments, in the parable that Jesus proclaims “goes home justified and not the other.” Why? Because he was humbly aware of his condition and shortfall from that which was pleasing to God.
Jesus’ purpose in coming to this earth was to transform each and every person through death to self and new life in him. He gave every follower a heads-up when he said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
It is only his power that can do that and not ours. So why do we direct our attention to changes others? It is only Jesus’ property to transform first and judge later. We have the power to do neither for ourselves or anyone else.
Let’s put on our corrective lenses and look only at Jesus – who will enable us to die to ourselves and be raised to new life in him. This is his purpose in coming to this earth.