When Martin Luther lamented at the end of his life that he might not be justified, he must have seen something dark in himself in relation to the Scriptures, something that we in the modern church might be overlooking.
The Scriptures say that we are to be known as followers of Christ by the evidence of our love for one another, but we're not (see John 13:35).
The Scriptures say that we are not to boast about what we have or what we have done, but we do (see Jer. 9:23-24).
The Scriptures say that in the last days people will be lovers of themselves and lovers of money (see 2 Tim. 3:1-2), and we are.
Very often we charismatics rejoice in the power of God, and rightly so. But we subject ourselves to ridicule when we boast that we are not among those "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:5, NKJV).
We claim that we have spiritual power and others don't because of our openness to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
But our words fall short when our marriages don't work, our children are wild and disobedient, and we refine the art of receiving money to the point that we could qualify as the experts in greed that Peter warns about in his second letter (see 2 Pet. 2:14).
We have a credibility problem. We have some wonderful churches, but increasingly, people do not seek to be connected.
We have some outstanding para-church leaders, but many are seen as conceited crusaders who would like to establish a theocracy and use the power of the state to force the noncompliant into godly living.
We have some wonderful givers, but many of them have become seduced by the major donor departments of ministries, who have convinced them that if they will fund one more Christian project, the world will become a better place.
Thus, churches are discouraged, para-church ministries preach to their own choirs rather than finding their intended audiences, and God's money is squandered on projects that don't work.
It is no wonder that the secular world is hesitant to look to Christian leaders for realistic answers to today's problems. They think that we are just another special interest group, and I doubt that they see us as bastions of wisdom and insight. Salt and light we are not.
Maybe we're not Christians. Maybe we're just the most popular religion of the day, using the power of persuasion, the force of our numbers and the strength of our money to advance our ideology.
Maybe we just believe whatever makes sense to us by default, and we don't truly, as individuals and as communities of Christians, demonstrate Christian spirit or teachings.
Could we be Pharisees? Our own books, TV programs and prophecies should make us wonder.
I believe that we all know and love the Word, but we live in earthly vessels with a fallen nature. We feel and see the hopes of the Spirit within, but we also end up doing the very things we do not want to do.
When we preach, write, lobby, raise money, build, broadcast, threaten, sue and spin, we present conflicting images that don't stand up very well against the tests of time and scrutiny. We are confusing the world, other Christians and our families.
This isn't something that can be changed with a list of practical exercises. It has to be dealt with deep within us by exposing ourselves to the wisdom of the Scriptures, to one another and to God.
In this issue of Ministries Today, Jack Hayford provides for us a strong exhortation toward increased integrity. He and the Holy Spirit within him want the level of sin to diminish in all of our lives and for each of us to be increasingly transformed into His likeness.
This issue is an opportunity for us to think long and hard about our integrity, and address the areas that need to be fixed. I know all of us agree in our minds and hearts that we need integrity. But do our actions reflect it?
I know we love God, and we often talk about our love for Him, but the culture of modern ministry indicates that our hearts are far from Him.
**We need marketing agencies to promote ourselves.
**We overdress to either impress people or cover up something.
**We avoid common people.
**We overwork our legal teams.
**We either hide from the press or spin stories for them that make us look better than we are.
**We don't admit it when we're wrong.
**Our responses to our critics expose our carnality.
If we choose integrity, we can make a major leap ahead. It means treating the poor and the wealthy alike, which means no more major donor departments and a readjustment in the philosophy of our development teams.
It means no more threatened lawsuits against those who are saying things we don't appreciate or past employees who became disillusioned working within our ministries.
And it means a return to the mountaintop where we can grow in His presence, know His life-giving Word and fellowship in a local church in humility.
Just one paragraph of Jesus' teaching condemns us: "'Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise'" (Luke 6:27-31).
Don't get me wrong. We are doing a lot right. **The gospel message is spreading in unprecedented proportions.
**More people have the gospel available to them than ever before in history.
**We have more seminaries, Bible schools, churches, pastors and missionaries than ever.
**Christian broadcasting is serving more people than anyone imagined.
**The Bible is available in more languages, and we are distributing more full copies of the Bible and partial portions of Scripture than we have in the past.
**The global church is moving in the right direction.
**International political and social trends, difficult as they sometimes appear, are promising.
**The major military and economic powers are opening doors for the gospel to become available all over the world.
**More people are living under constitutional protections for freedom of religion than ever before, which is good for our missions efforts.
**We have greater resources to travel, communicate, publish, teach and rally people.
These opportunities have been given to us by the previous generations of Christians that had a high regard for sacrifice, integrity, honor and respect.
Most of us probably believe that our ministry successes are a result of our efforts and God's blessing on our lives. No doubt, this is partially true. But eternity might give us some additional illumination on the keys to success in ministry.
Previous generations' standards were higher than ours, and they set us up to receive the resources and freedoms we now enjoy. They led us to this opportunity, but that doesn't mean that we have the character necessary to honorably utilize the gifts given us.
Unless we heed Hayford's call to integrity, we might be enjoying our only reward right now. That would be a tragedy. If now is the greatest day of evangelical Christianity, we're in trouble. But if we take what we've been given now, and protect it by living and working wisely, honorably and beyond reproach, then the Christian influence will become greater and greater throughout the earth, and many more people will have an opportunity to know everlasting peace.
We have to get this right. Even though the global church is stronger than it's ever been, we in the American church are showing early signs of impotence. We are in a global theater now, which means that our words, actions, investments and thoughts have greater impact. Thus, we have the opportunity to not only do unprecedented good, but also the dangerous ability to do unparalleled damage.
Let's make the right choice. If you are like me, you are conflicted. I don't like this column. Granted, there is a part of me that does. But most of me likes the comforts of the church I serve, the way I travel, the way I'm treated by both the public and the body of Christ. I enjoy the political platform we Christians are given.
But at the same time, there is a dark cloud in the back of my mind wondering if God isn't stirring another Martin Luther to nail his theses to our church doors.
I would rather have us return to our foundations of integrity by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the illumination of the Scriptures, rather than have us defending our lifestyles, edifices and power to future generations as they read history books recounting our demise because of our own hypocrisy.
We need to ensure that we are not the whitewashed tombs and snakes of our day (see Matt. 23:27, 33). We need to be sure.
Ted Haggard pastors New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the author of many books and serves as the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
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