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1 Corinthians 6:12 (KJV) – All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Can I be really honest with you? You may not much care for me after reading this, but I haven’t always been very compassionate towards addicts. I just couldn’t understand addiction. I wondered why addicts didn’t just stop…or how they got into the position of being an addict in the first place. I was rather, at least inside my heart and mind, “high and holy” about it all. I viewed it as just plain sin and lack of willpower. Period. And though it sounds harsh, I figured that if they wanted to quit badly enough then they should just quit. Not very nice of me, nor even very Christian. I used to think that way, but I don’t any longer. God have mercy on me for my lack of compassion and understanding!
You see, when I was younger, I prided myself on my will-power. (How stupid is that!!!!) And pride is what it was, pure and simple. Whatever things I did struggle with in terms of sin at that time, I figured that I’d eventually “whip” and I’d be victorious over those sins or attitudes – I had that much confidence in my will-power. It isn’t until later in life, after we’ve been beaten, whipped, kicked and knocked senseless by our continuing desire to sin that I realized how wrong I was – about addicts, about my own will-power and many, many things.
I suppose that there are all sorts of things we can be addicted to: alcohol, cocaine, heroin, crack, pornography, uppers, downers, cigarettes – all the usual suspects. But today as I was reading the bulletin insert, this line jumped out at me: Now, you may not be addicted. Maybe there’s nothing that “controls” you to the point in which it impacts every aspect of your life, unless we want to talk about sin, which of course applies to us all.
Ouch. When I read that, I thought, “Wow! I’m an addict…because my failures prove to me how much I am addicted to sin!” And I know, having been a sinner now for well over half a century, that I do not have the will power, strength, determination – whatever word you wish to use – to overcome my addiction to sin. I’m an addict, after all. And so are you.
You may say, “Wait a minute! I’m not addicted to any of the things you listed.” Maybe not. But, are you addicted to shopping and spending money you shouldn’t? Is it compulsive? How about eating? Chocolate, anyone? Anger, bitterness, a critical spirit, an unforgiving heart that you just can’t seem to get a handle on? Let me say that you are an addict, just as much as the crack addict or bum on skid row with a bottle in a bag whose breath reeks of alcohol.
Check out this passage from Titus – and note who is writing it. It is none less than the apostle Paul who says, Titus 3:3 (NIV) – At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…
Did you catch it? Notice what Paul says enslaved us…”all kinds of passions and pleasure.” That, my friends, is addiction. And though the price for all our sins has been paid, we’re still addicts…we can’t ever, not in this world, kick the habit of sin. Paul doesn’t say that Jesus saved us and we quit doing all that stuff – in fact he makes the opposite point – “not because of righteous things we had done…”. He saved us as sinners and until we die, he will continue saving us as sinners!
Which brings me to the final point: one of the most successful things in helping addicts overcome their addictions is accountability groups, such as AA or NA. And that’s why we need the fellowship of others in the church. That’s what the church is, in a sense: an accountability group for those who are addicts to sin. It should be the one place where we can be honest about our addictions and find help – not criticism and condemnation. One thing the church surely isn’t: a collection of sinless folk. The longer we pretend that is what it is, the longer we will hinder the gospel.
PRAYER: God, my name is Galen, and I am an addict to sin. Thank You, Jesus, for paying for all my sin and your patience with me as I struggle through this world. How I long to walk the streets of the heavenly city, no longer an addict! Forgive me for my pride in the past and even now. I plead your grace and mercy! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.
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