Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Addiction

Addiction, 1 June 2014

Big Idea: We are all addicted to sin and need God’s grace.

At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.

(from
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-uncomfortable-issues-church-needs-start-talking-about)

Introduction

One of the assumptions of this series is many—if not all—of us struggle with life in ways we’re not always comfortable in sharing. Is it acceptable to discuss sex with other Christians? What about mental illness or doubt? Today we explore the subject of addiction.

What comes to mind when you think of an addict?

For many, they think of a drug addict or alcoholic (which is also a drug addict since alcohol is a drug). Perhaps you thought of someone addicted to gambling or food or porn. Yet a confession by myself—or any Christian, for that matter—that I was addicted to drugs or porn or gambling would probably affect how you viewed me. As the
Relevant magazine article states:

At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

The number one word to describe Scio Community Church is “family.” The magazine article continues:

And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.

I’m ashamed to announce that I am an addict…of sin. While I battle all sorts of sins and am tempted in countless ways, I’m especially prone to the root of all sins—pride. Hopefully I hide it well but I compare myself to people; I judge some and feel like an underachiever around others.

How do you know you are addicted to something? When it controls you.

The most common addictions in the USA, according to one report, are

  1. alcohol
  2. smoking
  3. drugs
  4. gambling
  5. food
  6. video games
  7. Internet
  8. sex
  9. shopping
  10. work

It has been said that we are most vulnerable to desire and temptation when we are HALT:

Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

Both the Old and New Testament declare we all sin. None of us is perfect. None is righteous. We all struggle with the holy and righteous standard God requires.

Jesus’ half brother wrote…

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

There is a clear progression: temptation > desire > sin > death

We are all addicted to sin, anything that keeps us from God. You might be struggling with what I call a capital A addiction like drugs or gambling or a small a addiction which is any number of sins for which there are no 12-step groups. It could be pride, selfishness, materialism, white lies, gossip, or even fear. Yes, fear. The most common command in the Bible is “fear not.” It occurs 366 times, one for every day of the year including leap year!

The solution to dealing with sin is not to try harder. Sure, you may be able to improve your life, do less bad stuff, and feel less guilty, but the reality is we all sin. We’re all messed up. We all desperately need help.

The reality is we are all broken and need healing. I want to encourage you to do one simple yet difficult thing. This is really the only way to deal with addiction or sin. Die!

That is, of course, what Jesus did. He died for us. He invites us to die, too. Die of our pride. Die of our self. Die so that paradoxically we might come alive. He said

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

There is a spiritual principle here, but also a physical one. Jesus is saying that we need to die in order to truly live in HIm.

The image of baptism is so rich. I love baptisms! The significance is that of a water grave. We put to death our old, human, broken self and then are resurrected to new life with Jesus Christ.

Paul, the most prolific author of the New Testament in the Bible wrote

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

This may sound odd at first. In order to truly know Christ, we must die.

He also wrote

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

It doesn’t say to manage your sin, try harder, or do better. He says to die.

Addicts can’t begin recovery until they first admit they have a problem.

Sinners can’t begin recovery until they admit they have a problem...sin!

But first we must die!

“Oh, but I don’t really need to die. I can just remodel my life a bit,“ you say. No. Die. This is why there are so many people that call themselves Christians and so few that truly look like Jesus. We must die first.

A few years ago I was driving on Washtenaw and I noticed something missing... a McDonald’s! They demolished the entire restaurant and built a new one. Most builders will tell you it’s much easier to start from scratch than it is to remodel, and that’s why Jesus said to die.

He wants nothing short of total surrender. Some of you are still hanging on to your past, your secret sins, your security, your money, your habits...He wants total surrender. We must be broken. Brokenness is painful, but it’s wonderful.

We must die, but when we do, God does great things.

One of the most important things we can do in dying and surrender is to give up control. I often say I cannot control another person, and I struggle enough trying to control myself.

The Serenity Prayer offers a powerful declaration of surrender. It says…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

The more we die, the more Jesus can truly live in and through us. Amazingly…

God loves to use broken pots.

Too often the church is a place for condemnation rather than grace and forgiveness. As David said in the video, addicts need encouragement and support, not judgment and shame.

We are all broken and in need of healing and grace as sin addicts.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth…

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

But we must first be broken. We must first surrender. We must first die...and then we can truly live.

I want to invite and challenge you to die. Die to your flesh. Die to your desires, hopes and dreams. Surrender your time, talents and treasures to the One we call LORD. For Him to truly be LORD and for us to truly be free from sin and addiction we must surrender all to Jesus. He set the ultimate example for us when He willingly surrendered His life for us.

The beauty of dying to ourselves is how it frees us and allows us to be resurrected with Christ. Grace—unmerited favor—is generously offered. Forgiveness is lavished upon us.

Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive.

We are made new. Paul declared…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There is hope!

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. (Psalm 40:2-4)

One of the most effective tools for fighting addiction is a program called Celebrate Recovery (www.celebraterecovery.com). Similar to twelve-step groups, it clearly identifies the “higher power” as God. Here are the eight principles from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5):

1. Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.”

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the pose to help me recover.

“Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.

“Happy are the meek.”

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.

“Happy are the pure in heart.”

5. Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

“Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.

“Happy are the peacemakers.”

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

“Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”

Effective June 1, 2014, Celebrate Recovery is being offered on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM at Ann Arbor Church of the Nazarene on Packard Road in Ann Arbor.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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