There Are Only Two Types of Addicts

“The true man’s faith is soon made known, but that, though it is known, it is usually misunderstood. We live among blind men—let us not be angry because they cannot see!” Charles Spurgeon

“All is yellow to the jaundice eye.” Cornelius Van Til

I will be blunt, ultimately, there are only two types of people in this world, lost people and saved people, covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers, children of wrath and children of mercy. This is not to be misunderstood. I am not denying that there are people of different cultures, ethnicities, social classes, etc., However, the most important clarification that can be made about any person, regardless of their cultural background, is whether they are one of God’s children or one of Satan’s children. Many distinctions that men choose to label people with only have temporal significance in this world; but, to label a person with being a child of God or a child of Satan has effect in this world, and the eternal world yet to come. So, we may conclude, that ultimately, when we try to give counsel unto an addict, the most important distinction that we can make, is whether that person is a believer or unbeliever. This is permitted by Jesus Himself when he said in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.” This distinction can be made simply in two ways: (1) The person’s own testimony of faith or lack thereof, and (2) whether the person obeys the law of God.

Why is making this distinction the most important distinction that we as Christians should put forth the effort to make? Well, to be frank, there are numerous reasons that I could elaborate on for this distinction. First and foremost, however, the most important reason for ascertaining the spiritual condition of those addicted, is if we as Christians truly believe that the gospel is the most powerful message known to man, then knowing whether the person addicted has accepted or rejected that message is absolutely necessary for us to be able to give them biblically sound counsel.

I was asked recently why a particular person continues to use substances that evidently end up making them look, and feel so bad. This person also pointed out, that it bewildered them as to why anyone would want to use a drug that would cause them to withdraw, and essentially, be physically and mentally sick, when they ceased using for whatever reason. I’ll admit, that I used to ask myself the same questions, and not only in regards to other addicts, but also in regards to myself while I was still using. I will go on the record to say, that until we begin to view addicts into categories of lost or saved, these questions will continue to bewilder us as Christians.

It is because Satan himself does not believe, that he will always present the Christian’s belief in God unto the lost as a lie. When a lost person has no rebuttal to the authenticity of the believer’s profession made known by the life lived in obedience to God, he resorts to attack the believer’s motive of belief, and eventually, the One to whom the believer professes to believe in.

There is this one thing that the lost addict will never consider as an option, that, indeed, there is something more to the saved addict’s religion than mere externals. The lost addict will never entertain the notion that what the Christian says happened to him when God saved him, indeed, actually happened. The former addict, who, has been saved, trust in God; however, the lost addict will not always doubt the man’s faith, he sometimes is left with no rebuttal but to doubt the One whom the saved addict places his faith in. The Christian testifies of this often, and he is consumed with Bible study, prayer, and attending church. The lost addict looks unto the former addict and cannot deny his sobriety, but concludes within himself, the man believes in something he has created himself, and has placed faith in over substances. Which makes it conspicuous as to why lost addicts will continue to seek comfort and joy in substances, rather than the Spirit. The carnal man cannot understand the things that are spiritual. The lost addict cannot enable himself to believe that the former addict did, indeed, get saved by the God of the Bible. The lost addict must first be enabled by God to believe the gospel, prior to him acknowledging the legitimacy of its power.

Let’s consider the story of Job. Satan’s accusation against Job was not that he didn’t have faith, but that he trusted in God for the sole reason God had blessed him. Was not Satan’s charge against Job that he served God merely for what he could get out of Him? When the lost addict considers the eaxternal actions of a formerly addicted Christian’s life, he cannot deny that he is sober, but thinks to himself, “He has found religion conducive to his sobriety. Christianity has given him the end goal of sobriety, good for him. Yet, I have tried the mere externals of Christianity to no avail, it still left me desiring to use. Therefore, I conclude, the God he proclaims to have saved him, has not really done so, he has saved himself through faith in a system of belief that rewards him with sobriety. To each his own I suppose.” The lost addict, until the Holy Spirit illuminates his mind, cannot agree with the Christian, for to do so, would require that he, himself, be saved. Whether his doubt be in God Himself, or the motive for which the believer believes, the lost addict will continue to interpret the facts with colored glasses.

Those who mock our faith in God will not, and cannot genuinely believe, until it is granted unto them by the Father. The accusers will see the facts, and interpret them the only way their carnal minds allow them to. They are children of wrath, who need the mercy of God, through the saving power of the gospel. We cannot presume to have any positive impact on any lost addicts sobriety or salvation, until we can ascertain, by their own proclamation, and life externalized, whether they be a child of God. Facts do not interpret themselves. Brute or raw facts never have and never will exist. All facts are God created facts, that must  be interpreted through His revelation. This is why believers interpret the Bible as fact, and unbelievers interpret it as fiction. Until the gospel supernaturally regenerates the lost addict, he will continue to misinterpret the actions and beliefs, of the redeemed, and sober addict.

There is no pleasing the accusing and mocking soul of a lost person until they be saved. Suppose the lost person would have originally said, “He serves God for nothing. God continually fails His servants.” This is exactly what the Jews and Romans in the first century said of Jesus while He hung upon the cross. Did they not suggest that if Jesus really was God, why couldn’t He save Himself? Job had the mindset of Jesus when he asked, “Shall we receive good from God, and not evil? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be His name.” Is this not essentially the Savior’s prayer when He prayed in the garden, “Let this cup pass from Me; however, not My will but Your will be done Father.” God did deliver His Son; however, He suffered Him to die first, so that He would be resurrected, and enthroned at His right hand. God is not restrained to mere sight, or time. The lost will always find fault with God, and the gospel, until they repent, and believe.

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The Character of the Righteous and the Gossip

Dear Friends, it little matters what our outward life may be, or even what our speech may be, if our heart is not affected by our religion! If Grace only lies skin-deep in you, it has only saved your skin, but not your soul!” Charles Spurgeon

The righteous one knows that his salvation was a gift, which has left him without any claim upon God for blessing. There was nothing meritorious about his being regenerated. It was a result of the free choice of a holy and righteous God. Therefore, he doesn’t expect God to answer his prayers simply because he merely prays; but, prays always with an inner heart that says, “Not my will, but your will be done Father.” 

The difference between the man that wavers when found among the trial, and the man that stands firm, is the acknowledgement of the righteous, that no source of comfort or joy will provide the joy and comfort, that is found in the Lord. There is no debate worth debating. There are no options worth considering. The righteous has already, prior to salvation, exhausted all his resources, has witnessed by testimony of himself, what the worst case scenario looks like. He knows that apart from the Lord, there is no comfort or joy that can be had eternally. The righteous know the true meaning of be still, and know that I am God. Unlike the presumptuous, who seek comfort and joy for the sake of comfort and joy, the true Christian does not waver after the delayed response of God to prayer. They know that the Lord is good, wise, and working all things for the good of those whom love Him; and therefore, they wait without rashly diving headlong into sin for relief, rather than patiently waiting.
They wait upon the pleasure of God, as opposed to looking for the hasty rescue, that first sin that presents itself. The unrighteous will wonder what profit is there in waiting upon the Lord. “Surely,” they think, “if the Lord had heard our prayers, he would have answered them by now.” However, this is not so with the righteous. After supplications are made, and no response of God is found, they, nevertheless, know that they were heard by God, and continue to wait.

The righteous man does not allow himself to forget the gospel. He preaches it to himself daily, always reminding himself, that he is in need of God’s gracious favor as much as the day that God saved him initially. The man who forgets all to quickly where he has came from, from what he formerly consisted of prior to salvation, will inevitably find himself without the gracious favor of God upon his life.

Be not deceived, God will not be mocked; whatever a man sows, therefore, shall he reap. If the righteous character described herein is not consistent with your entire being, thoughts, actions, word, and deed, then asking in Jesus name isn’t available unto you. For to ask in the name of Jesus, assumes that the one who asks, is living in accordance to the will of Jesus. It will not go well for the one who doesn’t walk by faith, but who, merely prays by faith, in hopes that God will hear them. God delights in a broken and contrite spirit, not the unpleasant aroma from the sacrifices of a proud and rebellious heart. What will it profit the man who regurgitates eloquent and pleasant prayers unto God, who, when he speaks to those in daily life speaks arrogant, obscene, profane, and wicked words. The comfort and joy of prayer is only available unto the pure in heart, whose entire being has been affected by the grace of God. Pure and undefiled religion is this; that you be able to bridle your tongue. What will the unrighteous make recourse to? Will they contend that the grace of God has touched their very soul but save their tongue? What has the gossiping slanderer to assure himself of the gracious favor of God upon his life? 

It may be assumed without error, that if a man’s tongue be not sanctified, the man’s heart, likewise, is not sanctified. For it is not that which men put into their mouths that defiles them, but that which comes forth from their mouths that has corrupted them. Take note, a slanderous and gossiping tongue is an expression of a faithless heart. The heart that has no faith in God, to do according to His will, seeks by way of slanderous gossip, to manipulate, extrapolate, or manifest the outcome of the ‘supposed’ will of God. Some genuinely believe that the scheming, devising, and planning which they do is, in effect, necessary for the manifestation of God’s will. These types fail to see that two wrongs do not make a right, that the ends do not justify the means, and two black riddles have never resulted in a white riddle. Others have no doubt within themselves, that the evil in which they speak, is contrary to the will of God, but have vehemently decided in their hearts that their will should be done, along with their father, the devil, as opposed to our Father, which art in heaven.

The true Christian, walking by faith, will not speak slanderously of another, even when the one spoken of is not living righteously. Even when church discipline is the context, the words spoken by the righteous will be seasoned with grace, love, and gentleness. The just know, that God will not be mocked, the wicked will in time, reap that which they sow. God may allow the schemes and plans of the wicked to prosper for a season, but woe unto those who are prosperous during such seasons; for their due will be coals of fire that they have willingly heaped upon their head.

See what is the required character of those who have found favor with the Lord? Those whom God favors must not only do right, but must enjoy doing right. This joy and comfort in righteousness is a gift from the Lord. The wicked cannot help but to take pleasure in gossip and unjust gain. The righteous cannot help but to take pleasure in prayer, and obeying the will of God. 

Addiction: Disease, Sin, or Both?

“The idea of sin being able to deceive us, suppressing truth so that we believe a lie, should send shivers down our spines. It is one thing to deceive other people. That is scary enough. It is even more frightening when we realize that each lie we tell leaves us more self-deceived. All practiced sin teaches us to believe lies. We don’t often consider the boomerang effect of our deception. In the end it will get us.” Ed Welch

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34

So much of the modern understanding of addiction has been fabricated and interpreted through the lens of Bill Wilson’s A.A. Twelve Steps. Is this a bad thing? In my honest opinion, based upon what little research I have done in regards to the beginning foundation of A.A., what started out as a potentially beneficial resource for the addicted has been distorted in time into somewhat of an idol. I use the word idol, to bring notice to the fact that, A.A. was initially founded upon moral principles that have their origin within the Christian worldview; however, as time has progressed, A.A. has sought congeniality with any and all religious preferences, to the extent that, it has diminished any solid leanings toward a biblical model of recovery it once possessed. Let us not forget, that A.A. has its roots in what was called the Oxford Movement, which was distinctly Christian by profession, and it was made up of some fine Christian participants. To its demise, however, Bill Wilson desired to see the A.A. material be made available to everyone, despite their religious affiliation. That said, Ed Welch makes the remark in his book, A Banquet in the Grave, “I don’t think that even Bill Wilson could have foreseen that his material would eventually be amenable to atheists.”

Welch goes on to say, “The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) speaks very frankly about ‘vengeful resentments, self-pity, and unwarranted pride.’ The AA literature has never been shy to talk about what Christians call sin. Furthermore, there have always been religiously oriented writers who have tried to bring sin into the discussion of addictions. They are now being joined by more and more secular authors who suggest that the disease approach is incomplete at best, and that further discussion—or even a paradigm change—is needed. (Keep remembering that, except for Scripture itself, every system of thought is in need of further development. Nothing is a finished product.) The idea that ‘you aren’t responsible for the cause, but you are responsible for the cure’ doesn’t always fit the data, and the near-exclusive reliance on the disease metaphor can stifle discussion. With this in mind, Scripture and its teaching on sin can be called on to sharpen and guide our thinking.”

So this brings us to the initial question, “Is addiction a sin?” Without hesitation, one’s response to this question ought to be an emphatic, yes! On the contrary, however, anyone who has experienced addiction knows all to well that it is unlike any other sin that they have ever committed, whether we speak of sins of commission or omission. Addiction, no doubt, feels very much like a disease. Every addict has at one time or another felt like they were out of control, desperate, even enslaved, if you will, to their drug of choice. Their thoughts and emotions were no longer a result of their own unhindered volition; but rather, the drug of choice controlled them and told them how to live, think, and feel. It is important to point out that the Scriptures often compare sin to an illness or disease. For instance, Isaiah 1:5-6, “Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” Make no mistake, sin can feel exactly like a disease; and I’ll go even further to say, that there is no other sin that a man can be engulfed in, that is closer in comparison to a disease, than that of addiction. It should be noted, however, that all metaphors and analogies indeed have limitations. In other words, there are ways that addiction is like a disease, and consequently, there are ways that it is not. There is an incalculable difference between saying that one’s genetics can influence them, and saying that one’s genetics or physiological makeup determines them to be or do something. Scripture is not at variance with the supposition that some humans are physiologically predisposed to a particular drug; however, physiological tendencies can not and should not lead us to conclude that self-control or personal responsibility is impossible.

If one takes the time to search the Scriptures for an answer to such questions as this article poses, they will inevitably reach the conclusion that behind addiction lurks sin, which always has, and always will be man’s deepest problem. This is why this article is so important. We are not dealing with some frivolous definition of terms. If sin is not considered as man’s core problem (as opposed to a disease), then the gospel is marginalized. That is to say, as Welch concludes, “If sin is not our primary problem, then the gospel of Jesus is no longer the most important even in all of human history.” But does this conclusion not leave any room for maintaining that the sin of addiction is in some way different than all other sins that humans commonly struggle with? I do not see how this could be the case. I believe one would be perfectly justified in declaring that there is indeed, something particular about the sin of addiction, that separates it from all other forms of sin. This particular character of addiction can even be likened to that of an illness or disease; but beware, no matter how illustrious the metaphor of disease appears to be to that of addiction, it cannot and should not be equated to a disease under no circumstances. The results are not incalculable. One needs only to look unto modern society’s treatment strategies, recovery programs, secular psychotherapy, etc., to calculate how destructive this fallacious presupposition has become. This quote by A.W. Tozer, albeit in reference to doctrinal issues of theology, has much relevancy to the issue at hand, he says, “I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that.”

What exactly is particular about addiction? What about the nature of addiction makes it a candidate for being likened to that of a disease, even within the realm of Scripture? As Welch mentions, “…the deepest problem of both the murderer and the diabetic is sin, but that doesn’t mean that diabetes is sinful. Are addictions themselves sinful?” The book of Proverbs speaks of the wisest of men as those men who possess the most trustworthy knowledge of themselves. To regulate addiction to a disease which, thereby, dismisses those addicted from any moral accountability whatsoever, will inevitably create addicts with the most untrue knowledge of themselves. The truth is man does suffer from a moral dilemma, which is the result of a universal, indeed global, disease. Some have told the addict he need not beat himself up over his addictive behaviors, for he is the victim of an allergy that prevents him from being able to use substances successfully. The latter statement is true; however, the former not so much. Man needs to realize above all else that he is a sinner, not just that he sins, and is therefore declared a sinner; rather, he came forth from the womb a sinner. The disease of sinning is man’s only birthright apart from the redeeming grace of God. No man, even with the cessation of using substances, will alleviate himself from this disease of sin without having been regenerated by God.

Would it not be cruel of a physician to neglect revealing to the cancerous patient that they are, in fact, infected, just so the patient will not (justly) dwell upon such dreadful information? Likewise, so the moderns have done when they essentially treat addiction to crack cocaine as equivalent to the patient who is diagnosed with breast cancer. Supposedly both, addict and patient, are victims of a disease. It may be suggested that the difference is that the addict chooses to use, which is a choice that the cancerous patient doesn’t possess in whether the disease of cancer begins to become manifested. But does this suggestion not prove the antithesis? Specifically, that addiction is not a disease without moral ramifications; but rather, a disease that is a choice by all those afflicted? Proverbs 1:17, “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” Just as a bird sees the awaiting net beyond the bait, so the addict chooses the very substance that will result in his ruin.

I can just hear those who are among the pro-disease approach to treating addictions replying with, “Indeed, it may be accurate to describe the addict’s first rendezvous with their drug of choice as sin; however, overtime, the drug makes the choice. They no longer are acting self-consciously.” The results of such thinking are also, incalculable. Such presuppositions are against everything that our judicial punitive sanctions are framed upon. If we follow such logic to its inevitable end, it does not come as a surprise to us as to how so many have received lax punishments who have claimed insanity or mental disorder. How in the world can we ever punish anyone who is not in control of the decisions they make? Are we to conclude therefore, that all those who steal in order to fund their drug of choice were only acting out of necessity? That is, the addicted thief cannot and should not be punished for actions that were influenced by a disease that has subconsciously determined that he use by any means necessary?

Welch continues, “But the disease model doesn’t fit as well as we might think. The cravings and desires at the core of the addictive experience are not quite the same as an invading virus. If you catch a virus, you have no choice. You don’t want it, and you would be glad to be rid of it. Heavy drinking, however, doesn’t just happen to us. Instead, the drinker feels there are payoffs—however temporary—to drunkenness. (There are for any sin.) In other words, addicts make choices to pursue their addiction…This does not deny either the feeling or the reality of being taken captive by an addictive substance or behavior. It is just to say that, for the addict, slavery with the object of desire is sometimes preferable to freedom without it.”

I can but hear some people’s response to where I am taking this article. “How convenient, he has once again found occasion to put before our face his ardent and dogmatic Calvinist views. What must be understood about addiction and my understanding of it, however, is that I do not merely believe the Calvinistic doctrines because I read them in Calvin’s Institutes, or Luther’s Bondage of the Will, but I myself have lived them. Not only was my will bent toward sin prior to God saving me, but I have never come so close to my pre-regenerated sinful heart’s desire than when I found myself in the trenches of addiction. I have never needed the grace of God upon my life more after my initial re-birth than when I found myself addicted to heroin and crystal-meth. The best way I can articulate this matter is by saying that I desired once again to desire God; but sadly, apart from God’s own renewing grace, I could not. Addiction is a disease of the human heart. The addict’s will becomes bent towards it. Martin Luther in his timeless classic, Bondage of the Will, wrote: Man…does not do evil against his will, under pressure, as though he were taken by the scruff of the neck and dragged into it, like a thief…being dragged off against his will to punishment; but he does it spontaneously and voluntarily. And this willingness or volition is something which he cannot in his own strength eliminate, restrain or alter…”

Everyone who has experienced addiction has uttered those words, “I can quit when I want to, I’m not addicted.” To this, I would only argue with the latter and not the former. Indeed, when one wants to quit, he will most likely quit in due time. However, what one cannot do on their own, is conjure up the desire or will-power to quit. That desire, much like the gift of grace through faith, is just that; a gift. The desire to quit is a God-given desire. It matters very little how this desire becomes a reality in one’s life, just so long as it does become one. For some, mere circumstances permissively allowed to come about by God may be the means to this end; for others, it may be the direct providential hand of God intervening in one’s life that removes the veil from their eyes. Some have not entirely been wrong in alluding to the enlistment of a higher power as being essential to one’s recovery; where they were wrong, however, was in assuming that one can choose for himself/herself who or what that higher power will be. That is to implicitly presuppose that they themselves have the highest power in and of themselves; namely, declaring who or what is God. Power is not any higher than self when self determines for itself what is powerful and what isn’t. Power is power, whether the powerless addict gives intellectual assent to this or not. May God be true, though every man a liar.

A biblically accurate way to think of addictions is that it typically begins as a naïve act of rebellion, which in time hardens one’s already idolatrous heart until it becomes trapped. Unconfessed and unrepentant sin inevitably results in voluntary slavery when God abandons his people to their own desires. Ed Welch, gives a precise definition of addiction based upon a biblical framework, “Addiction is bondage to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don’t bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God.”

I’ve often wondered what purpose God had for allowing me to continue in the destructive path of addiction for so long. I have since, through introspection, came to many conclusions, but none so sobering as this one by the Prince of Preachers, C. H. Spurgeon, “I think the Lord permits many sinners to go to the full length of their tether in order that they may know, in the future, what stuff they are made of, and may never trust in themselves. Those who, from their youth up, have been under restraint do not know the evil of their own hearts and are apt to think that they can scarcely be heirs of wrath even as others. But those who have developed their innate depravity by actual sin dare not dream such proud falsehoods, for their actual sins would cry them down if they did so! When the Lord leaves us to ourselves, awhile, and just stands back and lets us have our spin, what pretty creatures we are!”

It’s Time to Come Home

Isaiah 45:9, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? Or thy work, He hath no hands?”

It is often by the means of trial and tribulation, that God will bring back those who have for far too long strayed from His will. Men who have already been blessed with an excess of God’s grace, through the gift of salvation, will at times such as these find themselves asking such questions, “Why do you strive against me God?” “What have I done to provoke your anger in such a magnificent way?” “How is it that, men who haven’t even given so much as a thought unto thy ways, seem to strive against thee without the least bit of frustration or agitation?” What is seldom realized by the clay when it begins to ask of the Potter such questions as these is that the clay is once again in the presence of the Potter. How much better of a state the clay is in already, in pouring out it’s heart over the loss of the pleasures of life that have been temporarily taken, than when enjoying those pleasures without the slightest hint of gratitude toward the Potter who supplied them.

It must be noted that illegitimate children will often escape the rod of chastening that so often seems to find its place in the children of God. It must also be noted, that often, though it be for a season, the children of God will appear on the surface to be living without the loving discipline of God through trial and tribulation. But make no mistake, the works that God Almighty has begun, He will without a doubt bring to completion. This is the joy that is to be counted when God’s children find themselves among trial and tribulation. It is not our curse to suffer for Christ, but our privilege; there is no curse in taking up our cross, as there was upon Christ when He hung upon that tree. It has been said that cursed is every man that hangs upon a tree; and now, because the second Adam hung upon the tree, it may be said, that blessed is every man that hangs upon a tree for His sake. Though there may be a multitude of sorrow in taking up one’s cross, it should never be assumed that there is any curse in doing so. God never sends trial and tribulation among His children for the purposes of justice and vengeance. Justice and vengeance will be God’s, but in time, and only upon those who wouldn’t part with the pleasures of life for the sake of the cross. There is no more wrath in God inflicting His children with trial and tribulation than in Him inflicting them with abundant blessings. How sweet this truth ought to be to those who find themselves amidst the fiercest of trials.

It is the joy of believer’s to be assured that their trials are always bringing them closer and closer to God. But, it is a sad thing when one of God’s own is found striving against Him. It is a sad thing when those who have been saved by the grace of God begin to desire the pleasures of life above a closeness to God that can only be brought about by the fiery furnace. Woe unto this man, who against his better knowledge and experience, stubbornly strives against his Maker. It is at these times, God will send for His children. All to often God sends for His children, and they simply will not come home. Sadly, although God’s children are often called with the love of a reproving word to come home into His presence, they will not come, and God will have to bring them home through the much harsher means of a blow.

It should be the joy of the Christian to commune with God, but all too often God’s children find themselves too busy with the cares of this world to spend time in prayer and the reading of the Word. God often calls His children to begin living a life that is more fervent in prayer. God tells us in His word, “Ask anything in the name of Jesus, and it will be given unto you.” He is a benevolent God who wishes to see the desires of His children’s hearts granted, if only we would but ask of Him. The worst epitaph anyone could ever have written upon their tombstone would be, “He had not, because he asked not.” The Master simply calls out to His beloved children to come and pray…and they will not come.

It is often because we will not come when God summons us unto holier lives, that trouble finds us. Trouble takes on all sorts of sizes and shapes, but it matters very little to the size and shape, so long as it achieves its effect of bringing us back into fellowship with our Maker. Some of God’s children will find this trouble to be sickness, and sickness even unto death at times. How long will you put your heavenly Father to test by not coming when He calls you? How long will you be satisfied with drunkenness, sexual immorality, greed, pride, and reputation? God will only call you to a holier life but so long until He calls you to experience some form of trouble. That is fact. You were created to live for more. Gold must be refined. Whatever it takes for you to cry out unto God for mercy, will be your lot if you be God’s. Do not fancy yourself with thoughts that lead you to believe you will live life without these things being brought upon you. God will complete the good work that He has begun in you. If you will not come running, no doubt, He will make you come limping. If you are a true child of God, and you are not living a life that is characteristic of a child of God, most assuredly, there is a rod of God’s love being prepared for you.

If it is not sickness that God will so choose to bring upon His children, how often it is that of poverty. The successful businessman that God has in times past blessed abundantly will suffer an extreme unexpected loss. This should not be as a surprise to us, for did not the proverb say, “The wealth of the wicked is laid up for the just?” I am aware that the wicked are those of whom have not eternal life through salvation; yet, the principle still remains, that wealth acquired by ill and wicked means will not be held onto eternally, and more often times than not, God will see to it that the just reap the benefit of the riches sown by the wicked. Did not God forbid the children of Israel to forget not the One who blessed them in their getting? All of the sudden a customer will not pay the debts owed, and how fast the losses will come upon the successful businessman. Losses in business are often God’s means of sanctification. If you will not come to God in days of wealth, God will see to it that you come to Him in days of poverty. If you will not honor God upon the pinnacle of riches, He will bring you down upon the valley of poverty.

Trials within the family are often the means God uses to sanctify His saints. I know of these trials, for I, myself, have with much grief, caused them to come upon my own family. How many a times I wish I could have gone back in time and chosen to live my life in obedience to God, rather than to obedience to myself. Even now, as an addict in recovery, I wish I could make choices for other addicts who simply will not come when God calls them. I know all too well what lies ahead of them. There are but two ends for the path they are choosing to travel down; institutions or death. But be of good cheer friends, for I, myself, am living proof that we serve a God who is mighty to save. We serve a God who is not passive, but rather, very active in the lives of those whom He loves. There is hope, but not a hope in ourselves. No addict is above the effectual call of God. Indeed, no sinner is above the effectual call of God to come home. It may be that the call is accompanied with much trial and tribulation, but how much sweeter it is to find oneself amidst the trials and tribulations, for we know that through these, the saints will persevere to the end, when they are brought home eternally. However, take note, prevention is always better than a cure. If God’s call will not be heeded unto with a tug of the heart, it may be assumed without error that much heartache will ensue, until once again, the believer finds himself in God’s will.

Dreaming of Discipleship

“I don’t smoke or drink you know,” he said irrelevantly, “because I think they are drugs. And yet I fancy all hobbies, like my camera and bicycle are drugs too. Getting under a black hood, getting into a dark room—getting into a hole anyhow. Drugging myself with speed and sunshine, and fatigue, and fresh air. Pedaling the machine so fast that I turn into a machine myself. That’s the matter with all of us. We’re too busy to wake up.” G. K. Chesterton

So it is with the majority of Christian activity today. Unlike the well-greased, lubricated, and oiled machine, which was the early church, the church today is in cruise control, running on the fumes of yesteryear. It was preached this past Lord’s day, that there is a profound difference between those who are professing Christians and those who are practicing disciples; without a doubt, the latter to be desired very much so over the former. Oh, but such a distinction shouldn’t and couldn’t apply to me and my local congregation! For we are much too concerned with doing the Lord’s work to be slighted with such a clarification of terms. We regularly attend Sunday school, volunteer for various ministries upon the simplest of provocations, and God do not let us forget to mention the fact that we are among those elite Christians who take up their crosses to attend the weekly Wednesday night services. My local congregation and I are much too busy for the Lord to not be included among those disciples who are indeed practicing.

But, if I may be honest and frank, I shouldn’t object to the notion that my past years in service to the Lord and His church, has indeed felt too awfully close to that of a dream. A dream, in the sense that I have felt very little of the actions I acted on behalf of the Lord. I have desired very little of that which I have sought, and have kept very little of that joy experienced while in worship. Very much like a dream, each Sabbath has come and gone, leaving very little impact on my daily life throughout the years past. Oh, I have awakened before. I have awakened each Monday morning to an opened Bible and cup of coffee, only to find the remnants of the dream I had dreamt just the day prior. If only I could be this active in the reality of day to day life, and feel it as I did in the time I spent dreaming. If only I didn’t have to tell my co-workers on Monday of the marvelous and spirit-filled service I attended just twenty-four hours ago; but that they would to become awakened to the reality themselves by my mere presence. It would be a great thing, if by the way I conducted myself among those un-churched, that they needed not a debriefing of my Sunday affairs with words, but rather, couldn’t help but be awakened to that solemn reality by the mere life I lived in their presence. But I am not a naïve fool. I know that such an event could only be brought about by I, myself, not being asleep. I must be awakened to something much more than what constitutes the majority of Christian service today. Discipleship without desire is drudgery. This drudgery of doing must be in time replaced with the discipleship of being. But where hence does such knowledge come from?

I mustn’t spend too much time on the source of this knowledge, for it is common to most all men without need of special revelation. I believe it must continue to go without saying that a man cannot be determined to be good or bad by observing him in any single act or deed. Many of evil men have been observed doing the greatest acts of charity at any given time, only doing so to give rest to a weary conscience that has so long been under conviction for many a evil deeds. Such is also true of observing a good man commit the most heinous act of wickedness. Did not King David lay with Bathsheba, and afterwards have her husband sent of into the frontlines of battle to embrace a most assured death? And yet, our Father without hesitation still proclaimed David was a man after His own heart! A man is much more than any act of service he may offer unto the Lord at any given time. Indeed, to rightly declare a man as good, one must look unto what the man longs for with the utmost desire. What does the man desire above all else? Are the man’s longings holy or unholy? Is he stricken with grief when he finds himself in a dream-like state of merely doing rather than being?

Men must be trained for war with evil by engaging in an active battle with sin. One who merely does, without being, will never take great pains at mortifying sinful longings. For those sinful desires of the flesh will never pain those who are of carnal nature, as opposed to those who are seeking to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. These battles against sin are for the good of men. For spiritual battles can only be won through the empowering of the Spirit of God. And where the Spirit of God dwells, there is freedom; even more, freedom from the drudgery of dreaming.

All of Hell’s legions that may come against a man with any success, can only come against that man who is sleeping on the Spirit of God. But how strong and ready is the man who is awakened by the Spirit of God unto holy longings. With this type of man, who trust in God with unwavering faith, all things are possible. Trials and temptations are but fickle occurrences, unlike his persevering faith. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all. Have we not heard it is the joy of the saints to contend earnestly for the faith? If one desires to no longer dream of discipleship, but rather, live it without drudgery, let him earnestly and with all joy engage in battle with unholy longings. Satisfied and content will the righteous man be during and after the battle. For battles can only take place in the day to day life of a disciple who isn’t merely dreaming. There is more bliss in the genuine confession of repentance, than in years of merely dreaming of discipleship. There is no sorrow after being so filled with bliss after a genuine confession of repentance, or the joy felt by the righteous man who has resisted the desire for the unholy.

The joys of the genuine disciple cannot be found or experienced while one is only dreaming of doing battle with sin. To experience joy the righteous man needs only to look back upon the sin that used to have dominion over him; yet, today that sin is only a reminder of the grace and favor of God upon him. Do you not remember how joyous it felt when you once remained steadfast under the fiercest of trials, and felt the bliss of holy longing and satisfaction in obeying God? Disciples are made in war, not dreams.

So let us declare war against no one but ourselves and our unholy longings. For sin never sleeps; therefore, neither should we dream of discipleship any longer.

Reaching Those in Active Addiction

“His argument was this: that the dedicated man might go anywhere among any kind of men, even the worst kind of men, so long as there was nothing by which they could hold him. If he had any ties or needs like ordinary men, he would become like ordinary men. St. Francis was the last man in the world to think any the worse of ordinary men for being ordinary.” G.K. Chesterton

It has been a common question that I have pondered as an addict in recovery, “How do we reach those who are in active addiction?” This dilemma poses all sorts of problems for those especially affiliated with any Protestant evangelical church. Those in active addiction are most often times on the streets homeless, or living in environments that are anything but conducive to a former addict’s recovery. Aside from the former addict who is in recovery, the places that those in active addiction frequent are not even conducive to any born-again believer’s sanctification. So, if addicts dwell amidst the people, places, and things that could potentially compromise a believer’s relationship to God, how in the world are we ever going to get the good news of the Gospel to them?

Take note, our Christian faith will not have the impact it should upon unbelievers until those who do not believe see those who believe living consistently with the doctrines they profess as true, and like it. The latter part is tantamount to the success we will ever hope to achieve in reaching those in active addiction. So much of Christian activity today has this sort of implicit mercenary attitude behind it that insinuates to unbelievers that we really do not like what we believe. We are choosing to abstain from those things (drugs in this case) not because we have found a spiritual substance that is much more fulfilling and satisfying than any drug could ever dream of making us; but rather, we choose to abstain because all our past hopes at using became failures. It’s as if our attitude says, “If I had not gotten arrested, if I had not lost my kids due to my habit, if my wife wouldn’t have said she’d leave me, if I could just have a job that didn’t drug screen, then I would still be using. This whole church going routine is just an aid to my pessimistic outlook upon life that keeps me from being depressed about my not using. I have sobriety, and sobriety they say is the goal, God however, was and is, just the means to the end of sobriety.” Until we have former addicts who have lived the hell that is addiction, who have been given the joy unknown to any unbeliever, living as if they actually do, indeed like the life lead by the Spirit, as opposed to the substance, we will not have any hope for those in active addiction. They are of all men most pitied.

I was speaking with a loved one recently about the methods we should take to get the word out about our church’s meetings on Friday night for those struggling with addiction. The trend seems to be that those who come are only those who have a loved one suffering from addiction, or one who has a substantial amount of clean time. At best, and this so far seems to be a rare case, the closest we have seen to one in active addiction is one who has already reached their proverbial “bottom.” This proverbial “bottom” being that voice inside one that says, “I’m fed up with living in hell on earth, I’m tired of feeling like my only two choices are that of using or withdrawing, I want to be changed, I want to be made anew, indeed, transformed.” As I said, this is an exception to the trend of those who have came to the meetings. It is so rare. And what is even more crucial to the point, is that this one at their bottom would have had no inclination to attend this biblical-based meeting had they not at one time attended church in the past. This seems only natural to me. For I myself, was not in the least bit interested in any such meeting when I was in active addiction, especially in the beginning stages of addiction when my using was unknown to others, and drugs had yet to take from me everything. I knew the reason why I ran to substances initially was that I had practiced the routines of Christianity, lived the life of sobriety, and I had become depressed to say the least. There are reasons for this becoming the case in my life that I have wrote about in other post. So, if one is interested in knowing the particulars of how to avoid the pitfalls of addiction, and becoming “burned out” spiritually, then they would do well to read them.

So, what are we to do when faced with the problem of reaching those in active addiction who have no such interest in coming to biblical-based meetings or even have no interest whatsoever in living the life of sobriety.

Could it be that a lot of our problem is that so much emphasis has been placed upon getting those who are not interested in living sober, to somehow mysteriously become interested in living sober without any reference to the good news of the Gospel? Sure, this sounds cliché. But I mean much more than what is often presupposed by most when they refer to reaching addicts with the good news.

Let’s look back upon the quote by G.K. Chesterton in this article, “His argument was this: that the dedicated man might go anywhere among any kind of men, even the worst kind of men, so long as there was nothing by which they could hold him. If he had any ties or needs like ordinary men, he would become like ordinary men. St. Francis was the last man in the world to think any the worse of ordinary men for being ordinary.” What those in active addiction need to compel them to come to meetings on Friday night, is a former addict now in recovery, who is so filled with the Spirit of God, that he or she can find themselves among the people, places, and things that used to have dominion over them, and these things have absolutely no affect upon their obedience to Christ. Those in active addiction need to see born-again believers, who once were as they now are, blind, but yet they see. They are living a life lead by the Spirit, and praise be to God they are liking it. I can tell you, without a doubt, in the latter stages of my struggle with addiction, had someone who was formerly addicted to heroin and crystal-meth came along and was living proof that the life I was choosing to live is no where near as fulfilling as the life lead by the Spirit, it would have had profound impact upon me. Don’t misunderstand me, I knew many people and lived with people who were, and are as Godly as I could ever aspire to be; however, that was a discouragement to me believe it or not. I had tried living as obedient to Christ as they, and I had only become depressed in time. I felt that they had something within them that I lacked; something that compelled them to keep on keeping on. I have found out this side of addiction that the thing they possessed that I didn’t was the grace of God upon their life. I possessed much of self, much of the will-power of Tanner, but had very little of the grace of God that leads to the desire, joy, and satisfaction in living a life lead by the Spirit.

I know what some people’s reaction will be to this suggestion, “I can not think of a more unwise proposition for any former addict, than that of frequenting the people, places, and things that at a time almost lead to their very destruction.” I want to clarify that what I mean by “frequenting,” is not living among those in active addiction, as if, the former addict pitches a tent among those addicted and attempts to live as saint among sinners. That indeed, would be very unwise. I am not suggesting that those who at once struggled with addiction to alcohol, take it upon themselves to go to the bar in hopes to convert those who most frequent the bars. What I am suggesting, is that when a former addict reaches a point of maturity in their spiritual walk with God, when they are so dedicated to the service of God, when they have no ties or intention of ties with the substances of this world, they should merely make that phone call to the one they know still suffering, take food and clothes to the addicted homeless, ask that one still suffering out for a cup of coffee (perhaps it would be wise to have another Christian who has not struggled with addiction for support and accountability in this particular situation), solely with the motive being that they show them not only with words, but with evidence of their life lived, that there is good news, and that news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If writing was enough, I would have no need or desire to do these things myself; but hiding behind words is easy. However, living a life of obedience to God, and liking it, is the hardest, yet, most pleasurable thing a man could ever take part in.

The significance in this approach is that the one who is reaching out to those in addiction is one who has been in the addict’s very shoes. Not that God can’t use the one who has never used, all things are possible with God, but it is only natural that one will see the power of the Gospel in the current life lead by the Spirit of one who was at one time under the dominion of substances. It has been said that one without a past is one without a testimony. The power of the former addict’s testimony upon those currently addicted is just that; he is no longer addicted. Their past is the current addict’s hell on earth, and somehow, under the influence of some mysterious power higher than themselves, the gates of hell didn’t prevail. If this isn’t attractive to those suffering, those who have genuinely begun to see their predicament as suffering, then I have no need to continue writing about this subject. But we who believe know the truth, and the truth has set us free.

I, for a fact, know that there are some who I used to use with, used to deal with, that read the things I write and are to say the least, skeptical. They think to themselves, sure, we have heard all this before. We have seen your type before. We will see you again under very different circumstances Tanner. To them, I would agree to an extent. Indeed, you may have heard all of this before in some manner. If it was up to me, and only me, most assuredly, you would see me using and dealing again. But that’s the beauty of grace. I possess that which isn’t of me, nor can I not give away that which has been given to me. It may be said, and justly so, that if I never again put a needle in my arm I will hear the Savior say one day, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” Of course, some will presume that such an attitude will surely cause me to fall prey to another awaiting sin other than addiction. Such a comment would most likely be made by one who has never injected heroin or crystal-meth into their body. For me to never return unto the trenches of addiction, would require daily dying to self in such a way, that no other sin of such a magnitude could have such a devastating effect upon me. There is no alternative on earth this side of addiction left unto me; it’s literally use or live. If it was up to me, apart from God’s grace, I would be just another type that you have seen come and go. But what separates me from those you have seen come and go, is that Jesus Christ saved me from who I was. He continues to save me from my destructive self. If Christ doesn’t save me today, I won’t be saved. If ignorance is bliss, it’s because you haven’t heard of this.

Ascent of Thorns

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’”

We are not certain as to exactly what Paul was referring to when he spoke of being “pained with a thorn in the flesh, and buffeted with a messenger of Satan.” Perhaps, this thorn in the flesh could have been a troublesome reminder or tempting thought that was constantly manifesting itself in Paul’s life; so much so, that it caused the apostle much grief and anguish. Some have suggested that Paul was referring to acute bodily pain or sickness; others think it was the indignities done to him by the false apostles. Whatever it was that St. Paul had in mind when he spoke of this thorn in the flesh, it is imperative that we take note of how God used what Satan meant for evil, to bring about good in Paul’s spiritual walk.

In verse 7, why did Paul say that God had allowed Satan to continuously harass him as a thorn in his flesh?

The definition of conceited is as follows: excessively proud of oneself. So it is evident that one of the primary reasons God had allowed Satan continually tempt or harass Paul was so that Paul would not become prideful, confident in self, egotistical, or even narcissistic.

Matthew Henry, in reference to this passage had this to say:

The design of this was to keep the apostle humble: Lest he should be exalted above measure, 2 Corinthians 12:7. Paul himself knew he had not yet attained, neither was already perfect; and yet he was in danger of being lifted up with pride. If God love us, he will hide pride from us, and keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered, to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan, which he did not send with a good design, but on the contrary, with ill intentions, to discourage the apostle (who had been so highly favored of God) and hinder him in his work. But God designed this for good, and he overruled it for good, and made this messenger of Satan to be so far from being a hindrance that it was a help to the apostle.

I am reminded of what my father had pointed out in a recent Friday Night Light meeting after hearing several attendees share how God had used their past hurts, hang-ups, and habits to remind them of their weaknesses. To paraphrase what he said, “God has in a way blessed you with the knowledge of what you can potentially become or do, without acknowledging your weaknesses before God and daily asking for His assistance to overcome these hurts, hang-ups, and habits through prayer.

Many believers when experiencing a time in their walk with God when He seems distant or quiet are not fearful that they are on the verge of slipping back into a former manner of living that is the equivalent of being in chains of bondage. Unfortunately, these believers run the risk of becoming apathetic, passive, and complacent in their walk with God. Where we who have struggled with the chains of addiction at once in our lives would be keenly aware of our desperate situation at a time like this, other believers are unaware of the danger lurking right before their very eyes. They are building the very gallows upon which they will be hung. So we should thank God with St. Paul that He has given us these thorns in the flesh as reminders of our utter dependence upon the grace of God in our lives.

This brings us to the next point worth noting in this passage: the believer’s proper response to trials and temptations. What was Paul’s reaction to his thorn in the flesh?

The apostle prayed earnestly to God for the removal of this thorn in the flesh. When believers are stricken with any type of grievance, our natural response to any such affliction should be that of prayer. Therefore, we are sometimes tempted that we may learn to pray.

The apostle prayed to God on three occasions that the thorn in his flesh might depart from him. However, take note that though afflictions are sent for our spiritual benefit, and we may pray unto God for the removal of them: we should desire also that they may reach the end for which God designed them. So as afflictions are sent our way to teach us to pray, so are they to teach us to continue in prayer, despite of the immediate response of God to those prayers.

Christians may be aware of the fact that we are weak in the flesh and we daily battle sin; but has that knowledge of our weakness had any effect on how we live our lives? The extent of one’s belief in his own weakness will be evident in the strides he takes in praying for the grace of God to resist sinful temptations. To what extent do you glory in your weakness? If the incarnate Son of God (being fully man, took upon Himself a cursed natural body that possessed the effects of sin and its temptations) saw the importance of praying and fasting for 40 days in the wilderness so that He might conquer the temptation of the greatest of tempters; how much more should we as finite sinful men devote ourselves to prayers for victory over sin?

Prayer is the leverage that moves mountains. Mere cognitive affirmation of man’s weakness must be surpassed by a belief in weakness that leads a spirit of poverty. E.M. Bounds, in his book, Thy Will Be Done, comments on Matthew 5:3, “The Greek word for poor means a pauper, one who lives by begging. The real Christian lives on the bounties of another, whose bounties he gets by another.” Blessed are those who realize that without Christ they are nothing. Blessed are those that live as beggars relying upon the sovereign hand of God to sustain them. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).”

“But whatever it was, it was so far analogous to the story of the man making a tunnel through the earth that it did mean a man going down and down until at some mysterious moment he begins to go up and up. We have never gone up like that because we have never gone down like that; we are obviously incapable of saying that it does not happen; and the more candidly and calmly we read human history, and especially the history of the wisest men, the more we shall come to the conclusion that it does happen.” G. K. Chesterton

The wisest of men have at one time taken it upon themselves to dig deeper and deeper into the trenches of self-righteousness, only to find that the deeper they dug, the more unrighteousness they came across. The descent in time became an ascent. An ascent that lead further than ever away from the trenches of self-righteousness and unto the imputed righteousness of Another; this ascent, can only be climbed by going down rather than up. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, and the lowly; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Pursuing Joy

“The way of the wicked is dark, and therefore dangerous; for they stumble and yet know not how to avoid it the next time. They fall into trouble, but never inquire wherefore God contends with them; they consider not that they do evil, nor what will be the end of it.” Matthew Henry

As I have said before in another post what seems to be lacking from what I can tell, at least in written form, is literature that identifies the preliminary patterns of thought that lead people into the destructive ways of addiction. I believe it would be safe to say that common among all those addicted is the initial desire to be satisfied with joy. Certainly, this desire in and of itself is not necessarily bad, for this desire is what creatures created by God have been endowed with by Him. All mankind, having been created to live eternally, have the desire to be satisfied eternally. The problem addicts entertain is the false notion that the means to this end of satisfaction can be achieved through mood altering substances or chemicals. What should be plain to them is the nature of the object they utilize in hopes of achieving eternal joy, is just the opposite, indeed, merely temporal. The fact that seems to escape everyone at times, even believers, is that every man we will ever come into contact with is an immortal. Souls, unlike bodies are immortal. They will spend eternity being joyously satisfied in the presence of God’s love, or longing for escape from the presence of a Holy God’s wrath.

C.S. Lewis once said, “All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be.'” When joy ceases to be seen as a future fulfillment, we will without any due temperance, go to any and all extremes to escape the present here and now. How common it is for addicts to dwell on past use, or in anticipation of future use, just so they can mentally escape the here and now of sobriety. They become utterly afraid of living one single moment of life not under the influence; they long for their soul to be filled with a place that isn’t so barren. Note, sobriety isn’t the reward of not using, living everyday sober becomes continuously rewarding. For one becomes in the spiritual frame of mind to serve God and be served by His grace. Christians are not mercenaries living without the things they take pleasure in the most. Christians recovering from addiction are daily recovering that which was lost as a consequence of their using, thus, being at present rewarded and in time eternally rewarded.

Those who seek the approval (restoration) of their loved ones primarily before the grace and mercy of God, are seeking to please men and not God. They are seeking that which is temporal therefore will reap the full rewards of that chief end, sobriety, only to the extent that other people recognize it in them. We should rather seek to please God, having Him be glorified in and through us for this has rewards for not only this life, but the life to come. It is important to remember that discipline without desire is drudgery. Drudgery is what is experienced by mercenaries, which is not characteristic of the Christian life.

The very desire to do what God commands us, is the gradual reward that we receive from God through His grace. It will not reach its full consummation until we are in the world to come with Him, and in the presence of His favor fully potentiated. The desire to obey God, and the reward in so doing, is only the preliminary reward; indeed, only an echtype of the fully manifested reward that awaits us in paradise. What used to be a  longing to use, to artificially simulate this satisfaction, is in time replaced with a divinely inspired longing to know and obey God. Addicts cannot continue to elevate temporal objects, that only provide artificial joy, to the place where only the Object of objects can rightly reside. Again Lewis observes, “If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”

It was not the drugs that we desired. It was the feeling they produced in us. The worth of any desire is within the object that produces that desire. How worthless and temporal, even fleeting have drugs proved themselves to be to us? If we put our full trust in such an object we will not get very far without soon being betrayed by that object. This is what makes addiction so deceptive. We desire or long for something that isn’t necessarily bad. Indeed, God created us to be Christian hedonist, that will eventually no longer long for that longing. However, until we stop choosing to place our hope and trust in the wrong mediating objects of joy, we will only find ourselves less fulfilled than when we first begun longing or desiring. We often are told a man’s relationship for God should come before his relationship and desire for his wife, and vice versa. Why though? There are two reasons: (1) In loving God foremost, the man will be taught by God how to be more efficient at loving his wife and, (2) people are only what the grace of God within them causes or permits them to be to us. If God removes the man’s wife from earth, the man’s heart will be left void if she has become his chief object of desire. Likewise, drugs becoming the chief object we look to for our compelling desire to continue life will inevitably leave us broken and desolate. Lewis states, “Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet the remarkable thing that such philosophies of progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere.”

All men are technically pilgrims on earth; but only those souls who know not God possess this inconsolable longing for joy– joy not to be confused with pleasure or even aesthetic pleasure. Joy is that feeling that comes and goes, always leaving us with an echo or type of the fulfillment only those born again will experience in paradise. It is not true when men speak of joy as arousing from their Christian commitments or duties, as if it has become a present reality in their life. Complete unadulterated and undefiled joy cannot be obtained by any immortal this side of heaven. God originally created us for more, and joy unceasing we will have, yet in time. Joy at this future point in time, will come to it’s full fruition for those who believe; however, joy will be the ill remains of the unbeliever’s thoughts in the eternal presence of a Holy God’s wrath, which also, has reached it’s full potential. Where the worm never dies, neither will the inconsoladating memory of brief stabs of joy produced by mood altering substances.

Once man has tasted of the only true alternative to living the unsatisfying life of addiction, he will be in continual longing for that form of living eternally. All those who hate God love death; likewise, all those whom love God love life. Matthew Henry once said, “All the enjoyments and entertainments of sense are not comparable to the pleasure which gracious souls have in communion with God and doing good.” Mere reason has taught us that to return unto the sources of allergy would contradict the principles of wisdom that preserve life. Realizing this, we will begin to view our past addictions as not injustices, but rather, the justice of God upon our lives. In this we glory, for when we are weak, He is strong.

 

Essays on Addiction: Finding the Balance

It seems to me that there has been very much written in regards to how men should approach the subject of addiction, how it affects one’s brain chemistry, strategies for preventing relapse, and so on. What appears to be lacking, at least in written form from what I can tell, is literature that identifies and addresses the preliminary patterns of thought that are common among all those who have experienced addiction. This is not to say there there is absolutely no literature at all on this issue; but what has been written has been written by the pens of those who were more concerned with retaining their membership among some evangelical group, inner ring, or secret society.

Due to the fear of one virtue gaining entrance into some inner ring’s approach of treating addiction, these modern groups have reacted by allowing no other virtue other than the one they are known for to be included in their treatment of addiction. We see the same issue among modern churches occurring all the time. Abundant are the churches who fall into one of the following categories: easy-believism, legalism, chosen therefore frozen, chaotic charismatics, impersonal mega-church,, post-modern, or steeped into traditionalism. One would be hard-pressed now days to locate a church that is not defined by one virtue they have given preeminence to, solely as a defensive reaction against another churches decision to arbitrarily give preeminence to a seemingly antithetical virtue. Just as the churchman needs a biblical balance of all Godly virtues, so the addict needs to be given all the virtues consistent with recovery.

The problem that has somehow gone unnoticed by moderns concerning their methods of treating addiction is likened unto the same age old problem that has bewildered philosophers since the beginning of time. It is the problem that Cornelius Van Til referred to as “the one and the many.” Man’s problem is to find unity in the midst of the plurality of things. Van Til states in his, Introduction to Systematic Theology, the following:

“If we wish to know the facts of this world, we must relate these facts to laws. That is, in every knowledge transaction, we must bring the particulars of our experience into relation with universals….  As Christians, we hold that in this universe we deal with a derivative one and many, which can be brought into fruitful relation with one another because, back of both, we have in God the original One and Many. If we are to have coherence in our experience, there must be a correspondence of our experience to the eternally coherent experience of God. Human knowledge ultimately rests upon the internal coherence within the Godhead; our knowledge rests upon the ontological Trinity as its presupposition…”

Philosophers have never been able to agree upon a solution to this issue due to their strict adherence to the one or the many. It was not until Immanuel Kant proposed the idea of two realms, the phenomenal (human experience/empirical) and the nominal (metaphysical/spiritual) that anyone had attempted with any success, in my opinion, to find a cogent balance between the one and the many.  Kant was on the right track, as far as his attempt to synthesize the two principles into one coherent system is concerned; however, what left his worldview lacking was that man, not God, was seen as the final reference point in determining how he knew anything at all to be true. That is a totally different subject matter, but one can see the dilemma philosophers from the beginning of time have struggled with: the reconciliation of one philosophical school of thought (Rationalism) with another seemingly antithetical school of thought (Empiricism). Is it by man’s reasoning or man’s firsthand experience that we determine what constitutes truth? Van Til taught that the solution to the problem of the one and the many can be found within the ontological Trinity. Within the Trinity we have God as one (unity) among three persons (plurality) with equal ultimacy.

Moderns affiliated with protestant Christianity have, to put it lightly, expressed much disdain for any contribution of science to their methods of treating addiction. Perhaps, much of this resentment is due to a lack of understanding in the field of science; regardless, we must not be afraid of scientific discoveries that have shed much needed light on the subject of addiction. For God is not proved by scientific endeavors, but rather God proves the evidential basis for such scientific endeavors. For what reason would we have in designating someone with an abnormal label, such as an addict, within a world filled with biological accidents, who merely react to random neurotic impulses without rhyme or reason? The very term “addict,” assumes that there is an intelligible approach to interpreting the regularities, and tendencies of human nature. Thus, we can conclude it is rather unnatural for a man to turn an appreciative pleasure into that of a necessary pleasure.

Just as those who have attempted to fit all of the heavens along with it’s mysteries into their finite heads, so have moderns made the mistake of being to narrow-minded in their approach to addiction. For the moderns, there can be no hint of science or religiosity after the course of action has been chosen for recovery. If the religious modern senses the slightest stench of scientific fact within the psychologist’s theory of addiction, he will without hesitation conclude that the theory contains no truth, and must be opposed to the word of God. Likewise, the modern psychologist would have every addict believe they are infected with a disease (not spiritual as original sin would suggest) that relinquishes them from any responsibility for their actions.

It must be noted that there is a point, a point at which man’s finite mind must not attempt to cross by reason in hopes to explain the mystery of the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility. Once man crosses this abstract point, he ceases being a man in thought, and elevates his own intellectual reasoning to a place that only the Author of reason can rightly be enthroned. Indeed, it is at this point God is placed on trial in the dock, and ceases to be the self-attesting, and self-verifying God found within the Scriptures. Men who cross this point not only remain there for longer than they originally intended, but they will eventually establish for themselves an “inner ring,” which focuses upon humanistic reason as their primary virtue, at the exclusion of the fear of the Lord.

No doubt, man opens the Scriptures to find that there is no questioning the fact that men are born dead in sin without the ability of themselves to reconcile the present gulf between God and themselves,. Yet, it is an indisputable fact that God will not spare every human being past, present, and future from eternal damnation. So faced with two truths and what seems to the finite mind an injustice within the infinite Mind of all, men choose one truth in lack of faith, consistently rejecting any notion of their own fallibility. This is like a man attempting to paint a picture with only one eye open when he has two good eyes at his disposal. It would bid the psychologist and the Arminian well to reject their humanistic credo’s and heed to the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:14-16, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So it depends not on human will or exertion but on God who has mercy.”

Any theory that aims to treat addiction that does not take into account the necessity of both science and spirituality will always deprive those addicted of the most trustworthy and honest definition of their perilous condition. We need more men and women who are more concerned with truth than being consistent with the principles of some “inner ring, or secret society.” We need more men and women who are not scared to be different, and in their own unconventional way still have one foot in the empirical world of sense, and the other in the metaphysical world of spirituality. We can only understand all there is for us to know about addiction by being honest with ourselves, and admitting that we cannot understand addiction as God understands it. It is through what we know we don’t know, that we will come to know anything rightly.

Just as with the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility, we will only see addiction the way God sees it, when we understand and admit that the secret things belong unto the Lord. The minute we step outside of analogous thought patterned after God’s law, there is no alternative left to us but the autonomous sinful speculation of men. God has not given us the ability to see into the hearts of men, discovering their inner motives for choosing substances rather than the Spirit. But what God has given us is the Gospel, the only means by which men’s heart can be turned from hearts of stone desiring substances, into hearts of flesh desiring a life lead by the Spirit.

 

Essays On Addiction: A Letter To Me

If you’re reading this I want you to know it is not too late. No doubt, you have found yourself in such a state of mind that would be nothing short of barbaric to wish upon even your worst enemy. If you could but see only a glimpse of the near future, I am sure it would do a much better job than this present letter at talking you down. I am aware that pride has currently beguiled you into believing that you are not seriously giving any serious consideration to the thoughts running through your head, but as you will soon know as I,  pride does indeed go before the fall. You stopped long ago considering “giving up,” and decided “giving in” was the more sensible and adequate solution to this crisis. There is, as you know, a grave difference (no pun intended). The former beholds a future you know nothing of which scares you and produces all kinds of hopeless sensations. The latter, beholds nothing except ceasing to be altogether. To cease being is the price to be paid if you so desire to escape the fear, anger, guilt, self-pity, and depression. As one once said, “active habits are strengthened by repetition, but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Like you were initially trapped by your desire for instant gratification, so now you are caught between the horns of a moral dilemma. Confess your sins to another bringing this crisis to light, and you not only shame yourself, but your family and friends as well. Knowledge and experience of the withdrawal leaves you contemplating your job and the impossibility of showing up to the job site in such a condition. How did you get here you ask? Unfortunately I can only offer you half of that answer, as always, time will tell the rest. Drugs didn’t always have you craving so much, yet, giving so little in return did they? You’ve found that the higher the substance took you, most assuredly, it would take you even lower in due time. For a time, it was pleasurable, then the euphoria wore off and that bear by the name of “tolerance” began to rear his ugly head. Tired of facing the only two decisions you feel the substances have left you with (withdrawal or use), you have began to think thoughts you once assumed were for the weak-minded and lost. Perhaps it was the anger of being dealt this hand repeatedly that gave you the mind to add this new alternative solution. No longer feeling like you were getting your money’s worth every time you got a bag will have that effect upon a man. Twenty dollars had long ago been replaced by a much steeper price; indeed, there had been a cover-charge on life itself. You have spent much time forsaking to do the things you ought to have done, yet, what is most sad is your have neither been doing the things that you like despite the most earnest intentions.

Enough with kicking a man while he is down. You are ready to be given an antidote or remedy for this state of affairs, and if one cannot be given, this new third option you’ve reluctantly contemplated will win by default. You without a doubt know there are alternate roads to sobriety. Broad and many are the paths to sobriety just so long as you do not continue to use. But sobriety isn’t what you desire is it? For you know all to well of a time you lived in sobriety that had become unsatisfying to say the least. Sobriety is but the means to the end of desire. It is desire that you long for. Since desire has been absent from your life you have sought other means to that end, perhaps not fully aware of the destruction they promised. It should be noted that constantly thinking of yourself and your own state of mind is what has lead you to abuse substances. You thought so much of yourself, and not of desire, that you felt compelled to exercise complete sovereignty over your sensations and emotions. Lack of desire got you feeling down? No problem, just become the mighty captain of your volition with this pill. But pills take time. Time is inconvenient and in-conducive to your longing for desire. The needle it is. Never mind you could have shifted your focus from desire itself to the Object of desire. But of course, you don’t know this yet. The form of the desire is in the object desired.

The enemy wants you to be concerned with thoughts that produce within you feelings of anxiety, self-pity, fear, etc. He would rather have you contemplating the abundant possibilities which could happen to you, rather than focusing on the revealed will of God. Your prayers are being weakened by constant worry, anxiousness, and negativity in general. I wish  you would come to realize the enemy wants you to spend much time thinking of yourself, your current mood, or your state of mind, anything of yourself just so long as it isn’t Himself. When you think about the object of fear biblically, and pray for grace and perseverance concerning the feared object, you are on the way to recovery.  However, as soon as your focus shifts from the object of fear unto fear itself, all things visible are seen through the lens of fear. The results of such thinking are incalculable, as you have seen for yourself. Don’t get carried away and assume you have figured out the problem in it’s entirety. There’s a catch, which has always been a fault of yours. Suppose you complete a certain action or abstract thought that is consistent with virtuous humility. Never are you afterwards not left with the temptation to reflect on the humility exhibited by yourself rather than where the gracious revelation of that humility came from. You proceed thinking you have got this whole devout, pious, spirituality thing in the bag. Thus, good has turned to bad upon reflection and improper thinking.

One last thing, you remember me using the term “recovery.” It’s a deceptive word for what in reality I promise you will experience. Truth be told, you will become less of yourself and possess less of yourself than ever before. That is why many turn away from and so few turn on this path. This is worth writing down. What lead you to drugs was a state of mind that you felt you were being deprived of. You took occasion to abuse your God-given hedonistic nature nevertheless, and reassure yourself that you deserved this happy state of mind at all costs. The worth and value of a state of mind is only found within the mind of which that state takes place. You shouldn’t have even begun to seek anything of yourself, even a state of your own mind. Desire cannot be located within yourself. Ironically, what those in recovery have actually found was never their’s to begin with.  But all things that come from Him must return unto Him without void. How will you be found? Will He find you rich with yourself and all your vain pursuits, or broken, poor in self, meek, humble?

The enemie’s victory comes when you erroneously believe you are in control of your thoughts simply because you are reacting to your chosen states of mind. To be ruled by your own autonomous thoughts is to be ruled by the enemy. There is no neutrality remember. Don’t you always tell yourself, there is no alternative than that of theonomy or autonomy? It will be God’s law or your law that captivates your every thought. Choose ye this day…

P.S. I overheard a conversation between our formidable foes, Screwtape and Wormwood the other day. Thought it may interest you. Went something like this:

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from God. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, and without signposts.