Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thank God I Can't Do It

Every New Year’s Day, for the past 14 years, I have woken up, sober, early, to catch the sun come up and thank God for something He did in my life that I couldn’t do myself: quit drinking.

I have not had a drop in 14 years. And the freedom is delicious.

We’ve all heard about, and I have been blessed to personally live, the victory in Jesus over addiction. Some ask, as I have, why some folks tend to find this victory and others do not? This is a mystery. I posit that for some, their “bottom” is just much lower than others. For some, even losing their jobs and families doesn’t seem to have any impact, or they turn into victims rather than contrite accepters of their own role in their sorry state.

Whatever the addiction, the answer is the same. Whatever the upbringing, the answer to finally growing up is the same. Whatever the school of hard knocks we’ve attended, the answer is the same. And that answer is this: we must agree with God regarding the sin He points out to us. And we must have a relationship with Christ and we must cooperate with His Word and Holy Spirit regarding our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual maturity. We cannot agree with God on anything if we don’t know what He is expecting of us, and why He’s expecting it. We can’t get right with ourself or others without first getting right with God.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, quotes the Lord’s words to him when he writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Do we believe that?

First, do we believe with our hearts, minds, body and soul that we are weak? I couldn’t stop drinking when I believed I was strong enough to do it myself. Only through trying to quit in my own enlightened power and failing did God show me my weakness, and thus I was made strong in Him.

Paul goes on to write, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Now, this is not the kind of navel gazing “boasting” I wrote about in an earlier blog post, where we sit around in share groups and lament our ongoing sin over and over again. No. This boasting is the floodlight that illuminates our weakness to do anything good without God. We can be self-righteous and continue to fail, or we can receive the righteousness of God in us through the work of Christ and His Holy Spirit, which He gives. This Holy Spirit is the quiet voice we sometimes despise to hear, but in the end love to hear because it guides us every time. It does not scream as loudly as the beer, or the cocaine, or the online shopping site. The Holy Spirit is a guide, and a guide does not strong arm. This is a mystery.

It takes complete agreement: heart, soul, body and mind to obey the Holy Spirit’s direction from God to stop sinning. To stop drinking, we must agree 100% with God that drinking for us is a sin. Note how I said “for us.” Many people continue in their sin because it is not a sin for everyone. So therefore, they conclude, it is not a sin for them. But the Holy Spirit will be the judge of that. And we all know. Deep inside, we all know that when Grandma Ruth drinks a sip, she isn’t sinning because she will stop at one drink. But is drinking a sin for me?

We all know that when our best friend goes shopping, she isn’t sinning; she hates shopping and will buy what she needs and leave the store and not go in again until she absolutely has to. Shopping has no hold on her. But is shopping a sin for me?

We all know that when a relative comes to us with a personal problem, they are not in sin with gossip, because this person always speaks with integrity. On this day, they need someone to talk to, and we can trust that our conversation will be held in the strictest confidentiality. For the person who struggles with the sin of gossip, everything and everyone in their life is fodder for endless rumination and drama. They wouldn’t know confidentiality if it bit them on the nose. Is gossip a sin for me?

We aren’t to look at what is a sin, or not, for others, and live our lives on that basis. If addiction is cutting off our circulation to a vibrant life, we might want to ask ourselves, “What is a sin for me?” And then agree with God that indeed, He is right. It is a sin for me. That is the turning of the page into freedom from addiction: full agreement with God is always where we must begin.

Christ’s power rests on us when we admit our weakness simply because then we also admit His power. We allow His power to take the place of the false power of thinking “I can do anything.” When we understand and agree that we have no power (which should be pretty easy, actually, when we see that our years of trying to quit drinking has gotten us no where), it is then we can turn to Christ to fill the void left by the deception that we had any power to begin with. Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness when we admit the weakness is there! And that He is the power, not us.

Many Christians are waiting for God to strong arm them and take away their addictions like a mother grabs a sharp stick out of a child’s hand. And yet, they are waiting double-mindedly, not in complete agreement that they want this sin gone. If even 1% of me is not in agreement with God about my sin, I believe I am still in agreement with myself about that sin and it will not go away because I'm not letting it.

Only when I agreed with God 100%: heart, mind, body and soul, that drinking for me was a sin, did God change my heart and remove the desire for alcohol. And He has done it with numerous other sins in my life, and continues to do so.

As long as we are holding onto some aspect of our sin, then known sin will remain and be victorious over us. We are in cahoots with the flesh and the devil, not God.

But when we see our weakness as the way to Christ working in our lives to remove sin, in complete agreement with Christ’s estimation of our sin, we will, like Paul, boast in this weakness because it is the way to Christ’s lasting victory over sin in us.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthian 17-18

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

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