Friday, January 29, 2010

fighting our addictions

I spent the day at the Traumatic Brain Injury unit yesterday where people with brain trauma combined with alcohol/drug addictions seek recovery and treatment that is specific to their needs and abilities. It was an "aha" moment for me as I sat in on one of the group therapy sessions and heard the life and hope in the voices of people who have lived the majority of their lives in bondage to substance and are now finally tasting freedom; I finally experienced something in the social work field that I feel passionate and excited about being a part of.

It was a big moment for me. I could empathize and have compassion on these people that sat around the table with me because I know that my own soul is in a daily battle to keep from being overtaken by the desires and addictions of my flesh. I fight with my addictions daily, and although the effects of surrendering to these desires may not look the way an alcoholic or crack addict looks when they give in to their urge to get drunk or high on drugs, I know that the effects for me are just as significant: internal, soul-wasting and heart hardening effects that separate me from my God. I am in a fight against sin that debilitates my communion and intimacy with Christ: pride, selfishness, anger, pride, self-righteousness, pride, using my emotions as justification for sin, worldliness, and I think I forgot to mention pride as well. The grossness of staying in my sin without battling it with vengeance each day is just as severe as the grossness of the addict's self allowance to continue killing himself with hits of cocaine. Both scenerios leave us empty, hurting and dissatisfied, only wishing we could fight our addictions so that our next need can be satisfied by something that is real and lasting. We weren't intended to be in bondage to anything but Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, who gives freedom and joy and in whom there is purpose and truth.

One of the ladies in my group who has been clean for 2 years and continues to battle her drug addictions, spoke words that deeply affected my soul yesterday. She shared about the shame of her addiction and her grief in the way she has treated her body for so many years. She shared that every morning, she wakes up and puts lotion on her body and quotes Psalm 103 as she praises the Lord for who He is and what He has done in her life. Repentance has moved her to freedom from her disease and healing through life in Christ as she battles her addictions. May we battle alongside her as well, as we fight the good fight and pursue righteousness for the sake of Christ.

Psalm 103:1-13
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

Friday, January 15, 2010


"Repentance involves seeing sin for the deceitful and deadly thing that it is, so that we turn from it. Belief in Christ involves seeing Christ for the gracious and powerful Saviour that he is, so that we turn to him. These two acts go together in a person’s salvation. Repentance and belief are like two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one side of the coin without the other side also." -Bruce Ware

As a child growing up, I can remember learning in Sunday school what the word "repentance" meant. My teacher showed us a big red STOP sign and told us that repentance means that when we do something wrong, we must stop, turn around, and go the other way. I remember thinking it was so simple and easy, and I was definitely the little blonde girl in the front who could answer all the questions correctly, feel good about it, and sit back with great satisfaction in my knowledge. I can see now that my current battles with pride and self-righteousness took root long ago when, as a young girl, I started believing that my own performance and knowledge and goodness was my justification and rightstanding before God. I lost sight of repentance almost immediately (apparently I knew what it meant, but not how it applied to my life, or why I really needed it) and have really only recently returned to it, and now wonder how I ever really functioned as a Christian without being in continual, daily repentance. My wandering from repentance throughout my youth and teenage years have to do with a number of ignorances, misconceptions and wanderings from truth.

Unless I believe that I am a sinful girl, filled with sinful desires and unable to do anything good apart from Christ, there is no realization of how miserably I fail and fall short of God's holiness. Thus, I can't see much of why I need to repent- I didn't kill anyone today, nor did I lie or steal or commit adultery. Thus, my convictions are small and my repentance is unnecessary. BUT if I truly believe in the doctrine of sin- that left to myself I can do nothing but sin (John 15:5); that my righteous deeds are filthy rags in the eyes of our holy God because He is THAT RIGHTEOUS AND GOOD (Isaiah 64:6); that everything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23); that whether I eat or drink or whatever I do, I must do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 15:58)(and fail miserably at this daily);...then I MUST fall on my face and know that I am a sinner unable to do anything apart from God. And I MUST repent. Realization of our sin leads to brokenness, humility and repentance.

Somewhere along my journey, I lost sight of the holiness of God. This is mostly due to my loss of scripture as my only source of Truth and my conformity to worldliness in my thoughts. Arthur Pink puts it well when he states that, "As the Holy Spirit sets before me the loveliness of the divine character, as I am enabled to discern the exalted excellency of God, then I begin to perceive that to which He is justly entitled, namely, the homage of my heart, the unrestricted love of my soul, the complete surrender of my whole being to Him. As I perceive that from the moment I drew my first breath God has sought only my good, that the One who gave me being has constantly ministered to my every creature need, and that the least I can do in return is to acknowledge His abounding mercies by doing that which is pleasing in His sight, I am now over-whelmed with anguish and horror as I realize I have treated Him more vilely than my worst enemy." I must continue to pursue a knowledge of God that sees Him rightly, according to scripture, and sees myself as I am (from dust I came and to dust I will return). A right view of God and self leads us to do the only thing that is appropriate- worship Him.

Only since I've fully come to know and believe that my rightstanding before God comes not from what I do, but what Christ did through his death and resurrection on the cross, have I come to realize that my only hope is in the sovereign mercy of God. My hope does not lie in my actions but in the character of God and only that is sufficient to reconcile me from what my sins deserve (death) to the grace God freely gives through His Son (life).

My Sunday school teacher definitely got it right in saying that repentance is a turning from one thing, but I have to remember that it as I turn from my sin, I must turn to God, not to my own morality or self-will. How kind and merciful a Father we have, that all that He asks of us, He provides. "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19). Christ has allowed us to come before the Father with confidence and receive the grace we need to live freely and without condemnation for our sin (Hebrews 4:16).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:9)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him
only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all
his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not
obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infi-
nite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that
is to say, only by God Himself.