God populated the earth with broccoli & cauliflower
& spinach, green & yellow vegetables of all kinds, so Man & Woman
would live long & healthy lives.
Then Satan created McDonalds.
And McDonalds brought forth the 99-cent double-cheeseburger. Then Satan said to Man, "You want fries with that?" And Man said, "Super-size them." And Man gained pounds.
God created healthful yogurt so woman might keep her figure that man found so fair.
Then Satan brought forth chocolate. And woman gained pounds.
God said, "Try my crispy fresh salad."
Then Satan brought forth ice cream. And woman gained more pounds.
God said, "I have sent your heart healthy vegetables & olive oil with which to cook them." Then Satan brought forth chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter.
And Man gained pounds & his bad cholesterol went through the roof.
So God brought forth running shoes & Man resolved to lose those extra pounds.
Then Satan brought forth cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil to change channels. And Man gained even more pounds.
God brought forth the potato, a vegetable naturally low in fat & brimming with nutrition.
Then Satan peeled off the healthful skin & sliced the starchy center into chips & deep-fat fried them. And he created sour cream dip also.
And Man clutched his remote control & ate the potato chips soaked in cholesterol.
Satan saw it & said, "It is good." And Man went into cardiac arrest.
God sighed, & created quadruple bypass heart surgery. Then Satan created HMOs. (adapted from mamarocks.com)
Well I just described my worst addiction which would be food. Whats yours?
It seems to me that what I am going to attempt to do today is an impossible task. I am guessing that most people in this room have had to fight something that threatened to control their life. I hesitate to make a list because it could be any number of things that we can find ourselves addicted to. Maybe addiction is not even a word that should be used because it has become in many ways almost an excuse for some people. Almost like a crutch to lean on and excuse their behavior.
I am not a professional counselor. I am not a psychologist. I am not an addiction expert. I am someone that reads and attempts to interpret the message of the Bible and I happen to believe that Jesus Christ offers us more help than sometimes we are willing to take.
When we talk about addictions in the context of the church people often refer to what I would call the big three: Alcohol abuse, Drug abuse and Pornography. I would encourage you to add food abuse to the list. In fact here are the top ten addictions according to brainz.org: Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs, Gambling, Food, Video games, Internet, Sex, Shopping and Work.
According to the Cleveland Clinic: Addictions are compulsions to use and abuse things to an excessive and destructive extent. These compulsions are very powerful and produce a life-threatening and self-perpetuating process that can end in disability or death for the sufferer, as well as cause family members and loved ones pain and suffering.
Addictions can produce major life consequences, such as loss of a job and financial trouble, worsening of negative personality traits, loss of other interests, and repetitive relapsing, possibly ending in death. Genetic and familial influences are often present. The illness or disease lies in the loss of control, the unpredictability, and the unwanted consequences, as well as in the psychological and physical destruction involved.
Who can become addicted?
Nearly anyone can become addicted, and addictions are the most common public mental health problem in the United States. Nearly 22 percent of the general population in the U.S. can expect to have a significant problem with substance misuse or abuse at some point in their lives.
What are the most common symptoms of addictions?
I don't want to isolate or push our thinking into one category over the other but let me give you one to think about.
Utah family counselor Jill Manning says, I can unequivocally tell you pornography, especially Internet pornography with its violent, demeaning, or highly explicit messages, is damaging, not only for youths, but for many adults as well. Its effects on a persons social and sexual development can have lasting effects. There are 4.2 million porn websites containing 372 million pages of porn, tapped by 68 million Internet searches each day. The average age of first exposure to Internet porn is 11. 12-17 year-olds are the largest Internet porn consumers. 80% of 15-17 year-olds have had multiple exposures to hard core porn while 90% of 8-16 year-olds have viewed porn online. (CP80 Foundation 4/06)
Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist, describes our
situation this way. She says our condition is one of universal addiction. She
has written that we are all afflicted with addictions, not necessarily to drugs
or alcohol or other substances -- those are merely symptoms -- but were
addicted to dysfunctional patterns of relating to each other.
She names four of these universal addictions, but let me give you just one as an example, what she calls the addiction to intensity. Here's what she says. She says: If things aren't really intense, I wont feel alive. So Ill stir up the pot a bit more. Ill drink more, take drugs, overdo. Ill dramatize things. Exaggerating and indulging, she says, are also addictions to intensity.
What shes describing is what the Scriptures call our sinful condition. Needing to be noticed and to feel important, we exaggerate. Fearing we wont have enough, we indulge ourselves. Frightened of boredom, as Dr. Arrien says, we stir the pot. Lest we be left out, we stage our dramas, and, if that's not enough, we implicate others in our little plots. We intensify life, and we do it because were afraid. Were afraid that, if we don't, we wont have what we need.
In his book The Great
Divorce, C.S. Lewis gives an allegorical story about a ghost of a man
consumed by lust. And in this story lust is depicted as a red lizard that sits
on his shoulder and whispers seductively in his ear. When the man is bothered
by this lizard on his shoulder, an angel volunteers to destroy it for him. But
the man is conflicted because he wants to hold on to his lust but also wants
the lizard gone. What he is afraid of is that the death of his lust will be the
death of him. He offers all these excuses to the angel because he wants to keep
the lizard (even though he doesn't want it).
After much discussion the man finally lets the angel kill the lizard. The angel grabs the lizard, breaks its neck and hurls it to the ground. Now that the spell of lust is broken the man who was once ghostly is wonderfully remade into a real and solid person. And whats so cool is that instead of dying, the lizard is changed into a spectacular stallion. With great tears of joy and appreciation the man gets on the horse and rides off into the heavens.
What was Lewis trying to help us imagine? Lewis is drawing us to the bond between killing our lust and finding life. We who have given into lust so much that it feels like we are going to die with or without it. It feels as if we are going to die right along with it and yet we will find that instead of destroying us, we find a new life we never imagined. Instead of giving into desires that are off limits, we begin to experience a pure desire - - a God centered desire, which is birthed in us to experience the greatest joy possible. The joy that comes from knowing that God isnt just saving us from our sin, but that He is up to something far more profound: God is saving us for a life of love and joy and faith and peace and self-control.
It was Jesus who stood up in the temple to read from the book of Isaiah. He was declaring who He was and He spoke these words:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lords favor has come. Luke 4:18 NLT
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released. . .
Jesus declares in no uncertain terms that He has come to set us free from the things or people that hold us captive. I really want to believe this but I am going to be very honest with you and tell you that based on what I see in the lives of individuals I am made to wonder where the power of God is to help us overcome these things.
I have really wrestled with this and continue to wrestle with it today. I want to think that when I grew up in church that men and women came to Christ and there was a major life change that took place. The old life of sin was abandoned and a new life of righteousness, holiness and pleasing God was adopted. I was led to believe that when you accepted Christ you quit the sin business. My biggest issue with preaching this message today is that all too often we find that people continue to wallow and dapple in sin even after they have made a profession of faith.
Could this be because of the tremendous effect of Christian media the majority of which preaches and teaches a doctrine of continual sinning after one has accepted Christ as their Savior? Could it be that we have bought into the notion that we are just poor miserable sinners and have no hope of overcoming sin and addiction in our lives? I mean if Jesus is going to forgive us no matter what we do what is the point? Lets just learn to live with sin. Lets learn and master sin management if you will.
I want to be very careful here but I mean this from the bottom of my heart and soul. If God the Creator of all things only came to save us but not fix us, only came to give us free tickets to heaven but leave us to wallow in our sinfulness and addictions then I want out. I don't have any desire to preach and teach a doctrine that settles for a comfortableness with sin. If all I can do is look at a person and assure them although they have accepted Christ they are still going to be miserable sinners the rest of their lives I want out. If the only message I have is that God doesn't see your sin now He just sees the blood of Christ, so don't worry about it than I have answered the wrong calling and will start looking for another job tomorrow.
I want to believe that Jesus Christ enables us to overcome any bondage or addiction that may afflict us.
I want to believe that if you really want to be set free, you can be.
I want to believe that our lifestyle and life choices matter to God and that His standard has always been holiness and always will be.
I want to believe that you and I can be victorious in our attempts to let go of the things that threaten to destroy our lives.
For just a few moments let me give you some steps to overcoming the addictions that are holding us hostage and threatening to destroy us:
1. Desire Do I have the desire to change?
First and foremost we have to possess a desire to change and be changed. It has to start there. Many people live in denial that anything is wrong but I think most of us know if there is something we are wrestling with. Many times is it embarrassing to admit that we have a problem but unless we can admit it and openly express a desire to change, change will never occur.
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Philippians 2:12-15 NLT
Psalm 145:19 suggests that: He (God) grants the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cries for help and rescues them.
Do you want to change? Do you desire to overcome your addiction and be set free? Jesus said, He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released.
One day Pope Julius II watched Michelangelo hammering away at a slab of marble. Why are you working so hard? he asked. Michelangelo replied, Cant you see there's an angel imprisoned in this block of stone? I'm working as hard as I can to set him free.
Inside of us is the person that God intends for us to be. We must chip away at the parts that keep us in bondage to fear, to addictions, to low self-esteem and to feeling unworthy of being loved by God.
Desiring change is a good first step but now let me assure you that you must also make a decision to change.
2. Decision Will I make a decision to change?
Once you have made a decision you will begin to seek the help necessary for victory and freedom. Of course our greatest source for help is divine intervention. God longs to set us free through Jesus Christ.
The most universal fear we have that keeps us from moving forward and making a decision is that we will be rejected and abandoned if we are truly known by others. If people find out we fear their scorn and rejection. I am asking you today to make a cerebral decision. Use your head, think about it and think about how you are living right now and begin to let God lead you out of the prison of personal captivity that you find yourself in.
3. Deliverance/Decontamination Will I invite God to control my life?
There are a lot of groups operating right now who are trying
their best to help people with the problems of addiction. They are doing the
best they can and I applaud their efforts, but the fact is that very few are
really successful over the long haul.
I have read much about the AA or Alcoholics Anonymous groups that do all they can to help alcoholics of any age to overcome their addiction to alcohol. I have read about DA, or Debtors Anonymous, which is a program based upon the AA model that encourages fiscal, or financial, responsibility. It is intended to help those whose life has become unmanageable because of credit card debt and overspending. Then there is the GA, or Gamblers Anonymous; a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and recover from a gambling problem. There is the NA, Narcotics Anonymous that directs its efforts at helping drug addicts. Then there is the OA, Overeaters Anonymous that offers a program of recovery from compulsive overeating.
I am convinced that all sinners are addicts after a fashion because they are all addicted to sin and the ways of this world and cannot break free without divine intervention from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Every one of these Anonymous programs is based upon the original 12-step program of the AA. And each of them has had some limited success at helping addicts to overcome their addictions. I applaud the efforts of men to help those who are in trouble; however many times their successes are limited and short-term in many cases. The reason is that they are just dealing with an emotional, physical, mental or chemical problem. They are not dealing ultimately with a spiritual problem. The number one cause of all types of addiction is sin in the heart of man and none of us are immune.
The 12 step pattern that is used by all of these programs begins well but often brings a false hope to the addict. They will lead the person right to the edge of the real answer to their addiction, but never really make it clear. They will tell him that he or she must trust in a Higher Power and that's right, but then they say, Whatever that Higher Power is to you. Let me tell you friend that there are only two sources of higher power and you better know which one you are relying on.
Satan is a higher power, but if you think that he is going to set you free from addiction, you had better stop and think again. He is the one who put you there to begin with through his power of deception. His ultimate goal is to kill your body, and then destroy your soul in hell forever. Even though he may allow you to be free for a while, he will never let you be totally free ever. That's why part of the 12-step plan says that you will always be an addict in recovery.
The only Higher Power than can truly set free, and keep you free is the power of God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Gods power can, and will, set any addict free, but He wont set them free if they don't want to be free and choose rather to go back to their old life of drugs, alcohol, ungodly friends and sin. He will not override their freedom to choose, but He will help those who make that quality decision to serve Him and forsake their old life.
I have struggled to even want to preach this message for many reasons but for me the number one reason is that much of the church world seems inept and powerless when it comes to this issue.
I am praying that God will give us guidance and direction for the coming year in this area so that we can back up what we preach with the power of God to set the captives free. I have no desire to talk a good game on Sunday and not back it up during the week by truly helping people overcome.
4. Devotion How can I surrender every part of me?
In his book, Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller talks about the kind of ruts a lot of us tend to get ourselves into. He says, The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is about me. I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction.
In the movie Cast Away, the lead character is a workaholic FedEx efficiency expert, who knows what it means to control things. He controls everything in his life but it all changes when his plane crashes in the middle of the Pacific. He finds himself alone on a remote desert island, unable to control any aspect of his life for five brutal years. After his rescue he shares with a friend about a time when he tried to kill himself. I want you to watch this clip and listen carefully to his words.
Then a warm feeling came over me like a blanket when I realized that I had power of nothing. Powerlessness is all God ever needs to begin to help us overcome ourselves.
Bottom line is that you have to want what Jesus wants in your life more than you want what you want!
I don't have a 12 step program for you today but I do have a one step program. This may seem overly simplistic to the professionals and I am sure it is not all inclusive as to steps that may need to follow but the one step program I want you to learn can be summed up in one word:
Surrender: I am talking about complete and full surrender. Nothing held back. Nothing hidden. You know what the universal sign of surrender is? Both hands in the air.
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the
Fifteenth Century. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was
brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan's response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they would have to give up their commitment to bloodshed. They could not be killers and church members too.
After a hasty round of diplomacy, the problem was solved quite simply. As the words were spoken and the priests began to baptize them, each soldier reached to his side and withdrew his sword. Lifting it high overhead, every soldier was totally immersed-everything baptized except his fighting arm and sword.
That is a true historical fact. The unbaptized arm. What a powerful picture of Christianity today. How many unbaptized arms are here today? How many unbaptized wills are here? How many unbaptized talents? Unbaptized check books? Unbaptized social activities? How many are there here this morning?
I call you today to a life of devotion to God.
I call us today to a life so in love with Jesus that we wouldn't even consider engaging in behavior we know is displeasing to Him and contrary to the word of God.
I call us to a life of surrender that will lead to being set free by Jesus Christ.
Charlie Brown was sitting in a deck chair near the front of a large boat when Lucy walked up. Some people go through life with the deck chairs facing forward, gazing out where they are going, Lucy said philosophically. Others go through life with their deck chair facing backwards, looking at where they've been.
She then paused and pondered her profound words. Looking directly into Charlie Browns sunglasses she asked him, Charlie Brown, which way is your deck chair facing?
Charlie Brown responded simply, I really don't know I've never been able to get my deck chair unfolded!
Some of you may know right now that you cant do this on your own.