“Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service.” – Romans 12:1
Since you’re still hanging in there with me I figure you went ahead and, by performing the basic “two-step” maneuver, got yourself turned around. Logic will tell you that you’ve got nothing to lose by merely facing the other way. You’ve been informed that denial makes people ignorant of how powerless they are to resist the lures and temptations of their sinful nature and that only by placing their hurts, hang-ups and habits at the foot of the cross can they ever hope to find freedom from them. Now it’s time to start putting what you’ve learned into action. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know. Ya know? You may be saying, “Okay. I turned already. What am I supposed to be looking for exactly?” Well, it’s not a what. It’s a who. It’s God. We all must seek Him out. In fact, it’s imperative that we zero in on that quest. Dr. Larry Crabb wrote, “Something about the way we are and who He is makes it necessary for us to want Him more than we want anyone or anything else before we can find Him.” Jeremiah 29:13-14 states: “’You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” If you’re struggling with an unmanageable addiction that’s destroying your life I can see where that might be confusing. It would seem more reasonable to center your focus on weakening the hold your obsessive behaviors have on you, not searching for God. But Christ said that’s our problem right there. He taught that finding and growing closer to your Heavenly Father is the answer to everything. So your question shouldn’t be “How can I get rid of my bad habits?” but “How do I acquire a zeal for knowing God that’ll make all my destructive indulgences so comparatively miniscule they won’t matter anymore?” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Obviously, it’s impossible to sincerely love someone you’re not sure even exists. Step 3 says: “We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.” So the assumption is that you’ve concluded there is, indeed, an omniscient, all-powerful deity who’s in complete control of the universe 24/7. Any lingering doubts about whether there is or isn’t a great I AM must be resolved before any further action is taken.
I like what Arthur Leff wrote: “Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one else can take His place.” There’s no room for agnosticism in the body of Christ. The two don’t mix and never will. Furthermore, Christianity embraces the reality of the Trinity. We don’t say you have to thoroughly comprehend it (for no mortal does), only to accept it as an immutable truth. God is one being who exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus God is, in essence, relational. That’s why being a part of a community of believers like you’ll find at CR meetings is a key to better understanding God. C.S. Lewis said, “In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing – not even just one person – but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. The pattern of this three-personal life is the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.” Yep, it’s a lot to try to wrap one’s mind around and writer Timothy Keller agrees. He said, “The doctrine of the Trinity overloads our mental circuits.” Yet God isn’t playing mind games. He yearns to communicate with us and He does that via The Bible. A.W. Tozer said, “God is not silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second person of the Holy Trinity is called ‘The Word.’” Reading scripture will reveal all we need to know but it won’t reveal all there is to know. Kenneth Boa wrote, “Since the Bible is an infinite revelation, it often brings the reader beyond the limit of his intelligence.” That’s something our pride must come to terms with. It was for mine. God says in Isaiah 55:8-9; “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So be it.
If you have yet to surrender your life to Christ ask yourself, “Why not?” Jesus is the only chance we have of survival so what are you waiting for? As the classic song goes, “People get ready/there’s a train a comin’/don’t need no ticket/you just get on board.” One of the most amazing aspects of conversion lies in its simplicity. God made it easy because, as the title of Brennan Manning’s book declares, He loves us with a “furious longing.” In it the author wrote, “The foundation of the furious longing of God is the Father who is the originating Lover, the Son who is the full self-expression of that Love, and the Spirit who is the original and inexhaustible activity of that Love, drawing the created universe into itself.” Our Savior didn’t make it difficult to establish a personal relationship with Him. On the contrary, Romans 10:9 proclaims that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s it. There’s no hidden clause, no secret handshake to figure out or degrading rituals to endure. Christ doesn’t ask us to do anything except believe. By our doing that He saves us. Yet the next move in the recovery process is ours to make and it’s a bit more involved. As principle 3 states, we must then commit all our life and will to Christ’s control. Not just part of it, the whole kit and caboodle. The Lord knew full well the implications of what He asks of His followers. Chuck Swindoll said, “More than once Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks.” Your recovery won’t happen without complete submission to God. Chip Ingram wrote, “Many Christians ‘stall out’ in the faith when the call to total commitment is received or viewed as something too high or too hard to acquire… or they have never been taught that total commitment is Christ’s demand for all His followers.” Granted, bowing down to a hateful, mean-tempered tyrant would be worth resisting but Jesus demonstrated that the Heavenly Father is no giant ogre in the sky. He’s the greatest, most loving, forgiving and merciful parent you can possibly imagine. If you can’t submit your will to that kind of King then you’re going to be stuck with yourself for a very long time to come. God is good. Jesus didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. Learn from the Master. Psalm 143:9-10 says: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
For some folks believing in Jesus isn’t the problem. Turning over their hurts, hang-ups and habits to Him is. They think they can deal with them on their own and some have convinced themselves that God wants them to! They reckon if they try real hard to be “good enough” God will grant them sufficient wisdom to heal themselves and save Him the trouble. It ain’t so. Allow me to share a fascinating true story. Years ago a man named John Kavanaugh traveled to Calcutta so he could meet Mother Teresa and ask her to pray for him. When he finally located her in the poorest region of India, ministering to the sick and starving, he introduced himself. “What do you want me to pray for?” she inquired. “Clarity,” he responded. “Pray that I have clarity.” “No,” she told him. “I won’t do that.” Taken aback, he asked, “Why?” She said, “Clarity is the last thing you’re clinging to and must let go of.” She then smiled. “I have never had clarity. What I’ve always had is trust. So I’ll pray that you trust God.” Woodrow Kroll wrote, “When it comes to God’s commands, the issue is not clarity; it’s commitment.” God has promised to repair your character defects. Don’t waste time waiting to savvy how he’ll do it, just trust that he will. And don’t let people tell you that as a Christian you’ll be weighed down with a long list of regulations and restrictions. That’s a lie. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30; “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Notice He didn’t say you’d no longer pull a wagon through this life. (You know, the one filled with responsibilities like being a parent, a spouse, a provider, etc.) In other words, you’ll wear a yoke but, compared to the harness religions such as Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism will clamp on your neck (not to mention Satan’s heavy collar), Christ’s is light as a feather.
As I stressed in the last chapter, trusting God to give you spiritual sanity requires patience. 15th century monk Thomas a Kempis wrote, “All men commend patience, although few are willing to practice it.” The old joke is that if you pray for patience the Lord will give you something even more trying to help you gain it. But those who come to Celebrate Recovery already have a hurt, hang-up or habit they’ve been tolerating far too long so the point is somewhat moot. They gather that a lengthy rehab is necessary. One doesn’t go to an emergency room with a broken back expecting to stroll out good as new in a few hours. Augustine said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” The people at CR aren’t fools. They know what they’re in for. Sinclair Ferguson wrote, “God’s guidance will require patience on our part. His leading is not usually a direct assurance or a revelation but His Sovereign controlling of the circumstances of our lives with the word of God as our rule. It is therefore inevitable that the unfolding of His purposes will take time – sometimes a very long time.” What you can do is to bolster and reinforce your patience with the unbreakable promises of the scriptures. The Apostle Paul proclaimed in Philippians 1:6, “For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Muse on that for a moment. It means when you give your life to Christ you get an eternal warranty that states no matter what’s wrong with you God will keep on repairing, improving and fine-tuning you until you’re perfect! So relax and let the expert technician do His work. As Maya Angelou wrote, “All great achievements require time.”
You must be resolved to stick with your recovery. The dictionary says that word means “firm and fixed in purpose, determined.” Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” The fact is, our pride must be swallowed and our sinful nature executed. Often it’s painful. Larry Crabb wrote, “The lethal blow is dealt not to our humanity, but to its corruption. Because our soul is so thoroughly stained with self-reliance, the death of pride feels like the death of our self.” Jesus made it plain in Matthew 10:38-39; “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” He was saying that if we spend all our energy maintaining what we think defines us we’ll never discover our true selves nor will we realize our vast potential as children of God. William Booth nailed it when he wrote, “But what is the use of preaching the gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive?” When Jesus said He’s the vine and we’re the branches and that without Him we can do nothing He meant it literally. He wasn’t bragging, He was doing us a favor by telling us how it is! Vance Havner said, “Jesus Christ demands more complete allegiance than any dictator who ever lived. The difference is, He has a right to it.” So how do we gain the power to kill our ego? We’ll delve deeper into it down the line but for now I’ll just say it’ll take a lot of prayer. Not the superficial supplications you hear from TV preachers, either. Richard J. Foster put it well. “Our problem is that we assume prayer is something to master the way we master algebra or auto mechanics. But when praying, we come ‘underneath,’ where we calmly and deliberately surrender control and become incompetent.” Incompetent can be a derogatory term but in this context it simply means acceptance that we’re unable to do anything without God’s help.
The gist of this chapter is to announce that it’s time for you to get up and get going. Words alone won’t get you where you need to be in your walk with Christ. Lou Holtz quipped, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” So stop yakking about what you might do about your hurts, hang-ups and habits and do something. If you haven’t given your heart to Jesus then that’s where you start. Do these things: (A) Recognize and acknowledge what God did. Galatians 2:20 says; “The Son of God loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” (B) Repent for your sins. In Luke 13:3 Jesus says; “Repent and believe.” (C) Receive Christ as your Savior and Lord. John 1:12 reads; “But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children.” (D) Confess Christ in public. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32; “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge them before my Father in heaven.” There ya go. It’s so easy you can do it in minutes so what’s the hold up? Today’s the day. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says; “Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation!”
Once that’s done prepare to receive flak from friends and family who’ll tell you to your face you’ve been brainwashed into thinking that God’s going to make your life a cakewalk on Easy Street. Their hidden agenda could be they don’t want you to change. Perhaps they share your affliction and see you as a reliable partner in crime. It takes guts to “let go and let God.” Robert Schuller said, “The hardest struggle of all is to be something different from what the average man is.” My pastor Rick Lemons once told the story of a woman who asked him to befriend her husband and try to get him to act better. Rick and the man became golf buddies. A few months later he ran into the lady and asked if things were better. She said, “Not really. I asked you to straighten him out, not turn him into a Christian! “ Your newfound faith and peace of mind will make some folks uncomfortable. Not only that, but the devil will double his efforts to tempt you into going back to your old ways. Don’t let them or him deter you. Climb on the solid rock that is Jesus Christ and make your stand. Tyler Perry said, “It doesn’t matter if a million people tell you what you can’t do, or if ten million tell you ‘no.’ If you get one ‘yes’ from God that’s all you need.” Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Get busy with God and remember that you don’t have to go it alone. There are men and women at every Celebrate Recovery who’ll gladly take your journey to wellness alongside you. They’ll gladly show you there’s a more fulfilling way to live.