Everyone is invited to enjoy breakfast at the church at 9:00am on Easter Sunday. The service will follow at 10:30am.
There will be a meeting at the church beginning at 9:00am to spend time in prayer and fasting.
A more eloquent version of what I was trying to say in “Go for it,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
In this post I want to bring to light some things from our study on “Christian Change.”
Crossroads: a step-by-step guide away from addiction, by Dr Ed Welch, lists ten steps to change. The first one given is “Listen.” Christian change can begin when one decides to humble himself and dedicate himself to listening to God in the Bible. “Listening” includes hearing and accepting the diagnoses, accepting the extent of necessary change, and believing in the vehicle and process of change.
Here is where the Christian counselor has to hold his ground. It is easy to get excited about the potential to see someone change and make concessions toward the addict’s worldview or apologies for the Bible’s straightforwardness. We can’t! It’s only Christian change if we allow the terms and standards to remain Christian.
Paul says that the Gospel—the account of what God has done in Jesus to rescue sinners (with no regard for their goodness) from judgment and to re-constitute them as righteous persons in His family and as inheritors of the new creation—this Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
This statement about the Gospel should alert us to two things: 1) The Gospel changes people 2) The Gospel, though, is firstly and mainly concerned with salvation, a change of status before God.
So the second thing to say about Christian change is that it envisions a change far more radical than simply being delivered from a bad and/or illegal habit and even restoring one’s life to function and wholeness. In fact, these good changes can even be ultimately harmful if they stand in for salvation! Christian change begins with a gracious act of God to justify the sinner.
The third major distinctive of Christian change is in how we diagnose our addictions/ bad habits. Here we need to include a word on sin. Moderns today tend to refer to sin only in terms of structural or institutional sins such as racism, systemic greed, injustice. On the other extreme are those who think of sin only in terms of individual acts—this time one sleeps with his girlfriend, this snort of cocaine, etc.
Both of these aspects of sin should be brought out, and neither should be omitted (see Acts 2; see Romans 1). But some won’t listen as these charges are laid at their door: accuse someone of partaking of societal sins and the charge can seem too general; accuse someone of a series of particular sins and it comes as so much scold and only hardens their heart.
But there is another manifestation or symptom of sin that the Scriptures refer to, and I think it fits as we think about addictions. Sin is idolatry, and addictions are worship disorders. When we sin we are elevating ______________—be it tawdry or be it noble—above the Creator God. We become idolaters when we forsake the Living Water and hew out for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.
We choose to become idolaters. We choose over and over again. But at some point we become habituated to choosing the idol. This can happen quickly if the idol is chemically addictive. But even then there is not much difference between the chemical substance and other idols we choose—since everything we choose as a replacement for God we find desirable.
But here’s the point: we choose. And soon we can’t help but choose. We are voluntary slaves. Both of those words have to be emphasized in our understanding of addiction.
Along with these preliminaries, the other steps are as follows:
• Confess that you are double-minded
• Know your story
• Go Public
• Know the God
• Follow Jesus
• Have a Plan
• Love Others
• Respond well when you go wrong
• Have hope
Now, I want to take a step back and hopefully state things clearly. One of the confusions during these past weeks arose because I didn’t identify my audience. I was probably trying to accomplish too much:
1) Teaching you how you can change
2) Teaching you how an unbelieving addict could change
3) Kinda offering a muddied idea of EBC reaching out to down-and-outers
So these steps are how Christians change. (We don’t have to call them steps.):
1. Change can begin only when Christians decide to believe the Bible above any other advice or societal drift or internal desire.
2. Christians should own up to the fact that they waver in their will to change.
3. Christians need to be able to think clearly on where they went wrong.
4. They should confess their faults to one another.
5. Christians can change only as they know God and specifically Christ and the Gospel.
6. Christians should have a plan for change: They need to give no quarter to the sin in their life. They need to value and strive for self-control. They need to belong in a church where they can: 1) Remind themselves of what is true about God, what is true about themselves, what needs to change and 2) Do what needs to be done. Church is not just where you change. It is the change that needs to happen: You change so that you can love others.
7. Christians need to know how to respond well when they go wrong.
8. And Christians need to keep hope for the glorious appearing in front of them.
Christians should change, and Dr Welch has given us a pretty good summary of the structures and individual disciplines for change. Leave one of these out and you’ll have problems.
Change for those outside the Church
Two particular problems, though, I think need to be concentrated on. I’ve told you of our impression when we settled in Boston, that there are many people caught by substance abuse. Every other person I spoke with had been treated, was being treated, should have been…
But it’s not only substance abuse, read statistics of pornography ingestion, and the number is staggering. If we are to believe those reports, we could assume that a certain percentage of people that walk in the church doors every week are caught in the trap of degrading lust.
What’s a church to do in the face of these two problems, substance abuse and pornography? I don’t think it should ignore these problems, and I think one of the ways that we could easily ignore them is by assuming that they will be solved in the regular schedule of the church.
These are problems that are tearing up homes, unraveling marriages, producing shoddy work, making people sad. Which means, these situations are producing poverty of spirit, a condition that favors the Gospel. In other words, not only should we look at these problems and shudder, but see the opportunity. THE GOSPEL NOT ONLY SAVES FROM THE ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT FROM SIN BUT DELIVERS FROM THE POWER OF SIN.
Do you realize that the church that EBC’s building first housed began because it was concerned about the drunkenness in the area? This has always been the best move of Christians—not wringing their hands but going to address real problems.
I want, and more importantly, our Lord wants, our church to be a hospital where we are pointing to the Great Physician. An effective church helps people that are actually needy. So what am I proposing?
1) Offering a system of same-gender, voluntary, efficient accountability within the church that will pointedly ask questions of personal morality and spiritual disciplines
2) Seek a week-night program that addresses substance abusers/addicts with the Gospel. What this will require—
a. A dedicated, capable, leader who believes the Gospel
b. Two support people in the church
d. Prayerful, level-headed Church
The men meet for breakfast, prayer and discussion the first Saturday of every month at 8:30am in Founders’ Hall.