Grace and Addiction

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You may listen to the podcast version here.

People often insinuate that we had the law in the Old Testament but found grace in the New Testament. Fact is, the law and grace co-exist in both the Old and New Testaments.

“And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Genesis‬ ‭15:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we are saved by faith in the New Testament, why keep the law? For the same reason they kept the law in the Old Testament while they were saved by faith alone. We have the law in both the Old and New Testaments, while salvation is by faith alone in both the Old And New Testaments. Grace and faith were not new to the New Testament. And the law was not done away with in the New Testament.

“Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Romans‬ ‭3:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We cannot assume we can continue in sin just because we are saved by grace, any more than I can assume I can continue living under water without air after being saved from drowning. If I am saved from drowning, that means I am saved from being under water without air.

Grace saves us from sinful living.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:11-14 NLT

I have heard statements condemning “cheap grace” and the idea that grace makes us free to continue willfully sinning. However I don’t think any of us wants “cheap grace.” I don’t believe we want to break God’s heart by continuing sinful addictions. I believe most of us want freedom from sinful addictions, because we love Jesus. Here is the good news. Grace breaks sinful addictions. Before I go into that, let me say this. A few years ago I went to my regular Bible study with a young man who had overcome a sinful addiction. He was very upset because after several good months he had a relapse. He was beyond discouraged, thinking he had out sinned God’s grace. I shared with him how Psalm 51:17 tells us God will never despise a broken and contrite heart. The number of times that heart has been broken or contrite before does not matter. God will never despise a broken and contrite heart, no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. That is good news.

May I share some more Good news?  A few years ago I was walking in a nearby park. The park had a path for those fighting cancer. Every few feet there was a marker with an inspirational quote on how to cope with cancer. I remember one marker had a quote that simply read, “There are people who have survived every form of cancer.” Those simple words gives hope to everyone who has been diagnosed with any type of cancer. There are people who have survived the most deadly of cancers. Titus 2:14 reads, “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin.” You may be struggling with an addiction that is overwhelmingly embarrassing to you. Don’t despair. Jesus has freed people from every kind of sin.

Grace produces obedience. 

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience….Romans 1:5 NKJV

A preacher from the General Conference office (sorry I forget his name) was preaching years ago at an Oklahoma camp meeting. He told the story about how he was going to a breakfast diner before work one morning and saw an empty parking space close to the restaurant. He also saw a car coming from the other direction towards the same space. His first reaction was to step on the gas and get int here before the other car could. However, he explained that He had submitted himself to Jesus that morning. Instead he eased off the gas, let the other car take the space as he parked much farther away. When he entered the restaurant the man who got the closer space was waiting to be seated. He thanked the preacher for letting him have the closer parking space. The preacher told him, “That wasn’t me.”  The man inquired, “Then who was it?” The preacher replied, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!”  Galatians 2:20 tells us it is Jesus who lives in us and does all the good things. It is not us.  Salvation by grace is a practical salvation, where grace gives us real and practical obedience.

Grace gives us good works. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

In the  90’s I watched a documentary by Oprah Winfrey on child abuse. Abuse victims gave their testimonies. In many cases their abuser had been abused as a child. In several cases the abuser was a “pillar” in the church. I observed that this epidemic was handed down from generation to generation even in the church. Around this time I had seen bumper stickers reading, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I wondered if that alone was really good news. If Christians are only forgiven, that means the child abuse epidemic is doomed to continue from generation to generation in the church. But God’s grace can free us from the cycle of abuse. It does not have to continue from generation to generation in the church. The same documentary had a story about a girl who was abused by her father. The father had served his sentence and had been rehabilitated to the point that he and his daughter were enjoying a healthy relationship. Now I have to be honest. Even though I share this, I believe the vast majority of abuse victims will never be safe around their former abusers until we are inside the pearly gates. I discourage abuse victims from going back to their abusers, and I cringe when they do so. However, this one story in the documentary showed a young woman, who was abused as a little girl by her father, holding her father’s hands, smiling naturally and comfortably as they talked about his recovery and the total reconciliation of their relationship. By grace Christians are more than just forgiven. By grace we are saved from a sinful lifestyle. By grace Jesus lives His obedient life of Good works through us.

You can study today’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Trustworthy People Couldn’t Care Less if You Trust Them or not

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While flipping through the channels on my TV the other day, I ran across a “Law and Order” show, or something similar, where a detective was saying how abusers always seek the trust of the person they want to abuse. I have heard similar things in pastor group meetings, which has prompted me to share what little common sense I have on the matter.

If someone is trying to get you to trust them, be suspicious. Fact is trustworthy people will never ask you to trust them, because they will never allow situations where they need your trust.

When I make a deposit at the bank they give me a receipt. Don’t I trust them? Sure I do. However they never say, “Instead of us giving you a receipt, why don’t you just trust us?” Trustworthy people don’t ask you to trust them. Trustworthy people don’t need you to trust them. They understand accountability and checks and balances.

I hear stories where a “caregiver” seeks to earn a parent’s trust, and then betrays it once they are left alone with the child. The “caregiver” put the parent in a situation where they felt obligated to show they trusted them. A true caregiver will never put a parent in that situation. A true and trustworthy caregiver will always do things in groups and never seek to be alone with the child.

A true and trustworthy caregiver will never act hurt or insulted that you are not showing that you trust them, because a trustworthy caregiver couldn’t care less if you trust them, because they have no desire to be in a situation where they need your trust!

As a matter of fact, trustworthy caregivers are just as cautious of you as you are of them.  They will not allow themselves to be put in situations where they need to trust you or your child. That doesn’t mean they are paranoid of you. Let’s go back to the bank. I am not paranoid about my bank having my money, but they still provide receipts and statements offering accountability. At church I am not paranoid about the deacons when I put my money in the offering plate, but the deacons still count the money in groups instead of by themselves, just to offer accountability and to make things look kosher, not for me but for themselves.

Abusers often seek to get the trust of the parents. If someone acts offended or insulted that you don’t trust them, beware. A trustworthy person will not act hurt or insulted if you don’t trust them, because quite frankly a trustworthy person couldn’t care less if you trust them or not! Everything they do is done in groups, in the open for the whole world to see. Part of the policy of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which I work under, strongly encourages for no woman or man to be left alone with a group of children, but even though some situations may exist, under no circumstances whatsoever should any woman or man be left alone with any child, girl or boy. This policy in no way interferes with us accomplishing our mission as caregivers. We don’t need a parent to trust us alone with their child in order to teach or mentor.

A true caregiver will enjoy having parents and other adult caregivers join them while they are mentoring and teaching, because it creates a community where the child feels loved and accepted.  A true caregiver wants the children they work with to know that there is an entire church family who cares about them, and not just one caregiver. Let me make this clear. A true mentor wants to win children to Christ and the church and not just to themselves. A true mentor teaches children to be sociable and part of a community, instead of isolating them from the community.

Likewise a trustworthy person will never put themselves in a situation where they need to trust you either. Trust works both ways, but so does accountability, and checks and balances. The receipt the bank gives me after a transaction protects the bank as much as it protects me.We both trust each other, but neither I nor the bank ever tells the other, “just trust me,” or “why don’t you trust me?”  Everything is done in the open with receipts for the whole world to see as well as statements with checks and balances.

So in closing, in case you haven’t already picked up on what I am trying to say, let me say it again. If someone acts hurt or insulted that you don’t trust them then beware. Only abusers “need” you to trust them. Good healthy trustworthy caregivers will never be in a situation where they will need your trust, and therefore they will never ask for it.