I have wondered about the greatest issues facing the people of St Albert, where I live. The city is known as a desirable place to live with plenty of affluence. People living in such a culture don’t have the most obvious needs that we see in other places. We certainly have our share of social and domestic problems. Yet on the outside, it looks like much of St Albert is doing well.
Yet we know this is not reality. For the past few years, I have noticed a need that in our community that seems to cut across economic, political, age and ethnic lines. The need is addiction. I have heard so many stories of parents struggling with their teen’s addictions. Then I’ve heard more stories about parents modeling addictions for their teens. We know about porn addiction in and outside the church. There are alcohol and drug addictions which may have grown since the legalization of marijuana. Then there’s the more socially acceptable addictions that may not require treatment but still have some of the same symptoms of an addiction. These include shopping, gaming, gambling, work, internet and social media to name a few.
On top of all this, most people, including Christians, go outside the church to get help with their addictions. The Alcoholics Anonymous model has become a dominant form of addiction recovery and maintenance. Many have been helped through this organization. Since the church is unsure about how to handle addicts, we can either pass addicts off to AA and it’s spin offs or tell them to pray more and try harder. I am not pointing the fingers at anyone. I am not equipped to deal with serious addicts so I have probably done what I’ve just pointed out.
But surely there is a role for the church and the Gospel to play in the lives of addicts? The greatest hope for any addict is found in Jesus Christ. So how might we connect these dots.
Last winter, I was introduced to the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation: https://www.ccef.org/ This group of Christians aims to help people using a Biblical Counseling model. By Biblical counseling, they mean that the community of believers learns to counsel one another with Biblical insight. They do not deny the need for professional counseling in the lives of some nor the value of rehabilitation programs. But they believe that the church needs to grow to be a place where even addicts can come and be open about their struggles. In Christian community, they would receive Biblical counsel or guidance from other Christians.
Beyond this, I have immersed myself in a book written by one of the key members of this group – Edward Welch. It is called “Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel. I have read seven of the twelve chapters and made 52 pages of hand written notes on this material. I find it to be Biblically sound with serious consideration of science and other factors. This is no “Pray and it will go away” simplistic approach. Welch lays out the realities of addictions while pointing out how so many of us act in addictive ways in our own sins.
Welch challenges the current belief that Addiction is 100 % disease or sickness. He argues that addiction includes sin and sickness leading to the addicts feeling of out of control. He talks about the “downward descent into addiction” that has so many similarities to our own downward descent into our favorite sins. He argues that addiction at its core is really a question of worship. Who do we worship – our selves, our desires, our comfort or our Lord?
Then he offers prescriptions: Speaking truth in love; Respecting, Listening to and Inviting addicts to change; Knowing the Lord; Fearing the Lord; Turning from Lies; Saying “No”; Waging war against sin; Being part of the body. As I have read, I myself have been challenged, ministered to and awoken. Welch speaks both to addicts and those who care about them. Yet he speaks to all of us in our sin struggles.
So I am to do a series of messages on Addictions based on the Bible and Welch’s book in the Fall. Here is an outline for the series. Please join us in person or online and invite people who struggle with addictions and their family members to check it out.
Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel – Fall 2020
1 - Brokenness and Addictions – Is there any hope? Mark 5:1-20
2 - The addiction experience is the human experience – Romans 7:13-20
3 - Is addiction sickness, sin or both?
4 - The deeper issue of addiction – Who do you worship?
5 - The descent into addiction – Proverbs 9:13-18
Help for the Addicted and Their Loved Ones
6 - The need for Truth to be spoken in love – Ephesians 4:15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:20
7 - The need to Respect, Listen to and ask “Do you want to be healed?” – John 5:1-9
8 - The need to Know the Lord – 2 Peter 1:1-5
9 - The need to Fear the Lord – Psalm 34:8-9
10 - The need to Turn from Lies – Isaiah 28:14-15
11 - The need to Say “No.” - 2 Timothy 1:6-7; Galatians 5:22-23
12 - The need to Keep Waging War on Sin and Addiction – Matthew 18:7-9
13 - The Need to be part of the Body of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Please pray that God uses this to bring hope and help to many.