This post is from chapter 11, “Hello, My Name is _____ and I am
an Addict Transformed,” from my book, Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin.
The Bible does not deny that we were various things—addicts, homosexuals, hateful, prideful, pornographic masturbators—but that is what we were (past tense) (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-5). The emphasis in Scripture is on what we are and what we are called to be. The Christian does not say, “Hello, my name is _____ and I am an X Y or Z.” The Christian says I was dead, but now I am alive. The Christian says I am a struggling sinner, yet I am a saint. The Christians says, I am a new creation; I am transformed.
We must remember however that we are “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This is the biblical balance. We are holy in Christ and yet we are progressively becoming holy (see 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:14). I like how John Owen says it: We, who are freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it our business all our days to kill the indwelling power of sin.
Paul wrote a letter to a church located in Ephesus back in the day. The people there had many struggles. Many of them use to worship various false gods and perhaps were even involved in cult prostitution. But you know what Paul called them when he wrote to them? He called them “God’s beautiful creation,” “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). He didn’t say, “Now church, make sure that you are constantly reminding yourselves that you were part of the occult. In fact, when you meet together say, ‘Hello, my name is ______ and I am an occultist.’” No! He said, “You are new! In Christ! Transformed!”
One of the problems in claiming the identity of “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “overeater” is that we deny that addiction is a habit that can be finally overcome. I am not saying it won’t be a struggle. I am not even saying that it will even finally be overcome in this life. Yet, the Bible teaches the freeing and empowering truth that in Christ we are currently a new creation. It says we are adopted children of God. We are even God’s beloved; His treasure.
Labeling may not seem like a big deal but it is. In hospitals, it is important for people to be labeled correctly. If someone has a gunshot wound on their leg, they should not be taken to a cardiologist and someone that has the flu, they should not be life-flighted. Labels are important for treatment. Labels are important for our own treatment. The treatment of ourselves. How we look at ourselves, talk to ourselves, think of ourselves.
We could basically be the stars of any western, we have individualism, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency in our bones. The truth is, I know some pretty capable people. But with that capability can come idolatry. Self-idolatry. We, moderns in the west, don’t form gods out of gold, we are the gods. We have feet, mouths, and hands. We can deliver ourselves. At least, that’s what we think.
Our idolatry is often self-idolatry, we trust ourselves over against God. The New City Catechism says, “Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.” Often, we trust in ourselves. That, however, is not our only form of idolatry.
Our idols can be anything we…
- trust and look to more than God
- make more important than God
- give our attention to more than God
- expect to give us something that only God can give
- make so central and essential to life that if we lose it, life will no longer feel worth living
When something in our life is an absolute requirement for our happiness and self-worth, it is an idol. When that thing is threatened, whatever it is, we will act out. we will become anxious or angry when that thing is in possible danger.