An Addict’s Choice
Romans 10:9 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.
It is not infrequent for me to be asked by someone to visit with his or her family member about an addiction or destructive behavior. I am usually happy to do so but I always have one question first. Does this individual want to meet with me? When a family member is doing the asking, it is usually because the one suffering from addiction is not the one who wants help. The addict’s family sees the problem and wants him to change but the addict himself has little interest in talking with me.
The truth is, I am no salesman and I do not possess any magical words to cause someone to change. I am not very good at convincing anyone that he or she needs God. If one sees his need, then I am happy to tell of what God has done for me. If, however, the individual is not interested in God or recovery, then I am not going to be of much use.
I come from an Evangelical Christian background where my father was a pastor of an Evangelical Church. In this evangelical tradition, we placed a heavy emphasis on the individual’s responsibility to make a choice to follow God. We believe that though Christ’s death and sacrifice was enough to restore the entire world to God, his grace is not automatically bestowed on all. Only those who respond to God’s call will ever know him. God first did the work of redemption, but for us to know him, there must be some response on our part.
Paul here, made a similar case. This seems odd to me, considering yesterday’s passage where Paul explicitly said, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (Rom. 9:16). Though we (Christians) fight about it, Paul found no difficulty in saying that God chooses us and we must also choose him. It is a mystery to me how both can be true, but the reality is, I am not responsible for God’s part. I am only responsible for my choice and Paul said I must confess and believe if I want to know God.
What then does this mean? If I am an addict, aware of my desperate need, how to I find God? Do I just say the magic words? As a child, I was told I needed to Ask Jesus into my heart, which I did a couple hundred times, just to make sure. Paul similarly said that I need to confess and believe. This is simple in concept, but probably more profound of an act than I realized as a child. To confess and believe is to make a choice to turn the focus of my life from self and to put my faith in God.
There are no magic words that will stop us from pursuing our own destruction. This confession and belief is a radical and actual turning from self to God. It is a profound, conscious decision to repent, or abandon the old and pursue the new. Many of us have breathed the Magic Words, hoping they will change our lives, but we only come to know God when we truly make the choice to follow him. His salvation is a free gift, but we must truly want it to find it.