Addicted to Recovery
2 Corinthians 5:16,17 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh… If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
In my addiction, I came to dislike this passage. As I was enslaved to my flesh nature, I did not feel like a new creation in Christ. This passage made me question my faith and the existence of my relationship with God. Paul seemed to be saying that when I came to Christ, all of my struggles were removed. As I was still a disaster, perhaps I did not really know God.
In the search for answers though, I read other passages where Paul insisted on the persistent reality of my destructive flesh life (Gal. 5:17). I found comfort in those verses which legitimized my ongoing struggle. I could identify with that concept much more than being a new creation. Perhaps I have even come to favor those parts of the Bible which speak of my persistent destructive nature.
Understanding defect can, paradoxically, turn into its own defect. I have met those in AA who treat AA as their religion and god. Though they speak of a higher power, it is obvious that AA is that power. Recovery itself becomes the new god to which they are addicted. Though they are sober, they have only traded addiction for another false god. They elevate recovery above all, forgetting that God is the ultimate goal. Recovery is important, but it is not God.
The danger for me then, is that I likewise, find it easy to obsess about my own defects. Just as AA can become god to the alcoholic, preventing him from ever finding The God, I can become consumed with my own defectiveness. In my zeal to make others recognize the selfish, prideful flesh nature, I can over-emphasize its power and forget to teach the gospel, that Christ died to free me from it. In my insistence on the reality of the flesh, I can forget that I truly am a new creature in Christ.
As I was speaking with an inmate at the local jail last Sunday, I identified myself as an addict. A little offended, he insisted that above all, I am to identify as a child of God, a new creation. It did not bother him that I recognized the ongoing struggle. He just insisted that I always emphasize my new identity in Christ above all. He was right.
Christ said that to be a disciple, I must deny self and follow him. This is a two-step process and if I only focus on the first step, denial of self, I will just spin in circles. I must deny self and follow Christ, recognizing that God is always the goal. Self-denial, without God is just another vain pursuit.
Paul said that we are to no longer regard each other by our worldly accomplishments or defects. We are to no longer focus on the unimportant. We are to focus on the new creation that we have become. We have a new spirit life and yes, we retain it in this defective flesh, but Paul insisted that we continually do whatever it takes to live in the new life, not the old.