The Hole in Christian Recovery
Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord. Joshua 24:23
When I first attempted recovery, well-meaning Christians told me, All you need is Jesus, by which they meant that I did not need treatment, 12-steps or counseling. Just go to church. That didn’t seem entirely right, but I wasn’t going to argue that I needed more than Jesus. Years later, after going to church, and relapsing, I realized what was wrong with the statement.
In my experience, Christians are very good at pointing the addicted to Christ – as we should be. Where we have lacked is in helping them turn from the old life. In today’s passage, Joshua commanded the Israelites to get rid of the old gods and follow the one true God. Had they attempted to follow God with the old idols still sitting around, they would have been constantly distracted. The old had to be dealt with as they followed God.
Christ too, commanded those of us who would be His disciples to daily die to ourselves while following Him (Luke 9:23). The Bible repeatedly prescribes this two-step process of leaving the old to follow the new.
This abandonment of the past is no simple task and it is what has often been left out of Christian recovery. If secular recovery’s great error is in failing to point people to Christ, the error of Christian recovery has often been in failing to help the addicted abandon addiction. I have heard good men preach, You don’t have a sin nature anymore. You’re free now. If you are struggling with some behavior, just stop it.
To those addicted to porn, drugs, money, pride, food, affirmation or status, this is not helpful. As Christians, we must be honest about how difficult and painful it is to sever ties with the past. Christ absolutely does do a miraculous work of transforming us as we follow, but we must do our part in abandoning the old gods. It is incomplete to simply tell others to follow Christ. We must help them to deny self while following Him.
This may look different for different struggles, but it is never a failure to seek help. If we are addicted to something, we should listen to those who have learned how to recover. God can and does use others, even those outside the church, to do His will.
Anyone who desires to be a disciple of Christ, must continually do whatever it takes to abandon the old, while doing whatever it takes to follow Him.