Am I a Christian or an Addict?
Principle 15: Though our eternal identity as Christians is in our new life in Christ, it is dishonest and unhelpful to pretend the persistent struggles of our flesh nature no longer exist.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
When I was a kid, my older brother asked me if anything was impossible for God. I proudly answered that for God, nothing was impossible. He then confounded me with this: Can God make a rock so big that he can’t lift it? And with that, I got drawn into a useless debate about God’s omnipotence.
As grown-ups, because of our persistent immaturity, we sometimes still allow ourselves to get pulled into needless conflict. Today’s topic of identity is one of those areas where I’ve contributed to and witnessed pointless arguments.
At one time, even though I had engaged in behavior that literally defined addiction, I refused to identify as an addict, because I was a Christian. A Christian cannot call himself an addict, right? Later, when I accepted my life problem and identified as an addict, I ran into other Christians who were offended. You’re defying God’s word! You’re a child of God, not an addict!
Like my childhood argument with my brother though, this is a needles debate, ignited by our myopic viewpoint. We may insist that we can only be one thing in this life, but this isn’t consistent with reality or the Bible. In reality, I identify as a lot of things. I’m a husband, dad, and doctor. When I introduce myself to someone my wife knows, identifying myself as her husband, I’m not denying my identity as a physician. I can be both.
Today’s passage beautifully reveals this reality. In Christ, we become children of God and have his Holy Spirit living in us, but we carry that gift in an imperfect jar of clay, our flesh. I may be forgiven, but I’m still a cracked pot, full of imperfections. Paul, who insisted that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), also identified himself as a wretched man (Romans 7:24) because of his persistent, destructive flesh nature.
Our greater reality, the one that will last forever, is that we are saved, forgiven, and free. Daily, we must grasp that reality. It does us no good though, to pretend that we don’t have very real, destructive struggles. This is no mental exercise of fantasizing that the one reality doesn’t exist. The Christian life as Christ described it (Luke 9:23) is daily doing whatever it takes to actively turn from the old life, pursuing the new one.
Author’s Note: I’m currently writing through the principles that have helped me understand my condition as a Christian who still has very real struggles with my destructive appetites. I’ll include the full list here for reference.
- God created us to live in communion with Him, but man’s sin fractured that communion.
- We all struggle with flaws in our corrupt flesh nature, though it has different manifestations in all of us.
- When we come faith in Jesus Christ, we are born again into a new, perfect spirit life and restored to communion with God, but we still carry this gift in a flawed flesh life.
- Though God may graciously deliver us from some thorns of the flesh, some battles are lifelong, requiring the ongoing work of denying self and following Christ.
- We may always feel the gravity of the flesh, but we are not to live enslaved to it. We are meant to know and experience freedom daily in Christ.
- The Christian life (discipleship) is a continual process of abandoning (crucifying) the flesh nature and following Christ.
- Though we will fail, there is always grace and forgiveness for those who believe in Christ.
- Though we are forgiven, we are not to use grace as an excuse to continue in our destruction.
- God’s eternal forgiveness does not absolve us from practical, earthly consequences.
- As we all struggle, we must be continually honest, not constructing a facade of perfection, as this is detrimental to our recovery and the recovery of others.
- We should regularly meet together with the purpose of encouraging each other to abandon the old life for the pursuit of God.
- Though we try to find purpose, joy and fulfillment in following ourselves, we can find the answer to our deepest needs only in God, as he provides the only adequate replacement for our self-destructive pursuits.
- Sanctification is the process of God transforming us in and through our obedience.
- God allows the daily battles and honest struggles of recovery to deepen our awareness of our constant need for God.
- Though our eternal identity as Christians is in our new life in Christ, it is dishonest and unhelpful to pretend the persistent struggles of our flesh nature no longer exist.
- God saves us from ourselves. We must tell others what He has done for us.