Monday, November 2, 2009

Credit Where Credit Is Due ...

There is new competition in the fight against additions and addictive disorders. Instead of your traditional 12-step programs, now enters the age of self-help once again. A recent media personality on CNN requested for viewers to email her with stories of addictions they have overcome, presumably to use on-air while discussing this topic. It raises an interesting question: Can you truly and permanently overcome addiction by yourself?

If the answer to this question is yes, then those who continue to suffer with addiction do so from weak minds, or rather weak wills. It implies that the addict deserves his condition, is ultimately responsible for his condition, and could at will (perhaps guided by the new onslaught of self-help books in this area), just say no. Nancy Reagan was widely ridiculed for this proposal some time ago, but current thinking has once again broached the subject.

But to isolate your thinking around just the question of self-victory or not, is a bit too limited for those who accept the premise of a loving creator God. For if again the answer is yes, you can indeed overcome addiction by yourself, does it not raise some other interesting questions. For example, can you truly love someone without knowing our Creator God? Many around the world profess love for each other, who do not believe in any god, let alone our God. Do their professions of love ring true?

I guess the answer to that question goes back to how you define love in the first place. If you define love by the example our God has given us, then our very basic picture of love would include … self sacrifice, serving others with no thought of reward or gain of any kind, humility, forgiveness, unconditional acceptance, mercy to those without, giving more to enemies than they would take, offering kind words to everyone, finding the value in each individual. These are just a few of the very demonstrable traits of love our Creator God has personally shown us. Do those unconnected with our God use this definition of the feelings they call love? Or is love-apart-from-God really only an internal feeling of euphoria brought on by chemical reactions in the brain when attracted to another individual. These feelings are often intense, but seldom last life times, and in point of fact, are very self serving in nature. In fairness, they were only meant to establish connections, not prolong them.

But if you accept that you can conquer your own addictions by sheer force of will, and that anyone can love even if they are unacquainted with our God, then perhaps you might also accept that if you can perfectly keep the law of God, you would then be worthy of heaven itself? It is surprising how closely the answers to these 3 questions can be linked. Why can’t man save himself, if he has the power of will to overcome his evil addictions, and apparently the internal ability to perfectly create love for others within himself? Is not perfect love, and perfect adherence to the law, the two conditions we expect to see in heaven when we get there?

All this kind of thinking is designed for one thing: to focus attention on self and away from our Savior. It is easier sometimes to talk about our Creator God, than our Savior God (even though they are same being). Creator refers to an event long ago and merely establishes ownership or dominance; whereas “Savior” defines our weakness and need of salvation in present terms. This entire line of thinking that focus’ on self-reliance and independence is designed for nothing more than diverting the mind and eyes away from Jesus Christ. While we do not look to our true Savior, we replace Him with a more popular alternative – ourselves. We like the idea of earning heaven more than inheriting it as a gift. We like the idea that we could by force of will, learn to belong in heaven, rather than have to admit our complete inability to change, and our desperate need of a Savior. In short we like the illusion of control.

But control is no more than illusion. When gathered many years from now on streets of gold with no names, the redeemed throngs will have one thing in common in the personal stories of their salvation from evil – Jesus Christ. Jesus will be the hero of every single story. No man will stand and say he is there by might, by sheer force of will, or through his stringent ability to keep the law. Everyone will acknowledge they are there through the mercy, love, and forgiveness of a God who alone is worthy of praise. In humility we will recognize our former conditions as addicts of evil, hooked on the junk we call “fun” in our lives, powerless to overcome the self inflicted pain and evil that masquerades as requirements. Christ alone could save us. And when there, Christ alone will have saved us. For without a savior there can be no salvation.

Our society is bent around the notion of insuring we get the proper credit for our accomplishments. We consider it a form of severe betrayal for someone else to “grab” the credit for our own good works. When this occurs, we pursue the truth to vindicate our good names, and insure the credit-grabber is rightfully derided and cast down. But to what purpose? Ego perhaps. We feed the engine of self aggrandizement by assuming we could accomplish anything on our own in the first place.

In truth you cannot name one single accomplishment in your life that was not aided or influenced by others. Your childhood teachers, both parents, family, and professionals, had much to do with any mental, or physical ability you tout today. Genetics play a role in your aptitudes and abilities. Efforts at work often rely on the tools and work of others. For instance a brilliant never-seen-before all-encompassing financial spreadsheet analysis, required the software tool Excel, a working PC computer, a working operating system (haha), and countless other inventions before your masterpiece could be constructed. You drive to work in a car you did not invent, you eat food you did not grow, and rely on currency you do not control. In short your life builds on the work and accomplishments of almost everyone around you. No man is an island, is more true than you realize. Therefore “your” accomplishments can hardly be called “solo” or independent efforts. Yet the craving for credit remains.

The concept of dependence however runs exactly opposite of growing or feeding our ego’s. We wish to find self-worth from within, but it cannot be measured there, for the measuring scale is simply too small. In truth, our worth is beyond measure, but is derived from the mystery of why our Savior God would yield up His perfect life, to spare only me. Our Savior defines love in a way we wish to know more about, and will require an infinite amount of time to really understand. Our dependence, our weakness, does not diminish our self-worth. It acknowledges the truth about where our worth originates from. All credit is due to our Creator who Redeemed us and recreated the new creatures we are to become.

It is in our weakness that His strength is made perfect. This sentiment of scripture was not merely to point out our physical frailty, but to reinforce our need of a Savior of our characters, our souls. We are not designed for fighting evil, we are sheep in need of a shepherd, not a wolf contending against another for food. We are to be as innocent as lambs, and harmless as doves, but wise as serpents. Discerning evil allows us to call out for the help that will save us, it does not prepare us for battle. We need not surrender to evil, but to call the only force capable of defeating it into our lives, our minds, our hearts, and our hands. We yield up our wills to the One who saves us from ourselves.

Instead of buying into the lie of self-control and self-reliance; why not accept the truth that His gift is enough to save even you. Why not place your burden of evil, your heaviness of soul, your guilt of conscience and your need for change on the shoulders of He who can bare this burden, and return to you rest. Trade your anxiety for peace. Trade your worry for absolute assurance. Trade your fear for trust. And live a life where credit just does not seem to matter anymore …

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