Throughout my 28+ years of Christian ministry, I have been exposed to numerous methods used in treating thousands of substance abusers. It was only in recent years that the term, “faith-based” came into being. I was always concerned of its’ exact definition. I wondered why it was not just called “Christian-based.” Are we that afraid to attribute anything to Jesus Christ anymore?
Calling substance abuse treatment “faith-based” instead of “Christian-based” opened up a door that I feel helped usher in what nowadays is a common running thread that blends many secular sounding “buzz words” with what the Bible clearly calls sin and the need of individuals to repent of their sins.
John the Baptist spoke some of the very first words in Christianity when he shouted out in the wilderness, “Repent… for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” By telling people to “repent” met there was some action expected on their part in return. They were not just suppose to stand there and look at each other or run to their physicians for a prescription. Repentance commands action.
Maybe that is why calling “faith-based” treatment instead of “Christian-based” was more acceptable sounding. Christianity does not hide the fact that Jesus Christ and the Bible are the final authority on everything. Faith-based leaves the door opened to misunderstanding what or who the final authority really is. Some people may think it is based on the words of the Bible but then again, maybe it is not. Maybe it is a “blend” of the Bible and secular medical approaches.
Somewhere along the line in this current generation, the word “sin” has slowly been replaced with more easily acceptable “secular” sounding words such as “sickness and/or addiction.” They seemed to being used as to not “offend” anymore or “scare” people out of seeking treatment for their substance abuse issues. Repentance has been replaced with the word, “powerlessness.”
Here are some examples of how this twisting of words plays out.
The Bible calls a person a “fornicator” who has sexual intercourse outside of marriage. It even continues to reveal that fornication is a sin against oneself. The secular treatment community turns this around and instead calling someone a “fornicator” the person is called a “sex addict” or “nymphomaniac” taking the personal responsibility off the individual and making it a softer most acceptable sounding type of sickness.
The Bible calls a man a “thief” when he steals or robs someone or something. Secularism turns this around and says the man has a disease calling him a “kleptomaniac”.
The Bible calls a man a “drunkard” when he drinks too much and becomes drunk. Secularism also turns this around and states the man is “sick” with the disease of alcoholism.
The Bible calls a child who is out of control and will not obey his parents or the law as being a “rebellious” child. Secularism says the child has a disease called “Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).”
The Bible teaches that if a father does not provide for his family it is a sin. If a wife does not keep her house in order, it is a sin. If the children do not obey their parents, it is called sin. Secularism turns all this around and identifies these issues as the family having a Dysfunctional Social Anxiety Disorder (DSAD).
The Bible teaches that if a man tells one lie he is a “liar”. Secularism teaches the man has a disease and labels him a “compulsive” liar, making it sound like the man is not responsible for doing the lying. It comes to him as an uncontrollable compulsion.
The Bible says that overeating is a sin called “gluttony”. Secularism takes the responsibility off the individual who overeats and states the person has an “eating disorder.”
The Bible calls idolatry a sin and the person an “idolater” when whatever he esteems, loves, fears, serves, delights, and depends upon something or someone more than God. Some examples of different ways idolatry happens are: Pride makes a god of self. Covetousness makes a god of money. Sensuality makes a god out of the body.
Idolatry best illustrates both the in-control and out-of-control experience of addiction. It is outside the boundaries of God when turning to idols. The idol is a means to an end.
It is not the goal of modern idolaters to be ruled by alcohol, drugs, love, people, food, sports, music, sex, gambling, or work. The goal of the idolater is to get what he wants. His desire is for the substance or activity to give him good feelings, a sense of power, to help him forget his troubles or his past. Whatever the heart is craving is satisfied by the idol. Consequently, idolatry is and always has been rooted in the heart.
The secular treatment community has turned from even acknowledging the word idolatry and came up with a much easier more comprehensible term: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
God cannot show mercy or apply pardoning grace if man does not consider himself a sinner and understand his need to repent (meaning having Godly sorrow for his sin and be willing to turn 180 degrees away from it). Sin and grace cannot be understood or measured without each other.
In Christianity, a language of grace requires a vocabulary of sin. Unlike disease, sin is something we can avoid and overcome. The Bible even goes so far as to state that God punishes people for their sins.
What the secular treatment community has come up with and blended into “faith-based” treatment are many Anonymous type groups that teach man is “powerless” over whatever problem he has. The reasonability is taken off the need for a man to identify his behavior as sin and his need to repent of it. The group replaces the word “sin” with “sickness” that a man has no control or power over.
Here are just some of the names of the many anonymous groups available today:
Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Emotional Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Depressive Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Women Who Love Too Much Anonymous, Sex Anonymous, Shoppers Anonymous, Liars Alcoholics, and others.
Darkness is our only hope of knowing Light. Sin is our only hope of knowing life-giving grace.
Here is only a short list of real sicknesses that can be diagnosed using real medical testing procedures: AIDS, Cancer, Heart Diseases, Alzheimer’s, Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. It is insulting to those who suffer from such diseases to try to clump drunkardness and drug abuse in as a sickness.
A person with cancer cannot physically stop his cancer. However a drunkard can stop. Just lock up a drunkard in jail or prison and see what happens. HE STOPS DRINKING! He may still suffer physical consequences because of his abusive drinking that can trigger diseases such as liver disorders, etc. but his drinking has stopped. There are no known tests yet developed to identify a disease of drunkardness, a.k.a. alcoholism/drug addiction.
Sin produces some of the following consequences that affect the way we think and feel: Shame, personal guilt, depression, anxiety, fears, judgment, responsibility, sorrow, and woes. Sin is more serious than “I made a mistake, a poor choice, sick or placing blame on others.”
There can be no grace where there is no guilt. No mercy with any sin. Sin in us is a part of our very nature. Personal sin is the root of most of our day-to-day problems. Sinful habits are the source of many of people’s problems.
The secular model is sickness, rehabilitation, and/or recovery. While God’s model is sin, repentance, and salvation.
When God created man He gave him certain desires and needs that, when kept in an appropriate context, would give him pleasure and joy. However, it is the world’s goal to exploit natural wants and desires to that the physical desire rule. The world reverses God’s order. Instead of people controlling their desires, their desires become idols that control them. They become enslaved, habituated and cannot say no.
When a “faith based” program attempts to treat substance abusers as anymore than sinners then what happens is the life-changing power of the Gospel gets watered-down into something that man comprehends in normal carnal reasoning instead of allowing the person, the sinner to be transformed by experiencing new birth.
A substance abuser does not need to be rehabilitated – which only brings that person back to where he/she first started abusing substances. It is actually self-defeating because substance abuse is only the tip of the iceberg of what manifests itself to the more deep-rooted issues or problems.
In a Christian-based residential program one can walk in a drug addict and come out a forgiven, transformed saint. The man or woman becomes a completely new person who is not “rehabilitated” but “regenerated.” He or she is not sick forever but born again by the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
This is something only God can do. Man has not the slightest idea even where to begin. Sure, many secular programs have some minor success, but mainly because they have “borrowed” Biblical principles and have instructed people to identify God as anything or anyone they choose. This is where most 12 Step programs are based on.
However, Christian-based programs introduce people to the real living and loving Jesus Christ who has not only defeated sin by His crucifixion and death, but also defeated death by His resurrection. These are two of man’s greatest concerns.
That is why faith-based programs have to rely solely on Jesus Christ and not co-mingle secular sounding methods of treatment. If the Bible calls something sin, such as drunkardness, then people need to face that head on and obey the Bible and repent.
The Bible states that obedience is better than sacrifice. It is okay to take stock of your life, maybe attend Anonymous type group meetings, talk to doctors and psychologists about your problems and sacrifice for what you believe in and what you think is right and just. Nevertheless, do not think that it ends there.
For the true test of a Christian-based regeneration program is to teach obedience to the one who gave you life, the one who gave you breath, to the one who woke you in the morning and the one who puts you to sleep at night. To be obedient to the one who knows what the level of your commitment is, who knows how to make things right and how to correct the wrong.
We should not change the Bible into something that makes us comfortable, warm, and fuzzy-feeling. The Bible should change us. It will read the same yesterday, today and forever. Jesus Christ loves us so much He died and rose from the dead for our sins so we can live life more abundantly… now! We do not have to wait to the future for this victory. He is present with us right now.
There is no compromising once sin is identified. It can and should be repented of, asked, received and forgiven by God who then cleans us of the unrighteousness that it brought into our life. The Bible clearly teaches that the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents. God happily forgives a sinner who is willing to repent and turn from sin. He hates the sins we commit but loves us, the sinners.
This mystery cannot be found in making God into a doorknob or a tree or whatever else one is taught in Anonymous secular-type groups. That is not how God works. It is all about allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord, Savior and King of our lives, who is ultimately the author and finisher of our faith.
Secular man mis-identifies the spiritual power of God. He looks at the physical aspects of trying to understand the spiritual aspects of God through natural carnal means. He tries to figure out God in his head instead of in his heart. He needs to get his head knowledge of God down into his heart (spirit).
God is a spirit and exists in the spiritual kingdom realm. He is not easily identifiable within in one’s head. His saving message is not physical – it was not about recovery, rehabilitation, or treatment. It was and remains spiritual …deep down in man where only God can consume the old sinful self-nature and replace it with His gift of life and life more abundantly. The gifts he then bestows on those who believe are what most people search for all of their lives such as; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
These Godly gifts un-regenerated man tries to find in so many other ways. The sinful nature of man tries to find these qualities by chasing after all the wrongs things in all the wrong places. Only God can give us the real ones.
Sin is pleasurable… man knows all about pleasuring himself. One of the only things man does not like after all the pleasure wears off is the consequence that comes afterwards.
Therefore, allowing one self ten-to-twelve months in a Christian residential program allows someone the time necessary to learn and apply Godly principles, so they never even think about abusing substances again.
God takes away the desire to sin and replaces it with his grace, mercy, and love. These cannot be found in a needle, bottle, or pill. These only bring pleasure and relief for a season… if they were forever they would only have to be experienced once.
I do not know one person who wants to remain sick forever. God has a different plan and purpose, which is a completely new life in Him.
Drugs, booze, and all other sins are what bring us to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, grace, and cleansing. We no longer have to remain bound by sin, but free in the Spirit of God.
09/05/09 – By Marty Angelo
© Copyright 2009 Marty Angelo. All Rights Reserved.