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Grace: Laying the Foundations of Addictions Treatment

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Jesus came to set the captives free. He longs to call each person to a state of full humanness where their hearts are fully alive to live out the plan of full personal, gender and sexual wholeness He designed before we were even born.

But, for people who have had life long issues of abuse, neglect or addictions, love must flood the barren places of their hearts. This means we must experience His power to transform our hearts.


We offer a full 'suite' of therapies and programs for Christians seeking relational and sexual healing right here in Calgary and addiction recovery is only one of them. Contact us and learn how we mediate hope and healing to those members of Christ's body who have not yet experienced the freedom that Jesus has indeed won for us on the cross.

If Christ has truly "Set the captives free," then, perhaps, it's time you experienced some of that freedom in your life? Book today:

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What is grace, why do you keep talking about it and how does it have anything to do with healing?


Grace: Laying the foundation of healing

We will start this visit to the throne room in Romans chapters 1-8 taking a brief look at an intensely theological writing. The very mention of those chapters terrifies most people who struggle with sexual and relational brokenness. No passages of Scripture have been used more frequently to bludgeon the broken then these eight chapters and, while some authors/speakers are beginning to refuse to follow the crowd, the tradition doesn’t seem to be likely to end in the near future. Yet, the only way they can be used to do so is to take little chunks of them out of context. Paul’s purpose is so much the opposite. His purpose was clearly to issue a battle cry of freedom for all who struggle with inescapable patterns of brokenness. Paul was writing to a people who were already mired in bondage to the law and he intended to break the chains and destroy their mountings forever.

First of all, some historical context: Paul was a Pharisee. That’s our modern day equivalent of a lawyer. Paul was a highly influential teacher of the law and, before he converted to Christ, he sat on the high council in Jerusalem that debated and refined the law to fit the changes that were occurring in the daily political lives of the Jewish people.

Paul was writing to a group of Jewish Christians in Rome. They were a well educated people and a people who held the law in very high esteem. The law, to them was not merely the code they should live by so as to be a good people, it was the wellspring of goodness itself. Though they had converted to Christ, they still insisted that they and others must follow the law.

Many of Paul’s letters fall under different literary genres but Romans is clearly written in the format of a legal argument. Paul is addressing these rule keeping people of Rome with all of the legal talent he had at his disposal, he is definitely arguing for the prosecution and he clearly intends to win this lawsuit.

I believe that to take any portion of the first eight chapters of Romans by themselves would be the rough equivalent of trying to figure out what a court case was all about from simply reading the part of the preamble where, say, Doe vs. Smith was sited. The main court case may be about a murder while perhaps Doe vs. Smith is instead a past court case about a theft that the lawyer believes will speak to some tiny point of the greater argument. Preamble and argument are not necessarily of any use out of their context within the greater picture. Understanding conclusions without preamble or argument is, at best, dangerous.  While this next chapter will be somewhat theological and technical in nature, please bear with the process for there is such freedom in understanding. I wish I could cut parts out but, if we hope to understand where Paul is going in this argument, we need to understand it all.

Every Jewish legal debate opened with a prepositional statement. If you were arguing for the defense, it would be a straw-man you would intend to knock down. If you were arguing for the prosecution, you would be seeking to prove that your preposition was the truth. Paul fires his opening shot in chapter 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

Just in case any of the readers were hoping he was writing with congratulations and planning to give them a warm pat on the back, Paul quickly removes all illusions: His opening prepositional statement takes on all of their understandings of what goodness was by making it very clear that Paul believes that real righteousness has nothing to do with being good. Real righteousness, in Paul’s assessment, comes only through faith in Christ.

Paul then immediately moves into his first preamble -- an assessment of how badness works and how it takes apart a world. In chapter 1:18-23, Paul begins to talk about the first stage of how we, so many times throughout history, have destroyed our societies. He discusses how the world has been set up to show us the glory of God and how that reality leaves us all responsible for seeking God – as few have. Let’s follow it for a few verses starting at verse 21:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

In modern times, this would correlate with roughly the 1930’s to the 1950’s. As we look back over that time, it looked like we were a Christian society. Everyone went to church. Most people stayed married and sexually immoral practices were fairly rare. It looked like it, but it wasn’t. Something was changing in the universities and seminaries of the day: It was a philosophical shift from Theism to Deism.

Theism is the belief that God is over all and under Him is everything like matter, energy, people and morality. Deism is a two column approach: On the one side you have science. Science is over things like matter and energy. On the other side, you have God who is over things like morality religion etc.

But, the shift quietly happened and really no one noticed except for a few philosophers. People kept on going to church. Pregnant teens kept on getting shipped off for extended, “Vacations,” in Europe or a convent somewhere and things kept rolling along as they always were. Well, almost…

In verse 24-25, Paul presents the next step which roughly coincides with the 1960’s-1970’s:

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

All of a sudden, morality started to slip. The discovery of penicillin and sulfa drugs eradicated the main sexually transmitted diseases. The birth control pill – then given in massive dosages – eliminated pregnancy for some women up to a year after they stopped taking it. Strange communes of hippies sprang up under the banner of, “Make love, not war.” Sex became a handshake and some marriages began to be described by the term, “Open.” Even the odd minister began to address the disintegration of sexual fidelity lightly regarding birth control and medications for venereal diseases as examples of how we were pushing back the effects of the fall.

Once again, it looked like we succeeded. Most of the hippies eventually shook off their drug induced haze, got a shower, shave and haircut, put on suits and climbed the corporate ladder into the TV studios of our nation where most remain to this day – ironically trying to tell us how to think. Again, we are lead to believe that we put one over on God.

But, finally reality began to hit. In verses 26-27, Paul begins to describe the consequences that hit our world in the 1980’s-1990’s:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Up until that time period, homosexuality really didn’t get much in the way of press. It was an obscure disorder that affected a tiny percentage of our society. All of a sudden, it was all over the place. Gay pride marches began to go down main street and the strident insistence began that 5% of our population was gay. The best numbers that can be had tell a different story making it very clear that the actual number was barely over 2%.

However, the message rolled forward: We apparently had been such a bigoted and cruel society that this 5% of our population had lived their lives hidden in their closet. Now, they could finally come out and be accepted as part of us. Really? Let’s use their numbers. If 5% of the population was gay, that means that in the United States alone at that time, we had ten million people hiding their secret lives in the closet. Reality is, you can’t hide ten million people’s secret lives anywhere. Something had happened to cause this explosion of persons struggling with same sex attractions.

What was it? Well, in the 1930’s we took apart our faith in God. In the 1960’s we took apart the family leaving many of the little boys and girls growing up without mommies and/or daddies. By the 1990’s, those little boys and girls had grown up and were still looking for mommies and daddies – the only difference is that now they had their adult sexualities driving such forward. Clearly we were reaping the seeds we had planted.

In verses 28-31, Paul lists off all of the brokenness that defines a culture that has gone over the brink of disintegration and then follows it with a closing comment to this first preamble in verse 32 where he states:

…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

That’s today. Look at our media: We seem to worship and promote those who can do bad things the best. Our politicians reflect our choices with their broken lifestyles and the even more shattered laws they enact to protect those lifestyles. We truly do stand and applaud those who practice things that are bringing only death to their lives.

Paul’s point is very clear: If a society messes with God’s principles, that society will disintegrate and it only takes a brief trip through any history text to realize that a society that hits this point only has, at best, lasted a few hundred years – usually much less.

Paul starts his next preamble in Chapter 2:1-2 where he states:

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.

It sounds like Paul is saying that if you point the finger at another person, there are three pointing back at you. However, he’s saying something different here. Paul is making the point that if we have the ability to look at another person and say, “You really shouldn’t have killed your wife,” then we have proven that we know the difference between right and wrong. If we know that difference, then, by default, we are too under the judgment of God for we all have violated what we knew we should do or not do. Paul essentially repeats and substantiates this point all the way up to verse 16 where he states that this law which we have all violates is actually written upon each of our hearts.

Preamble number three starts in verse 17. In my mind, this is well in the running for being one of the nastiest passages of scripture ever written for Paul takes direct aim at the Jewish people. Listen to the scathing parody Paul attacks with:

But if you bear the name "Jew" and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For "THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,"

Paul’s point is clear: The best that the Jewish people managed to accomplish in all of their attempts to be good was to succeed at getting their God blasphemed. He goes on to point out that circumcision (The defining characteristic of a Jew) is a waste of time if you are going to break the law and that uncircumcised people who keep the law (that is written upon their own hearts) are actually far more circumcised. Essentially, Paul is concluding that circumcision is something that happens in the heart and can only be done by the Spirit of God.

Let’s summarize what we have covered so far: Essentially Paul is saying that real righteousness has nothing to do with being good. However, being bad wreaks worlds, we are all guilty of such and all our best efforts at being good managed to accomplish for us is to make a mockery of God. The entire concept of being good is coming off as pointless and, in chapter 3: 8, Paul has to answer the obvious question that would have resulted from his disassembly of their concept of goodness: “OK, so should we go out and be bad then?”

And why not say as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just.

What is interesting to me is how weak this statement really is. Paul had to know how deeply he had assaulted the foundations of their world view. His attack on the high standards the Jewish people set for themselves had to have nearly obliterated the will of this people group to even try for any sort of a holy life. Yet, his answer is simply to say, “No, don’t go try and be bad,” and then he drops it and moves back to his point. Paul later offers this rather feeble retraction multiple times in chapter six as a means of building tension for his readers.

Paul now knows that his audience will be rather suspicious and, so, he takes a brief detour into the Old Testament to substantiate his logic. In chapter 3:10 he begins to quote Isaiah’s stark assessment of humanity finding that there isn’t a righteous person among us and that we all are radically bent on evil. But then, Paul balances his deeply cynical assessment of humanity with a small foreshadowing of what is to come when (v.19-20) he states:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

In other words, the law came for two purposes: It came to silence forever the arrogance of anyone who had deluded themselves into believing they were really righteous and to prove to us how messed up we really are. It certainly was never here to make us good. What then will make us righteous? Paul begins his answer in verse 21 where he states:

But now apart (5565) from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe;

The word, “Apart,” is a very interesting word in the original language. It means (choris) bereaved. Paul is saying that real righteousness is separated from being good by a gulf as large as the gulf that lies between the living and the dead. Paul is using the most intense language he can find to portray how little being good has to do with true righteousness.

As Paul moves forward, he talks about how all have sinned and have received the offer of justification in Christ as a gift and how God even passed over sins previously committed to offer the true righteousness He has for us at the present time. Then, in verse 27, the hammer falls again as Paul begins to pound home the hard questions:

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, (3780) but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart (5565) from works of the Law.

The word, “No,” (ouchi) is another interesting word: It is the most intense form of, “not at all.” The intensity is ramping up now and Paul begins to repeat his shout that real righteousness is only about a law of faith which is separated as though by death from the law’s demand that we try to be good.

Then, in chapter four, Paul takes aim at Abraham to prove his point. Let’s pause for a moment and look at who Abraham was to these devout Jewish believers. We do not even know how to pronounce the Hebrew word for God. We don’t know how to pronounce it because it was so rarely uttered that it was never transliterated into the Greek language. Certainly no Jewish person would ever utter it to swear an oath.

They would, however swear by the law or, if they were only a little less serious, they would swear by Abraham. In other words, Abraham enjoyed a status only two steps lower then God Himself in terms of the respect the Jewish people had for him. Of course, there was another side of Abraham that was a little less saintly:

  1. He wouldn’t listen to God when he told him to leave everyone behind and go to the promised land taking Lot and his servants with him.

  1. He ended up fighting with Lot and dividing up the land.

  1. He wouldn’t believe God would provide for him during a famine and took off for Egypt.

  1. In Egypt he lied repeatedly that his wife was his sister almost getting her dragged into a whorehouse.

  1. He didn’t believe God could bring him a son and so had sex with a servant creating the Palestinian race.

Paul obviously has no illusions about Abraham and is pulling no punches as he assesses him beginning in chapter four with a number of questions:

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

The word Paul uses for flesh is the Greek word “Sarx.” (4561) It does not describe simple skin. It is a word generally used in the negative referring to human nature and it’s passions – usually sexual passions and immoral or carnal acts. One could push this as far as to say that Paul was, rather caustically, asking where Abraham’s genitals had led him. Then, to add injury to insult, Paul goes on to call Abraham, “The ungodly,” as he further bolsters his conclusion that follows: Abraham had been given that free gift of righteousness while he was just as messed up and broken as the rest of us and had done absolutely nothing to deserve it. (v. 6-12)

In verse 13-16, Paul makes a number of bold statements:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,

In other words, If we could have pulled ourselves up by our own boot straps and managed to be good enough, then Christ was pretty much an idiot for he died to give us what we could have had by ourselves -- if we had just been a little more motivated. But, we couldn’t save ourselves and Christ had to die to redeem us – those of us who are of the faith of Abraham who, rather obviously, was the faith-father of all of us screw-ups. Paul spends the remainder of the chapter further substantiating this conclusion.

By the beginning of chapter five, Paul has finished shooting sacred cows and is setting his sights on building something instead. He begins his task in verse one:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

The word that is translated, “Introduction,” (4318) is a not a particularly common word in the New Testament. It describes something ceremonial like a wedding. It is a coming or being drawn into something profound perhaps like a family adopting a child or a ceremony uniting two countries. Paul is going to play on this idea later but, suffice it to say for now, Paul is stating that the primary reason Jesus came was to make a passionate, permanent lifetime introduction and union between broken and twisted humanity and a holy God. The temple veil is torn in two and you are free to come in and meet with the God of the universe. The questions left hanging are, “How,” and, “Is it safe?”

Paul spends the remainder of chapter five accomplishing two tasks: Firstly, he takes the time to point out that no one dies for righteous people (and that few would even die for a person who had done amazing humanitarian tasks) but Christ died for us while we hated Him with every fiber of our being. Secondly, he plays to the Jewish interest in numerology proving to them that even the numbers line up: It took one man to bring sin to the world and one man to take sin from it.

Chapter six opens with another question and feeble retraction where Paul again asks if the preceding is license to continue sinning and declares it not to be so. Then in verse 5-6, he uses a metaphor about what the law had done to his life that would have been stomach wrenching to the Jewish people:

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

The Roman people were nothing if they were not creative about finding ways to kill people. For a Jewish people so focused upon being ceremonially clean, they had a special method: Essentially, if you had killed someone, they would strip both you and the dead person naked and strap the dead body on your back with a system of bands and shackles. You would then be appointed your own guard to ensure you did not go and kill yourself while the dead body rotted on your back. The decay would rapidly soak through your skin and you would suffer an agonizing death of illness while maggots ate your flesh. Not a particularly charming picture.

While Paul was driving home what the law had done to his life, he was also using such to make another point: Dead people don’t have to be good anymore. The remainder of this section (up to verse 12) has Paul making very clear his belief that we died with Christ on the Cross and, that when we died with Him, we died to the Law and, thus, to sin itself.  The dead body of the law is no longer tied to our back rotting us to death.

Verse 12-19 have Paul going through a series of similar feeble retractions where he over and over makes his point that, while the law is dead, he is not calling anyone to go into sin. Paul further points out (v. 19-22) that when we embark upon a course of sin, it addicts us and draws us into further into bondage. Sin never did us any good anyway that we should move towards it. He concludes this rather repetitious chapter in verse 23 by stating that while the wages of sin is death, God has a free offer of eternal life provided to us through Christ.

Chapter seven commences with Paul drawing on a reality of marriage to make his point about where the law now stands clear:

For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another,

Apparently, Paul believes that the death of Christ so thoroughly fulfilled the law that it will never apply again – just like a death forever ends a marriage. We see this same theology coming through Paul’s other writings such as 1 Corinthians 6:12 where he states:

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me but I will not be mastered by anything.

The Greek word translated, “All,” (3956) is one of the most basic and all inclusive forms of the word present in the language. It essentially means the sum total of the universal set of everything. Paul is bluntly and aggressively saying that he is free to do whatever he wants. He could go and use drugs or have sex with anyone he wanted and he would be free to do it. However, he is also recognizing that those things are not going to benefit him and are likely to trap him in addictive bondage. It seems that Paul has a new standard for living that he is about to reveal to us as we move forward in chapter seven starting at verse 5-6:

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Ok, let’s try this theory:


So, what did you just think about? A pink elephant – right? Apparently human nature hasn’t changed much in two thousand years. None of our mothers really understood this psychological reality either as they told us not to eat what was in the cookie jar. The moment we were told not to eat the cookies, the focus and the driving passion of our childhood lives became fixated on one thing: COOKIES!!!

There is a sexual implication to this passage. Paul is saying that the response we had to the law telling us not to do things was practically a sexual response. We became sexually turned on to the idea of being bad as soon as the law told us what we should not do. He is also saying that Christ, in His mercy, looked over the entire situation and dealt with the problem at the core – He did away with the law.

Most of the remainder of the chapter discusses an obscure Jewish question of whether the law was in and of itself bad which, while it could have caused Paul to lose his audience, means very little to us. However, in the last few verses of the chapter, Paul sets up the final problem of how we all are torn apart by our ambivalent desires as we do the things we do not want to do and avoid doing those things we all know we should do. Finally, Paul has us set up to provide his answer.

Before we go there though, let’s summarize what we have learned so far: Paul starts by stating that real righteousness has nothing at all to do with being good. He holds, however, that being bad destroys worlds, that we all are bent towards being bad and that the Jewish people only managed to get God mocked through their efforts at being good. He states that the law came only to shut us up, expose us as failures and that real righteousness is as far separated from being good as dead people are from the living. He points out that Abraham is really the faith father of all of us who’s lives are a total mess and that, the reason Christ came was to unite our broken selves with a loving God who loved us while we hated Him. He then goes on to state that, while having to be good was like a dead body on my back rotting me to death, God has provided a free gift of liberty from this system of being driven to do what we were told not to do. The gift is simple – Christ cut the old system off at the knees by fulfilling the law and ending its reign over our lives -- thus ending it’s ability to make us want to be bad. Finally, Paul then poses the ultimate question of how God sets us free from this law that is rotting us to death:

Chapter eight opens with Paul’s answer to the case he has been building for almost seven chapters: (v.1-2)

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

At first glance, it is a rather off topic answer but Paul has actually cut to the heart of the matter in a mere three dozen words. Below is an image of the addictive cycle. While we will address this system in more detail later in our journey together, it is worth noting that this cycle does not spin on its own. Down at the bottom of the cycle is a mini cycle of shame, fear and condemnation. This mini-cycle actually functions as the engine that pulls the entire addictive system forward.

Far from missing the point, Paul is addressing the real problem: The reality that feeling guilt, shame, fear and contempt for ourselves as a result of acting out is actually what causes us to want to escape into acting out again to get away from feeling bad. His claim is simple: Because you can’t feel shame in a world where there is no law to break, the system is dead -- and we had absolutely nothing to do with killing it. Paul is not mincing words either. The Greek word that is translated, “No,” is actually one of the most intense negatives in the language – practically a scream. Condemnation is forever dead.

Paul then begins to break down his solution further: (v.3)

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Notice that Paul does not say that we somehow have now been given the power to fulfill the requirements of the law. He states clearly that the requirements of the law are going to be fulfilled in us. God, apparently, has taken upon Himself the responsibility of making us good people. Again, He does everything while we do nothing. Does this pattern continue?

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.

As if he had not pushed the limits of his reader’s understanding far enough already, Paul then makes the claim that those who have received Christ have the Spirit of God living within them and that Spirit has also taken upon Himself the responsibility of transforming our minds thus causing us to please God. Verse 10-11 pushes things further:

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Psychology has long been aware that, when a behavior is practiced over and over again, both the body and the brain form neurological pathways, mental ruts if you will, that imbed in our physicality the practicing of a behavior. Our bodies become accustomed to the presence of certain endorphins and neurotransmitters and cry out for such when they are not present. Paul’s claim is clear: God will even fix the physiological aspects of our bondage. In the next verse, Paul further suggests that the Spirit of God is actually working within us to stop for us behaviors that damage us. God’s work list is filling up fast, but our work list is still blank. The best, however, is yet to come:

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Remember back in chapter five when Paul was talking about that passionate lifetime introduction between bent and twisted humanity and a Holy God? Paul now makes his meaning clear: He’s talking about an adoption. An adoption is an event where a child is transferred into the household of another family and becomes, from that day forward, identical in rights and standing to any other child in the home. We are not on probation as foster children – staying just so long as we are not too annoying. This is forever -- and it gets even better!

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again

In other words: Christ didn’t come to take out one system where we had to be good so that our fear and shame about being bad drove us to be even worse and just replace it with a new set of rules which would have the same effect. He came to cancel the system of slavery forever.

but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

When my oldest daughter was almost walking, she developed a habit of greeting me when I came home. She would crawl across the floor, grip onto the seams of my pants and slowly pull herself up to she had reached a standing position. As soon as she had her balance, she would flop forward, wrap her arms around my leg and then look up at me with her bright, beaming smile of childish accomplishment and cry out, “Da.!” “Abba,” isn’t some reverential, “Oh God who dwelleth in the most high place,” kind of reference to God. It’s the exact same childish cry of delight: “Da!”

Paul’s answer to our broken hearts and lives is as simple as it is stunning: The God of the universe came down to our bent and twisted world, looked it over, realized that having to be good was making us bad and dealt forever with the problem by canceling the law that made us want to be bad. He then made one plea:

Please, crawl out of that mud puddle you have been playing in and don’t bother getting cleaned up. Just come to me.  Run right into My throne room, climb up into My lap, look deep into my eyes of love for you, wrap your arms around My neck and squeal, “Da!” I’ll make you good.

It’s the voice of God. It’s the voice of Love. It’s the voice of healing:

I’ll transform your heart so you will never feel shame again. I’ll transform your mind so your thinking will no longer be bent. I’ll transform your physical body and erase from you even the behaviors that bind you. Just come to Daddy – I’ll make you good.

Just stop for a moment. Close your eyes. Let the truth of who God really is wash over your heart. Let it fill the dark places where you never thought anyone could ever stand to be. The deeply shameful spots you would like to forget about and the damage you inflicted on others that you’d like to deny. He loves you – yes, that’s right – in there and he doesn’t need or want your help to fix those areas. If it doesn’t fry your mental circuitry, then wait and meditate until it does -- because it is, by definition, mind blowing.

We all serve many false gods but, for most of us, the worst of them is the counterfeit version of the True God we have avoided for years. This caricature comes in so many forms:

  1. The wrathful judge with gavel poised in the air waiting with bated breath for the chance to pronounce us guilty.

  1. The absentee god who couldn’t be bothered with us.

  1. The cruel sadist god.

  1. The lunatic god.

  1. The cosmic killjoy god.

  1. The helpless and powerless god.

They demand we perform, show no weakness and, above all, that we watch our backs for judgment is coming – and our god will likely enjoy it.

We start our journey in this place for one simple reason: These caricatures somehow make sense to us. At least more sense then a God who wants us to call Him, “Daddy,” and isn’t even interested in how dirty we got in our last mud puddle. And, if we want healing, they can’t make sense to us any more. We need to meet Daddy for it is only He that can change the fundamental core of who we are: Our identity.

© 1998, Cal H. Henze, All rights reserved.

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