Addiction: a Christian’s perspective

“Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance, or engages in an activity, that can be pleasurable, but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/addiction)

While some addictions are strictly physical, most addictive behaviour is not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to cues, or triggers. People who are prone to addictive/compulsive behaviour will often switch actions or drugs. The specific action/drug is not what matters, but the need to act or take a drug, any action, any drug, that identifies most addicts. Treatment of this kind of addiction, as opposed to a physical addiction, requires a greater understanding of how addiction works psychologically, not simply the denial of the drug/action.

There are certain behaviours that, when done compulsively, are actually beneficial. I’m not talking about OCD behaviour here, but things such as praying, or calling your parents, or playing with your kids. These kinds of behaviours, when done often, are quite beneficial. Nobody in their right mind would ever call doing such good things an addiction, nor compulsive, I’m just illustrating that some behaviours should be encouraged.

As this article is meant to draw a parallel between addiction and sin, I propose that sin can become addictive, and there is a large overlap between addictive behaviour and sinful behaviour. Take for instance lying, which is identified in Exodus 20 as one of the 10 things that God has commanded us not to do, a grave sin. Lying can become an addiction, such as the case of compulsive (pathological) liars. This condition actually has an official name in psychology: pseudologia fantastica (also mythomania). See this article for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathological_lying

When we look at addiction as sin, regardless of what the addiction is, the solution is quite simple for the Christian. Just like we would for any sin, we first acknowledge that it was already nailed to the cross. We then bring the condition to Christ and ask Him to lend us His strength to conquer our behaviour. This is how alcoholics, drug addicts, kleptomaniacs, can find release from their destructive behaviours.

I’ve struggled with addiction my whole adult life, and it wasn’t until I asked Jesus to lift the burden from me that I found the strength to stop the behaviour, not my own strength, but His. Jesus has the strength we lack and He will lend us a hand, lift us out of the mire. Let Him work in your life by asking Him to lift you up from whatever is dragging you down.

There is not one of us that couldn’t use His helping hands. We have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. We may not all be addicted to sin, but most of us are. The horrible truth about sin is that it often feels really good as it’s taking place, whatever the behaviour may be, but the guilt can be overbearing once it’s done. I can tell you from personal experience that the relief that comes from Jesus is a much greater high than anything else I’ve ever done.

In closing, I pray that all of us who have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God, will realize that this is not a condemnation, but a challenge. We have fallen short, yes, but we can be brought up to His level. All we have to do is ask for the amazing gift He has given His life for us to have, free of charge. Look within and realize that our great Friend, Jesus Christ, is only waiting for you to ask Him for a helping hand. Ask Him, and then take His hand, what follows is nothing short of miraculous.

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Common ground (Part 3) – updated

This is the last part in this series, about finding common ground within the Protestant churches. In the previous entries (Part 1, Part 2) we talked about the pillars of Protestantism, the nature of God, and the events about to unfold in the final days of this planet. In this entry, we will continue the story and expand upon some topics that are relevant to eschatology.

The first topic I’d like to broach is the concept of the mark of the beast. This is something every Christian knows a bit about, and it’s quite common in pop culture as well. I would say that this is one of the Biblical concepts that most Christians should agree about. It is quite a controversial topic, and everybody seems to have an opinion on what this number (666), and the mark, mean.

In order to explore this topic, I’d like to step back and examine the events that started this roller coaster we call life. In the beginning, God created the Earth, all that is in it, and humans. He made us in His image. We are the only creatures, that we know of, that were created in God’s image. The angelic beings were not created in God’s image. Why is this important?

In the beginning of this Earth, there was also a great conflict between God and His chief angel, Lucifer. About this time, Lucifer conducted a rebellion against God’s kingship, in order to usurp it and claim it for his own. The reason this conflict occurred is because Lucifer did not want to be obedient to God. He thought that he could do a better job of managing the universe, got a bunch of angels on his side (about a third), and declared God a tyrant, despot, dictator. God won that battle and cast Lucifer and his angels down to this Earth.

You will notice a small link between this concept and Part 2, where I talked that my God is not a tyrant, a despot, or dictator. In fact, Lucifer is still trying to convince others to this day that God does not merit to be our ruler because of this perceived tyranny. The overall feeling in the secular world of today is that God is either disinterested, or He takes pleasure in seeing us suffer. This was the seed of the rebellion in heaven at the beginning of Earth’s history. Lucifer misunderstood (either willingly or in error) God’s intentions, and he continues to tell us about it, yet he is absolutely, 100% wrong.

Having said that, I’d like to point out that since the beginning, this conflict was about obedience, and we’re still debating¬†obedience to God today in our churches. I believe that the end of the conflict will be about obedience also. We will have to make a major decision at some yet undetermined point in time. Every single person on Earth will have to decide whether we stand with God and obey Him alone, or whether we stand with Lucifer and obey him and his minions.

What does this have to do with the mark of the beast? Well, I’d like to propose that the mark of the beast will not be an actual, physical mark. Rather, I believe that the mark of the beast is a spiritual mark, placed in our foreheads or on our right hand. In order to understand this concept, let’s take a look at Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 6-8:

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.”

What we see here is a command from God to put His laws in our hearts, in our hands, and in our forehead. God isn’t interested in half-measures; He wants all our worship. He wants us to believe His laws and to act accordingly. In contrast to that, we look at the description of the mark of the beast in Revelation chapter 13, verses 16-18:

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

As you can see, the mark of the beast will be placed in the right hand, or in the forehead, not necessarily in both places, and the heart isn’t even mentioned. Lucifer doesn’t care whether we believe that what we’re doing is the right thing. He wants us to either do it, or believe it, both if possible, but he doesn’t care if it’s just belief or if it’s just acts. Here is a beautiful passage from the book of James, chapter 2, verse 17: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

I think James sums it up beautifully in that verse. When we serve God, we have to bring everything to Him. Belief in God won’t save us, neither will doing good deeds. Without God as the center of our intentions, good works are meaningless and belief is pointless:
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
We see these concepts throughout the New Testament, but I like the way James expresses himself.

So, if the final conflict is about obedience, how can we frame the prophecies of the Bible to fit that narrative? In this context, is it important that ISIS is terrorizing the Middle East and North Africa? Is it relevant that Israel is looking to build a third temple in Jerusalem? Is it meaningful that we keep getting close to having RFID chips implanted in our bodies for the purpose of easy commerce?

In short, yes and no. Those things are important, sure, because they signal the end of this age. They are the birth pangs of this Earth, but we as Christians should not be focusing on these events for their own merit as fulfillment of specific prophecies. They do fulfill general prophecies, just not specific ones. Ultimately what will matter is our obedience to God. Obedience is something that is attained through practice. This practice is also called “living by faith”. To live by faith, or in obedience to God, is a continuous learning process. There are those who have died to self and live by faith daily, yet they are not perfect. Nobody in this world has a claim on perfection. We are all sinners, wretched on our own, but made pure and white by the blood of Jesus.

We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We can only live by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. This is not something that we can do ourselves, of our own power. We have to ask God to step into our lives, take the yoke of sin from us, and lend us His Spirit to guide and admonish us through life’s lessons. The Spirit is the One who identifies sinful behavior to us. He is the One who urges us to do certain things, or to stop doing certain things. Some people liken this experience to having a very strong feeling that they should do a certain thing, see a certain person, go to a certain place. It is real and works in the life of every Christian who has invited the Holy Spirit into their lives.

Therefore, this isn’t something that we should leave to the last minute. The learning process must not be a cramming process, as we sometimes do before important exams and tests. The learning must not just be superficial, for it is not important that we know how to live in obedience; it is far more important that we do it, daily, flawed as it may appear to us and the world. The trying is the important part, because constant trying leads to having our lessons learned, even as we may err.

We may discern that the end is nigh from the signs in the world around us, but we should not leave the decision to stand for God to the last possible minute. The muscles must be exercised prior to this event so that we may have lasting power and the understanding only experience can bring, when we make that decision. We have to lay our life down before God as it is, and ask Him to enter into it, to mold us into His chosen people, so that we may be a light unto the world.

I personally have a few sins that keep repeating themselves in my life. I’ve decided to let them go through the power of Christ before I get baptized in October. This is a decision I’ve made with a very happy heart, and I can already see God working in my life. To the people reading this article, I challenge you to make a decision now to give yourselves, your whole selves, to God. Let Him in your life, ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Listen to the Holy Spirit when He is talking to you. Let Him pull you in the direction you’re meant to follow.

In conclusion, keep in mind that the final conflict is about obedience. The mark of the beast is not an RFID chip in your forehead. The mark of the beast is a sign of allegiance to Lucifer and his cause. Let your hearts, minds, and hands be filled with the law of righteousness, and cast out the law of sin from your whole selves. May God guide you on this path, and may we meet in heaven at the end.

Common ground (Part 2)

In the first part, we talked a bit about the importance of going back to basics in our churches, in order to eliminate the current doctrinal disagreements and start fresh. We identified 3 main pillars of Protestant theology, and pointed out that this is the main message of the Bible. If the Protestant Christians all agree on these three main doctrines, then there is indeed hope for working together to spread the message to the whole world.

We must, absolutely must, take the message of salvation to every man and woman on this earth. Jesus’ second coming depends upon this action. The reason why this is so, is because people cannot make an informed choice unless they know all sides of the argument. Before His second coming, there will be a falling away (2 Thess 2:3), and the man of sin will be revealed, again. At this point, the people of the world will have to choose between God and the man of sin.

We cannot make that decision unless we know the character of God. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), we cannot fix ourselves, but Jesus has already paid the price for our sins. All we have to do is accept His sacrifice. The character of God is such that He would die, so that we don’t have to. The best analogy I can conceive is that of a parent loving their child so much, that they sacrifice everything in order for that child to be safe, free, and happy.

Aside: I have recently had a conversation about hell with someone on an internet forum. From that conversation, I came under the impression that some Christians view God as a vengeful, vindictive being who can’t wait to punish us for our sins. I was treated with passage after passage from the Bible that hell will be like a 24/7, eternal, ongoing punishment for those who dared defy God. I’m a simpleton, and I like to take my teachings from Jesus directly. Whenever I come across a passage in the Bible that seemingly contradicts what Jesus said, I put Jesus’ teachings first.

Jesus says that at the end of this world, after the millennium, everyone who fought against God and His people is cast into the lake of fire and that this is the second death. This is my yardstick to determine what exactly will happen in those days.

Q: Is death eternal?
A: Yes, of course it is.

Q: When you die, do you rise up, and die all over again, for eternity?
A: No, you only die once. In the case of those who fight God, they die twice (first death and second death). In either case, the second death is eternal.

Q: Do you serve a vindictive God or a loving God?
A: I serve a loving God, not one who punishes the husband in front of the wife, the son in front of the father, or the mother in front of the daughter, for ever and ever and ever.

What kind of doctrine is that of a God who behaves like a petulant child burning ants with a magnifying glass? It lessens the character of God, therefore it is a doctrine of devils.

Even in judgment, God is loving. His punishments are just, but He will not torture sinners for all eternity, in full view of the saved. I believe that all Protestant Christians need to agree on this point. We need to view God from this lens of reluctant discipliner, like a parent. This would go a long way to make a distinctions between the people of God, and the people of the one who revels in punishing others (see the book of Job).

Let’s move back on track now, to the gospel going out to the world. Once this is done, the people of the world must make a choice. The Christian church will act as a catalyst in this situation, and there will be no more fence-sitters (thank you to Mike Manea for this wonderful analysis). Once we all know where we stand, the people of God will be persecuted, even unto death.

This particular doctrine varies between denominations. Some people believe that the church will be taken out of the world before the tribulations begin. I firmly believe that will not be the case. Christians must endure persecution. We must be tested to ensure that we truly believe what we preach (Isaiah 48:10). Hypocrisy must be weeded out of the church in the last days. This is harsh, but it is in line with the character of God. Another note here is that I believe that this is the cutoff for any further repentance. In other words, if people have not chosen God by this point, they will not choose God at any future time, so repentance is no longer available. This is actually good news for Christians, because it means Jesus is very close.

After persecution, we will have plagues, but they will not touch the church, nor the individuals in the church. Many of those who are against God will die, and just as many will curse God. This time will be quite short, for the benefit of the church. It won’t be easy to live through all this as a Christian. In fact, it will be quite traumatic. Jesus said that the days will be cut short, else no one would survive (Matthew 24:22). For the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.

At last, after much suffering, persecution, and trauma, REJOICE, for Jesus comes in glory, and every eye shall see him. He comes with His angels, to gather up His people, and we will meet him in the sky. The dead in Christ (the deceased believers) will rise first, then those of us who are alive will be gathered up, just as a mother hen gathers up her chicks. Thank God that we know this will happen. Thank God that we are given this great instruction manual that tells us the conditions we need to watch.

In part 3, we will step back in time a bit and talk about the mark of the beast, and a bit more about the topics discussed in this post, such as the close of probation.

May God bless you and keep you in His fold, strong in faith, slow to anger, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Amen