by Jonathan Daugherty
Today I was reading in Romans 7, a place in God's Word that has always brought both comfort and conviction. But I saw the passage in a fresh way. I saw the exaltation of Christ rather than the profound, ongoing struggle with sin.
Verse 18 says that there isn't anything good in us, that is, in our flesh. We may want to do good, but we don't have the ability to do it. This is a huge indictment against "working harder" theology. We too often assume that because we desire to do good that we just need to try harder and we will do the good we want. But we can't.
Then Paul writes his famous "I-keep-doing-what-I-don't-want-to-do" passage, which is the comforting part for me. I mean, hey, if Paul continued to have such an ongoing struggle with sin, I don't feel so "odd" for having my own struggle! But then he says something weird, something that didn't fit with my former theology of "new creation."
v. 24a - "Wretched man that I am!"
Shouldn't that read, "Wretched man that I was?" My former understanding of us being a "new creation" in Christ was that we should no longer see ourselves in language like this. But Paul seems to have no problem with such brutal honesty. He sees his sinfulness that is present in him -- even now. How, then, can he have hope in his battle with sin?
v. 24b-25a - "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Who do we look to in our current sinful state; in our ongoing, daily battle with indwelling sin? We look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, the One whose sinless sacrifice offers us a permanent place in the family of God. By His grace, we are His; messy, broken, wretched. But we are still His!
Maybe walking with God isn't so much about defeating sin as it is about humility, honesty and highlighting our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
by Jonathan Daugherty
I have a long history of laziness. I admit it, I like to cut corners. When I was a kid in school, I would sit in class, bored to death as I listened to the teacher drone on and on, calculating how little time I would spend on whatever homework assignment was given. Clearly, this was no way to get ahead in school, but I wasn't all that concerned at the time about "getting ahead," or choosing excellence over ease.*
Sadly, we meet lots of guys in our ministry who take the same lazy approach to recovery, consumed with finding an easy way to do what isn't easy. There are no shortcuts to recovery from addiction. It is hard, grueling work. It requires vulnerability that is unparalleled, honesty that hurts, accountability that demands learning to love those who are broken, and endurance that can never be acquired quickly. Still, some guys just keep searching for "easy".
The most obvious time when we see guys balk at the cost of recovery is when we tell them about our 3-day intensive workshop, Gateway to Freedom. At first, they are nervously excited about the possibility of going to a grace-based environment for a few days where experts in sexual addiction recovery can help them discover healing and a new direction in life. They want to spend time in a private retreat center, where confidentiality is protected and shame won't be pounded down their throat. But then we tell them the workshop costs $997 to attend.
At this point, there is often silence, or the occasional exasperated cough.
"Did you say nine hundred and ninety-seven dollars?"
"Yes. Of course, that includes your lodging, meals, counseling, teaching sessions, and even the Aftercare program."
"Well, I don't know if I can afford it."**
In a matter of seconds, sexually addicted men can go from being excited about the opportunity to be part of an atmosphere of tremendous healing and change to complete resistance at the idea of there being a cost to it all. And what these guys don't realize is that the money is the smallest of all the costs required to be healed and unchained from the shackles of addiction. Living in freedom costs a person way more than $997.
(To put this in perspective, ask yourself which is easier: Giving money to a charitable organization or volunteering your time to physically help a person in need? Money is always easier to sacrifice than time. And recovery will always require more time than money.)
I have been on the journey of recovery and growth from sexual addiction since 1999, and I never fully realized true freedom from my addiction until I saw that the value of such freedom was so much more than anything I could pay for it. As long as I clung to my laziness, thinking I could cut corners and discover a "new" way to do recovery, I remained chained to my selfish compulsions. I had to honestly ask myself if I was willing to pay the true costs of recovery (honesty, humility, faith, authentic community, etc.), or just keep pretending and miss freedom altogether.
Jesus highlighted a similar principle of paying a price when He shared what it means to be His follower, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:26-28)
I doubt if Jesus were on earth today He would have many Twitter followers after such a statement. This isn't the "warm and fuzzy" sermon anecdote that gets people to smile and say, "Isn't he just such a great preacher?" No, this is a statement designed to weed out the lazy, corner-cutters. In essence, Jesus was saying, "To follow me must be your priority above everything else. To rank anything next to me as equal in importance is an insult. You can't be called my follower if you simply 'add' me to your life. Everything must center on Me." The decision to follow Jesus requires counting the cost.
Jesus also shared what the kingdom of heaven was like, and in many ways I believe freedom from addiction is a taste of that kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matt. 13:44)
When was the last time you treasured anything so much that you were willing to sell everything you had to possess it? For some, that may be a painful question to answer because you treasured your addiction so much that you sold your very soul in order to have what you wanted, only to find out that what you pursued was empty and worthless. But it is never too late to find a new treasure, if you are willing to let go of your objections and value freedom more than laziness.
If you wonder what it looks like to "change treasures," let me share some more words of Jesus:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:19-21; emphasis mine)
Do you want freedom? Do you want true recovery, not just managing sobriety? Do you want a whole new direction for your life and relationships? Then change the address of your treasure! Addiction only teaches you to treasure selfishness, lust, greed, and power. And your heart has grown cold and empty residing in such places. But when you store up treasure in heaven, making the hard, costly decision to "sell all you have" and daily "bear your own cross," your heart is filled with joy, peace, love and humility. Best of all, you live free!
Is recovery worth the cost? From where I sit, having traveled through years of blood, sweat and tears, no one could ever convince me that the freedom I now enjoy isn't a bargain you just can't beat. The pain of sacrifice is never greater than the joy of freedom.
Pay whatever the cost for your recovery. No one living free ever regrets the cost...
*The good news is that I eventually grew up, embraced what it means to be a man, and kicked lazy to the curb. (He does, however, like to periodically crawl back to my front door and - after a short conversation about all that he still doesn't have to offer my life - I kick him back to the curb.)
**We even offer scholarships to those who qualify!