“I can quit whenever I want” is the famous phrase uttered by all drinkers who are just beginning the tortuous, painful journey into alcoholism. Eventually, that particular addiction is impossible to hide, but there is another addiction that is much more pervasive but also much more subtle. Generally, just like the beginning alcoholic, until this addict is set free from this addiction, he is not even aware he was addicted.
Last week, of the two alcoholics we investigated, both continued in their addiction, but the second one, Brennan Manning, had been set free from this other, mysterious, ubiquitous, unrecognized drug. His critics, ironically, are still blindly addicted. Their criticisms give them away.
For example, their accusation of the message Manning preached as being “cheap grace” and “easy believism,” betrayed the lack of understanding of the main message of the cross as revealed in the New Testament: we relate to God by faith alone and never by works of the law—never by being “good” and not “bad.”
The grace Manning preached is never cheap as claimed, because it is completely free for all mankind, and “free” is not cheap. However, it cost Jesus everything, but it costs me absolutely nothing, and He has already paid that price 2000 years ago. “It is finished!”
Also, “easy believism” is never even a possibility, because believing is not easy or hard, it is impossible! We don’t decide to believe. If we don’t believe, there is nothing we can do about it. We are prisoners of what we believe. Faith is a free gift that God gives us (Ephesians 2:8, 9), and, no, we don’t even have to make any attempts to “take the gift,” as some say, nor can we refuse it.
One day it simply overtakes us and then overcomes us. There is nothing we can do. Against our will, we simply discover we have it, like a wonderful, infectious disease. When infected, the Holy Spirit begins His exclusive task, without any assistance or even permission from us whatsoever, of conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
This is our purpose for living—to look like God as we rule for Him over His creation (“Let Us make man in Our image” – Genesis 1:26), and there is nothing we can do to stop the process because “God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (good works – Ephesians 2:10).
So, armed with these clues, can you spot the mysterious addiction of which its victims are completely unaware?
In the Garden of Eden, through the reality of federal headship, all mankind was “in the loins” of Adam, our ancestor, as he stood before the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. At that pivotal, momentous time, mankind’s whole modus operandi changed as Adam took his first bite of its fruit. What had been intuitive, instinctive, and unconscious—living by total faith in Daddy, trusting him for everything—now suddenly became unnatural, difficult and counter-intuitive, as all mankind, in Adam, shifted its whole way of thinking from faith to living by the knowledge of good and evil, a set of standards.
We all took our first drink, popped our first Oxycontin pill, snorted our first crack hit, injected our first heroin fix that day at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—and all mankind was hooked. We were addicted there at the Tree to living by its enticing fruit.
With Adam’s first bite, discerning right and wrong, good and evil, now became man’s intuitive way to think. From that time on it became the way mankind naturally viewed life, and we have lived our lives on that basis ever since. That day we died to the old way to think, by faith in Daddy to tell us, and are now addicted to our new way, the way of trying to be a judge ourselves, just as God is a judge. We too now determine for ourselves right from wrong, according to whatever set of standards we deem is “good” and choose to adopt. Do you realize that you intuitively live by the law and are addicted to doing so?
How have we fared in living in this way? How have we succeeded in “being like God” as Satan promised Eve, making good decisions ourselves and not bad ones? Human history is the tragic story of man’s failure to live by the fruit of the Tree, including the history of the church.
The gospel she has preached has often been a gospel based on a cross that gets us saved and on our way to heaven by faith but leaves our intuitive way to think since the Garden—by good and evil, right and wrong—completely untouched. We are on our way to heaven but still living in the same manner as the world—by the standards, even though ours are “the right standards,” the law of God. However, we are still hooked, still unknowingly living by the law, rather than by faith, as did Adam and Eve before the fall.
Our inability to live by God’s standards (because only God can measure up to His law) is why we in the church are really just like the world—the same pride, arrogance, ambition, selfishness, self-promotion, self-indulgence, anger, judgment, intolerance, and, not surprisingly, the same divorce rate—to say nothing of the baser, more obvious sins such as immorality.
Here is the question: If I can’t live by the standards successfully, why does God ask me to try to do so on practically every page in the Bible? Why would He ask me to reach a goal I can’t attain, like some cosmic taskmaster, always demanding of me what I can never accomplish? Am I trapped in this sinful body but without any hope of real, permanent change? Am I bound for heaven but always on the treadmill of trying to cultivate good habits and shed sinful ones here on the earth, and all the while knowing in my heart that I never quite measure up?
The answer is learning what is, for all us unaware addicts, a whole new way to think, the way Adam and Eve thought before the fall, a way that is no longer intuitive, but now, since the fall, is completely counter-intuitive. That is the topic for next week.