Discipline Yourself for Godliness

Many recovery ministries and diet plans fail, because they are based on a law concept rather than grace. Just trying to stop drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and eating certain foods that you crave has not proven to be very successful. Abstinence isn’t easier if those in authority require you to eat food and drink wine that is forbidden by God, as was the case for Daniel (see chapter one). Rather than just rebel against the king and put the King’s official in a tight spot, Daniel suggested a creative alternative. As a result, the official saved face, the king was pleased, and Daniel was healthier. The church needs to offer the works-based secular world a faith-based alternative served on a platter of grace.

Faith-based programs focus on teaching the truth that sets us free. No matter how serious the addiction; true believers are still children of God who are alive in Christ and dead to sin. Believers are not addicts, alcoholics, co-addicts, and co-alcoholics, they are children of God whose victory is found in their identity and position in Christ. It is counter-productive to label the struggling Christian with a negative failure identity. To believe that an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, or to believe that a sinner will always be a sinner is a denial of the gospel. Every born-again believer is a new creation in Christ. On the other hand those struggling with chemical addictions cannot deny their own sin if they want to experience the grace of God. It is far better for the Christian to say, “I am a child of God who struggles with alcohol or drugs, and I am anxious to learn what it means to be alive and free in Christ.”

Disciplining ourselves to abstain from things that are bad for us will not prove to be effective, but disciplining ourselves for the sake of Godliness will be profitable now and for all eternity. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promises for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). The righteous don’t focus on what they shouldn’t be doing, they focus on who they are in Christ and what they should be doing. “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). When they fall, righteous people don’t say, “I’m a hopeless failure who was never called to walk.” They say, “Lord, I fell again. Thank you for your forgiveness. I’m going to get back up and learn to live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit so that I don’t have to fall again.” Like Daniel, they also have creative alternatives they can choose when tempted to sin.

Dr. Neil

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