Let me start this post off by saying that I am not a heroin addict. Actually, I have no experience with this drug. I can relate to heroin addicts however. As a matter of fact, I can relate with addicts of all kinds because I am a recovering addict myself. I am going to go out on a limb and say that you probably are as well. Especially if you are reading this blog (grin).
There is a common struggle that all addicts go through who are being broken of their addiction…
Detox is not fun and is very painful. Detox can even be deadly. Detox is the threshold that one must cross, however, that will take us addicts from slavery to freedom. Failure to cross this threshold will mean a return to the lifestyle of addiction and slavery. No amount of good intentions or human discipline will spare us from going through this process. Detox is the cross, so to speak. Once the addict passes through the death of detox, life on the other side of detox will be profoundly different.
Before detox, the addict only knows one way of life. Our addiction has become the lens that we see life through, and has enabled us to cope with reality. The idea of living and relating to life without our addiction is almost impossible to imagine. If the new life of abiding in Christ is to be truly lived out, however, detox will need to occur and the addiction will have to be discarded. There can be no exceptions. The question is this…Do you need to go through the detox process? Well, let me ask you two questions:
Have you lived in the world’s system that is based on gratifying fleshly desires and obtaining security based on the acquisition of money & resources?
Have you spent any time in the institutional church system?
If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, then the answer is yes, you are in desperate need of detoxification. The longer you have spent in one or both of these world’s systems, the greater your need to detox. The quicker we come to this conclusion, the better it will be. I have been discovering that in order for us to successfully go through the detox process and begin to experience Christ’s life and fullness, we will need to come to grips with a couple of things.
1. If detox is going to occur in our lives and church communities, true hunger for a greater reality must exist in us
None of us have to be taught how to gratify our fleshly desires. It comes natural to our flesh. As a matter of fact, we have spent our lives seeking to fulfill our fleshly desires. Our flesh has called the shots. The fact is, our flesh has to be put to death. It will not be reformed. Whatever our worldly addiction has been, it has appealed to our fleshly nature. This is especially true of the religious system.
Religion has been my ‘drug’ of choice for most of my life as a believer in Christ. Make no mistake, religion is a tool of the flesh. In my life, religion has distracted me from the person of Jesus Christ. All religions have the same basic premise. In order to become a better person, we must obey a set of rules. The rules change with the religion, but the premise is the same. In religion, the focus and effort are focused on becoming a more disciplined person so that the right actions can be taken and the rules can be followed. This is not what Jesus taught nor demonstrated, yet this is what most of Christendom has unintentionally become. Life in Christ is much different however.
Just like any addiction, if we are to break free of this fleshly religious addiction, a very painful detox must occur. The more committed and longer we have functioned in a ‘religious’ or ‘worldly’ mentality, the more painful the detox will be. It is important for addicts to know that simply recognizing that you have a problem is only the first step. It will take genuine hunger to be free to be able to go through the pain, struggle, and living hell of detox.
We have to come to the conclusion that our addiction will not satisfy, but only the fullness of Christ will satisfy our deepest longings and desires. Remember, Jesus said that only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Christ) will be satisfied. The fullness of Christ can only be found in His body (church) according to Ephesians 1:22-23 and a hunger for His fullness must rise above every other desire in our lives.
While the majority of people I talk to and converse with agree that the religious system that we see here in the West is a problem, there are only a few that actually have the hunger to go through the detox process that it takes to live in a new reality that can only be found outside of the religious system that the flesh is addicted to. This is truly heartbreaking to me.
2. To embrace detox, you must become a little child
I cannot stress this point enough. Little children need help with just about everything. If they don’t get that help, their growth is literally retarded. If you have any experience with a family member that has dealt with addiction issues, you know that until they recognize and accept the help of those that love them, they will remain in the slavery of their addiction. This is also true for those of us who are coming out of the addiction to religion.
The need of being detoxed from our old religious mentality is nothing new. This was also a need in the New Testament times as well. Consider the Roman church during the apostle Paul’s day for example. Most of them had come out of a religious system that involved performing certain religious duties such as the sacrificing of meat to idols.
Now that they had become believers in Jesus Christ, they took that same premise of living by rules and duties and were trying to apply it to their new faith in Christ. A great discussion and debate arose in that church that was centered around what they were now allowed to eat and not eat. (We do the same thing today when our focus is wrapped up in systems, processes, and what we have to do and not do to live out our faith).
Something beautiful happened in the Roman church of the New Testament, however. Paul stepped in to help. He helped this body of believers shift from their religious focus of what they should or shouldn’t eat, and he helped them understand that life in Christ is not about eating or drinking (doing or not doing) rather he taught them that life in Chirst is actually a state of being! Here is what he said:
for the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
What a profound verse! Basically, Paul was telling them that life in Christ is not about ‘doing’ but about being. You cannot ‘do’ His righteousness. You cannot ‘do’ peace. You cannot ‘do’ joy. Christ is the personification of the kingdom, and life in Christ is all about being and abiding (John 15, Matthew 6:33).
I find it interesting that Paul needed to come in from the outside and help. This is an example that we see replayed over and over in all New Testament churches.
Nothing has changed!
Like in New Testament times, we are still trying to ‘do’ life in Christ (religion), and like New Testament times, we need to be helped out of this religious mentality. This is the detox we need! The reason that Paul could help this church community go from a place of ‘doing’ to a reality of ‘being’ is because he went through that same transition before in his own life and he learned how to live this out in the church community at Antioch.
This is where I have found that things get tricky for my brothers and sisters who attempt to pursue ‘organic’ church life. While we may recognize the pitfalls of the institutional system, this in itself is not enough to equip us to operate in the new reality of Christ’s headship, nor will it equip us to function together as a body by His divine life. Recognizing the problems of the institution and leaving it does not mean we are equipped.
Scripture is clear that God’s people need to be equipped.
There is no getting around that. Scripture is also clear that God’s people need to be equipped by others in the body who have been called and given a measure of grace to help the church receive a foundation of Christ and to operate corporately by His life (See Ephesians 4:7-13).
This is more than just sharing information, rather it is actually receiving and interacting with the person who is called to help & equip the body as well. Paul had relationship with those church communities he labored to equip. It is these people who will help us detox, so to speak.
The transition between life in the old system and the new reality of Christ is a painful detox. The sad reality is that without a childlike humility to receive the help from those with a vision of Christ who have themselves been detoxed, we will miss the mark of Christ’s fullness. Despite our best intentions, we will function in mediocrity. In order to receive this help, we’ll have to recognize that we’re not experts. We have not been this way before. We cannot do this on our own. The quicker we realize this, the better it will be.
Many groups attempting to meet outside of the institution reject help because they say the Bible and the Holy Spirit are all that are needed to function and grow in Christ. The problem with this kind of reasoning is that the Bible itself says the opposite. Scripture clearly says that we need to receive the ministry of other people to grow & develop, and it is the Holy Spirit Himself who gifts some with the explicit ministry of equipping the saints!
I have become aware of a couple of underlying reasons why many reject the help of those who would help us ‘detox’. I say ‘underlying’ because these reasons are usually not the stated reasons why many in the ‘organic’ church world reject help.
The first reason why I believe people reject help has to do with the fact that many are carrying around deep wounds. People who have been wounded usually have a very hard time trusting other people, especially those who would give us direction. This is completely understandable. In its quest to control, the world’s system and the world’s religious system have wounded us very deeply.
Let me say this to my brothers and sisters that have been hurt in the past. I know your pain, but at some point you are going to have to trust others to give you direction again. Little children trust, and it is impossible to become a child again in the kingdom and not be able to trust. The Lord will have to help us get there. Trust is most certainly a necessity if ‘detox’ is going to occur in our lives however. Those who have dealt with a loved one in addiction know this all too well. Trust is a key factor for the person with the addiction to be able to accept the help they desperately need.
The second reason why people reject help has to do with control. This is pretty straight forward. Addicts don’t like to give up control for a variety of different reasons. Until we’re personally ready to give up control of our own lives or our groups, we will not be able to receive help. The key to surrendering control is realizing that we do not own ourselves or our churches. He does. He started the church, He is building her, and she belongs to Him. We all belong to Him. We can let go. God has a way of helping us let go however. It’s called brokenness, and it is not pleasant. The more we hang on, the more we will have to be broken. This is true for individual addicts, and this is also true for churches as well. Until we are broken, we will not be able to receive the help that we will need to recieve in order to be ‘detoxed’.
Like any physical ‘detox’, the process doesn’t feel good. Impurities will come to the surface and addictions will be identified and broken. Our flesh will react violently. We may even feel sick as we go through it. The same is true for spiritual detoxification. The end result is wholeness, health, and freedom however.
I’d like to leave you with three questions that you might ask yourself and the people you fellowship with. How you answer these questions just may determine your direction for the foreseeable future.
Is the status quo acceptable to you?
Are you hungry for the fullness of Christ?
Are you ready to go through detox?