Tag: Addiction Help

Gospel Hope for an Epidemic

Image by Emilian Danaila from Pixabay


by: Mark Shaw

An incredible number of 64,000 accidental overdose deaths occurred in 2016 in the United States of America. To put that number of souls in perspective, more American people accidentally died in one year due to addictive behavior than died in the entire Vietnam War. Another startling statistic is that the estimated cost since 2001 of the opioid epidemic alone (not including other drugs) is one trillion dollars and it is estimated to cost $500 billion in the next 3 years.[1] What many view as a hopeless problem draining society should be viewed by the Church body across the world as an enormous opportunity to point people to the hope of the gospel and Jesus Christ.

Government Solutions
One so-called solution that is gaining popularity is called “medication-assisted treatment” (MAT). Methadone is the most common drug utilized as an opiate/opioid replacement and is usually provided through a treatment clinic and prescribed by a physician. Methadone is a schedule II narcotic with a high abuse potential due to its long-acting pain relief properties. There is also a high physical dependence liability and very painful, long-standing withdrawal effects when one decides to detox from the medication. Communities like Lafayette, Indiana are starting methadone clinics to battle the opioid epidemic, arguing that methadone as a replacement for heroin and prescription opioids is a viable solution to reduce the accidental overdose rate.

My Firsthand Experience
Many years ago, I worked as the director of a methadone clinic and saw firsthand how inept that so-called solution truly is because it lacks heart change. During my tenure there, I counseled only two persons out of several hundred (less than 1%) who successfully detoxed off of the drug and maintained sobriety for at least six months afterward. I also know these clients did not hear an eternal, gospel-centered message in this program. They weren’t taught about the idolatry of addiction, so they were never led to confess their sin, cry out for forgiveness, repent, and place their faith in Christ for eternal life (Prov. 28:13).

The positives were that methadone intake was controlled by the clinic (though they could buy it from the friends they met waiting in line at the clinic). Drug tests were a deterrent to some extent, keeping a few clients motivated not to use illicit drugs, though that was not the norm. As a medication, methadone covered up opioid highs. If an addict tried to use heroin, he would not feel it. Counseling was offered, though it was not biblical.

The negatives were that methadone did not prevent the client from experiencing highs from marijuana, benzodiazepines, cocaine, amphetamines, and the like. Because the usual high from an opioid drug could not be experienced while on methadone, most addicts used other non-opioid drugs to feel a high since using opioids was a waste of money, time, and energy. It was not uncommon to have clients overdose and die while on the program because their physical hearts could not withstand the power of cocaine and marijuana mixed with methadone.

Detoxing off of methadone is extremely painful due to the longer half-life of the drug, resulting in effects that last much longer than withdrawing from an opioid. The plan of the majority of methadone clinics is to keep the addicted person on the drug for the remainder of his or her lifetime. Detox is not really encouraged, which makes sense because that is consistent with the beliefs of the addiction counseling world at-large. If addiction is a life-long, progressive, and fatal disease that is never overcome, then here is the thinking: “You are an addict; you will be an addict; methadone is your solution; why detox?” However, when counseling many addicts at the methadone clinic, I used a heaven – hell – purgatory analogy to encourage detox. Their treatment at the methadone clinic was likened to the concept of “purgatory.”[2] Being on methadone was better than the “hell” of living on the streets shooting heroin, but it was worse than the freedom of “heaven” which I likened to being drug-free (which pales in comparison to the real heaven, please understand). My point was that methadone did not offer true freedom, so I would encourage them to detox. Few did.

With that background experience and with very few viable secular solutions on the horizon, I have become much more passionate about training and mobilizing the local church for the work of ministry through biblical addiction counseling. I have seen many deaths due to addiction. I have observed incorrect theology taught dogmatically in most treatment and rehabilitation programs where participants are pointed away from the local church, away from the true gospel, and away from Christ (Col. 2:8). These things grieve me. Secular treatment programs are not neutral since 93% of them embrace by “faith” (not by science) the disease concept of addiction and its self-help ideas. At the end of the day, this is an issue of belief, not an issue of fact (though they present their beliefs as factual and scientific).

Two Spiritual Approaches
Behavioral change (which is the only goal of secular rehabilitation programs) might prolong physical life temporarily, but it usually is short-lived as many revert back to their drug of choice. Christians should be concerned with more than just sobriety as a goal! There will be plenty of clean and sober souls in hell. I’m sure my readers already know this, but Jesus Christ is the only answer, the gospel is the only true message, and the local church is the only community who has what the addict is longing for – enduring hope, eternal purpose, and genuine relationships! I would much rather send an addicted person to a local church with solid biblical counseling than to a secular rehabilitation program. Both programs will teach the addict that addiction is a spiritual problem! One will teach that any god will do and label that god of personal choice a “Higher Power.”

The other will teach that only Jesus Christ the Lord will do (John 14:6) and that He is sufficient for transformation in this life (Rom. 12:1-2) and promises everlasting life to all who believe (John 3:16). These are significant distinctions in the two spiritual approaches! Church, we have an urgent and incredible opportunity here to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to hurting souls struggling with sins of an addictive nature.

Local Church Training
Thankfully, there are some very good gospel-centered, biblically-based programs that exist. I have been systematically networking with faith-based addictions outreach programs across the country for many years, and I am eager to share with you what I am seeing. We have re-launched a 10-year-old ministry called Truth in Love Ministries so that I can be available to train local churches to creatively reach out to addicts and their families. Visit our website at www.histruthinlove.org to see upcoming training dates in your area or to contact us about providing training in your church. With the world crying out for help and believing that addiction is a hopeless, lifelong disease, the Church has an opportunity to glorify the God of the universe, who is still on His throne and transforming lives by His amazing grace.

Questions for Reflection
What is your church doing to reach the addicted community? How is a biblical approach to addiction different than a worldly one? Why does it matter?

[1] Greg Allen, “Cost of U.S. Opioid Epidemic Since 2001 is $1 Trillion and Climbing,” last modified February 13, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/13/585199746/cost-of-u-s-opioid-epidemic
[2] This is NOT an endorsement of belief in purgatory but an analogy. I do not believe purgatory is a real place because I do not find it ANYWHERE in the pages of the Scriptures!

TAC Staff Note: This article was originally published at BiblicalCounselingCoalition.org on March 26, 2018. View the original post here.

Click to Tweet: What is your church doing to reach the addicted community? https://ctt.ec/iNf7o+ #BiblicalHelp4Addiction</a

About Mark Shaw

Mark E. Shaw (D. Min.) is President and Founder of Truth in Love Ministries and The Addiction Connection. He resides in Florence, KY, with his wife and children. The author of 20 publications including The Heart of Addiction, Addiction-Proof Parenting, and Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark enjoys speaking, training, and traveling for the purpose of encouraging and edifying local churches in their outreach to hurting souls.

Follow Mark on: Facebook  and  Twitter

 

Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – PART 2

Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

by Bill Hines

In Part 1 of this blog it is my hope that I made the point that sobriety, either from a substance (alcohol, other drugs) or an activity (i.e., gambling, pornography, cutting) is not the goal of the command, “don’t get drunk.” The goal of the passage in Ephesians 1:15-21 is that followers of Christ would be filled with the Spirit rather than controlled by something else.

Regarding the word filled The NKJV Study Bible points out: “The tense of the Greek word translated filled indicates that filling is a moment-by-moment, repeatable action. It is something Paul commands the believers at Ephesus to do.”[1]

It is interesting that the repeatable activity for the believer is to be filled with the Spirit moment by moment. Just as someone would have to continually drink an alcoholic substance to “stay” drunk, so followers of Christ are to continually “drink in” or be filled with the Holy Spirit to stay filled. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit includes a heart full of singing songs to and about our God who is faithful. We must be prepared, however, that sometimes being filled with the Holy Spirit in service to the Lord is not associated with upbeat or happy feelings. Sometimes our most profound works of service happen when we are worn out, tired and even persecuted as were the Disciples.

How Are We to Stay Filled with the Holy Spirit?

I won’t take the time here to give a complete answer to this question but I offer the following as those elements in the life of the Believer that must be present in order to grow into a mature follower of Christ and when entered into by faith will aid in this calling of following Him and being filled with the Spirit.

We must start by affirming that being filled with the Holy Spirit is something only a Christian can experience and only an active follower of Christ can experience in increasing measure (see Romans 12:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

The following broad categories are seen in Scripture in various ways. Some have tried to express that all followers of Christ must do these things in particular ways such as all study of the Scripture must be done in the morning. What is important is that these things are a consistent part of our lives on an ongoing basis. To use our earlier example, just as one would have to drink in wine on a regular basis a follower of Christ must “drink in” the Holy Spirit regularly to be filled with Him.

In order to be filled with the Spirit I suggest the following must be engaged in by faith:

Worship/Praise

Consistently offer praise and worship to the Lord both privately and corporately (Psalm 150; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 5:13). God is always there with us. Saying a simple thank you to Him at any time or offering a brief testimony to another person of what He has done for you today are ways to praise Him. When one recipient of demonic deliverance wanted to stay with Jesus he was told to go home and tell of the wonderful things God has done for you (Mark 5:18-20).

Study

Study the Word of God which will make you wise in the things of God (Psalm 19; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:14-16; 2 Peter 1:2-3). As valuable as devotional books can be, we must also learn to study God’s Word by using scriptural helps like a Bible Dictionary or word study tools or a good work of Systematic Theology. Most important is learning how to study the Word in a systematic way through

  1. Observation (what does the passage say).
  2. Interpretation (what does it mean).
  3. Application, what does the passage have to say to me today.
  4. Correlation, how does it relate to other parts of the Bible.

Fellowship

Be involved in meaningful relationships with other believers (Hebrews 10:23-25; James 5:13-16; Romans 12:10-13, 15:1-6, 14; Galatians 6:1-2). This includes discussing the Bible, works of service, accountability with mature Christ followers, using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you to minister to others. This is part of fellowship as well as the next section.

Ministry

Become involved in ministry to others (Matthew 20:26; Ephesians 4:11-13). Use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you to minister to others (Romans 12:4-8). We are called to use the gifts of teaching and evangelism (for example) with friends and family. We can exercise any of the gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 ; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ; Ephesians 4:11-16 (see the context in each case) yet I agree with many teachers that the Spirit gifts each Believer in special ways bringing the gifts and the skills and experience of the person to bear in ministry to others.

Church

Be certain that you are involved in a meaningful Church relationship. At the minimum this should be a Body where the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, the sacraments are faithfully administered, and Church discipline is taken seriously (Hebrews 10:23-25; Matthew 18:15-20). In this day of live streaming and recordings we must be careful to not neglect our gathering together (Hebrews 10:23-25). The reason for this is that what is taught is to be shared. If we only listen in private to preaching and singing, we lose the connectedness that we are to enjoy with other Believers. 

The calling on the life of a Christ follower is to glorify God by walking with Him as a growing Christian who loves Him with all they are and loves others as themselves (Mark 12:29-31). Staying free of those substances and activities that hold us as captives to this fallen world is only a work of the flesh if it is not replaced with a life of faithful love for God which is evidenced in obedience to our God who saves.

[1] Nelson, Thomas. NKJV Study Bible, Full-Color, eBook. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Click to Tweet: … sometimes being filled with the Holy Spirit in service to the Lord is not associated with upbeat or happy feelings. Sometimes our most profound works of service happen when we are worn out, tired and even persecuted as were the Disciples. – Bill Hines #Biblicalhelp</a

Click here for: Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – PART 1

Bill Hines is the president of Covenant Ministries, a biblical counseling, education and Christian discipleship ministry in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is the author of Leaving Yesterday Behind and Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling (with Dr. Howard Eyrich). He co-authored The Pursuit of Perfection with Dr. Mark Shaw. He edited Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle Paul and is a contributing author of three of the chapters.

Covenant Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 121235
Fort Worth, TX 76121-1235
817-733-2712
bill@tostand.org

Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – Part 1

by Bill Hines

In ministry to addicts I have observed a tendency to make a mistake that I made as a young Believer. We think that because someone is no longer addicted to something they are doing well. When this is our attitude we settle for too little and we may end up doing the person great harm. We all, as biblical counselors, want people to find freedom over their addictions and it seems nice to praise them for no longer being addicted and we certainly should encourage them for their hard work. It’s not nice, however, if we are “nice” at the expense of lifechanging truth that has them truly pleasing God. We must not settle for too little too soon.

A couple of years ago I told a friend that if he wanted to just get sober there were probably several hundred programs in the Ft. Worth/Dallas area that could help him achieve that goal. I went on to say that if his desire was to get free of his drugs in order to please God and follow Christ that’s where I could help. We have all known the people that for years focus on staying sober but often their personal lives are simply a sober version of their old unredeemed self.

I am convinced by Scripture that God wants us sober but for far more important reasons than being free of addictions. I am certainly pleased when any person’s sobriety helps society, but I also understand that in terms of the addict’s relationship with God that he or she must become a follower of Christ in order to please God.

As a new Christian at age 15 I needed a reason to avoid alcohol. What did the Bible say about it? I was led to Ephesians 5:18 by my older brother. I focused on “Don’t get drunk” and I remained sober. But I didn’t take in the rest of the passage until later. As we examine the rest of the passage it will become apparent that God is calling us to a lifestyle that only a true Christ-follower can live.

Look at our passage in context before we make summary observations:
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:17-21 NASB).

As we look at the parts in summary, we see what it is that God wants of His followers (some comments are based on the Amplified Version thanks to biblegateway.com).

15-17. As Believers we are to walk through life carefully living life with honor, purpose, and courage while shunning those who tolerate and enable evil. As wise people we are to live in wisdom as those who live as sensible, intelligent, discerning people. Further we are to realize that our time on earth is relatively short. We are not to live as those who only have this life to be fulfilled or make our mark. Therefore, we should make the very most of our time on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence because the days are filled with evil.

It is after the statement of how we are to live in wisdom that Paul mentions drunkenness as an example of an unwise activity that would prevent us from living a life of wisdom under the Lordship of Christ. Paul could have used any sin but as we will see, drunkenness lends itself not only to explaining being under the control of a substance, but it also incorporates the doctrine of demons and the spiritual battle involved.

5:18 – do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation [or wickedness – corruption] but be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Concerning this passage of Scripture, John MacArthur states: “Although Scripture consistently condemns all drunkenness (see notes on Proverbs 23:29–35; Proverbs 31:4, 5; Isaiah 5:11, 12; Isaiah 28:7, 8; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1Peter 4:3), the context suggests that here Paul is speaking especially about the drunken orgies commonly associated with many pagan worship ceremonies of that day. They were supposed to induce some ecstatic communion with the deities. Paul refers to such as the “cup of demons” (see note on 1Corinthians 10:19, 20). Instead, be filled with the Spirit … True communion with God is not induced by drunkenness, but by the Holy Spirit.”[1]

As is pointed out walking in drunkenness is to be motivated by and participating in the evil associated with darkness. Being under the control of alcohol invites the demonic to gain control. Our resistance is down, our sensibility is muted, and we give into demonically influenced debauchery.

So, is it enough to simply be sober? No. The context won’t let us stop there. The command is not only to not be drunk but rather to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be under His influence rather than being filled with wine and its influence. We are not to be under the influence of the powers of darkness we, as followers of Christ, are to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.

Next week, in Part Two 2, I will look at the Lord’s instruction regarding what to put on in the place of drunkenness.

Click to Tweet: We are not to be under the influence of the powers of darkness we, as followers of Christ, are to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. – Bill Hines #Help4Addicts https://ctt.ec/310F7+

[1] NIV, The MacArthur Study Bible, eBook (Signature) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Click here for: Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – Part 2

 

Bill Hines is the president of Covenant Ministries, a biblical counseling, education and Christian discipleship ministry in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is the author of Leaving Yesterday Behind and Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling (with Dr. Howard Eyrich). He co-authored The Pursuit of Perfection with Dr. Mark Shaw. He edited Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle Paul and is a contributing author of three of the chapters.

Covenant Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 121235
Fort Worth, TX 76121-1235
817-733-2712
bill@tostand.org

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