PROMISE KEEPERS [or a New Way]
Yesterday I spent the day in ‘historic’ Hackensack.
I put historic in quotes- because as a kid growing up- all you remember are the bad days.
I used to think ‘Hackensack’ and yeah- bad days.
But- to my surprise- when you walk around- sober [or not high] yeah- the town is really a special place.
I visited an old friend- Frank.
I used to be good friends with his brother Fred many years ago- and I became a Facebook friend with Frank last year.
So- I made the promise that when I came up- I would take him to a spot to eat- and talk about the old days [Chicago- Old days- Oldies- good times I remember].
So- as I reach the 2 month mark back in Jersey- I wanted to make sure I kept the ‘vow’.
The other promise I made- was to see another old buddy in Newark.
I did that last week [I found the spot- a halfway house- but it already closed down].
So- I really enjoyed the day in Hackensack.
We went to a church service for homeless/street guys.
It was held in the historic church- that is known for George Washington attending.
We walked thru an old grave yard in the back of the church- it had the names of famous generals from the Revolutionary war era.
The church was started in 1662 [I think- I picked up the pamphlet- but left it at the buffet!].
So- the church was a true historic spot.
I walked all the spots where the street guys would walk- and the area- though nice- is not ‘nice’ for street guys.
Yeah- the cops keep an eye on you- and let you know.
The actual denomination of the church [Church on the Green] is Reformed.
I have studied- and taught lots about this church in the past.
They were indeed the original Protestants that came out of the 16th century.
They are a good denomination- and for Protestants- one of the most ‘intellectual’.
They focus much on the sovereignty of God [God in charge].
And Grace [they are strong on the doctrine of Predestination- that God chooses us- not us him].
Now- that’s actually what I wanted to post about this week.
I wanted to share the New Testament concept of Grace versus Works.
In a nutshell- Christianity approaches the subject of Change [how to overcome things- whether drugs- drinking-etc.]
From the standpoint of grace.
Don’t all recovery groups do this?
In the world of ‘recovery’ you do have many good treatment concepts- often based on biblical principles.
Most of these try and implement the idea that if you follow a program [some have different programs to follow] that you can maintain sobriety.
Do these work?
Some of the times they do- but that’s where Grace comes in.
In Christianity- the ultimate authority for change comes from God.
Okay- don’t most programs believe in God?
But here’s the catch.
I have seen/experienced- that without the concept of Grace- when someone fails- relapses- there is a legalistic approach that many find very difficult to implement.
Grace teaches that freedom from sin [addictions] comes as a free gift of God- based on the death and resurrection of Christ.
In a nutshell- that means if a person is clean for a number of years- if they fall- stumble- and ask God for forgiveness- he forgives- and restores- as in if they never had the fall.
This is not just a minor point.
In Christian theology- this is the basis of the grace of God [and sovereignty- which means he does this because HE chooses to].
The bible says when people who struggle with sin [all of us- to different degrees] come to God- that God MUST forgive- because he ‘made this promise to his Son’.
God covenanted [made a deal] with Christ- that if He would die for the world- that God would be JUST to keep his part of the promise- and forgive man because Jesus kept his part of the deal.
Do you now see?
In Christianity- like most recovery programs- God does give us disciplines to keep [that means- there are indeed acts we need to do- restitution- making things right- etc.]
But- if somewhere along the way- we mess up- we don’t see our ‘hope’ as ‘now I need to work extra hard to get back to where I was’.
No- that’s the Old Covenant idea of Law [the legalistic way].
But in Grace- God is actually the one enacting our ‘recovery’ [new birth] and his forgiveness- and the ability to pick up again- all are a work of Grace.
I could quote lots of bible verses on this- but this is indeed the main basis of God’s grace as revealed to us thru the New Testament [this term itself- New Testament- is talking about this NEW concept of CHANGE coming as a free gift of God- not as a result of us working a program- or the Old Covenant of Law].
Ok- this short post can’t get into all the deep theological issues [there are many].
But I wanted to lay the groundwork this week- to share the primary idea that Grace means our recovery- our NEW LIFE is simply the fruit of what Christ did for us when he himself kept the Law [Gods first recovery program].
That the bible teaches that men- in and of themselves- were never able to actually achieve change [recovery] by keeping ANY PROGRAM.
That idea is based on law.
No- God does use various recovery programs- but if a person’s recovery is not based on the actual reality of the Grace of God- the New Covenant that I just explained.
Then in the end- we all ‘relapse’.
NOTE- I want to emphasize the difference between Law and Grace.
The giving of the 10 commandments [called The Law] was a good thing- yet- in the New Testament [especially the letters of Paul] we read that man had no ability in and of himself [in his own power] to keep them.
So- few a couple of thousand years [until the time of Christ] man’s attempt at trying to keep the law [which you can apply to any well-meaning program- or modern ‘law’ system] was simply a sort of probationary period- a test- that man kept failing- time after time.
Then why even give us the law?
That’s the main debate in the New Testament- the Law was given to reveal to man that he was a sinner- an addict- a person with problems.
Then- after trying to keep the law- [the program] he kept on failing.
He comes to the end of his rope- and sees the reality of the New Program [the New Covenant] and by a free act of Grace- he is now forgiven- and also freed from his sin.
In this New Way [New Testament] if he falls [relapses] he asks for forgiveness- and God doesn’t just forgive him- and say ‘okay- now you start from day 1 all over again’ [which in itself is a Law mentality].
But God says ‘ok- because my Son kept the law- the program- perfectly- I not only let you ‘start over’ but it’s like you never relapsed at all’.
What I simply explained in this post is the difference between trying to achieve change by your own power- and receiving a New Life [New Birth] as a free gift from God.
Now- there are many verses I can give you ‘for by grace are you saved- thru faith- and that not of yourselves- it is the gift of God’.
But I want you to see the age old dilemma- that no effort by man- no matter how good the program is- can change man.
In Christianity- God does give us principles to live by- tools of self-discipline.
Yes- that’s actually one of the Fruits of the Spirit- self-control.
But the New Covenant- grace- based on the fact that JESUS KEPT THE LAW perfectly- is a program where God does not put the burden of change on us.
No- this program works because Jesus fulfilled his end of the Covenant- died for us and rose again.
And we have eternal life [not just a life that never ends- but a new quality of life] that comes as a free gift from God.
Read the gospel of John chapter 3- focus on the verses that talk about this free gift- given to all that believe.
Meditate on verses like ‘I am crucified with Christ- never the less I live- yet not I- but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God- who loved me and gave himself for me’.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBook] - I have posted lots.