Five of us guys sat on couches in a triangle in my living room, talking about God on a Friday night, which I found quite remarkable for a bunch of young dudes. Our friends Josh and Nate brought along their friend Travis* to hang out. Several guys in our small group have been rescued by God out of a background of heavy drug and alcohol use. The cool thing about it is they have received God’s grace to allow them to leave that lifestyle yet stay connected to old friends that are still struggling with it and not knowing the God who can save them from it. This night was another night like several others in which one of those friends joined us.
Travis sat quietly, saying a few things here and there, as Josh and Nate talked about their lives and interests. Eventually Travis shared how he has become consumed with work, needing it to distract him from the life of drugs and alcohol he so easily gets sucked into. Josh and Nate love to talk when they’re excited about something and these days they’re really excited about God and what He’s done in their lives. They leaned forward as Travis opened up, starting to share how he no longer wants to be consumed by drugs and alcohol like he had been. Like they had been together. With Nate and Josh now hardly able to stop talking about Him, the conversation turned to God and never left Him for the next few hours and late into the night. Why should it, when He is the only One who can bring true lasting freedom from such addictions?
I loved last Friday night with those guys because there was so much honesty. Travis, not really knowing the freedom that Jesus provides, shared about his desire to be free from the imprisoning effects of drugs and alcohol. He shared how he wants to follow God more, so the rest of us tried to help him see God’s heart and what “following” Him really means.
One way I tried to make it clear was by explaining that God needs to take the place of drugs in his life. As Josh and Nate used to be, he is weak in resisting the consuming effects of certain substances. He talked about the persistent draw drugs have on him and how he realized his need to separate himself from bad situations. But the way He talked about God was as if God were someone to do things for, to simply try your best to please. This is something common amongst people who are newly seeking out God. Yet seeking God is so much more than that. Really, it’s a lot simpler than that. You get addicted to things that you find a lot of pleasure in, and God wants this to be the case for you and Him. You get pulled away from the drug and you have withdrawals. You need it again. The reason that drugs are evil, harmful vices is because they replace the thoughts, energy and willpower that we might otherwise concentrate on God. In Christian lingo, they’re idols.
God wants to be in a close relationship with you. An addictive relationship. He want to be your all-consuming source of pleasure. He wants to consume your thoughts and actions and channel your energy and devotion toward Himself, fully transforming you and redirecting you for an eternal purpose on this Earth. He desires this so strongly that he offered to you Jesus, His one and only Son, to be the bridge between you and God the Father. The truth is that if you don’t know Jesus, you’re stuck in a deep chasm filled with darkness, and Jesus is the strong hand reaching deep down into it to pull you out. One of the first things they teach you in Alcoholics Anonymous is that you’re powerless to defeat your addictions on your own, and it’s the same with all sins and shortcomings. You are weak, God alone has the power to bring you out of the pit, and He does it by offering Jesus to you as your way out. Only when you accept Jesus – this hand reaching down to you – will you have power to redirect your passions towards God as your new addiction.
We can see people selling themselves out wholly for God in His message to us, the Bible. Read about David, an ancient Jewish king and direct ancestor of Jesus, as he celebrates the Ark of the Covenant – an ancient symbol for the very presence of God – being brought into the temple:
“Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
“David said to Michal, ‘It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.’”
2 Samuel 6:14-15, 21-22
David danced half-naked in the presence of God (2 Samuel 6:20) because He was fully consumed with love and excitement for Him. Half-naked dancing makes me think of drunk people and how they lose their inhibitions and do crazy things. David was seemingly intoxicated with God and didn’t care how his wife or the other hundreds of people around saw him, even as the king of Israel. Ephesians 5:18 tells us “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” We are not to turn off our desire to be intoxicated when we become Christians, but we are to find a new expression of it. Being filled with the Holy Spirit God gives us is a way to know His will, communicate with Him and do what He commands us, but it is way more than the simple sum of those things. Being filled with the Holy Spirit rescues our misplaced addictions and refocuses them on God, so that we can’t stop thinking about Him, can’t stop talking about Him and can’t stop yearning to know Him more.
My friend Dewey used to live a life deeply entrenched in alcohol and the club scene in downtown San Jose. He was a salesman to dance clubs and would get into them for free even before he was twenty-one. He was severely addicted to alcohol and channeled his time, thoughts, money and energy towards it. He was good at his job because he lived and breathed that scene. Then God rescued him from this, reaching His hand down and pulling him out. Now he lives and breathes Jesus. While everyone else is posting on Facebook about the meal they had for lunch, Dewey is posting about Jesus and what He’s doing in his life. He can’t stop talking about Jesus because he’s addicted to Him. His addictive personality has been redeemed and redirected.
The same is true with Josh and Nate, as they carried the conversation about God into the wee hours of the morning. Steve and I could barely get a word in as they talked about how amazing Jesus is and how good He is at transforming people. I could feel the Holy Spirit moving as Josh – usually somewhat quiet in Bible study – spewed a flurry of gracious and truthful words towards Travis, explaining the beauty of this God that had rescued him from addiction.
So if you’re trapped in addiction of any kind, whether it be drugs, alcohol, pornography, video games or anything else, God is extending His hand to pull you out. They say that love is a drug and I know that to be true. He wants you to be in a close relationship with Him, in which you can’t stop thinking about Him and spending time with Him, like a significant other you’re madly in love with. You don’t have to become mired in a bunch of do’s and don’ts, trying to live a “good” life under your own power. As you realize how amazing He is you won’t be able to help but get drawn in. Simply redirect your addictions toward a God worth being addicted to.
*Name changed for privacy
Author: Jeff Oleson