When we come to Christian recovery gatherings we often hear of the unconditional love that God has for each of us. Are we actually willing to live in Godâ€™s unconditional love or are we still seeking a life that will ultimately bring pain and shame? Godâ€™s invites us to a recovered life of peace and love and joy.
Many of us have questioned God regarding the purpose of our existence and the reason why things have happened to us as they have. Jesus spoke to another questioner one night about Godâ€™s great plan for us, and how that plan actually works. Jesus said, â€œFor God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.â€ (John 3:16-17 NKJV)
God created us for a life with Him that is full and good — an abundant life. So what happened and why have we not experienced that? Love is only true love when it is freely chosen and not compelled. God gave us the freedom to choose. God offered us a loving relationship with Him that is anchored in our trust in His care but we have chosen to make our own way. God, who knows everything, has invited us to live within His infinite knowledge of how life works. However, in our fear of the unknown, we choose to navigate each day in our own limited knowledge. The foundation of trouble and addiction in our lives is our failure to trust our life choices to the direction of this all-wise, all-loving God. We always bring pain and disaster into our lives when we attempt to live life on our own terms. We just donâ€™t know enough to make safe plans for ourselves.
God knew the knowledge of good and evil, that was awakened in humans by their disobedience, would bring shame, fear, pain, suffering, broken bodies and broken hearts. God cared so much about that suffering that He sent His Beloved Son to die for the destructive sins of every human being. His desire is that we live free from sinful rebellion and instead experience love, joy, and peace both in this world and in the world to come.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)
What hinders us experiencing this loving relationship with God? Most often it is our unwillingness to rebuild our system of beliefs based on Godâ€™s word as recorded in the Bible. We continue to believe that no one cares for us as much as we deserve. We believe we have to manage our own care if we are to have a good life.
We may talk about Godâ€™s unconditional love for us but until we actually believe Him and do what His word says, we are only relating facts about Him â€“ facts we donâ€™t completely believe. We will never experience a life-changing relationship with God until we change our beliefs and our behaviour to reflect the principles of His word.
But donâ€™t just listen to Godâ€™s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. (James 1:22; Psalm 25:9 NLT)
When we first came into recovery we tended to focus primarily on our past behaviour. For years we tried to cover our pain with addictive substances or destructive behaviour because that was what seemed good at the time. We suffered injustice and so we felt we deserved comfort and went after comfort in whatever convenient ways we found it. We didnâ€™t question the impact our choices might have had on others. We did what we felt we had to do to survive and have a little happiness. Sadly, despite some momentary pleasure, we fell deeper and deeper into sin and heartache. Outside of Godâ€™s love and wisdom, there is no good way of life. As we progress in our recovery, God invites us to shift our focus from behaviours to the real heart of the addiction issue â€“ our need to know Him and live in His loving care for us.
God wants us to live such a satisfying life that we can honestly report to others, â€œMy life is good, pleasing, and perfect.â€ Most of us would say today, â€œSign me up for that life.â€ Or would we?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Godâ€™s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Godâ€”this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Godâ€™s will isâ€”his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV))
We know we have problems. We know we need to find a better way. The issue remains, do we want God’s good, perfect, and pleasing way or our own way?
What is Godâ€™s way? Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, â€œI will never leave you nor forsake you.â€ So we may boldly say: â€œThe Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?â€ (Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV)
Godâ€™s way is simple. We choose to believe He is good and has our best interests at heart. Regardless of what we may feel, we choose to follow His direction. We become willing, with Godâ€™s help, to change the way we think and respond to life today. When our thinking and Godâ€™s word clash, we repent, lay down our own thoughts, and choose for Godâ€™s way. Every day, in every circumstance we match our behaviour with Godâ€™s principles. Hereâ€™s how this is described in the Bible: We use Godâ€™s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT)
Without Godâ€™s help we will never be able to sort out our own path and get it right. Are we willing to acknowledge this as the guiding principle of all of our decisions and behaviour today? Are we willing to surrender to God, obey His Word and receive His forgiveness? If we are willing, this will be the beginning of a new life in love today.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What is Godâ€™s loving plan for my life as described in John 3:16-17?
2. What hinders me from experiencing this abundant life? (Name my part only â€“ not the behaviour of others)
3. How do I see that my knowledge is limited about what the good life is and how a person lives it? (see page 16)
4. In what ways do I think and act as though Godâ€™s love is NOT unconditional? (see beliefs and behaviours on page 17)
5. Read Romans 12:1-2. What would I need to do, based on these verses, to find a life that is good, pleasing, and perfect?
6. Page 18 lists some behaviour choices that demonstrate our willingness to trust in Godâ€™s way. What one step can I take this week to grow in this area?
7. What do I need to do today to become willing to live in Godâ€™s love?
Heavenly Father, Thank you for your unconditional love for me. I ask for your help in removing every stronghold of human reasoning and every false argument that produces rebellious thoughts in me. I want to cast off everything that hinders me from having an intimate relationship with you. Help me to know your good, pleasing and perfect will for my life, and help me to walk in it. Thank you that you never leave me nor forsake me. I am forever grateful. AMEN
When we come to Christian recovery gatherings we often hear of the great love that God has for each of us. Jesus Himself spoke of this great love. When He was questioned by a ruler of the Jews concerning where He came from, and the miracles He performed He said, â€œFor God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.â€ (John 3:16-17 NKJV)
God created us, in love, for a life that is full and good — an abundant life. When sin entered into the world, God did not condemn the world and just sit back and observe the self-destruction of His creation. He came to the garden seeking Adam and Eve for He knew the knowledge of good and evil that they desired would bring them shame, fear, pain, suffering, broken bodies and broken hearts and, He cared. God cared so much that He sent His beloved Son to die in our place that we might be free from sin and live in love, joy, and peace in this age and forever with Him in the next.
Jesus voluntarily left a position of highest respect and endless glory because our wounded condition so impacted the heart of His Father that He was willing to pay the price, which was death on a cross, to reconcile us to His Father.
If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrong doing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Romans 5:15-17 MSG) As we open our lives before God and with trusted friends in recovery circles, we need to respond to this offer of a life of loving relationship.
What stands in the way of experiencing this relationship of love with God? It is the unwillingness, on our part, to rebuild our system of beliefs based on Godâ€™s word. In addiction we believed no one, including God, cared about us. Now, in recovery, our work is to â€œcome to believeâ€ what is true. God loves us and invites us to live in loving relationship with Him. We can know and talk very clearly about how loving God is but, until we actually believe what God says and put it into practice we are only speaking facts about Him, and not actually experiencing a life-changing relationship. We will hope for it but, weâ€™ll not know it as a sure and steady personal experience.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22 NKJV) He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. (Psalm 25:9 NLT)
When we first came into recovery we tended to focus on our past behaviour. For years we tried to cover our pain with addictive substances or destructive behaviours because that was what seemed to work at the time. The pain came from bad things done by us, and/or to us. We felt anger, guilt and shame, often to an overwhelming degree. We had suffered injustice and so we felt we deserved to have comfort and went after that in whatever convenient ways we found it. We didnâ€™t question the impact our choices might have on others. Others did not consider the impact of their behaviours on us so we felt justified in â€œdoing unto others as others had done to usâ€. We did what we felt we â€œhad to doâ€ to survive and have a little happiness. Sadly, despite some momentary pleasure, we fell deeper and deeper into heartache and sin. God invites us to shift our focus. While God doesnâ€™t disregard destructive behaviour, He first invites us to a life focused on Jesus. All along itâ€™s been His intention that we live a satisfying life so we can honestly report to others, â€œMy life is good, pleasing, and perfect.â€ Most of us stand at that spot today and say, â€œSign me up for that life.â€ Or do we?
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, â€œI will never leave you nor forsake you.â€ So we may boldly say: â€œThe LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?â€ (Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV)
God invites us to give ourselves over to Him â€“ body, soul, and spirit (words, behaviours, thoughts, desires, and worship) â€“ with permission for God to transform us in every area, into a new person. Two significant areas in need of transformation are 1) Feelings of guilt and shame, anger, accusation, condemnation etc. etc. and, 2) The desire for “doing things our own way.”
We know we have problems. We know we need to find a “better way” than living with the addictions we have chosen to cover the pain of our problems. The issue remains, do we want our own â€œbetter wayâ€ or do we want God’s good, perfect, and pleasing way? What is Godâ€™s way? God clearly explains His way through the apostle Paul and then leaves the choice with us.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you â€¦. but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know Godâ€™s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NLT)
Godâ€™s way is simple. We choose to receive Him and to believe He is good. Regardless of what we may feel we choose to follow His ways so we can enter into the life we were created for. We are willing, with Godâ€™s help, to change the way we think. When our thinking and Godâ€™s word clash, we repent, lay our own thoughts down, and choose for Godâ€™s. We match our behaviour to our new understanding of how life works. Hereâ€™s how this is described in the Bible:
We use Godâ€™s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT)
Without God we will never be able to sort out our own path and get it right. We have too many incorrect beliefs imprinted on our minds and hearts. Only the sure voice of God and the power of the Holy Spirit active in us can keep us from falling into familiar patterns in upcoming days. Are we willing today, to surrender to God and obey His Word, and risk entering into a relationship of endless love and satisfying goodness?
Questions For Reflection and Discussion
- Do I desire the life God created me to live and which Jesus offers me today?
- What current thoughts am I willing to give over to God in order to have God transform my life?
- What steps am I taking to bring my life into obedience with Godâ€™s word?