Itís midnight. The red preacher-phone rings.

Pastor Al, the late-night parson, answers again...

"Hello, My Name Is Bob..."
Posted: December 30, 2006

     You hear it every night in Alcoholics Anonymous and related 12-step meetings across the country and around the world. The details may change but the basic line remains: "Hello, my name is Bob, and I am an alcoholic." Just drop in the appropriate name and problem and you are set for the evening.

     Unfortunately that very line raises some obstacles to full recovery. Surely there must be a better path to victory than constantly reaffirming bondage to your problem for the rest of your life. Those hoping to find lasting victory over enslaving addictions, bad habits, destructive behaviors, crippling emotions, and harmful attitudes need to know that they can be set free; that they can live a life of victory.

     The first obstacle to victory is that the line centers around the problem and not the solution. Whole meetings are based on common problems; Alcoholics Anonymous, Chemically Dependent Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Dual Recovery Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Recovering Couples Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Schizophrenics Anonymous, Trauma Anonymous-just to name a few. It seems like there is an "Anonymous" group for just about everything!

     The problem is not the solution! The solution is not found by comparing notes about our problems with those suffering from the same problems. Nor is the solution found in the latest psychological fad, a handful of catchy phrases and platitudes, or in 12 steps, no matter how helpful they may be. The solution is not even found in your "higher power" or big book. The only real solution, according to the Bible, is found in Jesus Christ and His Book.

     Jesus said "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)" He then describes the truth in two ways. First, in John 14:6 He says, "...I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Later, while praying to the Father in John 17:17 He says, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."

     The Bible shows us that our problem is not that we are alcoholics, addicts, gamblers, overeaters, smokers, fill-in-the-blank-whatevers. The truth, according to God's Word, is that we are sinners. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: ... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:10, 23 )." Our enslaving addictions, bad habits, destructive behaviors, crippling emotions, and harmful attitudes are the result of our sin nature. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.

     In other words, what we think is our problem really is not. It is actually only a symptom of our root problem-sin. Changing your habits, behaviors, emotions, and attitudes rather than your root problem is like treating the pain of a cancer rather than the cancer itself. You may have a temporary reprieve from the symptoms but the underlying problem keeps on growing.

     Now I am not knocking the good work that has been done by many of these "Anonymous" groups. A great many people have found help through them. Unfortunately many of these programs are too narrowly focused to provide lasting freedom and victory in all areas of life. Success is often found in one area at the expense of another. An addiction to alcohol or marijuana, for instance, transforms into another addiction such as tobacco or overeating. Again, this is because the root problem of sin is not dealt with.

     Unfortunately, most of the various 12-step programs out there focus on changing behavior patterns, helping people get a handle on their emotions, and getting rid of that "stinkin' thinkin'." In doing so, they accomplish some good.

     Such efforts, however, are not sufficient. They do not go deep enough. Again, the source of our problems is not our behavior, emotions, or attitudes, it is our sin. Unless we deal with our sin we can never truly be free from its pernicious, debilitating effects.

     Some may object and claim, "But I can't help myself! I was born this way. I have a sickness. I have an inherited condition." Well, I can't help myself either. I was born this way too. I have a sickness called sin. I have an inherited condition-sin!

     Only God can help us overcome our sin. To do so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world to deliver us. Jesus Christ, the Bible says, "...bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24 )" Or, as Romans 5:19 puts it: "For as by one man's [Adam's] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus Christ] shall many be made righteous."

     No, we cannot help ourselves, but God can. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly [us]. (Romans 5:6 )" And, "...the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)"

     When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior we do not merely receive the forgiveness of sin. We also receive the Holy Spirit of God Who takes up residence in our hearts at the moment of salvation. As 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" The Holy Ghost then begins to work in our heart, changing us from the inside out.

     Until you know the Truth-Jesus Christ-and study the Truth-the Word of God-you will never be truly free. You will always be an alcoholic, an addict, a gambler, an overeater, a smoker, a fill-in-the-blank-whatever.

     That's not what God wants for you! God wants you to deliver you. Jesus Christ said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (Luke 4:18)".

     The second obstacle is found in the actual wording of the line, "Hello, my name is Bob, and I AM an alcoholic." It is the constant repetition that I AM an alcoholic, I AM an addict, I AM a gambler, I AM an overeater, I AM a smoker, I AM a fill-in-the-blank-whatever. There is no hope presented that I can ever say I USED TO BE!

     The problem is this, if you believe the catchphrase, "once an alcoholic (or addict, or whatever), always an alcoholic" you have to believe that you can never really change. All you will ever be able to do is manage. It also denies the truth of God's Word:"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)" The best you will ever be able to say is, "Hello, my name is Bob, and I am an alcoholic, but I have been sober for 20 years."

     Where's the hope in a statement like that?

     In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul lists a number of besetting sins-addictions: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Then in verse 11 he says, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

     Did you catch that? "And such WERE some of you." They found freedom in Christ. They were delivered from their sin and gained victory over their addictions through Christ. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)."

     Recognizing the limitations of AA and similar programs, many independent fundamental Baptist churches have begun their own addiction recovery ministries that are firmly rooted in the Bible and point people to Jesus Christ. For instance, one such ministry, Reformers Unanimous, is Bible-based and Christ centered. It boasts a success rate of over 80% for those who stick with the program. The secret to its phenomenal success rate is that it is based on John 8:32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

     And, when you have found freedom in Christ by coming to Him by faith, accepting Him as your Lord and Savior, you will become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). His Spirit will work in and through you as you study His Word and, one day, you will be able to say, "Hello, my name is Bob and I USED TO BE an alcoholic, but Jesus Christ redeemed me and delivered me 20 years ago from my sin!"

     Now there's hope in a statement like that!

-Pastor Al

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