When you break it down, victory over the sin of addiction is victory over temptation - the temptation to sin. Our natural fallen desire to sin must be transformed into a righteous desire to please God which from a purely human capacity is impossible and in direct contradiction to our nature. It is only by the supernatural power of God's grace that a person's natural desire to sin can be transformed into a desire to please God in righteousness.
The prophet Jeremiah explained perfectly the human condition without the transforming power of God's grace: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
But even as Christians, saved and transformed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we still struggle against temptation for the time that we are here in the flesh. So the question becomes, "Just what is the most powerful way, as we grow in sanctification, to obtain victory over the temptations of the flesh"? This question - especially during the time in which we live, in which so much Christian teaching has come to look outside of the Word, or added to the Word from the teachings of psychology, psychiatry, new age philosophy, secular recovery, etc... is a very important one to address. And, with the hope of not seeming to overly simplistic, might we now consider turning back to the founder and perfecter of our faith and casting aside the influences of this world for the needed victory over the age old battle against the temptation to sin? Might Jesus our Savior have provided the means of victory for us in this battle?
Consider the greatest single onslaught of temptation that any human has ever had to endure - the temptation that Jesus faced in the desert and the victory He claimed over it. Also, as you read through this section of scripture please bear in mind that when Jesus faced these temptations he had fasted for forty days and forty nights out in the desert by Himself. Jesus also knew what lay ahead for Him in just three years. He knew that He was moving toward the time when His closest followers would desert Him, when He would be betrayed by one of His own apostles, when He would be arrested and accused falsely, then spat on, ridiculed, tortured, and stripped naked and hung from a cross by those He came to save. But beyond all the ridicule and physical pain Jesus knew as Satan tempted Him that He would have to take on Himself the sins of all mankind and endure the wrath of His Father in order to atone for our transgressions - in order to save us from that horrific and justified wrath.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."
But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple
and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. - Matthew 4:1-11
All the Lord had to do in order to avoid what He knew He would soon endure was to give in to Satan's temptations. But by giving in to Satan, the Lord Jesus would have been abandoning us to eternal damnation. Because of love for us He stood firm, fought of the temptations of Satan and the devil left Him.
When we are faced with temptations, why would we ever consider looking for a solution other than what Jesus Himself shows us so clearly in His Word? Jesus, when tempted declared "It is written" in response to each temptation and the power of the Word proclaimed faithfully gave Him the victory. For whatever temptations we struggle against, for whatever attacks Satan unleashes on us through the enticements of this world, Jesus shows us the way to victory - through His Word!
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2
The Erroneous Aim of Recovery
From a Christian point of view there is a problem with the supposed "spiritual awakening" needed for recovery put forth by the Alcoholics Anonymous program which ignores and directly contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ (see: The Walking Dead of Alcoholics Anonymous, Does Alcoholics Anonymous Teach Forgiveness Without the Atonement?, Does the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous contradict the Christian Gospel?). But what if recovery as a concept and as it's come to be understood in it's worldly context, is completely in error in and of itself? What if the whole modern idea and obsession with recovery could be cast aside for something far greater?
For a Christian believer familiar with the Christian doctrine of eternal salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the question must surely come to mind, "Just what kind of spiritual awakening is actually happening through Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps? Because according to God's Word the only way to salvation (which is what AA is alluding to), is the atoning sacrifice that was made through the person of Jesus Christ and Jesus is no part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program".
Is the worldly concept of recovery in error? It depends on how you look at eternity.
In secular recovery, lasting sobriety is the goal and end to be sought for. Length of time sober is measured and coveted, celebrated and honored. Old timers with years of sobriety in Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are revered and respected by those who dream of one day having a collection of sobriety chips with Roman numeral X's on them denoting years of continuous sobriety.
A worldly program of recovery may help someone. They may achieve and maintain sobriety for the rest of their lives. They may have relationships repaired, bank accounts replenished, reputations restored, and worldly status re-established because of their success in achieving and maintaining sobriety. They may gain all that the world has to offer because they were able to stay sober.
But what about the big picture - actually, the biggest picture of all? What about eternity? Might eternal destiny have been sacrificed on the altar of recovery?
So you may ask the question, "What does eternal destiny have to do with recovery?" Most people in Twelve Step programs seem mainly concerned with just getting out of the trouble their drinking and using have caused and getting their lives back together. So how would eternal destiny have anything to do with recovery?
Worldly recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have a direct effect and influence on the eternal destinies of their members because the programs work within the realm of the spirit - or at least that is their claim. In fact, the steps themselves make very clear the spiritual nature of the Twelve Step program. On page 59 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps are listed and steps eleven and twelve make direct claims to the spiritual nature of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
When considered from an eternal perspective and through the divine illumination of the light of scripture it becomes clear that recovery, as it has come to be understood and pursued in its modern worldly context, is not an end to be sought for. Rather, by understanding and accepting that alcoholism and addiction are sin and the only atonement of its death sentence is by the blood of Jesus Christ it becomes apparent that recovery is a blessed by-product of salvation in Jesus Christ. No programs or steps are needed from a biblical perspective. Instead, we need only to believe in, rely on, adhere to and have faith in Jesus Christ with complete loving abandon forsaking all else.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Matthew 6:33
In an eternal sense; to make recovery your sole aim and goal for your life is like striving to live in the gutter outside of a palace. By casting aside the worldly concept of recovery and seeking for eternal life in Jesus Christ we step over the gutter and into the palace of eternal glory.
But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him" - 1 Corinthians 2:9
Below is a reply I posted on Facebook to a comment from a disciple of Celebrate Recovery. I hope this helps to open the eyes of some of those who have been misled by that program.
Their comment was:
"Thank you Chad I respect your opinion as it is yours. I learned in CR how to stay clean and sober for 27 years. It worked for me. It works for anyone wanting sobriety and willing to work on it."
Actually, my response was not simply my opinion but the truth about Celebrate Recovery from a Biblical perspective.
The Origins of the Twelve Steps
Due to the fact that so many 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Hunger for Healing and many others take place in and are endorsed by thousands of churches - the true origins of the 12 steps are extremely important to understand.
For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd. - Zechariah 10:2
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935. AA's official biography (Pass it On) of Bill Wilson states that he and Dr. Bob, the two co-founders of AA, during the summer of 1935 were involved with practicing seances and communing with demonic spirits. In his biography, Bill Wilson explains one of their experiences with a Ouija board: "The Ouija board began moving in earnest. What followed was the fairly usual experience-it was a strange melange of Aristotle, St. Francis, diverse archangels with odd names, deceased friends-some in purgatory and others doing nicely, thank you! There were malign and mischievous ones of all descriptions."
Bill Wilson was the man that wrote the 12 steps and together with a man named Dr. Bob co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous. They were originally introduced in 1935 by a woman named Henrietta Seiberling. In a letter she wrote on July 31, 1952 she writes of Bill Wilson's communion with demonic spirits while he wrote the 12 steps, "He imagines himself all kinds of things. His hand 'writes' dictation from a Catholic priest, whose name I forget, from the 1600 period who was in Barcelona, Spain-again, he told Horace Crystal he was completing the works that Christ didn't finish, and according to Horace he said he was a reincarnation of Christ. Perhaps he got mixed in whose reincarnation he was. It looks more like the works of the devil but I could be wrong. I don't know what is going on in that poor deluded fellow's mind."
In the book, "The Conversion of Bill W." author Dick B. writes of Bill Wilson's experiments with LSD during the 1950's. He quotes Bill Wilson as stating, "It is a generally acknowledged fact in spiritual development that ego reduction makes the influx of God's grace possible. If, therefore, under LSD we can have a temporary reduction, so we can better see where we are going-well, that might be of some help. The goal might become clearer."
So, Bill Wilson believed that the way to God's grace was through ego reduction? The true and only way to God's grace is through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6
On page 18 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous we read, "An illness of this sort - and we have come to believe it an illness - involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can." But is alcoholism really an illness or disease? To answer this question I will address it strictly from a Christian perspective and go directly to the scriptures.
Luke 21:34-35, But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Romans 13:13-14, Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Galatians 5:19-21, Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God
It is quite clear in God's Word that drunkenness is a sin and not a disease. But is this false teaching by Alcoholics Anonymous really that big of a deal? Is it really hurting people to convince them they have a disease in order to inspire them to work harder at the program because of the fear produced by the false belief that if you don't work the program you will probably die? If it helps an alcoholic to believe they suffer from a disease for which there is no cure, but only a daily reprieve as the book Alcoholics Anonymous claims on page 85, "We are not cured of Alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." Is that a bad thing if they are able to get sober and get their life back together? Of course it's a bad thing. Anything that is based on a lie and especially if it directly contradicts God's Word is a very bad thing - in fact this lie can be eternally fatal.
The problem is by convincing someone suffering in the sin of alcoholism that they have a disease almost instantly removes much of the feeling of guilt associated with the sin. But more importantly it moves them away from the vital need to experience the conviction of sin which leads to repentance. I can tell you this is exactly what can and usually does happen because it is what my own personal experience was. When I was told that I drank and used because I was an alcoholic with a disease and that's what people with that disease do, I still vividly remember feeling a sense of relief from guilt and remorse - and that was about twenty three years ago. It took me about thirteen years after that experience to finally start waking up by God's grace to the truth that I was not sick, I did not have a disease - I was a sinner. I had been lied to and suckered into working a ridiculous program day after day, going to meetings day after day, and talking to clueless misled sponsors day after day for over thirteen years - so pathetic!
I never needed to work a program, go to meetings, get a sponsor, maintain sobriety so that I could have a daily reprieve from an incurable disease - that was all time spent brainwashed by lies. I needed to repent and turn away from the sin that was killing me through drugs and alcohol and throw myself into the loving arms of Jesus Christ who is the only one that can save anyone from the wages of sin which is death. I needed to experience grief, guilt, and conviction of sin in order to come to the only truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
2 Corinthians 7:10, For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Acts 4:12, And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Disciples of Alcoholics Anonymous often tell frightened and angry newcomers, "Don't leave before the miracle happens". I can tell you from experience that the only miracle that happens in Alcoholics Anonymous is when the Lord wakes you up and you leave that apostate program in the dust and follow Jesus.
Matthew 8:22, And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way R122 Ministry USA & Kenya.