Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26, verses 4 and 5.
I’m learning to like Twitter. I’ve been a Facebook guy for awhile, and you’ve read about some of my struggles with that. Because I’m verbose, it’s hard to condense my thoughts into less than 140 characters. Let’s say I’m a work in progress. But let me share a Tweet that I sent yesterday, one that I think is a bit more than half-bad: “There is no such thing as spiritual methadone. God doesn’t back us out of our addiction to sin: He cures and heals it.”
Methadone works if you’re a heroin addict. It replaces the highly addictive drug with a less addictive drug that’s easier to control (and eventually stop using). I’ve known heroin addicts for whom it worked. You initially take the methadone in doses to rival the heroin, then gradually decrease it so as to wean your body off the drug. You can’t easily back off heroin alone or go cold turkey off it because the cravings and coming off them are extremely painful. Replacing one drug with another is, therefore, one way to ease off the physical addiction.
That’s not the case with our sins. We can’t kick the habit of our sins, can’t kick the addiction to them, simply by replacing one with another. If we do, we’re answering the call of the fool and becoming like him ourselves. In the eyes of the fool, anything but the dysfunction he understands is stupidity. It’s that way because it’s so hard to see how messed up things are when you’re in the middle of it. When you’re drinking heavily, even when you know you have a problem, it’s hard to kick the habit. When you’re in an affair, it’s hard to see how destructive that affair can be because you love the feeling of being wanted and you believe you need it. When you’re spending yourself into bankruptcy it’s hard to see how much of a slave you’ve become to that debt and how there are better ways to use the gift of money.
Pick your pet sin: it’s the same cycle. That’s what these 2 verses are saying. If you want to kick your sins, there isn’t some sin-methadone you can take to back off the addiction. At some point, you have to stop. At some point, you have to say “no more.” And at that point is when you ask for help. Sure, human willpower is a great thing but everyone has a breaking point. Eventually, you and I will reach ours and then it becomes all too tempting to slip back into the same, comfortable habits. We need help. We can’t remedy those sins ourselves. We can’t stay off them forever. Sisters & brothers, it’s a tough thing to do!
That’s the help the verses are pointing to. The cure for all my sins is the Man from Galilee. A few days ago, a friend of mine told another friend “time doesn’t heal hearts. Jesus heals hearts.” Amen. Nothing more to say. Jesus is the antidote and the cure, not the replacement drug. He isn’t one sin for another: He takes away the burden of it from the inside out.
Is it that simple? Actually, it is. Fighting the temptation isn’t easy, though. All my life I’ve waited for some moment when I felt the rush of redemption and the curing power of faith. I’ve felt it in fits and starts, but I’ve always desired feeling the complete rush of forgiveness in the moments I’ve wanted it most. One time I was very sick; I had an infection while I was TDY to the west coast. Immediately on my return home, my wife took me to the ER and they gave me an antibiotic injection. Almost immediately I felt the rush of the healing medicine going to work in my body. Almost immediately I felt better and started to heal. I’ve desired that same kind of spiritual rush.
But it hasn’t happened. It may never happen, and it really isn’t my place anymore to want or expect it. What does happen is that I get healed from my sin-addictions one by one, one battle at a time. Constant prayer is the first line of defense. When I feel weak or when I find myself getting dragged into saying or doing things I shouldn’t, I pray. I ask for help because He always answers prayers, even when they aren’t the answers we expect. When I’m stuck in the middle of a particular wrong, I pray, asking for guidance and help in turning from it. Same result: I get an answer. When I’m feeling bad about something I’ve done, I pray for forgiveness. I open up to God the same way I open up in these words.
Notice a trend there? It works. It can be tough to do, but it works. It’s between me and God, and He always comes through. Before long, I find myself not just asking for help, but just talking with Him, thanking Him, dreaming with Him, being a friend with Him. It’s an amazing thing. I might just look like a fool to some passer-by, yet it’s anything but foolish.
Do I hear voices in my head or heart telling me “do this” or “do that”? No, I don’t. But the words come from my conscience, and the verses or the advice or the encouragement hit me in such a way as to be helpful in the moment. That’s God speaking. That’s His Spirit moving in my life, producing little miracles of strength, forgiveness and encouragement. It’s tangible grace at work in me, healing my heart and helping me battle the temptations. Those temptations aren’t going away, and they’ll constantly try to drag me back. But now I’ve got a real fighter at my side, fighting for me from the inside out and shielding me from even the worst attacks. And the thing is, He WANTS to do this. He wants to be involved in our lives, be on our side, be with us, fight for us. All we have to do is ask.
It can work for you too. Here’s the coolest part: He doesn’t give up. You and I will slip and fall, make more mistakes. We won’t try to or even want to, but it happens. When it does, He wants us back.
God isn’t some replacement drug for our sins. He is the cure for them, and the more we bask in what He offers, the less attractive those vices become. Sure, I like a drink now and then (ok, more than that) but I don’t have to tie one on. Sure, I enjoy the company of witty, brilliant and attractive women, but it’s better to do things the right way and be a real man instead of some he-man. Sure, I enjoy what my wealth can purchase, but I don’t have to keep holding up some Ponzi scheme of ‘I’ll catch up on the 15th.’ How about you? Again, pick your pet sin or vice. God is bigger and He will fight for you because of this remarkable thing called “love.”
I’ll keep working on condensing my thoughts on Twitter, and (in a shameless plug) if you want to follow me, look for “daveinreallifet.” I’m thankful and fortunate to be part of a Twitter community of encouraging, Spirit-guided men & women who use the medium for building each other up and sharpening each other in faith. It doesn’t take much to offer that encouragement & sharpening and the proof is this: it takes far less than 140 characters to say “Jesus loves you.” Everything starts with that and it’s something that even fools like me can understand. (And, if you’re counting, this post was 7,207 characters. Guess I need to keep working!)