The Grace of God and Addiction

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2:11-14
In the event and action of salvation God has shown that he is characterized by grace, that aspect of God’s person which pours out goodness on undeserving people; people who, until they recognize his grace, are defiant and in rebellion against him. They do not recognize God as God nor do they submit to him as God, and their every act is sinful and mutinous. The grace of God, however, is poured out on mankind in such a way that it translates them from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of his glorious Son, Jesus Christ.

This kingdom, because it is the kingdom of the crucified and risen son, is a kingdom of truth and freedom—truth, because it coincides with the way the world actually is, and freedom, because it is the world in which people were created to live in in the first place. Every other kingdom is a usurper and will eventually be thrown down, and as people come to realize that Christ’s kingdom is the only legitimate kingdom, they throw down their arms and submit to the true ruler of their souls.

However, rebels do not deserve to be ransomed, redeemed, or forgiven, but rather deserve is to be wiped from the face of the earth. Instead, because he is gracious, God sent his only son to die in the place of his people, a glorious and wonderful revelation and expression of God’s love and faithfulness to his people. It is the message behind the parable Jesus gave about the “pearl of great price,” where a man found a great pearl and went and sold everything he owned in order to buy it (Matt. 13:45-56). The value of the pearl was so much more valuable than anything he already owned, indeed even more than everything taken together did, that he sold it all in order to gain the pearl he had found.

The grace of God is such a great a gift that when the sinner realizes how great, he offers himself as a living sacrifice to the holy God who sent his son to die in his place, willingly and joyfully laying down his life at the feet of the one who ransomed his soul from guilt, sin, and Hell.

This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). The Gospel of God makes demands that are inherent in the gift, the most obvious of which is that a rebel must lay down his arms, namely, the sins he is committing in his rebellion against the holy God, when he realizes the war is over. The rebel is not striking out at God, shooting rockets at him, but in reality is actually harming only himself and others around him. Then again, no one ever said rebellion made any sense.

Thus, the grace of God teaches, compels, chastises, and disciplines us to live lives that are consistent with the facts of the case. Jesus is Lord, not we, and therefore, we must cease from our sin and live godly lives, focused not on who we were in our profanation, but who we have become and who we will become in Christ.

Larry’s problem is that he does not have a high enough understanding of the grace of God. The Bible says that “he who has been forgiven much loves much” (Lk. 7:47), but because the grace of God has not risen in his soul in a way that causes him to respond in a gracious way towards them, Larry does not love his wife, his sons, and God. He does not love much because he has not realized how much he has been loved. He views salvation as a free ticket out of Hell instead of as a transfer from a kingdom of shame and guilt, where he is in charge and determined to destroy himself and everyone around him, into the kingdom where God rules in holiness and graciousness.

While the problem is a lack of Biblical understanding, the solution for Larry is that he needs to understand and realize that God loves him. This can come through a variety of means, but one of the primary means is that Larry needs to see his affinity with the characters of the Bible. He has failed just like David, but God lifted David and restored him to faithfulness and he can and wants to lift Larry up as well. Gideon didn’t trust God, but God patiently gave him sign after sign until he believed God and finally did what God required. Larry can be a kind of Gideon and God will give him grace after grace until Larry trusts him enough to obey him. Love waits and God is infinitely patient with those who desire to serve him. Larry needs to be taken to the place where he can see God in action (perhaps be surprised by it) and this is the pages of the Bible where God acts in many different ways to bring his kingdom to the hearts and minds of his people.

The Bible is clear that in faith men should put to death whatever belongs to their earthly natures” (Col. 3:5), control their bodies (1 Thess. 4:3), flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22), etc., but if Larry doesn’t do these things because he believes in the gracious God of the Bible, he will constantly fail. This is no Pollyannaish dream, for change is hard and takes time, and godly change comes by trusting God’s gracious provision and by obediently submitting to Jesus as Lord. As Larry identifies with the biblical characters and submits to the loving and longsuffering Christ, grace will teach him to stop doing the things that are destructive to his soul, and begin doing those things that restore his soul and rebuild broken relationships. Larry will do these things by faith in Christ, who empowers him as he trusts in his holy savior for that power.

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