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Choosing the Path of Life

with | April 15, 2009

How can admitting our sin possibly help us overcome it? Ed Welch, a Christian counselor and author of the book Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction, encourages believers to bring their hidden sin into the light in order to drain it of its power. Ed takes listeners step-by-step through the process of becoming addiction free.

How can admitting our sin possibly help us overcome it? Ed Welch, a Christian counselor and author of the book Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction, encourages believers to bring their hidden sin into the light in order to drain it of its power. Ed takes listeners step-by-step through the process of becoming addiction free.

Choosing the Path of Life

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April 15, 2009
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Bob: This is Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today.  Before we start today's program, we are coming to our listeners asking for their help today, Dennis.

Dennis: We are.  Back last December, Bob, I came to our listeners and for five straight days I said, "I need your help.  We are facing some financial challenges," and I came to them and said, "It would be very timely, if you'd help."  Well, I want you to know the same financial headwinds that we've been flying into are still there.

Right now, compared to last year this time, we are about $1 million down in donations.  We've laid off our staff – about 14% of our staff no longer work here.  We have cut salaries by 5% to 10%.  We're taking appropriate measures here to make ends meet, but to be able to do it long haul, we need you, I need you.

And so what I'd like to ask you to do is what you can do.  Ask God what He would like you to do and be a part of here in terms of helping FamilyLife Today financially, and I'd just count it a privilege if you'd come alongside us right now.  We try to be here for you every day, to encourage you in life's most important commitments, and right now it would be timely if you would go to our website or call our 800 number and say, "Dennis, Bob, I'm with you guys.  I stand with you.  I believe our nation needs strong families now more than ever."

Bob: That's right, and if you can, go to the phone right now – 1-800-FLTODAY.  Just call and say, "I just heard Dennis, and I want to help."  1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, you can make a donation online, and we want to say thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do.  We appreciate your partnership with us.

[musical transition]

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  I grew up in a home where my dad was an alcoholic.  He drank regularly.  It wasn't daily, at least as far as I know, it wasn't.  I'm not sure what his patterns were, but I know that alcohol was kind of a dominant theme in his life, and as a result, a dominant theme in our home.

And I have a friend of mine today who I have learned a lot from, who has been sober for the last 30 years, and he has talked openly about his own struggle with alcohol, what a life-dominating sin that was for him and how it nearly ruined his marriage and his life.  But I've learned a lot in talking with him and hearing his story.

A couple of things that stand out – one is I've learned from him that there is great power when people get together and, as we've already talked about this week, they bring out into the light what's been hidden away in the darkness.  That drains it of its power.

Dennis: It does, and we've been talking with Ed Welch this week about overcoming addictions.  Ed, welcome back.

Ed: Thanks, Dennis.

Dennis: Ed is a counselor, he is an author, he and his wife, Sherry, have two daughters.  They have two grandchildren, and you've been in a ministry dealing with addictions for a number of years.  It ultimately led you to create two workbooks called "Crossroads, A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction."  One for a facilitator, and the other for a student, a study guide for a person to go through.

Ed, what I want to do is I want us to talk about, really, the contents of these books.  I want to talk about a game plan for overcoming an addiction.  Bob's friend had an addiction and ultimately was able to overcome it.  He got help from Alcoholic Anonymous.  Others are finding help through Celebrate Recovery.  If I am addict listening to this broadcast right now, and let's say I've agreed I'm an addict.  Now, that may be a big step right there.

Ed: But, like you were saying, if you agree that you were born, then you can agree that you're an addict.

Dennis: Okay.  Where do I go?  What's the beginning steps of a plan to overcome my addiction?

Ed: The first thing I think of is the Scripture comes to us, and we share it, and we've heard it before and been there, done that, tried that, whatever, and it doesn't seem to have any power.  And the way God's Word responds to that is "Wake up, wake up."  You find that in Ephesians – "Wake up and listen."  The picture with the Proverbs is very much in the background of the Crossroads material, and in the Book of Proverbs, they are saying there's a crossroads, there is this path of life and death in front of you, and you just naturally veer off into death, "Wake up, wake up." 

The wrong turn is the easy one to do.  What they say about addictions is addictions are the most natural thing in the world.  All you've got to do is just do whatever you want to do, and you'll move into addictions.  That's why there is a blindness to it.  You just – you're sleepwalking through life.  You know, you just follow your own desires.

Bob: If it feels good, do it, right?

Ed: Absolutely, yeah.  It's deeply embedded in our culture.  It's been deeply embedded in all the cultures throughout the world.

Okay, let's say you wake up for a moment, and you say, "I see what I've been doing to my wife and my children and the horrors of that," and you begin to make some better decisions because you've just been beaten up by the consequences of what you've done.

Well, what happens is the consequences – they're not powerful enough to change us.  They're superficial.  So, after a while, you're not going to feel the pain of those consequences as much.  Then you get to the crossroads, and you're just going to veer off to that side of death.

And I think one of the things the Scripture offers us is to be alert to our own hearts and to recognize that we have to make – when temptation is far away, that's when we can fight well.  The person who is going on the business trip who struggles with pornography, they call up where they are going, okay?  You know, when they are more alert to the dangers of temptation, they call the hotel and say, "Are you able to put a block on that particular room?"  There is wisdom.  Because they know when the temptation is far, they are seen.  But when the temptation gets closer then, all of a sudden, you're in Esau, you know, who would ever sell their soul for some porridge?  Well, when you're really, really hungry, all of a sudden, you're willing to do that.  That's the way it is with all of us.  We have to be prepared for that crossroads before we encounter it.

Bob: So the guy who is waking up – what step does he take when he says, "I'm awake, I see the problem, but how do I get free from it?"

Ed: Well, the first thing you do is you talk to as many people as you can, which might mean one or two wise people, and in doing that, it seems like you're just a normal person asking for help, but what you're doing – we're using that metaphor of light again – just coming into the light, speaking openly to another person, is a very powerful, important early step to deal with that crossroads experience.

Bob: So you find a wise person or two, and you to go them and say, "Look, I've been struggling with this, and I've got to get some help, and I just wanted to tell you."  Just the act of doing that, you're saying is a part of the liberation?

Ed: It's part of the liberation.  Along with that would be to recognize that the reason we veer off into the object of our affections is because we love it.  And to recognize that there are mixed motives in the heart of an addict, where I hate it, indeed, I hate it, but I love it.  So, Lord, take this away, zap me so I don't have anymore desires, but don't put me at that crossroads where the temptation is strong, because I know what I'm going to do every single time.

For us simply to confess, "Lord, have mercy, have mercy.  There is a part of me that doesn't even want to change.  Lord have mercy."  And, indeed, He has mercy, and part of the mercy, he says, "Sit down and hear the beauty of who Jesus really is."

Dennis: How many addicts ever do that, though?  How many of them ever sit down with another person and confess their sin and ultimately come clean and experience that mercy and grace of Christ?  Don't you think a lot of them chicken out and ultimately have to be confronted?  Or the vast majority of them decide on their own to come clean?

Ed: Growing in Christ is, I think as we have indicated the last couple of times we've been together, it's a sloppy process, and we are all in the process of two steps forward and falling back and two more steps forward.  And, certainly, those who struggle with addictions, they are normal people in that regard, and there is a messiness in the way they follow Christ.

But there is a faithfulness in their God who, instead of saying, "No, you have to go to the woodshed and paddle yourself for a little while," which, obviously, they just go back to their addictions. That would be the best way to punish themselves.  You have a God who says, "No, here is this other way."  To be surprised by God who says there is even forgiveness, and you are even acceptable to me.  Just turn to me rather than the object of your affection.

Bob: So let's say a guy does come to me, and he says, "You know, I just have to be honest.  I've been struggling with this issue; I've been looking at stuff on the Internet I shouldn't be looking at.  I'm sick of it.  I see the sin in it.  I don't want to do this, and I've just come because I need help, and I wanted to tell you as a part of the process of getting help.

Now, what do I do as his friend?  I've just heard his confession.  Do I have a responsibility?  Do I start asking him questions, or how can I facilitate his process to be free from his Internet addiction?

Ed: You have a party, you have a party, because you've just seen the spirit of the living God on the move.  Somebody has taken something that was dark, and they told on themselves – that is an amazing, amazing …

Bob: Have a party – you're saying actual celebration?  Thank the Lord for what's just happened.

Ed: You go up to the Cheesecake Factory or whatever you would like to get, and …

Bob: Ed knows me too well, and he points out my besetting sin here in the process.

Ed: And then a friend can say to me, "Ed, do you really want to change?"  Which is not the challenge.  It's just we know each other's hearts.  There can be all kinds of reasons why we think we want to change, but we're talking about leaving a best friend, an old friend.  We're talking about leaving something that was life itself for us for so long, and do we really want to change?  And then if I say yes, then I think you should say, "Well, prove it."  How do you – there is nothing confrontational.  That's just a wonderful question that I wish my brothers would ask me.

If they say, okay, now, I haven't taken my wife out for a date this week, I haven't had devotions with my children this week, and you find a certain commiseration for that.  But to have a friend who says, "Ed, I am so thankful that you shared this.  Do you want to change?"  Sometimes we can trust our behavior more than we can trust what comes out of our mouths.

Bob: And it could be, in asking that question, when the person says, "Yeah, I really think I do want to change," maybe the next question is "Well, why do you want to change?"  Because it could be that I want to change because the consequences I've just experienced were painful, and I don't want to feel that again.  And, as you've already said, that will fade.

Ed: Yeah, I want to change because I think I will feel better if I change, which is the very heart of their addiction to begin with. 

Bob: Right.

Ed: The question of life is how can I feel better about myself?  How will I get rid of this pain that I am experiencing?

Bob: So when we ask the why question, the answer we really have to come to grips with is not an answer of "I think I'll feel better," but an answer of – "In response to what God's done for me, I have to change to honor Him and to please Him and because I love Him, we have to be motivated by something other than because I don't want to experience this pain again," right?

Ed: I find – especially the Book of James reveals this in my own heart – "I want to keep a foot in two different worlds.  I want to cover my bases, and I want to be able to do it my way if the time comes, and I'm really, really desperate."  And we all know this, but Jesus comes, and He says that He is Lord.  And He calls us to grow in this radical submission.

Now, there should be no other submission in the world other than radical submission.  But when we talked about addictions, that is the only order of the day; that I will submit to the King; that I will endeavor to know His ways and turn to Him, the Author of life in the midst of difficulties for His name's sake. 

That sounds like spiritual talk, but we started off by saying "Here is the way you get into addiction.  You worship your way into it.  You find life in something other than Christ, and you worship your way out."  Now, this doesn't sound like it's very powerful, but one of the best things that we could do with an addict is to say, "Let's talk about Jesus. Let's talk about Jesus until He truly is who He says He is – that He is better than anything we could possibly imagine."  That is profound treatment for the addict.

Dennis: Until he becomes the lifegiver that he speaks of in John, chapter 15, where he says "Abide in me – come and draw your life from me."

I want to move to a part of an addict's battle, which is in his mind.  You challenge addicts to be alert to their imaginations.  Now, why are their imaginations so important as they battle addictions?

Ed: I think most every person who struggles with addiction knows that if they're going to make the wrong decision at that crossroads; if they are going to opt for their addiction, for their idol, they have opted for it long before they actually got to the crossroads.  And one of the things that you can find in a person's heart is, number one, you can find grumbling and complaining.  That's in their imagination; it might not come out of our mouths, but essentially what we're saying is we're raising questions about the goodness of God.  And as soon as we raise those questions, it's all preparatory to say, "Why would I turn to Jesus when I'm having these struggles when He hasn't paid off recently, and is He really that good?"

It's a setup.  It's a demonic setup so when we're actually faced with a decision, "Will you follow your own desires or will you follow Christ?"  It's easy.  "Well, why would I follow Christ because He hasn't given me the things that I wanted."  We find that in ordinary, everyday grumbling and complaining.  Ultimately, we're saying, "God, what have You done for me recently?"  So that's one thing we can find in our imagination.

Anything that raises questions about the goodness of God, which is another way of saying that a prominent Satanic temptation.  The only way we can ultimately deal with that is not by, "Well, I have my health today," or "I still have a decent relationship with my kids," because what if that goes badly tomorrow?  The only thing we can say is, "Hold it.  We have a God who is this self-sacrificial, self-giving God who dies for enemies."  Okay?  That closes the deal.

I do believe that He is good, and these imaginations that go into grumbling and complaining, they are lures to the dark kingdom itself.

Dennis: I though where you were going to go with that when you said we need to be alert to our imaginations was more to the dark side of when the addiction comes back and as it speaks of in James's epistle when the temptation and the bait is right in front of you.  You have to be alert to your imagination of beginning to think about the bait and how good it looks and what it offers you.

You actually turned this to the positive side in terms of what we think about God, but there is the other side, isn't there, about dealing with the temptation and thinking about being in that hotel room alone, flipping on the TV, channel surfing, taking that drink, doing those drugs?

Ed: Yeah, I still think it's very, very good news what you're saying from James, where James is saying, "Before the act, there is the imagination."  There is that seed that we savor in our own hearts, and then at some point it gives more public expression to itself.  That's what James 1 is saying, and so I think you're saying something that is very, very important. 

This is a relationship.  How am I looking at this old, adulterous relationship?  How am I – here is the weird thing.  We have these instincts in our heart to want to go back to Egypt.  When things are a little bit tough, all of a sudden, something we hated – we're telling a completely different story about it.  "Oh, yeah, I remember Egypt.  We had everything we wanted to eat and the workday was very tolerable, and here we are out in the wilderness."  That is what we find in the human heart.

So in our imagination, do we find that Egypt looks good in any way?  If we allow those kinds of seeds to fester in our imagination, it's a setup.  It's like throwing the banana peel out so we can slip on it.  It might not happen tomorrow, but next week, sometime, we will get to that crossroads, and we will say, "Yes, Egypt looked really good," so that's the direction that we go.

Bob: Recently, I read a brief booklet that was written in the 1600s by John Owen on the subject of temptation.

Ed: Yup, mm-hm.

Bob: And it's an extended meditation on Jesus's instruction when He says "Watch and pray that you would enter not into temptation."  And Owen says "Most of us try to keep our guard up against sin, but we don't stop to think we need to keep our guard up against temptation to sin," and to do that, we've got to watch, be diligent over our souls, and pray for the strength and the sustenance.

And I came away think, "You know, I'm not sure I really am diligent to guard against temptation.  I'll flirt with the edges and try and protect myself against sin.  But if you really don't want to fall into sin, stay away from temptation.

Ed: Isn't there sort of a sense in the Christian life – "Look but don't touch," okay?  If you think about these things, that's not really that big a deal.  Just don't actually do them.  And that's exactly what Jesus is speaking about in the Sermon on the Mount; that the affection of the heart is in the same, exact category as the action itself, and that is just a wonderful, wonderful way that God's Word guards our hearts.

Dennis: You know, I'm thinking about a cartoon by Kathy.  She was on a diet.

Ed: She's always on a diet.

Dennis: She's always on a diet, but she was trying not to think about food and, you know, everywhere – in each cartoon caption, there's all these pictures of food and, finally, you know …

Ed: Try not to think about the pink elephant.

Dennis: Yeah, exactly, exactly.  You know, the last little sequence has a picture of her just completely ravaging the refrigerator, you know, like it's trough.  You know, she just had her head in there just eating everything that was in there.  And it is interesting in our humanity how weak we are.  We've quoted Romans, chapter 7, of Paul saying, "Wretched man that I am," but he doesn't end there – "Who will deliver me," and that is the hope of the addict; that there is a deliverer.  His name is Jesus Christ.  He comes to offer you what you can't get for yourself; that is, absolute forgiveness.  He came to deliver you from shame, to become your master and break the bonds of slavery.

And if He's not your master, then you are enslaved to something or someone else.  And if you're not enslaved to Christ, then you're settling for second best.  And, Ed, I just appreciate you and your ministry at CCEF and all your writings and books and especially this workbook series.  I think this is going to be valuable to some of our listeners who are wanting to walk away from addictions and from the temptations to be addicted and who just need a practical game plan to be able to do it.  Thanks for your work and thanks for being on our broadcast.

Ed: It's a pleasure to be able to think about these things together.  Thank you.

Bob: Well, and I hope there will be a lot of churches who will take advantage of the workbook and start to put it to use in their churches.  Bring this issue out into the light.  Bring it to the surface and let some people find hope in the midst of their bondage to whatever their addiction is, whether it's an addiction to alcohol or drugs, an addiction to some kind of sexual sin, addictions to eating, addictions to shopping, I mean, there are all kinds of addictive behaviors.  And the book that you've written, "Addictions, a Banquet in the Grave," and the companion workbooks that come with it, are designed to help deal with the underlying issues related to any kind of addictive behavior.

We've got the resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  If you need more information, or if you'd like to order online, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.  And it's FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-368-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can answer any questions you have about the resources Ed has written, or we can make arrangements to have the ones you need sent out to you.

You know, you hear us say somewhat regularly here on FamilyLife Today that we are listener-supported, and I hope you understand that that means that for FamilyLife and the other broadcasts that you hear on this station to continue, we need to hear from listeners like you as often as you are able to get in touch with us and if you are able to help with a donation, that's what keeps us on the air not only on this station but on other stations all around the country as well.

In fact, we're hoping that this month, you'll take a minute and just stop and think about which of the broadcasts you hear on this station are having a particular impact in your life and then contact them and make a donation to help support those ministries.  And if FamilyLife Today is one of those ministries, we hope you'll get in touch with us.  In fact, if you are able to help with a donation this month of any amount, we would like to send you, as a thank you gift, the FamilyLife Marriage Bible.  In addition to the text of the new King James version of the Bible, there are articles and devotions, tips, insights, all provided and collected over the years from Dennis and Barbara Rainey, all of it related to marriage and parenting, so that as you're reading through the Bible on a regular basis, you have insights from Dennis and Barbara designed to help you think more biblically about your marriage and about your family.

The FamilyLife Marriage Bible is our gift to you this month when you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  If you make that donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, just type the word "Bible" in the keycode box on your donation form so we'll know to send you a copy of the FamilyLife Marriage Bible, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone.  Ask for a copy of the FamilyLife Marriage Bible.  You may want to pass this on to someone you know who is just getting started in their marriage.  Maybe make it a wedding gift this spring and, again, let me say thanks in advance for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We very much appreciate your financial partnership with us.

Now, tomorrow we're going to spend some time talking to one of the most well-known and well-respected sportscasters of all time who, himself, was, for many years, an addict and who has broken free from his addictions.  Pat Summerall joins us tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with us as well.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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