Don’t be defined by your sin…
My pastor said something spectacularly brilliant this Sunday. As he was discussing various temptations and struggles, he made the point that we should never define ourselves by our sin. The twelve step programs that help break addictions may be wonderful and help many overcome their temptations, but the premise that someone would identify themselves by saying, “My name is Bob and I am an addict” is denying the redemptive power that being a new creation in Christ affords them (this is of course assuming that they believe in Christ).
Before I stir up a hornet’s nest and anyone who is a graduate of a twelve step program writes me off as inexperienced or unempathetic, let me show you how this plays out in parenting…
One of my little ducklings is currently struggling with telling the truth. I guess if I were a legalistic, judgmental perfectionist, I would call him a LIAR. I may come to expect that he would always struggle with honesty. I would constantly second guess his stories. And guess what that would create? More lies.
Instead, when I discover he has been dishonest, I immediately give him a consequence for his action. After his punishment is met, I scoop him onto my knee, and lovingly embrace the most handsome boy God ever created. I tell him what a wonderful pastor he will be. People will know that if Shepherd Reback says it, it must be true, since he will be known as a man of integrity. I remind him of how great and loving and merciful God is and Shepherd prays and asks Him to forgive his lie. We hug and I tell Shep how he is instantly forgiven and washed clean, how God’s purpose for his life can never be thwarted. God called him to be a teacher of His Word before he was ever born and committed one single sin, so no matter what, that purpose is irrevocable.
All those words, encouragement, and affirmation of purpose serve to quickly elevate the virtue (honesty), dispel the struggle (lying), and motivate the child to intrinsically seek honesty to fulfill this God-given purpose…rather than continually wallow in a stronghold.
Is there a huge difference between a six-year-old’s struggle with honesty and a 36-year-old’s battle with an addiction? Absolutely.
But more importantly, is that how one defines themselves by faith, and how they view God and understand how God views them is central to overcoming ANY battle of the flesh. More powerful than, “I am Bob and I’m an addict,” is this: “I am Bob, and I am the righteousness of Christ(Romans 3:21-23). I can never be more loved by Jesus than I am right now. He loved me enough to die for me and break every chain of the enemy.”
Remember, God is the great I Am. And you (and your precious children) were made in his image. So don’t go saying, “I AM…..” anything but blameless in His sight!
Parents, be careful how you define yourselves. And be equally, if not even more cautious, about how you define your children, their sins and struggles. Make sure you always elevate the virtue, rather than characterize them by their sin! Never identify them by their hold-ups or character issues, call them as God sees them…in their future purpose, blameless and pure (Phil. 2:15, Hebrews 7:26). Remember, He sees the end from the beginning (Rev. 21:6)!
And to those who have struggled with addictions and found success overcoming your battles using a 12 step program, I am in no way attacking or devaluing the impact the program has had for you…I just don’t agree with defining ourselves by our struggles (1 John 3:20), temptations or even past strongholds. I AM (we all are) greater than that because of Who is in us (1 John 4:4), what price He paid for us, and how He remembers those sins no more.
Photography courtesy of Brian Schindler