The man before me is downtrodden. He has been beaten down by the consequences of his own actions. His addiction to alcohol married an addiction to cocaine. He has lost his lucrative profession, his wonderful family and his reputation. He doesn't know where to go nor what to do. He knows he needs a change in his life but he does not have the strength to make this change. He hopes that I can give him steps which will allow him to live with his addictions.
I know I can't. I know of no steps which will lead a person away from something which have become so important that it makes you lose what this man has lost. These addictions are more important than his wife and two little girls. It will take something stronger than steps to correct these addictions.
Someone told him that he needed to come to church. That's why he is before me now. I know that church alone will not change people. There are too many people who come to church every week who remain unchanged to believe this. Church may be a positive influence but it will not transform people from addictions.
I tell him that I know of three things which have been proven to transform people. He is ready to listen. I tell him that brain surgery will change people. A simply lobotomy will change him but I don't know whether or not it will relieve him of his addictions. I just know that he will be changed.
I tell him that deep psychotherapy has been known to change people. Long periods of time under the care of a psychotherapist might do what he needs. The problem is that this man doesn't have a long period of time to give. He needs to break with his addictions immediately. He no longer has money or the trust of his family. Psychotherapy may have worked if he had started earlier. Its just a little too late now.
My last offer is one I know will work. I talk about giving his heart to Jesus Christ. I don't talk about going to church. I don't mention begin baptized. I don't give him an ultimatum of joining AA or NA or any other group we have at the church. I tell him that Jesus can change him if he will completely turn his life over to Him.
He looks at me with desperation yet still skeptical. He cannot understand how a commitment to Someone who died 2000 years ago will change him today.
"If you will give your heart to him and really mean it," I continue, "He not only can change your life but must change your life or you really didn't mean it. You fall in love with Him more than you love your addictions. This is the only way I know you can have a true transformation."
He hesitates. He is weighing what I have just said. He can't imagine loving anything more than his addictions. He is afraid of another failure. He has tried to change on his own so many times before. He quits for a little while but always returns to his alcohol and cocaine. He wants to believe. He has no other choice.
He nods and I ask him again if he really means it. He says, "I want to mean it."
"That's all that can be expected." I ask him to bow his head and repeat a prayer with me. "Jesus, I am a sinner. I have done things which have hurt my family. I have done things that have hurt You. I ask for Your forgiveness. I thank You that You have given it to me. I give You my life. I commit myself to live the rest of my life for You. I ask You to live within my heart. Thank You for saving me. Amen."
Will this man be totally transformed? He must or he doesn't really know Jesus.
This man has not become perfect in the sense that he will never say another cross word to anyone nor get angry when he should have listened. Total transformation is not perfection. Total transformation is an empowerment which gives victory over forces that seek to conform you. It is coming back to your Lord again and again when you have failed in what people will consider minor. It is a lot of corrections. It is a relationship which grows. It is a love that never fails.
So, why are so many people unchanged who come to church? Now, that is a great question. Why are they unchanged?
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.