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Jan 15, 2012

The True Worship of the Weaker Brother

Passage: 1 Corinthians 8:1-7

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: Objects for Worship--1 Corinthians 8-14

Category: Worship, Love

Keywords: idolatry, faith, addiction, worship, true, pure, music, greek, corinth, corinthian, sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, natural, supernatural

Summary:

Now, this chapter goes to talk about basically giving up freedoms that we may have to love our brothers or sisters who don’t yet recognize their own freedom. In a sense laying down our lives for those who just don’t get it. That’s hard, really hard. That is, instead of assuming that we’re the ‘older brother’ or more mature Christian, let’s assume that we’re not and that we really don’t know the difference between an idol and the God who is worthy of our worship. Let’s examine what it’s like to worship the wrong things.

Detail:

Idolatry and Addiction: Worshiping the Wrong Things

NASB95: Chapter 8

  1     Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

   2      If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;

   3      but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

   4      Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.

   5      For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,

   6      yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

   7      However not •all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

 

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. 1 Co 8:1–7.

Tags: 1 Co 8:1–7

Clipped: January 11, 2012

Now, this chapter goes to talk about basically giving up freedoms that we may have to love our brothers or sisters who don’t yet recognize their own freedom. In a sense laying down our lives for those who just don’t get it, indeed a like a younger brother or sister who has been told all their lives that they are not allowed to go out into the street and you take them to a crosswalk and they freak out insisting that they were going to get a spanking for going into the street. Common sense if that situation came up you’d either go back to mom and dad and confirm their permission to cross at the crosswalk, convince them that you’re right and why you’re right, or drag them kicking and scream across the street. Paul’s answer in this chapter ends up being ‘none of the above, find another way across the street, don’t force them to do what they don’t have the faith to do. Who cares what you know or whether you’re right or not?’ That’s hard, really hard. So hard that I’m not going to go there this week. I’ll let John sort that out next week if he wants. He’s better at that than me. Instead, I’m going to deal with the assumption that verse seven proposes:

However not •all men have this knowledge;

That is, instead of assuming that we’re the ‘older brother’ or more mature Christian, let’s assume that we’re not and that we really don’t know the difference between an idol and the God who is worthy of our worship. Let’s examine what it’s like to worship the wrong things.

Well, let’s go back into the passage and look at the problem that Paul is bringing up here.

“Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols.” Let’s examine the context here. We’re in the book of 1 Corinthians which means the first letter that scholars found that Paul wrote to the church that worshiped in the city of Corinth. Pretty sure it’s the first one he one wrote to them. Scholars are pretty sure he wrote at least two others. But the books of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians are the letters that God wanted the scholars to find. See, Paul was an apostle. That means he was sent directly by Jesus to minister to people who weren’t Jewish. He commissioned, anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be an authoritative messenger to the church. Basically, his words are approved of by God in the same way that Moses’ words were approved by God. Paul’s letters to the churches became scripture and we in the modern day church recognize them as well as the rest of the Bible as such, as God’s Words. Because of that, it’s extra important that we understand what Paul was saying, who he was saying it to and why. I mean we’re not in Corinth right now. Are we? We’ll see.

First of all, Corinth is here:

 

This is Paul’s second missionary journey. He wrote this letter after this second road trip. Earlier in the letter he makes mention of baptizing some of them 1 Corinthians 1:14–16 (NASB95)

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.

16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

So, we know that he was there. So Corinth is located on the Peloponesian Peninsula there in Greece on a stretch of land called an Isthmus. Who knows of another famous Isthmus? Right the one down at Panama. Right, this one, in Greece was located between two seas, the Aegean and the Mediterranean. There was a three and half mile paved road way for transporting goods, cargo and even ships from one sea to another saving a two hundred mile treacherous journey around the rest of the Peninsula. Corinth was a happening place.

It was also a very religious place. This city was at this point in time over a thousand years old. It was burned and destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC and reopened for its commercial value in 44 BC. It retained much of its Greek old time religion. But the old time religion in Ancient Greece wasn’t like the Gospel Hour Radio program, it was the Aphrodite Hour Program. Because the old time Greek religion didn’t involve a guitar and people sitting around a fire singing kumbaya. No, worship in that day in that culture involved a lot drunkenness and non-marital sex, specifically sex with temple prostitutes, male or female to worship, very PC. Those were some of the ways they worshiped.

There were other gods they worshiped beside Aphrodite and Bacchus. Those were probably just the most fun. As Christians maybe we cannot even relate to that idea of sex and drunken revelry being confused with worship. Indeed, there are probably even a few in this room mad at me for using the sex word as often as I have in this context. The thing is when you remove the concept of a truly supernatural God who exists within and without natural time and space, who exists within and without of created reality, you just have what is created, what can be sensed, experienced, or otherwise enjoyed. And so, what could be the most enjoyable euphoric, out of body seeming experience other than sex, drugs, and rock n roll? In a purely natural context that’s as good as gets. For those who do not have the reality of Christ in their lives, this is could be as good as it gets. I would say yes, it is true worship. Maybe not right worship but worship nonetheless.

Things were pretty bad in Corinth. Because of the prostitution and just the amount of commerce and human traffic, it had a reputation even back then of being a den of iniquity. Like most ports, Corinth had a well-known reputation for immorality. The colloquial expression “to Corinthianize” meant to engage in immoral behavior and loose living.

And there were games there. The Isthmian games. It was a very well known athletic event. Athletes and spectators came from the known world over to participate or view the games and experience the pleasures of the city. I don’t know the numbers or the logistics of such activity. But just for perspective, fast forward a few thousand years to the 2006, Berlin:

Football and Trafficking – The World Cup Scandal

 By Pam Perraud , UN NonGovernmentalOrganizations Director, writing on behalf of Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas

 

Sports, booze and sex. They usually go together but this year’s World Cup championship in Germany set off a firestorm of controversy.  Why?  Because prostitution is legal in Germany and the well-organized Germans have gone to extraordinary lengths to anticipate and make sure that visitors to the World Cup would have they would need during their stay in German— plenty of food, liquor and of course, sex.  FAWCO has joined many other groups in protesting these measures.    

It has been estimated that some 40,000 women, many under age, will have been be illegally trafficked into Germany for the World cup games. Germany, like most countries, has had a problem of illegal trafficking for some time but what is unusual is the scale of the trafficking and the fact that Germany is making so many plans to encourage it.  

 In Berlin, close to the Olympic stadium, a new mega-brothel has just opened. Covering some 400 square meters, it houses a health club, restaurants, and some 70 rooms where up to 600 clients a day may be serviced. 

Just in case you were thinking that Corinthian debauchery was so far removed from our times, maybe not so much. At least in Berlin they weren’t calling it worship, because they’re more sophisticated than that.

OK, so that’s a picture of Corinth. Imagine starting a church there. It’d be like starting a church in Las Vegas or Berlin for that matter. My point is, this is the context the church started in a religious, but immoral environment. The people that made up this church in Corinth were from that area, they grew up there in that environment. This was a church that had a lot of issues within its congregation. Birth control being the state that it probably was back then, I wonder how many of the congregants were children of temple prostitutes, indeed how many were former prostitutes and clients themselves?

That’s not the issue of the passage though, just context. Paul, earlier in this letter actually deals with some of that fallout. Provide that for a context of idolatry and worship practices of the day.

The specific issue here is meat sacrificed to idols. What was that all about? Well, what is an Idol?

Easton’s Bible Dictionary Defines Idolatry

Idolatry —  image-worship or divine honour paid to any created object. Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Rom. 1:21–25: men forsook God, and sank into ignorance and moral corruption (1:28).

The forms of idolatry are, (1.) Fetishism, or the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc.

(2.) Nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature.

(3.) Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of heroes.

 

Easton, M. G. Easton's Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996.

 

Again with this issue of when you take away the supernatural, what’s left, the natural. It’s not like anybody can really in their deepest part of they are, deny that there is a God. Inherently we all really  know God exists because we were made in His image and like Frankenstein’s monster we all search for our maker. If we don’t find him, we stay a monster. We’re made to search and worship God. If we don’t find God to worship, we’ll make one up. Even really early when man recognized this inner urging, he still couldn’t see and didn’t know what he wanted to worship, so man would make representational statues, figures that he thought represented God. Since it wasn’t complete and there were other cultures and peoples trying conceptualize God apart from divine revelation, there became a plethora of gods, statues, idols to worship.

So, that’s an idol. Why the sacrifice of flesh and blood for idols or perceived gods? Whose wacky idea was that? God needs a hamburger he goes to Mickey D’s like everybody else. I’m being absurd for a reason. The sacrifice has nothing to with God’s dietary needs. The Jews practiced it, but the Greeks, the Canaanites, the ancient Chinese, they didn’t come from the Jews. Where’d the Jews get it from? Cain and Abel? From God?

Remember back in the Garden of Eden, when they got kicked of the garden because they sinned. All of a sudden they realized they were naked and what did they try to do? They tried to cover up with fig leaves. They were like, “ahh we’re naked, how gross, let’s cover up before someone calls it worship.” Anybody ever try making clothes out fig leaves. It doesn’t work for very long. Not good covering up nakedness. So God has a better idea. He makes garments for them out of animal skin. It doesn’t talk about the process in the scripture. So what happened here? Was there like a bull walking by and said, “ahh, naked humans how gross, here have my skin.” No, I’m sure the bull didn’t offer his skin and it wasn’t just lying around or bought at JCPenney’s. The animal’s blood had to be shed to cover the nakedness and shame of Adam and Eve. God could have just made Adam and Eve sprout hair all over their body, but instead he killed an animal. This was a new experience for Adam and Eve because they had never seen anything die let alone be slaughtered and blood let out. It must have been a bit horrifying. Did the animal cry out in pain? Better yet, was the animal able to cry out with a speaking voice? I’m not being absurd here or . We know the serpent talked, we know a donkey’s mouth was opened in the narrative of Numbers. “why are you doing this to me?” Either way the blood, the gore, the tanning of the hide, the crying out of the animal—a representation of God’s ultimate gift, ultimate shedding of blood to cover human shame, a symbol of Christ’s blood, shed for the forgiveness of all of mankind. The innocent for the guilty. This is the meaning and source of animal sacrifice.

In ancient China there was a ritual called the eastern border sacrifice. The rites included the invocation of a monotheistic deity, Shang-ti, who created man by breathing into his nostrils. It involved the sacrifice of a bull on the eastern border. Confucius didn’t even understand the significance of this ritual. Here’s a question why was it “The Eastern Border Sacrifice”. What part of Eden was the garden located in? The eastern part. Right. They left the garden at the eastern border of Eden.

How did the Chinese know this story, thousands of years before missionaries went there? The same way the other cultures developed animal sacrifice as a form of worship. They all descended from Adam and Eve through Noah’s sons and their wives. Some went north, south, west, some stayed in Iraq (Abraham’s family) and some went east. But this expanding population remembered the stories passed down from generation to generation but they lost their connection with God. The outward form of worship became just that, an outward form disconnected from its symbolic representation. That is, until a man named Abram came along and God selected a people through him whom to and through He would reveal the meaning and symbolism of blood sacrifice-even that of Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for our sins, the innocent for the guilty.

So the idea of a bloody sacrifice for God is a true form of worship, archaic and not presently appropriate, but a true form. Why is it no longer appropriate? It’s symbolism has been fulfilled in Christ.

Earlier we established that God doesn’t eat meat and neither do idols. Just like in the Old Testament, the animal was sacrificed, a portion was given back to worshiper, a portion burned for the god, and a portion to the priest. If the priest didn’t want it, he sold it to temple market, then sold at discount prices.

As Christians, we’re trying to be good stewards of our money, shopping at the temple market allows them to give to the church, provide a good education for the kids, help the poor, etc. It might be like, an announcement is on TV about Walmart, inc. using and exploit slave child labor in Bangledesh so that you have a price rollback here in the states…would you still shop there when everybody knows you’re a Christian? Did I just open up a can of worms? Not intentionally, just giving you an idea of what tension might feel like. Did you have a knee jerk defensive reaction when I suggested that scenario that made you want to say, “hey that’s not really true” or “I heard they changed their policy on that” or something to that effect? or a visceral one that made you feel self-righteous and want to look around and wonder which one of these slobs shops at Walmart and doesn’t exclusively purchase fair trade chocolates and coffees.

I forgot, I’m not talking about that today. I’m talking about worship actually. Really, that’s what this is about and I haven’t even said anything about music have I. How can I talk about worship and not talk about music? Isn’t that the most important thing? That’s what many of us think of when we here the term worship. Worship music, apart from the declaration of faith filled words, is just music that is a created thing designed to make us feel something. It’s true when we hear an instrumental version of a hymn or worship song we think of the lyrics…that’s different…I’m talking about music itself apart from the God’s truth filled words, is a creation of man designed to make us feel something emotional inside. Maybe even cause an emotion filled response. I mentioned this another time, but music wasn’t even really in the Old Testament Hebrew Sabbath service until King David’s time. In other words, worship didn’t immediately evoke the idea that music and instruments were involved like it does with us. That’s a luxury. Worship was the reading of the law and the response of the people with a confession of faith, repentance, offerings and prayer. Until King David’s time it was just priests to sang and it was basically reciting God’s truth. I think there was a very important reason that God didn’t make music such a big emphasis when He taught His people in the desert how to worship Him.

I know I’m rehashing much of what I’ve preached on the subject of worship previously, but it bears repeating. Music, by itself is just that…music. It evokes an emotional response that can be very beneficial and worshipful in a truly worshipful environment when it’s coupled with God’s Word and truth.

But, if you take away God’s supernatural goodness and truth, it just leaves the outward form. We cannot propose anything to God apart from Him working in us already for it is His Holy Spirit that works in us to will and to do good works.

Without the supernatural, you just have the natural. This is my idea: he pinnacle of the natural worship is the most intense sensory experiences we can have—sex, drunkenness, immoral behavior, fighting, aggression, murder…the most intense natural sensations we can experience usually don’t involve God. That is my opinion, I’m open for correction on that one. But think about it for week first and get back to me.

Feelings are so subjective. Personal example. I don’t know if Brenda remembers this but one time we had errands to run and we were navigating our way through the subway system of Osaka, Japan. And I remember being very impatient and agitated. I didn’t want to keep on running the errands, I just wanted to get on the next train home. And I think Kim or Kayla were physically with us in the station at that time. And one of them had to use the bathroom. I realized I had to go, too. I went and when I got done, I felt so much better. All of a sudden, I was in a good mood, patient, ready for the next task and it didn’t matter if it took all day to perform. Feeling are subjective. I think we place far too much importance in our culture on how we feel in a given moment. I think the enemy of our souls, knows this and his messengers and lies play upon this.

Don’t get me wrong. Feelings and experiential sensations aren’t bad or evil. God gave them to us for our enjoyment. God gave us sex for our pleasure, he also gave to us to procreate and a symbol of spiritual intimacy with Christ but also for sensual pleasure. God gave us wine to gladden our hearts. Food is not just for nutrition, do I have any pizza lovers in house? Can I get an amen? Can I get an amen with pepperoni and extra cheese? And if music wasn’t there to inspire us and aid us in worship, where do the angels get off using it? Created things are not bad things necessarily. God created everything and He called it what? Good

Quoting a phrase oft used by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, “Idolatry is when a good thing becomes a god thing and that’s a bad thing.”

OK, back to the text in 1 Corinthians 8:

Second part of verse 4:

we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.

   5      For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,

   6      yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Paul is not saying that idolatry doesn’t exist, he’s saying that there really is no other God but God. In this chapter he is addressing those already know this and it is assumed that these aren’t practicing idolatry. Or is it, skip ahead to chapter 10 a bit.

NASB95: Chapter 10

7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”

   8      Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.

   9      Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

   10    Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

   11    Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

   12    Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

   13    No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

   14    Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

   15    I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.

   16    Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

   17    Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

   18    Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?

   19    What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

   20    No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.

   21    You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

 

 

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. 1 Co 10:7–33.

So, what Paul is saying is that there is genuine idolatry out there and we are to learn from the mistakes that the nation of Israel made right before God taught them about worship. Which brings me to another true form of worship, waiting. If you are willing to wait for your god ahead of your own timetable, that is also worship. I bring it up because there are a few examples of this in scripture..this one in particular.

The context is this. God called the people to Mt. Sinai to teach them to how to worship Him. Why did they need to learn how to worship God? Because as a nation they had been living without God’s law in a land whose lived apart from the real God. They were slaves in Egypt where idolatry was the religion practiced. They were immersed in a culture of wrong worship. That is the people of Egypt worshiped in truth but worshiped the wrong things, that is created things—idols, forces of nature, and ancestors. The Egyptians had religious laws. We know about the ten commandments, well the Egyptians had forty of them. The principles of Ma’at.

And you know what? Eight of Israel’s Ten Commandments are contained with Egyptian 42. Those commandments had been in Egypt, allegedly, 2000 years before Moses. Here’s a few.

I have not spoken lies I have not robbed God.
I have not caused the shedding of tears.
I have not dealt deceitfully.
I have not acted guilefully.
I have not laid waste to the land.

Now, some may say hey. I thought Ancient Egyptians were polytheistic, believed in many gods. There seems to be a singular God mentioned here. That’s just thing, because there was a pantheon of gods in Egypt so this set of rules applied to any god the worshiper chose from the sun god Ra to Osirus-Lord of the Dead. Pluralism was the assumed context for this set of rules. Which explains while only eight of God’s ten commandments are contained within. Can you guess which two of God’s Ten Commandments are missing from Egypt’s 42? I’ll give you a hint: Israel violated them while Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving them. Right. Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me and Thou Shalt not make graven images. The first two commandments. Those Israelites felt they needed to experience God with their senses so desperately; experience him in a natural way so much, that they made an idol to worship like their former Egyptian hosts.

This wasn’t a coincidence. Egypt had 80 percent of God’s law down. That’s what makes the evil one’s lies so tempting and believable—their mostly true, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Its not a coincidence that the people Israel couldn’t wait for instruction on worship before they practiced what they knew. There were other forces at work, spiritual demonic forces. Satan knew what God’s reaction would be. A just, Holy God would wipe this people off the face of the earth.

But Satan doesn’t figure on one thing still doesn’t get the mystery of the gospel.

Moses intervenes and pleads on behalf of, not himself but the nation of Israel. In a sense, Moses intercedes for his people in much the same way that Christ did; Moses denies the honor of becoming a nation himself and intercedes on behalf of the guilty. Satan knew God’s plan to redeem the world through the offspring of the nation of Israel even Jesus Christ. He tried to stop it right there at Sinai. Fail.

There were spiritual forces back then at work trying to thwart God’s plan by getting His people to focus their worship elsewhere; there are spiritual forces at work today trying to do the same with God’s people, even us.

Back to Paul’s letter

19       What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

   20    No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.

   21    You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

It’s like this. When you watch a movie or theatrical play, you allow yourself what they call ‘suspension of disbelief’ that is, in reality, you know it’s just a story with actors telling it. You kind of put that knowledge or disbelief on hold so you can enjoy the story. So, images we see on the screen aren’t really happening as we see them in real life. If you were to look off the screen of the set to say, “Lord of the Rings” you would all of sudden see people not dressed in medieval garb but modern clothes, with filming equipment, modern lights and maybe even a costumed goblin with waiting for his next scene with a Starbucks cup in his hand. When we see what’s off screen or offstage, it ruins the illusion for us. All the stuff going on backstage, all the stagehands, crew, lighting guys are working to maintain an illusion. The same is true with idolatry. Idolatry is an effective tool to draw our worship elsewhere. It is tool used by demonic forces. In order for tool of idolatry to be effective in drawing us away, an illusion of godliness must be maintained. There are forces backstage trying to maintain an illusion for us to focus on. For someone who worships the idol of drug abuse, it seems that a score is mysterious always available. For one who worships food, it seems they are always getting invited out to eat. For someone who worships sex, a plethora of opportunities for sexual encounter arise or other “unsolicited” offers of sexual temptation appear as if from God.

This brings me to the unavoidable conclusion that, even disregarding the object of worship, whether right or wrong, God or idol, not taking that into account, the purest form of worship is addiction.

Think about it.  Whether you’re talking about God or an idol, the idea fits. The addict is possessed with the idea of serving or having more of his god. A drug abuser is always thinking about how and when he is going to get his next fix. A sex addict is always sizing up potential partners. I knew a young woman who was obsessed with food. She wasn’t fat, in fact, she was really skinny. She was always thinking about food. She wouldn’t eat it though, she would serve it in abundance, baking cookies for people. She obsessed about it, always thinking about it. They don’t call this person an overeater, they call this person an anorexic. She almost died. God saved her, she testified about her story at church a number of years ago. In other words, its not always obvious when a person is an addict. Even a Jesus addict. That’s a good thing by the way. Even a Jesus addict, you might not know it on surface. Since there is no shame in being a God or Jesus addict you probably would. They’re not hiding it, not in our culture anyway, maybe in a Muslim culture they would hide it. But the Jesus addict, like the alcoholic or sexaholic, is always thinking of their next fix—Jesus-- when they’re going to dig into the word again, fellowship with other Jesus addicts, how to best serve Jesus, how to best tell people about Jesus.

The wife of an addict writes this: “My husband is an addict. I can hardly live with him anymore. The other day, he was drunk with his addiction that he was dancing a like a fool in the streets half naked. He’s in such denial about his problem. I tried to point it out to him and he turned it around and tried to make it seem as if I was the one who had the problem and that if I didn’t like it there were other women who would. Fine. We’re not sleeping together anymore.”

What kind of addiction is that? Right King David

David was really excited that the Ark of the Covenant had been recovered and he worshiped God in streets over it wearing naught else but a linen ephod. Apparently looked really foolish while doing so in wife’s eyes. Now, I don’t know why it is medically why Michal never bore children but David did have other wives besides her. That’s another issue. David, being the addict that he was had a capacity and appetite for many things including naked women bathing on the roof.

Addicts are worshipers who are bent on having their god in increasing amounts at the expense of all else. Their hearts cry is:

Whom have I in heaven besides you and the earth has nothing I desire.

King David penned those words. David was God addict among other things, a man after God’s own heart.

I believe addiction to anything other than God through Jesus Christ, in addition to being a psychological, biological and spiritual sickness, even a sin. It is also a worship issue. So it’s not a matter of being obsessed that’s the problem as it is the object of the obsession or worship that is. If it’s God, great, that’s OK to be addicted to God. When I say addicted to God, I don’t mean addicted to Bible reading, church, religion, ministry because I think those can become idols, too. If it truly is God you’re addicted to, he’ll add to your life not take away from it, yours and those around you.

There is another church that uses this space for worship on Saturday afternoons. It’s called “The Higher Power Church” and with a name like that, I kind of figured that the pastor had a knowledge of addiction recovery. I was talking to him, his name is Angel. He told me that addicts have a greater capacity for worship. That is to say, all of us are created to worship. In essence we all have a God-shaped hole within us that yearns to be filled with God. We’re going to worship something. We don’t have a choice really. And just because you’re not singing songs to something or about something doesn’t mean that you’re not worshiping it. God-shaped hole needs to be filled. We’re going to fill it with something. Pastor Angel’s proposition was that people who struggle with addiction have a bigger God shaped hole, so their compulsion to worship anything, whether it be God or idol, is bigger.

From what I do know about addicts, including the recovering one I’ve lived with since my teens, that seems to fit. If it’s not one thing it’s another. The guy who started AA got free of alcohol but other problems arose.

So for an idol addict, the cure isn’t so much taking away the compulsivity as it is changing the object of it to God because really only God’s process of change can work. The 12 Step Program is a program designed to shift one’s focus of worship from one god to another, that’s why their pretty effective. Even the programs that don’t focus on Jesus or a Judeo-Christian concept of God are effective because they are using principles drawn from that source.

Check out the first few steps: Step One: Recognizing that the Power of addiction has already got control of our lives and is making it unmanageable, Step Two: Recognizing that only different power greater also than ourselves can save us from the undesirable one, Step Three: Turning our lives over to the care of that different power.

It’s a transfer of ownership. It’s a transfer of worship. It’s like Paul says in Chapter 10 verse 21:

21           You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

It’s a sin a issue. Addiction to anything but God is a sin issue. The wages of sin is death. Sin destroys and takes away life. It affects your spiritual life, your physical life, your emotional life, your whole being. Repenting from it isn’t as simple as saying I’m going to stop doing X. You do need to stop, but you need God’s help in doing so. Just like the Israelites of old, you need God to teach you, your whole being, mind, body and spirit, how to Worship Him. You need God to set you free from any addiction that isn’t to Himself.

Video Clip

The ring is addiction, poor Bilbo is obsessed with that ring, denies that he has a problem, fights to not give it up, just like any good addict. He also needs help in turning to the one who can save him. Notice how Gandalf doesn’t take the ring away from Bilbo by force. He invites him to let it go and even then Bilbo resists like any good addict. He’s ready for new adventure not marred by addiction. That analogy is useful up to a point. With addiction not a matter of quick word from Jesus and prayer and the transfer is complete.

Romans 12:1–2 (NASB95)

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

This transfer of worship focus, this renewing of the mind takes time.

Another way to think of it is a serious illness or injury that has taken years to accumulate and entrench itself in your system. It will take years to cure because your brain, physically has become accustomed to the idol or ungodly addiction. If you were to receive a burn, you go to the hospital and they may put some medicine, bandages on it but it would also require a certain amount of oxygen flow to it to help it heal. But when you have burns over most of your body, you’re put in a hyperbaric chamber which forces oxygen into the wound to promote an accelerated healing process so that you don’t die from infection or the skin just rotting off your bones.

That’s how it is with addiction to an idol. You don’t just need a shot of God’s word and healing truth, you need the IV. You don’t just need a visit to the healer for an hour a week, you need therapy everyday if possible. Indeed for someone who is entering addiction recovery program, for the first 90 days, the mantra is 90 days, 90 meetings. There’s actually a sociological, emotion reason for that.

Indeed, my daughter Kim took a fall down the stairs at LC. She didn’t break her ankle but the doctor inferred that it might have better if she had because a bone will heal in a few weeks if casted or splinted properly but with a sprain and ruptured ligaments, it’s not just a matter of keeping the joint immobile, there’s physical therapy involved that requires extra care.

When I was a younger man, a new Christian, I was an actor touring with a show on the road. I was with a group of unbelievers so when we hit a town on the weekend I usually tried to find some fellowship at a church in the area. We stopped in Las Vegas to perform at UNLV. It was during the week and so I found a midweek Bible study to attend, it was a small group. They were a great bunch of believers, hospitable and reminded me of my own church back in New York City. It was a little different culture though. A few of the people in that group were recovered from a particular addiction or were just starting to recover from a particular addiction. Can you guess what that addiction was? Right. Gambling. That was new to me. I lived in New York where that wasn’t as proportionately problematic. I grew up in California. There were different issues in those places. If I would have grown up in Spokane it might have been gambling or addiction to um Road Construction and College Basketball. Anyway. But can you imagine the reaction I would have gotten from these people if I had told them that I had lunch that day at a casino. Because back then, you could get a really good meal for really cheap in Las Vegas. You just had to walk through a casino to get it. Not a problem for me. But imagine that you’re the weaker brother who is in the middle of a years long recovery process from the idolatry of gambling worship, whose reality has been having to think about ways to avoid even going near a place where there might be a slot machine or black jack table. Imagine if I had invited one of them to our show the next day and then out to lunch. I didn’t mention where I had lunch, probably not out of Christian love but just because the subject didn’t come up.

So, that’s the context for the rest of chapter eight. I was hoping to walk you in the footsteps of the weaker brother. I don’t think we can truly love our weaker brother until we have firmer idea of what it is he is weak from. We’re downtown, a few us in the congregation are already healing through addiction recovery. Chances are though, to be effective downtown, we’re going to be ministering to quite few more down here.