Introduction: Hello and welcome to this message from Pastor Skip Heitzig. Skip's teachings are shared globally and we're excited to hear how they're helping to empower others to live for Christ. If this message brings you closer to Jesus, we'd like to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving. Jesus loves everyone and is compassionate toward all people, including those who struggle with addiction. As we continue the series Jesus loves people, we see that Jesus has a message for addicts and a plan to help them, and we can be a part of that plan. Mark your Bibles in Luke, chapter 4, and Matthew, chapter 11, as Skip begins the message "Jesus Loves Addicts."
Skip Heitzig: Luke, chapter 4, and also would you put a marker in Matthew, chapter 11. Luke 4 and Matthew 11, and let's pray together. Father, we feel the need to calm our hearts, to focus our hearts, to ask for your help for us to concentrate. I always feel that need because we are in a very distracted generation, time of life, period in history where there are just so many things vying for our attention. So we intentionally ask you by your Spirit to help us focus on a very, very needed issue. And then, Lord, as we segue into taking the Lord's Supper, your supper, Communion together, we consider your redemptive purpose for us and are so grateful, so thankful that you chose us, that you've saved us, in Jesus' name, amen.
My Name Is Davy, I'm an Alcoholic, that's the title of a book that came out several years ago that dealt with teenage alcoholism. It featured a fifteen-year-old boy who was an alcoholic. He was addicted. He denied that he had a need until someone else in his life, another young girl named Maxine was also an alcoholic and was experiencing convulsions because of her alcoholism. She wanted help. He did not want help. Again, these are kids who were dealing with a topic of teenage alcoholism. I want to talk to you today about addictions. Some of you might be thinking, "Why on earth would you want to talk about addictions from the pulpit in church?" Well, for two reasons. First reason is because it's not talked about in church. Churches usually don't deal with the topic.
They don't deal with the issue. Oh, they're good at marginalizing it, and condemning certain behaviors, but not dealing with it. And a second reason is because sin is never private; it always affects other people emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. When David's sin against Bathsheba was known---and it could even be seen as a sexual addiction in seeing that in his life---it didn't just affect David, and it didn't just affect Bathsheba. But the long tentacles of his sin reached further into the life of her husband Uriah who lost his life because of it; into the life of Joab, David's general who was jaded because of it; and even David's own children who had that father doing that thing as a role model for them which ruined a lot of their own future relationships. It's never ever done privately.
Albert Einstein was the one who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." And though he was talking about science, what if we were to apply what he said to life, to our life? What do you repeat over and over and over again, but you are expecting a different result? For some people it's "Just one more drink, one more, just one more, then it's over, then I'm done." Or, "One more hit . . . ." Or, "One more look at that stuff on the Internet, then I'm done." For others it's "Just a few more dollars, and no one will even know it's missing." For others it's "Just one more shopping trip." And for still others it's "Just one more binge meal." Addictions have different colors, come in different flavors, but that repetitive, ongoing cycle doesn't stop.
Now, you probably may already know this, but the word "addiction" is not found in your Bible unless, of course, you have the King James Bible, the old King James Bible. I'm reading the New King James. It's not found in my version, it's not found in any modern version, but it does appear once in the old King James Bible. But it'll surprise you to know that it's not mentioned in a negative sense, but in a positive sense. In First Corinthians 16, Paul writes about "the household of Stephanas." They are "addicted to the ministry," he said. Simply put, here's a family that is devoted to serving people. And he uses the term "addicted." That's the only time you'll find it, in the old King James Version, in a good sense, not a bad sense. Now, we know it today in a negative connotation, an addiction.
Webster's Dictionary defines an addiction as "a surrender of oneself to something obsessively and habitually." But the idea of addiction shows up all over the place in the Bible in other words, different words than the word "addiction." One of those words is found in our text this morning. It's the word "captive" or "captives" in the plural, those who are held as prisoner by repetitive, ongoing behavior they're held captive. Also in First Corinthians, Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by any." That's another description of it. When something masters you, and you keep doing it over and over, and you seem to can't be able to stop. Addiction is always a present danger posed by our own nature. The Bible calls it "the flesh." That's our old na---our sinful nature the Bible calls "the flesh."
So in Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3, Paul says, "Formerly we walked in the desires of our flesh, indulging those desires." First Peter chapter 2 verse 11, "Abstain from fleshly desires which wage war against the soul." And in the book of James he speaks about those who are carried away and seduced by the tempter living under their desires. So what special word would Jesus Christ have for such people? What words of hope would Christ have for those who find themselves in addictive behavior? Moreover, what kind of role model would he have for us, the followers of Christ, and how to treat addicts? I want to begin with you in Luke, chapter 4. I've asked you to turn to Luke, chapter 4, and I first want you to notice that Jesus has good news for addicts.
In Luke chapter 4 verse 16 we begin. "So he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.' Then he closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and he sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' "
This marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He is thirty years of age. He walks into the synagogue, a little group gathering. He had gone to that synagogue growing up all his life. Now he's back and he is given a scroll. He opens the scroll to Isaiah, we know it as chapter 61, and he begins his ministry by reading this text. What fascinates me about that is somebody else began their ministry using the same exact portion of Scripture. His name was John Wesley. It was April 2, 1739, when Wesley decided he's not just going preach the gospel inside of a church where church people come, but he's going to take it outside the walls where the disenfranchised are, where the street people are, where the people who had never come to church hang out.
And he writes in his diary after his first message. He said, "Three thousand people heard the gospel outside the walls of the church today." And he said, "I chose as my text . . ." the very text we are reading. So I find it fascinating that he decided to begin his ministry to the disenfranchised and the captive, much like Jesus did with the same text. Now look at verse 18 a little more carefully, and notice with your own eyes the description of the audience that Jesus was sent to. As you look at some of the words in that verse, I think you're going have to agree we're talking about the messiest bunch of folks that you could ever imagine. Look at them, look at the description: "poor," "brokenhearted," "captive," "blind," "oppressed." You know what? That describes us, the whole lot of us.
None of us came out perfect. We were all born flawed. I know, you're parents thought you were the greatest. When you were born they said, "Look, she's perfect!" All they had to do was wait. [laughter] Am I right? Soon they would discover how flawed you really were. Soon they would discover, as your human nature began to blossom, "Oh, man, she's got that propensity." "He has that bent, that leaning." And then as the years went on, even you made that same discovery about yourself. As societal pressure and inborn tendencies worked together, you saw how flawed you really were. And for some people that fleshly pull is so profound it shows itself in what we would call life-dominating sins, addictions. Life-dominating sins, what the writer of Hebrews calls, "besetting sins."
Hebrews, chapter 12 says, "the sin which so easily besets us, ensnares us, entangles us." That's an addiction. Now Jesus has a special message for such people. Notice, he has come "to preach the gospel." You know what the word "gospel" means, right? It means good news, and we as Christians need to remember that our message ought to be a message of good news. For the life of me, I don't know how we manage to do it, but some of us Christians manage to make good news sound like bad news. "You ought to become a Christian and have joy like me, and have peace and meaning and zip and zing in your life." [laughter] "No thanks---next." It's good news and we need to give the gospel, good news.
Because, you see, the world has messages of bad news for these people: "You were born this way." "You'll never change." "That identifies you and that defines you, and your addiction will always define you." Oh, we need to give them the good news. Good news is the gospel. And what is the gospel, by the way? Well, the gospel according to Paul in First Corinthians 15 is very simple. It's that message that Jesus came, that he died, that he was buried, and that he rose again from the dead, and that he did it for you. That's the gospel. Somebody asked Charles Spurgeon one time, "Could you take everything you believe in or that Christians believe in and sum it up in a few words?" He said, "I'll give you four words---Christ died for me." That's the gospel. That's the good news. He loves you. He has a plan for you.
So notice it says that the Lord sent him, the Father sent him "to proclaim liberty to the captives." There's that word. I just want to consider that word when we talk about addictions, "captive." Did you know the word literally refers to prisoners of war, POWs? "I have come to proclaim liberty to prisoners of war." Jesus has a special message to those who have been barraged by the enemy. Jesus has a special message for those who have been taken captive by Satan, who are in bondage of addiction. I was reading this week the testimony of an ex-addict named Gary. Here's his story in a nutshell. When he grew up he said he was abused by his maternal grandmother. That would tweak anybody. By age twelve he was drinking alcohol. He became addicted to it, twelve years of age.
By sixteen he was already on drugs, became addicted. One day as a teenager, as a mid to late teenager, he's in a car. Somebody in the car, I don't know exactly who it was, but spoke to him a message. He said, "Gary, I don't know why I'm telling you this, but I feel like I need to tell you Jesus loves you." He goes, "What?" "Jesus Christ loves you." Gary said, "You know, it irritated me, but that simple message was so profound. Jesus loves an addict?" He said, "Those words were a seed that began to break down my angry, hardened heart." So, Jesus has good news for addicts: "I've come to preach the good news." There's something else, not only does he have good news for addicts, Jesus has a good plan for addicts. I draw you back to verse 18 of Luke, chapter 4.
I want you to notice as you look at the text the relationship between two phrases, because it's an important relationship. Notice he says that he has been anointed, he has been sent "to proclaim liberty to the captives." See that phrase? But then notice a few phrases after that, "to set at liberty those who are oppressed." "To proclaim liberty"; "to set at liberty." "To proclaim liberty" is to preach, to herald, to make an announcement, to say something with your mouth. But "to set at liberty" is something vastly different. In other words, "I'm going to do for you what I proclaimed." In other words, Jesus is saying, "I don't just have a nice sermon for addicts, I have a great strategy for them. I have a plan, and my plan is to release them, to give them freedom from their addictions, to break the cycle that they're caught in."
Now, how does he do that? How can he do that? How can God do that? Well, I think you will agree with this statement. First of all, he can do anything, right? He can do anything. So how does he do it? Well, I have seen him---but again, this is rare, I'll just say that. He can take away a desire instantly. And a lot of us would just love if he would do that with all of our bad desires, just take it away, just remove it. I have heard the testimony of those who have been addicted to a variety of things tell me they no longer have any trouble with that issue anymore. They're not even struggling with it. They don't have a desire. I applaud that. I think it's wonderful. It's miraculous. It's not the norm. Usually the way he does that is supernaturally naturally; that is, supernatural power that comes through natural processes.
It's the principle of cooperation. If you're familiar with your Old Testament, you know this principle. God tells the children of Israel, "Go in and conquer the land, and take it over. I'm going to give the land to you. I'm going to deliver your enemies into your hand." Sounds easy, right? "I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. I'm going to deliver. I'm going to give." But he also says, "You need boots on the ground. You need to take your sword out. You need to engage in battle. You need to march through the land. And as you cooperate with me, my power will give it to you and do it for you through a natural process." So I want to give you what I think is a healthy process that God empowers.
From everything I've read and from those that I have spoken with who have in the past been addicted to a variety of substances, we need to take and isolate that addiction. So picture, picture an addiction in front of you however you want to picture it, whatever it is, and we need now to quarantine it. We need to isolate. We need to draw a box around it. The box has four sides. The first side we're going to call "accurate assessment." You need to make an accurate assessment of your addiction. In other words, don't underestimate your addiction. It's a big deal. This is where many people fail. "Ah, it's not a big deal. I can stop anytime I want." They never do. It keeps going. The cycle continues, but they keep telling themselves, "Not a big deal." No, accurate assessment. Don't underestimate your addiction.
An addiction is not a typical challenge that everybody goes through; it is the struggle of a lifetime. In fact, there will probably never be a greater challenge in your entire life than that particular challenge. All other problems will pale in comparison. Accurate assessment. One author who was once addicted wrote these words: "Early recovery is one big dramatic event . . . and your emotional core is bouncing down the side of a mountain. It's an emotional roller coaster . . .`. The same phenomenon can be observed when someone tries to quit smoking. The smoker will notice that every time they try to quit smoking all this drama pops up in their life. 'Why is this happening?' they wonder. Why does all this drama suddenly show up every time they try to quit?" He answers it: "[You] have been fooled by your addiction."
You have been fooled by your addition. "Withdrawal from nicotine," or drugs or pornography or food, "turns up the intensity," he says, "on your life." Turns up the emotional intensity. So an accurate assessment is the first side of that box. Let's draw a second side to quarantine addiction. We'll call this "overwhelming force." Use overwhelming force. If you want to capture a base of your enemies, the best way to do it is by using overwhelming force. So if it takes two hundred soldiers to take over an enemy base, bring eight hundred, so there is no chance for failure. You will overwhelm the enemy with your force. You'll make sure that the job gets done. One alcoholic said that early on he struggled with the idea that he was smarter than everybody else.
He goes, "Yeah, I know there's people who are alcoholics, but I'm-I'm a smart one. You know, I don't need the same kind of help they do." Now I found this to be typical. So he was telling himself things like this: "I don't need a real long rehab. And I don't need to go to meetings that many times a week like other people do." And so he kept failing and failing and failing and that cycle continued till somebody told him, a friend of his said, "You don't need three weeks or three months, you need a year rehab." And he was so beat up by failure, he said, "You're right," and he went and he did it. And he said, "It was the best thing I ever did." Overwhelming force. I talked to a friend this week, a friend of mine who struggled for years with addictions to heroin and other substances.
And as I was telling him, you know, what I have found and what I was going to say, he goes, "Yup, yup, yup. Skip, this is what I learned: You got to change your playground and your playmates. You need to get as many people around you as you can on a new playground that are the right kind of people to hold you accountable and to help you through this." Overwhelming force. Now, let's draw a third line on this box: "zero tolerance." Zero tolerance. You see, recovery is pass or fail. Everything else in life will depend on your sobriety. Relationships will depend on it. Your viability will depend on it. Your effectiveness will depend on it. And so if this is an issue, you need to make an agreement within yourself that says, "I can never use again." "I can never take another drink." "I can never watch that stuff ever again, no matter what."
Zero tolerance. The problem with that is if you have an addictive personality, you've said that a thousand times already and gone back and back and back and back and back. But that principle along with the first two principles all working together will be of great strength and value and help. And now let's close this box in and quarantine it completely. The fourth side of that box we will call "highest power." Highest power. If you are familiar at all with the language of recovery, you have heard the term "higher power." They say, "Well, you need a higher power in this." And it's very sort of innocuous and sort of nondescript, just sort of pick a higher power and trust that. No, no, no. You need the highest power and that comes only through one source, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
And as the addict learns of the love of Christ, and as the addict learns of the power of the Holy Spirit, and as the addict is surrounded with and interacts with healthy believers, they will discover a whole new life. You see, effectiveness in recovery is more than just saying no to the menace; it's saying yes to the Maker. It's the highest power. [applause] If you have a scientific background, you understand the principle I'm going to give you now; and that is that certain viruses die when you expose them to light. Certain bacteria will also die if they're exposed to the right kinds of light, like ultraviolet light. So if they're kept in the darkness, they grow and they flourish and they spread, but once you expose them to light, sunlight and some cases ultraviolet light, it will kill them.
Addictions are like that. It's a virus that has to be exposed to the light to be cured. Listen to what Jesus said in John 3. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men have loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." Remember the leper who came to Jesus? I didn't say leopard, but the leper. Man with leprosy walked up to Jesus, probably at the very end of his rope, and he said, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." And Jesus said, "I am willing; be clean." Every addict needs to come to Jesus and say, "If you are willing, make me clean."
And he will immediately say, "I am willing." And he might immediately remove the desire, but chances are you're going to have to go through this process, and you're going to have to isolate that addiction by accurate assessment, overwhelming force, zero tolerance, highest power. Jesus has good news for addicts. Jesus has a good plan for addicts. There's a final thing I want you to notice as we close; and that is, Jesus has a good reputation among addicts. Would you turn now, and we'll close with this, Matthew, chapter 11, just a couple of verses, Matthew 11. You know, I've discovered over the years in talking to people who have struggled with addictions of various sorts that even those who are really down and out, they're okay with Jesus. Now, some aren't, but for the most part, they just understand that Jesus is this compelling, loving figure and they're drawn to him.
They may not be too crazy about churches or church people. In fact, usually they aren't, because of their past experiences with such. But when it comes to the person of Jesus, Jesus has a reputation now as he did then, and I want you to notice it. Jesus is speaking here in Matthew 11:16 to his detractors. Matthew 11:16, "But what shall I liken this generation? It's like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to their companions, and saying: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.' For John," Jesus says, that's John the Baptist, "came neither drinking or eating, and they say that 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking [that's Jesus], and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber.' "
You know what a winebibber is, right? It's a lush. It's an alcoholic. Can you imagine saying that of Jesus? "This guy eats too much and he drinks too much." Notice the next phrase: " 'a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children." Now they meant it as a slur. Jesus accepted it as a badge of honor. "I'm a friend of tax collectors and sinners." Now I'm not here to exegete this entire text. I just want you to notice this label, because by this time Jesus has already called a notorious tax collector named Matthew. Jesus has already gone to the house of Matthew and shared an evening meal with him and his buddies. And according to one commentator John MacArthur, he said at that meeting that would include robbers, murderers, drunkards, and prostitutes.
And it was probably, he said, because of that encounter in Matthew's house that Jesus got this reputation that he mentions here, "a friend of tax collectors and sinners." This is what it says in Matthew 9, "Many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with him." Luke 15:1, "Tax collectors and notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach." And then there's the story of Zacchaeus in Jericho. Remember Zacchaeus the short guy who walked up--- climbed up the tree so he could see Jesus? And Jesus saw him, and said, "Get down. Let's go to your house and eat lunch," and they hung out together. That's a paraphrase, by the way, of that text. [laughter] And the crowd was not excited about that.
The Bible says the crowds were upset, saying, "He has done to be a guest of a notorious sinner." You gotta understand that most religious Jews would never ever conceive of socializing with that group of people, but Jesus would and Jesus did. He sat down with them, he ate with them, and he was known as the friend of sinners. And in that group were drunkards, alcoholics. In that group were prostitutes, and probably the men who were addicted to sex from the prostitutes---and there was Jesus among them. And so they thought, "Hey, I want to listen to him teach." And they would often go to hear him teach. I just want to give this challenge to us the body of Christ. The Bible calls the church the "body of Christ." I hope you understand what that means.
We are the representatives of Jesus Christ as if we were the physical body of Jesus. So, he has no hands, no feet, no mouth, but ours. So it's our hands that reach out to people in his name. It's our feet that go out to people and walk toward people in his name. It's our mouths that bring a message of hope and love and the gospel of good news in his name. We're the body of Christ. Jesus said, "As I have loved you, you must love." We could do that. You know, it is possible. We could actually become an army of love. Well, I mentioned that Webster defined addiction as a surrendering of oneself to something obsessively, habitually. It is my prayer that more of us become addicted to Christ, addicted to serving our Lord, and addicted to loving people in a transforming way in his name. [applause]
Jesus began his ministry with the text we started out with. And John Wesley began his ministry outside the church walls with the same text. I thought it was only fitting to end this message and quote a hymn written by the brother of John Wesley, Charles Wesley about that same text. The hymn was called "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," and here's the little phrase: "He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free; his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me." The foulest clean---the addict, the prostitute, the criminal, the murderer---all those that we have isolated in this series. He, his blood, can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me. As we take communion, we realize that what Jesus said fits us--- poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind. Yup, that's pretty much my testimony.
His blood can make the foulest clean. And if he can save you, don't you think he can save others through you? Ah, he loves to do that. I'm going to ask you to take the elements that you have in your chair. And the first one is a peel top. Well, they're actually both of them are peel top. The first clear one you peel it off and you get to the bread. The second foil you peel off and get to the juice. Nate and Janae, why don't you come on up for a second. I'm going to have you lead us in communion. They didn't know I was going to do this. I never like to tell people in advance. And just each of you pray for the elements, the bread and then the juice. You go first.
Nate Heitzig: I think it's remarkable that these elements signify that we can be washed white as snow by the blood of Christ, but also it gives us a power to love those who haven't been washed white as snow. And so as we take these elements, let's not only think about our own sins, but think about maybe those in our life who have sinned against us, those who need to be shown the love of Christ as we've heard today. Lord, we thank you for the sacrifice that you so willing made on our behalf. Lord, a sacrifice that was more than just great pain to you physically, but it was pain to you spiritually, emotionally, Lord, as you were for a time separated from the Father.
Lord, it's because your body was broken, it's because of your stripes that we are healed, that we are made new. Made new spiritually, God, as we have new life in you. Made new relationally, God, as we can now treat those around us differently because of that sacrifice. And so, Lord, we come together as a group of those who love you, who have been saved by you, and we thank you for dying for us on that cross some two thousand years ago, so that we could sit here today unified as a family. It's in your name we pray.
Janae Heitzig: And, Lord, we come before you and we just thank you for the blood that was shed, God. For the blood that covers our sins, Lord. We remember the blood that was shed. We remember your sacrifice. And we also remember the sins that we were captured by, the habitual sins that we were caught up in. Lord, we remember knowing all that you washed over, Lord, all that you made new. And we just thank you so much for washing over us and making us new and loving us despite our filth. We now take the juice.
Skip Heitzig: Thank you, guys. Let's all stand together. Such an honor, such a privilege to share the Lord's Supper with you. I love this fellowship, I love this body, and I love that it doesn't matter who we are, or what we've done, what our background is, we're family because of what Jesus did for us.
Closing: Any addiction can turn into sin and begin to enslave. Jesus Christ has the power to set us free if we surrender our lives to him. How has Jesus set you from the grip of sin? Let us know. Email email@example.com. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.