October 1, 2014
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Myron had a problem. He was addicted to gambling. He is not alone. “Between 15 to 20 million adults and adolescents have either problems or pathological gambling addictions, which is about 5-7 percent of the U.S. population ([statistics from the year] 2000).” (http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/14/frequently-asked-questions-gambling-in-the-united-states). Myron – knowing that I was a pastor – came to me and asked me how he could overcome gambling. This was at a social event and a short answer was needed. I thought about it for a moment or two, and then told my friend, “If you turn to the Lord with all your heart, you will turn away from gambling – or any other sinful thing.”
So what scripture corroborates this? My search landed me at Deuteronomy 4:29 through 31 (NKJV with some word order from the KJV):
But if from there you will seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you
seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress,
and all these things are come upon you…if you turn to the LORD your God,
and obey His voice (For the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not
forsake you or destroy you….
“But if from there…” means seek Him right where you are! You don’t need to clean up your act to come to the Lord! He is an expert at cleaning! After all, and as it says in Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” All you have to do is “…seek the LORD your God …with all your heart and with all your soul.” Jeremiah 29:11 through 14 expands on this idea:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts
of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you shall call
upon Me, and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek
Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be
found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity….
Since God is absolutely holy (see Psalm 99:5, 9; Isaiah 6:3; Hebrews 7:26; I Peter 1:15, 16; Revelation 3:7), He will not continually tolerate sin in His presence. So He made the provision to cleanse us initially when we come to Him in faith, believing in and accepting His Son as our Savior. And He also provides continual cleansing, as it says in I John 1:7: “…the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” Cleanses is in the present tense in the Greek, and means “…keeps on cleansing us from all sin.”
He desires you to be holy because – by His Holy Spirit – He dwells within us. And He wants His dwelling place to be clean! Paul exclaims in I Corinthians 6:19 and 20:
…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at
a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
So what is addiction? And how do you know if you are addicted to something? Use I Corinthians 6:12 as a standard. Paul declares, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Peter writes in II Peter 2:19, “…for by whom [or what] a person is overcome, by him [or it] also he is brought into bondage.” And Jesus said in John 8:34, “…whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” But He also declared two verses later, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Back to Myron and his gambling problem: “If, Myron, you will turn to the Lord God ‘…with all your heart…soul…strength, and…mind…’ (Luke 10:27), you will surely turn away from sin – including gambling!”
But it is often not an easy decision or a one-time thing! Yes, there are some folks who have testified they were immediately delivered from addictions – alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, etc. But often it is a struggle that takes months or years of repentance and confession. And often godly counseling is a great help, as well as the support and prayers of others.
I know! Having twice gone through an intensive evaluation by psychologists and counselors at The Center for Ministry near Boston – I have the dubious distinction of being “…the most addictive person who has ever gone through our program!” I have struggled with alcohol, drugs, pornography, over-eating, smoking and gambling! And by God’s grace and power through the years, I have overcome them all! And now – instead of struggling – I am resting in my Lord!
So, yes, there is hope! As it says in Matthew 19:26, “…with God all things are possible.”