The student in our training classes know that I am a stickler for words and what they mean. Simply put, words matter! Especially when we are discussing the the process of biblical change for life change.
For example, I believe that a word like “alcoholic” steals hope. While the word “drunkard” is not used much in society, perhaps it ought to be. Drinking to excess is a behavior that can become a lifestyle. It is true that drunkenness leads to physical ailments and diseases like cirrhosis of the liver, but those illness are results of the behavior of drunkenness.
The reality is that there is no agreement on any of the behaviors that mental health people label as diseases. In the vast majority of the people “diagnosed” (and I use that term very loosely) with a mental illness, there is no medical basis for such a claim. This is important to understand because words can steal hope and condemn a person to a lifetime of being “in recovery” or “co-dependent” or “bi-polar.” These words can lead a person that they are a victim of a cruel twist of fate, or worse yet a cruel God who would afflict them with something they cannot unload.
In addition, renaming these behaviors as “mistakes” or “goof ups” removes the horrible reality of what they truly are! Sinful actions are not mistakes, they are sins! Where is the accountability for sin when it is not even called sin? The church is sadly becoming more like the world than like the spotless Bride of Christ. How much worse for us as partakers of God’s abundant grace and to take part in casual excusing of sin. Do we realize that we are flaunting God’s grace?
Words can also give us hope. The Bible says Jesus Christ came to set the captives free from the bondage sin has on our hearts and lives. He died for the drunkard, the liar, the thief, the homosexual, the prostitute, the debtor, the rebellious, the angry, the doubter, the over eater, the under eater, the anxious at heart and the fearful to only list a few. There is hope in Christ for a changed life when the sinful things we struggle with (which is everything on the above list) is called sin, accepted as sin, and dealt with as sin at the heart level.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NASB)
Jesus Christ is faithful and He is our way of escape from the sinful ties that bind us to the old and worn out ways of the world.
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. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)
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