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The Gospel, The Church and the Heroin Epidemic

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"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. -- Matthew 5: 21-22 (ESV)

There is a heroin epidemic again in this country. Once widely popular in the 1970s the drug has made a resurgence in this country to the point of epidemic once again. In the relatively small community I live in there were 74 overdose deaths in 2014 alone. Those numbers continue to rise. I have heard many pastors point the finger at the devil and while certainly the things of this world are from the god of this world, it is only a small part of the picture spiritually. Yes the devil is constantly bombarding God's creation with one wicked choice after another. Cigarettes are alive with pleasure until you lay dying of cancer. Alcohol is living the high life until your liver fails or you lose your job. Television shows portray one godless activity after another as being desirous until the day we all stand before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Even the solutions the devil offers in this world are nothing more than traps designed to keep people in shackles. Most do not realize that the treatment of choice for heroin addiction is called methadone maintenance. What is methadone? It is drug similar to heroin that eases some of the withdrawal symptoms for those who are stopping heroin. This is the same logic the devil uses when he passes out condoms to 12 year olds under the guise of protection. Methadone in many ways is trading one addiction for another and if the person relapses with heroin, which is often the case, the results can be fatal. This is the same logic the devil sells us to treat cancer with the very things that cause cancer. The world sells us a victim mentality and then treats symptoms instead of curing the problems. Xanax for example is the most prescribed mental health treatment in America with about 50 million prescriptions per year. The problem is Xanax is highly addictive and once someone is hooked they are usually cut off from their doctor. Many of these people will then turn to illegal drugs such as heroin.

The spiritual side of this is far more complex. People in this country live in a world that raises expectations beyond what is normally achievable. We watch movies and television shows about lifestyles 99% of us will never attain. We are encouraged to idolize ruthlessness, revenge, greed and wealth. So we become ruthless, vengeful, and greedy in our pursuit of wealth that we will never attain. Without Jesus life becomes an empty pursuit. For those of us who are saved we know that vengeance is the Lord's and we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. Not just for the benefit of those we forgive but so that no root of the devil can take hold in our lives through unforgiveness. We ought to know that true wealth is not of the things of this world. That godly contentment is great joy whether we have plenty or lack everything. This sets us free from being controlled by money. We know that ruthlessness is not of God and to not let anger settle in for even one night. This prevents us from sinning in anger which always leads to destruction in our lives. Knowing these things we ought to realize there is only one real hope with regards to the heroin epidemic or anything else that is enslaving and destroying the lost. We ought to realize what our role and responsibility is as the church.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, so thatthey may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. -- Matthew 5: 14-16 (ESV)

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. -- Colossians 4: 5 (ESV)

The church is supposed to be a city set upon a hill. What does that mean? It means it is supposed to stand out. You can't miss it because it is so in contrast to its surroundings. Unfortunately the church today continues to strive for relevance with the very culture that is sending people to hell. Churches remove the image of the cross from their buildings to not offend people even though the Bible makes it clear that the Gospel is meant to offend. If your preaching is not offending people then you are not preaching the Gospel. The church is meant to be the light of the world. Remember that the world is walking in darkness. One look at the nightly news will confirm how deep that darkness is. We are supposed to provide the light of Christ for all to see. Some will come and some will not. God offers the gift and we merely convey the message. They should see our good works! That not only means acts of charity in a world that has little. The bible definition of works is obedience! They should see us being obedient to the Word instead of the world. That means we do not curse when they do. We do not seek revenge when they would. We do not get angry when it would be acceptable according to their standards. Instead what do they see? They see a church that protects its own regardless of whether they are wrong or right. They see a church that is virulent in its defense of personal politics. They see a church enamored with itself. Chasing leadership conferences and marketing schemes. Incorporating club lighting and smoke machines. Turning worship from reverent awe to a rock concert. They see a church that looks like the world they live in so much that they can no longer tell the difference. The light is so mixed with the darkness it all becomes hazy shades of grey. Just this past week it was reported that at the Hillsong London Women's Conference they had a pastor dress up like Austin Powers. To top that, the Hillsong NY Women's Conference had an appearance from the Times Square naked cowboy. Do we honestly think we can continue down this path and expect anything to change in relation to heroin addiction or any end result of sin? Many pastors probably breeze past thoughts like these because perhaps they do not condone such. But who do you share the stage with? Who do you allow in your own church? Who do you go and listen to at conferences? Who do you re-tweet and repost with a wink and a nod; not caring that you have now sacrificed your own credibility? Remember the command of the Lord for those who would be leaders:

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. -- Titus 1: 9 (ESV)

This is not a suggestion beloved. Those who would aspire to leadership in the church are commanded to rebuke those who contradict the Gospel. I have heard pastors state they would never criticize another preacher. Really? Then you are not fit for leadership in the church because if you were you would be more concerned about the sheep than the wolves. As the Colossian verse says we must be in the business of redeeming the time. What does that mean preacher? It means time is running out beloved. The age of grace will end at some point and Jesus Christ will come back for His bride. Not this charlatan masquerading in her stead but the real bride of Christ. Given that the time is short we are to do what? Walk in wisdom towards those who are not saved. What is the beginning of wisdom? The fear of the Lord. Are we starting to see the blueprint here? This is not the time for preaching about how great the 1990's were. It is not time for preaching about those summer blockbuster movies. It is time for the fear of the Lord. It is time for the Gospel.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. -- Romans 1: 16 (ESV)

Do we understand this today or not? There is only one thing that can save the heroin addict for eternity and that is the Gospel. I have worked professionally with substance use recovery for over 20 years. It is true that some might get out from under the weight of this addiction. It is true that some might escape but that escape is only temporary because eventually they will stand before Jesus and where they will be heading there will not be any methadone maintenance program to ease the suffering. I am not suggesting that the carnal solutions of man should cease. I am merely reminding us that we wield a greater power than trading one addiction for another. Do we remember who we serve?

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." -- Luke 4: 17-19 (ESV)

The heroin addict is a captive in desperate need of liberty. He is blind and needs sight. He is oppressed and needs to be set free. The oppression is from the devil and is conveyed through sin. The shackles that hold him captive are bound by sin. The blindness is spiritual. Heroin use is the symptom beloved. Just like alcohol abuse is a symptom. Just like spousal battery is a symptom. Just like adultery is a symptom. These are all symptoms of the larger sin problem we were all born with. But this is the year of the Lord's favor because He has the cure! He can set us free! He can get us to finally understand life as He intended it for us instead of how we have corrupted it. Now that Jesus has risen, it is the church that is supposed to proclaim this! It is the church that is His chosen vehicle for bringing the Gospel to the lost! People sometimes ask why I focus on discernment ministries. What's the big deal? A little untruth here. A dab of motivational speaking here. As long as I feel good, what's the harm? Dear Lord, forgive us! Only the Gospel has the power of salvation beloved! Not a seven part series on improving your marriage. Not a three part sermon on feeling more significant. Not strip mining the Bible to cherry pick all of the nice sayings devoid of the context in which they were said.

Heroin addiction is real. The deaths that shatter families are real. This is not an exercise in denial. Let the addiction counselors and the treatment centers do their jobs and try to triage the wounds while there is still a chance but let the church get down deep into the person to resolve the problem. That was part of the point Jesus was making in our key verses today.

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. -- Matthew 5: 21-22 (ESV)

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Anthony Wade Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
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