Can you believe it? Today is the first day of Spring! It kinda snuck up on me.
“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Alfred Tennyson
You may be impressed that I would use a quote from a poet that lived in the 1800s. Don’t be. I remember it as a narrated line in a Sponge Bob episode. Yeah, that’s right. I’m far more versed in Square Pants than I am in some Rhymin’ Simon. That’s the kind of guy I am.
And…the robins got their snow. It wasn’t much, but it did whiten everything up. I’m not sure how to call it. Normally, true snow on the robins is enough for an inch or more to settle on their heads. This blast may not qualify. Just as well because I hear more is in store for later this week.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with a man hospitalized by alcoholism. I went with my AA sponsor, Jack. It was good to share hope to someone who has pulled the walls of his own house down upon him. Yes, there is hope in the most dire of circumstances. The key is whether or not someone is willing to listen and allow God to take control. For most people (many enter the wide gate), this is too much. Sure, there are many who believe in something, but Jesus alone is truth. He alone is the gate by which we may enter heaven. Jesus alone may show us the Father. We can call it fabrication and choose to ignore it, but the bible is clear.
Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
I remember hammering on an Episcopal priest, John Jankowski, about the exclusivity of Jesus. He had just given a sermon in which he thundered about the validity of other religions. His rationale was that they obviously are true simply because they exist. He didn’t know his bible at all and couldn’t justify his position using it. He was clueless. Then, a couple weeks later, there was a reading for the service that included Acts 4:12. I had read the scripture beforehand and was prepared for church and his sermon. So, I was watching him as this was being read. Sure enough, he reacted. He obviously had not looked at the readings ahead of time because he was surprised. AND HE LOOKED RIGHT AT ME! I caught his eyes, and he looked down right away. Busted. Still, he didn’t budge. He now works as a chaplin at the St. Cloud Hospital, or did, last I heard.
My new friend seems open to the idea of Jesus. A good share (some would say the vast majority) who come through the doors of AA initially are hostile to the name of Jesus. Many remain that way. I know many guys who have been sober years and years who still refuse to say the name of Jesus unless they curse. AA is criticized heavily within the Evangelical community primarily because it lacks the clear gospel of Jesus. It is not commonly known that the origins of AA are rooted in the gospel. Bill, the first member, had a radical conversion through the missionary organization, The Oxford Group. He was a Christian. Unfortunately, the name of Jesus was removed from the first Big Book because the team of editors (the earliest members of AA) felt that it would chase far too many away from a method that lead to sobriety.
Make no mistake, their statement is clear: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.” Furthermore, it is proven by example that many are able to achieve sobriety and live happy, healthy, and productive lives yet still deny Jesus in the biblical sense. That may not seem possible since Jesus is the one who removes chains, right?
That’s right. Healing is not the same as saving. Let’s take a look at an example.
Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samarian. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
I had a radical conversion. In a blink of an eye, God transformed me from a chronic alcoholic to a man who no longer had a taste for booze. And you know what? The book I had in my hand at that moment was AA’s Big Book. I didn’t accept Jesus at that time. I bowed my head to God. Actually, he made me bow. Make no mistake, God was my LAST choice. I didn’t realize it, but he was the one leading me. And, he led me right to Jesus. It was a day or so after that I started to think about Jesus. I remember concluding that I will simply trust in God on this Jesus stuff. Of course, God was right, because everything that I had read in the bible through church was true. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the only Son of God.
I guess I was the leper that returned to thank Jesus. He did far more for me than cleanse me of alcoholism; He gave me life, eternal life. There is no question about that. I have other AA friends that have not returned to thank him. Yes, they are sober and living nice lives. Yes, they thank God. No, far too many do not thank Jesus. That’s a shame. Is that the fault of AA? You know, these people know who Jesus is; we all do. If they refuse him, that is their own issue. Personally, I prefer to talk openly about Jesus and praise his name, especially at a table of recovery. That isn’t welcomed at AA. Certainly, it isn’t encouraged. Higher power, as you choose to believe. That’s the deal. So, I find myself going to church-related programs. In fact, I am excited that my church is starting Recovery Plus, a program similar to AA but Christ-based and designed for all types of addiction.
Yesterday was an alcohol mission. I brought the AA Big Book. I told him this book will get him sober. I also brought him a bible. I told him this would give him Life. I also explained what I just explained to you. I also brought my AA sponsor, a man with years of dedicated recovery experience. He’s also a Christian. That, my friends is this guy’s most redeeming quality.
Father, thank you for my new friend. I had just prayed that you bring someone into my life, and you did. Thank you for the great privilege of sharing the gospel to a sick and dying world. You are indeed the one who heals and the only one who saves. There is no other name but Jesus. Please grant this man sobriety, and, most importantly, saving faith. Amen.