2018-04-10 Is Alcoholics Anonymous the Gospel?

Good Morning!

So, what did you think about the lesson on Joshua yesterday? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I ignore asking God for guidance then blame him when things don’t go as planned. I don’t like to admit that because I stay in touch with God throughout the day. The problem is that I’m thinking about Him, not interacting with Him. Big difference.

The other topic on my mind over the weekend had to do with false teaching. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), in particular, was on my mind. I’ve written on this recently, and I want to expand upon it some. First, let me share with you some of my story, just so you get an idea of where I am coming from. I was a high-functioning alcoholic for many years until I had two brushes with death because of my health. The booze caught up with me. I had tried to quit every day for a long, long time, only to fail. Every single day. The first brush was in 2006, the second a year later. When I say close, I mean close. There is a sudden tipping point when a person’s organs finally shut down. I know for a medical fact I was there the first time. I had all the symptoms the second.

When Paul wrote that the wages of sin is death, he was talking about me. I was so entangled in booze that I was completely helpless. Booze had long, long ago lost its luster as a “social lubricant” and had become my master. My whole life revolved around the planning for and consumption of alcohol. It had consumed me. In 2006, I quit out of sheer panic and fear. That lasted a few months, although much longer that I had ever quit before. I thought I had it beat. On one follow-up visit, the doctor told me he couldn’t believe my turnaround. He said it was a miracle. That was the information I thought I needed. I was dead wrong in my conclusion. I thought I was the miracle man and that I had this stuff beat. So, what did I do? The same thing millions of addicts do. I started drinking again.

The second time around, I knew I was sunk. I knew I wasn’t ever going to beat this problem unless I got serious help. I was completely lost of what to do because I felt I needed to keep all this a secret. Nights were the worst. I would toss and turn. Looking back, it was the Hound of Heaven (The Holy Spirit) that wouldn’t leave me alone. I just knew God was the answer, but He was the LAST place I wanted to go. I had made my mind up since I was a teenager that religion was garbage, and I wasn’t going to have anything to do with it. On that I was firm.

Let me share that experience. I was 15 years old, I suppose. My mother dragged me to a tiny Catholic church in northern Minnesota. I was the only boy there, so I had to be the altar boy every stinking Sunday. I hated it with a passion. In fact, I can’t recall anything I’ve ever hated more. One hot, hot summer Sunday, I sat on my chair looking over the congregation as the priest was doing his thing. I was sweating like crazy under that full-length robe. I remember, like it was yesterday, looking over the crowd and thinking to myself, “If the stuff this guy is reading is true, then why aren’t these people excited? Why aren’t they in the streets, telling the whole world about it?” Then, I looked at the priest and thought, “If this stuff is true, why isn’t HE excited?” It was then and there that I made the same decision Huckleberry Finn did. I decided that it was all garbage and wouldn’t have nothing to do with it. And, I didn’t, for 30 years.

Until that day, June 13, 2007 when I had nowhere else to turn. I was going to die unless something big happened. I had purchased the AA “Big Book” at the St. Cloud Barnes and Noble and was reading it in the parking lot. Every page seemed to say, “If you are a true alcoholic, there is no hope outside of God.” Page after page. The Hound of Heaven was closing in on me. I finally agreed that this was the route I needed to take. Then, I’m positive it was the Holy Spirit who prompted me, when I thought, “I will do anything you want, even if it means telling others about you.” And BAM! It was as if I was struck by lightning. Something happened to me, so fast, that I can’t describe it. Looking back, it was the moment of my conversion, that moment when God touched me and put his Holy Spirit inside of me. At that moment, he completely took away my taste for booze. Completely. I haven’t had a drop since.

I was holding the AA Big Book in my hand at my conversion. It wasn’t for a day or two that I even thought about Jesus. When I did, I at first didn’t want him but sensed that I must because he was indeed part of the trinity package. That has played out very true, not only in my experience but in the perfect layout of the bible. I attended many, many AA meetings for several years. Eventually, I became connected with solid accountability-type Christian men and I fell away from AA. Recently, I witnessed to a man in hospital who almost drank himself to death. I brought another man with me, a recovering alcoholic who is deeply grounded and active in AA.

That’s the background. So, what’s my issue? My issue is this. While AA has served millions well in that it provides a framework and support system to achieve sobriety, but it does not deliver the gospel message. No getting around that. It started off with the gospel, but that was soon squelched. Some of the early members felt the name Jesus would chase away people. Yes, I agree it would have. So, we have 12-steps that give some of the principles of Christianity but without Jesus. “God” is “Higher Power” that can mean anything from the group itself to a door knob. Yes, some claim it to be Jesus, but I swear saying His name in AA brings scorn by many.

Alcoholics Anonymous is not truth. If it was, it would be Christ-centered. Jesus would be the foundation. He is not, so there is no way AA can be truth. Yes, it does offer a means for sobriety, but not salvation. So, what about my experience? Wasn’t I reading the Big Book at my conversion? Yes. It is my firm belief that the bible is clear in its message – that no human can “convert” anyone. That is the job, alone, of God. If he chose to convert a drunkard during a conversation with a bartender in a brothel, that’s the means he’ll use. That’s God’s business. That’s how many come to faith in the far reaches of Muslim nations. God chooses whom he chooses and then exposes them eventually to the gospel. That person has no idea what is happening, but it happens. So, even though AA isn’t gospel, it is possible to have a faith-saving conversion through it. The same is true for heretical churches that fly the Christian flag. They don’t share the gospel, yet it is entirely possible for someone to be converted while in attendance.

Most likely, a true believer will soon grow tired that the message isn’t Jesus-focused and will leave. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

So, how am I to look at AA or the Episcopal Church? Both offer good things, in terms of what the “world” deems as “good”, but neither share Jesus as God as revealed in scripture. Certainly, it is God that is allowing these organizations to exist. Am I to be friends with them because they are “civic-friendly”? I don’t want anything to do with the Episcopal church, so that one is easy for me. AA, on the other hand, is tougher. Until, that is, I read scripture.

Galatians 1:6-10 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Romans 1:16-17 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

There are many, many more passages like this. The message is clear – anything that points away from the biblical Jesus is false teaching. Yes, it may resemble the gospel; but unless it is, it isn’t. How could it be, if it isn’t true? And, we can’t have truth without Jesus? Jesus doesn’t just tell the truth, he IS truth.

As much as I hate to say it, if I want to point people to truth, I have to point them to Jesus and not AA. If they flat-out reject Jesus, then, I suppose, I could point a drunk to AA – BUT, I would do so only with a HUGE disclaimer regarding the difference between sobriety and salvation.

Father, please let this message fall on ears that can hear. Many will reject it. Even so, we must be about the business of truth. Amen.

Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers

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