Mark Maulding is a legitimate “grace man.” For more than 20 years, he’s counseled and taught thousands that there’s a much easier way to live as a Christian. This “easier way” can replace anxiety with peace, depression with joy, and bondage for victory. It’s a grace to welcome Mark to the farm’s front porch today…
Drew sat down in front of me and I could tell he was miserable.
He talked about how he and his wife, Kono, fought and argued a lot about money.
However, Drew revealed the real reason: he had a cocaine addiction.
“One day I skipped work, got the cocaine, and used it at home while Kono was at her job. Afterward, I promised God and myself I wouldn’t do it again. But a week later, I slipped up again and got some more cocaine. Kono came home early and caught me. She went ballistic, and we started arguing. After things calmed down, I promised her I’d never do it again.”
“Is it possible that you have learned to cope with stress and negative feelings by your addiction to cocaine?”
I pressed further.
“When you feel the temptation to do cocaine, do you feel as though two sides within you are battling each other? For instance, do you tell yourself you don’t want to do cocaine, but also feel attracted to the temptation?”
“Yes, exactly!” Drew exclaimed. “It scares me to feel so hypocritical inside. I thought being a Christian was supposed to help get rid of temptation. Instead I feel like there is a good Drew who is getting overmatched by a bad Drew. I want to do the right thing, but I still do the wrong thing.”
Drew’s situation is similar to what many Christians feel about life today—stuck and hopeless.
A major part of this problem is that they don’t know who they really are.
This is an alarming problem, because true identity is one of the most central truths God wants us to know.
The Bible shouts this truth so loudly that you can’t miss it.
But a confusing misconception can lead many Christians to doubt their true identity.
The misconception is the lie from Satan that we are holy and evil at the same time.
Do you ever feel as though two equal powers are inside you with completely opposite desires? Some people may tell you your old self is like a ferocious dog living inside of you, terrorizing you and other people. It controls you and makes you commit all kinds of sins.
In contrast, they say the new self is like a wonderful, loving dog that always wants to be with you. It protects you and leads you to do what God wants. It’s the reason you can resist temptation.
According to this illustration, the dog you feed the most will be the one that wins the battle.
The Bible tells us we have only one self.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, God created a new you that was resurrected with Him. This resurrected new self is clarified in a familiar verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
We tend to think of a “saint” as someone who lives a particularly godly life.
But the word saint simply means a holy person. God calls you a saint based on your new birth in Christ, not because of your behavior.
Even though Christians can commit all kinds of sins, those behaviors don’t define them. The reality is that if they sin, they are saints who are sinning.
When my children were young, I heard a big commotion with yelling and running. My son Ben was chasing his younger brother, Christopher, and yelling, “You’re a tattletale! You’re a tattletale! I’m going to get you!”
Ben had been disciplined by my wife because Christopher told her something Ben did, and he wasn’t happy about it. Ben kept yelling those same words at him until Christopher finally yelled back over his shoulder, “I’m not a tattletale! I’m a truth teller!” To have the last word, Ben said, “Well, you’re a truth teller who tattletales!”
That’s like what God says about us. We are saints who commit different kinds of sins, but we are still saints!
As I counseled Drew, I asked him, “Have you taken on the identity that you’re an addict because of your addiction?”
“Yes, especially based on some of the recovery programs I’ve attended,” he said. “I still believe I’m a recovering cocaine addict.”
I responded, “Drew, I understand why recovery programs have people say, ‘Hi, my name is Drew. I am an addict.’ They want people who believe they can stop their addiction anytime to come out of their denial.
But as Christians, we need to approach it differently.
We need to say, ‘Hi, my name is Drew. I am a child of God who is sinning through my addiction.’
Here is the important difference: God does not define us as Christians by our behavior. God defines us by our birth.”
To make sure Drew saw the difference, I continued, “Do you see who God says you really are? Do you understand how this truth can free you from your addiction?”
“Yes, I do. If my identity is that of an addict, the most normal thing for me to do would be to live addicted. But if my identity is that of a child of God who is a saint, the most normal thing for me to do would be to live free from my addiction.”
One day Drew came in to see me. He said, “Mark, I finally get it! I see what you’ve been trying to tell me. I’m the righteousness of God in Christ, not a sinner. I am who God says I am. I am more than a conqueror in Christ, not an addict!”
About a year after Drew finished his counseling, he called me to say he had not done cocaine since we’d last met.
He had been tempted several times, but he had relied on Jesus to defeat his temptation with the truth of his new identity in Christ.
One of the best aspects of Christianity is the reality that we have only one self, which is holy, loving, good, and complete in Christ.
It could happen — there could be a walking in this truth today and a deep experiencing of the incredible and real freedom God offers…
Mark Maulding is founder of Grace Life International, one of the largest Christian counseling and teaching ministries in America. A speaker, counselor, and leadership coach, Maulding is a regular blogger who is passionate about sharing the transforming message of God’s grace with a world in desperate need of it. He and his wife, Ellen, have four adult children, including a daughter with Down syndrome who, along with her three brothers, recently finished college. They live near Charlotte, North Carolina.
In God’s Best-Kept Secret, Mark explores our preconceived notions of living the Christian life, freeing us to stop just going through the motions and to experience true fulfillment. As he explains commonly misunderstood Bible verses, you will discover that following God is not as complicated as we often make it out to be. And the answer to our struggles has been hiding in plain sight all along.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]