Addiction Recovery Is Not My Identity

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

See 1 John 3:1


My addiction recovery used to be my identity, or so I thought. My ministry was centered around it, the things I wrote in my books and posted on social media; all my efforts were pointed toward, “Let me show you what you need to do to quit.”

Sure, I helped some people, but there was a much better way which would germinate into the souls of others and create stronger roots of sobriety. I needed to cut the string of the dangling carrot:

“Give it all you’ve got! Don’t give up! Discipline yourself and you’ll achieve your goal!”

Whereas straining might work at first, white-knuckling is based on trying and not trusting. I needed to teach people to trust God, not try harder. We are branches and He is the vine (see John 15:5). Branches never try to do anything. They simply live while depending on their source of life. They rest and just be. I needed to mature into resting in who I am.

To make matters worse, because of learned legalism, in May of 2014–when I first got sober–I honestly thought I wasn’t saved until I had stopped drinking completely. That was wrong. The truth is, I was saved from the time I believed Jesus as a boy. My mind simply needed to be renewed to the truth of who I am.

Terrible teaching made me think that “stopping sinning” was the goal to prove my salvation. Quitting heavy drinking was on that list of works. A person can attempt to clean up their life all they want, even as an unbeliever. They still need Christ’s life. This is what proves our salvation. His life and nothing else because His life never ends (see Hebrews 7:24-25, John 3:16).

Poor preaching has contorted the minds of many Christians to focus on behavior. Those who struggle with self-righteousness will hurl stones, “So Matt, are you saying we can just sin?!”

Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Paul said all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial (see 1 Corinthians 10:23). You can sin but in your heart you don’t want to sin as a believer. Go ahead and sin, watch what happens. The Spirit within you will reveal every time, “This is not for you.”

You’ll always walk away unfulfilled. Even if you’re in denial about it you’ll know because you’re an actual child of God. You can’t get away from your sinless identity, your righteousness. You’re a slave to it and you’ll be perpetually convicted of your holiness:

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)

I still experience such supernatural counsel just not with drinking anymore. Now, it’s different sins. I may not be getting smashed, blowing money on booze, or making dumb drunk decisions, but I still fail. The lie, “Oh yeah, that’s what you want!” gets me all the time because I really don’t want to sin. I want what God wants and I’ll prove this by walking according to my true nature or by denying myself as a reborn saint (see Galatians 5:17).

SIN DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO ME! But I still choose it sometimes because I’m a human being. Thankfully, when I do, God’s grace abounds (see Romans 5:20, 2 Corinthians 12:9).

I might get a flash-in-the-pan thrill–a fleshy kick–but emptiness is what my spirit experiences each time I fake who I am. Sometimes this remorse happens immediately, and sometimes the following week, month, or year. But anything that is not of faith will never set right with me. I’m a new creation who houses God Almighty–this I can’t refute (see Romans 14:23, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 1:22, 2 Peter 1:4).

We are free to choose to sin without having our sinful choices count against us. That’s the entire basis of the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 10:23, 2 Corinthians 5:19, Acts 20:24). Think about it, what would happen if we do sin? Which we will, a lot. The answer is we’re forgiven. John pens this truth:

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12)

This is called grace and grace infuriates those who don’t see the Cross for all it’s truly worth. Grace causes many behavior-centered people to plot the demise of another.

“It’s not fair! They aren’t getting away with this! There is a point where Christians run out of grace and we get what we deserve!”

No, friend, there’s not. Our sins are not more powerful than the blood of Messiah. Grace abounds. When we mess up we never get what we deserve from God. Maybe we will from planet earth and the people on it, but not from our Creator. With Him, we only get what Christ deserves (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 3:24).

If you don’t believe Jesus, yes, unfortunately you’ll get exactly what you deserve. The Bible says our best efforts are like filthy rags; it warns us, we must be perfect like Jesus if we want to be judged according to our actions and attitudes apart from Him (see Isaiah 64:6, Matthew 5:48, 7:21-23). No human has ever been graded on a curve on their Day of Judgment. It’s pass or fail, sheep or goat (see Matthew 25:31-33, Revelation 20:11-15).

For Christians, here’s how we’ll be judged because of our one-time faith in the Cross:

Repeated sins? Forgiven.
Lifelong sins? Forgiven.
Random sins? Forgiven.

To God, there aren’t different levels of sins; absolute perfection is required (see Hebrews 10:14). All sins deserve death, from gossip to murder (see Romans 6:23). Jesus died. He won’t die for our sins ever again. This is where our identity truly lies. That is, in what He’s done.

So today, my friends, know this: My identity has never been in my recovery. During my binge drinking, each time I got drunk, I was already forgiven. Jesus’ blood had taken away all my sins, not just my sins of debauchery. Even my future sins were forgiven and they still are because all my sins were in the future when Christ died for them. This is the foundation I needed to stand on. I needed to stop trying to express my sobriety and just be myself. How simple. Whatever your struggle may be, Christian, stop struggling. Stop finding your identity in the struggle or lack thereof. Just be you and rest in your forgiveness. God takes it from there.

A prayer for you: Good morning Heavenly Father, what a beautiful sunrise you’ve given me. As I glance out these windows I’m amazed at your artwork of color, wildlife, trees and sky. You’re such an amazing artist but your creativity pales in comparison to your grace. I thank you for it. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Dad, help them to refocus on who you’ve remade them to be. Whatever distraction they’re facing today, remind them who they are, or who they can be, if they’ll place their faith in Jesus, once. These dear believers are your sinless children. They are slaves to nothing except for righteousness. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.

This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 3. Check out my other bestselling books here!

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