The Self-Made god or the Real One (Addiction)

For even if there are so–called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and through Whom we live.    I Corinthians 8:5-6

I was talking with an addict recently who was avidly saying that she believed in “God,” but that she wasn’t a Christian, or a Buddhist, or anything like that.  I suggested that what she really believed was that she could beat the addiction on her own, and that the god that she “believed” in was only there to merely help a little here and there, to do a little fine tuning here, and perhaps do a fill-in there where she needed a little help.  After a bit of thought, she replied that that was pretty much the way she felt.

So basically she built her own god, built from something which she likes here, something that she thinks it ought to be like there, in a way a sort of hodge-podge of hopeful ideas.

Then I asked how then does she know that this god is real?  Indeed you can build a god the way you want it to be, but how do you know that this god is really what is there?  What evidence is there that it really is paying attention to you and cares what goes on in your life?

My dad referred to a passage from Isaiah 44 as “The Oriental Woodsman.”  It’s the story of a woodsman who goes out and fells a tree, then sets about using the lumber to warm himself, to bake his bread, and to roast his food.  With the leftover he makes himself a god, falling down and worshipping it, praying to it, pleading for deliverance from his problems.  God sums it up, “No one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire; Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make of the residue what is repulsive? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ ” [v 19].

Then in Jeremiah 10:3  “one cuts a tree from the forest with the ax, the work of the workman’s hands …. They must fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. … it cannot speak; it must be carried because it cannot go by itself.  Do not fear it – it cannot do evil, nor can it do any good.”

The sarcasm of these two passages is that how often the “gods” of humans have been the leftovers of what doesn’t work anywhere else.  In Jeremiah, God calls out the foolishness of worshiping something which has to be propped up and carried around because it is so helpless on its own – and yet is looked to as savior during times of fear and stress.

In other words, a god which you have patched together, whether of wood and stone or whether it is simply in the mind, really is even less powerful than you are.  You turn to it for help and since it is only a construct of your mind, there is no external power to supply where you are lacking.  It cannot help you at all.  You need more than what you have inside, because you know that has never been enough.  Obviously you cannot overcome the addiction already – so how can something you construct in your mind have anything more than what you already have?

What a dilemma!  You want help, but only on your own terms.  And how has that worked for you?  That attitude has failed time and again.  Yet you keep going back to that mentally-patched-together god, and all you have for your efforts is another failure, another discouragement, another depression.

This has been the problem with false gods throughout history.  They cannot be better than we are, they cannot give us hope for something different, because all they are is simply what lies within us already, merely juggled around under a different name – but no more powerful, no more helpful, and not providing any new resource in our battle against that which has made us victims already.

You go to treatment, and for a while it works because finally here is something outside you which steps in to supply what you lack.  And yet that doesn’t really work because what is inside you seeks to rebel against any self-discipline which is encouraged, avoiding any determined commitment on your part, rejoicing in even the smallest sabotage of the treatment’s intent – the inner nature wants to escape the help and it looks forward to when the treatment is over, so that it can go back to what it has been all along.

You want a god which makes no demands of importance and consequence on you, and yet on the other hand, you cannot demand anything from it either, since it can make no concrete commitment or promises of its own.  You want change without cost or responsibility, which requires no active participation from you – and yet since this god’s help is only imagined, you can expect nothing different from it, neither its responsibility nor its active participation.

The god of your own mind isn’t helping, but you don’t want to face the real God.  You’re afraid of Him.  In your mind, your self-created god is nice, loving and forgiving, but you expect the real God is most likely a fun-killer, angry, demanding, condemning, and intent on punishing you – because if He were so kind and loving, then you wouldn’t need the patched-together god.  The ironic thing is that both are imagined gods and reflect only what are inside of you.  The anger, demands, and condemnations come out of yourself, and so also does powerful yearning for peace, forgiveness, and esteem which the wished-for fabricated god cannot provide.
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The frustration is having no place to take the judgment and condemnation except to the god within your own mind, and therefore it never gets outside of you.  You want forgiveness, but you can’t get it from inside yourself because inside you knows all too well what has been destroyed and ruined in your own life, in the life of the people who love you, and in how the world around you has been affected.  You want to be approved and lifted up, but how can the god of your mind do that when it rises out of the desperate fear at the bottom of your self image?

That’s why you return to the addiction and why the god of your mind is helpless against it: because its forgiveness merely hangs in the air, it has no strength and no solid shape – it has no real power to address any of the driving forces of your habit.  And all the addiction does is to merely add more and more to the huge dark mass of what sits in your mind.  No, a patched-together-god in your mind cannot help.

It is time, then, to look at something which is real – so real that it is actually historical dealing with actual physical places and times.  It is a God so real that He is written about by actual eyewitnesses, and actual events are recorded concerning Him.  He is a God Who can be challenged in regard to His promises, because they are written for any and all to read.  It is a God whose forgiveness is attached not to an imagined or a romanticized wishful thinking but to as a concrete a reality as a cross and empty tomb.

In the recent shootings in Las Vegas, we speak about the husband who died while shielding his wife with his body. We are overcome by how strong his love was which would go that far for the sake of his beloved  The god of your mind cannot prove how much it loves you by dying for you, because we immediately recognize that such an action by this god can only be a romantic daydream.

But the real God can do and did that very thing.  He said He would, and wrote it all down from the time when Adam and Eve first rebelled in the Garden of Eden and then down through the Psalms and the prophets, identifying detail after detail of the what, when, where, and how of what He would actually do in Person for the sake of His beloved – for you.  You can’t make it casual by saying He knew He would rise in three days – not when He struggled in the Garden of Gesthemane to the point of sweating Blood, and crying out how He wished there could be some other way.

This is not a god romantically manufactured in the mind – this is a God Who has given us as concrete a proof as is possible of your significance to Him and His intentions toward you.  If He is going to give Himself like that, then you know He is not all about condemning and punishing you.  Instead He proves that He wants you to have Life, in fact far beyond what life that that husband in Las Vegas could give to his wife.

This reveals something about the dark mass which sits in your mind.  You can actually be rid of it.  It can be loaded on the cross and be trucked away “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins (rebellions, transgressions) from us” [Psalm 103:12].  But how can that be done?  How can it be done in such a way as to finally silence the accusing part of your memory – the self-condemnation regarding how you have destroyed and ruined so much in yourself and for others in your world?  How can you do it so as to receive freedom from the powers which drive your addiction?

This revolves around “repentance.”  Repentance is more than feeling sorry countless times about how much you have messed up.  Rather it is to lay out everything – everything – on the table before the Lord, but more!  It is to also turn away, to turn your back on what created the dark mass.  It is to renounce actions, speech, thoughts, and memories which only encourage this darkness, as you instead focus on the Love, Life, and promises which the true God sets before you, desiring what is in store for you not just for this moment, but for tomorrow and forever.

You now have freedom to tell your nagging conscience that every single piece of the negative past is in the hands of the Lord and you will have nothing to do with it any more – “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1].

God is very concerned about being concrete and real, so much so He has definite physical proofs for your constant reassurance that everything He does and promises are not just imagined.  He uses real water for Baptism so that you can go back to a specific time and place as proof of His placing you into the closest relationship of Love that earth and heaven can offer – you are His child whom He has forgiven.  In Holy Communion He gives a constantly repeating strengthening for you to know that in your struggle against addiction you need never be alone, that He is attacking the very roots of this habit, to remove the darkness and replace it with a freedom which lasts forever.

His works and promises in His unbreakable Word are always there to demonstrate again and again His unyielding commitment to You.  And then He surrounds you with His People, a People who in their own experience have traveled the same road to the cross and to the life of the resurrection, so that they are equipped to encourage your commitment as you come closer to the real God.

The hodge-podge god of your mind clearly cannot compete with the real God when it comes to solid, powerful and real effect against those things which have enslaved you.  If you really want something to happen in your life, then this outside real God must enter in to clean out the darkness and bring the Glory of His Love and promises into you.

1 thought on “The Self-Made god or the Real One (Addiction)”

  1. Oluwafemi Owoeye

    Hmmm…so deep and well explained.
    Self made god is a delusion and distraction.
    It deludes man of real God.
    Addiction is a process. It is like a constructing a house . One block at a time until it becomes a full building. After the great fall of adam, man has embarked on making his own god. The fall of adam changed the nature of man. Man became a selfish being and turned against God . Addiction set in as well. Man became addicted to lies, self gratification, deception etc. The way out of this addiction is for man to seek the real God and be transformed, renewed and be delivered from the Lies of darkness.

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