When I was a practicing alcoholic, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to stop drinking. I would tell people that I was “on the road” to alcoholism. I figured I’d become one if I didn’t stop drinking. Finally, the day came when I saw myself for what I was: an early middle-stage alcohol addict who wouldn’t live much past age 42 if I didn’t stop drinking. (I’m now well past that mark.)
While I was drinking, I often went to AA meetings. Once there, my craving for alcohol only increased because THAT WAS ALL THEY TALKED ABOUT. Imagine a food addict being surrounded by conversations about food. So, on the way home from meetings, I’d stop by the store and pick up a bottle of wine, finishing it off before bed.
In twelve-step programs, the first step to sobriety is to admit you are powerless against your addiction. Once I did so, I finally got sober, and life changed dramatically. I went from gloom to color. Beauty burst around me. The sky gleamed clear blue. I actually cried when an arsonist set a local school on fire. Life was now so vivid, the craving for alcohol diminished and gradually died.
When I was a practicing sinner, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to stop doing my own thing. Finally, the day came when I saw myself for what I was: a rebel against God who wouldn’t make it to heaven if I didn’t repent of my sins.
Prior to this, I often went to church. Since I was raised in church, I had no objections to it. What I objected to was fanaticism. I didn’t want to be like those churchy people. Yet they said things that baffled me. They seemed to care what God thought of them. They talked about their love for God and His for them. But I just didn’t get it. I’d never experienced that for myself, yet I’d been told all my life that I was a Christian because I’d prayed the “right” prayer as a child. And I certainly didn’t disbelieve the message. I simply didn’t care that much.
But once I admitted I was a sinner separated from God, and repented of my rebellion against him, life changed dramatically. I went from darkness to light, death to life. A new warmth filled my heart. God’s presence was all around me. I now cared what God thought of me.
Thus, in both sobriety and salvation, I found out the hard way that going through the motions doesn’t count.