A Cold Confession

Scripture: Romans 6:23, Romans 6:12-18, 1 John 2:1-2
Date: 12/05/2015 
Do you have deep dark secrets? Something that you haven't shared with anyone and you wonder if you'll ever get the victory? Watch this message by Pastor Doug for hope and assurance from God's Word.

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Doug Batchelor: I praise God because I was a slave. It controlled my time. It took my money. It--at the end of the day, it had to be part of my day. It was like I associated it with comfort. It was almost emotional, but I was addicted.

I'm going to be sharing something very personal with you and making a confession. You've heard it said before: confession is good for the soul, but very bad for the reputation; and that may be the case today. But your pastor was addicted and involved in substance abuse for over 30 years. Yeah, you guys--they got the substance there on the screen right now.

Now, you think I'm kidding, but I had a very serious problem with an addiction to ice cream. Now, when I get done, you describe--you let me know what you think that--if it fits the definition. I don't know exactly when it began, but I know it started a long time ago. And my substance abuse started innocently enough. And I want to make it clear right from the beginning. I'm not saying that ice cream is a sin. Is that clear? But it got to the place where it was for me. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "Therefore, whether you eat or whether you drink, do all to the glory of God." And I certainly was not doing it to the glory of God.

Now, I don't know if any of you remember a day where years ago they had an ice cream man that would go up and down the neighborhood and a bell would ring and a song would play. I don't remember what the song is. Anyone remember the Good Humor man? Do you have happy memories on those hot summer days and you'd hear that music? It was like the gates of heaven had opened up, right? And you'd hear that music playing and this little white truck would come out, and all the kids would crowd into certain set spots in the street and just about throw themselves in front of his vehicle. And he would step out, and usually he was friendly, and there in the truck he had his dried ice, it was always so amazing to me. He showed me a piece of the dried ice and the fog billowing out, and he'd pull out these exotic treats.

And I remember some of my favorites were--they had one called a rainbow rocket. It was a double popsicle. Had two sticks that went up through it. You could break it in half and share with a friend. So I often would split a rainbow rocket. I'm sure it was full of colors and chemicals and things, but it was delicious. It's probably all corn syrup. They had another one that was orange with vanilla inside. It was an orange popsicle with vanilla, anyone? They still make those? But it goes way back. And I remember that it was so important to me. I couldn't understand why my grandmother would not give me 10 or 25 cents, it's all it was back then, every day. And she said, "It's a treat. You can't have it every day."

And I am ashamed to tell you that I vividly remember stealing money from my grandmother. She--this is one of my earliest memories. She hung her black leather purse over the doorknob of her bedroom, and inside her purse she had another little purse that had one of those very difficult snaps on it that you had to twist. It was the change purse. And she caught me one day. I don't know how many times I did it. More than once.

That's where my life of crime began. It was for ice cream money. Do you see? And then I went to live with Dad, and that's when it really started to get serious, is-- in Florida, we actually had--I know you don't think of Miami Beach having milkmen, but we had a milkman. And I looked up online to see they're still in business. The company was called McArthur Dairy. And they would bring the milk to the door, and my stepmother would fill out a form and--wasn't every day, but like every other day he would bring the order. But this was really neat. In Miami Beach, the milkman not only brought milk, they brought fresh-squeezed Tropicana orange juice in a jar, a glass jar, and they would squeeze it that day and you'd get fresh orange juice-- and they brought ice cream.

Now, we always knew when he was coming because you can't leave your ice cream out on the porch for very long. And--you know, I didn't--I was living with my dad and my stepmother and my stepbrother. My brother was sick, and I was struggling during those years. One of the treats for me was I would take a half a pint of ice cream and pour in Tropicana orange juice and mix it all. It reminded me of those orange things the Good Humor man had. It was really good, but it got to where my stepmother started saying, "Who ate all the ice cream?" Because I was eating all of the ice cream. I mean, I started doing it every day, and I really enjoyed it. It was the highlight of my day.

But then things really turned from bad to worse because summer came and I needed to find a job. And guess where I got a job? I got a job working at Baskin-Robbins. Karen and I were in Miami Beach not too long ago. I took her by, tried to find where the old ice cream shop was, and I guess it's not there anymore in Lincoln Mall. But I worked at "31 Flavors," and the owner was Lee Scott. And I remember when he hired me, I was only like 14, 15 years old and I said--when he was hiring me, I said, "Now, I'm just wondering, are we allowed to eat the product?" He said, "No problem." He says, "You can eat as much as you want. You'll get tired of it."

I never even got close to getting tired. He had--now, you know, Baskin-Robbins is called 31 not because they've got 31 flavors. They guarantee having 31 flavors in the store at any given time. They have hundreds of flavors, and we had new flavors rotating in all the time. And I'm not kidding you, I would eat a pralines and cream banana split for lunch and then I'd have a hot fudge mocha sundae for dinner. And it's amazing when you're a teenager what you can do to yourself, and you feel indestructible, but I really was-- it was getting bad. I mean, I ate a lot of ice cream. And the problem was I was not only now a user, I was a dealer.

But I worked there until I ran away from home, and--then it was hit and miss on the road for a little while with ice cream. But even when I moved up into the mountains in a cave, no refrigeration obviously. It--very long way to town, grueling height, but it was the desert. Back then, they had Thrifty's drugstores everywhere. I don't see Thrifty's drugstores. Evidently, they're out of business. I don't know if you can still get Thrifty's ice cream. But in all their drugstores, they had an ice cream counter. Do you remember? Well, I'm not kidding. Do any of you remember when it was a nickel a scoop? And you could get a triple scoop for 15 cents. Go try and find that. But when you're living in a cave in a desert, you got no refrigeration. The highlight for me was to go panhandle and see if I could get 15 cents. I would beg on the street and say, "Could I please have 15 cents for something to eat?" I didn't tell them what I was going to eat, but it's true. I would spend my last 15 cents on ice cream.

And I remember--I wasn't the only one. A lot of the street people, it was a big deal. And there were others that were living in the desert. Most of them lived in the first valley. I lived way back in the canyon. And I remember I was hanging out on the street one day with my friends and some kid had walked out of Thrifty's with a triple scoop of ice cream. And he wasn't paying attention and the ice cream guy at the counter--you know, at Thrifty's when you got your ice cream, the same guy that worked the cash register, he worked the counter, and he didn't always know what to do with ice cream. And so he didn't press--that first scoop has to get pressed down into the cone or it can become detached, and he had a triple scoop. And this kid walked out on the street and he turned and the thing fell off the cone. But it landed--not flat, it landed still intact with three scoops like the Tower of Pisa, sticking straight up. And the kid began to cry, and the parents, "Oh, come on in, we'll get you another one," and they walked in the store.

I'm standing there with my friends and we're looking at that, and I said, "You know, only part of that hit the ground, kid didn't even lick it yet. And if he did lick it, the part he licked is the part on the ground; the other stuff is still good." And while we were processing that, before I could act on my thought, my friend Richie got down on all fours and he began to eat the ice cream off the street like that. Really I didn't do it, but I thought about it because I thought, "That's some perfectly good ice cream that's going to waste right now." And I was mad that Richie did it first because I really had it pretty bad. And I wouldn't just eat one triple thing of ice cream, I would eat one when I arrived at town and then later in the day I'd get another one before I went up the hill, and that would have to last me.

You know, I used to wonder why was it so important to me, and I later found out there was a study. Believe it or not, there's medical research. "Journal of Clinical Investigation," this is a study done in 2011. A team of researchers led by Lukas Van Oudenhove, University of Belgium, they were publishing images of brain activity during times of sadness, and they had 12 volunteers that had their brain scanned with an MRI and also agreed to have a feeding tube put into their stomach. Then they were shown images and played some neutral or sad music and shown neutral or sad images, and then they would rate how they felt on a scale of one to nine. And when they were feeling sad, they would then inject in their stomachs a solution.

Some of them got a salt solution. They didn't know what was going in their stomach. Some of them would get a fat solution that would be similar to what you would find in ice cream, and then they would evaluate them afterward. And they found out in almost every case those who were sad after being given the fatty solution, it says the effect was significant. In a pharmacological sense, the fatty solution reduced the intensity of sad emotions by almost half, which is about as much as any prescription antidepressant can achieve. And so you are wondering why you thought ice cream was comfort food. They finally done research to say it actually does work as an antidepressant. So I guess you could say I was addicted to antidepressants, but it came in the form of Haagen-Dazs, and it was pretty serious. Now, you think I jest.

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Doug: You know, the Bible says that a little bit of certain things is okay, but something can be taken to an extreme and it becomes sin. Ecclesiastes 10:17, "Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time--For strength and not for drunkenness!" I mean, it was to excess with me. And then even when I moved out of the cave, I lived for a while--I had a meat business, lived in Palm Springs. I am not kidding you. I would eat ice cream every night, and I would more than once eat a half a quart. And then even after I moved into the hills in Covelo and I got baptized, this is when it, I think, got really serious.

You know, when you give up your addictions and you only got a few left, you overcompensate. And as I gave up the drugs and the smoking and the drinking, all I had left was the ice cream. Then you really go overboard. And I remember living up in Covelo, I would quote the Bible and I'd say, "God is taking us to a land flowing with milk and honey. God believes in ice cream. This is heavenly food." I mean, why would He say that He's going to take them to a land of milk and honey--and then I went to the store and I found Haagen-Dazs honey vanilla. I said, "Praise the Lord. This is biblical." And I had Scripture for it.

But, you know, there is a verse that says if you found honey--Proverbs 25:16, "Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit." Some things that are good, that are meant to be a treat, that God would bless, you can do to excess.

Now, this is a very important principle of what I'm sharing with you today. And I know you're laughing, and I'm meaning for you to, and some of what I'm saying is tongue in cheek, but I'm sharing this odyssey with you because it relates to real life. What I'm sharing with you is true, I'm not making this up. I mean, I was addicted. Now, I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but when I traveled and I stayed at a hotel, one of the first things I'd do is I'd find out where's a 7-Eleven. When I was going to a hotel to do a meeting and Bonnie said, "Well, they've got a shuttle that goes to the airport," I'd say, "Well, I'm going to need a rental car." "Well, we won't need--" I said, "Well, you know, I might need to get something to eat and--" But you know what I was thinking? Hotel was too far away from ice cream. Was at this conference center, and I needed a car so I could get ice cream.

And then when I realized that here I had rented a car and Amazing Facts' supporters were paying for me to have a rental car so I could get ice cream, I felt guilty and so I refunded the money. And it occurred to me that ice cream cost me $35 a pint. I'm not kidding. It was that bad. Only once or twice did I order room service; $8 for ice cream, and then you want to tip the person who brings it because I'd tell them, "Please hurry." Because they'd bring it to you all melted and then it's no good.

Then I realized this is just starting to-- "This has gone too far," I thought, "I got a problem." And so I started praying about it. I said, "Lord, I got to stop eating ice cream." Certainly anything that is preoccupying my day--my father was an alcoholic, and I think I've got that nature. My father would plan his day around alcohol. When he made lunch appointments, he wouldn't just take a person to a restaurant because he liked the food. The restaurant had to first and foremost have alcohol, then they figure out what else they had. And then after work, he'd stop at the bar. And if he went on vacation, it had to be somewhere where there was a bar. And if he went on a fishing trip or if he went racing or whatever he did, there was always the ice chest with alcohol. His whole life, that was just-- had to be there in the picture.

And I was realizing ice cream was doing that to me. I'd get on TV in front of everybody, preach about the health message, do a back handspring, and then go home and eat a pint of Haagen-Dazs. Yes, sometimes I'd eat a whole pint. The average American eats 42 pints of ice cream a year. I was eating about 120. I'm not exaggerating. And then I'd go to the doctor, he'd say, "Doug, cholesterol looks good. Blood pressure okay?" I'd say, "Not bothering me." And I had all these rationalizations, but I knew I was addicted. "How do you know?" Because I couldn't stop. I'd spend my last 15 cents on ice cream.

You know, Jesus talks about this where He said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers." In Luke 11, "Woe to you, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers." So I'd preach a sermon on gaining the victory over sin when I was a slave.

Now, I--the reason I picked this subject-- and I prayed about this. I think the Lord wanted me to talk to you about this. The same dynamics that I struggled with are real in our lives on something that is a lot more serious. Some people maybe it's not ice cream. Maybe it's alcohol. There are people that go to church and they go through the motions of being a Christian and they've got an addiction to shopping, they can't control it. They do it for comfort. It could be some drugs. Some people sit at the computer and they're addicted to other things. It might be pornography, and it's like you live a secret life. There's a lot of different ways that it plays out.

Jesus doesn't just come to save us in our sin; He comes to save us from our sin, and He can. And you'll have a peace and a joy when He does that's unlike anything you can imagine. Romans 6, verse 12. This was our memory verse. "Therefore do not let sin reign."

Now, God didn't say that we're never going to stumble and fall. He says if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father. What He does say, though, is sin should not reign over you. "In your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourself to God as being one alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

Jump down to verse 17 in Romans 6. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness leading into more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for holiness." And He goes on to say in verse 23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

You know, if you look up higher in the same chapter, Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient." You might even find something that inherently may not be bad, but it is out of balance in your life and it's taking up your time. Some people, they are addicted to a TV program. I know it's hard to-- for us to understand it. Sometime the things that tempt you may not tempt me. You might laugh at what was a problem for me. "Oh, you got a problem? I don't understand it." But it's not your problem, it was my problem. Who knows why?

But those same people--I know people that are Christians, a lot of them, and at a certain time every day they've got to be where a TV is or they tape it. And they've got to watch a soap opera because they have gotten sucked into this artificial-- now, I don't laugh at that. I cannot understand how people will look at these actors going through these bizarre things on TV saying, "Oh, no, was it with her?" "Yes, it's with her." "Oh--but did you kill him?" "No, I kill--" And they're going "Aaah," they're crying and they're watching all this. I've tried to give Bible studies to people who--they got the soap opera on and they say, "Well, just a minute--ahh!" And why can't they get--I can't understand it, but it gets ahold of them. And their lives revolve around that program "As My Stomach Turns," or whatever it's called. And it takes over their life. And for most people, it's not an issue.

Now, I don't know what your temptation is. We're all different. Some of you are Peter, some are James, some are John, some are Mary, some are Martha. The devil knows what it is, and he wants to get ahold of you so that it controls you, that it sort of becomes the defining influence in your life instead of Jesus being the one who's in control of your life, and at some point--the first step is you got to--like I did, you got to say, "This is out of control. I got a problem. And, Lord, I need Your help." And it's not a good witness.

You know, when--up in the hills near our cabin, we've got a few trees that are nice-looking trees. And I was out walking one day, and I remember seeing that this poison oak vine was beginning to go up a rather picturesque oak tree up there in the hills, and I didn't think much of it. Now, usually poison oak, it just kind of crawls along the ground, it's not very big, or it might get up in the manzanita bushes a little bit. But they are vines, and unencumbered they will continue to grow and they get pretty massive.

And a few years later, I went walking by that same tree and I noticed that the poison oak vine had wrapped around and was going up into the tree and that was creating a lot of weight on the branches, taking over the whole lower half of this very big majestic oak tree which normally would be very strong and independent. And I realized that something had to be done or--when the snow came, it was going to-- the weight was going to take that tree down. All it took was chainsaw and one cut, and I knew it would die. Even though I made the cut, the vine was still hanging there, but I wasn't worried anymore because once I knew I made the cut, it was going to die. And sure enough, as time went by, the vine rotted, it blew out of the tree, and the tree continued to flourish and stand strong.

Some of us know we've got tendrils. And they start small in our lives, but they'll continue to grow and wrap themselves around your life and start sapping the strength and distracting your energy and your time from what God wants you to do.

Now, I'll interpret your silence to mean that maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and you know that there's things in your life that are out of balance. It may be something that-- outwardly is harmless as ice cream. It may be something more serious. It might be a serious substance abuse, or practice, or relationship that is unhealthy. And you need to say, "Lord, I can't do this without Your help." And you come to Jesus and you confess that you need supernatural intervention, and the Lord can give you the victory and you will rejoice. And it is so nice when you can look back and say, "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last."

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