There is a drug worse than heroin — a drug which is more addictive and harder to withdraw from once you are "hooked." It has caused a number to MISS OUT on salvation! Read what you can do to avoid getting hooked.
THE TYPICAL heroin addict becomes a human derelict. He lives from "fix" to "fix." His whole life becomes totally preoccupied with heroin. He rapidly finds he is an abject slave to the drug. It becomes his god. Worthwhile character traits gradually disappear. In time, boils and abscesses start to break out on the skin. Imaginary fears blight the mind; sometimes insanity occurs, or death from an overdose! Once a person becomes addicted to heroin, there is very little chance that he will ever permanently escape.
The Living Death
The heroin addict literally goes through a "hell on earth" to free himself from the clutches of this drug. The experience of "withdrawal" is excruciating torment, a nerve-shattering ordeal. Severe shooting pains constrict the abdomen, knotting it up like a sheet of corrugated tin. Explosive waves of contraction rake the stomach walls. Addicts experience violent vomiting, often stained with blood. Said ex-boxer Barney Ross, describing his fight with addiction: "Well, you start to scream. The nightmares, all kinds of horrors, you are always thinking that there are monkeys jumping up and down your back. You turn around and see there is nobody there, and find yourself screaming and find yourself on the floor many times from rolling off the bed, and I got to a state one time where I was ready to cut my throat with a razor blade." Yet after enduring this sheer torture, about 95 percent of addicts turn right back to heroin when the chance presents itself. Some addicts have gone through addiction and withdrawal as many as fifty times! That's just how tenacious the grip of heroin is! However, bad as heroin addiction is, there is a spiritual addiction which is far worse. There is a spiritual narcotic which can begin to dominate your life even more than heroin addiction. Brethren, there is a spiritual addiction which also enslaves, captivates, leads to total character degeneration. The spiritual addict's love for God vanishes. His love for God's people turns inside out, his love for God's Law metamorphoses into hate and hostility! He becomes one of the "walking dead," spiritually. The recovery rate of those who become enslaved by "spiritual heroin" is likewise virtually zero. Once hooked, a person's chances are slim indeed! What is this spiritual narcotic -this mind-twisting spiritual drug? How do people become addicted to it? How can YOU AVOID it?
A Poisonous Root
Heroin comes from the opium poppy. The opium is refined into pure heroin, usually smuggled from one country into another, and finally reaches the heroin addicts through "pushers." Spiritual heroin also has its source of supply, and its legion of pushers. Satan the devil is the source and grower of this spiritual poison. He is also the one who "refines" it, boils it down into potent doses, and then injects it into your mind. He doesn't take a hypodermic needle to inject it into a vein — he puts it right where it will do the most damage — into your mind. Satan is also a master pusher. His tactics are subtle — seductive — ever so sly. If you allow him to begin to inject just a little spiritual heroin into your system, at first it will seem to give you a sense of pleasure — a "thrill" — but soon you will be booked, if you continue receiving his doses. Your system will demand more and more. You will crave it, even when there is no more "pleasure" or "thrill" involved. And once you are booked, your chances of escape are almost nil. Seeds of suspicion and doubt will sprout and bear fruit. Discontent, envy, or jealousy will rake your mind. Your mind will become warped, twisted. But just what is this sinister drug? It is a "root of bitterness."
A Grim Warning
The Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any ROOT OF BITTERNESS springing up trouble you, and thereby MANY be defiled" (Heb. 12:14-15). The original Greek word here translated "bitterness" is pikria and means "acridity, especially poison." It has to do with sharpness, pungency, acidity. It might be compared to the taste of a bitter lemon or other harsh, acidic, astringent flavor. The Apostle Peter said of Simon Magus, the arch-apostate and deceiver of his age, "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8:23). That man, as far as history relates, never repented. Despite this admonition straight from God's apostle, he apparently remained in a state of bitterness toward the truth. He perverted the true gospel of Christ and led many people into deception! Paul knew the danger of bitterness. He instructed the Ephesians, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let ALL BITTERNESS, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:30-32). Bitterness is contrary to the fruits of God's Holy Spirit. It is a fruit of the carnal mind — and of Satan the devil. He is, without a doubt, the bitterest being in existence today — bitter against God and all He stands for. Notice the admonition of James: "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This [supposed] wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, DEVILISH. For where envying and strife is, there is CONFUSION and every evil work" (James 3:13-16). Satan is the author of bitterness. He was the first to become embittered against the way of God — the first to become dissatisfied and to allow a "root of bitterness" to spring up in his mind. When any man becomes bitter, he is allowing the worst "pusher" of all time — Satan the devil — to peddle his wares to him. He is going the way of the devil. He may think he has every excuse, every reason to become angry, resentful, bitter — but he is allowing himself to be deceived, twisted in his thinking, warped in his reasoning and filled with addictive poison!
How Some Become Bitter
How does one become addicted to bitterness? Essentially the same way hundreds of thousands in the United States and millions around the world have become addicted to heroin. Evidence shows that the vast majority of heroin addicts actually began by using other drugs — weaker drugs, such as marijuana or LSD. One drug led to another — not necessarily a scientific cause and effect relationship, but an atmosphere of social rebellion and wrong associations certainly encouraged it. The Los Angeles Police Department investigated youths who had been arrested in 1960 for illegal possession of relatively mild marijuana. Within five years, 16 percent had been rearrested for possession or use of heroin! A woman who was a heroin addict for 25 long, miserable years firmly said: "I don't think marijuana leads to heroin and cocaine, I know it. I know a thousand junkies, and they all started with pot, like me." So it is also with spiritual heroin — bitterness. Generally, a person starts out with harboring just a little resentment in his heart — not full-fledged bitterness. He allows a little jealousy, a little envy, a little spirit of dissatisfaction to dwell in his mind. It is comparable to a weaker drug, such as marijuana. He allows this weaker "spiritual drug" to sway his mind; he muses, and contemplates on negative thoughts continually. Gradually his mind becomes filled with such thoughts. Each thought "fix" leads to becoming a little more resentful, more unhappy, more hostile and bitter. Finally he becomes hooked on the hard stuff — the heroin of acute bitterness! But why do some people allow even the FIRST THOUGHTS of resentment and envy to lodge in their minds? Why do some brethren allow such negative poison to even enter their minds in the first place? The answer is simple: they don't really discern the outright deadliness of it — the full danger! Just a little complaining seems innocent enough. Just a little grousing or grumbling about something, whether it is the weather, the job, the boss, the house, the yard, the car, the wife or husband, the children or any number of factors, "won't hurt" — so people reason. "EVERYBODY DOES IT! It doesn't seem to hurt them any. So it won't hurt me, either!" It's not true, of course. But it provides a convenient excuse. So some start complaining and grumbling about God's Church, or His Work, or the way things are done. The spirit of complaining rubs off on them from the world and from their worldly associations. Everybody else seems to do it, so they carelessly follow suit. But brethren, such thinking is absolutely WRONG — fallacious — erroneous. It overlooks the sinister DANGER that a little complaining, or a little bitterness, can become HABIT — ADDICTIVE! After a person becomes accustomed to it, he finds he doesn't want to live without it. It becomes a "crutch" — and before the poor hapless soul realizes it he is HOOKED! Oh, at first there may be a temporary satisfaction one seems to achieve from it. At first there may be a perverse type of euphoric "pleasure" associated with griping and complaining, just as there is a sensation derived from being "spaced out" on drugs. But in the long run, this "pleasure" turns to horror — a nightmarish world of spiritual suffering and death! One day, the hooked person — whether on heroin or bitterness — finds his whole life is "drug-oriented" and his whole future is ruined!
Could It Happen to You?
What about you? Have you been injected with spiritual heroin? Is this spiritual "monkey" about to jump on your back? Have you already allowed a degree of bitterness, resentment or jealousy to enter your mind? Have you begun, ever so slyly, to find fault with God, His Work or His Church? If you know in your heart that you've sinned in this area, then TAKE HEED — repent NOW before it is too late. BANISH all such thoughts from your mind NOW, before you become irrevocably hooked. Get on your knees and implore God's forgiveness before it is too late. Beware also if you feel smug and secure, and think "it could never happen to me." Remember the words of the Apostle Paul: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth cake heed lest he fall" (I Cor. 10:12). Do as the Apostle Paul commands: "EXAMINE YOURSELVES, whether ye be in the faith; prow your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is IN you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Cor. 13:5.) You are in charge of your own mind. Don't allow Satan to inoculate your mind with spiritual heroin. Paul said MANY had been defiled with this spiritual drug in his day (Heb. 12:15). They had allowed rebellion to enter their lives. They had gotten into a wrong frame of mind — a wrong attitude. Soon they became completely ensnared in the tentacles of bitterness and were garroted spiritually.
How to CONQUER Spiritual Heroin
How can you AVOID this terrible fate? What can you do to CONQUER every insidious root of bitterness? If you have tended to associate with people who are "users" of the drug of bitterness, who complain about circumstances, situations, people, places, government, authority or any number of things, then remove yourself FROM SUCH INFLUENCES! Remember another warning the Apostle Paul wrote: "Be not deceived: evil communications [or associations) corrupt good manners" (I Cor. 15:33). Don't maintain close fellowship with people who are bitter. Don't assume that you are strong enough to withstand their evil influence, and maybe you can help them to change and overcome their weakness. Almost certainly thg! will begin to tear down your attitude, you will become weak and sickly, spiritually, and before you know it YOU may become "hooked"! Most drug addicts would freely state that they began using drugs because of associating with others who used them. And many people who are bitter got that way by the identical route! Said the Apostle Paul: "Know ye not that a little leaven [sin] leavens the whole lump? PURGE OUT therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump..." (I Cor. 5:6-7). Solomon warns in the book of Proverbs: "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20). Remember Adam and Eve "associated with," and listened to, Satan. They allowed the serpent to beguile them, partook of the forbidden fruit, and thereby sinned against God. Their "association" with the serpent led to DISASTROUS results, including banishment from Eden and access to the tree of life. Don't take foolish chances, brethren. Don't be like a small child playing with matches, unaware of the holocaust that could ensue.
You should also consider another necessary operation toward the solution of this problem. When drugs were pouring across the Mexican-American border a few years ago, the United States launched a massive campaign to stem the tide. It was called "Operation Intercept." Customs officials searched every vehicle that crossed the border to stop the smuggling. You can do the same thing -launch your own personal "Operation Intercept." Catch those resentful, bitter, envious thoughts at the border of your mind — DON'T EVEN LET THEM ENTER! The Apostle Peter tells us: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom RESIST steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (I Peter 5:8-9). The Apostle Paul carries that instruction a step farther: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the WHOLE ARMOR of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [or wicked spirits] in high places" (Eph. 6:10-12). How are we to resist or fight the devil? We have weapons with which we can fight his spiritual heroin addiction. We have spiritual armor. Notice verses 14-18: We must put on truth, righteousness (obeying God's Commandments), peace, faith, the knowledge of salvation God's Spirit, His Word and faithful prayer! And that's not just spiritual phraseology — it is practical, it Do you pray DAILY to God, seeking spiritual contact with Him' Do you study the Bible, and read it EVERY DAY so you can be strengthened spiritually? Or have you "let up" in Bible study and prayer? Have you begun to neglect these powerful spiritual helps? Bible study and prayer build faith. And with the shield of faith you can "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph. 6:16), including those darts dipped in the poison of bitterness. You must do your part. You must make the effort to GUARD the doors of your mind. God holds YOU responsible for the abundance of your heart's thoughts. But if you allow resentful, jealous, bitter, envious, contentious, hostile thoughts to take root in your mind, you are standing on the brink of spiritual destruction. Spiritual heroin addiction CAN be overcome — before it gets a fatal grip on its victim. With God's help, none need succumb to this bitter "heroin." None need ever become fully and fatally addicted!
Develop a POSITIVE ATTITUDE
The best defense, of course, is an alert, vigorous OFFENSE. In other words, the best way to overcome any spiritual weakness, whether griping, complaining or a generally negative attitude, is to aggressively replace it with a POSITIVE, thankful, appreciative, happy attitude of mind! As Mr. Herbert Armstrong has said, overcoming sin is analogous to getting air out of a milk bottle. The best way to do it is to pour milk or water in, thus displacing the air. Even so, the way to overcome bitterness or any of its attendant species of sin is to replace them with the POSITIVE FRUITS of God's Holy Spirit! Develop a positive, happy, radiant, thankful attitude. Count all your blessings — which, if you really stop to consider them, are innumerable. Brethren, this principle WORKS! It is Biblical, scriptural, and divinely inspired. DON'T THINK on the negative things which may happen from time to time. As an old song says, "ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In-between"! Do as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever- things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS" (Phil. 4:8). If you will follow this apostolic advice, then you will be able to do as Paul says in verse 4: "REJOICE!" You will find a great number of things to be happy about, to rejoice over, and to praise God for. But it all boils down to your basic attitude and frame of mind. You must make the decision as to what you are going to think about. All of us in God's Church have so much to be thankful for. But we do need to stop and count our blessings — often — and not allow ourselves to forget them. It is easy to forget the miracles God has performed in the past, to forget His loving kindness toward us, to FORGET His mercy and patience. It is easy to get overly involved with physical things, to become entirely too engrossed with our jobs, occupations, pleasures, pastimes, families — or our problems, difficulties — and to FORGET the loving hand that is ever ready to intervene for us and to deliver us from trouble! It is easy to forget, and to begin to question God, or decisions made in His Work, and to become disgruntled or embittered at some affront or imagined slight or snub. But, as we have said, the way to eliminate such evil thoughts and reasonings is to replace them with POSITIVE thoughts — STUDYING the Bible every day, drinking in of those positive examples and case histories in the scriptures which inspire and stimulate us to draw close to God. Entering the Kingdom of God is not as easy as rolling off a log. It requires positive, diligent EFFORT. The Apostle Paul declared, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) CASTING DOWN imaginations [or reasonings), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into CAPTIVITY EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10:3-5). Examine your life. Have you been as cheerful, radiant, contented, happy as you should be? Have you been as thankful, appreciative, and joyous as you should be? Or have you allowed a measure of resentment, a bit of envy, or an ounce of carnal comparisons to twist and pervert your thinking? Have you been expressing the fruits of God's Holy Spirit — LOVE, JOY, PEACE — in the way you lead your life? Or have you been negligent? Check up on yourself.
"Nobody Beats It"
One young drug addict told others who might be tempted to try heroin: "When I started, it was a big kick. I was doing something nobody else was doing. It was a thrill. But now I know better.... "I would tell kids today, don't go near it. Don't think you can beat it. NOBODY BEATS IT." His words apply equally well to spiritual heroin. Don't go near it! Don't think you can beat it. NOBODY beats it! If you think you are an exception — that you can "toy" with wrong attitudes, or "play around" with spiritual heroin — complaining, griping, grumbling — if you think you can get away with it, then you are kidding yourself. Far too many have made this mistake — and have paid the consequences. Don't let it happen to you!