Get Rid of Them!

Gary had returned to my office for a follow up visit. When I saw him over a month ago, his goal was to quit smoking. He was a young fellow in his 30’s, married and with a six year old daughter who accompanied him on today’s visit. He had tried quitting on his own several times in the past, each effort ending in failure. He had heard about Zyban, the new “miracle drug” for smoking cessation and wanted to give it a try. After evaluating him, I concurred that the use of this particular medicine would be indicated, and even perhaps helpful to him. The medicine was prescribed. Gary was counseled in its use and sent on his way to implement our treatment plan.

As I walked into the exam room to see Gary today and learn of the progress he had made in “kicking the habit,” my eye was drawn immediately to the bulge in his shirt pocket. What do you suppose I spotted there? Right! A pack of Marlboros! I asked Gary if he had been successful in giving up cigarettes. He seemed quite pleased to report that he was smoking “only” four cigarettes a day. Is this his measure of success, I wondered? The goal was to quit smoking. The planned treatment to help reach this goal, if implemented properly, should have been successful by this time. I then learned that Gary was not taking the Zyban regularly, and that he had continued to carry a pack of cigarettes with him every day since I had seen him last. In other words, that which would help him beat the dependency on cigarettes was not being consistently utilized, and that upon which he had become dependent was still being carried around with him every day. Gary had a problem he wanted to solve, but he wasn’t willing to get rid of the temptation that created the problem in the first place.

Don’t we have a similar problem in getting rid of sin in our lives today? We say we love Jesus. We say we want to obey Him fully. We say we want our sins forgiven. We say we want to go to heaven when we die. Then we fail to daily apply the remedy for sin, the gospel, to our lives (Rom. 1:16). We not only fail to daily utilize God’s remedy for sin, we often deceive ourselves into thinking that we can continue in sin so long as we are sinning less, or at the very least, have made some improvement. We now feel comfortable in rationalizing that a reduction in sin is equivalent to the elimination of sin in our lives.

In Colossians 3:9, the apostle Paul reminded the Colossian brethren that they must “put off the old man and his deeds.” When one becomes a Christian, he must die to sin (Rom. 6:2). That is, get rid of it! Do not allow those temptations to which one might easily succumb occupy a place in one’s life. That is what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 4:27. Don't “give place to the devil.” That is, don’t put yourself in a compromised position which will give Satan the upper hand in tempting you to do wrong. A person who is tempted to gamble shouldn’t go to bingo games or Riverboat casinos. One who is tempted to drink alcohol should not frequent bars or keep “strong drink” in his house for medicinal purposes. We need to flee from those things which tempt us to sin (1 Cor. 6:18). We need to rid our lives of them!

Gary was given a new prescription for Zyban and encouraged not to carry cigarettes with him every day as had been his custom. I asked him to come back in a month for a follow up visit. However, I could not get a commitment from him to set a stop smoking date. I have an uneasy feeling that next month, when he returns, a pack of Marlboros will again be in his shirt pocket.