Freedom From Addiction, Part 2
By John Woodward
We have been looking into the subject of compulsive behaviors, stubborn habits, and besetting sins. A more contemporary term for such problems is “addiction.” When a believer in Christ remains shackled in this way, he/she is missing out on a major benefit of his/her spiritual birthright. Our Lord Jesus stated, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin … [however] if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34,36).
What characterizes an addiction? “Alan Lang, in his Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior report to the National Academy of Science, identifies nine such characteristics: Impulsive behavior, Difficulty in delaying gratification, Sensation seeking, Antisocial personality, Nonconformist values, Sense of alienation, Deviant behavior, Heightened feelings of stress, [and] Little regard for goals generally valued by society.” Most of us know what an addiction would mean to us personally. It is the compulsive behavior that violates the standard of 1 Corinthians 6:12 “… All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” And Romans 6:12 admonishes us: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” When a behavior robs us of the freedom that God created us to enjoy, it functions as an addiction.
Entertainment such as television, the Internet, and video games are considered okay in moderation, but they also can become addictive. It is too easy to let the media dominate us; instead of “recreation” (refreshing) it becomes “amusement” (literally–“no thinking”).
Gaining freedom becomes more complicated when the problem behavior involves something one can’t avoid. Take food, for example. Overcoming gluttony is possible, but living without food isn’t! Notice the balance: Scripture says that we are not to “abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature [food source] of God is good [ethically okay], and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:3,4). Yet, many dieters testify that legitimate enjoyment of food can escalate into emotionally-driven overeating (Prov. 23:21). Are you living to eat or eating to live?
How can we enjoy activities without becoming mesmerized by them? Let’s continue to explore God’s promises and provision for freedom from addictive behavior.
In part 1 we compared breaking an addiction with getting a car pulled out of a ditch. Let’s think of Christ as our source of life as the power needed to get out of the “ditch.” What power is ours as believers? God’s Word assures us, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20,21). Do we really believe this? We should, because it’s true! Notice that the preceding verses contain a prayer for strength and enlightenment (Eph. 3:14-19).
We often forget our potential in Christ because we live by feelings instead of faith. Memories of past failures are used by the power of sin to discourage us. Instead, our focus needs to be Christ Himself who lives in us: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith … ” because, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Heb. 12:2; Phil. 4:13).
Knowing the theology of the deeper life, however, does not guarantee freedom from addictive behavior. In fact, some may have come to taste the abundant life, but have become disillusioned because a resistant problem area did not automatically change. How can Christ in us have supreme power if freedom still seems out of reach?
Maybe our “car in the ditch” needs traction! Let’s consider some useful principles that help us harness the power of God and apply it to specific, stubborn habits. Think of these principles as traction boards placed under your car to keep your wheels from spinning.
Freedom Principle 1: The Importance of a DEFINITE DECISION
Freedom from an addiction requires a definite decision to change. It is possible to reject the consequences of negative behavior without dealing the behavior a death blow. You may have made up your mind, but have not made up your will.
Ezra chapters 9 and 10 give us an example of the impact of a definite decision. Some of the Israelites who returned from captivity fell into the sin of marrying pagans. The testimony of God’s people was jeopardized by this breach of faith. The serious nature of such disobedience was confessed by the leaders (9:2); the people repented (9:4) and Ezra led in a prayer of confession (9:5-15). What made the difference in this case? The people made a definite decision. The representatives said, “Let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (Ezra 10:3). They made this decision and implemented it. Although the obedience was painful, it freed Israel from further discipline and safeguarded their mission from God. To break free of a sin pattern, look to Christ for power, but make a definite decision. Write it down in your journal; sign and date it.
Freedom principle 2: An ACCOUNTABILITY RELATIONSHIP
The Bible teaches this truth in various passages: “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9-10,12). You may wonder, “Does this principle imply that God is not enough for me to break free?” No; the “car” has enough power, but it needs “traction.” Even the Lord Jesus used accountability in His discipleship strategy. He had the twelve with Him. When He sent them on a preaching tour, they went in two’s (Mark 3:14; 6:7).
Let’s continue to study this topic in the part 3. May God give you new hope and encouragement to implement these principles through abiding in Christ. With supernatural power and good traction, no “muddy ditch” can keep you from freedom!