When a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that provides temporary pleasure and then such acts become compulsive and interfere with ordinary life responsibilities, he or she is said to be an addict. Addictive behavior is widespread and is one of the reasons many addicts turn to Christ for help. Jesus has a special message for them and a special plan to help them. As the body of Christ to our generation, shouldn’t the church be part of that plan?
We are talking about addiction for two reasons. First, because the church usually doesn't, choosing to remain silent on the issue or opting only to condemn. And second, sin is never a private matter; it impacts those around us emotionally and physically. Consider how King David's lust affected Bathsheba, her husband, and his own children. What about us? What behaviors do we repeat over and over again expecting a different result? Just one more swig, one more hit, one more look on the Internet? Webster's Dictionary defines addiction as the surrender of oneself to something obsessively and habitually. While addiction as we know it doesn't appear in the Bible, its meaning is present in other words: captive, slave, and prisoner. Interestingly, the only time the Bible uses the word addicted is when Paul described how the house of Stephanas was "devoted"—translated addicted in the King James Version—"to the ministry of the saints" (1 Corinthians 16:15). In other words, God's priorities were their priorities. The Bible says that our own nature—the flesh—poses the greatest danger when it comes to getting addicted to something that will pull us away from God and His priorities. Read Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 Peter 2:11-12, and James 1:13-15. We are all captives of sin whom Christ has set free. How are the before and after pictures of our lives presented?
Jesus has good news for addicts (see Luke 4:16-20). In the first public sermon of His ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61, a prophecy that described everyone Jesus came to set free: the poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed. We all arrived in this world flawed. For some, the fleshly pull is profound and manifests itself in life-dominating sin that "so easily ensnares us" (Hebrews 12:1). Fortunately, Jesus made it clear that He came to "preach the gospel to the poor" (Luke 4:18). The gospel is good news! Jesus died, was buried, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven...for us (see 1 Corinthians 15)! He was sent to "proclaim liberty to the captives" (Luke 4:18). Captives refers to prisoners of war; Jesus has a special message for those who have been shelled by the enemy, taken captive in the bondage of addiction. Hope is the message—liberty and healing. Living the gospel is important, but when was the last time you actually proclaimed it to someone? How do you proclaim it?
Jesus also has a good plan for addicts (see Luke 4:18). In verse 18, Jesus described two related aspects of His mission: "to proclaim liberty" and "to set at liberty." In other words, He came to preach the good news and to promise a good plan. Jesus doesn't just have a nice sermon for addicts; He actually has a plan for their lives—freedom from addiction. How does He break the cycle? While He allows some people to be supernaturally and instantaneously freed from all addiction, it is more common for Him to set people free in a supernaturally natural way—His supernatural power working through natural processes. He cooperates with us to box in and shut down addictive behaviors. This "box" has four sides:
1. Accurate assessment: Don't underestimate your addiction. Be honest about the extent of your bondage. It will be an intense emotional roller coaster and a lifetime struggle.
2. Use overwhelming force: Use however many resources you need to overwhelm it. If you need 200 soldiers to capture the enemy base, use 8,000 so that there is no chance of failure.
3. Zero tolerance: Recovery is pass or fail. Everything depends on it. Make an agreement with yourself that you can never use again, drink again, or watch that stuff again—no matter what! For this third side of the box to be effective, the first two sides must be in place.
4. Trust in the highest power: Recovery programs talk of a higher power, but we must be more specific. Effectiveness in recovery is not just based on saying "no" to the menace, but saying "yes" to your Maker. As you learn of His love, experience His power, and interact with healthy believers, your trust in Him will grow. Addiction is like a light-sensitive virus—exposure to the pure light of Christ will kill it.
This four-sided box is a strategy of release to break the cycle of addiction. How can you apply it to an area in your life? Maybe it's time for you to change your playmates and your playground.Lastly, Jesus has a good reputation among addicts (see Matthew 11:16-19). He was known for spending time with robbers, murderers, drunkards, and prostitutes (see Matthew 9:10). The religious leaders of the day wouldn't have been caught dead socializing with drunkards and prostitutes. Jesus, on the other hand, not only wanted to spend time with them—He died for them! They loved Him for that. We are called the body of Christ for a reason: just as His hands touched hurting people, so should ours. Just as His mouth spoke words of truth and healing, so should ours. Just as He listened to the cries of the captives, so should we. Jesus said, "As I have loved you...you also love one another" (John 13:34). We must become His army of love, addicted to loving all who are addicts! We must feed our spirit rather than our flesh and encourage others to do the same. Pray that God will use you to be the person an addict trusts enough to break their isolation. Listen well, and encourage them to build that four-sided box.
Adapted from Pastor Skip’s teaching
The BIG Idea
"The power of the gospel in four words: Christ died for me!" --C.H. Spurgeon
Figures referenced: Albert Einstein, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, Charles Wesley
Cross references: 2 Samuel 11; Isaiah 61; Matthew 8:2-3; 9:9-13; 11; Mark 1:40-41; Luke 4; 5:12-13; 15:1; 19:1-7; John 3:19-21; 13:34; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 15; 16:15; Ephesians 2:3; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:14; 1 Peter 2:11
Keywords: addict, addiction, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, food, gluttony, the flesh, sin, the gospel, liberty, recovery, rehab, rehabilitation, love