Wilderness: Addictions and Deliverance

This week, I will focus on a four-part mini-series concerning addictions and deliverance.

One visitor that has arrived on my porch to visit my family, knocked on the door, and stayed far too long is “Addiction.” My family, like so many others, have suffered at the hands of every “common” addiction: drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes, and pornography. On far too many occasions, I have personally witnessed the spiritual and physical decline of those loved ones who indulged and literally died with their idols of choice.

 

It breaks my heart when I know God has something so much better for his children. All sin breaks God’s heart, yet there is much biblical support that God is especially grieved when his own children willfully continue in sin when he has offered them freedom in Christ.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone one who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:34-36 NIV

 

Jesus speaking again: “The thief [enemy or the Devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).”

Writing on this topic is very much a struggle for me. I confess that concerning it, I sometimes have more questions than answers. I am disheartened because many local churches have not handled the issue of addiction well and therefore offer no hope of spiritual deliverance for their church goers.

With that disclaimer, there are a few specific convictions I have concerning the topic and I will only address one of them in this post:

1. We must change our language.

We cannot continue to use the same language for Christians who are struggling with sin and nonbelievers who are struggling with sin. For starters, there is no biblical ground for affirming that a true believer in Christ has an “addiction.”

A proper definition is needed here. Merriam-Webster defines “addiction” as 1. an compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal and 2. the quality of being addicted, to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively.

By its very definition, addiction means that the “addicted” person is a slave; he or she is fully controlled by something and has no other alternative but to continue in it because the practice is “compulsive, habit-forming causing one to devote or surrender oneself to it obsessively.”

It is interesting that we rarely use the word “addiction” when people have life-giving habits like healthy eating, exercising, faithfully studying God’s Word, or praying diligently.

The word “addiction” commonly has a negative connotation that does not align with our identity in Christ.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should not longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (Rom 6:6-7).” Also read Rom 6:11-14, or all of Chapter 6.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:22-23).”

For further understanding, I recommend reading: Titus 3:1-11, Hebrews 10, 1 John 5:18-21, and 1 John 3:5-10.

Do devout Christians sin? Absolutely, that is the consequence of living in a lost world. On the contrary, however, devout Christians are not slaves to sin, are not addicted to it. Christians have a choice to not sin and the power needed to make righteous choices consistently.

I do not mean to oversimplify this issue. I do believe, however, that this basic biblical understanding makes a huge difference when training ones heart and mind in righteousness. Yet, my understanding of this truth cannot stand apart from the other convictions: The Work of the Holy Spirit, The Desire of One’s Heart and the Study of God’s Word, and the Need for Life-Giving Community, all of which we will discuss in this mini-series.

For starters, what are your thoughts on Christians and addiction? On what grounds do you base your conclusions?

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012

2 thoughts on “Wilderness: Addictions and Deliverance

  1. What a great discussion issue. I have been dealing with this personally as a very loved family member was found to be abusing drugs in the last 6 months. This person has made a profession of faith and lived a solid christian life with fruits for several years before choosing a worldly and sinful lifestyle that has led to drugs. I have attended several nar anon meetings (support for families with drug addicts) and found much appreciated support for the “tough love” stance that I was having to take, but could not agree with this non christian group that my loved one had no control over the drug abuse issue. They look at it as a sickness and call it a disease. To me, that is insulting to people who truly suffer with diseases like cancer and don’t have the choice to stop their “disease” process like addicts (all types of addicts) do. If someone knows Christ as their savior, they know where their hope is,at the cross. In my situation this person has resources (long term christian inpatient treatment) available and unconditional love with tight boundaries in place. I don’t feel my loved one is a victim, they are making choices and reaping the consequences of those choices. They know better and they know where to turn for help, but choose to continue to live a sinful lifestyle. If, however someone does not know Christ as their savior, I would agree they could be truly addicted to drugs, alcohol,etc. I personally believe that the reason so many addicts relapse so soon after treatment programs is beacause the are not centered on a personal relationship with Christ, so of course they slip back to their sinful ways. I see those people who have claimed Christ as their savior to be drug abusers (or alcohol, food abusers…) who choose to willfully disobey God, and those that have never made that profession of faith as addicts who are truly lost and need to know that the answer is in Jesus.

  2. Natasha, I love that you’re writing about this. My husband is an addictions counselor, and works with men who are struggling with sexual addiction. I do think that Christians can be addicted to substances or pornography, though the strength of the addiction may be somewhat lessened by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I’d be happy to share my testimony with you on that. Cornelius Plantinga has really refined my thinking on addictions. Addictions are not sinful in the same way it is a sin to lie about whether or not you stole the cookie from the cookie jar because sin has to do with willful choice. It is a willful choice to steal and then lie, but a person addicted to alcohol may grab the bottle of gin very much against their will. The culpability of the addict lies in first seeking the substance or porn. They *want* to change, but they don’t yet have the strength to overcome their addiction. As Goethe says, “Master, I am in great distress! The spirits that I conjured up I cannot now get rid of.”

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