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Addiction and Romans 6

In response to my sermon last night, I had a helpful comment that I thought it would be good to share.

In my sermon, I said:

When we talk about these things [i.e. alcohol, prostitutes, cravings to be beautiful, immoral fantasies, pornography, food binges], we often use the word ‘addiction’, don’t we?

That word can be helpful to describe the ongoing pressure of these problems.

But you’ve got to be very careful with that word, ‘addict’. The problem with the word is that it can be used to say that you have no control. That you can’t do anything about it.

But Christians are not ultimately addicts. We are not under the power of sin. Sin is not our master. Because we are united with a man who died to sin and rose from the dead. And that is power. It is powerful. God is with you to help.

If you think of yourself primarily as an addict, if you say, ‘that’s just me’, I can’t do anything about that addiction, You’re wrong. No, that’s not you. That’s the old self that was crucified. The addict is dead. You are told here to stop obeying it. You don’t owe anything to it. You’re free. You don’t have to pay for it, you don’t have to do anything for it. You have a new life.

Verse 14, do you see it?

‘Sin shall not be your master’.

Some of you might think you are habitually caught in a sin. The Bible never says it’s easy to kick these evil habits. It can be a long, hard road. You may have all sorts of emotional and physical dependencies you need to face up to. It may involve years of prayer and the advice and love of other Christians. I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s possible. Jesus doesn’t demand perfection of us in this life. But he does demand progress. You want to be thinking long term. You want to be looking back on your life in ten years and saying, “while it still tempts me, it will not condemn me”. It may be a long, hard road. But even so, God wants us to deal radically with sin.

The comment from a church member was:

As an active member of a 12-step program for addiction I too shared your suspicion of the term ‘addict’. However my views have changed. I think the issue of addiction and sin is an important one. I think that admitting addiction is actually admitting to weakness over sin without grace. This admission of failure in self-control is the first step in almost all treatment programs for addiction. This admission of failure in self-control is then followed by a surrender to God-control. This is too difficult to explain here, but I feel that I am living proof that admitting addiction is sometimes a vital step that enables a Christian to deal with an area of difficulty with sin.

I think it is a helpful addition to what I said in the sermon. Addiction is a real power that many people (both Christians and non-Christians) struggle with. The first step in dealing with any sin, whether it’s a one-off wrongdoing or an ongoing habit or addiction, is to admit its existence and its power. In this sermon, I wanted to emphasise an important truth that is found in Romans 6, a primary and important truth that is above and beyond the existence of sin in our lives. That is, if we are in Christ, our sin or addiction (however real) does not actually define us or ultimately make us who we are. We are ultimately defined by the new life that we have in Christ. The power of that new life is more powerful than our addictions, and will enable us to deal with them. So the recognition that you are an “addict” is never an excuse for wrongdoing, it must only ever be the first “step” towards dealing with the sin in your life and, with God’s help, heading towards recovery.

I’ve spoken at some length with the person who made this comment. For those who are struggling with an addiction, programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous, etc. are worth contacting, and they can put you in touch with other “twelve-step” programs for dealing with other addictions.

Published inRomans

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

2 Comments

  1. I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    Karen Halls

  2. The person who made the original comment after my sermon adds:
    ——

    To find out more about twelve-step programs, I recommend reading the AA Big Book. This is the basic text of all 12-step programs, with only the substance-related details changed. The current edition can be found at

    http://www.aa.org/bigbookonline

    I also found this site, which addresses some of the issues related to Christianity, addiction and twelve-step programs
    http://www.alcoholicsvictorious.org/. In particular, their FAQ section discusses the implications of the “Disease” model.

    About the twelve steps and the Bible they say:

    “If we approach them with the premise that our God is He who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, there is nothing in the 12 Steps that directly contradicts the Scriptures. They consist of the following; admission of personal defeat, brokenness, turning one’s life and will over to the care of God, confession, restitution, acquiring the spiritual disciplines of prayer and personal devotions, and a desire to reach out to others. If every Christian practiced these things on a consistent basis, they would grow tremendously! The 12 Steps are simply an orderly way to apply the scriptural principles they espouse. They have a natural progression in them that can serve as an outline of discipleship that fits the unique needs of the addict.”

    I agree with this statement. This is my opinion: We are all slaves to sin, and cannot by ourselves be freed from its power. The Bible is quite clear on that. Sin will often have physical consequences in the form of disease. Homosexual activity, for example, shortens a person’s life expectancy considerably. In the case of the addict, physical nad emotional dependency do become diseases. While most sinners have the ability to choose how they show their rebellion against God, and to act in their own perceived best interests, the disease of addiction robs the addict of this power. Sin has them on a far shorter leash than the non-addict can imagine. In his mercy, God has provided us with 12-step programs. Like other advances in human thought, God uses them for his purposes to further his kingdom. As with other diseases, he is often more likely to act through such seemingly “human” channels than through the more obviously supernatural ones.

    I might also note that , for many addicts, their guilt is like the Slough of Despond in the Pilgrim’s Progress. Many addicts are overwhelmed by a sense of shame and guilt, both true and imagined. They may be painfully aware of their guilt before God. But few addicts can see a way around the quagmire of guilt. They usually avoid it like the plague, constantly justifying and rationalising their behaviour, denying its abnormality. Or else, they try to get out of the addiction, get stuck in their guilt, and turn to the only way out that seems available- more indulgence in addictive behaviour to numb their feelings. I think this is why diminished responsiblity is emphasized in the early stages of recovery from addiction. As Christians we don’t need the concept of a “disease” to free us from our guilt. We can overcome guilt in the knowledge that 1. All humans are sinful. No one person is better than another. Our slavery is just more obviosu. 2. Jesus sets us free from all guilt.

    Of course all this is just my own thoughts, and I can’t claim to speak for other addicts or for twelve-step programs. But Thanks once again for the opportunity to serve by sharing my thoughts with you.

    For more info

    http://www.12step.org/The-12-Steps.html

    The Christian OA group can be found at:
    http://www.therecoverygroup.org/odat/christian/index.html

    Narcotics Anonymous
    Website: http://www.naoz.org.au
    Phone: 02 9565 1453

    Gamblers Anonymous
    Website: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org.au
    Phone: 9564 1574

    Sex Addicts Anonymous:
    Website http://saa-recovery.org/

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