What does an addict look like?
A drug addled rock star? A pill-popping housewife? A heroin-chic model?
Look in the mirror! Anything can be an addictive substance and everyone has an addictive personality.
What makes it something we should worry about?
In 1 Corinthians Paul talks about the incredible freedom we have as believers. Three times he says: "Everything is permissible."
“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
That gives us three questions to ask about a pattern of behaviour:
Does it rule you?
Is it harmful to you?
Is it harmful to others?
If so, then it needs addressing.
Some case studies:
For Jenny, most things in life are either boring or hard, but when she goes shopping she comes alive. Nothing brightens her up like a new outfit or a new accessory. She loves Mulberry handbags and has taken a weekend job just to be able to afford another one. The job makes it difficult to get to church now and she’s constantly having to think about money. She makes fun of her “shop-a-holism” but she’s starting to wonder if it’s more than a laughing matter.
Dean plays computer games for hours every day. In real life he’s nothing special but in the games he’s a hero and what he does seems to matter. He plays online with others, but it’s not the same as real friends. And he’s worried about the holiday his family have planned – how can he game while camping?
Kate is a quiet girl who never seems to be a bother. But everyone would be shocked to know just how angry she is on the inside. Even Kate is shocked. One day she cut herself accidentally and the anger seemed to bleed out of her. Strangely enough it felt good. So she did it again later in the week. And again. Each time she’s had to cut deeper to have the same effect. She’s worried about where it will all end.
Kevin first saw pornography when his older brother showed him, aged 8. These days he goes online three or four times a week. He knows he shouldn’t but the images seem to have a hold on him. The guilt is getting on top of him and the images are becoming more extreme. Every time he watches he vows “Never again”, but in his heart of hearts he doesn’t think he can ever be free of it.
The scale of the problem
Jesus said: “Whoever sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)
We think we’re in control of these things. They’re in control of us.
Paul said: “14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:14-19)
Even the great apostle struggles massively with stuff that's bigger than him.
What's going on?
We follow our hearts and our hearts latch onto things that are bigger than us!
Academic success is everything.
Being thin is everything.
Being popular is everything.
Being a hard-working Christian is everything.
Being clever is life
Being funny is life
Cricket is life
Being right is life
At every turn it looks like we've made a massive change. But all we have done is switch from one controlling passion to another. We have followed our hearts as our hearts have latched onto things that are bigger than us.
What is life for you? What are your desires?
Get into pairs and discuss What are your dreams / What are your nightmares? How do these reveal the deepest desires of your heart?
The Cycle of Addiction
Read Ephesians 4:17-25. Everytime Paul says something about thinking or understanding shout out BRAINS! as though you're a brain-sucking alien from a 1950s B movie.
Do you see how important right thinking is?
When it goes wrong it sets up a vicious circle:
WRONG THINKING => FAR FROM GOD => HARD HEART => JUST WANT TO FEEL SOMETHING => GET INTO SOME FEEL-GOOD SINS => NEED MORE AND MORE => FAR FROM GOD
Let’s apply that in groups. Here are 6 addictions – pick two of them and discuss how they might evolve according to this cycle of addiction:
- Eating disorder
- Computer games
Ephesians 4:22 speaks of being corrupted by deceitful desires. Ask yourself:
What are my desires?
How are they lying to me? (What are they promising me?)
How are they corrupting me?
We don’t just break God’s law, we break His heart.
Everyone’s looking for satisfaction. That’s not wrong. Where we look is wrong.
Every addictive cycle is a double sin - we forsake the LORD in concrete ways. It's worth asking, "What is it about Jesus that I am forsaking when I go for that sin?"
John 4 - the redemption of Jeremiah 2
Who is Jesus claiming to be? What does He claim to offer?
Figuratively speaking, what is this woman's broken well?
How does Jesus relate to this woman? How does she respond?
In John, the only other time Jesus is thirsty is on the cross:
He goes thirsty so that we can drink.
Jesus loves us in the midst of our sin. Though we forsake Him constantly, He does not forsake us.
Think of the most corrupted you've been through your sin - Jesus was there with you, and for you.
E.g. of missionary who cheated on his wife over many months. I told him, "Jesus had His arms open to you in love through the whole affair." He said "That makes it a hundred times worse." Yes, but it's a thousand times better too! If Jesus loves me at my worst, He can be trusted to be enough through all of life!
Don't make another resolution to do better. Admit that it's bigger than you.
Come broken and helpless. Receive His living waters
Do you really understand the depths of His love?
No broken well will ever forgive you if you fail - Jesus always does.
He doesn't want you to clean yourself up first. Come to Him for the bath.
Admitting the problem is half the battle. Are you an addict? Get real.
Talk to someone who you know will act. This is bigger than you and you need help.
This point is not about accountability, it's just about community. Addictions grow in the dark but we were made for fellowship. Get around other Christians, laugh, worship, enjoy life together - it's an incredible defence against the isolating pull of addiction.