Friday, March 2, 2012

Addiction is Idolatry

Our modern day world wants us to believe that it is a disease that we are saddled with for the rest of our lives and that is simply not the case! I will amplify that answer at another time, because today I want to focus on the reality that drunkenness and drug abuse, overeating, sexual immorality of all kinds, gambling, shopping, and greed are all placed in the same category by God in the Bible- sin. Colossians 3:5 calls this sort of stuff idolatry.

Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. Colossians 3:5 (NASB) 


Idolatry is the worship of anything other than God. You can worship God or the created object or person. Romans 1 clearly states that the wrath of God falls on those who worship things other than God (Romans 1:23-25). We are all sadly in the mode of idol worship every day! We don't think of it in those terms of course, we say things like, "I prefer to.." "I chose..." "I decided..." and by our words we negate what is really going on in our hearts- idolatry.

We practice idolatry when we decide to sleep in Sunday morning instead of going to worship service, or when we choose to watch our favorite morning show instead of reading the Bible or praying. Get the idea?

Those who do anything to excess are engaging in a worship disorder (idolatry). They quickly find that what they once controlled now controls them. What they once loved for enjoyment they now crave to get through the day. It becomes bondage not pleasure. You must bow at the altar of whatever your drug of choice is- alcohol, drugs, food, excitement, pleasure, money, sex...

You may tell me that no one chooses to be an addict. No one would ever choose such a hell on purpose. Oh really? You may say that a person with an addiction as disease is not responsible for their choice or decision to use (fill in the blank) and here lies the controversy between the disease orientated folks and those who see it as the Bible sees it.

The things we worship (with the exception of people) do not have the ability to influence us. It is the heart of man that lusts after what the object can provide for us that causes all the problems! James says it this way;

"Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters." James 1:14

Temptations (cravings) are both physical and spiritual. We are going to look at the cravings that are not related to physical addiction, and assume for our purposes that the person has completed the withdrawal process already. The substance is no longer in the body.

The Biblical model has an answer and explanation as to why we crave our vices. We struggle with craving things because we continue to desire them in our hearts. We love the feelings they bring us, the soothing of our emotions, the relaxation or the escape. While we have discontinued the physical relationship we had with that substance we maintain the emotional one. This is where the connection to the heart comes in.

The heart of the addict/alcoholic is focused on self. Their thoughts, beliefs and desires are honed in on meeting their own perceived needs of escape, fun, pleasure, or whatever

The thoughts are: 
  •         I must have relief
  •          I am entitled to relief
  •          I must escape
  •          I want to feel better
  •          I want to feel nothing
These thoughts lead to actions like: 
  •      Drinking after work
  •      Using drugs recreationally 
  •      Drinking to escape problems
  •      Selling drugs
  •      Drunk driving
  •      Prostitution for drugs 

The heart of the addict does not care how his or her actions are hurting their loves ones. They don’t care if their spouse or their kids are waiting for them at home for dinner, or at a school event. What they want is to drink or drug and that is all that is important.

When confronted by their loved ones about their behavior they may express remorse and promise to change, but the love of self quickly leads them back to worship of self and back out to drink or drug.

They are experts at blame shifting- If their addiction brings them an OWI it is not their fault, it is the stupid cop who pulled them over. It is the boss who ticked them off at work today and made them need a drink. It is the stress of this or that that led them to take a few pills or smoke a few joints to relax.
If they get sent to jail it is the fault of the unjust legal system. Their only motive is to satisfy their own desires. 

They are selfish and unloving toward people who love and care for them. Husbands, wives, children and parents all take a back seat to their first love, which is their substance of choice.

To cure the heart of addiction, you must help them to realize that they are nothing more than idolaters. They have to see that their drinking is not the problem, their heart is the problem! The drinking and drugs are an overflow of what is in the heart (thoughts, beliefs, desires) being lived out through the body. This is key to get the counselee to understand.

A good definition of idolatry is when you are willing to sin to get what you want.

Are you willing to sin to get relief from pain, to be happy, or to attain any of the other feelings mentioned above? If having your felt needs met has become so important to you that you are willing to violate God’s Word to have them, then you have crossed the line from desire to worship.

These questions will help the counselee to understand that the heart has to be changed before the desire to drink or drug will be affected. 

Begin to admit the sin of idolatry exists in your heart. Admission is the first step, but removing the idols in your heart and life is an ongoing process. If you have struggled with idolatry for a long time, you have habits that are deeply ingrained.

Identify exactly what you want that you are not getting. Some examples would be feeling better or having a better day.
  •  Identify if your desire is biblical and be able to support it with Scripture (in context). This is important because emotions can lead us to justify our desire for certain things. Yet feelings prove unreliable as a method of living life to glorify God.
  • Place your desires and wants on the altar of sacrifice to God. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
  • God wants to change the way you think, which will change the way you live. Reject the thoughts of what you want and desire for each day. 
  • Begin to obey God by fulfilling the One Another commands on Scripture. Take your focus off yourself, begin to live for Christ and serve your family, church, or friends.

The more you begin to prayerfully desire to include the “one another’s” in your life, the less your focus will be on indulging and worshiping yourself.

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