Editor’s Note: As called out in the following article, Christ-centered and clinically sound support systems (such as offered by ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Living Free) are vitally needed to overcome any life-controlling problems.
SOURCE: Taken from an article at The Counseling Solution/Rick Thomas
The alcoholic spends his entire paycheck at the bar, in one night.
The crack addict steals money from her daughter’s savings to get her fix on.
The fearful person is in a situation she can’t control. Now she’s afraid.
The porn addict is tired and exhausted, feeling defeated. He gets his fix by surfing the net…again.
The gossiper needs her “approval fix,” so she passes along some juicy info about a friend.
The mocker fulfills his desire to control others by making fun of people through put downs and sarcasm.
The insatiable shopper has two closets full of clothes. She softens the blows to her conscience by calling herself a “comfort shopper.”
And what do these people have in common?
They all are habituated in a sin habit that has been going on for many years and they believe it will never go away. In this sense, the gossiper, the fearful, the druggy, the alcoholic, the mocker, the shopper and the porn guy are all the same.
It is important to understand when you think about addictions that you also include the more refined addictive sins like frustration, fear, self-righteousness, criticalness, insecurity, or mocking.
Addictive behavior is not just reserved to the more sensational or socially understood sins like alcohol, homosexuality, and drugs. We’re all addicts in our own way. I’m an addict; you’re an addict.
I’ve never met a person who was not an addict in some way. Sinful addictive behavior is a result of our fallenness. Therefore, the obvious questions are:
- How did these people get this way?
- How did you get this way?
- How did I get this way?
- Did we choose one day that we would yield our lives to the cruelty and slavery of sin?
- Are we responsible for our condition? …our actions?
- And the most important question of all, “Can I stop my addictive sinning?”
I’m in a trap. I can’t get out.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
To begin unpacking these questions we must begin where Paul began. As a son or daughter of Adam, our default heart condition is an unquenchable and undeniable loyalty to ourselves. At our core we are self-centered.
With a pre-conditioned heart that is motivated toward self-centeredness it is not hard to understand how and why we have been caught in various sin patterns.
When I say “we have been caught” I’m not saying we have been caught as though we were busted like a policeman pulling someone over for speeding. Though that can be called “getting caught,” that is not what Paul means by the word “caught.” Paul is saying we get caught as though we are in a bear trap and we cannot get out of it.
I do not control it. It controls me.
For example, there was a day when each of us made a choice to sin, whatever that sin may have been. Inthat day, we were in control of our sinful choice. We had power over our sin and could pick and choose when, where, and how we wanted to participate in sinful thoughts, desires, cravings, behaviors, or activities.
However, in process of time, we began to lose the control we once exercised over our sinful choices. We began to develop habits. Habits are, in part, how God wired us. Habits were never meant to be evil.
The bad news, post Genesis 3, is that we do not just develop good habits. Because of the invasive power of the doctrine of sin, we have the ability to create bad habits too. Habit is the word for repetitive behavior. The word habit does not distinguish between good or bad. The word is neutral. It is our heart motives, which eventually becomes specific behaviors that determine if the habit is good or evil.
When evil habits begin to exert its power over our hearts, then we’re not far from what our culture calls an addiction. Paul called it being caught, as in being caught in a trap.
My strength is weaker than my sin
Let’s pretend you are caught in a bear trap somewhere deep in the woods. Let’s further pretend that your strength is zapped and you have no ability to open the jaws of the trap to release your bleeding ankle.
Your hope is diminishing by the second.
It is the nature of the bear trap to exert a greater power over your ability to overcome it. No Bear Trap Maker would ever make a trap that was easy to escape from.
It is the nature of sin to exert a greater power over your ability to extricate yourself. If you could extricate yourself from your sin, then you would not need a Divine Rescuer. There would be no need for a Gospel. The only way you can get out of the traps you get yourself into is through God-ordained means.
Back to the woods
You decide to pray (yell) to God for help. How do you expect God to answer your prayer? Do you expect Jesus to show up and loosen the trap? Do you expect the jaws of the trap to miraculously pop open? It’s not likely that either one of those events will happen.
Does that mean God did not hear you and, therefore, is not going to help you?
The answer to that question really depends on your understanding of prayer as well as God’s ordained means of helping His children. What does Paul say?
…you who are spiritual should restore him… – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
Rescue happens in community
Did you know that every time you prayed to God for help to get out of your habitual sinning that He heard you? Did you further know that He provided a solution to your problem?
One of the biggest reasons people get caught in sin and stay in sin is because they do not want anyone to know about the sinfulness of their lives. The man trapped in the woods needs the help of his friends. The man trapped in sin needs the help of other Christians.
That is the way it has to be.
A fool thinks he can habituate himself in sin all by himself and that he can get out of his sin all by himself. Not likely.
In Galatians 6 Paul is calling the body of Christ to attention. The “spiritual” in this verse simply means those who have the Spirit, the Christians. This is essential counseling my friends. You and I need the community of faith to help us out of our addictive behaviors.
And this is where the rub is. We don’t want to tell anyone about our messes.
Keys to breaking addictions
If you apply these simple biblical truths to your life, then you can get help for the repetitive sins in your life:
Humility – The road to change always begins with humility.
Transparency – You must intentionally and completely expose yourself.
Honesty – Only the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who you really are will help you.
Repentance – While all of the previous keys are part of repentance, I have created a ten-minute video that carefully unpacks a fuller understanding of the Doctrine of Repentance. Watch it now.
Contexts – Place yourself in the community of faith. A small group setting is ideal for habituated sinners like you and me.
Friends, do not over-think the situation. Do not look for the next best book for your problem. The church, historically, has never needed the “next best book.” If you carefully apply God’s Word to your life, while authentically living in the context of likeminded believers, then sin can be defeated, no matter how habituated you have been.