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• Greg Boyd

In the Kingdom of God freedom is an end in of itself. It is part of our nature as created beings to be free and not be ruled over by one another, any agent in the spiritual realm, or by substances or behavior patterns. For many people addiction is one of the key stumbling blocks that perpetuates cycles of shame, hiding, and a lack of fullness of life. In this message Greg explores what lies at the heart of all addictions, substance or otherwise, and how we go about untangling ourselves from their grip so we can step into the full life that God desires us to have.


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In the Kingdom of God freedom is an end in of itself. There is much we are released to do and accomplish once free, but the freedom itself is the point. We were created by God to be free and reflect His character inside us by how we take care of the Earth, animal kingdom, and one another. Slavery in all forms, whether internal or external, is anti-Christ. We were not created to be lorded over by one another or any substance or set of behaviors that take away our capacity to be fully alive. This is what addiction does; it robs us of our joy and freedom.

With addiction an unhealthy neurophysiological pattern develops in our brains involving the pleasure chemical dopamine. This chemical is usually released and regulated in our brains to reinforce healthy life sustaining behavior like eating, exercise, sex, and fellowship with others. Some drugs or behaviors can artificially hi-jack this circuitry and release an overload of dopamine in to the system. With repeated occurrence the dopamine receptors get overloaded and build up a tolerance to the level of dopamine in the system. This is why with drug addictions it takes more and more of the input response to create the same euphoric experience, and eventually leads to an unsustainable level required for a person just to feel normal. This happens most explicitly with drugs and alcohol, but can also happen with behavior patterns (e.g. social media, gambling, pornography, video games, etc.).

Addiction can become a dark beast that may have started with us picking it, but leads to the experience that it’s picking us. Because the dopamine response is part of our internal survival system it can literally feel like death to not get the euphoric response related to the substance or behavior. Someone who is addicted begins to lose capacity to care about anyone or anything that doesn’t relate to getting the next fix. The power of addiction usually lies in the darkness it creates through shame and secrecy. The beauty of God is that no matter what depth we’ve sunk to, or problems we’ve created of our own free will, He does not leave us there. He is always at the bottom waiting for us.

Several key steps were shared to help in our break from addiction:

1. Confession about what is actually going on, or bringing it in to the light, is what begins to break the power of darkness. God’s desire for anyone struggling in addiction is to return to innocence. That involves acknowledging that there is nothing we can do to earn His forgiveness and that the love we receive from Him is not, nor has ever been, dependent on our worthiness or choices. He loves us because that’s who He is, it’s His nature. This is the most powerful force in the universe and the only one that can truly set our hearts free.

2. For any believer the practice of resting in Christ can become one of the most important activities in our lives. The most important thing we can do is to not do anything and just enjoy God enjoying us. We learn in scripture (e.g. 2 Cor 3:17-18) that we become what we behold. The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom and has the power to unveil our faces. Unless we experience love as we are (warts, faults, and all), we’ll never be empowered to become anything better. Satan will tell us we belong in the manure, and shame and secrecy will keep us there, but God desires to use the past manure of our life as fertilizer to help us grow in to the life He created us for. He weaves our mistakes in to a beautiful tapestry.

3. Borrowing a popular military term describing war time and other terrible situations, we’re encouraged to “embrace the suck.” Getting out of an addiction is going to be really tough, so we have to embrace it and know this is what the path to freedom feels like. Allowing the brain to recalibrate when we stop a substance or behavior can be painful. This is why we need to use faith to get a concrete vision of where we’re going.

4. Lastly, we’re encouraged to lean on one another. Breaking addiction works much better when done in community, without it we’re very vulnerable. As long as we let our embarrassment about what has grabbed hold of us have the loudest voice, we’ll stay in bondage. Everyone has their baggage, we all nailed Jesus to the same cross, and there are no points given for “having it together.” Bring out the truth and it shall set you free.

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Topics: Community, Hope, Identity in Christ

Sermon Series: Overwhelmed

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Focus Scripture:

  • Galatians 5:1

    It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

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2 thoughts on “Addiction

  1. Peter says:

    If we try to look up the terms such as depression or addiction in a Bible concordance the chances are that there wouldn’t be any references to those particular terms. Yet we know from what we understand by those terms, they have affected or afflicted humanity since the Fall.

    Of course, there are those theologians who have also studied the psychological sciences and are able to give a reasonable opinion of what certain characters in the Bible may have suffered from. Presumably, in more modern translations we may see footnotes to this effect.

    Greg’s explanation of addiction gave a pretty clear understanding of it’s drivers, notwithstanding the many forms and variants of addiction that exist in the community. Effectively, we see a circle of repetition that is involved in addiction that by undertaking a certain action, leads to a ‘pay-off’ or ‘high’ which requires the individual to repeat the action again to obtain a similar result. It is not until there’s an intervention within this circular process that the addiction can be broken…so that freedom can be obtained

    Interestingly, this reminded me of some verses in Romans (1:28-32),

    “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.”

    So where “God gave them up”…what proceeds from there is an ongoing, Fallen life…effectively an addiction to that form of lifestyle.

    In most cases, this lifestyle starts off ‘well’ but eventually overtakes the individual leading to physical and/or mental torment or deterioration. The lifestyle is self-centred or selfish love and not selfless love as was the original intention and reflected in Jesus’s ministry.

    (In fact, it reminds me of the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son(s)’. The younger son effectively embarks on a Roman’s 1 lifestyle where this addiction eventually finds himself at a lowest point where, “he came to himself” and returned to his father. (Interestingly, his father would possibly have been aware of what his son was going to do and in one sense ‘gave him up’ but received him back and restored him, when he had effectively repented of his former lifestyle.) The older son who stood to inherit all his father’s property was astonished by his father’s actions as it could be said that the younger son had lived a ‘lawless’ lifestyle while he lived a ‘law-based’ lifestyle, “he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command”. So with or without the law, both sons had addictive lifestyles…the younger in terms of what lawless living brought to him and the older where obeying the law justified his position in life and his condemnation of the actions of his younger brother (ie he was Pharisaical).
    So both sons displayed self-centred love while the father showed selfless love in restoring the younger son and imparting his remaining assets to the older son.)

    So, as Greg indicated, it’s God’s love that is the intervention in our addiction to our Fallen state where we cannot find True freedom of ourselves.

    In my previous post I mentioned, “we have situations where Jesus healed (or made whole) people by forgiving their sins”…where I had in mind Jesus healing of the paralytic (Mk 2:9-10), “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”. We see the dramatic impact that forgiveness can have in a person’s life in restoring that which was broken.

    I am further reminded of Ezekiel 36:25-27 in relation to God’s restoration process,

    “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”

    I can’t help but think of this situation/intervention in today’s terms where heart transplants are becoming the ‘norm’. However, these transplants only restore biological life in the recipient. There are also issues with obtaining a suitable donor heart together with the matter of bodily rejection.

    Yet with God’s love, the ‘transplant’ restores True life (Jn 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” and 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”). There is no waiting for a ‘suitable’ heart nor the fear of ‘rejection’. So, in a sense, we find ourselves and those who attend church are effectively heart transplant ‘outpatients’ recovering to new life in the freedom that Greg describes. We are released from the shame, depression and addiction that plagued our previous life or, while we come to understand our new life, we also come to know God’s grace through His forgiveness of our failings.

  2. Ann says:

    I so needed this today, so understandable.
    The Lord Jesus is working in me and I need to stay focused on him.
    Thank you God for bringing this video to me and I ask for prayers to keep going and not fall when temptations arise.

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