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.
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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