Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell. They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them. Psalm 115:4-8 (NASB)
Part of the message of this Psalm is that when a person places their faith in an idol of the heart to change them, make them over, or to lead them, they become dumb, thoughtless, senseless and hard as stone. A life dominating sin affects everything. The things that usually come to mind are alcohol or drug use, but there are many other things that can be life dominating. Things like working, shopping, overeating, or over exercising. Ed Welch makes the following statement in the Preface to his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: “The basic theology for addictions is that the root problem goes deeper than our genetic makeup. Addictions are ultimately a disorder of worship.”
Christians who struggle with addictions have managed to compartmentalize their minds and hearts. They have a heart that is dedicated to the worship of God on Sunday. While in church they truly mean the words of praise and adoration they utter. However, the rest of the week they live as functional atheists worshiping themselves as their own god, with their own rules and personal theology. They don’t see the conflict in their lives. This is because we are so easily self-deceived and have little trouble living a dual life.
The things we commonly consider to be addictions initially bring pleasure and positive emotional responses. Because we live in a culture that encourages self-indulgence, we place our pursuit of those things above responsibilities, and even the people who are important to us. Addictions deliver an experience that the addict comes to crave and enjoy. However, over time the feelings change to the point that the user feels trapped and enslaved. This brings hopelessness and panic.
Addiction is a life dominating sin that begins with succumbing to temptation. It is sin that attacks the will and the soul. Sin is our deepest problem and is fed by the heart which is the origin of all life dominating sin or addiction. Addiction is idolatry; the user has set her affections on something other than God.
The Holy Spirit urges us to obey Him, and the flesh desires to pull the person in the other direction. This is a consistent battle of the Christian life in every situation. When our desires conflict with Scripture we do not always respond according to what we believe or think we believe. Our behavior betrays our words, revealing the real love of the heart.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:17 (NASB)
This is certainly not a new problem, and to be clear, the problem is not the substance, the practice, or the person to which the affections are attached. The problem is the heart that has begun to worship something other than God. The addict chooses to forsake the calling she has received from God to worship and glorify Him, and has begun to worship the idols of the heart instead.
With any life dominating sin, the “cure” must come from within. The addict must make a choice to reject, defeat, and deny the craving or pull toward that particular sin. Changes come from an understanding of what God’s Word says about behavior, thoughts, and desires, along with internalizing and living out what the Scriptures say. The Bible is our weapon of warfare and also a guide to understand and conquer sin. The Christian is called to live for God’s glory and give Him the worship and honor He deserves.
I am not suggesting a simplistic Bible-band-aid approach to a very difficult and complex problem. Everyone who is enslaved to sin in the way an addict is needs comprehensive help and attention. However, unless the counsel begins at the root of the problem-in the heart-there is little chance for total life change. For more on this subject I would recommend Edward Welch’s book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave and Mark Shaw’s book, The Heart of Addiction.