How the Bible Preps Us for Addictions


We're starting a 3-week series called Prep, a series of TED talks. Today, we heard from Jonathan Pokluda talking about pornography, John Elmore talking about addiction, and Rick Smith talking about the surprises of life. In this segment, John Elmore discusses how addictions form: we develop Desire,
we Entertain, we have an Appetite, we get Trapped, and before we know it we're Helpless. DEATH. But there is hope as God has given us a way to experience freedom People of God, the Word of God, and Spirit of God.

John ElmoreAug 2, 2015James 1:14-15; James 5:16; Hebrews 3:13; Psalms 119:11; Galatians 5:16; James 1:14-15

A little while back, somebody on staff walked up and was like, "Hey, a bunch of us on staff are going to do this series of talks, and I was wondering if you would do the one on addiction." I was like, "Oh, I see. Because I'm the recovering alcoholic? That's cool. So what are you going to talk on? Like, self-righteousness or passive-aggressive or… Oh wait, where are you going? Something I said?" No, I want to talk about addictions, and specifically, how the Bible preps us for addictions, how God does.

So I brought this. It's about my height, and I wrote all of my addictions on it. I can do so because, as JP said, I'm free. These don't define me anymore. I wrote my addictions on here: alcoholism, fear of man, status, like caring what you think about me and where I size up to everybody else. But I thought, "You know what? That's not so interesting. We can make this a little more interactive." So I went ahead and took the liberty to write all of your sin struggles on here too. You're welcome.

On here I also have body image, eating disorder, how you think you look in yoga pants, TV, iPhone, social media, how many "likes" you got on your last post, K2, weed, pills, porn, gay porn, trans porn, child porn. It's all there. Or maybe for you it's greed or gluttony or money or work, your identity in work. I don't know what it is, but we all have addictions. If you're like, "Hey, it's not an addiction. I have sin struggles. I don't have addiction. It's not like alcoholism…"

Not all addictions send us to rehab. Let's just define addiction up front. Addiction is an unhealthy action that's repeated. That's all it is. So whether it's daily or weekly or monthly, if you go back to something, even though you know it's not good for you or others or honoring to God…public service announcement…that's an addiction, because otherwise, why would you go back to it? So those things I said are addictions, albeit maybe not like alcoholism, but I think like alcoholism, because you keep going back to it.

Some of you are sitting here and you're like, "You know what? Actually, I don't have addictions. In fact, I don't have sin struggles. I can't identify with anything you just said. I know people who do, but I don't. Yeah, I sin occasionally, but those aren't mine, and I don't have anything that I really go back to." Let me help you. Yours is pride. It's true, because what you're saying is, "Well, I'm not like them." Read Luke 18 and Proverbs 6 later. God says he hates pride.

So today, now that we've established that we're all addicts in one form or another, we're going to talk about how addictions form, how we get free, and how we stay free. In order to do so, we're going to look first at James 1:14-15. It's a Scripture where God talks about this. He says, "…but each one when he is lured away and enticed by his own desire…" Satan didn't make you do it. It's your desire that's within your flesh. "…and desire conceives, gives birth to sin, and sin when full grown brings forth death."

Here's the progression the Bible describes: desire, sin, death. Your desire will lead to death if not checked, corrected, or stopped by God. That's just what happens. So to walk us through how addictions form, I have a little acronym we're going to walk through. It starts with desire. Just like this gift right here, it's desirable. When it's our birthday or Christmas, we don't even know what's in the package. We're just like, "I don't care. It has my name on it. It has a bow. It's wrapped up. I want it." Even though we have no idea what's in it, we're just like, "I want it. I desire it."

That's like sin. We just want it. We look at it. We desire it. But not just that. We start to entertain it, and we get closer. We don't go all in. We're just entertaining it. "I'm just going to do it once. Only on the weekends. Only on business trips. Only when my wife is away. Only on my personal computer, not my work computer. I'm never going to use that money for this; only that money." We start to entertain it. We think, "I'm not going to get controlled by it; I'm just going to toy with it and play with it."

No one wakes up and is like, "You know what? I'm going to become a sex addict today. I'm going to go see a prostitute on my lunch hour. Then I think I'm going to look at porn before my wife gets home from work, and after that, when she goes to sleep, I'm going to look at chat rooms and try to meet somebody." Nobody does that. They just take a lingering glance or watch something they shouldn't or touch someone in a way they shouldn't to just entertain it.

After you do…appetite. You're closer now, and you fed that desire. You've entertained it to where now you have an appetite for it. It's what you think about. You've tasted and seen. "I like that. I want more of it." You control it. You protect it. You get defensive of it, and you'll do anything you can to get more of it, because your appetite is telling you, "Get more of that. Get more of that. You like that. You want that."

Once you do, then you say, "You know what? I'm going all in. I have to have it. I don't even care. I just want more." When you do, you think, "I've got it," and sin says, "No, no. I've got you," and you're trapped, because what is within here is a 300-pound bear trap. You didn't get sin; sin got you. Once you realize you're trapped, you're helpless. DEATH. Your desire leads to death, because sin is a spiritual problem, and we're just human.

We have no power over sin. We have no ability over sin. We can't get up. We're dead, and apart from God, we're not only dead and trapped and helpless in this life but we will spend eternity in hell, separated from God and all goodness. That's serious. So God looks and sees us in our sinful state, helpless, there lying on the ground, and so he sent Jesus, God in flesh, the only begotten, who lived a sinless life, died in our place, crucified between two criminals, laid in the grave, and on the third day rose again.

When he rose, we were set free from sin, and the sins that previously defined us were laid upon Christ. They're no longer there. They're gone. Jesus took them upon himself. Not only that. Who's in the trap right now? Jesus. Not us. Romans 6 says we've been set free from sin. We are no longer slaves to sin. Not only that. I'm not holding this cross up anymore, because that cross no longer stands in Jerusalem. Jesus has been raised from the dead. We've been raised with him and are no longer slaves to sin. That is how we are free from addiction.

If you have not trusted Christ yet, you trust Christ for your salvation, to be freed from the penalty of sin, death, and hell. If you have trusted Christ and you're like, "But I still feel like I'm in the bear trap. I trusted Christ. I know I have a new life, but I still feel addicted; I still go back to those things I want to do," then you look to God on how to stay free, how to keep free from your addiction. The three most powerful gifts God gave us against addiction are these: the people of God, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God.

People of God. JP already talked about this once. James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Someone after this service, I guarantee you, will tell me, "Hey, I've pleaded with God. I've been addicted since I was 13. I have cried to God, 'Will you please take this away from me?' and he hasn't. Why won't he?" I'll say, "Well, have you told anyone? Have you told your spouse, your Community Group, your church?"

"No. I could never do that."

"Okay. Well, you're going to die and you're going to go to heaven, but you'll be addicted for the rest of your life."

"Oh, so you're saying God is not powerful enough?"

"No, God is powerful enough. You just aren't following what he says: to confess and bring it out into the light. Not so that you may be embarrassed or ashamed or condemned or ostracized but so that you may be healed. It's for healing." Now that's reactive, after you sin, but there is a proactive way. It's Hebrews 3:13. It says, "Encourage one another daily, so that you would not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

Sin is deceitful. It appears desirable, and we start to go toward it, and we need brothers and sisters who say, "What are you doing? Don't go there. Don't touch that. Don't even get near it. You know that almost killed you, destroyed your marriage, ruined your relationship, got you fired. Don't go near that." The Bible says we need that daily. Not just Sunday, not just Community Group, not just Porch. Daily we need to be reminded and to remind each other.

Also the Word of God. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." There is something spiritually, supernaturally powerful… When we memorize and spend time in God's Word, it keeps us from sin. When you memorize it, it serves as a warning system. God will bring those Scriptures to mind as you get close to those sins, help you to shepherd others. It will transform and renew your mind. It will change your appetites.

Then the most powerful: the Spirit of God. There's one verse I share more than any other with the men who are in re:generation, the ones who are struggling with addictions and sin struggles. It's Galatians 5:16. In that verse there is a command and then a promise. The command says, "So I say, walk by the Spirit…" That's the command: walk by the Spirit. Then the promise. "…and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

In the Greek it has an expanded meaning that we lose in the English. Walk is present tense continuous, meaning walk all day every day with God. "Not just during your quiet time, not just when you pray before bed, but all throughout the day walk with me. As you do, you won't do those things you don't want to do. I'll keep you from the desires of the flesh."

Just like if I went home with you today and I got in your car and I was awkwardly sitting in the back seat. I'm like, "Where are we going to lunch?" You'd be like, "Are you still here?" Then afterwards, I laid down beside you to take a nap innocently, and you're like, "You're creepy." Then you got out your iPhone. I'm like, "What are you looking at? You aren't going to look at that, are you? Put that away."

It would be awkward, but you wouldn't give yourself… "Don't talk to your wife that way. Hey, hey, hey. Calm down." Because I'd be walking with you. But that's just me. How much more God? He will keep you from doing the things you don't want to do. We all struggle with addictions. They all lead to death. Jesus set us free. The people of God, the Word of God, the Spirit of God keep us free from sin. Thanks be to God.