Paul's Passing Thoughts

Overcoming Addictions

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 11, 2015

What is an addiction? It is safe to assume that most addictions are driven by desire. According to Psychology Today:

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.


Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences; it can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are (positively) reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they activate the brain’s “reward pathways”, and are therefore perceived as being something positive or desirable).

How should the laity help the addicted with Scripture? The Bible describes sin as a “master.” It also describes “flesh” or the “body,” or “members” as being instrumental for holy endeavors or useful to fulfill desires that come from sin; i.e., “sinful desires” or “desires of the flesh.”  When Scripture uses “desires of the flesh” it is not stating that sinful desires come from the flesh per se, but rather sinful desires that sin is using the flesh to fulfill. Remember, at least in regard to the Christian, the “flesh” can be utilized for either good or evil. Sinful desires come from the Sin master.

The Bible also states that sin is empowered by the ability to condemn. If  condemnation is taken away, sin still exists, but its status as master has been revoked. If condemnation is removed, sin is unable to enslave.

1Corithians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who are under law are under condemnation, and the Bible also states that Christ came to end the law. Those who believe in Christ have been “purchased” by His blood, and we no longer belong to the Sin master. The Bible uses the slave/master terminology to describe the transaction. And somehow, sin is stripped of its power to enslave when it can no longer use desires to provoke God through the members of the individual. Here is an example of sin as slavemaster:

Genesis 4:6 – The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin desires to rule over the individual, and it uses desire to tempt.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the apostle Paul informs us that we become enslaved to whatever we obey. Obeying sinful desires results in being enslaved to the desire. What follows is the whole chapter of Romans 6, and it is a long citation and encompasses all that we have discussed so far.

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we read here can also be seen in the introductory citations: the desire enslaves the individual, and that person will continue in the behavior regardless of the fruits which include death-like existence and condemnation. These desires produced by sin can range from annoying habits to the unthinkable. People can have a desire to kill other people, and if they obey that desire, they can become serial killers. That extreme example can be applied to many other sinful desires. Sinful desires coming from covetousness or greed can also cause people to commit sins that make the obtaining of the central desire possible. You get the picture. One could expand this into an in-depth mapping of human behavior.

As we see in Romans 6, born again Christians are able to say no to sinful desires. The desires still occur, but they are not able to dominate us. We are able to say no. Sin is no longer a master, but has been demoted to a pesky stalker. However, eventually, in the believer, these desires can be put to death:

Colossians 3:5 – Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Romans 8:13 – For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Galatians 5:16 – So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

In unbelievers, destructive desires can be kept under control for a better quality of life, but such desires can never be totally put to death. As stated by Alcoholics Anonymous, “Once a drunk always a drunk.” If you think about it, unbelievers have little choice but to label many addictions as medical problems because the desire cannot be put to death, it will continually harass them till the day they die unless they are born again. People saved out of a sordid life will often testify that particular dominate desires vanish immediately, but that is not always the case. But in the least, the desire is manageable through biblical applications and eventually dies.

In the unbeliever, destructive desires can be managed through practical means, even biblical ones, but sinful desires in the believer can actually be put to death.