Freedom from Addiction
Principle 5: We may always feel the gravity of the flesh, but we are not meant to live enslaved to it. We are meant to know and experience freedom daily in Christ.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
I wrote yesterday that most of us still struggle with some destructive behaviors even after we come to faith. In church, someone usually objects to this, claiming that I am teaching, once an addict, always an addict. But are these the only two options: Complete Deliverance or Active Addiction?
After more than four years of pursuing recovery, I desire faith and sobriety more than drugs. God has worked his miraculous change in me as I’ve followed him. Recently though, a friend asked me how to dispose of his unused pain medications. The old thoughts returned immediately. I’d be happy to take those off your hands . . . I may be living in freedom from active addiction, but the old thought patterns aren’t gone completely.
For me, the metaphor of my destructive appetites as a prison has been helpful. In following me, I become enslaved to my way, living in a prison of my own making. For the addict, this is disaster. In coming to know Christ, I’m given a new life, as he opens the door. Christ beckons me to follow him out of the prison, but he doesn’t force me to stay out. Unfortunately, I often want those things back in prison more than I want to follow Christ. So, I voluntarily return to my slavery.
Christians often mistakenly think they can’t be enslaved to anything. I’ve been delivered! I can’t be an addict! This is consistent neither with Biblical teaching, nor reality. We have churches full of men who profess faith in Christ but who can’t stop looking at pornography.
Paul, in today’s passage, insisted that we absolutely have freedom in Christ, which means we are free to follow him or to return to the slavery of following ourselves. Jesus said that the one who practices sin is enslaved to that sin (John 8:34). He insisted that our flesh nature is weak (Mark 14:38) and that we must daily do the work of abandoning it (Luke 9:23).
If I struggled with pride before I met God, I’m likely always going to struggle with it. This doesn’t mean I must always suffer the destructive consequences of being prideful. It means that I must daily choose humility, abandoning myself, to follow God.
God doesn’t desire that we live enslaved. Christ died so that we may know the freedom of following him instead of ourselves. We may still be tempted to return to our old ways, but daily, we now have the freedom to abandon our path for God’s.