A desperate craving which cannot be escaped - something other than God which controls the way that a person lives, thinks, and feels - is an addiction. It could be anything - sleep, pain, TV, exercise, sugar, caffeine, risk, success or even people - anything can become an addiction for any person. Paul Washer said, “Tell me what occupies your mind and I will tell you who your God is.” This seems like a harsh statement, but what sin is there that is worse than giving away God’s rightful place to something or someone else? William Lenters wrote that “the addiction experience is the human experience.” Of course, no individual is exempt from this classification. Every human being is susceptible to idolatry.
It is generally taught that addiction is no more than a disease. However, to accept this claim without first checking its validity with God’s Word would be unwise. The wise doctor seeks an accurate diagnosis, not only so that the cure will be effective, but also so that it will not be harmful. The culture gives the diagnosis of disease or disorder to the addict. The Scriptures reveal that addiction is a worship disorder, failing to love God as much as you ought, as well as a lordship problem, failing to submit to the Holy Spirit’s control. If the problem of adultery is attention being given to someone other than the spouse, then addiction is a form of adultery, especially in the context of a spiritual marriage. Addiction, therefore, is a sin. Without this knowledge, the addict is left without the realization of their need for a spiritual salvation (not just a physical recovery), and therefore without any real hope.
The object of your worship is not necessarily inherently sinful, but the level of your affection for it makes it sinful and idolatrous. You have elevated the worth of an object, activity or person above the worth of God. Just as, in marriage, a man is to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, God’s People are called to “fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served...and serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14). To do otherwise would be to have a divided allegiance and a misplaced adoration. When Joshua exhorted the Israelites to “choose this day whom you will serve,” they answered, “far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD” for it was the LORD alone who was worthy of their allegiance. Not only that, but it is only the LORD who satisfies, In the story of Hosea, when Gomer committed adultery against her husband, Hosea said, “She does not recognize that it is I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil.” God was saying that, although His People would look elsewhere for their needs to be met, they did not realize that every good thing came from Him.
Addictions are enslaving. Thoreau once said, “The obedient must be slaves.” This raises the question, “Is disobedience liberty?” No. God made humans to be people of worship. An individual will worship something or someone, whether or not it is God. Worship involves allegiance - an aspect of slavery. Therefore, if a person is disobedient, he is merely a slave of disobedience - obedient to disobedience. The disobedient must be slaves to [obeying] disobedience. Although allowing oneself to indulge in an addictive substance or activity feels like freedom, it cannot be. A human being does not have the option to ever be free from some form of slavery. One can find freedom from disobedience only by becoming a slave of righteousness. And that is what we are. Thoreau was not alone in his opinion; God said the same thing through Paul: “you are slaves of that one you obey - either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness” (Romans 6:16). He goes on to say, “you have been liberated from your sin,” but not only that, “you have been enslaved to God” (Romans 6:22). R.C. Sproul said that “the only freedom that man ever has is when he becomes a slave to Jesus Christ.” God requires a commitment from His Bride that resembles the marital vow, “forsaking all others” because no one can serve two masters and no one can love more than one spouse.
J.C. Ryle wrote the following: “A man who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin but also to avoid everything which may lead to it.” Hebrews reads something similar: “...let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a). Addictions don’t just spring up out of nowhere. Small choices to compromise are the prerequisite to an evident problem. Instead of waiting for the obvious signs of idols, one should evaluate his heart by examining what his emotions and affections say about what he worships. If life, meaning, or joy is found apart from Jesus, the slippery slope of addiction has started. The foolish man is described in Proverbs as someone who lacks the sense to stay far away from the seductive woman: “I saw among the inexperienced, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking sense. Crossing the street near her corner, he strolled down the road to her house at twilight, in the evening, in the dark of the night” (Proverbs 7:6-9). A casual attitude toward sin causes a man to walk foolishly, without caution. The wise action would be to “...make straight paths for your feet…” (Hebrews 12:13), and to “pay careful attention, then, to how you walk - not as unwise people but as wise...” (Ephesians 5:15-18), staying far away from the path that could lead into slavery.
Life is spiritual warfare. Decisions that we make each day that we think are trivial ultimately reveal whether we “pledge allegiance” to God or to Satan. Paul understood the seriousness of the battle. He said, “I beat my body and make it my slave” (1 Cor. 9:27). We are to be the master of the activities or substances that might try to enslave us. We are not to be mastered by our own idols. When we choose to exalt our idols above God or seek to satisfy our desires with something other than God, we are serving Satan. The devil is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He will wait until you are off-guard. An attitude of nonchalance is inappropriate when you are living on a battlefield where temptation is all around. The good news is that we are no longer hopeless in temptations if we have been saved. We are still in the battle, but we now have a weapon that is more powerful than the devil. True freedom is found in being a servant of God, rather than a slave to earthly desires. What we should desire is not for God to take away our problems but for Him to give us new desires that please Him. We need not be intimidated by the temptations that we encounter because God is bigger than them.
The holy satisfaction that can be found in Jesus should cause Christians to forget about their useless idols. We must not forget that nothing in our lives is a secret to this Holy God. Every act of marital unfaithfulness is done before His face. Psalm ninety, verse eight, says, “You have set our unjust ways before You, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” The fear and love of God should compel us to live a life of faithfulness toward Him. Only God is worthy of our worship - our complete, full, and undivided allegiance and adoration.