Addiction from a Biblical Construct: What It Is and What To Do About It

Introduction: The series: Addiction from a Biblical Construct defines and answers what it is and what to do about it from the Bible’s perspective. God has real answers for man’s problems.

Introduction: In our study, Addiction from a Biblical Construct we begin with the question: What is this thing called “addiction” anyway? The secular viewpoint from

A. “Early editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) described “addiction” as a physical dependency to a substance that resulted in withdrawal symptoms in its absence. Recent editions, including DSM-IV/V, have moved toward a diagnostic instrument that classifies such conditions as dependency rather than addiction” (emphasis mine).
B. Question: What is the diagnostic instrument?
C. Newer info including the DSM-V:

1. August 31, 2011: For the first time, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has officially recognized that addiction is not solely related to substance misuse and is, in fact, a chronic brain disease.” At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas,” ASAM Past President Michael Miller, MD, said in a news release.” The disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions,” added Dr. Miller, who oversaw the development of the new addiction definition. “Simply put, addiction is not a choice, but choice still plays an important role in getting help. Because there is no pill which alone can cure addiction, choosing recovery over unhealthy behaviors is necessary,” added Dr. Hajela.
2. The new definition, which was published on SAMHSA’s Web site on December 22, now states that recovery is a “process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

D. “While addiction or dependency is related to seemingly uncontrollable urges and may have roots in genetic predispositions, treatment of dependency is always classified as behavioral medicine. …. treatment approaches universally focus on the individual’s ultimate choice to pursue an alternate course of action.”
E. Their assumption: “Addiction” is an act of the will. Yet their claim: it is a “disease.”
F. “Therapists often classify patients with chemical dependencies as either interested or not interested in changing. Treatments usually involve planning for specific ways to avoid the “addictive” stimulus and “therapeutic interventions” are intended to help the client learn healthier ways to find satisfaction.”
G. Question: There is no vertical reference! What are their standard, motive, means, and goal of change?
H. Various models reported to “explain addiction” include:

1. The moral model: It is a result of a “character flaw” and “human weakness.” This model rejects any biological cause for “addiction.” It is used to explain the abuse of illegal substances, but it is not considered to have any therapeutic value. AA reports that the user (“addict”) is not able to stop himself but needs a “higher power.” Presently, this model is rejected.
2. The disease model reigns supreme as the cause of addiction. It is an illness due to impaired neurochemical processes. This model is employed in therapeutic settings. The disease produces the behavior “dysfunction.” “The recovery industry believes that willpower has little if anything to do with the outcome of the alcoholic….Nevertheless the vast majority of researchers has concluded that willpower does affect the outcome of a drinker’s efforts to control his drinking behavior. Studies have shown that it is precisely the characterological makeup of the individual – his perseverance, his willpower – as opposed to the kind of treatment, that determines whether he will recover” (William Playfair: The Useful Lie, pg 42-43).

a. The disease model: addiction is a chronic brain problem that changes brain structure and function. Addiction hijacks the brain. The brain recognizes pleasure (dopamine mediated) which drive compulsive behavior. The brain registers brain the same way no matter the stimulus. Pleasure and the thought of it, including so-called “natural rewards” (eating/drinking, sex/reproduction, and avoiding harm) release dopamine in the limbic system (nucleus accumbens) which are the body’s pleasure center. Learning and memory are also influenced by dopamine and they are aided by glutamate and serotonin, two other neurotransmitters. Dopamine motivates man to do what is necessary to met needs and serotonin helps man feel satisfied. The reward system of the brain is the area hijacked by addiction. It s connected to frontal cortex – man’s thinking center.
b. In this scenario, scientists split the brain into three section based on evolution: the brain stem which controls core function (cardiopulmonary status, temperature, and appetite). This is called the reptilian brain because it was “developed in earlier stages of evolution. The limbic system (the mammalian system – shared by all mammals) controls emotions and motivation. This system is said to be “central to addiction.” Several assumptions are made: the reward system exists for need-meeting – man is a needy person. It is a right and natural. Motivation and its system is always self-centered. In addiction, the limbic system becomes autonomous. The pleasure principle is the ruling concept.. This model forces treatment to attempt “correct” the presumed neurotransmitter problem.
c. Unbelievers do stop drinking and using drugs. They are motivated in this direction.
d. Within the secular community, there is the tension between the role of “willpower” in “stopping” a habit and the disease model. There is also tension between the thesis that the person is unable to stop on his own, but he is called to remain sober or drug free.
e. The levels of the neurotransmitters are extremely small and rapidly changing. The levels themselves are not subject to measurement. Therefore, functional MRIs are used instead of direct measurements.
f. See my review in this series on the book: Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not A Disease – Marc Lewis PHD.

3. The genetic model: It is a result of genetic predisposition either nature or nurture. Therefore this fact is thought to relieve a person of responsibility and “makes” him a victim/prisoner to his genes.
4. The cultural model: It is, in part, determined by the culture’s influence and whatever seems to be in vogue at the time.
5. The blended model: This model incorporates various elements of other models in order to “cover all bases.”

I. Questions: nature or nurture or both? This is a logical question in the quest for answering: Addiction from a Biblical Construct

A. Who provided man with both?
B. Then is God to blame?
C. Does either one (nature or nurture) give the person the “right” to sin?
D. Where does sin and grace fit into these schemes?

II. Definitions of terms according to non-biblical sources:

A. Webster’s dictionary: The word “addiction” comes from addicere meaning “to give consent or assent” such that one gives himself over to a habit or practice especially a bad one. Thus the word describes a person’s devotion, habitual inclination, and movement toward the use of something. An operative trio expressing the word addiction is: loyalty, affection, and devotion to.
B. Medicine or related fields: It is “a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development. It is characterized by behaviors that include: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving” (
C. Their bottom line message: “addiction” is an illness and requires lifelong treatment. In other words, the slogan is: once an addict, always one. These people would have you believe that addiction is not a heart/inner man problem but a body problem first and foremost.
D. “Addictionologists”: “Addiction” is not the result of a “character flaw,” “weakness,” or lack of morals. This is the initial story of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in regard to alcohol (William Playfair, The Useful Lie). “Experts” today chalk “it” up to genetics, chemicals in the body, allergies, or that is “just the way it is” in people (M Kotz, DO; Rheumatology Update: Summer 2004).
E. Addiction biology: “Addiction” is a neurophysiological phenomenon in which substances such as opiates bind to cell receptors on neurons in various areas of the brain especially the pleasure/reward center. Opiate analgesia (pain relief by narcotics), tolerance, and dependence are mediated by drug-induced activation of opioid receptors.
F. Question: “A fundamental question in addiction biology is why opiate drugs such as morphine and heroin have a high liability for inducing tolerance and addiction while endorphins and enkephalins, the native ligands for opioid receptors, do not.” The receptor binding produces intracellular activity that is somehow responsible for addictive behavior. Yet this phenomenon doesn’t occur with a person’s own endorphins. “…the receptors can be activated in ways that both do and don’t cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction” (Jennifer Whistler:

1. “Addiction is a specific biological disorder of the rewards system of the brain which has a genetic basis and a component of denial that permanently alters the survival system and thus motivational priorities” (Drew Pinsky, MD: 11/06/03. He is the author of the book: Cracked: Putting broken lives together).
2. The initiating factor in addictive behavior is “emotional dysregulation” – difficulty regulating feelings, trying to feel better, seeking solutions to emotional problems (Drew Pinsky, MD).
3. Once the switch has been thrown on this disease, it is forever active (Drew Pinsky, MD).
4. Opiates drive the reward circuit in at least two ways: by inhibiting GABA and directly affecting neurons in the brain ( Dr. Alan Clark, MD).
5. The on-going definition for addiction includes: *craving for something intensely, *loss of control over its use, and *continuing involvement *despite adverse consequences. It has you. It is a brain disease.

III. Approaches to treatment via the secular model: comparison can be important in examining Addiction from a Biblical Construct

A. Identification of the patient: The “addict” must be identified; generally, he is not your typical “skid row” person.
B. Withdrawal depending on the substance involved: treatment with some type of medication such as anti-anxiety drugs for alcohol.
C. Detoxification is often done in the hospital.
D. Family support
E. Self-help groups
F. Rehabilitation either inpatient or outpatient:

1. Education: about their responsibility for improving their lives and motivation for doing so which is only through abstinence. It is a “me first” approach: Do it for yourself and your family.
2. Family and friend support
3. “Realistic” vocational planning
4. Drug free peer groups
5. Self help groups
6. Half way houses
7. Recovery centers

G. Medications:

1. Treat other “psychological” disorders including depression and anxiety
2. Specific agents:

a. Alcohol: Disulfiram, Naltrexone (opiate receptor antagonist), Acamprosate (blood levels of glutamate)
b. Opiates: Methadone, longer acting meds, and opiate antagonists including – Naloxone, Naltrexone.

H. Results:

1. Alcohol: after completing alcoholic rehab, 60 % of middle class “drunks” maintain abstinence for 1 year. Yet 20-35 % achieve abstinence without any help from the medical profession.
2. Opiates: 30-35% drug free at 1 year; 60 % are off opiates but on something else.
3. Cocaine: from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a stimulant by releasing dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

I. Their bottom line: “Addiction” is an illness that is to be treated by medications and “talk therapy” with the goal of an “improved life” and the means for doing so is abstinence. The goal is abstinence. This is true bondage! However, even though it is true bondage it can appeal to hurting people and to those involved in their care for any number of reasons.

IV. In the secular literature, there has been a push to differentiate between tolerance, withdrawal, and dependence/addiction.

A. Each term is descriptive and interrelated; they differ only in degree.

1. Tolerance: It is a profound decrease in analgesic effect observed in all patients during prolonged administration of opiate drug. It is characterized as a bodily (physiologic) state that results from the regular use of a drug.

a. An increased amount of the drug is needed to produce the same therapeutic or pleasurable effect as experienced previously or to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
b. Apparently the body’s ability to handle the drug (the term for this handling is ‘metabolized’ which occurs at the cellular level) changes over time with continued ingestion of the drug.
c. It begins with the first dose of the drug but is not clinically evident until 2-3 weeks of frequent use.

2. Dependence: It is also defined according to a person’s behavior but he also has certain physiological changes in the body (such as rapid heart beat) when a drug is stopped.

a. Physical dependence is defined as bodily changes upon withdrawal of the drug especially if done abruptly. After stopping or rapidly decreasing the amount ingested, a person may “feel” badly: e.g. the next day “hangover.” In other words, a person is said to be dependent on a drug when he has withdrawal symptoms.
b. This is another example that “addiction” is a choice of the will because the person prefers bodily comfort in lieu of stopping the drug (see below). He chooses to continue the drug because he hates the way he feels physically upon stopping the drug. There is a physical component to dependence.
3. Addiction or psychological dependence: It is defined behaviorally as well but also looks at the motivation of a person.

a. “Addiction” is defined as an “uncontrollable” compulsion/urge to repeat a behavior regardless of its negative consequences.
b. It is taught that drug “addiction is a neurobehavioral syndrome with genetic and environmental influences that results in psychological dependence on the use of substances for their psychic effects and is characterized by compulsive use with harm.”
4. Is Prozac addictive? From the Mayo Clinic website:
“Antidepressants aren’t considered addictive. Some medications can lead to addictive behaviors, such as taking a drug for a ‘high’ or a buzz or to escape from personal problems. Antidepressants such as Prozac don’t have these euphoric effects.”

B. Some interesting facts regarding opiate “addiction” especially when considering Addiction from a Biblical Construct. They include:

1. God created in man his own endogenous (“inside”) opioid pain relief system called the endorphin system.

a. Endorphins are produced in response to many stimuli and they bind to cell receptors in the brain which inhibits pain signals: e.g.: in long distance running and bicycling.
b. Pleasurable activities can cause release of endorphins, and there may be an endorphin-rush which conceivably can become “addictive” – the buzz.

1) Generally endorphins don’t “produce” addiction as do exogenous opiates.
2) Endorphins stimulate activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine which often results in an increased number of receptors sensitive to dopamine. This tends to slow electrical activity in the nerve (This process is called ‘upregulation’).
3) There is an increased requirement for dopamine. But if there is not enough dopamine available, either as endorphins or exogenous opiates, to activate these receptors, there may well be a feeling of “let down.” The increased requirement for dopamine to maintain electrical activity can lead to both tolerance and withdrawal (

c. Narcotics, such as morphine and heroin, bind to these same receptors. Once bound, the cell is activated to inhibit the incoming pain signal resulting in analgesia.

2. Opiate analgesia, tolerance, and dependence, is mediated by drug-induced activation of brain receptors.
3. A fundamental question in this area is why opiate drugs have a high liability for inducing tolerance and dependence while endorphins do not. The theory being postulated focuses on cell activation and the resultant cell signaling. “Addiction biology” is being touted as the explanation for “addiction” and the abnormal biology is alleged to occur at the cell receptor-membrane interface. The reason for this abnormal biology is not given.

C. Seven criteria are given in the DSM-IV for drug dependence (addiction) and a person must have at least three of them in order to be diagnosed.

1. Criteria:

a. Tolerance to the drug’s actions
b. Withdrawal
c. Drug is used more than intended (frequency)
d. There is an inability to control drug use
e. Effort is expended to obtain the drug
f. Important activities are replaced by drug use
g. Drug use continues in spite of negative consequences

D. It should be obvious that:

1. The distinction inherent in the terms (tolerance, dependence, addiction) is more semantic than substantive.
2. The terms don’t help in ministering to those with “addictive” behavior. None of the terms are seen in a biblical context.
3. If the terms are to be used, dependency seems to be the preferred term because it expresses the affective or feeling aspect of the inner man (self worship) that says “me first” irrespective of God and others.

a. Dependency to a drug more accurately conveys the distortion of the creational fact that man is a dependent creature in God’s world.
b. Rather, autonomy (Ju 17:6;21:25) is the operative principle in fallen man who refuses to think and act as if he is a dependent creature – this is God’s world not his.

4. Medicine and its component fields are convinced that addictive behavior is a de novo medical problem and that there must be something wrong with the body. This includes both the initial behavior and the continued habituation.
5. And at the same time, medicine “allows for” a disturbance of “mental health” (psychological problems) in order to explain a person’s “uncontrollable urge” to favor self. The secular model is in stark contrast to the Bible. Self control is a fruit of the Spirit, but, functionally, the Spirit is thought to be unable to do His work in “addiction.”
6. In the secular model, behavior is the key for diagnosis; behavior is said to rest principally in disturbed biology, and the motivation to change is only in the context of that behavior and its goal is relief – not to please God
7. The subject of tolerance and dependence is encountered in the area termed “chronic pain.”

a. The mantra from patient groups, pharmaceutical companies, and a growing number of physician groups is that pain is a fifth vital sign, pain must be discovered, and the patient deserves to have pain treated whether he has cancer or not. I was told that there is no such thing as “addiction” when it comes to “treating” patients with a medical condition.
b. Somehow when the label “pain” as the purpose for taking an opiate is given to a patient, the term addiction is not considered.
c. The number of prescriptions for narcotic medication is increasing. Why?

V. Addiction from a Biblical Construct: The Bible presents an entirely different interpretation and conclusion about “addictive” behavior.

A. The Bible teaches that every person lives out of his heart (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:34-37; 15:16-20; Mark 7:20-23; Luke 6:43-45). Therefore, “addictive” behavior expresses that which a person worships: treasures and desires more than pleasing God.
B. At the root of “addictive behavior” is the desire to worship and please self. Pleasing self and pleasing God are opposed to each other: Joshua 24:14-15; Galatians 5:16-18; 2 Corinthians 5:9,14-15; Psalm 37:4 (Addictive behavior is about LAAD: loyalty, allegiance, affection, devotion). It is driven by the desire for the “buzz.” Some even pursue God to get the “buzz.”

1. Webster’s dictionary is consistent with the Bible’s view of someone who is engaged in worshipping himself at the expense of others, and who has no thought of Who God is.
2. There is no biblical term for “addiction” as an activity and behavior.
3. The Bible doesn’t view man’s behavior as isolated and unrelated to his inner man or circumstances in life – this is God’s providence which includes the person’s wrong choices.
4. Rather, behavior is a whole-person activity: thinking, desiring, and acting .
5. The Bible speaks of a person’s lifestyle in terms of thinking; motivation/desires/ orientation; and behavior/deeds (see C).
6. Addictive behavior is the expression of self worship and pleasure driven by entitlement and pleasure. Drug “addiction” and suicide are two acts of self worship.

C. The Bible uses various words to describe people with a habitual lifestyle (These include anastrophe/anastrepho, prasso, zao, peripateo). All of these words indicate a patterned way of life based either on the “I wants”/”I deserve” vs. God’s Word. What drives either lifestyle is found in the inner man – the heart. Rather than serve God, he serves self at the altar of “me” and he does so by his own choice to get for self.
D. Because every person lives out of his heart, he is like a sponge or a pitcher: when squeezed or poured, only that which is inside comes out. Life, both good and hard times, is the stage on which a person demonstrates his solution to the lordship issue: Whom do you serve? Who is number one in your life?

1 In the same way as when the sponge is squeezed, a person’s thoughts, words, and actions come forth from his heart. Hard and good times squeeze a person so that his beliefs, convictions, wants, desires, and motivation are expressed by the outside pressure. He functions out of his FBS (functional belief system) and motivational systems (FMS).
2. Hard and good times expose what one’s treasure is (Deuteronomy 8:1-4,16-18; Proverbs 30:8-9; Matthew 6:19-24).

E. The Bible teaches the power of habituation both among believers and unbelievers: sin’s constant threat – it is crouching at your door. The Bible localizes sin in the person:
1. Psalm 51:4-5:
v.4: Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
v.5: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

2. Proverbs 5:21-22

v.21: For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord and he examines all his paths.
v.22: The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.
v.23: He will die for lack of discipline led astray by his own great folly.

a. Ensnare: lakad: capture, seize, take; most of the 121 uses of lakad deal with men capturing or seizing towns, men, spoils, and kingdom. 1 S 14:47; Jeremiah 5:26; 18:22; Ps 35:8; 9:15; 59:12; Proverbs 6:2;11:6. Eccl 7:26.
b. Cords: hebel: cord or rope; it is a sign of captivity. Job 18:10. In our verses, it refers to the enslavement by sin. Jesus comments on this fact in John 8:31-36 and Paul does the same in Romans 6:12-19.
c. Hold fast: tamak: grasping securely; Proverbs 3:18; 4:4; 5:5; 11:16; 29:23; 31:19. Ps 17:5; Isaiah 33:15ff.

3. Proverbs 22:15: Folly/foolishness is bound up in the heart of a youth but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

a. Folly/foolishness: The author is speaking of the origin of original sin. The bent/ inclination of the heart is in the wrong direction: self pleasing rather than God pleasing. The tendency and orientation of the heart is corrupt (ewil: fool). The word speaks of moral perversion which is in essence anti-God and pro-self.
b. Bound up: qashar: to bind, plot, conspire; bind or tie something to something; embed; Dt 6:8; Proverbs 3:3.
c. Heart: leb; the inner man.
d. Child/youth: naar: 13:24; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 29:15 (Ephesians 6:4); boy, lad, youth, attendant, servant.
e. Rod: shebet: it has multiple uses: Ps 23:4; Isaiah 10:5; 2 S 7:14.
f. Discipline: musar/yasar: corrective/educative discipline. It is translated paideuo in NT.
g. Drive far: rachaq: denotes the state of a person/thing in comparison to another; distance: remove, distant, unreachable: Jeremiah 23:23.

4. Genesis 4:6-7 (also see Genesis 44:16; Numbers 32:23; Isaiah 59:12)

v.5: ..So Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.
v.6: Then the Lord said to Cain: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
v.7: If you do right will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must master it.

a. Downcast: napal: a common physical action.
b. Accepted: from nasa: to lift, bear, rise, carry, forgive. It is the opposite of down.
c. Crouching: rabats: resting, lying down, repose, in the wings.
d. Desires: t’ shuqa: it is a desire or longing; Song of Solomon 7:10; Genesis 3:16;4:7.
e. Master: masal: rule, govern, take charge, have dominion, gain control. Genesis 1:18; 3:16; 4:7;15:2; 24:2.

See Psalm 51:5 and Genesis 4:6-7 in the context of Romans 7:5-8.

5. Ephesians 5:15-20: These passages are very important in our study: Addiction from a Biblical Construct

v.15: So then see to it that you are careful about how you walk, not as unwise but as wise people,
v.16: taking advantage of the time because the days are evil.
v.17: Therefore don’t be foolish but rather understand what the Lord’s will is.
v.18: Don’t get drunk with wine since that leads to utter ruin but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit,
v.19: speaking to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord,
v.20: always giving thanks for everything to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

a. Careful: akribos; accurately, with care. Matthew 2:8; Luke 1:3.
b. Walk: peripateo
c. Unwise vs. wise: asophia vs. sophia (Eph 1:17-18;3:10;5:15; James 1:5;3:13,15,17).
d. Take advantage/redeem: exagorazo: to buy out from; Gal 3:13;4:5; Eph 5:16; Col 4:5).
e. Foolish: aphroneo
f. Understand: suniemi: comprehend, perceive, have insight into;
g. Drunk: methusko: intoxicate, under the control of;
h. Filled: pleroo: it refers to fullness not only in amount but in all areas of life.

The believer can walk/conduct himself under the influence/guidance of the HS which his pervasive and comprehensive or some other source of guidance and influence. Concerns lead to choices which lead to consequences.

F. Inherent in the term “addiction” is the idea of worship and treasure seeking (Matthew 6:19-24; Colossians 3:1-3). The “addict” is one who wholly treasures (himself- my emphasis) something in his heart such that he is willing to put aside almost anything to have it or attempt to possess it (Ed Welch, Addictions: A Banquet at the Grave). The person put it there: he is the idol, idol maker, and worshiper: the essence of Addiction from a Biblical Construct

1. His life revolves around having “that thing” so that it consumes his entire life. “That thing” is at its core self – what he can get for him irrespective of God and others.
2. His resources, including time, energy, and money, are offered at the altar of self worship: whatever the “addict” thinks he needs, believes he must have, and is trying to possess. He acts out of his identity: out of FMS and FBS.
3. His motivation is self directed in order to get what he deems most important irrespective of what God says.
4. What he wants, desires, and thinks important is more important than pleasing God Who is the Creator and Just Judge of all the earth. For the believer, He is also Father.
5. Getting what he wants (the “I wansies”) is the driving force behind his thoughts, desires, and actions.
6. He is consumed by getting what he wants, and “right now” for his glory, and his pleasure (“right now” is a term that pictures life on this earth from a temporal vs. eternal perspective, physical vs. spiritual perspective, and what is visible/seen with the senses vs. what is known by saving faith).
7. Getting for self is his standard operating agenda.
G. All of these are worship activities because worship is that activity in which a person gives full attention to something or someone out of devotion and reverence.

1. Addiction from a Biblical Construct: we begin in the Garden: Originally, man was created a worshiper and before sin, Adam and Eve worshipped God.

a. After the fall, man was plunged into the kingdom of darkness (lies, ignorance, unrighteousness, death) and the family of Satan (at the core a self pleaser and a slave to sin: John 8:31-36,44).
b. Man continues to be a worshipping being but exchanges the truth of God and man for a lie and worshipped self by serving the created thing (Romans 1:18-25).

2. Addiction from a Biblical Construct: we move out of the Garden but mankind was exiled out of God’s presence. At salvation, God recreated man in terms of knowledge, holiness, and righteousness: the “moral image” of God in man. Man became a new creation: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10. He is brought back into God’s presence and fellowship with God.

a. He now has the capacity, orientation, disposition, and functional ability to think God’s thoughts (knowledge), to desire God’s desires (holiness), and to act (righteousness) in a God-pleasing manner with the right motive.
b. Because of this radical transformation, there is hope for the self worshipper (1 Corinthians 10:1-14).

3. “Addictive” behavior is that inner-man activity of thinking, desiring, and acting that is directed toward satisfaction of self in the terms of a physical desire for one’s own pleasure and enjoyment.
4. In reality, the “addict” doesn’t worship the drug or substance but himself.
5. Although he longs for the feeling and pleasure that comes with using, he in fact worships the good feeling that comes from some other source than what man was originally created for: to glorify God (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1).
6. At the core of “addiction” is self worship. Man remains a worshipper. “Addiction” is the religion of self worship (Ed Welch, Addictions: A Banquet at the Grave).
7. The “addict” by his activity has declared to God, himself, others, and the world that this is his world and he sets the rules. He says in effect that, “My world and everything in it exists for me: my pleasure, my gratification, and my well being.”
8. The secular model recognizes that addicts are “self-centered, impulsive, governed by need” (

VI. Biblically speaking: Addiction from a Biblical Construct, the term  “addiction” is a three-pronged, whole-person response, an expression of the inner-man activities of cognition and desires. We must be careful of the use of the addictive behavior. Labels can be descriptive or try to import some fact that does not agree with the Bible.  People live out of an identity and they have a choice: addict or child of God.

A. Addictive behavior (AB), as well as any behavior, has these components:

1. A cognitive component involving a person’s thinking – he functions out of his FBS. What he thinks about himself, his rights, the world, and God affects how he acts.

a. Thinking (knowledge), motivation (holiness), and actions (righteousness) are related.
b. Self orientation leads to self pleasing (wanting) and self worship (deeds).
c. The idea that self satisfaction apart from God is a right and a good idea originates from his previous membership in Satan’s culture (kingdom and family).
d. It has become so ingrained that the person considers it second nature to satisfy self, and he has chosen a substance/drug to do so.
e. He is convinced that what he is doing is best for him irrespective of the facts and what God’s Word says.
f. His problem is not the drug, the bottle, himself, or people. Rather his struggle is against God (2 C 10:3-5; Ephesians 2:1-3).

2. An affective component involving a person’s desires, “feeling,” and motivation. He functions out of his FMS. Seeking to “feel good” or not feeling bad as a major goal in life will lead to the idea that “anything goes” in order to satisfy that desire.

a. Once a person attempts to satisfy that desire he will be further drawn to the altar of self pleasing in the church of self worship.
b. He will become enticed and even infatuated with the pleasurable feeling that comes with using.
c. The person’s feelings affect his thinking.
d. Habits of living by feelings and thinking are not easily changed.
e. This is because his physical senses are so stimulated and “turned on” that he desires more and more to be “turned on” and filled up. This is sensual living.
f. He is in bondage.
g. This feeling of satisfaction is short-lived and the cycle of desire – expectation – demand – temporary satisfaction – bad feelings leads to a seemingly never ending downward spiral.
h. When he faces the responsibilities of his life, including guilt, his bad feelings only intensify and he is driven into an ever widening cesspool of self pleasing.

3. A willful component is part of AB. In spite of the protests of many, every drug and alcohol abuser purposefully and willfully chooses his lifestyle.

VII: Addiction from a Biblical Construct focuses on so-called addictive behavior demonstrates the biblical principle of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-9) and results in bondage (Proverbs 13:15; Ps 32:10; John 8:31-36; Romans 13:14). This bondage is counterproductive to what the person says he wants: a better life/happiness. It is contrary to what God has intended for His people.

A. Addiction from a Biblical Construct is based on the Bible’s understanding and approach to life is that life dominating problems are habituations which require whole life changes: knowledge, holiness, and righteousness.
B. Scripture terms addictive behavior as sin and biblical counseling calls it life dominating – it is characterological – it describes the essence of the person.
C. When a person continually practices a particular sin, he eventually becomes bound over to it (Proverbs 5:21-22). It is his characteristic, distinctive manner of responding.
D. His bondage is not simply to the act but the desire to please self. He desires to have good feelings and by any method/means. Concurrently, he seeks to remove bad feelings.

1. Using is simply the instrument for self-pleasure.
2. The bondage to self worship/self pleasing affects all areas of his life.
3. The bondage leads to a life increasingly dominated by the desire to please self as the means by which life will look and feel better.

VIII. For those seeking help for Addiction from a Biblical Construct:

A. We must define his identity, agenda, and pursuit of it:

1. Ask: What is your identity? Who are you and what are the reasons for assuming that? Write them out. What is your agenda (where are you going in life? What makes you tick? What are your hopes/expectations) and how have you pursued your goals/dreams?
2. What have been the results of pursuing your agenda based on your identity?
3. How does your outlook and perspective fit with Proverbs 13:15/Ps 16:4; 32:10 and Matthew 6:33; Ps 37:4/145:18-19; Philippians 3:8-11?

B. We must determine his status before the Lord in terms of salvation:

1. Is he saved? If he is, does he understand salvation?
2. Determine his knowledge by asking what a person is saved from and what is saved to? The fundamental issue is his view of God and his view of self. Both need to be radically changed.
3. If saved: he should answer the question: the reason why he thinks he deserves more honor than God?

C. The Gospel: does he understand it in general and in the context of Addiction from a Biblical Construct?

1. He is saved from himself, sin, and Satan:

a. The power (constraining function of the law and personal law keeping) and consequence of sin which is first and foremost separation from God and its resultant guilt, shame, and corruption. Sin is no longer his master. The believer has been saved from his bad heart. The believer has the capacity not to sin. There is a radical transformation!
b. The penalty (condemning function of the law) for sin with all its miseries in this life (Genesis 3:8-10; Proverbs 13:15) and ultimately eternal separation from God in the life to come. There is no condemnation for the believer. The believer has been saved from his bad record: Romans 8:1

2. He is saved to: God as a God pleaser and into His service.

a. The need: Romans 3:10-23; Isaiah 59:1-2; Revelation 21:6-8; Hebrews 10:26-31. You are a sinner. So what is the big deal? Without salvation, you are headed for damnation. Your eternal destiny is hell and your destiny on this earth is one of misery and heartache. And yet salvation is more than a fire escape out of hell.

1). Life has become a living death. Life is hard even without the additional burden of sinning against God and others by indulging in the habit of pleasing self.
2). Because of Adam’s sin and man’s union with him, man became separated from God in this life, and at death his soul and body are separated.
3) Unless a person is saved, he lives separated/apart – body and soul – from God in his present life and forever.
b. What does the Bible say about you as a sinner? If you are an unbeliever, or a believer who is functioning as one, this is what the Bible says about you:
1) You are debased: sin has invaded every part of you so that your thoughts, desires, and actions are opposed to God and you promote you – you are self: centered, interest, indulgent, sufficient, and righteous (Jeremiah 17:9-10; Romans 5:6-10; Ephesians 2:1-3;4:17-24).

a). You are the problem and what you think and do prove that fact.
b). You sin in the way you do because you are a sinner even if a redeemed one.

2) You are defiled: thoughts, desires, and actions come from your heart even as a believer. You have heart problem which is fixed on honoring yourself in place of God (Matthew 15:16-20; Mark 7:21-22).
3) You are defiant: since sin is lawlessness, every sinner (the unbeliever always, and the believer sometimes), is a law breaker (1 John 3:4; 5:17). He considers himself to be above God’s law, and a law unto himself (Psalm 7:11).
4) You are devoid of power and ability to come to God on your own (Romans 5:6-10; 8:5-8).

3. Unless God saves you, what awaits you is:
a. Hell which factual, final, fearful, and fair (Rev 20:10-15; Matthew 13:42; 22:13; 23:33; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 14:10,12l 2 C 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Luke 16:19-31);
b. Bondage to the “right now” philosophy of life including abstinence: Ps 73/37;
c. Bondage to self pleasing: John 4:31-34; 2 C 5:9,14-15; Hebrews 11:24-26;
d. Bondage to a complicated life because falsehood has many faces but truth has one: Matthew 11:28-30.

For victory in Addiction from a Biblical Construct, the choice for worshiping creatures is who do you worship: self or God? Joshua 24:15. What is his answer?

Kingdom of darkness – Kingdom of light: Addiction from a Biblical Construct and victory involves a move: from darkness to light.

Identity: self/me God related
Agenda lies/lust (FBS/FMS) truth
Pursuit self pleasing God pleasing
Results: slavery – bondage Slavery as a child of King

Pleasing Self – Pleasing God: Addiction from a Biblical Construct focuses in the person as a self-pleaser who is to move to a God-pleaser not simply stop.

Results: Hard life: Prov 5:21-22;13:15 Simplified life: Matt 11:28-30;
Ps 32:10; Gal 6:7 Phil 3:8-11; Isaiah 55:1-2

Reason: Feelings and self pleasing can never Delighting in God is what you
be satisfied – rather you will be a believer was designed to do
mastered by them and can always be fulfilled

4. The cost: Addiction from a Biblical Construct involves cost.

a. Salvation costs you nothing – you were passive in it as God invaded your heart and removed the heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:25-27). This happened as a result of God’s work on the cross: He went to hell on the cross for you!
b. Sanctification costs you everything: die to self since you are dead to sin’s power: Rom 6:11. Deny self the “I wants” (Matthew 10:32-38;16:24-25; Mark 8:33-34; Luke 9:23;14:26-27; John 12:21-25

5. The obligation: Addiction from a Biblical Construct i9nvolves duty and obligation: Those loved by God are under obligation to love horizontally: 1 John 4:7-12,8-19. Salvation is more than a fire escape out of hell.

a. Believers are turned from death to life.
b. The believer has been transferred from Satan’s family and kingdom of darkness and has been placed into God’s family and the kingdom of light.
c. Believers are called to be lovers, both of God (vertical relationship) and others (horizontal relationship): Matthew 22:37-40; 1 John 4:7-12.

6. From the perspective of Addiction from a Biblical Construct, there are wonderful benefits including victory: the saved person is untied to God in Christ. Since he is in Christ, he:

a. Has been saved from the fear of death, judgment, and hell (1 C 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14-17);
b. Has and rests on the promise of the eternal presence of God in heaven such that heaven looks better than this life (Phil 1:19-21; Rev 21:1-3);
c. Has the indwelling HS Who guarantees God’s promise of salvation and enlightens the heart to the beauty, simplicity, and satisfaction of pleasing God through the application of biblical truth (Ps 37:4; 73:23-26);
d. Has the owner’s manual for life – the Bible. He turns to it for knowledge and wisdom in order to live as a child of the Creator-King.
e. Has his life simplified on this earth because he doesn’t consider God as someone he can manipulate or not consider seriously. Pleasing God becomes the prime motivation for life: 2 C 5:9, and he knows that God will honor that goal.
f. Is freed from the burden of self pleasing and is motivated to serve God and others (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 John 5:1-3).

7. The requirement: Addiction from a Biblical Construct involves a requirement of the person. It is a type of recording keeping but it is based on God’s recording keeping.

a. A change in a heart of stone to one that is a heart of flesh – malleable and fertile, responsive to God’s call;
b. The unsaved person’s FBS and his FMS must be changed from the inside out and which occurs only because God invades his dark, hostile heart;
c. The saved person must demonstrate God’s change in him by faith and repentance, and fruits of that faith and repentance;
d. In other words, he will live as a child of God – as one re-created in terms of his thoughts, desires, and actions.
f. A saved person who is “using” is an oxymoron: how can one be a God pleaser and a self pleaser at the same time? He can’t. Rather the believer is called to say “no” to self, and “yes” to Christ: Matthew 10:32-38; 16:25; Mark 8:33-35; Luke 9:23;14:25-26; John 12:25.

1. Excuses: “I can’t”; “I have changed some”; “It is too hard.” The excuses become worse than the act itself because they make it easy for the person to oppose God.
2. Results of continuing: Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:13,15; Ps 16:4; 32:10.

g. Change: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17: Change is a reality because God provides His Word, HS, His grace, and His Church.

1. Whole person change in multiple areas of life: knowledge, desire, acts.

a. Specific thoughts, specific desires, specific actions.
1) Make a list of specific ways of how you are failing God and others
2) Record the time and day and other features that you may think are important.

b. List those things that make it easy to use: this question is important in implementing  a plan based on Addiction from a Biblical Construct.

1) List the pressures and troubles in your live.
2) Write out how you think they are a problem, how they may be “bad” and record your response to them and the results.
3) Make a list of when, where, and with whom you use.
4) Make a list of what you are wanting and thinking when you are tempted to use; before you have used; and if are using, when you use.

c. Make a list of what makes it hard to stop.
d. Memorize the radical-amputation principle (Matthew 5:29-30; 18:3-10) and place it next to your “what make it hard to use” list. Record how you use the principle and the results.
e. What thoughts, desires, and actions have you put in the place of using?

2. Repentance and confession: Be careful when using Psalm 51. There was great conviction in David’s life. He had changed his view of himself and God: “against thee and thee only have I sinned” meaning he fully realized he sinned and that sin was first and foremost against God. Many people have such a low view of God and sin that they don’t share David’s perspective. 1 John 1:7-9 offers hope: John writes that those who confess sin will be forgiven. Feeling forgiven is not the key. The key is following God’s word vs. feelings.
3. You are to confess to God and those you have sinned against not simply the act but:

a. The violated biblical principle:

1) I know what is best for me: Trust in self/wise in own eyes vs. God’s wisdom;
2) My autonomy: I can do what I want and how I want to do it;
3) I am not hurting anyone: deception.

b. The heart from which the activity came;
c. The pattern which the act or thought I part of;
d. The excuses/justification that you have given to justify the sin including:

1) Next time, I’ll….
2) Why me?
3) If only I had ….
4) If I do this…
5) Nobody understands, cares, or knows ….

3. You are to put on fruits in keeping with repentance and the fruits of the Spirit (Luke 3:1-14 and Gal 5:22-23). Consider these:

a. Self control
b. Joy
c. Peace
d. Thanksgiving

4. The method is to put off and put on: Answer the question: When is a self pleaser not a self pleaser, a self worshipper not a self worshipper? It is when he is a God pleaser/worshipper. How will that look in your life?

a. Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10;
b. Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 3:27: what does it mean to “put on” Christ? What is to be “put off”? What does it mean tom “put on”?

5. The resources available:

a. Accountability: at home, at church, at work.
b. One-on-one discipleship
c. Associations: 1 Corinthians 15:33; Hebrews 10:24-25: who are they and how does your relationship help you please God and how does it hinder you from doing so?
d. Consider that all of life has been affected by your sin pattern of handling and responding to life. Therefore, consider the following areas and write out what is going on in each of them (PREACH):

1) Physical: diet, exercise, illness, sleep, medications
2) Relationships with others: who and what are they?
3) “Emotions”: describe feelings and how they relate to engaging in …..
4) Actions/activities: describe those that are important and how so.
5) Conceptual/thinking: what is your thought about what is going on?
6) History/pattern: describe your view of how you got where you are and the results of your responses to life. Please include:

a) Your view of yourself (identity);
b) Your agenda or plan for life;
c) Your efforts in carrying out who you think you are (pursuit).

7) Family: spouse, children, discipline
8) Finances
9) Social/associations
10) Spiritual: church, individual prayer time and Bible study
11) Work
12) Marriage/sexual relationships

6. When should church discipline be an option?

a. Too often, the Church ignores the person and the problem.
b. Too often the Church leaves it – the person and his problem – with “professionals.”
c. Often, the Church takes a psychologized approach.
d. A key is your source or standard for truth and guidance.
e. People involved in life-dominating are habituated people but it is not to God, it is to self. The person returns to the vomit of self-pleasing so easily (Proverbs 26:11).
f. Change is the key. Help him get that picture early – you expect it because God expects it.

1) God expects it because He has changed him.
2) He is the most changed person because he has been supernaturally and radically changed at regeneration.
3) Therefore, believers are to be the most changing people on earth.
4) What kind of change? Changing into what? It is changing from a self-pleaser to a God-pleaser and growing the likeness of Christ.

e. Determine if he wants to change and does he believe what the Bible says about changing Romans 13:12-14).
g. Change is a tall order for any believer from any sin but especially one who has engaged in this type of self pleasing for the period of time that he most likely has.
h. The Church is there for him including formal discipline.

James T Halla, MD material may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author.