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Overcoming Addictions - Help for Christians

Christians and non-Christian alike battle with addictions and other behaviors that they find themselves struggling to leave behind. Through faith in Jesus Christ and placing emotional and spiritual health as attainable goals, we can all be overcomers.

This blog, produced by Certified Recovery Specialist Beth Livingston, is for people to exchange struggles and victories of breaking free from addictions and other hurtful behaviors.

Is Addiction a Sin?

Is Addiction a Sin?An Interview with Stephen Arterburn
Beth Patch Internet Editor and Producer

Respected addiction recovery author and speaker, Stephen Arterburn’s new book, The Book of Life Recovery: Inspiring Stories and Biblical Wisdom for Your Journey through the Twelve Steps, releases the first week in September, 2012. It’s the latest in the Life Recovery series of books that began with the popular Life Recovery Bible.The Book of Life Recovery

Recently, Stephen Arterburn spoke with about his new book, his passion for recovery, and some insights on addiction. Below is a snippet from this recent interview:

Do you believe that addiction is a sin?

Stephen Arterburn:  Well, I believe that every addict is deeply involved in sin. But I also believe that every sinner is addicted to their favorite sin, whether it’s gossiping or whatever. So, I think that they go hand in hand. I think addiction is a condition. I think you could say it’s a sin condition, where you kind of lost your ability to make a decision about something. In other words, if I right now decide that I’m going to drink a gallon of alcohol, I can decide to do that. If I’m in the addiction process, the addiction has more control of me, and at any point I can decide to stop the addiction process. And so, I can get the help I need. But it’s very, very difficult for me to do that and see that, because I’m so blinded by the addiction.

I like refer to addiction as a “problem.” I think for some people it’s more physical than sin, and for some people it’s more sin than physical. I don’t know where exactly when to draw that line, but I know this: it’s a problem, it’s got symptoms, and there’s a solution for it. That solution is a spiritual solution. So, rather than argue about should people never drink, should everybody not drink at all, (which was the big argument when I was growing up), or is it a sin or not a sin. My big thing is, okay, whether it’s a sin or not, it’s your responsibility to deal with it if you got it. And if you don’t deal with it, well, that’s sin. So, let’s get on with the recovery process.

In step one, the statement includes the phrase “We admitted … that our lives had become unmanageable. A highly functioning addict has trouble with that. “Well, no it’s not [unmanageable]," they may argue, "I’m still holding down a job.” How can we minister to people in that place?

Stephen: Yeah. Well, I think a big part of helping someone, if you’re not related to them, is to help them go from the external evidences of success to the internal experience of serenity and peace, and fulfillment, and to help a person see that they don’t have those things. They’ve got the external things that point to success, but the internal they don’t have.

But when you’re related to that person, they may think everything’s great, because you’re a peace keeper or a people pleaser or something like that, and you haven’t fully informed them just how unmanageable their life is, because you haven’t been brave enough or courageous enough to tell them that this is the reality of your life. And so, when we’re around that person, I think we’re really called to help them. James 5:19-20, says rescue someone like that who is wavering, and you save their lives, and you prevent many sins, and provide the forgiveness of sins. Then one of my favorite Psalms is Proverbs 24:11 says, “Hold back those stagger toward the slaughter.” So, we’re really called to make a bold move and help that person see the reality of their life and help them get into recovery. Otherwise, they may stay in their state of denial for a very long time.

There are a good number of churches getting involved in the recovery process. It’s no longer such a deep, wide split between the AA and the NA programs and church-sponsored programs. Someone who’s going to a meeting every day for 90 days, they’re finding that they can go back and forth from the AA and the church-sponsored programs. They feel comfortable across the spectrum, and it’s really encouraging to see that. But not seeing as many Christians really standing up and saying, “Yeah, I’ve got a problem.” It’s almost like they still want to keep it a secret. Why is that difficult for Christians?

Stephen: Well, there’s of course more shame in our culture, and we tend to be more judgmental of each other. We do have a judgmental rejecting attitude toward others. We think of ourselves better than others. It’s really important, I think, that we look at this whole issue of what does God expect of us in the face of somebody with the problem. And that is to offer them help, but to extend the grace that He has given us. We just don’t do a very good job of doing that in the church. So, hopefully it is changing, and I think it is.

Stephen ArterburnStephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries - the nation's largest faith-based broadcast, counseling, and treatment ministry - and host of the nationally syndicated New Life Live! daily radio program. He has developed (with David Stoop) the bestselling Life Recovery Bible., as well as a companion Life Recovery workbook, devotional, and journal. A bestselling author, Steve has written more than one hundred books and has been featured in media venues subh as Oprah, Good Morning America, and the New York Times. Steve holds degrees from Baylor University and the University of North Texas. He resides with his family in Indiana.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, August 31, 2012 2:22 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

Dear Stephen, You have some good points and your arguments are nearly irrefutable but the fact of the matter is that Jesus said in Luke 9:23 & following (and recorded in Mt & Mk) that if we are going to be his disciple, that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross & follow him. Very few people deny themselves of overeating, playing sports (golf, fishing, football, volleyball, etc.), enjoying a hobby, and so forth. If we are going to take any type of stand against alcohol or drugs or gambling or any other addiction, then we should make an all out sacrificial statement that we must DENY ourselves of anything and everything (no-bars-hold). But that's too great a commitment so we limit it to the top 3 or 4 addictions (somehow overeating gets missed). Paul went further and said, "those who live godly will suffer persecution". I don't see much of that in the US (where were the conditions to Christ & Paul's statements?). Thank you for your article & service. Glen
Left by Glen on Dec 19, 2012 11:24 AM

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

What ever we put before Christ is a SIN, I believe! We are all sinners, saved by grace. Glen is so right we must DENY ourselves & follow Christ. If we do as Daniel and pray 3 times a day and put our trust inthe Lord to meet our needs, guide & direct us by the Holy Ghost that lives inside us when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior then through & with Him we can be overcomers of the Additions that try to get the best of us (try to take over our lives). We can each learn from each other by comments like these.
Left by Harvel on Jan 13, 2013 2:20 PM

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

I totally agree with you Harvel, sin is sin, and only because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are saved. God knows each of us personally, and works with us individually. I believe that, if, like you said, we spend time with him continually, he will transform us little by little, from glory to glory. We should be praying for each other, and not judging each other. That is why Jesus said "You must first take the log out of your own eye, before we can take the speck out of our brothers eye."
Left by Faithe on Jan 14, 2013 3:21 PM

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

Stephen Arterburn is correct in saying that the church is in general is judgmental in its attitude toward people that "expose themselves to be imperfect people. the church I attend used to offer prayer for people after the Sunday sermon. However, gradually they stopped that practice. I can only guess that the reason was that hardly ever was anyone willing to "expose themselves" as not being perfect Christians. Quite frankly, I don't blame the congregation. It was not just a perception, it actually changed the way some people looked at you, treated you, after you went up for prayer. I remember one time we" exposed ourselves" one time and told a person in leadership that we had a financial problem, and we needed prayer. It took approx. 2-3 weeks before we got to know this information about us was circulating in the church. It was so embarrassing that we agreed never to ask for prayer again! I can just imagine how we would have felt if this had been a sexual problem!
Left by steve on Apr 03, 2013 10:53 PM

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

I have to say I am a little disappointed in Stephen Arterburn's response to this question, as much as I appreciate and respect him. Let it be said, as my oldest son one day said to me during a conversation we had,"Well,you know dad, it's all sin (anything that does not meet God's standard of perfection!) And he was SO right! There is not one among us that can say we walk a perfect walk. Not one! Even the ones among us Christians that seem "to have it all together". My point would be this, "When are we Christians going to start showing "real love"! towards one another?! What did Jesus say, recorded in John's gospel, "You will be known for the love you have for one another". Our Lord was talking about us, brothers and sisters in Christ! Quite frankly, I oftentimes find acceptance and forgiveness to be more easily obtained outside the church walls. Why is that? Is that one reason why we are so powerless, why our numbers are decreasing (2-4%/year) 2.Cor 1, 3-6 is for us! COMPASSION!
Left by steve on Apr 03, 2013 11:16 PM

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

Faithe said, "...we spend time with him continually, he will transform us little by little, from glory to glory. We should be praying for each other, and not judging each other. That is why Jesus said "You must first take the log out of your own eye, before we can take the speck out of our brothers eye."..."
Faithe, only a person that walks with Jesus could say what you said. Thank you for that truth! I found this to be true in my own life also; when my relationship with Jesus became more meaningful and real (like everyday real), my emphasis started shifting and becoming more intimate with Him became ever more important. This enabled me to love and accept people more. And the sin that was more in focus to me was my own. It would be for the leaders of the church to deal with the sin of others, as the apostle Paul spoke of. ANY action against God is sin, not just addiction. The more important question should be "How can the church "be there" for the addicted ones of us?"
Left by steve on Apr 03, 2013 11:44 PM

# RE: Is Addiction a Sin?

When you say addiction, it means any addiction especially destructive. I have worked for 15 years handling different situations of teens and married couples having addictions and its not a joke. Its porn addiction. I really donot know how I was able to handle this things and I keep on praying for each of them and I thanking God. During those times, Im being paid. But now, I want to help in my little way and now not to be paid. I could use my experience this time. I can't go out but I can use this venue to help. If not just tell me. Im also using as my reference and you can too.
Left by diday_ on Sep 10, 2013 8:22 AM