Let me tell you about three people. The first is a young woman… who after years of turning to food for joy and comfort finally realizes she’s been using food to try fill a void… but now she’s stuck… stuck in the endless cycle of dieting and binging… stuck in the endless cycle of depression… eating more because she’s depressed… and more depressed after she eats.
The second is middle aged man… When he was in college he took advantage of his new found freedom and partied every weekend. He could drink with the best of them… he was the life of the party… 30 years later the party’s over… but the drinking isn’t… and it’s taken hold of his weekdays as well as his weekends. The alcohol takes the edge off his anxiety… but it’s also ruined his health and crippled his ability to lead his family. But now after so many years… how can he stop? It seems so hopeless.
The third person is a young man…What started as a passing glance at risqué photos has morphed into a spiraling dependence on pornography to feel alive, even if only for a moment during his otherwise mundane day. And as he goes further down the rabbit hole he finds that it’s becoming harder to see the way back out… and impossible to do anything to get there. He feels… well he feels trapped.
As human beings we seek freedom. Freedom to choose how we live. Freedom to do what makes us happy. And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself… but unfortunately there’s something very wrong with us… something God calls sin… and sin takes our freedom and turns it into slavery through addiction.
Almost every single person here today knows that lost feeling… that hopeless feeling… that feeling of being trapped by addiction. And even though our sermon text speaks of gluttony and drunkenness and fornication… don’t be deceived… there are plenty of things we can find ourselves addicted to. Our enemy the devil doesn’t play favorites when it comes to how he traps us, does he? He’ll take something good and get us to turn it into something evil in our lives… or he’ll take something evil and get us to view it as something good. Either way he wins, and we’re stuck… Food, drink, pills, power, sex, exercise, money, family, facebook… you name it… you name it… and someone in the room is probably addicted to it in a sinful way.
Jesus said today in the Gospel that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. And our sermon text from Proverbs echoes that exact idea… addiction is slavery. Today though I want you to see… I want you to really see… what God has to offer in his Word. Because today God’s going to open your eyes to the antidote for addiction… an antidote that’ll give you hope even if your addiction has led you to feel hopeless… that’ll give you strength when you feel powerless to battle the addiction in your life… and in doing so, it’ll give you true freedom from your slavery to sin.
In 1973 there was a song written by a band called Faces called Ooh La La. I’ll bet many of you remember the chorus to the song… “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.” The song’s a story of a grandson laughing at his granddad’s advice and then having to learn the truths about life the hard way. And I think many of us can identify… One moment we’re laughing at our parents and grandparents and then you wake up one day and realize you should’ve listened after all.
I wonder if the folks who heard the proverbs of King Solomon felt the same way? Our sermon text today is a section of the book of Proverbs where King Solomon is giving his son advice, and warning him of the dangers of sinful addictions. Let’s read that again and see if we can pick up on a couple key thoughts from these verses…
19 Listen, my son, and be wise,and keep your heart on the right path.
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways,
27 for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men.
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.
Really Solomon offers three bits of advice here… three warnings. (Verse 21) If you eat and drink too much you’ll end up lazy and drowsy and poor. (Verse 27) If you run around with a woman you’re not married to you’ll end up trapped in a pit with no way out. (Verse 32) If you’re addicted to alcohol you’ll find that although it goes down smooth it’ll always bite you in the end.
Now, none of these warning are really all that earth shattering are they? I mean, anyone who’s fallen into these addictions or seen others fall into them could offer the same warning… But if this ancient wisdom is so easy to see in our modern world, how come we still fall into these traps over and over again? How come wise King Solomon who offered this advice even fell into some of these traps? Well… we fall because we listen to the lies of the tempter don’t we? Our enemy the devil would have us see how nice that glass of wine looks… and if one glass looks good, how about 3 or 4? He’d have us remember how good we feel… how powerful we feel… how wanted we feel… when we’re sleeping around or surfing online for our fix…
What that ancient serpent… that lying snake doesn’t tell us is that although addiction promises freedom and happiness, it only delivers imprisonment and pain. That’s the truth of God’s Word that I hope is perfectly clear after reading this section of Proverbs…
I hope it’s also clear to you though that this section of God’s Word has not offered an antidote for addiction. It’s given us a warning about the danger of sin’s slavery… a needed warning… but there’s nothing here that can cure the addictions we have. For that we need Jesus.
In John 8 Jesus said all who sin are slaves… but all who are freed by the Son are free from slavery (John 8:34, 36). God’s Word makes it clear that only Jesus is the antidote for addiction. The problem is we so often lose sight of Jesus. And when you lose sight of Jesus, your addiction leaves you feeling powerless, and even God’s Word can leave you feeling hopeless.
Take our sermon text for example. If you don’t have Jesus in view as you’re reading the book of Proverbs you end up feeling lost… and you end up searching for ways to find God’s gifts of love, and joy, and peace, and hope in the midst of your struggle… but God does not give separate gifts to us in the form of love, or joy, or peace, or hope… he gives us one gift, Jesus, and in him every gift is contained. And that’s the reason, as Christians, that we have to be reminded again and again of our Savior and what he’s done to cure our addictions and break the chains of our slavery to sin.
Addiction seeks to fill a void in our lives that only Jesus can fill. Just think about what you’re trying to gain through your addiction… Power? Peace? Respect? Love? Security? Or think about what you’re trying to avoid… Loneliness? Hunger? Fear? Failure? Think for a moment about what void you’re trying to fill with your addiction…
But now think about Jesus and what he offers… Jesus Christ fills you with God’s power. He gives you peace with God. Jesus demonstrated how much you mean to him… how important you are to him… how much he loves you. And because of that you have eternal security and fulfillment in Him. And just how did Jesus do this?
He lived a perfect life lived for imperfect people. And then offered a selfless sacrifice for selfish sinners. The Bible says this about Jesus: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus took all our addictions, all our sins… took them all on himself… and took them all to the cross. He was killed there so we could live eternally. Punished there so we’d be free of hell’s punishment. In him we are declared not guilty by God the Father. The sins and addictions that plague us in this life are washed away from God’s sight by the blood of the Son who has set us free. And in their place we are covered in the holy life he lived.
Jesus is the antidote for addiction. He is the cure for sin’s slavery. Because of Jesus, God the Father forgives you for every sin. No matter how long you’ve struggled with it… no matter how bad the addiction has become. You can know in this moment… right now… you are forgiven for the sake of Christ. And being forgiven, you can know that even if you feel powerless, your Savior will be your strength in your battle with addiction… and battle is a key word here.
In this life we will never be free from the temptation to sin. But as forgiven children of God we have been freed from sin’s guilty verdict and the hell that goes with it. And we’ve also been freed from our obligation to be sin’s slaves in this life. We are not powerless. As Christians we can and we will fight against sin in our lives. And we’ll do it with the strength that God provides.
And if you are wondering what this looks like for someone battling addiction… let me tell you a few ways we take up that fight. Number one: Confess. Confess your sin. Be honest about your addictions. You’ve all probably heard “admitting you have a problem is the first step.” Well… in our battle with sin, that’s true. When we confess our sin to God not only are we confessing our failure, we are also confessing that we can’t make up for it. When we confess to God we are telling him that we trust him to forgive us and we trust him to help us in the fight. The Bible says: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). So number one: Confess your sin to God.
Number two: Confess your sin to someone else. One of the great blessings God gives us as Christians is a family of fellow believers. Fellow believers who are also sinners who know the grace of God. The Bible tells us to: confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16). When we are honest about our sin with our fellow believers we will find support. They can encourage you. Hold you accountable. Pray for you. And best of all remind you of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
And by the way… please keep this truth in mind if someone comes to you to confess their struggle with sin. If your son or daughter tells you about their drug or alcohol addiction and seeks your help… if your husband or wife opens up to you about their porn addiction… if your friend tells you about their struggle with lying… treat them the same way Jesus treats you when you come to him with your sins. Be honest about sin. But also be filled with mercy and ready to help. One of the great fears many addicts have is that no one would love them if people knew their secret. Jesus knows every one of your secrets and mine and he loves us anyways. How could we ever think we could set up a higher courtroom than God’s? If he says we are free and forgiven. Then we are. And so is your brother and sister in Christ.
So again… confess… confess to God… confess to a trusted Christian. And please also be willing to get help when you need it. Sometimes we’re really good at the confessing sin part but not so good at the fighting sin part. There are practical tools available to help with that. Your pastors are a great resource for this. Talk to us about how you can fight the sins that have been plaguing you for years. Talk to a Christian counselor. Our Synod has professionally trained counselors available right here in Appleton and throughout the country through Christian Family Solutions. Folks that specialize in treating addictions of all kinds.
Confess to God. Confess to each other. Seek help from pastors and counselors. And through it all see your Savior in his Word… Because when your eyes are fixed on Jesus you’ll see the hope he offers to addicts like you and me… and you’ll find His strength for your daily battle with addiction. Sin takes our freedom and turns it into slavery through addiction. But through his life for us… his cross… his empty tomb… Jesus takes away our addiction… our slavery to sin and he gives us the hope of a heaven without sin and the freedom to fight sin until we get there. Take up that fight today brothers and sisters! Amen.