Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Addiction, being a slave to a substance, habit or lifestyle. No one can win in life's race while addicted to anything. So, what's the key to breaking addictions which can certainly end in tragedy or even death? To understand addiction and how its vicious hold can be broken, stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line.
Pastor Lutzer, it's crazy. Drug laws are being thrown out and felons freed. It's as if our sinking culture wants to slide into the abyss. And you know, Dave, in order to understand addiction, I actually did a study on alcoholism, what an alcoholic is like, how he blames other people. Despite all of his good intentions, he keeps falling into the same pit again and again. I've written a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. And indeed, one of the chapters has to do with addictions because oftentimes people simply give up.
That is to say, they think to themselves, I've tried this over and over again, I've determined I will not, and yet I do, and therefore it is hopeless. My friend today, God has a plan for you through His Word and through His people. And for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. It's entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. I want to thank you so much for your support of this ministry. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book Putting Your Past Behind You. Even addictions can be broken. I shut God completely out of my life. I was having the time of my life.
I was having fun. But it came to the point, especially after the AIDS virus was introduced to America. As the years went on, I realized after having so many contacts that it was inevitable that I had contracted the virus, and I began to fear death. Then I began to think about God again, but not very seriously because I thought, well, I have tried God before. I've tried Christianity.
It just doesn't work. But I also realized there was nothing else in my life that worked. My life was a complete mess. I was on the verge of suicide. I had lived so many years on the street as a prostitute, and I just felt completely filthy and dirty. It alienated my family. Had no friends.
Sleeping alone on the street at night is no fun. So for some reason, the Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart over a period of time saying that I had made a mistake in my dealings with God, that I had tried to change myself and try to get rid of homosexuality out of my life, and that way I could be acceptable to God. But over a period of time, the Holy Spirit began to show me that that wasn't how it worked, that if I would come to Christ as a sinner and confess my sin and be willing to repent of my homosexuality, that Christ would do the rest, that he would forgive me. And the Lord taught me before I was even saved the doctrine of justification, that even though I still felt like a homosexual and still had all of the desires, that if I would receive Christ and come to him for forgiveness of sins, that before the throne of God I was a new creature, and that I was no longer a homosexual. And God brought me to the point where he asked me one question. He says, Do you believe the Gospel? Do you believe what I have taught you?
I said, Yes, I do. And he said, Follow me. And from that time on, he's been delivering me slowly from homosexuality, and it's been almost four years now.
You have just heard the voice of Roger Montgomery, who died of AIDS on Monday at the age of 33. He represents a wonderful testimony of how God did deliver him from homosexuality, how he overcame homosexual temptation. Remarkable story of God's ability to deliver people from sins and addictions. And that is my topic today, Fatal Addictions. We are acquainted with the word addiction. We all know that it refers to compulsive, destructive behavior. We've always heard of alcoholics, but today we have workaholics and we have sex addicts and we have people who are into gambling and we have foodaholics, I guess I should say. And all of that is a part of society today, and we hear a lot about it. I wonder if it is true that addiction is on the increase.
I think it may be. First of all, because of the availability of drugs and pornography and all of the things that sometimes are used in addictions. There is a second reason why it's on the increase, and that is because of the breakup of the family. Because there is nothing that provides the seedbed for addictions in a more powerful way than a dysfunctional family.
In his book on sexual addiction, Patrick Carrens writes, sexual compulsiveness like all other addictions rests in the web of family relationships. And the more terrible your background, the more likely that you will find some kind of diversion, some kind of fulfillment through an addiction. There have been two approaches to addiction. In the early 60s it was fashionable to say that people are not really addicted to anything, they just have a disease. And so it was termed disease. And the idea was that if we call addictions diseases, it will make it easier for people to come forward to receive help. Because after all, there's nothing to be ashamed about if you have problems with your gall bladder or you have the mumps.
And therefore there should be nothing that you should be ashamed about if you happen to be into pornography or alcoholism or drugs. I can understand that reasoning, but along with making it easier for people to come out of the closet, so to speak, calling addictions diseases created another problem. It made deliverance more difficult. Because first of all, people stopped taking responsibility for their sins. You and I are not really responsible if we catch a disease. But secondly, calling these addictions diseases began to effectively cut out many of the promises of the New Testament that were made by a very powerful savior, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. Because you see, the Bible nowhere promises that we are going to be delivered from all of our sicknesses.
But it's got dozens of promises that tell us we can be delivered from our sins. So we are not doing people a favor to label addiction by the word disease. Let me speak very plainly today and tell you that addiction is really only another word for sin.
I agree with Keith Miller who said, sin is the universal addiction to self that develops when individuals put themselves in the center of their personal world in such a way that leads to abuse of others and to self. That is, after all, the root cause of addiction. Now what we're going to do today is to look very briefly at the way in which people slide into addiction. What are the steps that lead into the dungeon? Then we're going to consider some of the secret chains that keep people in that dungeon.
And finally, I'm going to give you hope there's a way out. What are those steps that lead people to addictive kinds of behaviors, into deep sins, if you please? Turn to Romans 1 for just a moment. I know that whenever we think of Romans 1, we think of homosexuality because that's what the Apostle Paul discusses there. What we have to understand is that his discussion of homosexuality, first of all, is a prototype of all other kinds of addictions and sins. In fact, that's very clear because in verse 28 and following of the first chapter, he lists 22 different kinds of sins.
So it isn't just homosexuality. Secondly, it must be understood that when Paul gives this kind of a scenario, he is not talking about each and every individual homosexual. He is talking about how the human race itself has slid into the predicament, the morass of sin. He says in verse 21, even though they knew God, they did not honor God as God. That's where it all began, the dishonor of God. And their foolish hearts became darkened, professing themselves to be wise. It says they became fools.
Now I want you to notice three exchanges that are made in the process. Verse 23, they exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image. You can't live without a God. Either your God will be the true God or it will be the God of lust. It'll be the God of desire. It'll be the God of idolatry or else you'll be into the New Age movement saying I am God. Nobody lives without God.
So they exchanged gods. Verse 25, they exchange the truth of God for a lie. Nobody who is into addictions is willing to face truth very easily. You believe lies because you tell lies to other people to cover your sin and you begin to lie to yourself. People always wonder why is it that those who are compulsive in their behavior, those who are into addictions, why is it that they are so heavily into denial? It is because they change the truth of God into a lie and they begin to believe their own lies. And then it says in verse 26, for this reason God gave them over to degrading passions for their women exchange, there's the word again, their natural function for that which is unnatural. Every single addict is trying to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate destructive ways. And that's why Paul in the rest of the verses can list all of those sins that flow from this kind of a lifestyle. Two observations very quickly. Addiction is not new to the human race.
It has been around from the beginning of time. Secondly, we must think of addiction in terms of a continuum. There are some people who are more addicted than others. There are some people who are addicted to some things that are much more difficult to get rid of than other things. Addicts are not some kind of strange people that come to us from another planet. Addiction is nothing more than human nature allowed to follow its own desires. That's all addiction is. It is human nature without restraints. It is human nature taking the course of least resistance. That's what addiction is. And that's why addicts are all over the place. You work with them.
They worship with us in church and many of you live with them in your homes. Let me illustrate it this way. Let us suppose that your life is a car and you're driving along and generally you can keep control of the car and sometimes it hits ice or mud but you can regain control and keep it on the road. An addict is a person who has so relinquished the control of his life to an addiction that the steering wheel now is broken.
The shaft is broken off so he can keep his hands on the wheel but the wheel is disconnected from where he's going. Remember Ted Bundy? Confessed to the murder of 28 young women. Got into pornography at the age of 12 and 13. Began to have those tremendous exhilarating experiences. Knew something of the euphoria of lust and then discovered after he had had all those experiences he needed something else to recreate the same euphoria. He began to visualize what it would be like to molest a child and then he had to find out whether the imagination was as wonderful or greater than the actual molestation so he had to do that. And then he began to discover that in order to create the same erotic euphoria he began to think of what it would be like to strangle a child. And that same euphoria that he had when he first picked up a copy of pornography was recreated in the strangling process.
His steering wheel was detached from where he was going. You say well Pastor Lutzer not everybody who's into pornography ends up being a Ted Bundy. That's true. Thankfully that isn't the case. But I want to say to you very clearly today that once you give up the control of your life to an addiction it is no longer up to you to decide where your life is going to land. There are some people who lose control of their automobile and they swerve off into the ditch and they're scarcely harmed.
Maybe just a few scratches. Other people lose control of their automobile. They go over the cliff and they land in the lake. Permanent damage. Other people lose control and they're going along the road and they smash into another car and they kill innocent victims.
But here's my point. Once you surrender the control of your life to an addiction what happens to you is no longer up to you. It is now in the hands of forces that are totally beyond your control and you will not be the one to decide whether you'll get the little scratch or whether you'll do permanent damage or whether you'll smash into somebody else and kill them. You are out of control. Most addicts have some moment of truth when they regain some semblance of control. It's the homosexual who wakes up some morning thinking he might have AIDS. It's the alcoholic who is fired from his job. It's the adulterer who fears that perhaps his wife is going to find out about the relationship.
It may be the child molester who fears that someone saw him. And so an addict wakes up some morning and says I've got to change. He for a brief moment sees that he is indeed headed for the ditch. And so he says to himself I'm going to change and he regains control of that steering wheel for just a little while. And he finds out that he goes for several weeks, maybe even several months without practicing his addiction. Ah, he has experienced the illusion of control. That's all he's experienced. Because after things begin to get better and after his bills are paid and he gets another job and he finds out that his wife doesn't find out about his relationship, he is going to take a greater risk next time as he once again seeks that exhilaration that comes from his addiction.
Let me ask you a question. Why doesn't an addict simply walk away from his addiction and say enough is enough? Why doesn't he walk away permanently?
The reason is because there are chains that bind him to whom he owes tremendous allegiance. And those of you who know addicts, you will know that an addict will steal. He will lie. He will cheat. He will manipulate. He will make you feel guilty for his problem. He will use every device known to man to savor that addiction, to protect it, to guard it, to hug it to his bosom and he will not give it up easily.
Why? Because an addict does not want to face those chains that bind him. What are the chains? Let me list five of them very quickly. The first is that of guilt and shame. Guilt and shame. The addict violates his own standards. He knows better whether he was reared in a Christian home or not. He violates his own standards. He knows that he's violating God's standards too. He also knows that his own conscience is being activated.
He feels guilty, dirty, vile. So an addict has got all that in him. And that's why he lies so easily. You know, people say, well, how come he can tell so many lies? My friend, his whole life is a lie.
Telling a lie is no big deal. And a smart addict replays in his mind various conversations. He already comes armed with a pack of lies so that if someone begins to question him, he knows in advance how he's going to answer so that he can get out of the truth. He's bound by guilt and shame. Secondly, he's bound by euphoria. He's bound by the euphoria, by the experience, by the inrush of pleasure that he feels, tentilating his whole body as he's involved in addiction. It's a pleasure he can't bear to be without.
The voyeur who looks through windows may look through a window for three hours standing there in excitement, already enraptured with euphoria, looking for perhaps 20 seconds of partial nudity. You have the adulterer. Did you read the book that was written by our former police chief here, Richard Brezec? He and his wife wrote a book on sexual addiction, which tells about all of his affairs. Interestingly, he says, quote, for me to make a phone call was the equivalent to a junkie shooting heroin.
And he said that when he didn't reach one of his girlfriends, he would actually cry and go into withdrawal. It was his shot of heroin, his exuberance, his excitement, his euphoria. And what can we say about gamblers who have the excitement of taking risks and making a bet? What about the alcoholic who receives that exhilaration through the bottle? And that is why alcoholics become so absolutely terrified, lest anything should ever come between them and that precious bottle. They don't want God.
They don't want their family. They don't want anything to separate them from that which helps them get through one more day. The euphoria helps them to survive. Feelings that the addict believes he cannot be without. Yes, he's bound by euphoria.
He's bound by fear of rejection. Just put yourself into an addict's shoes for just a moment. What is it that an addict needs desperately? He needs to feel human and nobody can feel fully human. Nobody can feel fully fulfilled unless there is some other human being in the world who knows all about you and who still loves you and accepts you despite what you're doing.
They don't have to accept what you're doing, but they have to accept you. That's the nature of personhood is to have other beings, human beings know you and still love you, but an addict can't have that. He fears that if he exposes his life to somebody, he's going to be written off as a sick pervert.
He can't stand the fact of exposing himself to people in terms of his own lifestyle and his own desires. And yet it is exactly that kind of friendship and openness that he desperately needs to get out of his prison. I'll never forget when the children of a psychologist met with me to tell me that their father was a secret alcoholic. They said that he would come home, he would eat, then of course he would drink to excess, he'd sleep. In the morning he'd go to work and then he would do it all over again and no one knew. After all, he was a psychologist who was supposed to be helping people with their own addictions.
My friend, ultimately God has to give that hand from heaven to give help, to give healing, to give forgiveness. That's why I've written a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. I wrote it to help people to give them guidance so that the past need not control them. Of course some of the other chapters have to do with the hurt and healing of abuse, understanding sexual bonds, incredibly important, the healing and power of forgiveness, issues regarding the unpardonable sin and so forth. If you want a book that is going to help you and others navigate this difficult culture where we are up against tremendous forces to lead us astray, I believe that you'll benefit greatly from this resource.
For a gift of any amount it can be yours. Here's what you do, go to rtwoffer.com. And while you're there, I want to thank you in advance for helping us financially because of people just like you, the messages that you have just heard are being listened to by thousands upon thousands of people. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
Ask for the book Putting Your Past Behind You. And in the meantime, I trust that your walk with God will be satisfying. Spend time with God today and remind yourself of who you are in Christ. And if you've never received Him as Savior, this would be the time to do it.
And be sure to connect with us, rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Even as I sit here today, I'm visualizing the many people who are blessed as a result of this ministry. From my heart to yours, I want to give you a word of thanks.
And whenever we come to mind, say a prayer on our behalf, and we are deeply grateful. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to Win comes to you from the Moody Church in Chicago to help you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time, Pastor Lutzer gives us a deeper look into the mind of an addict. Then he'll take us into 1 Corinthians chapter 6, where we'll find steps to break the stranglehold of addiction. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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