Days before Tiger Woods’ 36th birthday, Woods ended a two-plus year drought of winless golf. Sunday, December 4, Tiger Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which was his first victory in 749 days. Most everyone can recall the events that changed the course of these last two years for Tiger. This drought started with much of Tiger’s personal life being on display for the entire world. Tiger Woods’ sin of adultery and struggle with sex addiction became common knowledge around the world. As a result, it seemed like it became very easy to look down on Tiger Woods and feel so much superior to him. Tiger’s adultery and struggle with sin was awful and has resulted in much turmoil and destruction in his life. Above all, it was obviously sin and rebellion against his Creator, the Triune God. Yet, is our nature any different than his? Are we that much better? Are we free from the control of addiction in our own life?
Whether you have struggled with severe addiction or not, if we are honest with ourselves, and look to the Scriptures to tell us what is true, we know how easily our hearts can fall into addictive behavior. As fallen humanity, we all struggle with deep craving that we want to control, yet at times cannot. In our sin and sinful nature we are actually slaves to sin. “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Because of our slavery to sin, our hearts seek to cling onto anything other than God to provide the significance, security, comfort, joy, love and peace we were created to experience in relationship with God. Therefore, our slavery to sin works itself out in our lives in a controlling way that leads to addiction in our lives. Maybe we choose less destructive outlets than Tiger, but our hearts can still be addicted to things that control and enslave us.
In rejection of God, we worship created things and forsake the One we were created to worship. Worshiping anything other than the One in whom we were created to worship leads to bondage and slavery in our lives. Ed Welch defines addictions as, “bondage to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don’t bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God.”
However, many people say that their addictions are physical and that they do not seem voluntary. The desires for comfort, security, joy, peace, love, significance and control are desires that can only ultimately be met in a relationship with Christ. However, we often look elsewhere, and by the nature of sin, become controlled by it. Over time as someone looks to have these desires met in substances, activities or other things outside of Christ (particularly physical substances), our bodies may develop significant cravings or dependence upon those things. When we continually look to something to provide only what God can ultimately give us, our sinful flesh becomes a slave to it. Therefore, we turn a good thing into something that has enslaved us because we have depended on it to give us something only God can give us. For instance, sex, food, sports, sleep, exercise, relationships, work and so forth can be great blessings. However, when they are used and depended on in ways outside of God’s design they can become curses in our lives. Food is a necessity, but if we look to it to bring us ultimate comfort and to escape the pain and suffering we face in the world, it can easily become an obsession and control us. A dating relationship can provide a false sense of security and worth that only God can provide. However, many people cannot function unless they are in some type of romantic relationship. They are controlled (and even addicted) by the need for a boyfriend/girlfriend to tell them who they are. We can say the same thing about so many different things.
Yet what are we to do? When alcohol, sex, food, relationships, exercise, work and any other created thing lure our hearts, how can we find victory and freedom from becoming addicted or enslaved to it? Now before going on, it must be stated that many addictions involve physical, chemical dependence. Therefore, many addictions may need professional help. However, I want to address the root of the issue. Tiger Woods believed the solution was getting back to his Buddhist roots. In a sense, he was just saying, “I need to be more religious. I need to try harder and be a more moral, disciplined person.” However, self-will and religious discipline cannot change our sinful hearts. The root problem is our sin and our worshiping created things other than loving, trusting and honoring our Creator. In Romans 7, Paul gives us the only answer to this problem. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” For those who put their hope in Jesus Christ, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13, 14).
Jesus Christ came to earth and took on flesh. He is the only one who in the flesh lived a perfect life of worship. He lived a life of perfect obedience, trust, and love towards the Father in heaven. He lived the life that is required to have a relationship with God. However, He willingly went to the Cross and laid down His life. He took God’s wrath for the rebellious, sinful, addicts He came to save. Because of this good news, we can know and rightly worship the One we were created for. It is this message of love and forgiveness that can change our hearts from rebellion and addiction to hearts that trust and worship God. Worshiping God and loving one another is what we were created for. That is freedom. Outside of the Gospel, we are slaves and addicts. But in Christ, we are children of the Living God.
Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can ultimately change our hearts and break the cycle of addiction and false worship in our lives. It is looking to Christ that brings true forgiveness, freedom, and change. This is the power that brings life. To the Christian, Paul says, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Worshiping anything other than the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) will lead to destruction. However, confessing to God the things you have wrongly looked to, accepting by faith His forgiveness, and worshiping Him brings freedom and life. This is the Good News. Grace through Jesus Christ is our only hope and power to transform our hearts that become addicted to “created things.”
 Ed Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, 35.