A group of scientists set about to train a chimpanzee to talk. For fifteen long years they pampered the chimp and taught him different sounds. Finally, the day came when he was to verbalize his first words. With anxious anticipation the scientists gathered around the cage to listen to anything he might say. As they all leaned in closely the chimp looked them squarely in the eyes and said, “Lemme out!”
No matter how nice a cage is, it’s still a cage. It’s not freedom. It’s not limitless possibilities. It’s not the way to live. Sadly, many people are trapped in life’s cages. These cages have names like “drugs,” “alcoholism,” “gambling,” “pornography,” etc. Perhaps these people enjoy fleeting moments of happiness in these cages, but in the end a cage will always be a cage, and it will never be the way God intends for the person to live.
I don’t mean to undermine or devalue the good work that is done by any group who helps people deal with addiction. But, with that said, a relationship with Jesus will always be the best way to conquer an addiction. To any addict who might say, “I don’t need Jesus to be my crutch,” my response would be, “You’ve already got a crutch; you just need to trade it in on a far better one.”
In John 8:34, the New King James Version reads as follows:
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”
Actually, though, this rendering doesn’t capture the full bloom of what Jesus said. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded Translation of the New Testament gets more to the real point Christ was making. It translates the words “whoever commits sin” as “everyone who habitually commits sin.” You see, that more precise translation of the Greek takes us into the realm of addiction. Jesus isn’t talking about the man who sees a scantily clad woman on t.v., lusts for a moment, and then changes the channel (even though that moment of lust is a sin). He’s talking about the person who lives his life eaten up by lust and actively seeks out scantily clad women on t.v. or the internet so that he can stare at them for long periods of time and fantasize about them. Do you see the difference?
The good news is that right on the heels of talking about those who are such slaves to sin, Jesus gives the cure. He says:
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36, N.K.J.V.)
You ask, “But how can Jesus offer such sure liberation from the addiction?” He can do it because He alone has the power to change the addict’s nature rather than just the behavior. In John 3:1-21, He explains how those who place their belief in Him as Savior are “born again,” and to be “born again” is to have God the Holy Spirit literally take up residence inside your body (Romans 8:9). Will the indwelling Holy Spirit obliterate your inborn, sinful, addictive nature? No, but what He will do is bring to you a contrasting nature, a nature which is nothing less than the nature of God. As 2 Peter 1:4 says, believers become “partakers of the divine nature,” and along the same lines, 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes this experience as becoming “a new creation.”
So, do you find yourself in some kind of cage right now? Is some addiction getting the best of you? Do you feel helpless to break free from its grip? If you answer “yes” to these questions, let me urge you to turn to Jesus. Maybe you need to genuinely place your belief in Him as Savior and become “born again.” Then again, maybe you’ve already done that but your fellowship and daily walk with Him have grown so anemic that you are severely limiting the indwelling Holy Spirit’s influence upon your life. Whatever your case may be, just know that your addiction is not bigger than Jesus. And that’s not just some cute little cliche that a preacher is supposed to say, either. Jesus really does stand ready right now to set you free from your cage, but the question (one that only you can answer) is: Will you let Him?