Summary: This sermon seeks to provide hope for deliverance to those struggling with substance abuse and understanding for those who love them from The Exchanged Life perspective.
Would it surprise you that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 6,390 young people ages 15-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in the year 2,000? Of them alcohol was involved in 2,339 deaths. And as related to drivers – 3,594 young drivers ages 15-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2,000 and of those drivers 1,066 had been drinking or were legally drunk. For those above 21 years of age the total number of motor vehicle related deaths was 48,102 and 10,184 were alcohol related. To say that substance abuse is a serious problem would be an understatement.
The societal, cultural, environmental & biblical context of the Christians living in Rome made it difficult for them to live free in Christ. Living in a corrupt culture just like every one of us since the fall of Adam and Eve, the Christians in Rome even found it difficult to handle the freedom they had in Christ. Paul speaks of that in the first 11 verses of Romans 6. And on that basis he tells the believers in Rome in vv.12-13 to “Let not sin reign. . . “ The problem was they struggled to do that and some found themselves in the bondage of substance abuse as indicated in Romans 13:13. Paul exhorted them there, “Lets behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness . . .”
We are all needy people and we’re driven to meet those needs in a variety of ways. We all need to be loved and accepted for who we are and we’re all looking for some affirmation in life. For various reasons, people turn to alcohol and drugs to help them with the problems of life. Some people experiment with alcohol and drugs for social reasons; it becomes a means to get rid of inhibitions or to be a part of the crowd. Others turn to chemical substances as a means to cope with or to ease the pain – a pain that can be either physical or emotional. The only problem is the high or relief is only short-lived and if people continue using chemicals as a means of partying, escaping or coping the result may predictably be one of abuse. So my overall question today is “What is the Substance of Substance Abuse?” I’ll try to answer it with 3 other questions. First of all:
I. What is Substance Abuse?
Well, the more common term for it today might be addiction. From a spiritual perspective we may call it Bondage. Substance abuse may serve as a softer term than addiction or bondage. Nonetheless, in today’s society it’s mainly associated with legal and illegal drugs or alcohol. Of course there are other forms of addiction abuse and bondage including sexual abuse, bondage and addiction, the use of pornography as well as gambling addictions. One other form of addiction I need to mention is Tobacco. All tobacco products cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco have nicotine and it’s a drug that’s as addictive as cocaine and heroin. One drop of pure nicotine could kill the average person. Well, Webster’s definition of addiction is “the condition of being a slave to a habit.” In other words, abuse or addiction in the context we are using it today is allowing something or someone to control your actions.
Now substance abuse is considered good or bad by the individual’s own motives and desires as well as what that person will do to fulfill that desire. In the world of substance abuse an individual who has a strong desire to use drugs will violate moral and civil law to possess his/her drug of choice. And when a desire to possess something becomes more important than people or one’s self it’s considered bad. The biblical word for this type of addiction is called “lust” in our text at v.12. . . The Greek word is “epithumia” which means longing for and denotes strong desire of any kind. Now, it can be used in a good sense and is 3 times in the NT. However, everywhere else it has a bad sense. And what makes substance abuse bad is the priority a person gives to engaging in the pursuit of his/her addiction. They’re willing to sacrifice self and others to pursue it.
The danger of substance abuse is indicated by Paul in Galatians 6:8a, “For he who soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” or as the NIV says, “destruction.” He is saying that whoever is controlled by the flesh will experience self-destruction. And that destruction comes in many forms. It can come in the form of health problems and those problems can be physical, biological, psychological, emotional or mental. Well, to get the full understanding of “the substance of substance abuse,” we need to ask another question: