- “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10 cf. v. 17-18)
- “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on” (Prov. 4:14-15)
- “The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray” (Prov. 5:22-23)
- “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Prov. 10:17)
- “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded” (Prov. 13:13)
- “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Prov. 13:14)
- “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20)
- “The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways” (Prov. 14:14)
- “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27)
- “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die” (Prov. 15:10)
- “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1)
- “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1 cf. 23:29-35)
- “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead” (Prov. 21:16)
- “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Prov. 21:17)
- “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day” (Prov. 23:17)
- “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (Prov. 23:20-21)
- “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28)
- “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Prov. 26:11)
- “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling” (Prov. 26:27)
- “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Prov. 28:13-14)
My book Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin just got released! Here are a few of the things people are saying about it.
“As the title of this book makes clear, a gospel-centered approach is, in the long run, the only effective way to combat sin and addiction. Any resource, like this one by Paul O’Brien, which helps us fight our sinful compulsions by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one I recommend.”
—Dr. Donald S. Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Gospel-Centered War is for those who struggle with life-dominating sin and for those who counsel them. Instead of simply addressing behavior modification, Paul O’Brien gets to the heart of the matter. This book addresses the issues that provide freedom from destructive, self-defeating behaviors by helping the reader understand how God can change their heart and passions. Read it, devour it, and then be changed from the inside out.”
—Pastor Mike Wilson, Lincoln Heights Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio
“Paul is a genuine man of faith who has dedicated his life to Jesus and his calling. As a former heroin addict who was mentored by Paul, I had the privilege to witness his passion for Christ and his desire to help people through God’s word. This book shows that same passion.”
—Ricky Upton, Louisville, KY
- “Start Over” – Flame feat. NF
- “Relief” (Acoustic) – Wolves At The Gate (feat Toby Morrell)
- “Redeemed”- Big Daddy Weave
- “Break the Cycle” – For Today
- “Killa” – Lecrae
- “This Is Amazing Grace” – Phil Wickham
- “Lord, I Need You” – Matt Maher
- “Rock of Ages” – Ascend the Hill
- “Your Great Name” – Natalie Grant
- “Sweetness of Freedom” – Citizens
Sin Leads to Enslavement
Sin is like Gollum’s ring. It enslaves and destroys. It looks so good but ends in lava.
Truly, “What we revere, we resemble, either for ruin or restoration,”[i] and we all revere something. So “when we speak of ‘worship’ …we are not speaking about an activity of one’s life, but speaking of the activity of one’s life.”[ii]
Thus, “What distinguishes us (as individuals, but also as ‘people’) is not whether we love, but what we love. At the heart of our being is a kind of ‘love pump’ that can never be turned off—not even by sin or the Fall; rather, the effect of sin on our love pump is to knock it off kilter, misdirecting it and getting it aimed at the wrong things.”[iii]
Yet when we aim at the wrong thing, worship the wrong thing, and thus deprive God of His glory, He deprives us of ours[iv] and we end up empty and doing all manner of wickedness. This is woven into the fabric of the universe, our very existence.
We will worship. That’s not the question. The question is who or what will we worship and to what end. What will be the result?
One catechism asks, “With what design did God create man?” The answer: that we should know God, love and glorify Him, and so be happy forever.[v] Truly “God is to be worshipped, not simply because he demands to be, but because this is the proper destiny of his creation.”[vi] Worship is inevitable.[vii] It will and is happening. The question is not will you worship but what? And what will it lead to?
Will it damn you and lead to enslavement; or will it bring eternal shalom and human flourishing (i.e. true cross-cultural human flourishing not the mere individualistic perception of flourishing) (recall Rom. 1 and 6)? Is it true or is it false?
When we worship the LORD we are going with the grid that is innately ingrained within us since the beginning. This is innate within us but it is strangely not natural. We have been dispossessed of where we were, where we should be. Yet, it is where we should be. The worship of the LORD God is true and right but it also works, it is the way it was designed to be (and thus it not surprisingly works that way).
We were made for ineffable joy and thus we not surprisingly seek for it. The thing about the joy we seek (sehnsucht) is that it’s not quite like our hunger, thirst, or other desires; it cannot be filled within the earth. So, apparently, we with our longing seek to fill it with that which cannot fill it. We think that, similar to our other “thirsts,” it too can be quenched here on earth through tangible means. Yet experience, many wise people, and Scripture have exhorted us that that is just not the case. There is a greater thirst within us, yet also a greater quenching. There is joy unimaginable, though now not wholly obtainable.
So, hear Romans 6:20-23: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at the time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thus, sin is not good because it enslaves and leads to death although it promises life and fulfillment.
[i] G. K. Beale, We Become what we Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.).
[ii] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 20.
[iii] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 52.
[iv] cf. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 29.
[v] Longer Catechism of the Eastern Church , question 120.
[vi] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 39.
[vii] cf. e.g. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 230, 231.
Today’s culture believes that you can’t be fulfilled unless you can have the “partner” you want, whether male, female, multiple, or in some other combination that is preferred, and yet so many signs tell us that humanity has yet to be fulfilled. Take, for example, all the recent rich and famous people, people that many of us would think would be fulfilled, that have committed suicide or died of drug overdose.
What does all this tell us? Or as Blaise Pascal says,
“What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”
We have eternity in our hearts. We seek for good gifts, that have become tainted fruit, to fulfill. But they can’t, they were never designed to. Legalizing same sex marriage isn’t the solution. Drugs are not, sex is not, success is not… Not kids, money, things, marriage… They all fail. There’s nothing to be finally gained under the sun.
We need that for which our souls were made. We need the LORD. Jesus the promised Messiah alone gives eternal shalom for our souls.
Addiction, the affliction we embrace. Drowning in more, yet never full, we consume the poison.
Freedom from the substance, freedom from the porn, is what we yearn, yet ever embrace our shackles.
Numbing ecstasy, this misery. Bound by this high, damaged by this drink.
Party or prison, this prism through which we peer.
Addiction, this affliction, for which we ever yearn. We burn, burn out, and repeat the syndrome.
No end in sight, all is night, an endless cycle down.
Yes, dirt and sand is all this land, as we thirst for peace and joy. An empty well is where we dwell, no thirst is quenched below.
But as I gaze upon Your grave, where for me You bled, my shackles brake and to You take rest from all this hell. Slave to sin, never again; You my Master alone.
Yet why do I embrace this noose that holds me?
Lord, why do I run to a whore when I know all she has in store for me is death?
I see the light, the joy, and close my eyes, and turn away.
Why don’t I stay?
I run to the slaughter but You’ve prepared a feast. I slit my wrist, when for me You bled.
O’ the misery that is me, when I turn away.
Why don’t I stay?
You quench my thirst, all else is empty wells.
Why swallow up this gravel, when You have abounding streams?
O’ the misery that is me, apart from You.