Tag Archive | alcoholism

Drinking and Smoking

Jesus turned water into wine and drank wine Himself (Jn. 2:1-12; Matt. 26:27). Jesus the perfect Son of God drank, so can we drink wine, beer, whiskey, vodka, rum, and what not, as we like? Here are some things to consider:

  • Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God.” So first, do not drink if you are under the legal age. Do not smoke if you are under the legal age. Do not smoke things if they are illegal.
  • Romans 13:13-14 says, “Let us walk properly…not in…drunkenness…but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Second, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, we are to be like Him and not be alcoholics. Exciplity we are told to not get drunk (Eph. 5:18). This text applies to more than just alcohol. It also applies other things such as pot, even legalized pot (though see here for my views on psychoactive medication). However, realize you don’t find a command for complete abstinence from alcohol.
  • Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident… drunkenness… and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Cor. 6:9-11). We need to, third, cultivate the works of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, and patience, not the works of the flesh. However, that does not make having a drink wrong for everyone, though drunkenness is wrong for everyone.
  • Proverbs 31:4b-5 says, “It is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to drink strong wine, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” Fourth, we see that it is a good principle for those who are in places of authority to not drink. This is so they do not mess everything up by being drunken and foolish. In the Bible priests (Lev. 10:8-10 ), Nazarites (Num. 6:3-4 ), and John the Baptizer (Lk. 1:15 ) were not to drink. They were likely not permitted to drink for the same reason kings and rulers shouldn’t drink, so they won’t “drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of the afflicted.”

Read More…

20+ Proverbs for those Pining for Substances or Porn

  • “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)

Book Released! Gospel-Centered War

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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

Sin is Not Good #6


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 [1839], question 120.

[vi] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 39.

[vii] cf. e.g. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 230, 231.

“…yet to be filled…”

vacuum-heart-1Today’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 hellSlave 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 feastI 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.

Are you an Animal?

“He is just an animal.” That is not a very nice thing to say. However, sometimes it is not far from the truth. Sin is sub-human. Think of how Professor Weston becomes the “Un-man” in C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra or think of how J.R.R. Tolkien’s Smeagol mutated into Gollum.

God created us in His image. Not in the image of a dog sniffing the air for food or…. God made us to resemble Himself, morally and spiritually. The more sin we live in, the less we are being what God created us to be, and the closer we are to being animals. The way of the fool is the way of the animal: living on instinct and unaware of higher forms of reality.

Are you an animal? That is a strange question. But the Bible talks about people behaving like “irrational animals, creatures of instinct” (2 Peter 2:12). It says that these people have their belly as their god; that is, they instinctively pursue what they crave and their thoughts rise no higher than the earth (Phil. 3:19). Actually, since the fall, that is our default position (Eph. 2:1-3). I, you, John Doe and Jane Doe—everyone—is naturally desperate.

There is a lot wrong with us. But the solution is Jesus. He transforms us. He makes us into His image. He makes us the way we were intended to be. Yet, how are we to be what we are intended to be?

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (i.e. don’t act like an ignorant animal).

Don’t act like an animal but put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and materialism, which is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, meanness, insult, and rude talk. Don’t act like an animal! But put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col. 3:1-3, 5-10, 12-17). 

Is Addiction a Disease?

There is a common model that says that addiction is a disease. It is a genetic malfunction. Well, I am no neuroscientists but I do believe that we have all been affected by the fall.[1] I do not mean the season fall, of course. I mean the fall that took place in the Garden of Eden. Man disobeyed God and we have been living with the ramifications ever since. We all have a sin nature.

So, for instance, one way my sinful nature shows itself is anger. When I get mad I like to punch people in the face; and I have done that in the past on a few occasions. But just because my natural disposition is anger and a tendency to violence does not make it right.[2] And it also does not make it a disease. I do not have a virus. I did not catch this sickness from someone else. It is my nature. That being said I do realize that many addictions have very difficult physical “side-affects.” However, those side-affects came as a result of choosing to do the addictive thing in the first place. I do believe it is clear that different people have tendencies. So, there are different factors involved; nature[3] and nurture. But when it all comes down to it, we, ourselves, are culpable. We choose to do whatever it is we choose to do.

That being said, it does have a lot of similarities to disease which is why that model has been so accepted. Scripture even uses sickness as an analogy:

“Oh, what a sinful nation they are—
loaded down with a burden of guilt.
They are evil people,
corrupt children who have rejected the LORD.
They have despised the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
5Why do you continue to invite punishment?
Must you rebel forever?
Your head is injured,
and your heart is sick.
6You are battered from head to foot—
covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—
without any soothing ointments or bandages” (Is. 1:4-6).

But it uses it as an analogy. And says that the heart is sick. By “heart” is meant the “inner man,” “mind,” or “will.” It is similar to saying you have a fallen nature. All of you is affected and truly infected. It plays itself out like a rancid disease. Our sin is a parasitic cancer that eats away at our life and soul.

So, no, addiction is not a disease. Not biblically. And I would say not medically; though some make it sound like it is.[4]

Then what is it? Addiction is sin. Yet, it is a complex sin. It is idolatry. It is a complex habit.[5] It is a complex habit because through use the addicted has tricked their brain and body to say that they desperately need the substance (which is why professional help should be sought when detoxing).  Truly, as Aristotle said, “habit is hard to change because it is like nature.”

Have you ever been off road mudding? When you go mudding it creates groves in the road, sometime huge groves, that are difficult not to drive in. Once you slip into one of those groves it takes you down that path until you can get out of it. But it is hard to get out of because it has been driven down so much. That is kinda what addiction is like. It is like a path that has been driven down a lot. It has created ruts.  There are no  barriers, no trees or even weeds, in the way. The neural pathways have been blazed. It is an easy path to go down now.

That is why I plan to blog about “action steps.” It is necessary to recalibrate your mind. You need to fill in those old destructive ditches and make new paths that lead to life. This reminds me of Romans 6:20-23. This passage tells us that in our natural state we are a “slave of sin.” That is, we do what our sin tells us to do and apparently it uses neural pathways to tell us what to do. However, these pathways, as Scripture tells us, leads to death. Instead, we need to be sanctified, progressively made into the image of Jesus, and this takes place, at least in part, by creating new healthy and God-honoring neural pathways (we see passages like Deut. 17:18, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:10, 1 Tim. 4:7-8, and Heb. 5:14  are important here) So we see neuroscience does not contradict Scripture. Actually, I think Scripture and neuroscience complement each other (I would like to explore this more in a future post).


[1] “Addiction looks like a disease, but it is a sin nature problem in the heart rather than a disease coming from the outside to the inside” (Mark Shaw, The Heart of Addiction, 20). One writer has said, “It’s a disease in the sense that it attacks a person and is degenerative. However, it’s not a disease in the sense that it takes over a person without that person making choices that allow it to happen” (Substance Abuse, 92). One of the problems is that “he ‘disease’ concept can be used to allow a person to escape moral responsibility” (Ibid.).

[2] “High levels of testosterone are related to higher levels of aggression…; yet malevolent violence is an expression of sin and is blameworthy.” People with “a biological predisposition toward aggressive behavior…” are “still ethically and spiritually responsible to deal with their aggressive predispositions in socially and divinely sanctioned ways” (Eric L. Johnson, Foundations of Soul Care477). However, he goes on to point out, “a comprehensive human understanding of such problems–one that corresponds in some measure to God’s understanding–cannot be gained by ignoring the lower-level influences and focusing only on their ethicospiritual blameworthiness. The lower-level dynamics constitute extenuating circumstances–without their being exculpating influences” (Ibid., 478-79).

[3] Note what Edward T. Welch who  earned his Ph.D. in counseling (neuropsychology) from the University of Utah says, “There is a categorical difference between being influenced by genetics and being determined by it” (Addictions: A banquet in the grave, 27). He also says that “the scientific data… cannot support the disease approach. For example, it doesn’t account for identical twins (with the same genetic makeup) when one twin is a heavy drinker and the other is not” (Ibid.). Also see his book Blame It on the Brain: Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience; especially 183-202.

[4] So, for instance, Kent Dunnington has pointed out that “neither neural adaptions brought on by substance abuse nor a genetic presdispostion for addiction provides sufficient evidence that addiction is a disease… The disease concept of addiction maintains, first, that addiction is a chronic physiological disorder, and second, that it therefore can be most adequately treated through medical intervention. As it turns out, however, neither of these claims is supported by the evidence. In fact, contrary to the prevailing view of addiction, most substance abusers do stop practicing their additions and go on to lead lives free of addiction, without relapse. Furthermore, the great majority of these addicted persons recover in a nonmedicalized context” (Addiction and Virtue24). Also see endnote 2.

[5] Mark Shaw defines addiction as the persistent habitual use of a substance known by the user to be harmful (The Heart of Addiction, 28). “Addiction is a ‘sin nature’ problem and the body responds to the substances in natural ways. Then, in time, the actions associated with addiction become habitual and extremely difficult to overcome” (Ibid., 15 see also Edward Welch,Addictions: A banquet in the grave, 38-39). He also says that this definition “brings more hope to the suffering Christian addict. Because ungodly, destructive habits can be replaced by godly, productive habits” (Ibid., 29). The most profound book on addiction I have ever read is  Addiction and Virtue and it is very helpful here; see esp. 138-40.

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