The Addiction Connection

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Connecting the Hope of the Gospel with the Heart of Addiction


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The Addiction Connection is a collective of biblical counselors and ministries united for the purpose of training and equipping the Body of Christ in biblically helping addicts and their loved ones.

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The Addiction Connection is a team of biblical counselors who have united to help equip the Body of Christ bring transformation to those who struggle with addiction.

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Life Dominating Sins and Addictions

by: Julie Ganschow

Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell. They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them (Psalm 115:4-8 NASB)

Part of the message of the Psalm is when a person places their faith in an idol of the heart to change them, make them over, or to lead them they become dumb, thoughtless, senseless and hard as stone. A life dominating sin affects everything. The things that usually come to mind are alcohol or drug use, but there are many other things that can be life dominating. Things like working, shopping, overeating, or over exercising. Ed Welch makes the following statement in the Preface of his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, “The basic theology for addictions that the root problem foes deeper than our genetic makeup. Addictions are ultimately a disorder of worship.”

Christians who struggle with addictions have managed to compartmentalize their minds and hearts. They have a heart that is dedicated to the worship of God on Sunday. While in church they truly mean the words of praise and adoration they utter. However, the rest of the week they live as functional atheists worshiping themselves as their own god, with their own rules and personal theology. They don’t see the conflict in their lives. This is because we are so easily self-deceived and have little trouble living a dual life.

The things we commonly consider to be addictions initially bring pleasure and positive emotional responses. Because we live in a culture that encourages self-indulgence, we place our pursuit of those things above responsibilities and even the people who are important to us. Addictions deliver an experience that the addict comes to crave and enjoy. However, over time the feelings change to the point the user feels trapped and enslaved. This brings hopelessness and panic.

Addiction is a life dominating sin that begins with succumbing to temptation. It is sin that attacks the will and the soul. Sin is our deepest problem and is fed by the heart which is the origin of all life dominating sin or addiction. Addiction is idolatry; the user has set her affections on something other than God.

The Holy Spirit urges us to obey Him and the flesh desires to pull the person in the other direction. This is a consistent battle of the Christian life in every situation. When our desires conflict with Scripture we do not always respond according to what we believe or think we believe. Our behavior betrays our words, revealing the real love of the heart.

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please (Galatians 5:17 NASB).

This is certainly not a new problem, and to be clear, the problem is not the substance, the practice, or the person to which the affections are attached. The problem is the heart has begun to worship something other than God. The addict chooses to forsake the calling she has received from God to worship and glorify Him and has begun to worship the idols of the heart instead.

With any life dominating sin, the “cure” must come from within. The addict must make a choice to reject, defeat, and deny the craving or pull toward that particular sin. Changes come from an understanding of what God’s Word says about behavior, thoughts, and desires along with an internalizing and living out what the Scriptures say. The Bible is our weapon of warfare and also a guide to understand and conquer sin. The Christian is called to live for God’s glory and give Him the worship and honor He deserves.

I am not suggesting a simplistic Bible-band aid approach to a very difficult and complex problem. Everyone who is enslaved to sin in the way an addict is needs comprehensive help and attention. However, unless the counsel begins at the root of the problem – in the heart, there is little chance for total life change. For more on this subject I would recommend Edward Welch’s book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave and Mark Shaw’s book, The Heart of Addiction. Both of these excellent books are available on Amazon.

Click to Tweet: The Bible is our weapon of warfare and also a guide to understand and conquer sin. The Christian is called to live for God’s glory and give Him the worship and honor He deserves. – Julie Ganschow #BiblicalAddictionHelp

Julie Ganschow has been involved in Biblical Counseling and Discipleship for more than 20 years. She is passionate about the critical need for heart change in a person who desires change in their life.

She is the founder and Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center (ACBC & IABC Certified Training Center) and Biblical Counseling for Women. She has been writing a daily blog on counseling issues women face since 2008.

Her extensive training has led to an M.A. in Biblical Counseling; as well as, certification with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). She also serves on the Counsel Board for the Biblical Counseling Coalition

Julie is a gifted counselor and teacher, has authored numerous books and materials for biblical counseling, and co-authored a biblical counseling training course. She is also a featured contributor in GriefShare and a frequent retreat and conference speaker.

She makes her home in Kansas City, Missouri with her wonderful husband Larry. Together they have raised 3 sons who have married and begun to bless them with grandchildren.

Find out more about Julie: Biblical Counseling for Women

Referring an Addict for Detox and Medical Care

by: Mark Shaw

Two questions I am often asked are, “When do I refer an addict I am counseling for a medical detox?” and, “What drugs require detox?” Since I am neither a medical doctor nor a medically-trained professional, my answers are straightforward and simple: always refer an addict to a medical doctor immediately for any drug use, including alcohol, which is a drug in liquid form.[1] Alcohol withdrawal is extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening, though many in withdrawal from alcohol do not report feeling very sick. By contrast, opioid withdrawal is less dangerous and usually not life-threatening, though many in withdrawal from opioids report feeling so sick that they think they might die. Some of them want to die because of how sick they feel!

Medical Care

One of the malicious myths about biblical counselors is that they do not like doctors and won’t work with them. That is simply untrue. As a counselor, I have found working with medical doctors to be extremely helpful. Not only do addicted persons have detox issues, but they will have other aches and pains they have neglected for months (even years) that need the attention of a medical professional. Therefore, I refer them to a physician immediately and follow up with the counselee to make sure he or she is following medical advice. In some instances, I ask the counselee to sign a release of confidential information form, which allows me to speak to the physician directly. That’s extra work for me, but it’s worth it and is vital since the addicted person has lived a life of deception for so long.

Neglecting their bodies and physical health is very common for those enslaved to the idolatrous desires of addiction. A key component of beginning a lifestyle of transformation from idolatry/addiction to Christ-likeness is improving physical health by creating new habits of sleep, exercise, food intake, and other physical disciplines that help in the spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness. While I may monitor those physical disciplines in terms of adherence to what the physician has recommended, my focus is on the spiritual disciplines of fostering a lifestyle of prayer, Bible study, fellowship with believers, and the like. Spiritual growth is enhanced by adherence to physical disciplines and every counselee, addicted or not, will benefit from a commitment to both. Although my focus as a soul physician is on the internal character and heart issues of my counselee, having a medical physician focusing on the externals is also important.

Medical Care for the Soul?

The language in addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs is medical because of the disease concept of addiction, which is merely a theory or an idea of mankind. Sadly, the disease theory has been repeated so often that it is popularly accepted as fact now. I wish the Bible would be so easily accepted as true by popular culture — because it really is true!

Words like disease, recovery, addiction, treatment, rehabilitation, and alcoholism are examples of the medicalized vocabulary in the addiction world that point to a medical solution and away from Christ. Terminology is important, and 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (NASB) makes it clear that there are two languages believers speak:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (Underline emphasis mine)

There are several biblical words to be used when providing soul care for an addicted person. We don’t use the word disease, but refer to sinful habits of the flesh. Instead of recovery, which means to return back to your original state, the biblical concept is transformation into the likeness of Christ and a new creation. Treatment is another medical word that sounds really scientific, yet the irony is that a majority of programs use the same counseling methods that have been utilized unsuccessfully for years and are not based upon medical research but social research termed “evidence-based.” Social research is not the same as medical research and to use the phrase evidence-based for much of that research reveals a poor understanding of what is factual.[2]

The driving force of the concept of treatment is a good one because treatment programs focus on changing the cognition of the counselee first. Rehabilitation programs then take the next step by focusing upon changing the behaviors of the counselee secondarily. In other words, the thinking of the addict must change before the behaviors of the addict will change.

Likewise, in biblical counseling, we agree that the desires and thinking within the heart of an addict must change before the behaviors will change. We emphasize counseling that brings conviction where there are sin issues, comfort where there are suffering issues, and hope in Christ. But the terminology we use focuses on idolatry rather than addiction, since idolatry points to the heart issues involved while addiction points to a medical disease that has somehow attacked the person. The same is true for alcoholism, which points to a man-made concept of a disease problem rather than a heart issue that fuels the thoughts and behaviors of drunkenness. Use of the word drunkard sounds mean at first, but in reality, that word points to a solution found only in Christ, which is ultimately compassionate. Secular programs have to re-label biblical terminology because they do not have Christ to offer hurting souls! They do not share the gospel because it is not good news for the problem of addiction and alcoholism, though it is good news for the problem of idolatry and drunkenness.


If someone you counsel goes to a treatment and/or rehabilitation program, realize that the counsel they receive more than likely uses language that might sometimes be helpful to the extent of behavioral change and prolonging physical life. Counseling them after the completion of a non-biblical addiction program will require sessions dedicated to teaching and using new terminology. Be patient with them during this time and continue pointing them to Jesus Christ as the only answer for repentant sinners and to the Holy Spirit as the only comfort for the suffering saint.

Questions for Reflection

How do the words you choose to use in counseling point your counselees in a particular direction? Since working with a medical doctor is important in counseling an addicted person, how can you reach out to medical professionals in your community?

[1] Alcohol is a drug in liquid form, though our culture does not often view it in this way. Cough syrup contains codeine and other drugs and is thought of as a drug in liquid form. Our culture separates alcohol and drugs, but in reality, alcohol is a drug.

[2] This is a topic that needs an entire blog post or two of its own.

<a href=””>Click to Tweet: “We emphasize counseling that brings conviction where there are sin issues, comfort where there are suffering issues, and hope in Christ.” -Mark Shaw, DMin #TheAddictionConnection #BiblicalHelp4Addiction&lt;/a</a>

Click to Tweet: “We emphasize counseling that brings conviction where there are sin issues, comfort where there are suffering issues, and hope in Christ.” -Mark Shaw, DMin #TheAddictionConnection #BiblicalHelp4Addiction</a

TAC Staff Note: This article was originally published at on September 15, 2017. View the original post here.

About Mark Shaw

Mark E. Shaw (D. Min.) is President and Founder of Truth in Love Ministries and The Addiction Connection. He resides in Florence, KY, with his wife and children. The author of 20 publications including The Heart of Addiction, Addiction-Proof Parenting, and Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark enjoys speaking, training, and traveling for the purpose of encouraging and edifying local churches in their outreach to hurting souls.

Follow Mark on: Facebook  and  Twitter

Addicts or New Creations?

by: Justin Lakemacher

What is the identity of Christians in the process of transformation?

One of the more common questions that comes up when working with Christians in the process of transformation is a question of identity.  Should Christians refer to themselves as addicts or as new creations in Christ?  The reason this question surfaces usually stems from how the person has been influenced by AA or the Church.

At the start of AA meetings, most participants typically introduce themselves by referring to themselves as an alcoholic or addict.  Example: “Hi, my name is Justin, I’m an alcoholic.”  The central message of the church, on the other hand, is that the gospel transforms you into a new creation (See 2 Corinthians 5:17).  Many Christians in the process of transformation interact in both worlds ending up confused as to who they really are and how they should see themselves.  Who will win this war over identity for those in the process of transformation?

Let’s begin by asking what do people in AA actually mean when they say, “I’m an alcoholic”?  To be fair, most people don’t mean that they are currently drunk or craving another drink.  Many in AA refer to themselves as alcoholics even after they have demonstrated years of sobriety.  What they most likely mean when they identify as an alcoholic is that they have an abnormal reaction to alcohol every time they drink and are powerless over their reaction.  They understand that if they were to take another drink, they cannot control it.  This is the sense in which they identify as alcoholic.

Is this a biblical view of identity?

On one hand, we are powerless over our vices and are identified with our vices apart from Christ.  Jesus made it clear that we are not good people who sometimes sin but we are enslaved to sin.  Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).  Jesus is not only making a statement about sin but also our identity with sin.  The identity of those who do not know God is that they are slaves to sin.  And as a slave does not have power over his freedom, so slaves lack power to overcome our enslavement to drugs and alcohol.  We need to be set free.  This is the condition all of humanity is born into.

However, when we come to Christ we are set free and given a new identity.  The new identity we are given is Christ himself.  We are no longer defined by our sin but by Christ—his life, death, and resurrection become ours.  The apostle Paul says it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  This means that at the core of our being, when we come to Christ, we are not addicts or alcoholics but we are redeemed!  Christians with addictions in their past can look at them through the lens of the gospel and see them nailed to the cross with Christ.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  We are free.

All this said, the Bible says more about our identity.  Even when we come to Christ and are declared new, we still have remaining sin.  We are, as Luther said, Simul Justus et Peccator, which is Latin for simultaneously declared righteous/just as well as sinner.  This truth reflects an aspect of the “already but not yet” of Christianity.  The “already but not yet” refers to what Christ has done and what he will do.  Christ has come to redeem us from sin through his death on the cross.  This is already done.  At the same time, we as Christians long for his return where he will completely eradicate sin and recreate the world.  This is the not yet.  As Christians, we live in the already but not yet and our identities reflect this.  Yes, we have been redeemed.  Christ has done this good work in us.  At the same time, the work that he began will not be complete until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).  Every Christian in recovery can attest to this reality.  Even though Christ has saved them, they still experience strong desires for drugs and alcohol at times.  The Christian’s identity is one of becoming what God has already declared us to be and what we one day will fully be.

So what does this mean for Christians in the process of transformation? 

Since we see ourselves through the lens of the gospel, we see ourselves through the lens of the already but not yet.  Christians in the process of transformation then are not alcoholics anymore.  Christ does not see them that way and we certainly shouldn’t encourage them to identify that way.  At the same time, we may have something to learn from those in AA who identify as alcoholics.

Sometimes Christian’s in recovery develop a false confidence in their new identity and overlook the reality of the “not yet” aspect of Christianity.  They assume that since they are “new creations” there is no way they could ever return to addiction.  Unfortunately, I have seen many go back to their addictions who once declared boldly of the Spirit’s transforming work.  So let’s ask if we can learn anything from others who identify as alcoholics and who affirm their powerlessness regularly.  I think one thing I have learned is that we must teach recovering addicts both the “already” of Christianity and the “not yet” of Christianity.  While we are new, we must be careful to remember that sin still has power.  It does not have ultimate power over our lives now that the Spirit lives within us but it still has power.  Since AA doesn’t have the authority of Scripture as their foundation, they ultimately misunderstand powerless, but there is something to be said of declaring our powerlessness as Christians.  We are weak and the power belongs to God.  We need God every day or we too can return to a “yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

When it comes to how we ultimately identify though, God, through Scripture, has the final say over identity. And God has said that anyone in Christ is a new creation and their addiction has been crucified with Christ.  However, to the Christian in recovery, even though you have been made new, don’t be unaware of remaining sin and temptation which is not yet defeated.   This will keep you daily dependent on God for his grace and provision as God completes the progressively sanctifying work that he promises to do in you.

So to all those who were once addicted to sin: You are a new creation but sin remains, so keep fighting the good fight of faith based on the victory you have in Christ.  You are a new creation in Christ…but not yet.

Click to Tweet: “So to all those who were once addicted to sin: You are a new creation but sin remains, so keep fighting the good fight of faith based on the victory you have in Christ. You are a new creation in Christ … but not yet.” -Justin Lakemacher #BiblicalHelp4Addiction #newcreation

Justin Lakemacher is program manager and counselor at Redemption House, a gospel-centered residential addiction ministry in the Twin Cities serving men from across the US. He blogs regularly at  He and his wife Megan life in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.





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