But if we can deny powerful impulses without the help of Christ, what can we do in cooperation with the power of the Holy Spirit?
Just how much do we want to obey?
Most of the time we are more controlled by what we think about the power of sin than actually being controlled by the power of sin itself.
So says John Piper in a short but fascinating post over on Desiring God. The post is a video clip and transcript from a sermon Piper preached on addiction to pornography, but his comments apply to virtually anything we assume we can’t change.
Addiction is a relative term. I would stake my life on the assumption that no one in this room is absolutely addicted to pornography or any sexual sin. What I mean is this: If the stakes are high enough and sure enough, you will have all the self-control you need to resist any sexual temptation.
For example, if tonight you are feeling totally in the sway of sexual desire — more blazing, more powerful than you have ever felt it in your life — and you believe that you cannot resist the temptation to look at some nudity online, and suddenly … a man walks into the room and says, “If you do not look at that nudity, I will give you one million dollars cash, tax-free, tonight,” you will suddenly have the self-control you thought you did not have.
Piper does a great job unpacking this. (Is there anything he doesn’t unpack well?) He’s quite honest in mentioning that the motivation for abstinence cited above is not explicitly Christian. In fact, as he notes, the ancient Stoics believed in such self-discipline.
But if we can deny powerful impulses without the help of Christ, what can we do in cooperation with the power of the Holy Spirit? Well, anything, according to the Apostle Paul:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
So what’s my problem (and let’s be honest, your problem as well) with the whole obedience/disobedience thing?
To quote Emily Dickinson (Or so says Wikipedia. Sorry, Selena Gomez!), “The Heart wants what it wants.”
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Our hearts love our idols. They love pleasure. We want what we want.
Saying we’re addicted is simply our way of obscuring that fact.