Before I was saved, I drank more than I should have. Too often, I yielded to the temptation to indulge in Happy Hour with dinner out, or to drink at a social gathering when I felt ill at ease, or to have a nightcap when work had been particularly stressful.
When I was saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), I did not yet belong to a church that provided solid Bible teaching or that helped a babe in Christ on their Christian walk.
Nonetheless, I began reading through the Bible starting at the beginning. There was much that I didn’t understand, but it struck me that people whom God had appointed for His service were warned not to drink any alcohol (Daniel 1:8;15-17; Judges 13: 4,5, 7.14 Luke 1:15).
So, hoping that God would also use me to serve Him, I stopped drinking altogether – until I came to the New Testament and read about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus changed water into wine (John 2: 9-11). Surely, I reasoned, if Jesus did this, He must have thought drinking alcohol, or at least wine, was a good thing.
All the passages I had read thus far made it clear that drunkenness was wrong, but where was the harm in celebrating a joyous occasion, or even a nice dinner, with a single glass of wine? So I started drinking again, small amounts of wine at first, but then I found that I wanted to return to my old habits.
Thankfully, I continued my Bible reading and reached Paul’s warning not to be filled with wine, but with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-19). I wanted to be a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), which I learned was possible only by dying to self (1 Corinthians 15:31), to fleshly desires and to the old man or sin nature (Romans 8:1-13). I wanted to yield to the Holy Spirit now living within me (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30);, and I had the clear sense that I could not be under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering substances and following Holy Spirit guidance at the same time.
So once again, I stopped drinking, and I have not had an alcoholic beverage since, nor has my husband, who was saved a few months after I was. We had a confirmation of our decision for abstaining completely from alcohol when we attended a dinner party with several of our unsaved friends.
As their first glass of wine led to a steady stream of drinking, we were shocked to watch the progressive deterioration in their powers of reason, memory, language, awareness, and social interaction. We wondered if we were equally impaired when we drank in the past, and concluded that we were, but that our progressive intoxication prevented us from realizing it.
Yet many who say they are born-again Christians do drink, believing that it is justified by their Christian liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). They claim that they can have one or two drinks without it affecting their mind or their Christian testimony, and they cite several Bible verses that appear to approve of drinking alcohol in moderation.
As we move into the season of tailgate parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, where we are likely to encounter social drinking by unsaved friends as well as by some Christians, I believe it is important for us to think through our position on this subject, and to have it firmly rooted in Scripture.
To summarize my main reasons for not drinking:
--I can’t be Spirit-filled and filled with spirits at the same time (Ephesians 5: 15-19).
--Alcohol-drinking could damage my testimony, both with unsaved people who closely watch Christians to see if they are hypocrites and really no different from the world, and with fellow Christians who believe that drinking alcohol is wrong for the born-again believer. Christian liberty is freedom from legalism, but it is not an excuse to sin (Romans 6:15; 1 Corinthians 10:23).
--Alcohol-drinking could be a stumbling block (Romans 14:13-16), or provocation to sin, for a babe in Christ (Habakkuk 2:15-16), if they were to see me have a drink and were to assume that they could drink in excess.
--Alcohol-drinking could be a stumbling block to anyone with a genetic vulnerability to alcoholism, if they were to see me have a drink and were to assume that they could have one too without fear of the consequences.
--I am a daughter of the King (Romans 8:16), i.e., royalty, and the Bible warns royalty not to drink at all, for it could cloud their judgment (Proverbs 31:4-5).
--Those set apart for special service to God were warned not to drink at all, and I too want to be consecrated for such service (Daniel 1:8;15-17; Judges 13: 4,5, 7.14 Luke 1:15).
--Alcohol is a nerve toxin that kills brain and nerve cells in a dose-dependent fashion. My body, and especially my brain, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I don’t want to damage or pollute it in any way (I Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; Romans 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
---Because alcohol clouds the judgment, having the first drink would prevent me from realizing that a second or third drink would make me drunk.
--Drunkenness is a sin (I Corinthians 6: 9-10; Galatians 5:16- 25) that has severe consequences (Proverbs 23::20-21) and that leads to other sins (Genesis 9: 20-25; 19: 32- 33; Proverbs 20:1-2; 23: 29-35). If I never drink, I will never be drunk.
--Christ could return at any moment, and I need to be sober to be aware of the signs of the times and to avoid falling into Satan’s traps (Luke 12:42-48; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8; John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8)
--When I was a medical intern and resident, which was a long time before I was saved, I never drank when I was on call, because I realized that even a single drink could diminish my reasoning and increase the likelihood of a mistake that might harm a patient. As a born-again Christian, I am always “on call” for God, because I never know when He might open the door to a witness or ministry opportunity. If I have had even a single drink, I cannot fully yield to the Spirit, and that opportunity would be lost or bungled because I would be under the influence of alcohol instead.
Next week, I’ll begin looking in more depth at various arguments Christians use for and against “social” drinking.
In the meantime, let’s consider a quote from Billy Sunday, early 20th century evangelist:
"The saloon is a liar. It promises good cheer and sends sorrow. It promises prosperity and sends adversity. It promises happiness and sends misery.... It is God's worst enemy and the devil's best friend."
© 2014 Laurie Collett