Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Bible and Alcohol: Why I Don’t Drink

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
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Nonnie said...

Thank you for putting this down in such an organized and logical way. I am in agreement with you. Not a good witness.

Nadwrażliwiec said...

I think that all material things can be good or bad, it depends on way we use them. For example, You can use knife to kill someone, but You can also cut slice of bread for hungry man or woman.
When I was the first time in Bosnia, I had big problem with my stomach. I wasn't used to temperature 45 degreeds in summer (113 F). Then I understood why Serbian people use small portions of "rakija" (strong alcohol drink, more than 50%) as additional to lunch. After that my stomach came back to normal state... Normally, in my Polish home, I don't use alcohol, because I don't need. But in regions, where climate is warmer and summers can be very hot, it is like medicine against bacterias - and nobody treats it as a way to be drunk.
But if I will invite someone to my home in Poland, I will not give him or her any alcohol, if it can be problem or cause of scandal.
I respect Your statement and - in my Polish home, or even in Serbian - You won't have problem with alcohol near me as Sister in Christ :)
I wish You nice day and God's blessing from nice, autumn South Poland!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Nonnie, for your words of support. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Zim, Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts on this. It is true that even Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake. In those days, as in some regions today, bacteria in the water is a problem that a small amount of alcohol added to the water could correct. There is a difference between using alcohol in medicine (some herbal medicines are in an alcohol base) and using it to change your mental state.
It sounds like South Poland is beautiful this time of year! Blessings and greetings to you,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
The matter of alcoholic consumption has always been a controversal subject within the churches. Is wine, taken at Communion to symbolise the blood of Christ okay to take, but not the wine taken at the dinner table?
That's why in our church, Communion wine is served in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic formats, to avoid any harm to anyone with a weak conscience in the fellowship.
Jesus, at the Last Supper, commanded his followers to remember him when breaking bread and drinking wine, which indicated that this was done during normal fellowship meals, and even among believing members of the family, along with guests and relatives, of which their culture consisted in those days.The making of Communion into a Holy Sacrament was made centuries later by the Roman Catholic Church, and it is unfortunate that this had carried into Protestant and many Charismatic churches to this day.
How God speaks to the individual believer varies from person to person, I think, depending on that person's conscience.
As for myself, I feel fine about an occasional glass of red wine at the dinner table, but if offered a refill, I normally decline, as I know just how far to go before I cross that line.
My stance therefore, is not to judge another if he fancies a glass of wine with his dinner. On the other hand, the one who has a drink should not make the one who abstains feel alienated.
An excellent post on the subject, and I look forward to your next installment.
God bless.

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
yes I agree with what Frank has said regarding drinking alcohol. I used to rely on alcohol to give me confidence, now my confidence is in a different Spirit. I enjoy a little red wine occasionally, one bottle of Merlot will last me for about two months, and I like the occasional tot of whisky, maybe once every couple of weeks. I did not drink any alcohol for many years after I was born again and then I realized just how it was not my 'master' any more. It is drunkenness that is the fault.
God bless you Laurie, it is a good subject to discuss.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
That is interesting that your church serves grape juice and wine at Communion to allow believers to make the choice -- I believe most churches decide on one or the other. Surely it is not for Christians to judge one another, particularly in matters where liberty allows one's conscience to decide. Thanks as always for sharing your valuable insights and experience.
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.

In our area there is a lot of alcoholism, and for me to use it would definitely be a stumbling block for those around me. Many people do not realize that frequently the words translated wine did not refer to fermented juice, but could refer to fresh juice or fermented wine. Stored in skin bottles, the alcoholic content soon escaped, leaving a very mild tasting drink. Eventually it would turn to vinegar.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Yes, the Bible is clear that drunkenness is a sin, and that we should be Spirit-filled. My preference is to not drink, thereby eliminating the possibility of drunkenness and maximizing the likelihood that I will be receptive to the Spirit's leading. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for your thoughtful comment.
Many blessings to you and your ministry,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald -- the last thing I would want to do is to be a stumbling block. "New" wine, or unfermented grape juice, was more highly prized in Bible times as it did not last in that state for long without fermenting. I believe that the "wine" Jesus made from water, for example, was more likely grape juice for this reason, as the guests marvelled that the host had saved the best wine for last.
Thanks for your enlightening comment & God bless,

a joyful noise said...

Others may but you may NOT was a track I read as a child. I believed it then and still do. Thank you for sharing your awesome post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Hazel, for hosting and for your words of support -- I appreciate it! Many blessings to you,

Mom2boys said...

and this has to do with this topic of this weeks link up being "my town" how?

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Kristen,
Thanks for your visit and comment. Sorry if I misunderstood -- the link-up was described as "a weekly hangout for Christian bloggers," and I did address the topic of "my town" in the comment I left there. In addition, many towns hold celebrations in public and/or in private involving alcohol consumption, and as Christians, I believe it is important for us to consider our views on this subject and the Bible basis for these views. If you feel my blog post is inappropriate for your link-up, please feel free to delete it. If so, my sincere apologies for any inconvenience.
God bless,