“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”
“God, what have I done? Not again.” I whisper as I wake up on the floor of my bedroom.
“2:25? Dang. It’s gonna be a long night–and a long day.” I push myself up and off the carpet, not remembering how I got there. Stumbling into the bathroom and chugging water from the faucet as if I’ve never drank water before, Satan begins pounding my mind with a sledgehammer, “Just look at you! Fake Christian! You did it again! You’re still half-drunk, don’t fall over, idiot. You’ll never break that addiction.”
Cottonmouth, heart palpitations, demonic accusations and suicidal levels of anxiety–these were just a few of the side effects from my binge drinking. But, “Don’t tell me what to do! I’m a successful business owner and I have a huge Facebook ministry! I know how to control my drinking, so back off!”
My thought patterns were so off-kilter when it came to mature alcohol consumption that “having a few” was a joke. Those of us who constantly have to question ourselves about this addiction? We have no clue how to control how much we drink–and we know it. So, we get angry when people question us about it.
Those who love us, love us, that’s why they call us out on it. They shouldn’t have to be afraid of our binge drinking, no matter if we are providing for them. When they finally set healthy boundaries for us, recovery has a much better chance of happening. If that’s you, stand up to the person who keeps getting drunk, but do it with love and respect. Never stop standing up.
The great obsession of men and women who struggle with the tendency of alcoholism is this: We want to control and enjoy our drinking, like the normal-drinking people. But when we control our drinking, we can’t enjoy it; and when we enjoy it, we can’t control it. So the cycle continues until the day we realize we can never have a single drop.
This is heartbreaking for a person in love with the drink. The break-up with alcohol is a tough one and can only be accomplished authentically through God’s grace. Without grace, we white-knuckle it. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We expect everyone to never drink again–especially around us, “How dare you! You know I struggle with that!” We dread going places where there’s alcohol, we shut off the world and miss our addiction like a baby misses their binky. We feel sorry for ourselves and long for the day we can drink again.
Grace, however, obliterates that stupid crap. It teaches us who we truly are as God’s children: sober, confident, enthusiastic saints who enjoy life to the fullest. Slaves to nothing except for God’s righteousness. You can easily point out someone who has not gotten sober by way of grace–they think they’re better than those who are still fighting to break free. Giving victory lessons is their favorite thing to do, but it’s only a matter of time before they fall again. I should know because that was me for a year and a half, when I got sober by my own effort, 14 years go. Relapse was the result.
I’ve been a Christian since single digit age, what I didn’t realize was even in the midst of my battle with alcohol, God never left me. The grace-confused people who binged on legalanity had me convinced I wasn’t saved because of my heavy drinking. However, God taught me that I struggled with drinking because I was saved. The conflict was the proof!
Getting drunk all the time would never match up with my perfect, heaven-ready spirit–my true identity. I could still be drinking to this day, and nothing could ever change the fact that God gave me a new spirit when I was a boy. From the moment I first believed Jesus forgave me, I was supernaturally crucified with Him, buried with Him, and then resurrected with Him. We became combined despite what this physical shell of flesh would ever do or not do again (see Romans 6:6-7, Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 6:17,19, 1 John 4:13, Colossians 3:3).
My mind had to be renewed to this truth. Drinking until I was smashed, quite often, was the same as holding my head under water until I passed out. It made no sense–but it couldn’t alter who I was, and still am.
How could I possibly get sober though? I had literally tried over a thousand times, read lots of books, never missed an episode of Intervention; I recommitted daily, seen counselors, got prayed over, walked the isle–I even had multiple accountability partners and did all of the AA Steps. Never could I pull it off!
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!” was a regular expression of mine. Nothing was wrong with me. In fact, everything was right with me–not with my actions, but with me. Christ had made me right, once and for all time (see Hebrews 10:10,14, Romans 6:10). My problem was, the same self-determined effort I used to accomplish the American Dream would not work for this. I had to give up on trying–which I could do better than anyone–and I had to start trusting God’s grace.
I managed this sinful activity of closet binge drinking very well. It’s not like I was living in a sleeping bag, begging for booze money on the corner with a God Bless sign. But–I was no better, or worse, than such a person. I didn’t understand the power which would come to me, through the grace that was already in me. It would be this grace dispensed from God that would teach me how to live a sober, self-controlled, enjoyable life.
After hearing such a thing, a behavior-focused person might say, “Greasy grace, Matt! Greasy grace! You’re just using grace as an excuse to tell others they can live in sin! If you were truly saved, then you would have truly repented and never touched alcohol again! Alcohol harms many people!”
Friend, really? That’s what you’re going with? Alcohol harms many people just like guns harm many people. Think about it. Alcohol and guns aren’t the problem, it’s the minds behind them handling them–minds which must be renewed by God’s grace.
After all, Jesus’ first recorded miracle exposed His taste for good wine (see John 2:1-11). Our Creator is a wine connoisseur, not a grape juice lover. It’s not the wine that’s the issue, it’s being controlled by a liquid. There’s nothing wrong with alcohol, but there is something wrong with being obsessed over it, or depending on it for what God has already given to us through Jesus’ Spirit: love, joy, peace, fulfillment, identity, and purpose.
Paul said don’t get drunk on wine, proving the wine mentioned in the Bible is not Welch’s (see Ephesians 5:18). He also recommended to Timothy that he stop drinking so much water, and instead, drink some wine for his frequent stomach problems (see 1 Timothy 5:23). So why is it certain religious people want to die on the hill of, “Wine wasn’t fermented in the Bible!”? Simple. It messes with their behavior-focused theology of, “Be like me, or else you’ll burn!”
If their Savior, Christ Himself, actually caught a buzz, then their entire house of legalistic cards would tumble over. Case in point:
I was walking through Wal-Mart after work, not too long ago, to pick up dinner ingredients. While there, I saw a man I recognized from a local church whom I’d just met. I own an alarm company and recently had a meeting in front of a large group of church board members–to present my products–and he was one of those faces in the crowd.
They ended up voting on going with my company, and not only purchased a security system, but also a video surveillance package. I was very happy about this so I hung out for a while, chumming it up after the sale, and I talked to this man briefly. Now here he was coming toward me at the supermarket with something tucked up under his coat.
“Hey! How are you?” I said with a smile, not remembering his name.
Stopping quickly, caught off guard and inspecting his surroundings, “Oh…I’m fine.”
Half-surprised at who I was–but recognizing me by my Alarm Security polo–the man captured me gazing down at his jacket. “Whatcha got there?” I questioned him kindly.
“This? Oh, it’s just some Saint James wine. It’s my favorite. I have to hide it in case one of those Bible-thumpers see me here with it.”
I burst out loud laughing! And he did too, but with a hint of nervousness. Chuckling in my reply, “I hear you! Well, you take care now,” and off I went toward the back.
Friend, do you see it? This particular denomination in which this man attends, preaches that wine isn’t fermented. Why? Because they don’t want to believe Jesus ever really drank alcohol, which is a lie. Because then that would mean we are free to drink–or not drink–it’s up to us. They want to put a law on the bottle so their members won’t go “wild in sin” but look at what such a law is doing? Exciting in this man what he was told not to do. Law inflames sin! It stirs it up! It doesn’t control it! (See Romans 7:8). Only freedom through grace allows us to live healthy, well-balanced lives.
This board member from that church was hiding a bottle of wine because his conscience–which was deceiving him through bad teaching–was incorrectly convicting him of sin. God’s Spirit does not convict Christians of sin, but of our righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Only the unbelievers of this world are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit (see John 16:18). We are being counseled by God–not convicted. We’re being counseled into grace, through grace, and by grace (see John 14:26, Titus 2:11-12).
So what would set this man free from hiding his nice bottle of wine?…Grace. Realizing he is free. It was for freedom that Christ set us free–by grace! (See Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9). Right now, he’s addicted to legalism and church laws; impressing the hierarchies and trying to appear more holy to the “sub-Christians.” Grace would destroy those addictions too.
It is the grace of God that teaches us how to live upright, godly lives–not church rules, not twisting Scripture to our denominational liking–but God’s undeserved kindness. The truth is, we are allowed to drink the same amount Jesus drank. But if we’re being led by His Spirit to not drink, then we should give it up because He knows what’s best for us. He’s not trying to keep something from us, His desire is to set us free from mental strongholds.
Grace is not greasy or cheap! It’s our firm foundation and the most expensive thing ever–for Jesus, not us! For us it’s completely free! Because of grace, if I had never quit drinking, and my unrenewed thoughts continued to lead me down the path of alcoholism, I’d still have God infused with my spirit! I’d still be saved! I’d still be His child forever!
Jesus didn’t say, “It is finished! Unless you get addicted to a liquid, then it’s unfinished! I’m out!”
No. He’d never leave me…ever. The promise He made to the Father at the Cross and my one-time belief in it would not allow such a thing to happen. I could swim in my favorite beer, 24 hours a day, and be drunk for the rest of my life–still, my identity would never change because of the New Covenant. I am holy and there’s nothing I can do to change this because of the blood of Jesus once poured out for me (see Hebrews 1:3).
If I was hungover right now, and today was my first day of sobriety, I’d be just as righteous and blameless as I’d been since the moment I first believed. All of my drunken episodes had been washed away–past, present, and future. I have no control over altering or improving that washing by way of my actions and attitudes (see Colossians 1:22, 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 6:11).
God never confuses our behavior with our identity. We can build a thousand churches or be a pastor for nearly all our life and not be His kid. We could be addicted for 50 years, fail at marriage five times, or murder our unborn baby, and be His kid. Identity matters to our Creator–our heart. Is it a new heart? Does He live there? As His kids, yes, and yes. We’ve inherited His sinless Spirit–His Holy Spirit–but not just that. We’ve also been given a brand new holy spirit of our own! We are combined with God like a handkerchief in water–separate, yet one (see John 1:12, Romans 6:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:19).
Grace empowers us. Grace says, “If you live for 110 years, struggling with a particular sin pattern, you’re still a coheir with Christ, and you can’t change this.”
Grace is Jesus. You can replace the word grace in every spot in the Bible with the word Jesus–and vice versa–and the same impact would be made. The same point, the same outcome, according to the gospel. This is why Paul called the gospel, the gospel of grace (see Acts 20:24).
Grace says you will never be punished for sinning because Jesus was punished for your sinning. Grace says you are enough exactly as you are. Grace will never leave you nor forsake you. Grace is preparing an amazing spot for you–a position in eternity–as you read this sentence. And for those of us who have struggled with alcohol? Grace has taken all of our sins away, every drunken mistake, every celebratory night turned nightmare, every regret. Grace has banished those embarrassing times into oblivion, as far as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12, Hebrews 8:12).
So today, my friends, know this: Grace will destroy your addiction! The sufficiency of God’s grace is all you need to break any bad habit! One of my addictions was alcohol. From the moment I first tasted it and felt that release, I was hooked. For 17 years, I thought I could never live without it, I thought I could never truly enjoy myself. Those were lies coming from demonic forces, the power of sin, and my immature thinking. The truth is, life is so much better without it! Yes, some people can have a few and be done, but that never worked for me. Every once in a while I might be able to pull it off, but those times were few and far between. With over four years of sobriety now, I can say that God’s grace has not only empowered me to never drink another drop, but also to enjoy who I really am! I am His child! And so are you, if you believe Jesus has forgiven you! If you haven’t–then believe! Believe, and begin enjoying His grace today!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, what an amazing day it is! It’s not an anniversary or a specific day to celebrate something–BUT MY LIFE IS AMAZING! It’s amazing because of your grace! Every single DAY is amazing, even when my circumstances are not, because I’m enjoying your grace at all times! IT IS GOOOOOOOOOD! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Dad, so many of them are struggling with an addiction, they are distraught and close to giving up on hope. You know who they are, and you’re speaking to their hearts right now. Help them come to know your grace–who is Jesus–on such a deep level, no amount of ANYTHING could convince them they aren’t perfectly secure IN Him. You aren’t looking for them to clean up their act–or even to be cleaned up by you. You’re looking to give them life! An abundant life! Christ’s life! If they believe, they already have Him, they just need to let Him come out! If they don’t, then they can receive Him this very moment by believing He has forgiven them of their sins. Please destroy ungraceful mindsets today. Please destroy addictions through your grace–whatever addiction it may be. Thank you, Father. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!