“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.
1 Corinthians 10:23
“It’s 1:30, let’s just head home,” I say to my brother as we stumble into my car.
“The heck with that! I want to keep drinking!” he replies, once we are sitting inside the vehicle.
“No, man. I’m tired,” I retort, then lean back in my seat as he begins the 45-minute trip home from the bar we were at.
“Fine. But let’s get some Taco Bell.”
As we pulled off from the bar parking lot, Mark didn’t even get fifty feet down the road before he started to run off into the ditch, so I sat back up in my seat to “monitor” his drunk driving. It was my car, but I already had two DWI’s, so throwing my keys at my drinking partner was always backed up by my selfish excuse not to get another citation.
After binge eating, I dozed in and out–then suddenly, I start to notice a white light getting brighter in front of us. Soon enough, it went from one bright light to two.
“Oh my God, it’s a caaaaaaaar! Stooooop! Mark! Turn around!” I looked over at him and his eyes were nearly closed.
“What!” my brother yelled! Mark was so drunk he had gotten on the northbound lane of the interstate, going south! He immediately slammed on the brakes, the car screeched and swerved as he started to turn around. So smashed, it took him way too long and another car goes buzzing by!
“MARK! GOOOOOOO! We are going to die!”
…I’ll never forget the look of sheer terror on his face as he scrambled to twist the steering wheel. We finally made it to the off ramp, crossed over the highway, and began driving home in the proper direction.
“Real fun, wasn’t it? Idiot. You almost got you and your brother killed last night.” I say to myself the next morning in disgust. My conversations were always influenced by the enemy when I was hungover. I was mean to me, and the devil heaped on the condemnation. Of course it wasn’t me me, it was my old, stinking thinking.
“You could have died! You and Mark, both! But you had a blast, didn’t you?! Totally worth it, right?! Some Christian you are!”
This sarcastic, demeaning conversation would continue for the rest of the day as I nursed a hangover on the couch in the den.
This is just one of many stories I could write about my life of drinking; a 300-page book of just drunken episodes could be typed up by me, easily. As a matter of fact, I have to try to keep my writings balanced when it comes to talking about my former addiction. Why? Because I know that not everyone has a problem with alcohol, and further, there is nothing wrong with alcohol. Brace yourself for what I’m about to say: alcohol is not the enemy.
Our enemy is the enemy. The temptations he dangles in front of us, is the enemy. Stinking thinking is the enemy. Old coping mechanisms is the enemy–but alcohol is just a liquid. It is a liquid I allowed myself to be controlled by for a long time.
I saw a meme the other day which read something like this:
“No, you don’t need alcohol to have fun. You also don’t need running shoes to run, but it sure F*@%ing helps.”
Does it? Does it really help us have fun? Again, I’m speaking to those who act as if they can’t have fun without it. For just a moment, I would like for you to think of all the stories you could write, just like I wrote in the opening of this devotional. Were your stories really that spectacular? Or did some end with a near-death experience? Maybe someone has actually died or been seriously injured, but the enemy has convinced you it was fun up until that point, so drinking isn’t the problem. Maybe you’ve made some of the most regrettable choices while drunk, choices so diabolical you don’t even want to speak of them. So tell me, how fun is your drinking life?…Be honest. Is it or was it really that fulfilling? No…not at all. The cons far outweigh the pros.
Now, for those of you who think our issue is simply a will-power deficiency, do this: for yourself, think about something that controls you…go ahead…right now, if alcohol doesn’t have any effect on your self-control–you can take it or leave it–think of one thing you can honestly say, “I have no control over that part of my life.” Whatever it may be, that thing is controlling you, not the other way around. That’s us with drinking.
Sure, we might be able to pull off a normal-drinking episode now and again but we know, we know it’s like walking on the edge of a cliff. Drinking alcohol in excess is simply a control issue for us. It is being controlled by a liquid that alters our feelings. As Christians, the Holy Spirit in us has given us self-control–so we have it–we just have to let it come to life! (See Galatians 5:22-23). We are not to be controlled by anything or anyone, but instead, we are to be led by the Spirit of God in us. Paul had a few things to say about alcohol, here’s one verse:
“Don’t get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)
First of all, for those who think that alcohol in the Bible was not fermented, you will have to get a Sharpie and mark through this verse. Paul said, “Don’t get drunk.” How do you get drunk? Drumroll please…dadadadada…fermented alcohol! Ta-da! Amazing how that works, isn’t it? You can only get drunk on fermented juice, not unfermented.
Pardon my sarcasm. I’ve just had way too many run-ins with grace-confused Christians who say alcohol was not actual alcohol in the Bible–that it was grape juice. You can’t get drunk on grape juice. Moving on.
Second, Paul didn’t say, “Don’t drink wine,” he just said, “Don’t get drunk.” So for those of us who know we can’t drink without getting drunk because our off-button is broken, we shouldn’t drink a single drop. Godly wisdom needs to come into play. Also, Paul advises someone to drink wine, Timothy, a preacher (!), for his frequent stomach issues (see 1 Timothy 5:23). So obviously fermented alcohol isn’t the problem here, it’s being controlled by such.
Next, what does Paul say getting drunk does? It leads to debauchery. What is debauchery? It’s pretty much what Mark and I were doing that night at the bar: stupid, nasty stuff. Getting drunk leads us to doing some of the stupidest things, but we’re drunk, so we don’t care! Oh, the next day we care. The embarrassment sometimes is so severe, we hide from people for long periods of time. Awkward would be a good description of how we feel, after saying and doing bone-head things. Then we gotta go into clean-up mode, making sure we didn’t burn any bridges.
Lastly, what does Paul say we should do, rather than getting drunk on wine? Be filled with the Holy Spirit! Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a one-time event that happens the very moment you believe Jesus has forgiven you. So this verse is more of a “be being filled,” as in, enjoy Him because He’s in you! God’s Spirit doesn’t “come and go” based on our good or bad behavior–no way! That’s what He did according to the Old Covenant. According to the New Covenant which Jesus created and we are under, He never ever leaves us!
We read about David begging God, “Please don’t take your Spirit away” (see Psalm 51:11), but now, on this side of the Cross, He won’t take His Spirit away because we are one with His Spirit! (See Hebrews 8:13, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Romans 6:6, 2 Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 13:5). So if you are going to get drunk, you are taking Him with you.
Friend, Paul is saying, “Instead of getting drunk, enjoy the Holy Spirit!” He’s saying, “Get your enjoyment from who is already in you! You don’t need an outside source!” Just look at what he wrote in the following verses:
“speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)
SING! LAUGH! DANCE! SOCIALIZE! Have a good time! The Holy Spirit knows how to have fun and He lives in you! If you are allowing yourself to be controlled by alcoholic beverages, you don’t have to! And, you don’t have to shut yourself off from the world! You just have to have fun organically through God in you! Be yourself! Buy someone a beer, but you don’t need that booze!
“Matt, you are just trying to get people to ruin their witness! A true man of God would never drink alcohol!”
Really? What about Jesus? Was He a true man of God? The Messiah created alcohol for a party–the best alcohol ever (see John 2). God-made wine would put all other wine to shame! Alcohol is not the problem. Drinking alcohol is not the problem. The problem is being controlled by something.
We are free. God sent Jesus here to free us (see Galatians 5:1). Since we are free, we shouldn’t use that freedom to allow ourselves to be controlled, yet again. Not by a liquid, a needle, a plant, a pill, a pretty face, an attractive body, a box of donuts, a gym, or the approval of a pastor. WE ARE FREE. WE ARE FREEEEEEEEEEEE!
So how do you have fun without drinking alcohol? By understanding your freedom. When you truly understand just how free you are as God’s own child, you won’t allow anything to control you. You won’t be waiting on Friday to have fun because you know that Friday is inside of you. Friend, not only are you free, but you are a slave to righteousness! Imprisoned for life! (see Romans 6:18). You can never get away from being spiritually perfect no matter how un-free your choices may be! So be yourself and be free! Be free! You are free, so live that way!
A prayer for you: God, today I want to thank you for showing me the prison door was wide open to freedom on May 8th, 2014. Oh my goodness, the time I spent in that cell was so stupid, sobriety was right there! The whole time the door was open! Thank you for giving me the wisdom to stop being controlled by alcohol. I had some relearning to do, but it’s been worth it! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who are addicted to anything, help them. If they are believers, let them know they are already free! Let them know the fun begins when they simply be themselves in you! Reassure them that you are not disappointed in their behavior in any way, and that their choices have not altered their identity: child of God! Let today be the first day they understand who they truly are inside as they walk out of the prison doors of addictions, once and for all! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!