“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~Jesus
It always starts out innocently, doesn’t it? We usually don’t plan on taking it too far, we just want to have a few drinks. For me, it had become a habit, just something I did. Like brushing my teeth, going to the gym, or going to work, drinking was a normal, regular part of my life. “But don’t call me an alcoholic, because I’m not!” That was how I thought.
Barbecues, dinners, sitting pool-side in the backyard, ball games, visits to family members’ houses, after work, chillin’ around the bonfire, doing yard work, watching TV–whatever. Having an ice-cold alcoholic beverage in my hand was part of my life, and I abused it quite often. I was a beer connoisseur, I could pick out the good ones from the bad. But honestly, I’d drink anything to get a buzz. Beer, wine, whisky, mixed drinks, it didn’t matter. Just give it to me! Gotta get that buzz! Oh, and keep that buzz!
I’ve heard that 70% of regularly-drinking people are in denial about their drinking as being a problem, like I was. I have alcoholic tendencies and I will for life. The only difference is now I’m in recovery instead of denial, and I will be until I die. How do I know this? Because if I started drinking today I’d be right back to where I was. Trust me. The seesaw actions of drinking/not drinking was something I went up and down on for a long time.
Sobriety has happened for me by allowing the Holy Spirit to renew my mind to the truth. The truth of what? The truth that as a child of God, in my spirit, I wasn’t made to keep getting drunk. This is why it never felt right permanently. This is why there was a never-ending battle each time I chose to get smashed.
Over time, He has renewed my old thought processes which acted on alcoholism and turned them toward the truth of my identity as a heaven-ready saint (see Colossians 1:22). All Christians are saints. Being a saint simply means we are holy. Being holy simply means we are set apart. And what we are set apart from is sin–that is, our spirits (see Romans 6:6-7).
My spirit is no slave to alcohol and I did not know that. Do you see that it was in my mind?
My spirit is completely clean–brand new, not just clean–because of my faith in Jesus. So I’m not an alcoholic–in my spirit–even if my old thought patterns want to think differently and get drunk. Getting drunk as a Christian makes no sense. Doing so is just the same as having a perfectly cooked filet mignon on your table, yet you decide to walk over to your trash can and eat an old banana peel. Our spirits are not drunks. Our spirits are sinless like God.
Paul tries to explain this truth to some of the worst-behaved Christians in history, the Corinthians. He opens up both letters by calling them saints (see 1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1). He wants them to know who they are then he goes into proper behaviors which match up to who they are. He never confuses their supernatural identity with their poor choices.
In the first letter, after giving them a laundry list of sins–one being drunkenness–he tells them this:
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
Do you see that Paul uses past tense words? He doesn’t say, “Stop getting drunk and having orgies or else you will lose your holiness! You will wear out God’s grace and you’ll no longer be saved!” No, never. He knew what God’s New Covenant meant: a new spirit joined with God’s Spirit for good, no matter the level or frequency of our incorrect choices and mindsets.
He also knew full well what the Messiah had accomplished at the Cross: free, permanent holiness by grace through faith. So instead of reverting back to Judaism by saying, “Stop sinning or else!” he told them, “You’ve been remade and those sinful actions will never express who you are.”
He kept reminding them of what God had done to their spirits! “Be yourself! You are holy! Cheating, wrongdoing, homosexual acts, drunkenness, adultery, heterosexual sin, greediness, slander, stealing, and swindling will never match up with who you are!” (See 1 Corinthians 6:8-10).
So once I understood in my heart that I wasn’t made to continue getting drunk all the time, my mind had to catch up to this. As Christians, our hearts know that sin is not part of us because we’ve been made new, but our minds don’t know this, immediately. Once our thoughts start to catch up with the truth of our supernatural perfection…forget about it…everything changes.
Now, the grace-confused Christians will say, “You just gotta get delivered from your alcoholism!” and I’m not against a miracle. But a more realistic approach would be to encourage believers to reshape their thinking with the truth of who we are (see Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:6).
Yet still, the behavior-focused people will want you to believe that once you get saved you’ll never have a desire for drinking again. That’s not true. Our spirits got saved but our minds did not. We have to get into recovery. Recovery is just another word for mind renewal. Recovery is a life-long process because you have old pockets of incorrect thinking. So be easy on yourself. Your actions and strength are not proof of your salvation–Jesus’ life is! (See Hebrews 7:25, Philippians 4:13).
Friend, once you shed this shell and enter into God’s uninterrupted presence for eternity, then you’ll be transformed into your final state. Why? Because you’ll have a new body that can no longer be influenced by sin (see 1 Corinthians 15:52). Until then, relax.
As you grow in the knowledge of your true identity, and learn that your spirit has the same desires as God, He’s very patient with you. You are not a problem for Him and you are no surprise either. He knows who you are inside, no matter how long it takes for you to know! Your incorrect actions and attitudes won’t change His mind about you!
So many people who actually do have a drinking problem think that if they aren’t waking up in the middle of the night with the shakes, they don’t really have an issue. Fair enough. I thought that too.
I was not just a functioning alcoholic (in my actions and attitudes, not identity) but a successful one. “I ain’t like those weak people. Those drunks.” I’d defend myself to the death if you wanted to say something about my overindulgence of the bottle.
Not too long ago, my wife and I were having a conversation about alcoholics after a friend of ours’ mom was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Jennifer said, “I think they need tougher laws.” As a former boozer I was quick to correct that statement because drunk driving laws are already pretty brutal–some of the toughest laws of the land.
What we have in America, and truth be told, worldwide, is not a drinking issue or even a lack-of-tough-laws issue. It’s a mindset issue. We have to get to the bottom of what’s in the mind of people who are addicted to find out why they’re drinking, and then address that.
Laws won’t change lives, only new thinking will change lives. Jesus said He came to give us rest (see Matthew 11:29). So to make changes which will give us rest, we must ask ourselves, “Why am I feeling like I’m feeling?” and then deal with those feelings with God, without drinking.
As we renew our minds to the truth of who we are, as well as go deeper into God’s grace, our feelings can change. But it all begins in our thought life! Change our mindsets, deal with our feelings, and then change our habits–in that order.
In regard to laws, when you are arrested for a drunk driving incident–hopefully without killing anyone–you have to take classes to be informed on just how bad alcohol abuse is, what it does to your body, and the tragedies it causes for so many families. Therefore, it’s not even lack of information keeping us drunk, it’s a lack of healing for what’s going on in our heads.
I got my first DWI when I was 19, and my second when I was 21. I’m now 36 and I’ve been sober nearly four years. However, if I had been pulled over for each time I drank and drove, you would not be reading this. I would be locked away for life. I’m proof that laws don’t stop people who struggle with drinking, only new thought patterns can do that. This is why the Bible talks so very often about new ways of thinking (Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Colossians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 6:19).
We need to address the reasons why people are drinking, and then go from there. Further, drinking is not a disease, it’s a rotten fruit which grows in our lives from a poor mind condition. We’re searching for a feeling to make us “all better” when what we need is our minds revamped by the Holy Spirit in us.
Addiction is a thinking issue so it must be addressed supernaturally, by God, in our mind. It doesn’t matter what your addiction or tendency is, if you’ll allow God to teach you how clean you are inside, you’ll begin to live that way.
When we drink, we are trying to alter our feelings, period. Here’s a short list that will help you understand us better. And for those of you who have an issue with the drink, this will be completely relatable to how you feel, and why you take that first sip:
- If we feel sad, we want to feel glad.
- If we feel insecure, we want to feel confident.
- If we are bored, we want to feel excited.
- If we are already excited, we want to feel even more excited.
- If we feel lonely, we want to make that feeling go away (this can be accomplished by drinking with others or by yourself).
- If we feel uncomfortable around others, we want to fit in and feel comfortable by drinking.
- If we feel uncomfortable around others, we want to not fit in and feel comfortable by drinking.
- If we have a bad day at work, we want to feel better after work.
- If we have a great day at work, we want to celebrate after work.
- If we feel like we are not appreciated by someone, we want to make that feeling go away.
- If we feel like we are appreciated by someone, we want to drink because we’re happy.
- If we feel afraid, we want to feel brave.
- If we feel brave, we want to stay feeling brave.
I know that 13 points is an off-number, but honestly I had to stop myself from going on to the next one! I could go on and on, probably coming up with 100 reasons why we drink, which is all based on our feelings!
WE. WANT. TO. FEEL. DIFFERENT.
We want to be comfortable in our own skin!
SO WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO?! WHO CAN POSSIBLY HELP US?!
The Spirit of Christ can help us with this major problem, this mindset issue, by teaching us who we really are! After we believe He’s forgiven us, He gives us a new spirit just like His, and He joins our new spirit. Then, He renews our minds to the fact that we are infinitely loved children of God! The Creator of the universe is crazy about you!
The grace-confused Christians have done such a poor job of teaching believers their true identity! They’ve mixed up our who with our do! We must begin to teach identity! Once we know who we are, we will act like it, organically!
So today, my friends, know this: When I didn’t understand who I was, sure, I was free to drink. I’m still free to drink. But back then, I wasn’t free not to drink because of how I thought. The truth is, if I never stopped drinking, I’d still be just as holy as I am right now. Behavior cannot change identity, but identity can change behavior! Once this fact went from my heart to my head, I never drank again. I was done being a slave to my feelings and a liquid, and I was learning that I was a slave to righteousness! (See Romans 6:18). If alcohol is your struggle, God wants to do the same for you! He’s not mad at you! He’s not disappointed! His anger and our disappointments were nailed to the Cross! He simply wants you to know who you are! You are free! Begin to be your true self today!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, today I’m so grateful! I’m grateful for your protection over me and others, when I did so many dumb things while drinking. When I heard about my friend’s mom being killed by a drunk driver, my heart sank. Not just for him and his family, but also for the person who killed her. That could have easily been me who did that, and I know it. Thank you for safeguarding me during that difficult stage of growth. Thank you for placing angels around my vehicle each time I started the ignition while buzzed. Because of my poor choices, I don’t deserve to be here, but you were good to me and kept me safe. Thank you. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who feel like drinking is just a part of who they are, and that they can’t quit, renew their minds to the truth! They are your child! A holy saint! Sober, confident, and free! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!