“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8
The title of this devotional is “Why I Decided to Quit Drinking,” but to be honest with you, I almost titled it “How I quit drinking.” I went with the first because I can include the how in with the why…so let’s go.
I heard it once said, “The ‘ISM’ in ‘alcoholism,’ stands for: Incredibly Short Memory.” That little nugget of wisdom is true. We forget. We forget how bad the episodes can get when we drink. Either because we’ve blacked out–therefore forgetting what happened–or we forget on purpose. Forgetting on purpose is better known as denial.
Another one-liner that most problem-drinkers know is, “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.” Nothing could be more true! For me, I was the Michael Phelps of denial, I swam through it like a fish! I was the fastest, and I was the best! I was the best at ignoring what my “casual” drinking was doing to my health, my parenting, my marriage, and my relationship with God.
As I type this, it’s very early Saturday morning, the sun has barely peeked out. For some strange reason, on Saturday mornings I always want to write about my alcoholism recovery. Which, if I think about it, it’s not really strange at all. It’s the Holy Spirit activating my ministry gift.
Another reason this feeling comes over me on Saturdays at daybreak, is because I can still remember the pain of the hangovers; the most debilitating always being on Saturday mornings. Why were my hangovers so painful on Saturdays? Because my alcohol addiction flared up the most on Friday evenings.
To celebrate a successful workweek (or any other excuse I could come up with), I’d drink more heavily on Friday nights. To compound this stupidity, the devil always placed the “perfect” excuse in my mind, “You don’t have to work tomorrow so you can drink more. Get smashed.” So, I would.
Saturday mornings hurt…bad. I would try to act like they didn’t, but truth be told I wasn’t just in pain physically but also mentally, emotionally–and because I was grieving the Holy Spirit with my binges–I was in pain in my spirit.
Because I was denying my true self as a child of God, by living the life of a closet alcoholic–and because I was blatantly ignoring the Holy Spirit each time I put a bottle up to my lips–I grieved Him. He wasn’t angry, but He was hurt. He wanted better for me.
“Matthew, you weren’t made for that. You were made for so much more. Please listen to me.”
But I didn’t. God still loved me infinitely, my identity had not changed, He was still in me and committed to me, but I saddened Him each time I pounded beers and shots. The Bible says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30 my emphasis added). Another version says, “Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”
“Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live!” That’s exactly what I was doing each time I popped a top! I just kept ignoring Him! Now, I want you to notice the second sentence in that verse because it’s very important for those who are struggling with an addiction. It will help anyone recover from anything:
“Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”
Paul’s words prove that we can always get back on track no matter how long we’ve veered off course with poor choices! As long as we are alive–9 years old or 90–God continues to remind us that we are secure! Our identity is unchangeable and heaven-ready! That is, if you believe that Jesus is your Savior.
As people who are indwelt by His Spirit, we weren’t made to be addicted to anything. This is why we hate our addictions even as we do them. Sure, our old unrenewed thinking might say, “Nah, you like your addiction,” but the real you does not–your spirit. You are a spirit, just like God is a spirit.
I must emphasize that my non-authentic behavior of alcoholism did not remove my guarantee of heaven–and it doesn’t remove yours either! No behavior does! As believers, because our old spirits have been crucified with Christ, and because we’ve received new spirits which are joined with Christ, heaven is in us right now! (See Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6-7, Ephesians 2:6).
Therefore, our actions–good, bad, or indifferent–do not change our identity or position with God! Had I never came to my senses about who I truly was and kept on binging, I’d still be identified as His own and guaranteed to be saved on the day of redemption. How? Because I was already saved! I’m not waiting on Christ’s return to be saved! He’s in me right now!
The religious Christians won’t agree with this. They’ll say that if you keep sinning or if you’re stuck in a sin-pattern, you will lose your spot in heaven. They will even go so far as to say you’re not really saved because of a sinful tendency. Sadly, for them, they are blind. God does not grade us on a curve based on our behavior. We must be perfect, and this can only happen by way of our spiritual death and rebirth in Christ. Thankfully, by the grace of God, this happens from the very moment we first believe Christ has forgiven us (see Matthew 5:48, Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 7:25).
The good news is, for the grace-confused Christians, even though they don’t understand what God has done to our spirits, their salvation and new identity has also been given to them for free. The devil simply has them convinced that their religious actions cause them to be acceptable to God–which they do not. The only people who believe they can lose their salvation are those who think they’re doing something–or not doing something–to keep it. This is called works-based righteousness which is no righteousness at all (see Romans 11:6).
As Christians, to recover from legalism or alcoholism we have to begin to separate our identity from our actions and attitudes. They are not the same! Whether you are addicted to food, men, women, porn, drugs, religion, video games, money, work, people-pleasing, physical fitness, hoarding, or ______________ (fill in the blank)–that addiction does not define you! Your Creator does!
Do you not know who you are, believer? You are a child of God! You are not addicted! You are not addicted! The flesh might be, but as you walk by the Spirit of God in you–who is combined with your perfect spirit–the flesh will take a back seat! You are not of the flesh any longer! You’ve been reborn of God and the flesh is just a shell! Your spirit is clean and sober! Please begin to understand who you are, and then be yourself! (See Galatians 5:16-25, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Romans 8:9, John 1:12, 1 John 3:1).
SO! Let me answer the question that is the title of this devotional, “Why I Decided to Quit Drinking.” That answer is easy: Because I love God and I wasn’t made to keep getting drunk all the time as His child. My spirit, me, I’m not addicted to anything.
And then the next question, “How did I stop drinking?”
Simple: Because I love God and I wasn’t made to keep getting drunk all the time as His child. My spirit, me, I’m not addicted to anything.
A prayer for you: Well good morning, Father! MAN, I have a lot of energy today! I know this energy is a gift from you because I did not get plastered last night! With today being September 3rd, 2016, I have over two years of sobriety! I can see this is what you wanted for me all along–and who I actually was the whole time! THANK YOU! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. I understand that not everyone reading today’s devotional struggles with alcohol, but many do. First, for those who don’t, help them to understand that people with this tendency are in need of some serious mercy and grace–but also, we need firmness. We need loved ones who will call us out and stand up to us! If there is a hint of codependency or enabling in any relationship of these dear readers, please begin to give them the tools they need to set healthy boundaries. Then, strengthen them through your Spirit to enforce those boundaries with love.
And for those who are hungover right now, or who may have made some terrible choices while drunk or high last night–in the name of Jesus–I REBUKE SATAN’S GRASP ON THEIR MINDS! I command him to leave them alone! BREAK THEM FREE FROM HIS LIES! Reveal the truth about who they are! Teach them that they don’t need to quit, they simply need to start BEING themselves! Let them know you’ll use this difficult season for their purpose–to help others! I SPEAK FREEDOM OVER THEIR MINDSETS TODAY! Amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!