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Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible.


Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible

“Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t go with girls that do.” It may be bad poetry, but at least it has the virtue of being clear. And fifty years ago, many American Evangelicals would have agreed that alcohol consumption was a sure sign of worldliness, if not a lack of genuine faith altogether.

But times have changed, as a recent CT article shows, citing Moody Bible Institute lifting its ban on alcohol and tobacco use for full time employees. This change is part of a larger shift in how Evangelicals think about cultural activities once deemed questionable. Consider, for example Brett McCracken’s recent book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism and Liberty, which discusses Christian consumption of food, music, movies, and alcohol.[1]

Emotions run high on this issue. This is understandable considering the destruction and heartbreak many have experienced because of alcohol addiction and abuse. No thoughtful person would advocate that all Christians should drink, but some believe total abstention is the only reasonable Christian position.

As with all matters of Christian living, the foremost question is, “What does the Bible teach?”

Curse or Blessing?

Is alcohol a curse or a blessing? Scripture certainly speaks negatively about alcohol.

·         Drunkenness is condemned in multiple passages, such as Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

·         The language of 1 Corinthians 6:10 is even stronger, warning that drunkards “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

·         Jesus warned against drunkenness in Luke 21:34.

·         And the book of Proverbs, full of warnings against drunkenness, especially warns against the disorienting, addictive, and destructive consequences for those who “tarry long over wine”:

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” (Proverbs 23:29-35)

To top it off, the Old Testament prophets frequently use drunkenness as a metaphor for God’s judgment and curse on sinful human societies. (See Jeremiah 13:13-14 and Ezekiel 23:38-33.)

But alongside these negative passages, Scripture also says that wine is a gift from God. For example, the Psalmist praised God for the gifts of wine, oil, and bread in Psalm 104:14-15:

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

And this is not the only positive reference to alcohol — there are many others. In fact, the number of positive references to wine in Scripture is almost surprising.

·         Wine is viewed as the blessing of God (Genesis 27:28Deuteronomy 7:13).

·         The benefits or promises of wisdom are favorably compared to wine (Proverbs 9:2-5).

·         The blessings of romantic love in marriage are compared with wine (Song of Solomon 5:1).

·         The gracious promises of the gospel are compared to wine (Isaiah 55:1-2).

·         Many passages anticipate a great eschatological feast at the end of time when the nations will gather to enjoy “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine” prepared for God’s people by the Lord himself (Isaiah 25:6-9Amos 9:13-15).

·         And then there is the practice of Jesus, who not only began his ministry by miraculously transforming water into wine (John 2:1-11), but also drank it himself (Luke 7:33-35).[2]

Use or Abuse?

A close look at the relevant passages show that Scripture condemns not the use but the abuse of alcohol.

This is the same perspective we’re given regarding food and sex. Eating food is not a sin, but its abuse through gluttony is. Sex is a good gift from the Lord when enjoyed in the context of the loving covenant relationship of marriage. But Scripture condemns the misuse of sex in extramarital relationships.

The same can be said of alcohol: alcohol itself is not a sinful substance, but the abuse or misuse of alcohol is both sinful and destructive.

Liberty or Love?

It seems clear that the moderate consumption of alcohol is a matter of Christian liberty. So, should a Christian be willing to forego the exercise of this freedom for the sake of others? Absolutely. Paul makes this clear in Romans 14.

Paul doesn’t say a believer can enjoy liberty only if everyone else agrees with him. Nor does he advocate laying down all liberties on all occasions. But when a believer with a “strong” conscience is in the presence of a believer with a “weak” conscience, he or she should not participate in anything that tempts the weaker believer to sin. There must be love for and sensitivity to others in this issue.

Love always trumps liberty.[3]
Brian G. Hedges is the lead pastor for Fulkerson Park Baptist Church and the author of Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change and Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin. Brian and his wife Holly have four children and live in South Bend, Indiana. Brian also blogs at www.brianghedges.comand you can follow him on Twitter @brianghedges.

Notes


[1]This book is helpful in many ways, not least of which is his survey of the history on each of these issues. See, for example, Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline, excerpted from his book.

[2]Some would argue that the different words for wine in the original languages prove that the positive references are to new, unfermented wine, with the negative passages targeting all intoxicating beverages.

With the Old Testament, contrasts are made between the Hebrew words tirosh (often translated “new wine”), yayin (“wine”), and shekar (“strong drink”), while a similar contrast is made between the words oinos (“wine”) and gluekos (“new wine”) in the New Testament.

But these distinctions don’t hold up under attentive exegesis. Gluekos only appears once in the New Testament (Acts 2:13) and even then the context shows that it could intoxicate. Tirosh (“new wine”)clearly has intoxicating effects in Hosea 4:11, though considered a blessing from God inDeuteronomy 7:13and many other passages.

Even shekar (“strong drink,” translated “beer” in the HCSB) is allowed in Deuteronomy 14:24-26: “And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money . . . and spend the money for whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

[3]For more on the issues of both alcohol and Christian liberty, see Kenneth Gentry’s helpful bookGod Gave Wine: What the Bible Says about Alcohol.

Brian Hedges

 

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Personal Convictions vs. Biblical Truth.


Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

My Christian friends hold a very different set of values than I do. They permit their kids to celebrate Halloween; they engage in social drinking and hold dances at their church. I can’t imagine how we can have fellowship with each other when our convictions are so different. What do you think?

“L”

Dear “L”,

First of all, I am pleased to see that you have used the word, “convictions.” A dramatic difference exists between biblical truths and personal convictions. Too often we Christians confuse the two. We live and die for biblical truth. On the other hand, personal convictions are not nearly as foundational to living out the Christian life. Convictions have more to do with our consciences which are trained to respond one way or another to particular situations and issues.

Christians have been divided over what Paul referred to as “disputable issues” ever since the first century. Most church fights—from the first century down to the present day—were not over biblical issues. The fights were over personal convictions regarding personal consciences. The Roman Christians were having great difficulty in deciding just which activities were acceptable and which were not. They were arguing, among other things, about whether or not it was all right for Christians to eat meat which had previously been offered to idols and then sold at a discount in the market places surrounding the pagan temples.

Paul gave us specific guidelines for settling “food fights” among brothers and sisters in Christ. In Romans 14:1- 5:5, Paul taught how to settle disagreements among God-loving Christians who are trying to live out the Christian life in gray areas.

In Romans 14:1-3 Paul wrote: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.”

Disputable matters” are areas where the Bible doesn’t expressly give direction. Two disputable matters—among many others—were rampant in the church in Rome:

1. Eating meat offered to idols
2. Celebrating pagan holidays

Unfortunately, disputable issues still divide and hurt Christians today: drinking alcohol, dancing, dressmoviesmusicvideo gamesholidaystattoosbody piercings, bodily augmentations or “upgrades,” worshipping with uplifted hands in prayer, homeschooling, and the list goes on.

Two extremes must be avoided as we decide what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

Legalism says we make a list of rules and conform to the rules. Then, we attempt to impose our personal convictions as normative for others.

Libertinism says, “Since I’m free in Christ and the Bible forbids none of these things specifically, then I’ll feel free to do any and/or all of them!”

One of my close friends, Gary Shrader, synthesized Paul’s teaching regarding disputable issues of conscience into what he identified as four boxes. We need to know what box we are in and what box our friends are in as we sort out our relationships in the gray areas of the Christian life.

BOX 1: I can’t; and I struggle if you do.
BOX 2: I can’t; but you can.
BOX 3: I can; but it’s a struggle for me.
BOX 4: I can; and you can.

Gary’s boxes are an indicator of personal spiritual growth, but only somewhat. Some very young Christians may be able to enter many areas of freedom while those much farther along in the journey may still struggle in some areas.

In Romans 14:13 -15:5 Paul added three more boxes. The overarching principle of handling issues of conscience is found in Romans 15:1: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Who are the strong? What are the failings of the weak? Strong Christians eat the meat without any pangs of conscience. Weak Christians can’t eat without feeling that they are violating their consciences.

BOX 5: I can; but I won’t, because others might stumble.

Paul wrote in Romans 14:13b“Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” What is a stumbling block? If you pick any disputable matter and do it in front of weaker brothers offending their consciences, you have become a stumbling block to their faith. Don’t flaunt your freedom before others (Romans 14:22). Keep your freedom in this area between you and God.

BOX 6: I can’t; so I won’t until I can.

Paul carefully addressed those gray areas where our engagement in certain activities might violate our consciences. He writes in Romans 14:23 “But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

Contrary to popular belief, our consciences don’t necessarily tell us what is right and wrong. They give us behavioral instructions along the lines of what we have been trained to believe is right or wrong. If a certain activity violates our consciences we are not to engage. To do so is to sin. A violated conscience impairs our ability to hear God speak deep in our inner spirit. Paul is clear: we are never to act contrary to the leadings of our consciences. Instead, we strengthen them by retraining them along the lines of biblical truth so that we can experience the freedom of the Spirit-filled life. By the way, how we behave in these disputable gray areas means that what is sin for some is not sin for others. Think about that!

Box 7: I can; and I’ll help others find freedom.

Paul wrote in Romans 14:19: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” “Mutual edification” has to do with retraining our consciences along the lines of biblical freedom. We help “weaker” brothers or sisters whose consciences are more attuned in some areas to personal convictions than to biblical truth by restricting our liberty—and then coming alongside them and helping them understand why we restricted our liberty. Then, we encourage them to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, search the Scriptures and enjoy freedom in those particular areas.

Rallying around the indisputables is one of the best ways to enhance relationships, unity and peace.

Paul wrote in Romans 15:5-6: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

From my perspective the Indisputables are:

1. The Bible is the Word of God.
2. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man (the hypostatic union).
3. Jesus was virgin born.
4. Jesus died a substitutionary death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.
5. The bodily resurrection guaranteed that Christ’s mission was fulfilled.
6. Forgiveness of sin and salvation come solely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
7. God establishes an eternal relationship with those who personally receive Him as Savior and Lord.

When we get these indisputables right, our priorities and choices will fall into place. We will live in deeper fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus focused on the essentials as a powerful way to bring in the kingdom. So may we!

Well, “L”, I hope this helps. May God bless you as you live your Christian life wisely and biblically.

Love, Roger

By Dr. Roger Barrier

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work isGot Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answerfrom Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: November 20, 2012

Following All the Rules.


I like rules, plans, lists, systems. Basically, I’m Type A, I’m detail-oriented, and I like structure.

Following Rules

Give me a project, the parameters in which you want it done, a hard and fast deadline, and you’ll be happy with the outcome and I’ll be happy doing it.That’s probably why I have a bent toward legalism. Legalism brings me much comfort because it gives me rules to follow. Self-imposed rules, maybe, but who cares? I know if I’m doing things right with legalism. And most importantly, I know if I’m doing things wrong.

When I live under the Law, I can beat myself up for making a mistake, I can figure out how I went wrong, I can make excuses, and I can vow never to make that mistake again. Even if I repeat it, I rationalize that at least I still was working hard at something.

But grace? Grace just seems too ambiguous for a person like me. It’s so all encompassing, so immeasurable, so quiet, so … forgiving.

A dear friend once remarked, “Rules come with less trust.”

Maybe that’s my rub with grace.

I am comforted by legalism because I don’t really trust myself with the freedom that comes with grace. And maybe, deep down, what it really means is I don’t trust God.

“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1, NLT)

Grace certainly isn’t a trust issue for Christ. He freely bestowed it upon me when I entered into a relationship with him. I couldn’t earn it or check certain items off a list before it was granted to me. It was a gift.

I am the one who put terms and limitations on that gift. I am the one who feels the need to perform for it instead of resting in it. And resting in it really is key, isn’t it? Because for all of my structure, systems, and lists, and for all of the times I say I like those things in my life, I really don’t know what it means to just trust him and find respite in his all-sufficient work on the cross.

I have a bent toward legalism, I do.

But somewhere along the way, I decided the performance was too much to keep up. Even though I found comfort in the parameters of the rules, living under them was exhausting and, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5, it chained me to a life I was not called to.

Somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit showed me that my life should be defined not by what I was doing wrong, but by the fruit that comes from a life hidden in him.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

Somewhere along the way, I started to grasp the depths of words such as “freedom,” “rest,” and “grace”–words that now bring far more comfort than rules ever could.

Jessica Bufkin, a former junior high English teacher, is now Editor for SingleRoots, a website that encourages Christian singles to be intentional with their lives. The site offers many resources for singles, including a free eBook, When Will I Get Married?

More Resources for Christian Singles

Photo: Shanna Baker / Getty Images

Source: Out & About Guest Blog: SingleRoots

By , About.com Guide

Two Different Ways of Trying to “Save” Ourselves?


This seems to be a common misunderstanding in the church today.

I hear people say that there are two equal dangers Christians must avoid: legalism and lawlessness.

Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules.

Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace.

Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace.

Legalism and lawlessness are typically presented as two ditches on either side of the Gospel that we must avoid.

If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace.

Too much grace, you need to balance it with law.

But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its depth and beauty.

Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the standards, and so on (you could call this “front door legalism”).

Other people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (you could call this “back door legalism”).

… Both are legalistic in this sense: one “life rule” has as its goal the keeping of rules; the other “life rule” has as its goal the breaking of rules.

But both are a rule of life you’re submitting to—a rule of life that is governing you—which is defined by you and your ability to perform.

Success is determined by your capacity to break the rules or keep the rules.

Either way you’re still trying to “save” yourself—which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects.

Taken from “The Gospel And The Law” (used by permission).

By Tullian Tchividjian.

Time to Grow Up.


Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Galatians 4:7

Recommended Reading
Galatians 4:1-7

Family experts advise parents to teach children from the get-go to put away their playthings.

As soon as toddlers can walk, they should learn to pick up and put away.

A cleanup routine can be part of a bedtime routine, along with bath, prayers, and story.

The idea is that as we grow older, we’ll do the same–but not because we’re told.

As we mature, we internalize the spirit of cleanliness and maturely want to live well-ordered lives.

In the same way, the Law was given when God’s people were in their childhood.

The Law treats people like they’re babies.

Everything is spelled out. But with the coming of Christ, the time set by the Father was fulfilled; and Christians are to live freely as mature sons in Christ and not under the supervision of the Law.

It’s time to grow up. We’re under grace.

Christianity is no longer about legalistically following a set of rules.

We’ve been set free from all such man-made rules and regulations.

Now we walk in the Spirit and live out our faith with confidence and freedom.

Legalism is lists–the filthy five, the nasty nine, the dirty dozen.

But God already likes us, and we should live to please Him from our hearts, not from a list of rules.
David Jeremiah

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Ezekiel 12:1-15:8

By David Jeremiah.

Two Different Ways of Trying to “Save” Ourselves?.


This seems to be a common misunderstanding in the church today.

I hear people say that there are two equal dangers Christians must avoid: legalism and lawlessness.

Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules.

Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace.

Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace.

Legalism and lawlessness are typically presented as two ditches on either side of the Gospel that we must avoid.

If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace.

Too much grace, you need to balance it with law.

But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its depth and beauty.

Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the standards, and so on (you could call this “front door legalism”).

Other people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (you could call this “back door legalism”).

… Both are legalistic in this sense: one “life rule” has as its goal the keeping of rules; the other “life rule” has as its goal the breaking of rules.

But both are a rule of life you’re submitting to—a rule of life that is governing you—which is defined by you and your ability to perform.

Success is determined by your capacity to break the rules or keep the rules.

Either way you’re still trying to “save” yourself—which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects.

Taken from “The Gospel And The Law” (used by permission).

By Tullian Tchividjian.

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