by James MacDonald
Monday, September 19, 2005
“I will not be brought under the power of anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
I grew up in a very conservative, somewhat legalistic church, and I heard a lot of red-faced pulpit pounding about the awfulness of alcohol.
That attitude in the pulpit quickly translated into a lot of judging in the pews. Well-meaning Christians would say, “The first thing you gotta do now that you’re following Jesus is to stop drinking.” And, “You’re not as spiritual as I am if you don’t see this issue the way that I do.” Even then I knew that wasn’t Jesus’ heart on the matter at all.
So as I look back now, I think I overreacted. Not wanting to be legalistic, I left the subject alone. But I have to say to my own shame that in trying to avoid legalism on the subject of alcohol, I believe that we as a generation of believers have come dangerously close to promoting license. So we’re going to solve that right now.
The way I see it, all of us fall into one of three categories:
Group 1: You’ve got a drinking problem. It’s way beyond, “I like Kool Aid, I like Diet Coke, I like Budweiser.” You have a problem. You drink because you need to and that’s not taking you in a good direction.
Group 2: You drink for amusement. “Drinking’s not a problem for me. I really enjoy my alcohol here and there.”
Group 3: You completely abstain from alcohol. “I don’t drink at all and I don’t allow it in our home.”
I don’t know which of those three groups you’re in, but my goal both here and in the broadcast message, “Wise Up about Alcohol” is to try as best as I know how to lead you toward what I believe is the highest and best choice for the followers of Jesus.
In the complete message you can catch six reasons why I believe in total abstinence from alcohol. Notice, six reasons why I believe this. I promise you at the outset, if you come to a different conviction, I’m not going to judge you about it but I will challenge you to defend your conviction from God’s Word. If alcohol has in any way affected your life or the life of your family, I encourage you to listen to the complete message. Here’s a summary: I believe in total abstinence because . . .
#1 drunkenness is a sin, not a disease.
#2 alcohol impairs wisdom.
#3 alcohol is an unnecessary drug.
#4 alcohol is destructive.
#5 alcohol is addictive.
#6 Finally, I believe in total abstinence because wisdom calls me to set it aside. The Bible does not require total abstinence, but it recommends it as the highest and best course, filled with the greatest wisdom. I believe it is a choice which you can be most proud of when you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a wise choice. Proverbs 20:1 says “Wine is a mocker, and strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” You say, “But I’m not being led astray.” No, but you’re on that path.
It is a loving choice. As you grow in your faith, you discern that you make choices not because of what is best for you, but by what is best for others. The Christian life is not all about you—what you can handle, what you can control, what’s nice for you. The Christian life is for others. We don’t live to ourselves. Romans 14:15 says, “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be evil spoken of; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
You would never want to defend what you’re doing on the basis of what’s best for you. You would always want to make a loving choice and realize that though I might not stumble into a sinful use of this commodity, it might destroy someone else. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Kids embrace what parents tolerate.” That should concern you. Any youth pastor will tell you that the primary place where kids begin to experiment with drinking is from their parent’s supply. Total abstinence is a loving choice.
Abstinence is also an edifying choice. Romans 14:19 challenges us, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things with which one may edify another.” The application of this is: “I’m going to do the things with my life that will help you be a better follower of Jesus.”
Lastly, it’s a supportive choice. Romans 14:21 says, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine, nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”
You say, “Well, James, you’ve put me in a position where I’m not totally sure that I can go ahead drinking.” Look closely at Romans 14:23, “But he who doubts is condemned . . . whatever is not from faith is sin.” Now I’ve really wrecked you. As a follower of Jesus, if you’re not sure it’s right for you to drink alcohol, then it’s wrong for you to do it even if it isn’t wrong.
The Bible does not require abstinence, but I believe it recommends it as the wiser choice. “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “I will not be brought under the power of anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32. You say, “Free from what?”—free from addictive patterns of sinfulness that don’t lead to the righteousness which can be found in Christ alone.
So, lovingly and imperfect as I am, I commend to you total abstinence as the wisest course for your life. I challenge you to lay it down at the cross and get 100 percent free of its power and allure for the higher and better influence of others. Take the biblical foundation laid out in this message and be an influence for this righteous choice within the body of Christ