Living Simply with Sobriety

Some tidbits from yesterday’s sermon.  (Listen here)

As we look at the Proverbs, there are many places where the warning against alcohol abuse is clear.  
 
Proverbs 23:19-21; 23:30-39 are key passages.
 
Proverbs 23:19-21
19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path.
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
 
Proverbs 23:29-35
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights
and your mind imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up 
so I can find another drink?”
 
The fact is that alcohol use in the U.S. comes with an enormous cost.  A 2010 study in the British Journal of Medicine states:
·       alcohol is the “most harmful” drug among a list of 20 other drugs.
·       More dangerous than crack and heroin—when assessed for its potential harm to the “drug-taker” and those harmed by his drug-taking. Hardcore drugs – are the deadliest drugs.
·       analyzed other important categories—the addictive nature of the drug, how it harms the body, the drug’s role on society (such as tearing families apart)—alcohol far exceeded all the other drugs in terms of overall harm.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states:
·       nearly $235 billion—on the annual bill in the United States for the medical, social, and economic cost of alcohol abuse.
·       80 percent more than the related costs for all other addictive drugs combined.
·       United States, alcohol also claims more than 80,000 lives every year, and is responsible for or involved in about one-third of all fatal car crashes, half of all homicides, one-third of all suicides and one-third of all hospital admissions.
 
Now, I don’t think the growing trend in evangelical circles, to dismiss the danger of alcohol, nor the old patterns of keeping alcohol use are the answer.  The Scriptures permit neither legalism, nor licentiousness.
 
What are two inherent dangers of alcohol abuse?  Proverbs is clear.
1.  Poverty.  This happens in two ways. First, alcohol is expensive.  And people use funds that could be used elsewhere to feed their addiction.  Second, the abuse of alcohol leads people to become less responsible to their jobs, families and communities.
 
2. Trouble.  Alcohol use creates trouble in people’s lives.  It intensifies the chaos.  It destroys peace and purpose.
 
But what if we’re not abusers?  It can still cloud our thinking.  As we are drawn to a chemical that seems to create a new reality for us, we begin to think differently about life and even about God.
 
1. Clouded thinking makes us desire the wrong things.  We desire what this chemical promises rather than what God promises.
2. Clouded thinking makes us trust the wrong things.  We trust what the temporal gives us over what the eternal promises us.
3. Clouded thinking distorts our view of God.  If you read Isaiah 5, those who robustly drank, were the ones who distorted the person, the purposes, and the character of God.
 
We need wisdom to live simply.  And a wise life is one that keeps its mind clear so it can share in the life God has given.
1.  Wisdom calls us to avoid unhealthy appetites.  1 Timothy 1:6-7
2.  Wisdom calls us to be filled with the Spirit of God.  Ephesians 5:18-20
3.  Wisdom calls us to have the mind of Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:14-16
4.  Wisdom calls us to think clearly about how we treat others.  Proverbs 31:2-9
We are servants of the Most High.  Our lives matter.  Our minds matter.
 
We need to be sober-minded.  Some may be able to have alcohol in their life and maintain that mind.  Praise the Lord.  Others are unsure that alcohol can be an edifying addition to their lives.  Praise the Lord.  However God leads you, he is leading you toward sober-mindedness.
 
Check out these verses:
1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV) 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
1 Timothy 3:11 (ESV) 11Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV) 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Titus 2:2 (ESV) 2Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
1 Peter 1:13 (ESV) 13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:7 (ESV) 7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
 
There seems to be a theme!  We need to think clearly for wisdom to simplify our lives as Christ-followers.
 
Here are the text questions from yesterday:
 
Q1::  Is food addiction just as dangerous as alcoholism to my relationship with God?
A1:: (answered live) I think it can be.  In the passages above, the sin of gluttony is also mentioned.  Anytime we desire something more than we desire God, it becomes an idol.  For you it may not be alcohol.  But alcohol does exact a very high price in our society.  That can’t be minimized.
Q2:: If we feel the spirit is calling us to abstain from alcohol, how do we maintain relationships and ministry opportunities to those who partake in alcohol without alienating them with our stance?
A2:: (answered live) If the Spirit is leading you to abstain, you should abstain.  Or, said a better way, if you can’t participate with a clear conscience, don’t do it.  One thing we can and should do is never let alcohol be a barrier between us and another person.  We can’t say “no thank you” with a sermon in our minds, or in our tone of voice.  Sometimes it is that demeaning tone that people react against.  If someone asks why, it is easy to say, “I’ve just decided not to.”  If that person wants to know deeper reasons, let them ask and then be very tactful and gracious.
Q3::  Should we not drink socially for the sake of other people’s conscience or even our own testimony as a Christian?
A4::  (answered live)  Again, if that is a conviction you have, then follow it.  But, we do need a more biblical way of thinking about “other people’s conscience.”  In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8, there is discussion about matters of conscience.  The teaching of Scripture is, we shouldn’t do something if it is going to encourage others to go against their conscience.  In other words, will my drinking encourage them to drink, if their conscience says not to.  Am I a part of tempting them to do what is sin for them?  If you are with someone who is tempted to drink when they shouldn’t, then don’t.  As for a testimony, if we stay clear-minded, I don’t think too many non-Christians would be startled or upset by it.  But by all means, follow your convictions.  You have the Spirit of God too.
There are reasons Kris and I have decided not to share in the use of alcohol.  As I’ve watched families destroyed by it, I don’t see a need to have it in my life.
1.  Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.”  For me, alcohol fits into this category.  It won’t make me a better follower of Jesus, or a better husband, or a better father, or a better pastor.  It only has the potential to distract me.
2.  We never wanted our kids to face the temptation of alcohol in our home.  We wanted our home to be a safe place.  And while we try to prepare our children for temptation outside the home, we felt that those temptations shouldn’t come from us as parents.
3.  We both have alcoholism in our extended families.  And there is no good reason to test our DNA.
I pray that God will give you wisdom to make the right decision for you and your family.  But I pray for something even more important.  I pray that you will stay sober-minded.  I pray that God will keep your mind in  his care and under his leadership.  So your an experience the life that His grace has given you.
 
 
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