Christians & Alcohol: The Other Side of the Fence

This is Side 2: see Side 1 here!

It is interesting to me that the majority of things we (as Christians) argue vehemently over are personal preferences.  Many Christians spend their lives arguing for things not in scripture while denying things that are in scripture.  I think one of the biggest things argued for/against may be alcohol.  Did Jesus drink wine? Should I drink alcohol?  Don’t I have personal freedoms in Christ?

I would have to say the scripture is clear that drunkenness is indeed a sin and a “big” one at that.  Just take a look at the list of things Paul gives to those in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  He then concludes “and such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  Three big words in Christianity all in one verse: regeneration, sanctification, and justification but we will get into those perhaps in a different post.  So obviously drunkenness is a sin but little is said about alcohol or moderation drinking in general.  So instead of pulling out verses and attempting to explain something that may or may not be there lets go to some principles of the scripture.

1: Stumbling Another Believer (1 Corinthians 8)
Tim pointed out in his post that his friends check with him to make sure it is ok before drinking in front of him and that is great.  However, I have been out with friends (some mutual friends of Tim and I but some of my personal friends) that have not given me the same luxury.  Now, I am not one to judge them on their decisions about what to drink but because of the reasons I will list in this post, I attempt to avoid alcohol altogether.  Now, with respect to stumbling another believer there are of course lines.  If I didn’t like orange shirts and asked every member of my church to please throw out their orange shirts that would be a bit of an issue on my end.  But when a younger believer has knowledge that the leaders in his local body or the “older crowd” is ok with drinking then he goes out and drinks and fuels the addictive tendency and now has an issue with alcoholism that is closer to the meaning of causing another believer to stumble.  It is obviously still the choice of each individual but when that believer looks up and sees that behavior what inhibition would exist to push him/her in the right direction?

Several years ago there was a study conducted on alcohol usage in teenagers compared to the alcohol usage of parents.  In homes where parents were total abstainers from alcohol 16% of the teenagers tried alcohol before adulthood.  However, in homes where the parents were social drinkers, 66% of the children experimented with alcohol before adulthood.

There are numerous other examples that could be brought to light but the principle is the same: why rejoice in something that could cause another believer (or your own child) to stumble and stumble big.

2: Better to Be Separate then Compromising (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
I mentioned in the intro that in 1 Corinthians 6 we have a list of things that the believers in Corinth used to be, and among that list was drunkard.  Of course a drunkard and a social drinker are not the same thing but I don’t think it is too many steps down the staircase of alcohol between the two.  I have seen many friends that started at social and have stepped down to borderline drunkard.  Do you know what the number one reason people drink alcohol is? Socialization.  That is interesting to me and very telling.  People drink to fit in.  I wonder how this translates to Christians who chose to drink.  People are drinking to fit in with people who drink.  Paul says that some of the believers in Corinth were drunkards but have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.  So being a drunkard is a lifestyle that is associated, not with Christ, but with the world.  So in 2 Corinthians 6 we have Paul’s entreaty (using the words of God from the OT) that they should “come out from among them and be separate.”  I don’t think it is illogical or a stretch to say that a drunkard is not a drunkard without alcohol.  Social drinking is not social drinking without alcohol.  Paul associates the whole business with the world and urges the believers in Corinth to come out from among them and be separate.  As Christians we tend to pride ourselves with our distance from the world.  What we fail to realize is that keeping a steady distance from the world is actually pulling us further from Christ because this world isn’t growing steadily closer to God.  It appears to be the exact opposite and if our focus is on keeping a particular distance from the world then it is on the wrong thing.  We should have the attitude of distance to Christ.  We have been bought with a price and compromising in little things seems like a big price to pay at the judgment seat of Christ.

3: Christian Testimony (1 Peter 4:3-4; Romans 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:22)
I think this slides right in line with #2.  Part of being separate is your Christian testimony.  This, to me, is one of the strongest reasons to not partake in any drinks.  It actually is a fantastic opportunity to speak a few words in the gospel every time I am asked the question from a co-worker “you don’t drink?”  I have the opportunity to say that Christ saved me from my sins and I can’t see any way it is rewarding to Him for me to drink.  Sure, it comes with criticism sometimes; just look at the believers to whom Peter was writing in 1 Peter 4:3-4.  “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”  This negative treatment of those who seek to uphold a Christian testimony and be separate hasn’t changed.  However, there are many who look to such an example and see a difference and inquire.  They are impressed with someone who can stand against the flood of normalcy in our society and have convictions.  Now, the difficulty comes with consistency.  Christian testimony goes far beyond alcohol and drinking and into every sphere of our lives.  When I have talked to others about this issue they come back with a retort of “well if that is the case then we shouldn’t go watch some movies or look at TV shows or listen to some music” and that always surprises me.  When did the grid of Philippians 3 become out of date and unnecessary?  When did looking at our actions and activities to see if there is any honor for Christ in them become something of the past?  EVERY THING should be compared to Christ and to see if it is bringing Him honor.  If it doesn’t, then like Paul reminds those in Corinth “if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:15).  A Christian will have to face a judgment as well.  Not the Great White Throne judgment that judges sins (Revelation 20) but the Judgment Seat of Christ which judges works (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Everything that didn’t bring Christ glory and honor will be burned up and a reward will be lost.  Reward that will ultimately be placed at the feet of Christ.

But I referenced Romans 12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  In Romans 12 I had in mind the appeal “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (v 2) and “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (v 17).  The principle is what we have already been looking at.  Be separate.  But what about “Do what is right in the sight of everyone, “as Paul says in verse 17?  It ties into what a surface reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “avoid the appearance of evil.”   Some would take this to mean that we should not only avoid evil but avoid anything that looks evil.  Although this may be a good Biblical principle that is not in the context here.  We are to avoid every form of evil, whether it be doctrinal teaching, glaring heresy, or lifestyle choices.  We should avoid everything that may produce anything in us (albeit beliefs or lifestyle) that is contrary to the whole of scripture.  Does drinking make anyone a better person?  Do the ramifications of alcohol help anyone?

Perhaps my convictions are so strong because as a young person I had a former drug addict/distributor (the largest in PEI, Canada) look me in the eye and tell me “Rob, if you learn anything from me just stay away from alcohol all together.  It will do nothing for your testimony and is only playing with fire.  Don’t take the risk of getting burned.”  Regardless of my conviction, the Bible is only crystal clear on drunkenness.  I just wanted to give the Biblical principles for the other side of the argument from Tim’s post.  I am only a sinner saved by grace so to condescend on anyone else would be wrong but hopefully this at least brings a balance to the alcohol issue.  Regardless of your stance our prayer/desire is that all things are done to the glory and honor of our Savior.

-RM

 

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The Condescending Christian

Condescension: (n)
1: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior
2: patronizing attitude or behavior

I think this is a word we are all familiar with.  A word we are all disgusted with? Perhaps.  A word we are all plagued with.  More likely.

I’ve been discussing Christianity with various friends recently and we have all come to the same conclusion: Christians are not very Christ-like.  It reminds me of the first time the label “Christians” was used in the scripture.  We have all heard this before, but in Acts 11:26 we see that “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”  The ironic thing is that this is an adjective and was not word that the believers called themselves but was a description that the pagans in Antioch gave them because they were following Christ.  The term was most likely a derogatory term given in mockery but the pagan world looked and saw people following Christ.  I wonder if they were being mocked because they actually acted like Him who they were attempting to follow.  Jesus said “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” (John 15:18).  Contempt and mockery comes along with bearing the image of Christ.

Why do I say image instead of name?  “Christian” has become a nominal claim that holds no value but bearing the image of Christ is what we are called to do; be a reflection of Christ.  I believe a major problem in Christendom is that we are trying to be too “Christian-like” and forgetting to be “Christ-like.”

Now, this is not 100% true in every local church but it is a trend I am noticing more and more that the Church is shutting their “doors” tighter and tighter.  Obviously by doors I mean their hearts.  The attitude in local churches is that if you are on the inside you have been blessed and are a select group of “God’s elect” but if you are on the outside then you are not worth our thoughts.  It is interesting that Christ was never holed up in a building with the religious leaders of the day and reminiscing on how much better He was than the rest of the population (for He very well was MUCH better).  He was mocked for sitting and eating with sinners, for talking to a woman at the well, for calling children, for rescuing prostitutes, and loving the “scum.”  However, modern Christianity has turned their face from all of these ones that desperately need our love because we want to be “Christian-like.”  Christians don’t talk with non-Christians! Christians don’t get their hands dirty! Christians don’t sit and eat with sinners!  We want to stay in our “Christian boxes” and remind ourselves how great we are compared to all the sinners!  Paul knew nothing of this attitude when he writes to Timothy “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I AM chief” (1:15).  Paul knew he never lost his nature as a sinner and it motivated him to reach other sinners!  I remember hearing Billy Graham tell an interviewer that the first step for a gospel preacher is to first love sinners for whom Christ died.  Gospel preaching becomes dry and lifeless when the motivation behind the message is not a sincere love for the lost!  Why are people leaving churches to never return?  Because Christians are not “Christ-like.”  Christ didn’t have to provide entertainment to get a following and He didn’t need fancy projectors and loud music.  He only needed His love for every single person.  What happened?  They CLUNG to Him.  The world knows very little of God’s love because we have been called to be the vessels of His love but instead we shut ourselves in and pat each other on the back for being such a good Christian while lives are being torn apart, people are hopeless, and the world is spiraling out of control.

When I was in California recently I was talking to my friend and he was sharing with me some of the various things he has gotten himself into out there.  Every other Wed he goes and gives out burgers and Bibles to homeless people in LA.  Two of the ones he has reached come to services regularly on Sunday because he takes time out of his day to just sit and talk with them and helps them in any way he can.  This was just one of the things he was into and I really looked up to him for that.  He surely isn’t being very “Christian-like” but he certainly is being very “Christ-like.”

I’m not sure when we lost sight of the fact that we are only sinners saved by grace but we have.  Let’s step out of the box of our condescension and back into the life of love for people around.  I don’t care what race, sexual orientation, religion, or social status our neighbor is, they should all be getting a glimpse at the love of Christ.  Would my neighbor be able to call me a follower of Christ or is it just a label I’ve slapped on myself because I go to a Christian church?  What about you?  Lord, change my heart and help me to love like Christ.

-RM

 

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What Salvation Is: Part 1

The next two blog posts will be a little different.  Julia’s dad (my father-in-law) has professed faith in Christ last week and even got up and gave his testimony during CBC’s services on Sunday.  This is a place he hasn’t stepped foot in for years.  I was with him briefly on Monday night and could definitely see a change.  With that in mind I was thinking of what true salvation is and the ways salvation changes us.  This post will be what salvation is and the following will be what salvation does.

What is Salvation?
A mere decision to a proposition?  Not in the slightest.  A mere conclusion of logic?  Also, no.  Salvation of the Bible is something much more than simply a logical decision or a decision of change.  The shortest message of salvation I think you can read is found in Acts 16:30-31:
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

“Believe on” has the idea of trusting on, resting on, trusting oneself to, or depending on.  What it doesn’t mean is assenting to, acknowledging that, superficially accepting, or any other form of such things.  In Biblical Greek, the word “believe” and “faith” are very closely related (much closer than we know in English).  In fact it would be correct to translate Ephesians 2:8 as “For by grace are you saved through belief; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”  Believing and faith in the Bible are the same thing.  This is a much stronger word than what we use “believe” for in today’s English language.  We use it to say “to think” or “to assent/accept” and even “to come to understand.”  These meanings are not the meaning of “believing on” in Acts 16:31.  There is an illustration I’ve heard often of a tight rope walker in the 19th century that goes by the name of Charles Blondin (real name Jean Francois Gravelet).  He stretched a tight rope across the Niagra Falls to show his pristine balancing skills.  He started across with a balancing pole, then did a back somersault while walking across.  Each crossing after that he completed in a different manner: blindfolded, with a wheelbarrow, even making an omelet in the middle of the rope.  Then he comes to the crowd that was watching him and asks if they believe that he could carry someone across on his back.  Everyone at once screams “YES WE BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT!”  But then his question changed and was now, “Ok, who will get on my back and cross?”  The crowd suddenly went silent.  Everyone believed ABOUT Blondin.  They saw what he did and believed he COULD do it but no one was willing to believe IN or ON Blondin and get on his back.  Many people believe about the Lord Jesus Christ but only those who believe on Him will ever get real life.

“the Lord Jesus Christ” does not say “Jesus” or “the Savior” or even “Christ.”  He is the one of whom we read that died and rose again.
Jesus tells us that this is the one who became a man to be the savior.  We just recently celebrated the birth of Jesus.  Joseph was told “thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).   The name Jesus tells us of his humanity.
Christ is the anointed one.  He is the promised Messiah, the servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 42).  It is a shame to proclaim Jesus as a cool, party attending, rebel character that is found being proclaimed in many churches.  This is the anointed one, the Messiah, the promised one.
Lord is a term used of one in authority over you, one who you submit and bow to.  There are not two separate events of accepting Jesus as your Savior then accepting him as your Lord.  Salvation is the acknowledgment of Him as Lord!

So the gospel of salvation is that man is without ability to save himself but upon the confession of helplessness, the repentance of sin, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on Christ (both the person and the work) “you shall be saved.”

Romans 6:17 is Paul looking back to before they were “saved” when he says, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin.”  He is commenting on the fact that we were astray from God and servants of sin.  Then he reflects on their moment of conversion when he says, “but ye have obeyed from the heart.”  The tense of the verb “obeyed” is in the Aorist tense which says it happened at a definite moment of time (the moment of salvation).  But what is interesting is the last phrase, “that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”  Salvation is doctrine; it is truth to be received.  God has revealed the truth of the person and work of Christ and given man the responsibility to respond to the doctrine.  Salvation is truth to be received.

So in the ultimate sense, what is salvation?  It is the supernatural work of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It is the redemption of a fallen race and is available to all.  It is not just giving your life to Jesus or accepting a Savior as I hope I made clear.  Now, at Salvation we may not have known everything we were coming into, I know I didn’t.  But we can look at that moment and see that all of these things are true and prove true in the life of a true believer.  Thank goodness we can say:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

Next time, we will look at what salvation does.  Stay tuned.

~Rob

 

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What God REALLY wants from us – Rob

I think its a common thing to consider, “What does God want from me?”  I have often found myself trying to “figure out” what it is that God wants from me.  How on Earth am I to know what the God of eternity wants me to do?  Should I be really concerned about my choice of Raisin Bran over Cheerios this morning because maybe it was “God’s will” for me to eat the Cheerios?  Of course, I am not saying that God doesn’t care about our decisions and that whatever we decides becomes the will of God.  What I have had on my mind for some time isn’t a 10 step process to figure out what God’s will is in every situation.  I do have a one step process to know the mind of God.  I’m sure more able men/women could spend months explaining what I’m going to say in just a few words.

What I do not understand is that the answer to the question of knowing God’s will seems somewhat simple to me.  Let’s look at it a different way for a second.  My mom and dad have been together for over 30 years.  I think it is safe to say that they know each other pretty well.  My dad can be out at the store and can pick up a few things for my mom without calling and asking.  He can easily make decisions based on what my mom would want or like.  Why is that?  I would venture to say it is because he knows her.  Would it not make sense to apply that to God?  How am I to know God’s will?  Would it not be by knowing God?  I don’t know if that is too simplistic but it makes complete sense to me.

It is no surprise to most, especially Tim, that my favorite book of the Bible is Romans.  Well, I’m not getting this from Romans so fear not.  If I had to pick the wisest person in the Bible (beside God) I have a name in my mind that I would put in there right away.  Who would you say holds that place?

My opinion?  Oh I would go with Solomon.  So, if I am looking for someone to explain to me how I can “know God’s will” or “know God” who better to rely on than Solomon?  Let me take you to my favorite verse.  This verse has challenged me and changed me more than any other single verse

 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.       ~Proverbs 23:26

What a tremendous request.  God isn’t here asking for my knowledge, my money, my time, my education, my job, my car, etc.  Giving away all of my possessions won’t bring me an inch closer to God.  Giving away all of my money won’t find me more favor with the Lord.  Giving all of my time to benefit others won’t lift me to a better standing before God.  God is asking for my heart.

So how does this all go together?  Well, in my mind, it goes something like this.  Giving God my heart is really the epitome of submission and all out devotion.  Is that not what we mean when we say about athletes that “he plays with all his heart” or about a guy, “he gave her his heart?”  It is the deepest and truest meaning of giving something or someone your all.  God requires our submission and devotion.  In return?  He gives us Himself.  Oswalt Chambers once wrote, ” It is not that you have gotten God, but that He has gotten you.” Obviously, the more God has of us the more we will want to do for Him.  But it starts with giving God my heart.  I shouldn’t have to sit for months on a decision about what God wants me to do.  If God had my heart and I knew Him as I should, it would be so very easy to say “oh well this is what God would want.”  That all comes from spending time with Him in prayer, reading His Bible, talking with Him, meditating about Him, and enjoying Him in so many ways.  The key is to first give Him my heart.  The rest will follow.  God will never force someone to follow Him (not even a true Christian).  We are free-will beings and have the choice to follow Him.  When I gave God my heart my perspective changed and I started to see things as God sees them.  My view is still cloudy sometimes but I believe in Proverbs 23:26 we are given the promise that we can observe the ways of God!

How do we figure out God’s will?
We get to know God!

How do we know God?
We give Him our hearts and let Him do the rest!

What does God REALLY want?
Our hearts!

With a word the world came to be
and the sun did rule the sky.
With a breath the land came from sea
and the mountains did grow high.
My voice cried forth and brought to life
all the creatures I had made.
But with a breath I rolled the dice
on this man before me laid.
In everything that I had done
and the love I would impart,
I could not stop this war begun
or take from him his heart.
Pleading with man to just stay near,
not wander far from me,
I sent my Son, His mission clear,
to die upon a tree.
His cross cries out louder than words
the reason he came to die.
Yet the message remains unheard
as salvation you deny.
I do not ask what you can do
or give to do your part.
Instead my call goes out to you,
“My son, give me your heart”

It’s ok to Disagree – Tim Whitaker

Denominations are in my opinion one of the most divisive things in the church body today. Now before you pick up stones hear me out. The problem isn’t that we have people with different beliefs about the same Jesus, it’s that we have allowed these differences to divide the body of Christ. Far too often we make our non-essential beliefs an essentiality of the Christian faith. We stick to our beliefs about a certain subject and we are prepared to die on that hill. We alienate other people in the body because they don’t see things in the Bible exactly the way we do. The Bible tells us to be one body (See John 17:11, 20-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, and Ephesians 4:3) numerous times, and yet we live in a culture where so many times we view the church body we attend as the one and only, as if somehow God only revealed to us his plan and no one else. It’s this kind of thinking that I believe Satan has used to divide us as a body. It is this kind of thinking that causes church bodies to be be torn apart and split with bitterness. We must as a church body learn that in many many cases it is ok to have different views on many issues that divide us today.
But it has to go further than just agreeing to disagree. If we are truly in the same body of Christ then why aren’t we submitting to each other in search of truth and not our own ideology? Once our view of the Bible becomes our absolute truth, we are no longer in pursuit of God’s truth and instead we are stuck in somehow thinking that we have it all figured out. This thought is toxic to our pursuit of knowing God. God, as we all know can not be figured out, and neither can every truth in the Bible. The Bible is deep, complicated, and there is much more that has to go in to then taking it simply for face value. Sadly, we allow our narrow minded view of Scripture to choke out that life that is buried in the Scriptures. If we are not listening and having a conversation with people who disagree about a certain interpretation of Scripture then how are we to learn? The times I have learned the most were the times that I heavily discussed (or debated) a certain translation of Scripture. The mindset was never “I must always be right”, it was “How can I see this persons view, and if they are correct how can I change my view of this particular passage”. I’ve seen it so many times, people arguing over a certain passage of Scripture in a way not to learn, but to show off, or to put the other person down. How does this edify the body of Christ? How does this build us up? It does not, it instead causes divides and hurt.
This doesn’t mean that everything is up for interpretation, there are most definitely some clear truths that are seen in the Scriptures and ones that we must not compromise on. So what are the core truths that we need to be uncompromising on? Well in my opinion I think there are a few core truths that every believer who follows Christ must stand on.

1. Being restored to God is only possible because of what Jesus did, it has nothing to do with what we can do

2. The trinity and their roles as seen in Scripture.

3. If we claim to believe in the teachings and work of Christ, then there is fruit of that in our life.

4. The Bible is God’s word to humanity. That doesn’t mean it’s simple, or easy, or that we have it figured out, but the Scriptures are God inspired, God breathed

The end. Everything else is up for grabs, is up for discussion, is up for debate within the body in love. Debating is not a bad thing if the heart of the people involved is to uncover more of the truth of God. If the motive is to destroy the other person, then forget it.
We must stand as one church body, united under Christ, reaching our culture and restoring people to God. If we divide or various interpretations of the Bible, or what that looks like then we have COMPLETELY missed the heart of the gospel. Instead of clinging to our doctrines, we need to have open discussions and hear how other brothers and sisters are interpreting the same Scriptures. We might not see eye to eye, and that is ok. Because it’s not doctrines that should unify, it’s the work of Jesus on the cross and the pursuit of Him.

Rob and I have many differences in opinion and views when it comes to the Bible. But you know what? We have only let that fuel our discussions Instead of dividing us, it’s only brought us closer to Jesus and each other. The motive behind Rob and I’s discussions is never to tear each other down, but to learn and see Scripture in new light. Because of this I know that I personally have learned a great deal from Rob and even changed some of my views of certain Scriptures thanks to his expertise.

What’s the bottom line? It’s this: we need to stop letting Satan win when it comes to dividing the body of Christ. In New Jersey on average there are 3 church buildings per square mile. Could you imagine if they started talking to each other? Partnering together to reach the community? What if the church pastors who lived in the same town from different church bodies got together to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas for how the church can become ONE body in that town and reach those people more effectively? Imagine the power we are sitting on if we agreed to disagree, and instead agreed that Jesus died for humanity to restore them to Jesus. What a simple truth that is so deep and so enormously transforming. A truth when united behind can change nations.