Robby Gallaty September 28, 2014
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
The title of the message today is “When Is It Wise for a Christian to Drink Alcohol?” When is it wise for a Christian to drink alcohol?
A lot of Christians, unfortunately, use alcohol to judge other Christians or for that matter, other people. If they see another person drinking, particularly a Christian, they look at them as a lesser Christian. But you have to admit to me that as you read the Bible, you realize that alcohol, particularly wine, is all through the Bible.
In the Old Testament, alcohol, particularly wine, all through the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus’ very first miracle was to do what? To turn water into wine at the wedding, right? Jesus, at the Last Supper, He took the cup which was filled with wine, it wasn’t grape juice. It was actual wine and He gave it to the disciples and He said, “This is a picture of the death that I am going to have on the cross. My shed blood will be for the forgiveness of your sins.” And so Jesus used wine to do that.
Paul even told Timothy on one occasion, drink a little (what?) wine for your stomach. You see the question I want to answer today and ask is not was it culturally accepted to drink wine back then. The question I want to ask and answer today is, is it culturally acceptable for you as a Christian to drink wine today? That is the question. Should I drink wine today in the culture in which we live?
Now, personally, you know my story of my history with drug and alcohol use and abuse. I started drinking at the age of 16, growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Everyone drank. In fact, we had a saying in Louisiana, “Les say labon tone roulette.” Let the good times roll. And it seems like the good times always rolled a little easier when alcohol was present. And so I started drinking at an early age. After two rehab treatments, many bad decisions and financial loss, I decided, for me, as a born-again believer to abstain from alcohol.
Now I have to be honest with you. I came to that realization from a personal experience. I never honestly studied the Word of God to see what God would want me to do as a Christian in the area of alcohol. And maybe that is where you are today. You have never really taken the time to walk through the Word of God slowly to see what God has to say about drinking. Maybe you have listened to lost friends or maybe family members have influenced your decision. Maybe the alcohol industry or beer commercials, they always make it look good a glamorous when they are drinking on television. They never show you the end story, what happens after the hangover, right? Maybe that is what has influenced you up to this point.
And so what I want you to do today is this. I want you to listen to what god has to say about this topic, not what Robby has to say, not what Brainerd Baptist believes, but what God’s Word has to say. And at the end of our time today, I am going to ask you the question again that I have already posed, is it wise for me as a Christian to drink alcohol?
Now, let me give you a disclaimer and I want you to hear my heart. I don’t have a bone to pick with you or this message. I don’t have an agenda. I am not trying to grind an axe here. I really want to show you what I believe the Bible says about drinking. And I really want you to leave hearing from God and not from me.
Now, if you are an unbeliever with us today, let me just say, this message is not for you because your greatest problem in life is not drinking, it is your unconfessed sin. And the greatest thing that you need to do is you need to be saved. You don’t worry about drinking or not, you need to be saved from your sin. But if you are a born again believer here today, baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, this message is for you. And the question we need to ask is, would God, would God want me as a believer in this culture to drink alcohol?
Now here is what I don’t want to happen from this message. I don’t want you to hear this message and then leave this place and go into our community and see someone at a bar room or a restaurant drinking a beer and look at them with a judgmental attitude after hearing this message. That is the last thing I want you to do. Why? Because Brother or Sister, you have way too many issues in your life that you are working through to be judgmental of anyone. Amen? And so that is the last thing I want to happen.
But what I want to do is show you how to be all you can be for God. I want to show you that maybe alcohol could be one issue in your life that could be holding you back from being all that you can be for God. And I want to do that by asking two questions today.
The first question is this: What does the Bible say about alcohol? And then the second question is: Is it wise for me as a Christian to abstain from drinking alcohol? And then finally, I am going to pose the question we started with, is it wise for you to drink alcohol?
Let’s begin with the first one. What does the Bible say about alcohol? Now before I begin, let me just say there are three categories of people here today with us. The first category is the person who has a drinking problem. There are many of you in here today, I don’t know who you are but you know who you are and God does. Drinking is a problem for you. Addiction is a problem for you, whether you drink every day or every weekend or every time you get together with friends, you have a drinking problem. You need to drink!
The second person in here is the person who says, I don’t have a problem with drinking, but I enjoy drinking. It is a socially acceptable practice. When I get around friends or I go out with the girlfriends after work, we just go out and drink. That is just part of what we do. We have a glass of wine over dinner in the privacy of our home. That is you.
The third type of person is the person who is a total abstainer from alcohol. You have decided for one reason or another that you are not going to drink. You don’t have alcohol in the home. You are not going to partake of that, okay? So that is the three categories that are joining us today.
So the question is, what does the Bible say about drinking? The Bible has a lot to say about drinking, believe it or not. And one of the things you realize early on in the New Testament is that the Bible clearly shows us that drunkenness is a sin. And I believe most, if not all Christians would agree with that, right? Drunkenness is a sin.
Now I have two major passages I could have you turn to. Galatians 5:19 is one, but lets turn to I Corinthians Chapter 6. If you have your Bibles, you will need them today. I Corinthians Chapter 6. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth was affectionately called the Church Gone Wild. If Jerry Springer had a talk show in the First Century, many of the church of Corinth believers would have been on the talk show. They were out of control. And so Paul had his hands full when he was trying to rope in these New Testament believers, these early believers, and give them a path to walk. Many, if not all of them came out of a paganistic, cultic lifestyle and now they were trying to figure out, navigate, how to live in a paganistic world as a Christian. Sounds pretty close to America, right?
Look at Verse 9. When you are there, say “Word.” “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom?” Now, God’s kingdom is a code word or another way to say heaven. Don’t misunderstand what Paul is about to say here. Paul is not saying if you do these things you can lose your salvation. Paul is not about to give them a laundry list of checks, of boxes to check of dos and don’ts about what to do, to show us that they can earn their salvation and they could lose their salvation, because we both know that you can’t do anything to earn your salvation good enough and you can’t do anything bad enough to lose your salvation. So we know that.
So, Paul, what are you saying? What Paul is saying is, if person’s sum total of their life equates to these actions or one of these actions, if they are persistently and consistently engaged in one of these actions, it proves to us that they are not saved to begin with. Okay? So he is not talking about momentarily getting drunk. He is not talking about momentarily lying or swindling. He is saying, if this is the pattern of someone’s life, it is a good indicator that they were never saved to begin with, right? We don’t work to be saved, but we will always work from our salvation for the Lord. Okay? Does everybody get that? This is yes, this is no. Everybody get that. Just let me know you are awake.
Watch this. Verse 10, “Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral person, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, (here it is) drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.” There it is again. So what he is saying is, these people have no place in heaven.
But then he goes on. “And some of you used to be like this.” So what he is saying is, there was a time when you and I lived in ignorance because we did not know the things of God and so we lived like this. But we used to be like this. Once you came to Christ, something happened to you and it didn’t just change your mind, it changed your direction, it changed your attitudes and it changed your actions.
How did that happen? Look at Verse 11. “Because you were washed, you were sanctified (or set apart), you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Okay, Paul, we get that.
Look at Verse 12. Then he goes on. “Everything is permissible for me.” Now what he is doing here is this. Paul is taking a phrase from the culture of that day. What the Christians were saying is this: they were saying that since I am set free in Christ by the Holy Spirit, then I can do anything I want to do. I am not bound by the law. Everything is permissible for me. Paul says, that is the case, however, everything is not helpful.
He says it again, Verse 12, “Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be brought under the control of anything.”
Let me just say, just a side note before we go on. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right, Okay? We live in a day and age in our country where just in a few years, marijuana will be legalized in most of the states of America. Just because something is legalized doesn’t mean it is right. And everything that I am telling you about alcohol applies to marijuana. The only difference between alcohol and marijuana is this: you can take one sip of alcohol and not be drunk. You take one hit or one puff of a joint and you are out of your normal way of thinking. Okay? And if you don’t believe me, those who have, you know exactly what I am talking about, right? You are immediately not who you are normally. And so everything applies the same way. Drunkenness, high, it all applies.
And so what is happening is, Paul is saying, here is the deal, everything is permissible but not everything is helpful. We live in a country where it is legal to kill babies through abortion. We live in a country where it is legal to gamble, which we know that cripples the poor. And we live in a country where if you go to the state of Nevada, you can engage in a prostitution act with a woman other than your wife and it is legal. Friends, that doesn’t make it right! Okay?
So it is permissible to do all things in this country, but all things are not helpful and I will not be brought under the control of all things. So the Bible clearly says that drunkenness is a sin.
The second point I want to make: Not only does the Bible say that drunkenness is a sin, but the Bible also says that alcohol destroys people’s lives. Alcohol destroys people’s lives.
Now, I was really blown away, I have to be honest, by the passages that speak of the use and abuse of alcohol in the Bible. There are so many passages about this. Let me give you one of the in particular. Go to Proverbs 23:29. Proverbs is a book of wisdom. It is written by the wisest man in the world, Solomon. He gives wisdom on how to lead your life and embedded right in the middle toward the end of Proverbs 23, he gives six consequences of drinking alcohol. And I want you to know that every single one of these consequences is destructive. And before he gives the consequences and the negative effects of alcohol, he begins with six rhetorical questions about the one who drinks alcohol.
Now notice how he begins. Verse 29. If you are there, say “word.” “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has red eyes?”
Now at this point, you are saying, who is he talking about? Well, he tells us. Look at Verse 30. The one who lingers over wine, those who go looking for mixed drink.” So what he is saying is, the one who has wounds, the one who has red eyes, the one who is depressed, the one who is sorrowful, the one who is getting beat up for no reason…been there, done that before, and bar fights for no reason. What are we doing? That is what happens to the one who looks at the wine.
So he says, this is the deal, the one who looks at the wine is the one who gets in trouble. So then Solomon in Verse 31 gives a command. Okay. Here is the command. “Don’t gaze at the wine when it is (what?) when it is red, and when it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly.”
He says, not only do I not want you to drink the wine, I don’t even want you to look at the wine or gaze intently. That means to stare at, not just a glance but to stare at it, to think about it, to want the wine over and over just because you are looking at it. Why should you not do this, Solomon? Well, he gives us six reasons.
Here are the consequences. Number one, Verse 32. “In the end it bites like a snake,” number two, “it stings like a viper.” Now it is interesting. Solomon could have chosen any animal. He chooses two different kinds of snakes. Now why would he choose a snake? Because a snake is always operating covertly and not overtly, right? He didn’t say it is like a bear who jumps out of the woods or a lion who leaps at you, because a lion you can see; a bear you can prepare for. You can’t prepare for a snake. A snake slithers in the ground. It hides in the sand and by the time you figure out that you are around a snake, it is too late because it strikes your leg. That is exactly how alcohol works, amen? By the time you realize that there is a problem, it is too late because the problem has already overtaken you.
Look at Verse 33. Here is the third consequence. Your eyes will see strange things,” been there, done that. Number four: “You will say absurd things.” Been there. “You will be like someone (number five) sleeping out at sea or (number six) lying down on the top of a ship’s mast.”
Now what in the world, Solomon, are you talking about? He basically shifts gears here to a ship out on the ocean’s sea and he says, it is like someone who goes to the bow of the boat, jumps over the edge, lays out on the water and tries to make the ocean his or her bed. He said the only person that would try to do something like that would be a fool or someone who is not in their right mind OR someone who is impaired by alcohol.
Do you know you do dumb things when you drink? Have you ever been there before? What is sad about alcohol is by the time you realize you have a problem, it is too late. And the crazy thing about drinking, listen to me, young people, is that you would be the last one to realize you have the drinking problem. Everybody else is the problem but you, right? And the only time you figure it out is after you have lost your marriage or your kids disown you or you have emptied the bank account or you have ruined your life or you have squashed your aspirations and your dreams and your desires and you have no job and you are broke. Then you realize that you have a problem, and sadly, it is too late at that point.
You see, what alcohol does is, write this down, alcohol sabotages your ability to discern (watch this) that you have lost control. Write that down. Alcohol sabotages your ability or capability to discern that you have lost control because once you have lost control, by the time you realize it, it is too late.
And it always starts this way. It starts with a secret drink or a social drink. Pastor, I just have a drink in the privacy of my own home over dinner. What does that hurt? It always starts with a secret drink. And the Bible says, not only does the Bible say not to drink the wine, the Bible says, don’t even gaze at the wine. You know what? It is impossible to drink alcohol that doesn’t exist in your home. It is impossible to gaze at alcohol that doesn’t exist in the home. And so Solomon says, don’t even look at it, much less drink it.
As I searched through the Bible, I realized that there were 75 consequences of and warnings against alcohol. Did you know that? 75 consequences and warnings. I could give you more, but just let me give you a few. Listen to these. You can write some of them down.
The very first issue of drunkenness was in Genesis Chapter 9 Verse 20 when Noah landed the ark after sailing in the rain for 40 days and 40 nights and many days after he lands. The first thing Noah does is plant a vineyard and the very first thing he does with those grapes is, he gets drunk. And you know the story. We studied it a couple of weeks ago. He is laying there naked and he is open and he is bare and one of his sons, Ham, comes in and we don’t know exactly what happens, but the rabbis believe that was the first sexually immoral act between a son and a father. And they engaged in this sexually immoral act. And I want to show you something…that drinking in that situation opened the door for all kinds of lewd sexual immorality. And that is how it always works, right? It just opens the door for all that. And it opened the door for family issues.
Genesis Chapter 19. Lot’s drunkenness was to blame for his impairment of understanding and it ultimately led to immorality. I Samuel 25, Nabal died after a drunken stupor, if you read the story. II Samuel 11:13, David decides that he wants to cover up his sin with Bathsheba, so he brings Uriah back from the field. He gets him drunk and his plan is foiled, but he thought that would work by getting him drink with alcohol.
II Samuel Chapter 13, Amnon was drunk right before he was killed. I Kings 16, the king was drunk before he was assassinated. I Kings Chapter 20, Ben-hadad and 32 other kings were drinking when they were attacked by the Israelites and assassinated. Proverbs 4:17 says, “Alcoholic drink is a wine of violence.” Proverbs 20 Verse 1, “Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler.” Proverbs 23:19, “A wise person will not be among people who drink alcoholic beverages.” Proverbs 23:21, “Drunkenness causes poverty.” 23:29, “Drunkenness causes woe, sorrow, fighting babbling, wounds without cause and red eyes.” 23:32, “Alcoholic drink bites like a serpent, stings like a viper.” Proverbs 23:33, “Alcohol opens the door for all kinds of adulterous thoughts, it produces maliciousness, prevents reformation.” Proverbs 23:34, “Alcohol makes one unstable.” 23:35, “Alcohol is habit forming.” Hosea 4:11, “Alcohol produces, takes away one’s intelligence.” Habakkuk 2:16, “Drinking leads to shame in one’s life,” to name a few.
The Bible is clear, alcohol destroys lives. Did you know that alcohol is a drug? It is so readily acceptable in our society that we have a hard time understanding this, but Marvin Block who is the former chairman of American Medical Association Committee on Alcoholism said this. “We live in a drug oriented society largely because of alcohol. Because of its social acceptance, alcohol is rarely thought of as a drug, but a drug it is. This is a scientific fact.”
So the Bible says that drunkenness is a sin. We get that. Secondly, the Bible shows us that alcohol ruins lives. Thirdly, the Bible says that alcohol consumption is unwise. The Bible says that drinking alcohol is unwise.
Now, I want you to hear me. I can’t stand here and say to you that having one beer is a sin. The Bible doesn’t say that. I can’t stand here and say that having a glass of wine in your home is a sin. The Bible doesn’t say that. However, it is my conviction that a Christian should not drink alcohol. In fact, it is my conviction that I believe the best practice for a Christian is to abstain from alcohol completely. Now I am not the only one who believes this. In fact, in the Old Testament, God said to the leadership of Israel, I want you guys to abstain from alcohol. If you remember from Numbers Chapter 6 Verse 3, God says to a particular group of people, I want you to take what is called a Nazarite vow.
Now the Nazarite vow was an interesting vow. You had to commit to a certain group of perimeters, but you also had to say that I would not drink alcohol. Two people come to mind who took the Nazarite vow. Do you know who they are? Samson. And who is the other one? John the Baptist. Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptist did not drink strong drink or wine. He committed himself wholly to the Lord.
Did you know that God said, not only do those who commit to the Nazarite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol, God even said that all kings and princes should not drink alcohol. Even the kings, the leadership of Israel should not drink alcohol.
Go to Proverbs Chapter 31 for me for just a moment. The King Lemuel is talking here. Look at Proverbs 31 Verse 4. “It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is to for the kings to drink wine or for the rulers to desire beer.” Now why in the world would God say that? Here is what he is saying. Because you are in a position of leadership, you need to have your full brain capacity in order to make decisions that affect people. And so don’t throw wisdom away. You need it all. And I don’t know about you, but I need all I have got, too. I don’t have much left, but I need all I have got, right? So I don’t want to throw it away with every sip of an alcoholic drink.
In addition to that, God said not only do the Nazarite vow participants should abstain from alcohol, not only do the kings and princes abstain from alcohol, (watch this) even the priests of the Old Testament were commanded by God to abstain from alcohol.
Go to Leviticus Chapter 10 quickly. Go back to the left. Three books in. Go to Leviticus 10 Verse 8. God is speaking to Aaron here. And the reason He says I want the priests to abstain from alcohol is, He said the community will tell the difference between the priests who are holy and unholy. The priests who are common and uncommon. The Lord spoke to Aaron, Verse 9, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or beer when you enter the tent of meeting, or else you will die; this is a permanent statute throughout your generations.”
You know, people will argue, well, is the Old Testament relevant today? Friends, listen to me, God said, just in case you didn’t know, this one is for sure. This is a permanent statute forever. Priests should never partake of the alcohol, of drinking of wine or beer. You and your sons should not do that. “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean.” Since they had so much responsibility to take care of, He said, you need your full brain capacity.
Now I know what you are saying. You are saying, Robby, I can get there with you. I can see how a king shouldn’t drink and I can see how a prince shouldn’t drink and I can even see how a priest shouldn’t drink and you might even be close to a priest because you are a pastor, but I am not a priest, I am just a church member, I am just a believer. I don’t think it applies to me.
Do you know when Jesus Christ came and He died on the cross of Calvary, He proclaimed to you as New Testament believers that you became a priesthood of believers, that all of us as New Testament believers are called to be priests. Did you know that?
Go to Revelation 1. Revelation 1, Jesus is talking to John, giving him the revelation and notice how He begins this section. “To him who loves us and has called us free and set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to His God and Father -- the glory and dominion are His forever and ever.”
What Jesus is saying is, you are now a priest. II Peter…oh, I am sorry, I Peter Chapter 2 Verse 5, “”You yourselves, as living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” What he is saying here is that we are all priests.
Now at this point, when I talk to friends of mine who are pastors who justify their drinking, with men from the past, like Charles Spurgeon, things kind of get heated up and they say well, Robby, I understand leaders shouldn’t do that, I understand priests shouldn’t do that. But what about a man like Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist role model, the quintessential prince of preachers, someone we all look to. I look to Spurgeon often. Spurgeon drank and smoked most of his ministry. So what do you do with that, Robby?
Before you discern or determine one’s life, it is important not to take snippets of their life without looking at the sum total of their life. And yes, Spurgeon began his ministry drinking and smoking, but he didn’t end it there. On one occasion, Spurgeon had a friend of his preach in his pulpit. He preached against smoking and drinking, unbeknownst to him, that Spurgeon partook of these particular habits in his own life. And Spurgeon, convicted about the message, got up in his pulpit, it says in his biography, and he says, “My friend, I appreciate your comments about drinking and smoking, but I smoke because it relaxes me at night and so I am going to go home tonight and smoke a cigar for the glory of God.” That is what he said. Later in life, Spurgeon would reconsider his statements when he learned about the harmful effects of cigarette smoke. You have to understand, in his day and age, they didn’t know that smoking was bad for them as they do today. And Spurgeon started to realize that his body was a temple of the Holy Spirit, so why in the world would he do something to harm his body as he served the Lord Jesus Christ and he stopped smoking. And then Spurgeon actually changed his stance on drinking. Spurgeon saw the harmful effects through England and the widespread alcoholism that affected the community and he actually became a total abstainer of alcohol at the end of his life. He said on one occasion, “I neither said nor implied that drinking wine was a sin. I said that it might be done without blame. But I did remark that if I ever knew another person would be led astray by my example and this would lead them on to further drinking and even to intoxication, that I would never touch it.” On another occasion, he justified his total abstinence of alcohol by saying, “I abstain myself from alcoholic drink in every form and I think others would be wise to do the same.”
Friends, drinking is never wise for a Christian leader in a church. It is never wise.
So, Robby, we get what the Bible says about drinking, but why is it not wise for me to drink? Or the better question is, why should I consider abstaining from drinking alcohol?
Let me offer two challenging points for you. Here is the first one. You should consider abstaining from drinking because of the consequences of alcohol on our society. Most Americans drink…that is no surprise to you. In fact, the statistics are pretty staggering. 88% of Americans over 18 have drank in the past…71% have drank in the last year and 63% of all men drank alcohol in the last 30 days. Men are the worst when it comes to drinking. They average about 13 binge drinking activities in every 12 months. So men average about 13 bind drinking escapades every 12 months…20% of men are chemically dependent upon alcohol. Excessive drinking every year worldwide leads to 88,000 deaths or 2.5 million years of potential life lost because of those deaths.
Let me put it in perspective. It is hard to wrap your mind around that. I want you to imagine that at the Chattanooga Airport there is a 747 with the capacity for 500 passengers aboard. Every day the plane is loaded up with 500 passengers. They sit wall to wall, every seat is taken. That 747 takes off from the tarmac, it gets to cruising altitude and all of a sudden it falls out of the sky and plunges into the ground and every passenger is killed. Three days later a similar plane with similar passengers loads up at the Chattanooga Airport, 500 seats to capacity. Those 500 passengers load up. They get to cruising altitude and the plane falls out of the sky. Three days later, boom, again. Three days later, boom, again. Three days later, boom, again. That is how many people die every single year because of alcohol related deaths. 92 people die in America every single day because of alcohol abuse. It is the third largest preventable death in our country. One ounce of alcohol retards your muscle reaction by 17%. One ounce of alcohol increases required time to make a decision by 10%, just one ounce. One ounce of alcohol increases your error due to lack of attention by 35%. And here is the big one…one ounce of alcohol increases lack of muscle coordination by 60%.
This is the reason, listen to me, folks, that you can’t stop drinking before you get drunk. People say, I don’t get drunk, Pastor, I just drink. Here is the problem, you can’t stop drinking before you get drunk because with every sip of the drink, you can’t discern where the line is because you are retarding your mental capacity to stop, right? And the problem is, we say, well, Pastor, I can handle my alcohol. No, you can’t because the moment you start drinking, it is a slippery slope.
Drinking always leads to you making decisions that you have no control over. And most people drink, you would agree, to get buzzed. The great philosopher, Ozzie Osborne, who gave up drinking alcohol years ago after many years of abuse, said, “People don’t drink because they enjoy drinking, they drink to change. Nobody really drinks because they love the taste of Natural Light. I mean, lets be honest, here, right? You drink to get buzzed. And buzz drinking is drunkenness. Let me say that again. Buzz drinking is drunkenness. And if you don’t believe me, just look at the great state of Tennessee we live in. And the laws we live in say that buzz drinking is drunkenness.
Alcohol abuse doesn’t just start with young people. You know we always think that alcohol problems start with young people. It can start older in life. I have a testimony I want to read to you, just a snippet of, of a man who started drinking when he was 40.
He said, “In the first 40 years of my life, I never drank. I was raised in a family that didn’t drink. I hated to be around drunkards. It was during my 40th year that a close friend of my family got arrested numerous times. It was something that I had a hard time to deal with. It devastated me. And between the turmoil of my family and the trouble of my family member, I was not able to sleep. And so I was on vacation one year with my brother. He fixed me a mixed drink one night while we were playing cards and he said, this will help you sleep. And it did. It helped me sleep like a baby, he said. My wife even noticed there was a difference in my attitude and actions. I figured if one drink would make me sleep better, then two would make me sleep even better. This began a journey of drinking all the time. I started feeling bad about my drinking. I tried to put the bottle down many times, but I was unable to. I sought the counsel of a psychologist, went to an out-patient therapy center, attended recovery meetings and AA meetings, but none of that worked because I was not willing to stop drinking.
He said, I can remember coming to a point where I prayed…keep in mind, I am a born-again believer…that God would kill my wife and kids so that I can spend the rest of my life drinking in the cemetery. I knew that if I lost all my family, no one could go on blaming me for drinking and I could go on drinking. To me, this was the only logical way that I could let everyone know that I was an alcoholic. He said, but thankfully God wasn’t interested in my plan and He didn’t like it.
July of 2008, I was drinking nearly 2 liters of vodka a day. Finally it came to a head on the night of July 11, 2008. I checked myself into a rehab center for 38 days. I made a lifestyle change. I began 12-step meetings. I became involved in a network of friends who had similar problems as myself and I soon learned that I could live and survive without alcohol. Would I ever do it again? There is not a chance in the world that I would want to do it again. Am I glad that God led me through this and gave me a story to share with others? He said, I wouldn’t change anything for the experience that God gave me. I have had many opportunities to tell people about the change in my life which hopefully leads to the change in their life.
I thank God for the story of this man who comes to Brainerd Baptist Church now. And the point I want to make to you is simply this: his life changed forever at the age of 40 with one drink. You see, friends, total abstinence allows you to avoid any consequence in your life that you could potentially have because of alcohol. If it is not in the home and it is not in your life, then you don’t have to worry about this problem. You may have other problems to worry about, but you don’t have to worry about this problem.
There is a second reason I want to commend to you for not drinking alcohol or abstaining from alcohol is because of your compassion for other people. Now I know the Bible doesn’t require abstinence, but it strongly recommends it. Turn with me to Romans Chapter 14. Paul is writing to the church at Rome. He is giving these new believers perimeters on how to live. He is showing them how to make wise decisions…follow me here…with other people in mind. He is saying, this is how you live without other people in mind. And he is talking about two issues that were popular in his day, one is still popular today and that is the eating of meat and the drinking of wine.
Look at Chapter 14 and Verse 15. “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
What he says is this: he says what you do affects people around you. Did you know that? That your actions have an equal effect, an opposite effect on those around you. You see, the common excuse I hear for drinking in the home and the common response I hear is, well, Robby, what am I hurting by drinking a glass of wine in the privacy of my own home? You have heard that before. I mean, I am not hurting anybody, am I?
Do you want to know where I drank for the first time? In my home. It was in my parent’s stash in the closet. Now we lived in a community, my parents ignorant at the time, they didn’t know any better because everybody had alcohol in the closet. That is what you did in New Orleans, right? And so I learned how to drink…I drank first by going to the stash in my parent’s closet. Parents, let me tell you something that you need to remember. James McDonald says this, kids embrace what parents tolerate. Kids embrace what parents tolerate. And so I learned how to drink, I started drinking out of the stash in my parent’s house. You want to increase the chances for your kids drinking alcohol expedientially, have alcohol in the home. You will increase their chances expedientially. Now thankfully, I have a wife, Kandi and I have come to the same agreement that we are not going to have alcohol in our home. We are not going to drink alcohol. We are not going to have it in our home. And by God’s grace, that will not be a temptation that our two boys will have. We are not going to say inadvertently by our actions that drinking is allowed in the Gallaty home by not having alcohol in the home. Will our kids be perfect? By no means, but they won’t have the temptation of drinking from us. They are not going to see that in us.
Do you want to know what the statistics say? That a child that starts drinking as an early teenager is 8 times more likely to use drugs later than those who do not. So a child that drinks as an early teenager is 8 times more likely to engage in drug use than someone who is not. Every day, let me remind you, 92 people die in America in a 747 filled with 500 passengers every three days hit’s the ground. Why in the world would you invest in an industry that destroys lives and kills people? I mean, every time you buy alcohol, you participate in a system that ruins lives. It is similar to you going to an abortion clinic and giving money for people to have abortions. It is similar for you buys lottery tickets and crippling the poor in impoverished communities. Why in the world would you participate in that system? It gives new meaning to that glass of wine in your home, of those mixed drinks at the lake house, or that beer over at the golf course.
Paul says we do things out of love for other people. Abstinence is an expression of our love. Secondly, abstinence is a way to build up other believers. Abstinence is a way to build up other believers. Look at Verse 19 of Romans 14. “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace (here it is) and what builds one another up.” The kingdom of God is not about you and me. You see, the day you came to Christ, you left your agenda at the door and it is now about how you can extend love for other people.
Now I don’t know about you, but I want to live in such a way where I don’t tear down people. I want to build up people, Amen? I want to live in such a way where I am leading people to Christ. And you and I both know, you are never leading people to Christ drinking. I mean, when was the last time you said, hey, lets go get Mike and have a couple of shots in order to grow closer to Jesus? Has anybody ever said that? Lets go kick back and have some beers over at the game to be a little holier. Has anybody ever said that? No.
It is time for Christians to stop trying to see how close we can get to sin without sinning and we need to start seeing how close we can get to Jesus by sacrificing for our agenda and our self for the glory of God and the building up of other people. Friends, the Christian life is not about you. It is about glorifying God in your body. And abstinence is a way for you build up other people. Abstinence is a way for you to extend love to other people.
Finally, abstinence is a way for you to avoid others stumbling from your actions. Abstinence keeps others from stumbling. Look at Verse 20. “Do not tear down God’s work because of food.” Now you can put alcohol there. “Do not tear down God’s work because of alcohol. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats or by what he drinks. It is a noble thing (I love that), it is a noble thing to not eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble.” Listen to me, any time because of my past, if you invite me to your home for dinner with my family and you drink alcohol at the table in front of me, any time for the rest of my life, it has the potential to cause me to stumble. Now I have been clean and sober by God’s grace for 12 years. I thank God for that. But I never put myself in a position where I am tempted to drink. So any time I go to your home and you have alcohol on the table or in the home or on the counter, it has the potential to cause me to stumble.
Now here is a news flash. You don’t know when you are drinking with someone if they have a problem with drinking. You don’t know if they have a present problem with drinking. You don’t know if they have a past problem with drinking. You don’t even know if they have a future problem with drinking because here is the problem. They are not going to tell you they have a problem. What they are going to say is, yeah, I will take another cold one. You go in there, get two, get me one. And by the time they realize it, it is too late. And so why would you put yourself in a position to open the door for someone else to stumble.
Robby, I don’t care what other people think of me! I don’t care what people think of me. Friend, listen to me, come in real close, you have lost the right to not care what other people think about your life as a believer. Your life is not your own. You have been bought with a price, so glorify God in your body. Your life is a living example to a lost world around you. We have lost the right not to care.
Look at what Paul says after he finishes this argument. Look at Chapter 15 Verse 1. “Now we who are stronger, we Christians, have an obligation to those who are weaker than us without strength, and not to please ourselves.” We are commanded to care for those who are weaker around us.
Now, Robby, you just wrecked me today. I mean, I came in here thinking it was okay to drink and it wasn’t a big deal, but now I am starting to doubt that. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should drink. I don’t know if I should not drink. I don’t know if I should dump the wine out. I don’t know what to do anymore. I am starting to doubt my conviction.
You know, that is a good place to be. In fact, it is such a good place to be that the Apostle Paul 2000 years ago knew that when this scripture was read, you would be there. He knew you would be there because look at what he says in Verse 23, “Whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats or drinks, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin.”
Don’t miss this if you miss nothing else. Watch what Paul is saying here. Paul is saying, if you can’t do something with confidence, it is wrong to do it, even though it is not wrong. Did you catch that? If you have doubt in your mind that you can’t do this with conviction or confidence, then it is wrong for you as a Christian to do it, even if it is not wrong.
Now, how do I know if it is wrong? Here is the deal. If you have to do something in secret or in private or only on vacation or only at the lake house or only at home behind closed doors, that is normally an indicator for me that it is something I might want to consider giving up. That is normally a good indicator for me. If you can’t do it with confidence, Paul says, don’t do it.
So as your Pastor here, let me summarize. I want to commend to you to consider totally abstaining from alcohol. Listen to me. Nothing good comes from drinking. Let me say that again. Nothing good comes from drinking. Nothing good comes from drinking. Take my advice for it. I learned it the hard way.
Robby, what is the big deal with this? It is not really a big deal for me. I don’t have a problem with drinking. It is not a big deal! Well, friend, listen to me, what is the big deal then? Give it up. Give it up. What is the big deal?
So the first person, if you have got a drinking problem, hey listen, I know where you are because I have been there. You need to get help. If you even think you have an inkling of an idea that you may have a drinking problem, if you think people are telling you that you have a drinking problem, then you need to get help because you can’t beat it on your own. I have yet to find one person to beat and have victory over alcohol by themselves. I have ever seen it. I have counseled thousands of people since I have come to Christ and I have yet to find one person that has beat alcohol or drug abuse alone. So if you have a problem, you get help. We have a Celebrate Recovery Ministry that meets every Thursday on our campus upstairs at the BX at 6:15. People just like you, just like me who are trying to figure out how to live life, glorify God and beat an addiction in their life. So if that is you, we would love to have you this Thursday.
Second person. If you are in this place today and you are saying, Pastor, I don’t have a problem drinking, I just kind of like to drink. It is just a social thing I do. Would you consider abstaining from alcohol and would you consider for three reasons. One, because of your overwhelming love for other people around you. Secondly, because you want to build people up and not tear people down. And finally, because you want to avoid being a stumbling block to people who struggle.
And then finally, if you are like me, you are a total abstainer of alcohol and you are saying, Pastor, I have always abstained. I don’t have alcohol in my home. I don’t drink alcohol. I want to encourage you to speak up because you are a lone voice in a wilderness of people speaking against that. And I just want to encourage you to speak up.
So we are back to the first question we started with. Is it wise for a Christian to drink alcohol? That is the question. What do you think? What do you think?