Thinking About Drinking

August 17, 2014 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Wisdom to Live by

Scripture: Proverbs 23:29–35


Thinking About Drinking

Proverbs 23:29-35
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Pastor Randy Smith

The modern Gospel message is basically this: Accept Jesus as your Savior, get your "out of jail free card" and then just live as you please. I mean, outright heathen living is rarely advised, but just give the Bible some thought, obey God when it's convenient and get religious on Sunday mornings (although church is optional).

Might I submit that is not the true and saving Gospel? Luke 9:23, "And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.'" Might I submit there is a warning to those who advocate another Gospel? Galatians 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" And might I submit that many will realize they have been deceived when it's too late. Matthew 7:22-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord'… And…I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

The Gospel is full submission to Jesus Christ as Lord. It's not making Him your Lord when He is already the Lord over all people. Salvation comes when we acknowledge Christ, not only as our Savior, but also as our Lord. Lordship implies ownership. And if we accept His rightful ownership of our lives, we will submit to Him in all things. Naturally, that submission is in the clear commandments of Scripture. But it is also the everyday events that we can't support with chapter and verse. Every decision for the Christian is a biblical decision. Every action for the Christian is an act of worship.

I believe we too often, myself included, try to live our Christian lives without Christ. Then we wonder why we feel lost and hopeless. We desire to honor Him, but apart from Him at the center of our lives we never will. So we just lower His standard and we try to get by on our own strength and wisdom. We basically re-crown ourselves as lord and king and are back to where we started; only clothed in a Christian veneer.

Yet when we honor Christ as Lord, we'll keep His expectations where they are and then remember daily that we need Him continually for His strength and wisdom. We look to Him, and He lives through us. Then in all that we do (even the gray areas areas) will we live in honor to Him as Lord and experience the abundant life He promised.

So we've been discussing these gray areas that Christians face on a regular basis. It's the stuff that we either respond to in a legalistic way or that we just flow with the pattern of the world. Both responses are wrong. These are the areas I can't give you a definitive answer as to how you must live. Therefore these are the areas where you need to humbly seek the Lord's will and not only allow Him to give you an answer, but also allow Him to be in the center of the decision-making in determining the answer.

Then when the dust settles and every choice has been made you can confidently say this decision was birthed from God's will and not your own, and it is one that was sought with prayer, wise counsel and relevant principles of Scripture as the Holy Spirit gave you guidance. You can affirm, 1 Timothy 1:5, that it was from "a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." Remember, Jesus Christ is not Lord at all in your life unless He is Lord of all in your life.

First we looked at the topic of busyness. Then we spent some time talking about media choices. Last week we covered the issue of mediocrity. Today we come to the final lesson in this series. There are many other issues I have considered covering: Dating, dress, celebrating holidays, moms with young children and careers, planning a wedding, and spending money. Yet the one I feel led to preach on this morning is another subject that many of us will arrive at different conclusions, but if these conclusions are from God, they should all be treated with respect. This is a subject that is spoken of frequently in the Bible, and I believe this is a subject that we might need to reconsider. The subject is alcohol.

Let me put all my cards on the table and begin by giving you my testimony as it pertains to alcohol.

I grew up in a family that didn't walk with the Lord. Alcohol was always present. On special occasions, as children, my father would allow us to have a few sips of wine. My mother had problems with alcohol. Growing up I never touched the stuff on my own. Then near the end of my high school days I began to go to parties and drink with my friends. When I graduated high school I went to college in Wisconsin. The drinking age was still 18. Like every guy in my dormitory the alcohol consumption intensified. It was mainly beer. I never really cared for the taste, but I began to enjoy the effects it produced - primarily confidence with girls and wild behavior. I rarely drank on the weekdays, but it became an indispensable component of the weekends.

Immediately after college I gave my life to Christ. I can remember going to my first Christian party and being amazed that people would gather to socialize without booze being present. I've shared with you in the past how my going out to bars and consuming sizeable amounts of alcohol began to rapidly decrease. It was just a natural process that progressively happened as I walked with the Savior. I still would have an occasional drink from time to time.

Then about two years into my Christian life I wanted to get involved serving in the Youth Ministry at my church in Illinois. After I met with the leaders I was told I needed to sign their covenant. On the covenant was the promise to abstain from R-rated movies and all forms of alcohol. Whether I agreed with the policy or not, I was forced to make a decision - alcohol or the ministry where I believed God was calling me. I chose the ministry.

A few years later the covenant was abolished. But I came to realize I really didn't need alcohol. I can't say I've entirely gone without it over the fifteen years that have since transpired, but if you add up all the alcohol Julie and I drink in one year it could probably fit into one bottle of wine. Personally, I'd probably have no problem giving up the stuff altogether.

So how did I arrive at this position? In my own conscience I reasoned: It's an unnecessary use of money. It's a poor example to our children. It's a drug I don't need. It's a better testimony to the church. It's a potential stumbling block for others. It's a possible gateway to other problems.

Now I know our church is all over the map on this one. Some people will find my position too radical. Others will find it not conservative enough. Many in this church never touch alcohol. Others use it responsibly. Others have or are presently at this time abusing alcohol. I've been to church parties where alcohol is present. I've kindly been offered drinks. I've declined and no one drank as a result of it. Other times I've declined and the host had no problem and still poured one for himself and his guests.

I told you my decision. That's how I feel the Lord has led me. I don't know how He is leading you. I have never judged anyone who has used alcohol in a sinless way. I have always respected your liberty in Christ. Perhaps after this sermon the Lord might lead you to make some changes. Perhaps after this sermon the Lord will affirm the decisions you have already made. Either way, the goal is to examine the facts, submit to Jesus Christ as Lord in all things, and do all things including the abstention or consumption of alcohol for His glory.

Here we go. Two points which I am call "the red lights" and "the yellow lights."

1. The Red Lights

The red lights are the specific cases in Scripture where alcohol is forbidden. These are the black and white situations. These are the ones that are guaranteed to dishonor the Lord and invite unnecessary misery into your life and the lives of others (most often your own family).


Drunkenness is condemned in the Scriptures with the strongest of warnings. First Corinthians 6:10 tells us that "drunkards…will [not] inherit the kingdom of God." In Galatians 5:21 it is listed with the other "deeds of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19). Jesus spoke against drunkenness in Luke 21:34. All the examples of drunkenness in the Bible (Noah, Nabal, Belshazzar, etc.) resulted in bad consequences. Drunkenness makes it impossible to worship God. Ephesians 5:18, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit." We are to not fellowship with drunkards when they are professing Christians (1 Cor. 5:11; cf. Pro. 23:20). Drunkenness also often leads to other moral relapses. No wonder Proverbs 20:1 instructs us, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise." Drunkenness is so despicable that one of the Puritans concluded: "I had rather be a sober heathen than a drunken Christian" (William Gurnall).

Under-Age Drinking

Another sinful use of alcohol is under-age drinking. In Romans 13:1 we read, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." It is our responsibility as Christians, unless they command we sin, to obey the government God has ordained over us. By law, the drinking age is 21. Consumption before that is not only unwise for several reasons, but is also sinful.

Driving Under the Influence

I have had friends and former students die as a result of drinking and driving, both being drunk and also being hit by someone who was drunk. Not only is drinking a motor vehicle while being impaired a violation of the law, it is also one of the most selfish actions we can commit. To strip a family of a parent or child simply because the person wanted to consume too much alcohol and was too cheap or too prideful or too lazy to call for assistance is in my opinion one of the most heinous sins. I believe Matthew 7:12 comes into play here: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Consider some of the awful statistics: Each day, people drive drunk almost 300,000 times, but fewer than 4,000 are arrested.[i] In 2012, 10.3 million people reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year.[ii] About one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders. [iii] In 2011, 226 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. Of those, 122 (54% percent) were riding with the drunk driver.[iv] Every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes. [v] In 2012, 10,322 people died in drunk driving crashes - one every 51 minutes - and 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes.[vi] Drunk driving costs the United States $199 billion a year[vii] and drunk driving costs each adult in the United States almost $800 per year.[viii] Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver.[ix] 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. [x] An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before his or her first arrest. [xi]

Causing Someone to Stumble

A fourth occasion where alcohol is sinful is when our drinking causes another Christian to stumble. In Romans 14:12 we read, "It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles." The same principle is repeated in 1 Corinthians 8 where we are told to not take our liberties in Christ and use them to erect "a stumbling block to the weak" (1 Cor. 8:9).

Soon I will attempt to make it clear that as long as we are not violating theses "red lights" we have Christian freedom to use alcohol if our conscience permits. However, God is very concerned that our freedoms do not cause another brother or sister in Christ to stumble. The Greek word for stumble is "skandalon." What we are talking about here is someone for whatever reason that chooses to refrain from alcohol being tempted to drink by your consumption of alcohol in their presence. The Christian premise - we always restrict our freedoms if it means honoring the convictions of those we love in Christ.


Lastly, number five, alcohol is sinful when the person becomes addicted. It's all over the Bible: In 1 Timothy 3:3, "[Elders must] not [be] addicted to wine." The same is true for deacons (1 Tim. 3:8). The same is true for all believers. Isaiah 5:11 says, "Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!" Titus 2:3 calls "older women…to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine."

It is undeniable that alcohol is addictive. The consequences suffered as a result of alcoholism are devastating: Divorce, job loss, traffic accidents, breakup of families, destruction of the addict's health and so on.

We are called to be slaves to Christ (Eph. 6:5-6) which promises liberation, not slaves to a substance which always results in unrelenting bondage. 2 Peter 2:19, "for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved." 1 Cor. 6:12 "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." And let's be clear, this is not a disease problem, this is a sin problem. It is mastery by an idol that one is in submission to. The question is this - is Jesus Christ your Lord or are you mastered by alcohol?

When stressed out, is alcohol a better solution than Jesus? Do you forget what happens when you drink? Do you feel the need to have alcohol? Has a family or close friend shared concerns about your drinking? Do you make excuses for your drinking? Are you unable to stay within a prescribed limit of drinks? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be facing a problem. I'd encourage you to get some help!

2. The Yellow Lights

Those are the chapter and verse, black and white, clear cut situations as it pertains to alcohol. So what about the "yellow lights," part 2? Perhaps you can drink and not sin by violating the "red lights." If that's the case, we should still (like going through a yellow light) proceed with caution, and with a biblical mind and conscience, make a decision we deem most God-honoring for ourselves.

Now there are many people out there who claim that drinking any form of alcohol is against biblical teaching. Dr. Robert Teachout, A Semitic scholar who, in 1979, wrote his doctorate on The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, concluded, "Alcohol is never approved by God in any amount for the obedient Christian." Many claim the biblical verses that God approves of wine are only references to unfermented grape juice. Many claim that Jesus Christ did not make, use, approve, commend, or tell us to use intoxicating wine.

Personally, as one who could easily argue for avoiding alcohol, I do not believe the Bible commands we hold such a position. As one author said, "Alcohol is not a necessity of life. In God's eyes, one does not have to drink to show maturity…or sociability. And because of the enormous destruction caused by alcohol abuse today, many people have decided that it is better to abstain even if the Bible does not require us to. That is a more respectable position than trying to argue that the Bible itself forbids the use of alcoholic beverages" (

Here is what the Bible does say: The Hebrew word translated wine in Genesis 14:18 is "yayin." This word is used over 130 times in the Hebrew Bible to mean fermented wine, not grape juice. Alcohol is advised for medicinal purposes. Paul told Timothy, "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (cf. Pro. 31:6; Mk. 15:23; Lk. 10:34). Wine was used in the Old Testament ceremonies of worship (Ex. 29:40; Lev. 23:13; Num. 15:5). Wine is described positively in the Bible (Gen. 27:28; Psm. 104:15; Psm. 104:14-15; Pro. 3:10; Ecc. 9:7; Jo. 2:24). Water needed to be purified in the biblical times so wine was added to it. And although the alcohol content was less than today, it was still considered wine and still commonly consumed by the people. I believe Jesus drank this wine (Mt. 11:18-19), made a better wine during His first miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11) and used wine when He instituted the Lord's Supper (Mt. 26:29).

Yes, people like Daniel (Dan. 1:8) made a choice to abstain. Others like the Nazirites (Num. 6:3; Lk. 1:5) and the Levites (Lev. 10:9) were commanded to go without alcohol. Kings are advised to avoid it (Pr. 31:4-5). Yet I do not believe Scripture necessarily forbids a Christian from drinking alcohol. Consuming alcohol may be a sin. But I believe to declare that drinking alcohol is always a sin is a legalistic addition and should be avoided. We are free to abstain from alcohol. I personally think that's the best position. But we are not free to condemn those who choose to drink in moderation as being either sinful or less spiritual.

So that doesn't mean we should all run out to the liquor store once the service ends. That does not mean we will start serving wine during our church fellowships or partake when we celebrate in the Lord's Table. I also hope we hear more from this sermon than this permissive statement.

Therefore I believe if we can avoid the "red lights," we have freedom to participate, but only, as through a yellow light with much caution. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." Freedom in Christ does not always mean the item of freedom is the best personal choice you can make. If we need alcohol we have a problem. Therefore if we chose to partake, we should as we have been learning, seek the Lord's will on this matter.

Here are a few thoughts to consider: Are you in any way being deceived by alcohol? Listen to Proverbs 23: Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. 'They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink'" (Pro. 23:29-35).

Does alcohol in any way damage your testimony for Christ? Does alcohol damage the positive example you are trying to set for your children? Do you in anyway need alcohol to be a part of your life? Does alcohol lead you to commit other sins? Can you drink alcohol for the glory of God?

So we avoid the "red lights" and we proceed with caution through the "yellow lights". We must develop a Christian mind and make our own decisions on the matter. Notice I did not have a third point called the "green lights." Only the Lord can give you that answer as to how He leads you to move forward from here. I leave you with Romans 14, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand… Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14:4-5).

[i] Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Crime in the United States: 2012."

[ii] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.

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