HOLIDAYS AND THE BOTTLE: JUST SAY NO!

It is my contention that the worst social evil ever to infest this planet is quietly becoming, at least to some degree, acceptable to the Bible-believing Christian community. We must oppose this.

This message is for “us.” And who is “us”? It is every child of God who is eager to find out truth from God’s Word the Bible and to live by that truth, come what may.

I believe every Christian should be completely opposed to any form of social drinking whatsoever. Even in the medical community one hears very little about the use of alcohol for medicinal purposes any more. But of course this message is not about any alcohol admini-stered under the care of a physician for his patient. I am talking about the bottle and we should just say “No!”

RECENT CHANGES IN THE ATTITUDES OF CHRISTIANS TOWARD ALCOHOL

Until recent years it was customary for Bible-believing Baptist churches to oppose alcohol right down to placing an article against it in the church’s official papers.

My home church, in Grand Rapids that ordained me, stated in its Church Covenant: “We oppose the sale and use of alcoholic drinks as a beverage.” At one time the church turned down an applicant for membership who was driving a beer truck for a living.

When I was in college at Cedarville it was common knowledge that a student caught with a cigarette or a drink would be automatically dismissed from school. The Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary held a similar view.

On the other hand recently articles have been printed in national Christian magazines presenting in pro and con fashion the bad and “good” of drinking”, allowing the reader whatever latitude he or she wishes to decide whether or not a Christian will drink liquor.

In a personal letter to me a few months ago, a senior research editor of a respected former fundamentalist Christian organization defended social drinking. This writer, a fellow graduate of the Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, said: “Although I don’t drink, I know many fine Christians who do.” Further he went on: “The Bible doesn’t teach total abstinence. We need not labor under such a necessity.”

My question is: “What changed Christian minds on a subject that made it absolutely taboo not that many years ago so that is has be-come acceptable now?”

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE” GOOD” THAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED BY SOCIAL DRINKING

At a recent meeting of our southern Michigan fellowship, our speaker, who pastors one of the larger churches in the state, told of some meetings that were arising spontaneously in his church. Some forty or so of his members were holding neighborhood get-togethers in which unsaved neighbors were invited to social gatherings.
To his sorrow, the pastor later found that these meetings, in which his people were inviting and making friends of their neighbors, in-cluded the serving of wine. This they said, was for the purpose of avoiding embarrassment to their neighbors who might have thought these Christian people too “old fashioned” to serve alcohol! So, we conclude that one “good” to come from social drinking would be to put others “more at ease.” Drinking alcohol together does put people at ease. I agree.

A second “good” to come from social drinking would be to demonstrate that Christians are not opposed to things that make us feel good. At a party, say, there would be a more relaxed atmosphere, a casualness and open friendliness that might be missing if alcohol were not served. I grant that this is so. Alcoholic drink does foster a certain open-ness and casualness that without it might not be present. I grant this contention.

Thirdly, a “good” thing to come from social drinking would be that it would serve to teach our children. We would be suggesting that “everything is all right if done in moderation”. That way, when they go off to college or business relations they would have been taught to partake of beer or whisky without thought of being out of step with their peers at such gatherings. I grant that this is so also.

A fourth “good” to come from social drinking would be to follow the biblical suggestion that “every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (I Timothy 4:4). So, it would seem to some, even the Bible authorizes some drinking because alcoholic beverages fall under the category of those things created by God, and, as such, are ours to enjoy! We will have more to say on this point later.

Now, above are four examples of “good” things that can come from the drinking of alcoholic beverage. I am sure that the proponents of social drinking can probably come up with additional examples. To stay within the allowed scope of this message, I have chosen but four examples. Anyone reading this is welcome to contact me to suggest any additional examples and I would be glad, privately, to respond to them. However, it will be my purpose to destroy all these I have suggested in the next few minutes. I’ll be glad to take on any you might suggest as well.

A REFUTATION OF EVERY SUPPOSED “GOOD” TO COME FROM SOCIAL DRINKING

As for point #1 above, namely, that social drinking puts others more at ease with us, of course that is true. The problem is that as a child of God, my responsibility is to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. Am I comfortable with the idea that the first thing someone, knows about me as a Christian is that I am not uncomfortable with alcoholic beverage? I think not. Do I want my family or my church to be known as accepting of alcoholic drink? Do I want others to be at ease with a substance that is so dangerous that the smallest amount of over-consumption can and often does lead to terrible sins and offenses? So, to put my friends at ease with drinking is actually to put them off-guard with the truth. How can a Christian do this?
In my second point above I mentioned that social drinking brings a certain casualness, an open friendliness between men and women, husbands and wives and others present that without alcohol would not be present. Yes, and the more drinking there is the greater the relaxation to the point of almost anything happening. When I was a sixteen-year-old boy I would go to a bar with my friends, some who were eighteen and legally entitled to buy 3.2% beer. Then they would bring it back to the booth where I would drink it too. On one such night at about three o’clock in the morning, my dad had to come down to our front porch and confront me, as I bragged and shot off my mouth to the high heavens after only one or two such drinks.

We might say, after one drink if men and women do not begin to fee] sufficiently friendly toward one another, perhaps a second or even a third drink might help. True, then what? How much would be just the “right” amount to have a lively party? How stupid! And we are going to countenance this as approved by God for the Christian?

The third “good” I suggested of social drinking, you will remember, is that it is an example to teach our children. It certainly is! That is what the mother of the eighteen-year-old young lady was doing who allowed her to go to the island of Aruba so she could drink in a nightclub legally. Unfortunately, someone in that tavern that night had something other than one drink on his mind. The young lady has not been seen nor heard from since. Did her “friends” lead her out of that place after a few drinks for some purpose? Is her body at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean? We may never know. Some things are better caught than taught. You may be sure your children will catch what you teach them about social drinking.

Finally, my fourth suggested “good” to come from social drinking is that it is something God has created and is therefore to be received with thanksgiving. All we have to do to destroy this argu-ment is to ask ourselves a simple question: “Is alcoholic beverage something God created?” The answer, of course, is a resounding “No!” God did not and does not create alcoholic drink. It is an anomaly. It is extremity in nature. At the conclusion of this message I will have more to say of this.

The local county jail some time ago had a run on orange juice for breakfast. It seemed every inmate requested orange juice for breakfast. Were these men seeking to stay “fit” while incarcerated? Were they watching their diets for only healthy things? No, they were not. They were saving and hiding their orange juice for long periods of time; then they would drink it. Hmm, getting drunk in jail. I am sure the sheriff didn’t approve. Keep this thought.

FIVE BIBLE REASONS WHY NO ONE CAN BE BOTH A SOCIAL DRINKER AND AN OBEDIENT CHRISTIAN

We have already seen that alcoholic beverage can be a mind-altering substance. What evil young man has not thought of trying to get his date to drink so she will be in a more cooperative mood? How, according to Scripture, should we have our minds altered? The Bible says: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). There it is- alcoholic beverage is set in contra-distinction to being filled with God’s Holy Spirit. God commands the Christian to be filled with His Spirit. As such we must automatically refrain from any influence of alcohol. They are mutually exclusive!
Scripture teaches that the Christian is not to be brought under the domain or authority of anything, even good things:

“Everything is permissible for me– but not everything is bene-ficial. Everything is permissible for me– but I will not be mastered by anything. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food– but God will destroy them both.” (I Corinthians 6:12-13a,NIV)

Absolutely the only way to be sure that we will never be brought under the domain or influence of alcohol is simply to completely avoid it.

The Christian is commanded to avoid even looking upon alcoholic beverage favorably:

“Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:31-32, NIV)

There is a connection with immorality associated with alcoholic drink as old as history itself. Noah drank alcoholic beverage, uncovered his nakedness and was so seen by his son Ham. The Bible does not fully discuss this incident but the ramifications were so serious as to cause God’s curse (Genesis 9:21-22).

In addition to this, David of Old Testament fame used alcoholic beverage to intoxicate his young army officer, Uriah, in order to entice him to go home and sleep with his wife in order to cover David’ own sin which had impregnated her (II Samuel 11:12-13).

The prophet Isaiah of the eighth century before Christ records the connection between drinking and misconduct of all kinds including disregard for the commands of the Lord. Read verses 1-25 of Isaiah’s fifth chapter. There is the warning about this whole matter of characterizing alcoholic drink as something innocent and manageable with the words “woe to those who call evil good.”

The book of Habakkuk puts it very bluntly: “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed!” (Habakkuk 2:15-16, NIV) I can almost hear the skeptical reader saying in response to this: “Oh, I’d never do anything like that, I drink in moderation.” And just what is “drinking in modera-tion?” How many, I wonder, started out to “drink in moderation” and were nevertheless, carried into shameful conduct by alcohol’s grip? No, there is not a human being alive who can accurately define what “drinking in moderation” is. Break out the bottle for your neighbors and incur the wrath of God. Is it worth it? I don’t think so !

These five Bible reasons for avoiding alcoholic beverage could be expanded to more than twice that number. But the truth is clear: no obedient Christian can have anything to do with alcoholic beverage.

Conclusion

A careless reading of verses like I Timothy 4:4 might seem, on the surface, to countenance drinking alcohol. Not so! Here is the verse: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. II (I Timothy 4:4, NIV)

You may say, “Well, God created alcoholic drink and so with proper guidance and care we may safely include it within things to be approved.” No, God did not and does not “create alcoholic beverage.” Decay and death create it! Let me illustrate.

We have fellowship meals and dinners at our church gatherings at times, as do most Christians. Suppose at such a gathering, when we finish a meal, we simply allow the food to remain on the tables and then return the following week to partake again. We then heat or chill the various dishes as appropriate and begin eating them. You say, “Why, that is crazy, the food would be spoiled and you would be poisoned.” You are correct. And that same principle explains fermentation, the necessary step to “create” alcoholic beverage. You see, alcoholic beverage is not a part of nature’s creation, it is the ruin of nature’s creation. No wonder our local law enforcement people tell us that 90% of the crime they must deal with involves alcoholic drink and illicit drugs. A Christian ought to avoid such in the same way he would a rotten meal!

Finally, The American Medical Association includes in its large Medical Encyclopedia of 2003 a major entry on alcohol abuse. It defines drunkenness as impairment, the same as many law-enforcement agencies do. This authoritative volume includes a detailed chart, provided by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, showing data related to drinking and impairment. The chart shows that at the first drink impairment begins to set in. It declares further that the only safe driving limit is that which exists when a person has had zero number of drinks. What further proof do we need to demon-strate that since impairment begins to set in with the first drink that as believers our only honorable and honest response is to avoid alcoholic beverage altogether. May God help His children to stand firm in full obedience to Him and His Word in this critical social area.
Amen!

Preached at Jonesville Baptist Church Sunday November 20, 2005

Pastor Kenneth F. Pierpont, D. Min.