We were asked by our small group leader to write an honest email to him of where we are at with totally surrendering to God. There are two huge areas God is working on me right now, and I wanted to share my thoughts on one of them. There is a process of pruning that we all undergo at Christians so that we can be fruitful on the vine that is Jesus Christ. Some of these things are good things, but to make the best fruit possible, even those things may have to go.
There is plenty of opinion on the subject of alcohol consumption amongst Christians, and it is also a subject that places the church in a state of hypocrisy in the eyes of lost people. We can go back and forth all day about if it is right or wrong, but that is not what this post is about. This is about my personal journey and my decision alone. I want that to be clear before going on.
As I’ve prayed in the last months for God to show me what areas I’m not willing to give up in my journey to totally surrender to Him, this is one that has come up. I’ve been reading through the Bible each morning and am up to Leviticus. In chapter 10, I came across this passage:
And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”
I see great guidance in this that is still applicable despite being in Old Testament law. The context of this passage is that Aaron was being consecrated as God’s priest. When Aaron and his sons were doing God’s work–going into the tent of meeting–He commanded them to refrain from consuming alcohol. They needed to set themselves apart from the common practices of the world and the holy practices of God.
I know with certainty that God is pruning me to begin doing His global mission work (and it’s about time I surrender to this, too). There are plenty of people who think it is okay to drink, and I’m probably still in that camp. At the risk of oversimplifying my thoughts on it, there are plenty of instances where wine was used in Bible times. But the key here is, I need to be set apart in order to be able to effectively teach/show lost people His Gospel, like Aaron and His sons were to teach Israel the Law. There’s not a priest anymore that speaks for and to God on our behalf. Effectively, we ARE the priest. You could even say that we ARE the tent of meeting now, because God dwells in us. It probably sounds contradictory to say I’m still okay with alcohol consumption and yet we need to be set apart, but what I’m trying to say is, a social drink is okay to me (obviously dependence upon or excess consumption of alcohol is a sin), but I’m probably not going to partake of it for this reason of Him calling me to be set apart.
We have the express freedom to do whatever we want. That’s the free will God gave us. But just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. God may have placed things on this earth that are available for our enjoyment, but that doesn’t mean it is always beneficial for us to partake of it. For me, it’s not about what I think I deserve or am allowed to have anymore. The Bible speaks to this in Galatians:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
There is also the oft-quoted verse about being a stumbling block. Those words have become a cliche-Christian term. But I think the verse reinforces the concept set in Leviticus about separating the common and holy.
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
I’m not sure how else to describe the consumption of alcohol except the word “common”. It’s like anything in the world that people do and don’t give it a second thought, such as cussing. We can say “it’s just a word; people defined the evilness of the word, not God. It’s what is in your heart that counts, so if you don’t say it in anger, you’re okay.” Well, I think that is a very superficial assessment in an Americanized Christianity. And boy, do I have a long way to go in reassessing my choices and fighting the engrained notions we have about things.
This idea of common vs. holy is not to make us “holier than thou”. I believe it is so people can see the difference Christ makes in a very tangible, visible way. Want to use the argument that people should see Christians properly enjoying such things in moderation? That may be true, but I would counter that most, if not all, of the people in that category are “weak” or lacking in faith and for me, the risk is too great of them seeing no difference Christ has made, seeing hypocrisy and turning away from Christ, or seeing no need to change the way they are living and thus have no need of Christ. Once my “freedom” to drink causes any of those happen, I have failed miserably and sinned against God. I’m not turning up my nose at people who choose to drink, but I do want to use every opportunity I can to explain the difference Christ has made and why I don’t need anything else. We replace the common with the holy:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
I’m afraid of this decision, to be honest. I don’t know how my friends are going to react. But in the past few months, as I’ve mostly abstained while I work through this process, I’ve been met with resistance and pressure. But these things cannot concern me. It is for me to be obedient to God’s calling and move forward with His good work for His glory. Christ did not spend His three years sugar-coating His message and delivering sermons that made people feel better about themselves. He used every opportunity to say, “I’ve come to bring you life if you’ll follow me, and in order to do that, you must be totally surrendered.” That undeserved life He gave me can only be responded to with complete obedience. Oh, I have such a long way to go, but God is at work. I pray for the obedience to follow. His Gospel must be spread for His glory. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.