Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 27, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 2 – Drugs, Drinking, Dancing & Dress
For the next 6 weeks we are going to be getting into some “rubber meets the road” Christianity. We will be looking at how to live in both holiness and the freedom that we have in Christ. There should be no question that both freedom in Christ and holiness are not only compatible but are necessary. To pursue holiness without freedom results in legalism. To pursue freedom without holiness results in licentiousness. Both are dishonoring to God.
I am sure that at some point during this series that something I say will probably step on your toes to at least some degree. However, before you get upset with me or just toss aside what I say as if it is just my opinion, please take the time to think through the issues in light of the Biblical principles I will be giving you. If all you were here to get was just my opinion, then either you think too highly of me or I am failing at my purpose. I hope what you come here to get is a challenge from God’s word so that you might understand Him, His will and live your life in a way that pleases Him. How we live our lives should not be about my opinion or yours, but rather about God’s will and striving to live according to both the commands and principles of His Word. My prayer is that this series will encourage you in your walk with Jesus Christ and that when you feel offended that you will take it to heart to consider how these Biblical principles should apply in your life.
If you were not here last week, then get the tape, CD or the text of last week’s sermon since it lays the foundation that I will simply be expanding on and applying to particular areas.
The first area I want us to examine in more detail is that of the use of drugs. There are, of course, two extremes on this issue. Those that say you should stay away from all drugs and those that advocate taking any drug you think would help you. What Biblical principles apply?
First, and most obviously, the Christian should never get into the use of illegal drugs. Why? For the simple reason that we are commanded to obey the authorities that are over us. We studied this several months ago when we examined Romans 13. Verse one puts it simply and clearly, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. Fore there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” So unless the government’s commands are in contradiction to God’s commands, we are to obey the laws of our government. If we do not like those laws, we should seek to change them in the proper manner. So do not do something that is illegal.
Drugs Can Be Used
Second, God is not against drugs that are used properly. We live in a fallen world and part of the consequences of sin in the world are diseases, injuries, pain and suffering. Medicine is a good and proper profession that seeks to alleviate pain and suffering while helping to bring healing to diseases and injuries. In a sense then, medicine is striving to bring relief from the consequences of sin and living in a sin filled world.
The Scriptures do speak of both the importance of healing and medications. Psalm 147:3 refers to the Lord healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds. Obviously then, it is proper for men to seek to do the same. Luke, one of Paul’s traveling companions and author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, was a physician (Col. 4:14). What other reason could there be to refer to him as a physician unless his skills were known in Colossae? There can be no doubt that his medical skills were useful to the Paul and the others as they traveled around. Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23). This was a medicinal use for wine. In Matthew 27:34 we find that Jesus was offered sour wine that had myrrh and gall mixed in it. Jesus refused it, but it was offered as a way of relieving the pain of being crucified since they had a narcotic and stupefying effect. From this offer we see that Jewish practice was to try to relieve suffering by medicinal herbs if possible.
Dugs are not wrong if they are used properly in accordance with a godly purpose. We do not have the power to heal by fiat as Jesus did, but through medications we can exhibit His compassion to others. That would be in keeping with the principle of Emulation mentioned last week. Such ministry can often open a door for evangelism as people respond to the practical demonstration of love and are in a better condition to hear and respond to the gospel.
Drugs Can Be Dangerous
Third, drugs can be dangerous. This is something that I think everyone here understands. People who abuse drugs can end up with all sorts of physical and / or psychological problems. Some even die from abusing drugs. That is true for over-the-counter and prescription drugs as well as illegal ones. If drugs are not used properly, then they will break several of the principles we learned last week including Expedience (they are not spiritually profitable), Edification (they will not build you up), Excess (they will slow you down in the pursuit of godliness), Equivocation (they can become an excuse for your sin), Enslavement (they can be addictive), and Exaltation (they detract from the glory of God in your life).
One consequence of drug abuse that many people are not aware of is the negative effect on the spiritual nature of man. In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul warns and lists out the deeds of the flesh. Among them are “sorcery” (NASB) or “witchcraft” (KJV, NIV). The actual word is farmakeiva / pharmakeia from which we get our word pharmacy. Drugs are often used in pagan, occultic, and cultic religious rituals as a means of enhancing spiritual experience, but what they do is open you up to demonic influences. Those who use drugs to get “high” often end up with demonic problems.
Cautions for a Drug Advocating Society
The obvious conclusion from these first three principles is that Christians should only use legal drugs in the proper manner prescribed or according to the label directions. But let’s take this a step further because we now live in a culture in which drugs are prescribed as a means for coping with nearly everything in life. Just because a drug is legal and you follow the doctor’s directions does not mean that taking a drug is the best or even the right thing to do. There are several factors that need to be considered before taking a drug. A primary consideration is the purpose for taking them within context of their actual need.
Pain medications. When I get a headache, I, like many people, am very glad for aspirin, Tylenol or Excedrin to relieve the pain enough so I can still function. I was even more glad for strong medications that made me unconscious when I had my appendix removed, and for the strong pain relievers after surgery that helped me to be able to rest and sleep so my body could heal. However, not all pain is bad or should be relived. The doctors did not give me any pain medication until I went into surgery because they needed me to feel the pain so they could make a diagnosis. That is true for many medical problems. Without the pain, you cannot find out what is wrong. If you mask the pain with analgesics before diagnosis, the condition often becomes worse and could even be life threatening. The context of the situation will determine the appropriate response. The purpose of relieving pain is compassionate, but it may not be good in all situations.
Most of you know that Randy Ryan cracked a couple of ribs last week. He is not allowed to take pain medication because he needs to be able to feel the pain in order to know if he should stop moving a certain way or not. Pain often lets you know that something is wrong and to stop before you injure yourself more severely. The classic illustration of this is the Biblical disease of Leprosy. The problem with this condition, also known as Hansen’s disease, is that the area affected loses the sense of touch. You cannot feel the pain when you burn or cut or damage your tissue in some other way. People with Leprosy can literally rub off their fingers, toes and nose because they do not feel the pain that would stop any of us from doing such self-inflicted bodily harm.
Side effects are the next factor to consider in the use of drugs. All drugs have them. Some are not noticeable. Others can have severe side effects. Any time you take a drug you must weigh the benefit of the drug against any negative side effects. For example, anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motran and Advil can be very good at relieving muscle pain, but if you’re not careful, use them too often or take them in the wrong manner, they can give you a stomach ulcer. When I first hurt my shoulder, I took them as therapy to help heal my injury, but I only continued with them for a month lest I develop any stomach problems from them. Many drugs have the side effect of making you drowsy, so you are not supposed to drive or operate machinery if you use them. Sometimes you have to just continue to deal with the problem the drug would have helped because staying alert is more important.
Addictions are another factor that must be considered. That is the reason that many drugs are no longer used or are by prescription use only, but even over-the-counter medications can become habit forming or addictive. Remember the principle of Enslavement from last week? If you can’t easily give it up or it is always on your mind, then you are addicted.
I should point out here that nicotine is the drug found in tobacco that makes smoking addictive. Certainly there are a lot of good medical reasons not to smoke or to break the habit if you do, but one good spiritual reason is so that you are not in bondage to it. Another good spiritual reason is that you are a steward of what God has entrusted to you. That includes your finances as well as your body.
Are you in bondage to a drug? Ask yourself these questions. Why am I taking this drug? How is it helpful to my life – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Is it a hindrance to my life in any of those areas? Do I really need it? If it is helpful and is not hindering you and you need it, then take it. If its helpfulness is outweighed by negative effects and you don’t really need it, then its time to break the habit.
Psychological drugs. A follow-up point related to those drugs that affect you mentally, emotionally. These can easily affect your spiritual life, so be careful with them. I remember feeling nearly uncontrollably weepy one time and finding out later that it was a side effect of some medication. Some drugs are given specifically because of the mental / emotional effects of them. While there are times that such drugs can be beneficial by helping you to function when otherwise you might not be able to, remember that such psychiatric drugs, with the exception of those specifically correcting a brain chemical malfunction, such as lithium, are only dealing with the symptom, and not the problem. As Christians, we are to work through our problems and find the solution to them in a greater understanding of our God and our relationship with Him. The drugs may help us through a crises so that we can work on our problems, but they themselves are not the cure. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” As we have seen previously in our studies of Romans 5 and James 1, God matures us through the troubles, trials and turmoil of life. If you rely on drugs to make you feel good and will not work through the underlying problems, then you will short circuit God’s plan in your life. You will remain immature. God wants you to mature and become like Christ.
Summary. God does not prohibit the use of drugs, but you must use them within the law according to the proper directions in the context of purpose and actual need. Proper caution must be given to the dangers of drugs, including side effects. You must give consideration to the principles for decision making we studied last week. Will it build you up spiritually? Or will it hinder you in living for Christ? Will it help you to be more like Jesus or will it enslave you? Will it become an excuse for your sin? Will it help others become more like Christ? Will it help bring glory to God?
In using the word, “drinking,” I am referring to alcoholic beverages. Because alcohol is a drug, everything I have already said about drugs applies to drinking. However, there is more we must say about this subject for two reasons. First, the Bible has a lot of specific instructions concerning wine and strong drink. Second, there are those that take both extreme positions regarding drinking with both claiming they are the true Biblical position. There are godly people that advocate complete abstinence, and there are godly people that say you can drink anything you want. We must look and see what the Scriptures themselves do say about this subject.
Drunkenness: First, it is clear from the Bible that it is wrong to get drunk. Not only does drunkenness break the principles of Excess, Expedience, Edification and Enslavement that we saw last week, but there are many verses that directly point out the evil of drunkenness. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Proverbs 21:17 says, “He who loves pleasure [will become] a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Proverbs 23:19 adds, “Listen, my son, and be wise, And direct your heart in the way. 20 Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, [Or] with gluttonous eaters of meat; 21 For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe [a man] with rags.” Proverbs 31:4-7 warned kings and rulers about drinking lest they “forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” Such drink was for those who were perishing or whose lives were bitter so that they could forget their poverty and troubles. Many people drink to do just that, but forgetting about your troubles does not make them go away. They just get worse.
Proverbs 23:29-35 describes the life of the drunk. “29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your mind will utter perverse things. 34 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. 35 “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.”
Drunkenness, though apparently unintentional, got Noah in trouble (Gen. 9:20-27). Drunkenness allowed Lot to be debased by his own daughters (Gen. 19:30-38). It appears that intoxication was a factor in Nadab and Abihu failing to follow God’s commands in properly offering incense in the Tabernacle, which resulted in God striking them dead (Lev. 10:1-11). A child that was characterized by stubbornness, rebellion, gluttony and drunkenness was to be stoned to death (Deut. 21:20). The examples of the negative results of drunkenness could go on and on and many of you know the evil results of drunkenness by your own experience before you became a Christian or from your personal relationship with family or friends who were drunkards.
The New Testament also has instructions to us concerning drunkenness. It is included in the list of unrighteous behaviors in 1 Cor. 6:10. It is one of the vices listed among the “deeds of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19. Peter says it is one of the things that believers should have put aside in pursing the will of God (1 Peter 4:2,3). Ephesians 5:18 is the most direct command to Christians. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” All Christians are to avoid drunkenness, but does that mean they must also abstain from all alcoholic beverages?
Abstinence: There are those that advocate abstinence for all Christians. Some even go far as to say that at the wedding in Cana (John 2) that Jesus turned with water into grape juice, and not wine. It is an interesting theory, but one without linguistic, or historical support. The New Testament has three words that can refer to wine in various stages of fermentation.
gleukoV / glueukos is translated as “sweet wine” and refers to wine that was recently pressed and therefore would not have had time to fully ferment, however, Acts 2:13 indicates that it did have the ability to intoxicate so it would have some alcoholic content. That only makes sense because without refrigeration or modern bottling technology it would have been very difficult to keep grape juice from fermenting. Even if you boiled it first and put it into jugs, yeast, which causes the fermentation, is abundant and will float in air currents, so it is a common contaminant. Under normal conditions present then, grape juice would soon ferment into wine.
oinoV / oinos is the common word for wine and refers to juice that had already fermented. It does have alcohol content because it has the capability of making a person drunk, as already pointed out in Ephesians 5:18. This is the word used to describe what Jesus turned the water into at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:9,10). Remember that the headwaiter remarked that the wine Jesus had made was better than what had previously been served. If John had wanted to describe this as grape juice he could have done so by specifically calling it the juice of grapes, or he could have called it gleukoV / glueukos, “sweet wine” as mentioned above. He could have even used the adjective “new” to describe the oinoV / oinos (wine) and that could have meant unfermented wine. But John simply used oinoV / oinos (wine) to describe the drink that Jesus made.
The third word used for wine in the New Testament is ocoV / oxos which is “sour wine.” This is wine in which the alcohol and sugars in it are turning into vinegar. This is what was offered to Jesus when He was on the cross.
Those who claim that the Bible demands abstinence are wrong. There is no such prohibition on Christians. The are only two commands for abstinence. Those who were under the Nazirite vow of Numbers 6, and they could not have anything related to a grape or grape vine. The other was a specific prohibition for the High Priest and his sons from drinking wine or strong drink when they came into the tent of meeting (the Tabernacle) (Lev. 10:9,10). There are prohibitions on drunkenness and many warnings about the dangers of wine, but there are no other prohibitions against in the Scriptures.
It is interesting to note how much wine was a part of Jewish life. An abundance of wine was understood to be a blessing from God (Prov. 3:10; Isa. 27:2), while a lack of it was a curse from Him (Deut. 29:39; Hosea 9:2).
Even in the worship of God, wine was a part of the celebration of God’s goodness to them. Numbers 28:7 explains the proper amount of strong drink that was to be poured out as a libation offering. In Deut. 14 instruction is given on bringing a tithe of produce to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. If the distance was too far, then the tithe was to be sold and them money brought to Jerusalem. Verse 24-27 explains what they could then purchase with that tithe money. 26 “And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.”
In the prophecies concerning the future kingdom, wine is part of the celebration. In Isaiah 25:6 aged wine and refined aged wine will be part of the banquet the Lord of Hosts will prepare for His people. In the Millennial kingdom, the mountains of Israel will drip with sweet wine (Joel 3:18) and the vats will overflow (Joel 2:24).
Some will concede that Christians can drink, but will still insist that church leaders cannot. But that it not what Paul says in his list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. In those passages we find that the overseer or elder is not to be addicted to wine. The word used in those verses is paroinoV / paroinos (1 Tim. 3:3, Titus 1:7). This is literally translated as being “beside or alongside wine” and hence meaning one who is “given to” or “addicted” wine. This does not mean that he is forbidden to have wine, but the overseer or elder is not someone who should be found hanging around the wine table. He should not be known as a drinker. The Deacon is “not given to much wine” (1 Tim. 3:8). He can have more wine than an overseer or elder, but he is also someone who is not to give attention to wine. The godly older woman is someone who is not “enslaved to much wine” (Titus 2:3). Again, she can have wine, but she is not in bondage to it.
Balance. Now just because the Bible does not forbid drinking, that does not mean you should do it. You must not only consider all the principles we talked about last week, but you must also carefully consider all the warnings the Bible gives about its dangers. I mentioned many of these earlier such as that “wine is a mocker.” You think you are in control, but you are not. That is why so many alcoholics deny that they have a drinking problem. They think they are fine and are able to handle what they drink, but those around them know the truth.
You must also give very serious thought to the principle of Example. Romans 14:20,21 specifically speaks to this issue in relationship to drinking wine saying, “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or [to do anything] by which your brother stumbles.” In our society there are many that have a problem with drinking. Personally, I do not drink. It is not just that I do not care for the smell or taste of beer or wine, but more importantly, I do not want to cause a brother to stumble by my example, and my position as a pastor makes that a lot more serious. If you do drink, then you must be very careful lest you cause someone else to stumble.
Distilled Drinks. One final point I want to make is that there is an important distinction between naturally fermented alcoholic drinks, such as wine and beer, and distilled alcoholic drinks such as rum, gin, vodka, whiskey, etc. The Bible speaks only of naturally fermented wine because the distilling process had not been invented during ancient times. Distillation did not come until the Renaissance with its advanced science and technology. At the earliest, distillation of alcoholic drinks did not occur until around 1,000 A.D. The difference between naturally fermented drinks and distilled drinks is dramatic. Even under the best conditions, beer and wine only have an 8-14% alcohol content. In the ancient world, with less than ideal conditions, it would have been much less. It must also be remembered that a common practice in the ancient world was to mix the wine with water. Distilled spirits are commonly 30, 40 and 50% alcohol and may even go up to 90% alcohol. That difference in alcohol content means that it takes a lot less for it to make you drunk. A 1 ½ ounce “shot” of whiskey has as much alcohol as an 8 ounce glass of wine or a 12 ounce can of beer. Extreme caution must be used with any distilled spirits.
If you drink, then you should give a close examination to your motives for drinking. Don’t use your freedom in Christ as a covering for unrighteousness. Our purpose in life is the glory of God, not individual pleasure. If you don’t drink, then do not become self-righteous about it. While it is okay to properly ask a person why they do what they do, because they may have never really thought about it and the challenge may get them to consider the issues, you may not condemn them or think another believer is less spiritual than yourself simply because they exercise a freedom that you do not.
Each of us needs to examine our own hearts in why we will or will not do particular things. Remember to ask yourself these questions. Will it be spiritually profitable for me? Will it help to build others up in Christ? Will it hinder me in my Christian walk? Will it bring me into bondage? Will it cause me to lose control of my thoughts or will? Am I using it as a covering for my own evil desires? Am I violating my conscience? Does it reflect Christ likeness? Am I considering other believers as more important than myself? Does it bring glory to God? Your answer to those questions will help you determine if what you are doing is right or wrong for you before God.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children : Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times drugs or alcohol are mentioned in the sermon 2) Discuss with your parents what the Bible says about the use of them. What are their dangers.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What Biblical principles should we consider when deciding to do or not do any particular practice? Can a Christian use illegal drugs? Why or why not? Can a Christian use any drugs at all? Why or why not? What Biblical examples of the use of medicine can you find? What is a proper use of drugs? Give examples? What are the dangers of using drugs improperly? What should be considered before taking pain medication? Have you ever had negative side effects from drugs? How important is it to consider a drug’s side effects before taking them? Explain. What would be the proper usage by a Christian of drugs for psychological reasons? What limits should be placed on their usage? What should a Christian do who is taking psychological drugs? What questions should be considered before taking any drug? What is the Biblical view of drunkenness? Explain. What are some of the dangers of drunkenness? What experience have you had with people who have been intoxicated? What does the New Testament say about abstaining from alcohol? Did Jesus turn the water into wine (John 2) or something else? What is the difference between fermented and distilled drinks? When does the Bible prohibit drinking? What did an abundance or lack of wine signify in the Old Testament? What will be the usage of wine in heaven? What should we consider before drinking? Is your life glorifying God?
Sermon Notes– 7/27/2003 am
Holy & Free, Part 2- Drugs & Drinking
DRUGS – Major Principles
Nothing illegal – Romans 13:1
Drugs Can Be Dangerous
Abuse Improper Use Spiritual Danger
Cautions for a Drug Advocating Society
Consider purpose and actual need. Example: Pain medications.
Consider side effects:
Drunkennes breaks the principles of Excess Expedience, Edification, & Enslavement
Proverbs 20:1: 21:17; 23:19-21; 31:4-7; 23:29-35
Drunkenness gets people in trouble
Noah – Lot – Nadab and Abihu – Execution –
Is Abstinence Required?
gleukoV / glueukos = oinoV / oinos = ocoV / oxos =
Wine in Jewish Life
Wine & Leaders –
Being Biblically Balanced – Freedom, but cautions
Questions: Is it spiritually profitable for me? Will it help to build others up in Christ? Will it hinder me in my Christian walk? Will it bring me into bondage or to lose control? Am I using it as a covering for my own evil? Am I violating my conscience? Does it reflect Christ likeness? Am I considering other believers as more important than myself? Does it bring glory to God?
For comments, please e-mail gbcwfny@Juno.com