A few years ago, I attended a conference where pastors were encouraged to meet at a pub after the general sessions. A few of these pastors could exercise their liberty, but why publicly? I wondered how many people at the conference stumbled because of it.
The demands of life often tempt us to seek gratification in alcohol and other things. We must be on high alert. The enemy uses "opportune times" to draw us away from God. (cf. Luke 4:13). The line is so thin that it is often hard to determine when we cross over.
The person who consumes alcohol walks a very fine line between freedom and sin, responsibility and carelessness, liberty and abuse—over-indulgence can even disqualify a person from leadership (cf. 1 Timothy 3). This discussion is not about a glass of wine or beer now and then, it’s about abusing liberty. Damage done to families and individuals through alcohol use demands a closer look.
Pastor John MacArthur states what many of us feel but seldom discuss, "It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants—especially in church-sponsored activities. The ravages of alcoholism and drug abuse in our culture are too well known, and no symbol of sin's bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze." I couldn't agree more. The trend of young Christian leaders consuming alcohol on a regular basis is alarming. Many will look back and regret the damage that was done to lives, churches, and their own testimony.
Pastor Darrin Patrick, in his book Church Planter, writes, "I am shocked at the number of them [pastors] who are either addicted or headed toward addiction to alcohol.” David Wilkerson adds, “Alcohol is now the modern golden calf, and millions of people, young and old, male and female, have been seduced by it.” Many counseling appointments are because of alcohol and drug abuse. Add to that the amount of domestic violence cases and the number of abused children because of alcohol, and we would be remiss to ignore its dangers.
We often flaunt liberty and laugh in the face of God’s grace by posting our favorite beer brands and wines on Facebook, all under the guise of “exercising liberty.” While Romans 14 discusses personal freedoms, it also has strong warnings “not to do anything that will cause others to fall” (vs. 21).
Consider the following:
1 Peter 2:16 reminds us that many use liberty to hide sin: “A cloak for vice,” and Galatians 5:13 says we should not "use our freedom to indulge the flesh.”If these points raise concerns, I encourage honest repentance. Its often not “if” alcohol consumption causes damage but “when.” Why would we willingly walk into the enemy’s camp?
God does not want us to be enslaved to anything. It is important that we take an account of our lives and see if this area has a hold on us. Be honest. How much do you drink? Is it really one drink now and then, or is it throughout the week? Is it a large goblet that holds ¾ of a bottle of wine and do you fill it twice?
Do you make excuses in order to exceed moderation and plan activities around alcohol? Do others comment on your drinking? Do you often argue and try to justify your position? Paul said that even though we have freedom, not everything is good for us. We should not become a slave to anything (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12). It's time to break free from this flawed liberty.
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship, just North of Los Angeles.
Shane's sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at www.WCFAV.org, Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/confusedchurch.
Publication date: August 4, 2017
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