It's been many years since I had the slightest buzz but my last drinking event, over 3 decades ago, was a doozy! Alcohol ate my lunch, left me beat up, and it gave me nothing in return. I can testify that the scriptures are true - "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." Proverbs 20:1
The mocker and brawler have struck again. Perry Noble (former pastor of mega NewSpring church) is a God fearing, Jesus following, grace-preaching pastor who was recently taken down by alcohol. Let's be clear, Perry is down but not out. God gives up on no one. Perry Noble is well positioned for full recovery and future grace. But Perry said it best, "the bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol but it does prohibit drunkenness and intoxication." He went on to say, "I allowed myself to slide into the overuse of alcohol...I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus".
Over thirty years ago I became an angry Christian. I had been so ravaged by the brawler that I couldn't conceive of Christians drinking even a small glass of wine. God had to break me of my youthful zeal. I needed to see life and spiritual liberty through the lense of truth, not in the reflection of my past pain. One early morning, God broke me and freed me from my anger while church planting in South Africa. To this day I live with this holy tension: One man's liberty can be another man's slavery. Some can eat and not become a glutton. Some can grow wealthy and not be owned by their money. And yes, some can drink yet not ever get drunk or reliant on the next glass.
My heart is broken and my passion cannot be restrained. God's kids are historically pendulum swingers. For many years legalism drove the church into a dark place. We ceased to be light because we possessed a list of dos and don’ts that trapped us into a standard that gave us the "appearance of godliness, but denying its power". This was tragic. But today we must be careful to not distort grace into something God never intended. We need to offer a toast to true biblical freedom.
The life and liberty Jesus died to give us is the grace to live, as we never could without the power of Jesus pulsing through our soul. Anyone can eat themselves sick, worship the almighty buck, and drink like their life depends on it. But only Jesus can shower us with his presence so we don't have to nibble, buy, and sip the pain away.
So I implore us to draw close to the truth of biblical grace. To have the wisdom to recognize that alcohol is mocking millions and that souls are being beaten by the brawler - often in total silence and deep shame. To not flex our freedom in the face of those we know have just gotten up and could easily stumble again. To be willing to leave the cork in the bottle, and talk at a heart level, when the very life of someone God loves is on the line. And most importantly, to check ourselves and ensure we haven't turned our personal freedom into a crutch, or worse, a God substitute.
I raise a toast to freedom. I ask you to join other grace consumers and spiritual freedom fighters. Resolve to live free. Determine once and for all that grace is not strolling close to the edge of danger but rather stepping strong on the path of abundant life and into a rich eternity.
May God give us the grace to live free and help others who might be struggling.