(Read Update here: https://daniellovett.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/jesus-and-alcohol-my-confession/)
Six weeks ago I had a dream that compelled me to dispose of around 8 gallons of alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic by any means, but had recently taken up a new hobby of making wine. I had stumbled on a Youtube video of dandelion wine and since my front yard was full of them, I decided to give it a try. As with any of my hobbies, I threw myself into this new hobby for a while and learned all I could. All while I was doing this I questioned whether I was stepping out of God’s will for me. “Is this OK?” I would ask, and one time I heard a “pour it out.” I dismissed this as my own religious notions or something and disregarded it. And then I had the following dream:
I saw the world for what it truly was in the spiritual dimension. It was a place of darkness and confusion and the air was filled with poison. It was as if the entire world was a house filled with carbon monoxide. People were dropping around me like flies and I was shaken by it. Someone, who I perceived was the Lord, was trying his best to rescue people. But the people were hiding from him. Demons were also constantly busy hiding people from Jesus and in frustration he said to himself (the Trinity) “It seems like they are going to get away with everything.”
I woke up stunned around 3 am or so and walked downstairs. I knew that at times, I was the one hiding from Jesus and that, at times, I was using alcohol (among other things) to do just that. I knew that currently many others and, in fact, a great portion of the population of planet earth was using alcohol to hide from Jesus (not to mention the billions throughout history). I wanted no part of it! I didn’t want be a hindrance to Jesus and his ongoing rescue operation. I wanted to help! I wanted to be an asset. These are precious people to Jesus. He desperately loves them (and you) and felt their loss deeply.
“Pour it out”, I heard again. I wasted no time, because I knew if I delayed I would find some way to excuse myself from obedience. So I poured out 3 gallon batch of dandylion wine, 4 gallons of hard cider, and a nearly full $10 bottle of wine. Every last drop of alcohol… gone.
It was a painful act of obedience.
My alcohol use history:
I remember when my mom once tried to cure us from the notion of ever turning to alcohol by letting my brother and I try a beer. I was 15 and my brother was 14. I didn’t care for it at all. Apparently it is an acquired taste and I wondered why anyone would want to acquire a taste for piss water.
But then the trouble started.
When I was 17 my parents started to fight a lot and during most of my later teen years we were not really a very happy family. I started turning to alcohol.
I found friends whose parents would drink and we’d raid their stash. I remember drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels in the car before a school dance. I remember getting instantly drunk on just one sip of Everclear (95% alcohol) and walking down the street in my underwear. I remember drinking an entire bottle of tequila, smoking two packs of cigarettes, passing out and waking up drunk the next day. We’d find someone to buy a case of beer and throw a party with all my new drinking friends. I did stupid things, I said stupid things, I made a fool of myself. I am ashamed of that year of my life.
Why did I do it? Was it to numb the pain of the strife at home? Was I looking in the wrong place for a sense of identity?
I must admit, it wasn’t just the pain of my parents conflict at home. It was the pain of sin itself. And drinking wasn’t the only thing I did to try to numb the pain and mental anguish. I would take steak knifes and cut up my arms and legs (still have the scars). I would bash my head with rocks. I tried marajuana. I am ashamed to admit what else I turned to… and so I won’t.
You get the picture. I was a wretch. I was a broken sinner and felt alienated from God. But I was also a “Christian”. I had been since I was young. I tried to reach out to God and he certainly helped me through a lot. But I never felt a sense of relief. I never fully landed on the peace I longed for.
When I reconnected with Jesus at 18, I didn’t drink again for probably 10 years or so. It wasn’t a temptation at all. I never thought about it. I was never even inclined to. I remember at one point getting pulled over because the police officer thought I was drunk. I told him I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in 6 years, I’m just a bad driver.
As time went by I started to have some beer a few times a year. I had, after all, years ago developed a taste for the piss water and I soon discovered my favorite Wisconsin micro brewed craft lagers and ales. In my early 30’s my habit had been to, every few months, buy a six pack and have one a day for week and then forget about it for another few months. That was it. I enjoyed one beer or a glass of wine on a very occasional basis. No more than one. No problem. Totally under control.
Then in the late summer of 2012 I had something of an identity crisis (mid-life crisis?). I struggled with who I truly was versus who I presented to the world. I would have bad days and painful and sometimes shameful memories would plague me. It caused me to swear and turn to alcohol. I can just hear the Christian say, “Why didn’t you just take every thought captive to Christ and overcome?” To which I would respond, “Where were you when I needed a true friend?”
I began to loathe all the posing that goes on among Christians. I loathed myself for being one of the posers. If I am not a genuine Christian who loves everyone from the overflow of Gods love at work in me, why in the hell would I pretend to be? The pretense nauseated me and I searched for meaning in other things, in hobbies. I renewed some interests I had as a kid. I got into the outdoors. Fishing, hiking, eating wild edible plants, and gardening. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with developing some hobbies! I was long overdo for hobbies other than reading my bible all the time and trying to convert everyone on facebook.)
By December I really got into watching Man vs. Wild. I watched every episode I could and soon discovered why I loved Bear Grylls so much. I learned he is a Christian brother! He, however, was not a religious poser. He seemed real, not afraid to just be himself. He seemed comfortable in his own skin. He would say, “Expect good things from God because God is good.” His faith was simple. His relationship with God was simple. He loved life and took it all in. And so, for better or worse Bear Grylls became my new role model. (I was so into Bear Grylls that some of my very dear friends called me Bear Doogle, and if you’re reading this, it’s ok to still call me that once in a while. The doogle part of it is “Daniel’s google”.)
I read Bear Grylls book “Mud, Sweat, and Tears” and loved it. In the book he mentions his hobby of making cider and home brewing. Thus the inspiration for my taking up this new hobby of home brewing.
But, by this time in my life (in the midst of my identity crisis) alcohol started to become a bigger part of my life. My wife and I would fight about it and I’ll tell you why. I would have my “one” drink on an empty stomach and drink it fast. I would have a tall glass of wine to make sure I would feel it. I would buy beer with more alcoholic content. I would drink alone. I would hide my alcohol so as not to provoke a fight with my wife and sometimes, I would have 2 beers instead of just one <gasp>.
I never viewed it as a problem.
The day I realized it could be a problem (and why) happened when I went on a camping trip with a Christian brother. That whole first day was amazing! We both just gloried in God’s creation and truly experienced the wonder and awe of of it all. We enjoyed ourselves, we enjoyed each others company and conversation, and most of all, we enjoyed God’s fellowship. I could feel the Holy Spirit shining in my heart… and then, I broke out the 6 pack of high alcohol beer, had one, got a buzz and got silly. It was fun, but I couldn’t feel the shining presence of God as much… (I talk more about this later). And then, I had another… and then another, until I made myself sick. I felt nauseous and on the verge of puking all night long and woke up that way too. I was ashamed and regretted bringing alcohol at all.
I will never again abuse alcohol I vowed. Within a week I had the dream and poured it all out.
I decided to take a 6 week break from alcohol (which I did) and then planned to enjoy it responsibly from that point on. Someone might wonder, why not give it up altogether? We not be a teetotaler?
Answer: Because its in my blood. My grandfather on my mothers side was a rum runner during the prohibition. My grandmother on my fathers side was an alcoholic who died getting hit by a truck carrying a case of beer across the street.
OK, while those stories are both true, this isn’t the reason why I refuse to be a teetotaler. The answer is, (and I mean this!) is that this is a freedom in Christ issue and I am taking a stand. We have the right as Christians to eat meat (even brats – pork ones too!) and drink wine and enjoy all the gifts of life that God has given us.
Of course we also carry a tremendous duty to love one another and not make choices in our freedom to offend and cause someone to stumble. As believers we don’t belong to ourselves anymore and must obey our Master Jesus.
When Jesus was here he took the high road of defending the liberty of the Christian life to the great offense of the self righteous religious. He ate meat. He drank wine. His first miracle was to convert water into over 120 gallons of the finest wine the world has ever tasted. Wine was his idea. He doesn’t hate wine or alcohol just because well over half the world abuses it and uses it to hide from God. He has no vendetta against wine any more than he does against sex. Both are gifts to the human race to be enjoyed. If you abuse either, you are glorifying the gift above the giver. It is idolatry.
I told my wife recently, “What if we drank wine for the glory of God? What if we were to submit alcohol and the enjoyment of it to Jesus and his glory?”
But then you go to Bible study and see the guy whose life has been wrecked by an addiction to alcohol there. He comes for the free food and leaves before the annoying talk about Jesus. You sense he is on his way to hell with a drink in his hand and there is nothing you can do about it. He asks you for money and lies about why he needs it. He is an absolute train wreck, all thanks to alcohol.
That is sobering.
And then you hear stories from genuine Christian brothers who had a past with alcohol, who were brought down and wrecked by their addiction, who were then radically set free by Jesus and avoids alcohol like the plague. They can’t imagine what anyone sees in drinking the poison of alcohol.
That is sobering.
And then you hear first hand stories of people whose dads drank and beat them and abused them or even molested them. You hear stories about people who have actually died from alcohol poisoning, or drunk driving or about someone’s alcoholic grandmother who died while crossing the street carrying a case of beer.
That is sobering.
And then you read Scriptures about how drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God and the many strong warnings by God in his word against drunkenness listed here (please read them):
“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” Ephesians 5:18 NLT
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21 NLT
“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” Proverbs 20:1 NLT
“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-13 NLT
“Who has anguish? Who has sorrow?
Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining?
Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns,
trying out new drinks.
31 Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is,
how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down.
32 For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake;
it stings like a viper.
33 You will see hallucinations,
and you will say crazy things.
34 You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea,
clinging to a swaying mast.
35 And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it.
I didn’t even know it when they beat me up.
When will I wake up
so I can look for another drink?” Proverbs 23:29-35 NLT
“What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning
looking for a drink of alcohol
and spend long evenings drinking wine
to make themselves flaming drunk.” Isaiah 5:11 NLT
“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.” Romans 14:21 NLT
“Do not carouse with drunkards
or feast with gluttons,
21 for they are on their way to poverty,
and too much sleep clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21 NLT
“I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:11 NLT
“Now, however, Israel is led by drunks
who reel with wine and stagger with alcohol.
The priests and prophets stagger with alcohol
and lose themselves in wine.
They reel when they see visions
and stagger as they render decisions.” Isaiah 28:7 NLT
“Alcohol is for the dying,
and wine for those in bitter distress.
7 Let them drink to forget their poverty
and remember their troubles no more.” Proverbs 31:6-7 NLT
“Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation. 10 You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean. 11 And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees that the Lord has given them through Moses.” Leviticus 10:8-11 NLT
I LOVE this one:
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine.
Rulers should not crave alcohol.
5 For if they drink, they may forget the law
and not give justice to the oppressed.” Proverbs 31:4-5 NLT
So with all these sobering serious warnings regarding alcohol abuse you would think it would probably be best to never use it at all. Many Christians have, and that is fine if they want to, or are led by the Lord to do that. They have the freedom to abstain, but Christians also have the freedom to partake and enjoy. It is for that freedom I am taking a stand.
When I read through the Bible last time I was surprised at how the Lord put alcohol, when used in it’s proper context, in a good light. This verse was surprising and refreshing regarding instructions to sojourners to Jerusalem for festivals:
“When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household.” Deuteronomy 14:26 NLT
Isn’t that amazing! Feast and celebrate! Let the finest wine you drink and the best meal of your year be in the Lord’s presence with your family, celebrating God’s goodness! God has given us all things to enjoy! We must honor the Lord Jesus in our wine drinking, in eating, in sex, in everything he gives us to enjoy. Honor the giver in every gift he has given.
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17 NKJV
Timothy, to whom the above verse was written, was apparently a teetotaler and was suffering for it. Paul advises him to have some for it’s healthful benefits:
“Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.” 1 Timothy 5:23 NLT
And lets not forget the previously mentioned first miracle of Jesus when he transformed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into the finest nonalcoholic wine the world has ever seen (just seeing if you’re paying attention). You can read about this story in John 2. Do you honestly think Jesus didn’t enjoy some of that wine with his disciples at this wedding celebration? If you think he didn’t, you better think again. He admits to it!
“The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” Luke 7:34-35 NLT
Jesus loves celebrations! He loves people! He loves when we share a glass of wine with family and friends! He is right there with us laughing and sharing our joy!
Is it so inconceivable to imagine that wine isn’t meant for hiding from God but to bring us closer to him and to each other? He is right there in the midst of our celebrations! Why would we shame ourselves? Why impose guilt onto the gift? Why has alcohol become something dark people use to slink off into the shadows away from God?
I am not suggesting that Jesus ever got drunk, but anyone who drinks wine knows the difference between the calm, relaxed, and yes, sometimes silly effects of alcohol and the rip roaring out of your mind drunk. I believe motivation and the state of one’s heart has everything to do with this and whether it is “OK” or not. This is between you and the Lord Jesus. Talk to him about how much is too much or if you should refrain altogether.
On my camping trip for instance. Why would I even question the freedom to enjoy a beer with my friend (providing it wasn’t getting me drunk)? I now believe it was wrong only because of what alcohol had become to me and my habits leading up to that point, this was why that beer became a sin and a snare to me and I’m convinced it was the sin that left me feeling farther from God, not the beer itself. And I should not have had more than one.
The Bible tells us that to the pure, everything is pure.
On that occasion, one beer led to another and another toward drunkenness because beer was not pure to me. It was not offered to the glory of God. It was darkness and an idol.
It doesn’t have to be this way and I believe Jesus wants to redeem the drinking habits of the world and wants people to recognize it for the gift that it is. He wants to take it out of the shadows and into the light. And he most certainly wants to take it off the pedestal in our lives. Piss water is not worth worshiping! If you do, you will soon be bowing before something you piss into (hint: it’s made of porcelain).
Jesus is worth worshiping!
That’s my perspective anyway. I would love to hear yours. Leave a comment!
“You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
14 You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth—
15 wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength.” Psalm 104:15 NLT
Thank you Father, giver of all good gifts!