Drink But Don’t Get Drunk?

Is drinking alcohol a sin?

For the Christian, drunkenness is a sin and not to be pursued in any way. Period. It’s not expected of a man or woman to be under the influence of alcohol and be without self-control. Both the Old and New Testament are crystal clear on the subject matter so the problem isn’t so much as to whether drunkenness is acceptable or not; the issue really is whether or not it’s permissible for Christians to drink in moderation. Is it okay to drink but not get drunk? Well, let’s get on with it.

Nowhere in scripture are we told that drinking alcohol is sinful. However, there’s a lot of admonition on how we handle alcoholic beverages. King Solomon described wine as a “mocker” and a “brawler” because of the havoc it wreaked on people’s marriages, families, friendships etc. He was right. Alcohol is very addictive and can have disastrous effects on us. It has the potential to impair one’s judgment often leading to unrestrained behaviours. Already, it’s a struggle to keep ourselves in check even under perfectly sane conditions. MORE GRACE! *looking up to God*. Throwing alcohol into the mix, to me, is like trying to quench fire with petrol. Many people have suffered serious health problems, relationship troubles and premature deaths due to excessive drinking. In US alone, nearly 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related incidents (check link). Don’t get me wrong. Alcohol isn’t inherently bad. As a matter of fact, God told the people of Israel that they could exchange their tithes with money and use it to buy whatever they liked INCLUDING wine or other fermented drink (see Deuteronomy 14). The Psalmist said that God brings forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man. As I said earlier, drinking isn’t sin but how we handle it determines whether it’s going to be beneficial or harmful to us.

It’s always been my fear that one may cross the line and do something regrettable in their attempt to drink in moderation. I feel like it’s the same story with the many alcoholics out there. They probably intended to drink only soberly but unfortunately became mastered by their booze. It’s one of the many reasons I for one prefer to stay away from alcohol because it’s very addictive plus I can’t really trust myself on staying within limits. But it’s not just about you or me. It’s not so much about knowing our alcohol intake limits. We need to be very mindful of how our actions affect the people around us. Jesus was really strict with the warning against causing others to sin. He said, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come BUT WOE TO THE PERSON THROUGH WHOM THEY COME!” It means you’re not only responsible for your actions but also how your actions affect and influence others. Apostle Paul also addressed this same issue of causing others to stumble in most of the letters he wrote. In Romans 14, Paul spoke against eating or drinking or doing anything lawful in a manner that might cause another person to stumble. Oh yes! It’s very possible to do lawful things unlawfully. Eating meat was offensive to the new converts then even though meat in itself wasn’t sinful (they perceived meat as something sacrificed to idols). According to Paul, it was wise for the strong Christians to abstain altogether from eating meat if it was going to hurt someone’s conscience and by extension cause that individual to sin. Paul expected the believers who are strong in faith to apply this same wisdom in their dealing with alcohol. It makes a lot of sense considering the fact that we’re examining the lives of people who prior to salvation performed religious acts of worship to gods in a drunken state. It means most of them were probably drunkards and you sure didn’t want to in anyway reintroduce them to what once a heavyweight in their lives. There’s absolutely no greater love than this: that we do nothing to offend or weaken our neighbor’s faith no matter how permissible or lawful that thing in question may be.

It appears to me that there’s a lot of controversy over the subject of Jesus turning water into wine in the New Testament (see John 2). First of all, if you’re wondering whether Jesus drank wine or not, He probably did. In Luke 7, Christ Himself said He came eating and drinking and the religious leaders tried to launch sham attacks at him by calling him a glutton and a drunkard. In addition to that, wine was used during the Last Supper prior to Christ’s crucifixion. In all these occasions, you can say Jesus probably took in some wine. Ok, so you want to use those instances to excuse your drunkenness? Don’t get it twisted! Nothing about what transpired in any of those instances should endorse anyone to indulge in alcoholism. Wine in those times was quite indispensable in their culture. It was often served alongside meals at home and at ceremonial functions. It had a lesser alcoholic content as compared to what we have in modern times (the process of distillation we use today increases the alcohol content). And what amazes me is the fact that there was the strong urge to drink soberly in an era where drunkenness was a hard feat to achieve. Bruh! you had to chug down lots of wine before you could become intoxicated…an unfortunately easy achievable feat in our time. Anyway, it was pretty hard to do away with wine considering the fact that it was the best healthy liquid alternative they had in a community with little or no safe drinking water. Furthermore, wine had its healthful benefits in the past (as it does in modern times too). Do you remember when Paul instructed Timothy to no longer drink water but use a little wine for the sake of his stomach? Exactly! Paul wasn’t trying to contradict the bible’s warning against intoxication. He urged Timothy to use wine to treat the ailment in his stomach. The fact that Jesus made more wine available at a wedding feast or Timothy drank a little wine for the sake of his stomach doesn’t mean it’s license for anyone to be hooked on to alcoholic beverages. Bible frowns on drunkenness that leads to dissipation – uncontrolled speech and actions – and anyone involved in such illicit acts (according to scripture) would have no place in heaven.

In my opinion, I wish everyone would go with abstinence. It isn’t because abstaining from drinking wine will draw one closer to God. No. Your abstention or involvement in moderate drinking will not make you less/more righteous before God. I just feel abstinence is a better choice looking at the rate at which drunk driving, homicide, sexual assault, violence and other alcohol-related incidents occur. It may not be you or I engaging in these dangerous activities but is it really worth it to lead someone else astray just so we can enjoy some few glasses of wine? We shouldn’t shrug our shoulders and whisper ‘well that’s their problem’ under our breath. If we’re really concerned about the well-being of others, it shouldn’t be a big deal to relinquish our right to do certain things. Not to spite you dear reader, but it’s not like anyone became deficient in vitamins or mineral salts because they did away with alcohol. All I’m saying is we shouldn’t be too keen on wanting to exercise our freedom to either satisfy our personal convictions or prove that we are at liberty to do lawful things. Paul gave up his rights to do so many things just so he could bring salvation to many. I believe it was very tough for him but he rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the propagation of the Good News of Christ. No matter what, love must always lead.

When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said that the first was to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. And that we ought to love our neighbours as ourselves. It’s my sincere prayer that whatever choice(s) we make with respect to drinking wine brings peace and mutual edification to the glory of God. May God grace us with the needed wisdom so that the exercise of our freedom doesn’t hinder the gospel of Christ. Let’s do what we do for the sake of the gospel, so that many may share in its blessings.

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About Christians and The Issue of Music

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Conflicts over music is not a present-day struggle among Christians of today. From time immemorial, the church has been divisive over the issue of choice of music. Back in high school, I had a friend who vehemently protested against the use of musical instruments in the church because he believes it is paganistic and unbiblical. You probably know of folks who are deeply acquainted with old hymns that any other form of music appears to be ‘devil-inspired’ to them. In our time, many Christians divide mostly on 2 key things with respect to music and that will be my focus:

  • Should a Christian listen to “secular” music?
  • Are all music styles (focus is more on Christian Rap, Pop and Rock music) acceptable for a Christian to consume or not?

Music is not inherently bad. As a matter of fact, music is one of the good and perfect gifts from God to man. It forms an essential part of our human life and that’s the more reason I even decided to talk about it. But like any other gift that is susceptible to abuse, music is no exception. If a song can comfort a broken heart, produce a therapeutic effect in a sick individual or unite people from different backgrounds then I bet the effect of music on us cannot be overemphasized. As a Christian, it is just right to evaluate the songs we listen to using biblical principles. If God indeed gave the gift of music to man, it is only right for man to go back to God if he needs more information on what has been given to him. So let’s go ahead and examine music under God’s light.

The first thing I want us to look at is the reason behind any composed song. Every artiste surely has an aim for producing a particular song. I know of musicians whose songs inform and educate society tremendously on various issues of life. There are others who delight only in entertaining their listeners. In the Bible, music was used to achieve various purposes. For example:

  • Music was used to offer worship to God or idols
  • Music was used to announce wars as well as celebrate war victories (2 Chronicles 20:26-28)
  • Music was used during the crowning of kings (1 Kings 1:39-40)
  • Music was used in soothing troubled souls (1 Samuel 16:16-23)

My point is, music composition has never been coincidental, there’s always a purpose underlying its production. But the question deepens more for us Christians: Does the purpose of the music in question agree with the entire counsel of scripture? Does the song bring glory and honor or shame to God’s name? I don’t care about the quality of the song or the depth of info it’s got to feed people with. But it makes mention of God’s name and teaches me some good values in life. Good eh? John Bevere will be extremely glad to tell you that it wasn’t the EVIL side of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Eve was drawn to but the GOOD side. My friend, whether God’s name appears a 100 times in the song or the music encourages you to be determined in life or be content with what you have, you must desist from songs that fail to please God’s heart. The fact that something looks good, feels good or sounds good doesn’t mean it’s submitted to God.

What intrigues me most is when Christians ask if it is okay to listen to songs filled with swear words. Like how do you for a second think swear words are acceptable in God’s sight? It doesn’t matter if the song expresses godly values such as purity, honesty, integrity, forgiveness, love, etc. Dirty, silly talk doesn’t fit the Christian lifestyle. It’s not our dialect! The Bible admonishes us to be gracious in our speech so that we can bring out the best in others. I don’t even have to waste more space explaining to you why it is wrong for believers to entertain songs laced with swear words. They’ll set you off a downhill slide into more filthiness and eventually leave you pretty messed up.

Don’t listen to music for listening sake. Scrutinize the content of the message it carries across. I’ve reached a point in my life where I ask myself these questions: what is there to learn from this song I’m listening to? How does it stir my emotions? What does it make me worship? What kind of mood does it create for me as a child of God? Does it stimulate pride or humility within me? Does it make me calm or aggressive? Does it encourage me to engage in social vices? Does it make me yearn more for a closer relationship with God, friends, family and loved ones? You see, music is a strong force (positive or negative) that moves the listener to dance to its tune so it’s important to figure out what exactly the song is trying to communicate to you. I was in this group chat with a friend and he made an interesting comment concerning this ‘music issue’. He said that you may come across a very powerful, inspirational song about a guy fighting every battle to win the heart of the love of his life…and then you look at the music video and it’s the total opposite. He’s besieged by naked women dancing all around him and you’re left in your own small corner to wonder if he’s the same guy who promised another lady to be his one and only. Don’t take music for granted. Unfortunately, some believers have retrogressed to immorality because of the kind of songs they entertain in their lives. You can’t blame them. Like I said, music can shape the thought patterns of an individual, affecting how they perceive and live life. Music engages your entire faculties and that’s why it makes sense for us to saturate ourselves with songs rich in noble, reputable, authentic and gracious things.

Now, let’s turn our attention to music forms. It just so happens that some genres of music invoke an unpleasant atmosphere in certain parts of our world. But does that make that music style in question bad in a general sense? The fact that an open palm, fingers-up gesture is offensive in Greece and not in Ghana or any other country in West Africa should tell us that the gesture is never the problem – the interpretation of the gesture rather is the issue. Greeks find that particular gesture offensive because it reminds them of how people smeared the faces of criminals with faecal matter as they marched them through town. However, an open palm gesture has no such connotation in Ghana. Nobody needs you to be careful to hand-signal the number 5 to someone in Africa because you won’t be offending anyone with that gesture. All I’m trying to say is there may be nothing wrong with the song style in question, but its mere connection to an awful historical event can make it unsuitable for consumption by an individual or a group of people. I know people who eschew Gospel rap music. Their reason for not patronizing Gospel rap is that rap invokes scenes of violence and profanity. They’d rather feel comfortable listening to another music form – and that’s totally fine. I do understand them because majority of the rap music out there propagates very nasty images such as immorality, language perversion, vengeance, egotism, racism, sexism, glorification of drugs and so forth. Does it mean rap music is entirely wrong because of its past association? Not at all! You cannot accept or reject a claim by basing your facts solely on someone’s/something’s history or source and overlooking its current meaning or context. It’s illogical to presume that all who continue with the rap tradition are promoting violence just like it’s illogical for anyone to shun a VW beetle car just because Adolf Hitler was the one who ordered its development. Please understand this: A genre of a song is different from its message. A genre of a song is like a blank canvas waiting for a picture – it’s what you paint on it (your message) that matters most. The likes of Andy Mineo, Trip Lee and Lecrae equally preach the gospel and speak against negative cultural attitudes contrary to the principles of Christ using this same rap form and make great, positive impact in people’s lives. Why? The answer lies in the painting (message) they put on their canvas (rap music). As someone said, the point of music is not that you have music and you want to adorn it with words, but rather that you have a message and want to adorn it with music. A musician can decide to adorn his/her song words with any music style of his/her choice. It’s the message that counts. However, not all of us are at the same level of understanding in this. Of course, perceptions don’t change overnight so I’m not expecting anyone to embrace this truth within a space of 10mins or 24hrs. It’s a gradual process. In the meantime, don’t try to force a particular style of music in a place where it is unwelcoming just because it glorifies God. No matter how truth-honoring and God-pleasing the message of the song is, it can still create a negative environment for people who haven’t come to the realization of that truth yet and you’ll make it extremely difficult for them to express true worship to God. Be very sensitive so you don’t end up sending the masses away from God. Understand your audience, choose the suitable music style and allow yourself and everyone else to worship God in spirit and in truth. After all, your abstention or involvement in a particular genre of songs does not change God’s attitude towards you, it changes your attitude towards God (positive or negative).

Let me say something real quick here. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8 that God does care a lot when we use our freedom carelessly in a way that leads a vulnerable person to be thrown off track completely. I say this in relation to the argument we make concerning secular music. Well, I won’t deny the fact there are very good, inspirational secular songs out there. This is my major problem with listening to those songs. Most of the artistes who compose these wonderful songs also compose profane songs. Now tell me, if you heard someone listening to a profane song by one of these artistes, on what grounds will you stand to tell that person that it’s wrong to listen to that artiste or song in question? Do you get my point? It complicates everything. All things are lawful but not everything is spiritually appropriate so if I were you, I’d be willing to give up anything that creates a stumbling block for people. Don’t let your personal preference prevail over your love for your neighbour. 

Never ever underestimate the power of music. It reaches your inner being, stirs your emotions up strongly and eventually molds you to become whatever it constantly feeds your senses with. AS A MAN THINKETH, SO IS HE. Let’s be very discerning when it comes to the songs we entertain in our lives. If it in no way glorifies God, please do away with it. It’s that simple! Stay away from songs that glorify what God opposes and opposes what glorifies God. A word to the wise is enough!

 

 

 

Why is God Violent in the Old Testament but Loving in the New Testament?

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A misconception appears to prevail that God in the Old Testament is very stern and judgmental while He appears to be very soft and forgiving in the New Testament. In his book, Farewell to God, atheist Charles Templeton says:The God of the Old Testament is utterly unlike the God believed in by most practicing Christians” stating that “His justice is, by modern standards, outrageous…He is biased, querulous, vindictive and jealous of His prerogatives.” There are others who are of the view that the God of the OT (Yahweh) is entirely different from the Christian God of the NT. In other words, the Bible presents us with entirely two different Gods and that probably accounts for the difference in their personality traits. I’ll be very honest with you. I’ve also questioned myself a few times concerning this touchy subject. So I decided to do some research here and there and I’ve finally concluded that there’s absolutely NO DIFFERENCE between the nature of God expressed in the Old and the New Testament. Yes! God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The supposed difference one sees with respect to God’s image has got to do with the dispensation and relationship one finds himself/herself in relation to God. Follow me closely as I state and elaborate on the reasons for my stance on the subject matter.

 

To begin with, God is immutable – He DOES NOT change. God does not switch moods like humans. For Him to change His nature at any point in time would mean He’s either changing from worse to better or from better to worse which is highly impossible! The apostle James explained this truth using an interesting phenomenon. He referred to God as the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. The analogy is that God is fixed in His position like the sun constantly giving off light to the Earth. Day and night only occur because of the Earth’s movement and not that of the sun – the sun doesn’t ever move. God, like the sun, only appears to ‘rise’ and ‘set’ with time but in reality, WE ARE the ones who like planet Earth’s movement, determine what we receive from God.

 

Quite a number of biblical references in the Old Testament tag God as a pitiless and bloodthirsty being who takes pleasure in our pain and suffering. So non-theists and skeptics for example, draw out historical accounts such as (not limited to) the Genesis Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the mass killing of women and children and The Destruction of Jericho as concrete evidence to affirm their claims. But here is the thing: God in the OT is full of wrath and very tyrannical only if you analyze these historical accounts at a surface level. Upon deeper examination, there’s a lot more important aspects to these stories we so easily overlook and that is exactly the point where God is seen for who He truly is. Funnily  enough, our thoughts about God differs vastly from the testimonies of those who were closely associated with Him. People like Abraham, Moses, David and Jonah held different opinions of who God is (positive ones of course). Please turn your Bible to the book of Exodus 34:6-7 as a starter and read it out loud:

6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord! the Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth,

7 Keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, BUT Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

This is how God introduced Himself to Moses in the Old Testament. At the mountain top, God told Moses that His grace, mercy and loving-kindness were extremely plentiful and over-sufficient in supply. Action speaks louder than words, right? Well, I’ll go right ahead to cite some few examples to support who God says He is. Cain was one of the first men to experience God’s loving-kindness even after He murdered Abel in cold blood. God had every right to punish Him by death but rather, He stalled the punishment and put a mark on Cain as a form of protection from anyone who sought to kill him. Talk about God’s grace towards Nineveh. These people were exceedingly sinful and God’s anger burned strongly against them. Yet God didn’t wish to see any of them get destroyed. So He sent Jonah to warn them against their immoral acts. Jonah made an interesting statement which is key to the revelation of God’s character. He said: “God! I knew it – when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen!… I knew you were full of grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment to a program of forgiveness!  Amazing! I didn’t read this portion of scripture from Mark’s epistle or any other New Testament book. This is directly from the Old Testament passage (Jonah 4:2)! If you read the story further, you’ll learn that Jonah was rather furious with God for being ‘all too nice’ with the people of Nineveh. Imagine that! Do spend some time to read the whole book of Hosea. You’ll be INCREDIBLY ASTONISHED at the level of patience God has for mankind. But do all these actions seem to be in stark contrast to the brutal killings recorded in the books of old? Well, allow me to use the Genesis Flood story to make my point that God is not less loving in the OT. At a point in time in the history of mankind, sin went out of control. God was heartbroken because of increased sin in the world and therefore decided to rid the earth of every living creature. However, Noah won favor in God’s eyes and this compassionate, slow-to-anger God provided a means  of the salvation for  mankind: Noah’s Ark. Here is what we easily miss out on when we read this account. God did not only help Noah build this huge ark to save himself and his family from the pending flood, He actually made Noah a preacher of righteousness and salvation to the other inhabitants who were still living in sin (2 Peter 2:5). Dear reader, God was very gracious then! God created an opportunity for these evil, rebellious people to repent and be saved from their sins while they were champion sinners. According to this article, it took Noah about 75 years to construct the Ark meaning that these stiff-necked people were exposed to the message of salvation for as long as 75 years! But what did they do with it? They laughed at Noah (probably thought of him as a delusional being) and rejected God’s grace. How do you possibly blame God for your misfortunes when you despise His very grace that pardons? Throughout the OT passages, God sends people after people (it could be angels, prophets, etc) to warn man against the consequence of sin before He metes out any judgment. God’s free grace grants us enough space and time so that we can come to Him, repent and turn away from evil. However, this free grace is not cheap and as such has  grave consequences that come with undervaluing it.

 

Another reason that tends to make one feel that God was very merciless in the OT but non-violent in the NT is the manner in which God executed judgment in both eras. It’s  very easy to assume that God’s punishment for lawbreakers then was stricter than it is in the NT. I won’t deny the fact that the detailed description of the unpleasant events that befell law offenders of the old have the ability to make us question where God’s wrath is in our day. In the OT…

  • King David lost his child because he committed adultery.
  • The sons of Eliab (Dathan and Abiram) were swallowed up into the bowels of the earth when they rebelled against Moses and God.
  • God sent poisonous snakes among the people of Israel in the wilderness for complaining.
  • Uzzah was struck dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant

Yet we don’t hear these kind of news among sinful believers today. No wiping  out of a city or a nation. No worms eating up our flesh. So God has mellowed eh? Or the common phrase from our mouths is ‘Thank God for abundant grace or else God would have directed a bolt of lightning at you FAST!’ We make it sound as though the measure of God’s Grace has increased in modern times. Well, the problem isn’t with God’s grace because the same measure of grace that existed during the time of the prophets and kings is the same measure of grace that abounds today. What we need to understand here is that the context in which God deals with mankind now is way different from the OT times. God only appears to be more gracious and merciful in the New Testament because of the Cross. Christ’s death on the cross was the perfect, ultimate sacrifice that paid our sin debt completely (once and for all) and offered forgiveness to all mankind. God was never pleased with the year-after-year sacrifice and offerings of the  old although that was the only way man could atone for his sins. Animal blood couldn’t fulfill the full requirements of the Law but Jesus blood did.  Let me quickly add that this is definitely not a permission for us to trifle with God’s grace. To think that we can keep on sinning because God can keep on forgiving is a deadly lullaby we must resist. God’s forgiveness is meant to lead us to repentance not sinfulness. Also, don’t forget that the Cross equally reveals God’s utmost displeasure towards sin. Because of God’s infinitely holy character and the nature of the ultimate sacrifice made by Christ, the punishment for sin which is hell is very horrific. Make no mistake! God is full of both wrath and love therefore never think His compassion for anyone will forbid Him from exercising righteous judgment. Do you think God will overlook sin when He Himself did not spare His own son from paying the ultimate price of sin on the cross? Jesus’ sacrifice satisfied God’s justice but it doesn’t rule out the fact that anyone who willfully tramples upon God’s free gift of salvation treasures up for themselves unimaginable wrath on the final day of judgment.

 

I’ve always wondered how non-theists manage to raise up arguments against the character of God. Please how do you accuse God of being a cosmic bully when you deny His existence in the first place? How do you even go ahead to bring up the issue of good vs evil when you outrightly deny objective moral reasoning? You can’t possibly call God evil if you believe in subjective moral reasoning where everything is at the mercy of one’s personal preference.

 

The extent and degree of God’s feelings for His creation in times past has never been different from what He feels for His creation today. The Bible is crystal clear on the fact that God is a perfect, unchangeable God. His perfection makes it highly impossible for someone of His caliber to be more/less gracious, kind, holy, just, merciful, pure etc than He is now. You don’t need to be bothered about God’s mood at any time because He does not change. What’s more important is that we establish the right relationship with Him. As simple as that. Someone put it nicely by saying: “Fire can burn. Fire can also provide warmth and comfort. It all depends on where we stand in relationship to the flame.” It’s the same with God. Your position in relation to Him will determine the kind of blessings or curses you’ll receive from Him. Before God, you stand as either His elect or His enemy. Today, I plead with you to make the right choice and enjoy His overflowing goodness.