Assuredly I say unto thee, the controversy in this blog title will generate legendary traffic. Why so? A regular reader will know that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, born-again and awed by his Grace and Mercy. And so in light of that, they may ask themselves, “Did he really once get drunk?” The thing is, I don’t really know. And if my senses don’t give me straight answers, then I’m tempted to say that I did. I narrated the incident to my Bible-study discipleship group and they told me I was borderline, otherwise known as tipsy. Tipsy is conservative talk for drunk. The follower of Christ reading this should take note I intend to derive lessons from my experience to teach a few out there. Here is the story.
I was in my second year in campus. I was dating a beautiful girl whom I would later marry and I was also sharing a class with her. Turi and I both took Spanish for a minor. I have always loved languages, so I never really minded that our class only had three students. I was the only guy in the class. During one semester, the Spanish Embassy had a cocktail at the Ambassador’s residence and they invited our Spanish lecturer. She was at liberty to invite a few close friends as guests. So she invited her three favourite students (*only students) to the fiesta! La casa del Embajador fue bellisima! Some things are just best said in Spanish.
During the cocktail, drinks were served, naturally. The Spanish have a culture of wine and bread. Almost all their foods include these. Apart from the sacrament, I had never indulged in wine. I knew my stand on alcohol and I definitely wasn’t going to try anything tonight. However, I began to contemplate. My church friends were not here. My parents were not here. Besides that, was there anything wrong with trying a glass of that expensive wine? Despite the controversial drinking passages that many readers are posting in the comment box right now, I had a very familiar tug in my Spirit not to try the wine. There was a variety of juices anyway. I knew it was the Holy Spirit. He did not tell me why I shouldn’t partake of it but all he did was say not to. Warning sign number one.
Warning sign number one had no advantage over my desires. I saw several people with wine glasses and I ignored the tug in my heart. A waitress walked by me with two trays- one filled with red wine glasses and another with chilli samosas. With my right hand I grabbed a samosa with a serviette. And the waitress was gone. But, alas! What was this? In my left hand, between my middle and pointing finder lay a cold crystal clear glassy object. It was so round and smooth. I shifted my eyes from the samosa to my left hand. And behold! A wine glass magically forged itself in my hand! Wherever did it come from? I glanced at the waitress who moved along the throng of guests with an empty spot in that tray. I knew I had emptied the spot. The evidence was in my hand. I beheld the sparkling drink and looked around if anyone was watching. Warning sign number two.
Warning sign number two held no advantage over my scheming. I found a lonely, quiet corner in the Ambassador’s house near a grand piano and took in the first sip. I watched my feet. I was still standing. There was no way this could get me drunk, I reckoned. I ventured out into the throng of guests to interact with my glass in hand. I met a few Spaniard ladies with whom I tattled heartily, trying to impress them with my new language. I was rambling Spanish vocabulary here and there and laughing and cracking jokes (as my temperament normally dictates) but after a few more sips, my chatty personality morphed into a melancholic’s- quiet, reserved and very, very sleepy. I located my secret corner by the grand piano and retreated. My girlfriend, Turi, began looking for me. When she found me, she walked up to me and asked me if I was okay. I looked at the glass. I had downed half of it. Warning sign number three.
Warning sign number three jump-started my system and I realized why I needed to stop drinking. I put the glass down, vowing not to take another sip and made it to the bar to grab a bottle of water and a glass of OJ. Turi laughed at me and asked me what in high heaven I was thinking. For the rest of the evening, the Lord revealed a few issues of immaturity in me as a follower of Christ. I will share them below. It is my hope that every believer will grasp at least one key lesson from each warning sign.
Warning sign one: The Holy Spirit and Grey Issues
In warning sign number one, I got the nudging of the Holy Spirit not to take the drink but I ignored it. I have come to realize in areas that we find to be grey in our faith, our defaulting should be the Holy Spirit. If you gave your life to Christ, you understand that the Lord is writing a unique story with you. You realize that there are some instructions He may give you and you need to obey because of your witness. You see, in that cocktail were other students from my university whom I am ministering to today through my blog and my personal time. The Holy Spirit recently spoke to me that had I continued with that glass of wine, my testimony would be compromised. While not everyone would judge you for expressing your liberties, many would remain unconvinced that your God is true when you compromise on grey issues. Some of them are not Christians but they strongly believe that a genuine follower of Jesus should not drink- period. My job is not to disprove them with hermeneutics on the difference between “getting drunk” versus “drinking”. To them, one gets drunk by drinking and Biblical exegesis only looks like a self-justifying carnal Christian. If that is what it takes for them to see the truth of the gospel, I gladly place my wine glass down. When I saw the bigger picture, I stopped arguing about whether Jesus used alcohol or grape juice. If you stand for Christ, beloved, some arguments about how short your skirt is, what movies are you watching and why Noah got drunk should easily be dismissed by the Holy Spirit. The contexts of our liberties need more attention than the contents of our liberties. You see, we may defend our liberties, but if they are at the expense of the witness of Christ, then we prove ourselves to be foolish. Wine will always be served on Spanish tables and they will take it culturally (and it is not sinful) but a man like Ernest can use the excuse of culture to indulge the desire of the flesh (and that is sinful).
Often I have found that Christians who insist on their liberties that affect the witness of their faith, ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I’ve listened to many “my body”, “my rules”, “my decisions” and “your problem” arguments and they profit nothing for the Kingdom of God- if anything they tear it down. They discredit the gospel many a times. A false gospel to an unbeliever can be countered by the truth, but a discredited gospel is rejected by the unbeliever despite it being true. And often the Christian may believe that their hearts are genuine. And I agree. Our hearts can be genuine when debating Christian liberties but they can be genuinely wrong. The word says in Proverbs 14:12 “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” The word of God is saying that we can be sure that we are doing the right thing but we can be surely wrong.
You see, even when we don’t understand what to do, the Holy Spirit’s conviction in us never fails. The Holy Spirit will tell young pastor Timothy through Paul the apostle to drink wine for his stomach ailments (1st Timothy 5:23) but the same Holy Spirit will tell young men in Proverbs that wine is a mocker that leads many astray and makes them unwise (Proverbs 20:1). In both contexts the Spirit is speaking but the heart and motive of man is totally different. Both Timothy and the Proverbs 20 man will sip the wine but only the latter will face the judgement of God for his sin. I learnt that one has to read the Word of God holistically to benefit from it spiritually as opposed to picking individual verses that justify their lifestyle. Christ calls us to conform our lifestyle to his Word and not re-formulate His word to fit our lifestyle. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for the man of God but also all scripture can be man-breached and detrimental for the very man. When the Holy Spirit speaks, Beloved, you know he is speaking. And, Beloved, we can feign emotion and claim that the Holy Spirit has spoken when he has not. We can deceive ourselves in grey issues because the Bible says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9). Well, Ernest, you say, how can I tell if I am lying to myself? The answer: watch the quality of your intimacy with God. When followers of Jesus sin, we don’t lose our relationship with our father but we lose the quality of our intimacy with Him. Lesson one: The Holy Spirit has no grey issues. The desires of the flesh escalate in many arguments that ignore the Lord but the fruit of the Spirit grows in the soil of obedience.
Warning sign two: I’m human
The generic response of many Christians today after they sin is “I’m human” or “only God can judge me.” That kind of response is worrying because of three things: There is no Biblical repentance, it shows a mediocrity in spirituality and it reveals an absence of the need to grow. If you are genuinely born-again, stop using “I’m human” as an excuse to walk in the flesh and start using “I’m saved” as a reason to walk in the Spirit. The word of God says in Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” One clear sign of a follower of Jesus Christ is their inclination to the Spirit’s desires. Why? The inner-man is renewed when he/she is born again. When you have a constant inclination to the desires of the flesh (mostly characterized by insisting on worldly standards) you should be worried and review your relationship with Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 that many who think they have a ticket to heaven will be surprised when he rejects them; they had no real relationship with him. If you read Matthew 7, you notice that the people are what we would say today to be church-going folks who may go for gospel concerts, update, “God is good” on Facebook but are living in unrepentant sin. The phrases “I’m human”, “only God can judge me”, “don’t judge me” and “God told me” are frequently used to put up a wall when scriptures on holiness and eternity are mentioned. They say “God is love.” True. But remember that God is also Holy. Our opinions do no change God’s character- He is who He says He is. These churchy phrases don’t confirm one’s salvation; they only bring confusion about whether one is saved or not and stall one’s salvation if one is not born again. If you unrepentantly abuse your liberties as a Christian, you don’t lose your salvation/ relationship with God, instead you merely show confirm whether you have one with him or not. Jesus said if we love him we would keep His commands. Jesus also explained why people act this way. He said in John 3:17-19:
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. “There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God. Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
And if you find yourself deep in the sin after ignoring the spirit’s prompting and then blame God, always remember this verse:
Proverbs 19:3 “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.”
Warning sign number three: remember who you are
I pray that if you are caught in a compromising situation like I was, you may remember who you are. And if you know who you are you will know you need to put the glass down, you need to switch off that TV program, you need to stop keeping certain company, you need to stop fighting where God is instructing because…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1st Peter 2:9).
Your identity in the Kingdom of God should let you realize that royalty does not act like poverty. You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2nd Corinthians 8:9).