The Bible Made Plain

Everything You Wanted to Know About Alcohol Use (But Didnt Know What to Ask)

 

Seven months ago, as I write this, I visited a doctor. I was a new patient to her. After checking my blood pressure, she asked me, ‘Do you take alcohol?’ Apparently, the silver lining on her sphygmomanometer was not at the pink level.

‘Moderately’, I answered.

She shook her head. Not just because she thought it was bad for my pressure and could lead my body to a premature closure, but also because she thought it could put my soul to eternal coma. I knew her background. She had many years earlier converted to pentecostalism from her traditional episcopalian church.

‘There’s no prohibition for alcohol use in my church,’ I told her, in response to the shaking of her head, ‘as long as we don’t overuse it.’

But she shook her hoary head with more firmness. ‘Any church that allows its members to drink just cannot be a true church’, she emphatically said.

‘But the Bible says it’s ok if one drank in temperance’, I reasoned.

‘The Bible nowhere says it’, she corrected me. ‘Jesus used grape juice, not fermented wine.’

I knew that line of argument. It’s true the contents of Jesus’ cup at the Last Supper is translated ‘fruit of the vine’, a term which includes grapes, grape juice, and raisins for pentecostals, and which means only ‘wine’ for the winos. If she was right, then even drinking grape juice is not the best thing for Christians, because the Pharisees and Sadducees accused Jesus of being a ‘grape juice bibber’, which is how this doctor and her fellow believers read Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34.

‘The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber’.

And if we use that line of argument in reading Paul’s instruction to Titus in his epistle about admonishing the older women in the church, it is also not good for senior Christian ladies to drink too much grape juice – but obviously it’s ok for our mamas if they drink it in Godly moderation.

‘But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine, that…the older woman…that they be…not given to much wine [‘should not be over-fond of wine’ (Phillips); ‘They must not be heavy drinkers’ (NLT)]’   Ti 2:1-3

But there is another hole in her scriptural premise. If Jesus was so averse to drinking wine, then the barrelsful of liquid he made at Cana was no mere heavenly cider. It is translated from the Greek word which means the real stuff, as all Bible versions agree. So the Lord didn’t mind being responsible for making others at banquets a little tipsy with wine while he himself refrained from it. That, for me, is more difficult to swallow than a piece of whale meat.

I have taken grape juice innumerable times, and it quenched my thirst and it satiated my tummy’s desire for a delicious drink, but never once did this juice, even of the finest grapes from the best vineyards of California, was able to gladden my heart or make cheery my mind.  But the Psalmist says God made wine which ‘gladdens the heart of man’ just as he made oil to smooth his skin, and bread to strengthen him. (Ps 105:15) The Message version says, ‘wine to make people happy’. When his children are happy, God the Father is even happier.

But I did not put forth all these theological arguments to the busy doctor. I just said, ‘The Bible says you can take real strong liquor’. In righteous indignation she declared, ‘No. In all my years of Bible study, I have never seen any scripture saying that. And if I see one, I will change my belief.’

For a woman of her denomination to say that she would change her belief is the equivalent of a Shiite Moslem saying he would be willing to drink Guinness beer. I told her I will get back to her with that passage.

After I got home, I found that passage, wrote it on a slip of paper, put it in an envelope, went back to her clinic, and not having the heart to confront the venerable doctor directly, handed it to her assistant with the firm instruction, ‘This is important, and the doctor is waiting for it’.

On my next visit, she did not broach the subject and I wisely did not anywhere try to revive it. As far as I know, she still attends her pentecostal church, and the glaring Biblical evidence I handed her did not convince she may occasionally allow her heart to be gladdened with this beverage.

So is it ok for a Christian to drink in moderation? It surely is, from every Scriptural angle. But is it best for every Christian to drink even in moderation? Now, that’s a different question altogether.

There are far more passages in the Bible about the deadly consequences of drinking than there are about the merry effects of wining. It means, the chances are higher for the average Christian – unless he is constantly in the very presence of Jesus, like the disciples were – to become less of a Christ follower by drinking than by not drinking.

I was a beer and brandy guzzling Christian for several decades before I overcame my addiction. So I think my judgment on the effects of moderate drinking can be trusted for your guidance and encouragement, as what I am writing here is based on my own sobering experiences.

By the way, I am not going into the health aspects of drinking. If drinking is injuring a person physically in any way, and his doctor has proscribed it for him, he should never drink under any circumstances. If he does, he is damaging not just his body but the temple of God which he should always maintain in excellent condition to his utmost capability. He would then be sinning against his Savior who redeemed his body, soul, and spirit together.

But the emotional and spiritual aspects of what drinking does to one’s mind is my concern here.

Ethanol, the organic spirit that is commonly called alcohol, even in a small quantity, as soon as it is absorbed into the blood transforms a person’s emotional state. A few minutes into sipping the beverage, he begins to feel a pleasant and warm sensation sweeping over his whole body starting from his toe tips and racing all the way to his scalp. This is the state of the mind the Bible calls ‘a merry heart’. This is the purpose of serving alcohol at banquets. Even a normally morose Pharisee would cheer up after a couple of goblets. Being cheerful in a Godly festive situation is what our Creator wants us to be. This is why Jesus bibbed wine at the feasts he attended. As a cheery celebrator of weddings, he even must have enjoyed the wine he made from water at Cana.

Because the ancient chosen people of God had difficulty in getting exuberant about God’s festivals without being fueled by some external spirit of cheer, God gave them a command so his people cannot have any excuse not to be happy at his ordained celebrations:

‘Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink [‘strong drink’ – King James Version], or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.’   Dt 14:26 NIV

That was the verse I passed on to the Godfearing, but not Biblically very thorough, doctor.

If you are a normal Christian satisfied with your normal relationship with God, it is a good thing to enjoy wine or bourbon or margarita at events where God’s people assemble and celebrate his festivals. Because you are surrounded by believers, your chances of doing something unChristian, such as getting drunk, at such places is remote.

But even in such safe situation as drinking in the company of other believers, some people tend to carry their induced exhilarations into their daily home life. I used to attend one of God’s festivals with a church for many years. True to the recommendation in Deuteronomy, we enjoyed wine and other fermented drinks, including the local arrack. The preachers drank with us, the preachers’ wives drank with the laymen’s wives, the deacons poured drink into the members’ glasses, and everyone was happy and cheery in God’s presence. We always had a great festival every year. But one member I knew, to whom I used to pour out a peg or two myself, was slowly getting addicted, unbeknownst to the rest of the members. The last time I saw him at the festival, I invited him along with some other close members to my room, and poured out the merrymaker as usual. The next morning, the pastor came to me and told me, with a mild rebuke in his tone: I should never offer that member another drink. The member’s wife had complained to him that her husband was given some brandy by me, when he had been diagnosed with serious liver problem. I had not been aware of his condition. I apologized and promised never to invite him for another cheery session in my room.

This member had taken to drinking excessively, a habit unwittingly encouraged by church doctrine, and his liver was affected as a result. He died about two years after I poured him the last drink.

Had the church never allowed its members to drink, this dear friend of mine might have been alive today. Is it the church’s fault, then? Absolutely not! If it is, then it is Moses’ fault even more for writing such verses which gave the church the authority to sanction Godly use of alcohol.

The point is, not every Christian should drink, even if it is Biblically sanctioned. Some people should not even sip a drop of anything that’s even mildly fermented under any circumstances. Others should always exercise the utmost alertness and wisdom when using this liberty.

Especially, if you are a minister of Christ – a preacher, a pastor, a deacon, or some other church leader whom people look up to for counsel and instruction from God’s Word – you should be extremely wary of taking alcohol even in moderation. You were chosen to a position of leadership in God’s church because you fulfill the conditions for stewardship of God’s flock:

‘If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine…’   1 Tm 3:1-3 The Message

If a church leader is very fond of wine, he stands the risk of providing his congregation with some spirit-diluted or watered down counsels because of a slightly dilated brain.

While it is ok for him to drink occasionally in moderation at other times, it is absolutely forbidden by God for a preacher or priest to have even a least amount of alcohol in his blood when he goes before his congregation to give a sermon or conduct a church service.

‘Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.” ’   Lv 10:8-11

Even a single sip of cabernet will put the preacher at risk of saying the wrong word, or in the least, of not being able to use the best word in his message to God’s people.

But if you want to be an extra-vigilant servant of Christ in God’s sight, then it may perhaps be better to get rid of even your inclination to drink occasionally!

‘Kings and leaders should not get drunk or even WANT to drink. Drinking makes you forget your responsibilities’   Pr 31:4-5 CEV

That’s because an utmost minister of the Lord is an overseer of God’s precious little flock not only when he is standing in the pulpit, or at the altar, but 60 x 60 x 24 x 7 (inspired by the grocery store near my home which displays ‘24 x 7’ to say it is open all the time) – every second of his life! Even a little bit of light beer in his system can affect his thinking ability to that minuscule extent. In God’s sight, he who is faithful in the infinitesimal is faithful even in the infinite (see what Christ said about this in Matthew 5:19 and Luke 16:10).

Again, if you have faith that you can be extra-vigilant even while you take a draft or two of lager, enjoy!

Both God and Satan watches more attentively the person who drinks than the person who does not drink. The One always desiring his child will never let go of his alertness for a fraction of a second, and the other always hoping his targeted prey will make just one tiny slip through which he can wiggle in a toehold onto the person’s thoughts. Tragically, many wellknown servants of God did slip enough for the devil to sneak into their thoughts for a few moments – enough to wreak havoc not only in their own lives but the lives of their descendants generation after generation. Let me tell you three true stories, two from the Bible and one from recent history.

Noah, after being adrift on water for a year, planted a vineyard among his first acts on solid earth. It’s been a long while since he enjoyed the fruit of the vine. He drank, and drank, and wallowed in drink. When he finally got up from his self-partying, his clothes fell off him, but he didn’t realize it. He staggered naked to his tent and went into a deep slumber. Somebody then did something very dishonorable to him. On waking up, he realized to his horror what had happened, and uttered the greatest curse ever to be pronounced upon a human being. As a result, the descendants of the cursee have been suffering more than any other race throughout history, serving not only as slaves to other nations, but even as slaves to other slaves! (Genesis 9:20-27. Read the New International Version or New Revised Standard Version, which gives a more accurate description of the curse than the New King James Version.)

All because of one too many a swig.

Lot was a righteous man, says God’s Word. When his two daughters kept pouring brimful after brimful of wine into his bowl, he should have suspected something was not right. But he gave in to the overwhelmingly pleasant sensation of intoxication. He too went into a deep slumber. The daughters did it again the next day, and he again went into a deep slumber. The result of just two nights of heavy boozing? Two wicked nations down through history again.

Coming down to the twentieth century, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a dedicated people of God, as much, perhaps a little more, than the average Christian denomination. It doesnt matter that some Christians consider them as cults. They may be doctrinally in serious error, but they keep God’s commandments and the fruits in their lives are significantly better than those of the average church-goers I observe around me.

Now, this denomination allows its members to drink in moderation. But the second President of the Watchtower Society – the leader of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who was responsible for the founding policies of this sect – was a victim of alcohol, just as Noah and Lot were.

‘Joseph Rutherford was a known alcoholic and binge drinker. He eventually died from intestinal cancer, a direct result of his long life of heavy alcohol consumption. There is actually a photograph of Mr. Rutherford and staff sitting around a keg of beer, toasting the camera, during Prohibition He even stated at one time that in his opinion, Prohibition was the work of Satan.’   Quote from one of the various sources mentioned in Wikipedia

Some years ago, I went to a beverage outlet to get a couple of bottles. I noticed a new label on the liquor shelf. The name of the new brandy was ‘Lord & Master’. How appropriate a name, I thought even in those days. For I could see all around me even in the beverage shop people merrily in servile bondage to their lord, the masterbrewer.

Just as a Christian cannot serve God and Mammon together, he cannot serve both God and Alcohol. A Christian must be the master of Mammon, not its servant, using money to help him serve God better. Even so, he must be the master of every drop of alcohol he allows into his system, so he can use it to praise God with a more cheerful voice.

Now, let me clarify a few theological points.

By deciding never to touch a drop of alcohol so you can be a more alert Christian does not make you a greater person in God’s sight than your neighbor believer who decides he can occasionally enjoy a cold pint of Budweiser on a sultry day. It is a personal decision between you and your God. If you know it makes no difference at all in your love and closeness to God by a quick downing of tequila now and then, go ahead and down it quickly – as long as you are not going to preach or drive until the next day. Your standing before Christ does not go down one notch lower as a result.

But if you know it makes even a slight negative difference to your physical health or optimal mental state, then not drinking under any circumstances is truly pleasing to God.

There is a good reason why pentecostals, and some other church denominations forbid their members to drink. It is the same reason Islam forbids its faithfuls from even an exceptional use of alcohol in their lives: to protect their members, and to ensure that their community is not tainted in the least by any member who might misuse the liberty.

It is the same reason God commands those undertaking a special vow of spirituality to abstain from alcohol. Vows to God is an extremely serious matter, and if a person under vow drinks a little too much and forgets his special spiritual status, then he commits a grievous sin. That is why God told the person who wants to take the Nazirite vow that he or she must absolutely abstain from wine – an absoluteness that is reinforced by even forbidding him to eat anything that is a product of the vine, including grapes and grapejuice. (Numbers 6:1-21)

It is also the same reason why one prudent father asked his children to avoid wine.

‘ The Message that Jeremiah received from God…“Go visit the Recabite community. Invite them to meet with you in one of the rooms in God’s Temple. And serve them wine.”…Then I set out chalices and pitchers of wine for the Recabites and said, “A toast! Drink up!” But they wouldn’t do it. “We don’t drink wine,” they said. “Our ancestor Jonadab son of Recab commanded us, ‘You are not to drink wine, you or your children, ever…We and our wives, our sons and daughters, drink no wine at all…We’ve listened to our ancestor Jonadab and we’ve done everything he commanded us.”

Then Jeremiah received this Message from God: “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, wants you to go tell the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem that I say, ‘Why won’t you learn your lesson and do what I tell you?…The commands of Jonadab son of Recab to his sons have been carried out to the letter. He told them not to drink wine, and they haven’t touched a drop to this very day…So here’s what is going to happen. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘I will bring calamity down on the heads of the people of Judah and Jerusalem—the very calamity I warned you was coming—because you turned a deaf ear when I spoke, turned your backs when I called.’”

Then, turning to the Recabite community, Jeremiah said, “And this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says to you: Because you have done what Jonadab your ancestor told you, obeyed his commands and followed through on his instructions, receive this Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: There will always be a descendant of Jonadab son of Recab at my service! Always!” ’   Jr 35:1-19 The Message

I could sense a thrill in God’s voice as he spoke of the wine-avoiding Recabites. Of course, he was not thrilled merely because this was a teetotal race. His joy was that they carefully obeyed their ancestor’s command, while the whole of Israel ignored their Creator’s instructions. But the avoidance of wine was a significant reason for the sobriety and prudent living of the Recabites, ensuring the survival of their race forever.

Now how can you know whether it is best for you to enjoy moderate drinking or best for you to abstain from it altogether? Ask God to speak to your heart through his Holy Spirit about what he feels about your drinking for his glory. Also, you can use the following indicators to help you make a decision.

If you have a past history of severe alcohol abuse, then it is best you never touch alcohol again. Once a habitual drunkard, there is always a risk present you may be deceived by the devil into gradually becoming a drunkard again. But if you are absolutely sure in light of the Holy Spirit that even with a past history, you can now drink safely without any future risk whatever, then you may.

Do you tend to become gregarious and loquacious when there is some alcohol inside you? In other words, do you tend to be overly friendly and talk too much when the spirit of merriness fills you? Do repressed and suppressed emotions awake in you whenever you drink – memories of past sinful encounters, lewd images flitting by, inclinations to do something or watch something you would never think of twice when you are sober? Do you tend to get more argumentative when tipsy? The next day, do you feel your mood is at a lower level than it was on the day before you drank? These are all sure indicators that the ethanol demon is using alcohol to subtly and slowly trap you into total bondage to him. If these symptoms show up whenever you drink, shun alcohol totally!

Never drink in the company of unbelievers. While you are toasting your drink in the Spirit of your Father in heaven, they are toasting in the spirit of their father in this world (John 8:44). There was a time I used to take drinks with colleagues and old friends who had not been called to the Christ-life. They were normal, decent people. But after two rounds of scotch or port, I noticed that their conversation would subtly deviate to topics with a raunchy flavor, which I didn’t hear from them at other times. I would immediately and firmly ask them to change subjects, and they unwillingly would. So, don’t clink your pristine wine glass against that of a person whose life is not directed by the Holy Spirit.

If you have never taken a drink in your life so far, then better to keep it that way for the rest of your life. Sure, ‘life is fun with a little beer’, as one pastor, serving me up a frothful, remarked. But life can be even funner without taking any risk with the merry but fickle spirit. And remember, all the drinks you give up now in this life will be more than made up for when you enjoy the finest beverages in the universe at the banquets of our Lord.

‘On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines’…‘of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees.’   Is 25:6 NIV; NKJV

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

You will remain trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally – Part 2

 

In Part 1 of this message, I mentioned some of the most prominent fruits of the unsurrendered and of the surrendered life. So, I ask again, where do you stand today in following Christ? Have you completely surrendered your life to Christ, or are you still holding on to some things and refusing to let go of them even if you know they are the very things which are blocking you from the wondrous blessings of God?

My child in the Lord, if you have not completely surrendered your life to your Savior, you will find that certain troubles – certain sins and weaknesses, certain entrapping circumstances – continuing to afflict you mercilessly and prevent you from total peace of mind. All your pleas to God to release you from this prison of afflictions are not to make any difference to your life if you have not made an unconditional surrender. If you are facing serious persistent troubles in your life that never seem to go away, no matter how much you prayed to your Deliverer, then it is only because you want God to deliver while you are still wanting to hold on to something in your life that is detestable to him.

What is keeping you from the peace of Christ? What is that secret sin you may be committing regularly, even though you know in your heart that it is not pleasing to God. Is it pornography that you are secretly watching? Is it a drinking or gambling addiction? Is it stealing from your company, or some other form of dishonesty? Is it fornication or adultery or homosexuality, or some other sexual sin? Many Christians do not indulge in deviate acts in practice but they indulge in them to the full perverted extent in their imaginations. In God’s sight, a person who never commits adultery or any other sin in physical act but entertains it in his thoughts, is just as sinful as the one who practices it outwardly. Is it resentment in your heart toward someone who has done you a great wrong? Or covetousness, which means desiring something that you are not legitimately supposed to desire – perhaps someone else’s property, or his business, or, perhaps, even his wife? Perhaps you are obsessed with making money or becoming successful, which when done without first surrendering your life to God, becomes idolatry? What is the accursed thing in your life that is preventing God from releasing you from your trouble?

Whatever it may be, your God and Savior has only one desire in you: ‘Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings’.

Once you make up your mind to put away that hidden evil, the full force of the Omnipotent Power is released to enable you to surrender it and follow Christ. If you have tried to give it up in the past and could not, there is a definite reason. Here, let me now reproduce for your encouragement one of the greatest insights on dealing with a sinful thing in your life. It’s a passage from the book ‘The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life’, by Hannah Whitall Smith. This is a book which every person desiring to live the abundant life of Christ should read. It is available free online, and you may find it by writing that title in your search engine. But here I want to give you an extract from that book relating to the subject I am sharing with you.

‘And now, having shown the way of deliverance from failure, I want to say a little as to the causes of failure in this life of full salvation. The causes do not lie in the strength of the temptation nor in our own weakness, nor, above all, in any lack in the power or willingness of our Savior to save us. The promise to Israel was positive, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life”. And the promise to us is equally positive. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.”

‘The men of Ai were ‘but few’, and yet the people who had conquered the mighty Jericho ‘fled before the men of Ai’. It was not the strength of their enemy, neither had God failed them. The cause of their defeat lay somewhere else, and the Lord Himself declares it, “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs upon their enemies”. It was a hidden evil that conquered them. Deep down under the earth, in an obscure tent in that vast army, was hidden something against which God had a controversy, and this little hidden thing made the whole army helpless before their enemies. “There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”

‘The teaching here is simply this, that anything allowed in the heart which is contrary to the will of God, let it seem ever so insignificant, or be ever so deeply hidden, will cause us to fall before our enemies. Any root of bitterness cherished towards another, any self-seeking and harsh judgments indulged in, any slackness in obeying the voice of the Lord, any doubtful habits or surroundings, any one of these things will effectually cripple and paralyze our spiritual life. We may have hidden the evil in the most remote corner of our hearts, and may have covered it over from our sight, refusing even to recognize its existence, of which, however, we cannot help being all the time secretly aware. We may steadily ignore it, and persist in declarations of consecration and full trust, we may be more earnest than ever in our religious duties, and have the eyes of our understanding opened more and more to the truth and the beauty of the life and walk of faith. We may seem to ourselves and to others to have reached an almost impregnable position of victory, and yet we may find ourselves suffering bitter defeats. We may wonder, and question, and despair, and pray; nothing will do any good until the accursed thing is dug up from its hiding-place, brought out to the light, and laid before God. And the moment a believer who is walking in this interior life meets with a defeat, he must at once seek for the cause not in the strength of that particular enemy, but in something behind, some hidden want of consecration lying at the very centre of his being. Just as a headache is not the disease itself, but only a symptom of a disease situated in some other part of the body, so the sin in such a Christian is only the symptom of an evil hidden probably in a very different part of his being.

‘Sometimes the evil may be hidden even in that, which at a cursory glance, would look like good. Beneath apparent zeal for the truth, may be hidden a judging spirit, or a subtle leaning to our own understanding. Beneath apparent Christian faithfulness, may be hidden an absence of Christian love. Beneath an apparently rightful care for our affairs, may be hidden a great want of trust in God. I believe our blessed Guide, the indwelling Holy Spirit, is always secretly discovering these things to us by continual little twinges and pangs of conscience, so that we are left without excuse.

‘But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.

‘A capital illustration of this occurred to me once in my housekeeping. I had moved into a new house and, in looking over it to see if it was all ready for occupancy, I noticed in the cellar a very clean-looking cider-cask headed up at both ends. I debated with myself whether I should have it taken out of the cellar and opened to see what was in it, but concluded, as it seemed empty and looked nice, to leave it undisturbed, especially as it would have been quite a piece of work to get it up the stairs. I did not feel quite easy, but reasoned away my scruples and left it. Every spring and fall, when house-cleaning time came on, I would remember that cask, with a little twinge of my housewifely conscience, feeling that I could not quite rest in the thought of a perfectly cleaned house, while it remained unopened, for how did I know but under its fair exterior it contained some hidden evil. Still I managed to quiet my scruples on the subject, thinking always of the trouble it would involve to investigate it; and for two or three years the innocent-looking cask stood quietly in my cellar.

‘Then, most unaccountably, moths began to fill my house. I used every possible precaution against them, and made every effort to eradicate them, but in vain. They increased rapidly and threatened to ruin everything I had. I suspected my carpets as being the cause, and subjected them to a thorough cleaning. I suspected my furniture, and had it newly upholstered. I suspected all sorts of impossible things. At last the thought of the cask flashed on me. At once I had it brought up out of the cellar and the head knocked in, and I think it is safe to say that thousands of moths poured out. The previous occupant of the house must have headed it up with something in it which bred moths, and this was the cause of all my trouble.

‘Now I believe that, in the same way, some innocent-looking habit or indulgence, some apparently unimportant and safe thing, about which we yet have now and then little twinges of conscience, something which is not brought out fairly into the light, and investigated under the searching eye of God, lies at the root of most of the failure in this higher life. All is not given up. Some secret corner is kept locked against the entrance of the Lord. And therefore we cannot stand before our enemies, but find ourselves smitten down in their presence.

‘In order to prevent failure, or to discover its cause if we have failed, it is necessary that we should keep continually before us this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

‘Finally, let us never forget for one moment, no matter how often we may fail, that the Lord Jesus is able, according to the declaration concerning Him, to deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, that we may “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life”.’


But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.


You may have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and may be sincerely striving to live a life fully pleasing to him, but at the same time there may be some or many troubles that have been clinging to your life for a long time, which, no matter how sincerely and earnestly you wish to be released from, refuse to leave you. Then, very likely, there is a detestable thing in the sight of God that you are keeping hidden in your heart. And he is not going to lift even his little finger to release you from your persistent problems until you surrender that habit or obsession or whatever that accursed thing may be.

Oh, it may not look that detestable at all to your sight. Perhaps it is just a harmless habit of taking in a few puffs of a cigarette after an enjoyable meal. Or, as was my case, taking some chilled beer in moderation on hot weekend afternoons only. What’s the big deal in having a couple of chilled Carlsberg cans, anyway? Not a big deal for most people. And I reasoned that the Bible does not actually prohibit drinking in moderation – despite what the pentecostals think. And besides, Jesus drank wine so often he gained some notoriety as a winebibber among the teetotaling Pharisees (Luke 7:34).  All true…except that in my specific case I knew deep in my soul that alcohol even in Godly moderation was an unbeneficial habit for me. Alcohol, even in ‘safe’ quantity, produced subtle psychological changes in my thought processes. I was aware of the slight changes in the kind of feelings and imaginations I had when there was alcohol in my blood. But I kept on this seemingly harmless habit for years, using my logical reasoning and the Biblical sanction for doing so. Again and again, God warned me through my conscience that if I don’t stop this habit it could become an unshakeable addiction, or cause me to speak and act in a way I wouldnt when my body is totally alcohol-free, or even lead me to a sinful act.

Let me be more specific. Often when I took alcohol during a social function or even when fellowsipping with my Christian friends, including pastors, I would tend to speak words that I wouldn’t speak when there was no trace of the spirit in my body. Then when I slept that night, strange and disturbing dreams took over my reposing mind. I was finally convinced that drink – even in moderation – was having a reaction in me that it did not in my fellow Christian winebibbers. Now that realization came several years before I actually gave up the drinking habit. For several years after this conviction, I kept postponing stopping this habit, which subtly grew to become an accursed thing in my life. And my spiritual troubles grew, along with a host of physical, mental and financial woes. I realized  with horror that I had become an addict and I just couldn’t stop this habit no matter how hard I struggled to free myself from it – and I had always been absolutely sure I could stop it anytime if I really wanted to. It took me some painful years of fervent beseeching God to enable me to break free from this enslaving spirit of alcohol before God finally gave me the strength to cast off this accursed thing completely from my life.

What is it that is preventing your release from whatever has been afflicting you for long? If you are not sure, go on your knees, and pray like David did, ‘Lord, look deep into my heart, and see if there is any little accursed thing that is offending you, and show me what that is’.

Once you are convinced there is something hidden in your life, or something obvious which you are postponing giving up, then act immediately without a moment’s delay. Make a firm decision then and there to give it up. That is the point you begin to cross the Jordan. Now there is no more turning back. You will soon reach the other side of the great river of your life and be fully liberated. The crossing may take a while, perhaps a few days, a few weeks, a few months, perhaps even a few years in some extreme cases, but the victory is sure. God’s release begins the moment you put your feet into the waters of the transition to the new life.

Hear what Oswald Chambers says to all people of God:

‘But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide – for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.’

Don’t slacken on your determination to remove that accursed thing. Even if you fall several times during the crossing, do not lie in the waters but get up quickly and keep going. Even if you fall 70 times 7 in a day while crossing the Jordan of your life, God encourages you to get up and get going (Matthew 18:22). The devil will howl at you that it is in vain and you can never give his accursed gift back to him and that you have to carry it with you to your grave. Tell him that your Savior has already carried it to his grave with him and you have been forever released by his blood. You say exactly that to the Great Discourager each time you fall, my child, and see how he flees with his tail (if he has one) flung between his legs at the mention of Christ’s blood.

If you continue to hold on to what you know you have to surrender, God is not going to give up on you. He is even ready to afflict you 2 or 3 times more, if necessary, until you surrender to him unconditionally.

‘Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.’   Job 33:29-30

Why prolong your suffering and continue your bondage to sin? Surrender absolutely the first time itself, and enjoy your liberation earlier.

Once you have surrendered unconditionally, you have passed the greatest test in your life, and thereafter any trials are just minor finishing touches to your life. This is the point where God releases you from his seemingly heavy grip on your life. Actually it is not God who is keeping captive those who refuse to surrender unconditionally to him, but that great Kidnapper who snares God’s people to make them do his will, not God’s will (2 Timothy 2:26).

When you surrender your life to God without holding on to any accursed object in your thoughts or acts, he immediately liberates you through his Son Jesus Christ.

‘Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’   John 8:36

‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’   Galatians 5:1

If today through this message our heavenly Father is calling you to surrender your life to his Son Jesus, then, chosen child of God, don’t postpone your decision for another day. That’s exactly what the Enemy wants you to do – postpone your decision – so this message will lose its impact in your consciousness as you go about the cares and chores of your daily life. The seed of understanding you have received today may either be plucked away from you as soon as you finish reading this message and get up to do something else, or it may last for a few hours or days and then be forgotten, or it may from today start to bear fruit in your life (read the parable in Luke 8:5-18). It all depends on how fervently you desire and decide today to surrender your life unconditionally to God.

‘Therefore take heed how you hear.’   Luke 8:18

Lord God, bless this son or daughter of yours who has read this message! Amen.

 

Pappa Joseph