The Difference Between Sheep & Goats

I gazed across a lush, green, undulating field that stretched as far as my eyes could see. This was somewhere in Wisconsin. I’d been driving for hours when I happened to notice farm signs peppering the little country roads. Growing up in a big city, I’d never seen large herds of… well, anything. So, I made a detour and found a farm. The sheep’s white contrasted sharply with the deep green of the fields. There were so many sheep that my untrained eye couldn’t count them. After a few minutes, a middle-aged farmer in stereotypical overalls and various layers of flannel called out to me with a thick Wisconsin brogue (they never pronounce the “g” at the end of a word). He was friendly and talkative in a quiet, hard-working midwestern way. Eventually, I asked him about raising sheep. “Sheep and goats,” he corrected. I didn’t see goats, so I asked, “Do you keep the goats somewhere else?” “Nah, they’re out there with the sheep,” he said. I squinted into the bright sunlight, still not seeing goats. Then, he added helpfully, “They’re hard to spot from a distance; they just blend in with the sheep.”

They Blend In

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father blesses; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:31-34).”

A common thread runs through the Old and New Testaments, which likens God to a shepherd and us as His sheep. Surveys show that Psalms 23:1, “the Lord is my Shepherd,” is the most well-known verse in the Bible. Jesus added several layers to this analogy, like ravenous wolves disguised as sheep (Matthew 7:15), people who try to sneak into Heaven without using the sheep’s gate (John 10:1) and introduced the concept of pastoral under-shepherds (John 21:16). All of these are just examples, of course. False prophets aren’t literally wolves, but they are cunning and dangerous like wolves. Nevertheless, the shepherding and animal comparisons Jesus used are remarkably relevant today.

I’ve found that, much like looking over that Wisconsin field and struggling to differentiate the sheep from the goats, from a distance, sheep and goats blend together in our churches too. Eventually, the goats act like goats, or you get close enough to tell, but they can coexist for a long time. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t have trouble telling the difference, but rather than separating the herd right now, He’s waiting until judgment day. God is content to let the goats play like sheep until the final moment when hearts are revealed at the throne. Until then, our church communities have goats blending in with the sheep. Occasionally, goats paw the ground, show their horns, and reveal their true nature. That can be especially sad if, up to that moment, you believed they were sheep.

You Should Smell Like Sheep

If you can forgive a transparent moment, I want to share a story that dramatically impacted my thinking on this subject. Years ago, an individual began attending services regularly, our church was much smaller, and I was far more naïve. He was shy and troubled. It took a long time to get his background story. He already had the Holy Ghost, but his church background was impossible to follow. He’d just been to so many places of every denomination and creed. It’s no exaggeration to say I spent countless hours on the phone counseling, in-person fellowshipping, or teaching Bible studies with him. But, no matter how much time I gave him, it was never enough.

In the beginning, he was incredibly faithful. But a strange cycle eventually manifested of randomly disappearing for months at a time. He’d attend a random church for a few months and then show back up at our church with a story about how badly that other church had failed him. The first several times this happened, I chased him down (figuratively) to check on him and encourage him to get settled here. I called, texted, and even knocked on his door. I quit doing that, however. You see, I realized if he was going to be faithful, it would take a heart change, not just an encouraging word.

One day he showed back up at church and aggressively confronted me, shouting, “You should smell like sheep!” He said, “Jesus left the church to find the lost sheep, and you should too!” I was stunned and hurt. I let guilt wash all over me. Had I been wrong not to keep chasing and chasing and chasing? I mean, Jesus did talk about leaving the flock to find the one lost sheep. I stammered and told him all the sincere things I could think of to assure him I cared about his soul and did indeed want to be a good pastor. I agreed to meet him for coffee very soon. He never returned my calls, and I didn’t see him again for six months.

The evening after that verbal ambush, I spent a good deal of time in prayer about the situation. As pastors do, I replayed everything in my mind over and over again. Did I do enough? Was I approachable? Am I inadequate? How can I duplicate myself so I can give everyone all the time they need? Lord, help me be a better pastor. Lord, how can I meet the insatiable needs and overwhelming demands? Lord, I don’t want to be responsible for lost sheep. And God let me twist in the wind for a good while before gently saying, “your job is to feed sheep, not chase goats.”

Sheep Wander, Goats Run Away

Put aside the fact that the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) is really a story about winning the lost and not about chasing stray saints. But regardless, good shepherds search for lost sheep and do their best to bring them safely back home. Tragically, sometimes the wolves, the goats, the elements, or all three have already taken their toll when a shepherd locates them. Here’s a little observation the Lord helped me unearth: Lost sheep may wander away and get hurt or lost, but goats run away and resist being brought back to the fold. When lost sheep see their shepherd, they are happy and relieved. Yes, they might be embarrassed or ashamed too. But mostly, they are thankful for the help. Goats, on the other hand, are defiant, angry, and defensive. A goat isn’t going to let you put him on your shoulders and take him home, as Jesus described in the parable.

Grazers & Browsers

Goats have a well-deserved reputation for eating anything in sight. Sometimes they chew it up and spew it out. There’s a classic episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Barney and Andy hilariously deal with a goat that had eaten a crate of dynamite. The last thing they needed was a goat with a belly full of dynamite, headbutting something and going kaboom in the middle of Mayberry. And while that may be ridiculous, it is believable because goats are browsers. They don’t feed on grass or low-growth vegetation like sheep. So, the green pastures mentioned in Psalm 23 aren’t all that exciting to goats. And that is a crucial difference between sheep and goats. Sheep are grazers. They are content with green grass and will follow shepherds who lead them beside “still waters.”

Goats don’t want a shepherd. They’re never full. They leave churches because they “aren’t being fed.” That’s rarely the case. They have an appetite for thorns and thistles. They like faux shepherds who promise something better, something more exciting, more relevant, than godly pastures and still waters. When that gets boring, or they realize how unsatisfying that diet is, they move on to another place. While that’s fine for actual goats, people with a goat nature Jesus described reject living water and the bread of life (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors). This is partially because goats are discontented by nature. Sheep have learned, as the apostle Paul said:

…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Philippians 4:11-12).

Interdependent & Independent

I get that being compared to sheep carries a stigma. We’ve all heard derogatory comments about “sheeple,” “herd mentalities,” and “lemmings.” In America, at least for most of its history, personal independence is sought after and celebrated. And Jesus certainly wasn’t suggesting that we’re all alike or that Christ’s followers are supposed to be robots, mindlessly going with the flow. On the contrary, the Gospel is intensely personal and intimate. Everyone must have a close relationship with the Great Shepherd, so much so that they recognize His voice (John 10:27). If anything, remaining with God’s flock in His pasture takes great individual intentionality, sincere thought, and an extraordinary understanding of the greater good. By the “greater good,” I mean that sheep willingly trade their independence for interdependence. Because, let’s face it, complete independence is a total fabrication. Everyone needs someone or something, and sheep have realized they want and need the Great Shepherd.

But here’s the thing, if you want the Great Shepherd, you must accept that you are also getting His undershepherds and His flock. So, gaining the Great Shepherd gives you exclusive access to His pastures but also excludes you from wandering back to old fields. There will be fences, parameters, and requirements. You may not always understand or even like them, but you trust the Great Shepherd sees dangers you cannot see. Sure, the flock might slow you down or cramp your style, and it might be tempting to wander off and do your own thing for a while. You might misconstrue Christian liberty as freedom from the responsibilities of the flock. The apostle Paul addressed this carnal propensity in his letter to the church in Galatia: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another (Galatians 5:13, ESV). The apostle Peter described our obligation to the flock this way: Have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8, ESV).

Goats are all about “my” and “me.” Sheep are focused on community, the “us” and “we.” Goats are constantly looking for advancement for themselves, while sheep look to enhance everyone. That’s why Jesus emphasized things like, “The last shall be first, and the first last (Matthew 20:16).” It’s counterintuitive, but putting others first is the best thing you can do for yourself. Let me show you something people miss who think they can accept Jesus while rejecting His undershepherds and flock. During Jesus’ most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, He gave an example of how everyone should pray:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil… (Matthew 6:9-13).

Did you catch it? Jesus didn’t say to pray, “My Father which art in heaven.” Instead, he said, “Our Father.” And don’t pray, “Give me this day.” Rather pray, “Give us this day.” Read the full prayer. Not once does Jesus use singular pronouns except when addressing the Father. Why? Because even in prayer, we must remember that we are part of a community more significant than ourselves. You can’t accept the Shepherd and reject your role in His flock. Sheep know this to be true.

Faithful & Playful

Even the flakiest, most undependable Christians take great comfort in knowing God is always faithful. I’m the first to raise my hand and say that what I probably love most about the Lord is that He will never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8). In other words, God is never going to flake out on me. Yet, people who claim to be like Christ are often more playful than faithful.

It’s true that goats are more playful than sheep. This is because goats are more adventurous by nature. However, that doesn’t mean sheep aren’t playful. They are. They just don’t prioritize playfulness over faithfulness. Sheep know the ultimate goal is to hear the Great Shepherd say, “Well done my good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:23). Faithfulness always sounds boring until you need someone to be faithful to you. Likewise, loyalty seems mundane until you need loyalty.

Goats are not dependable. They’re terrible with follow-through. And they lack loyalty when the chips are down. But, oh, yes, they can be a lot of fun. Sometimes they’re a downright joy to have hanging around the sheep. But that playfulness quickly becomes annoying and occasionally destructive when faithfulness is required. Sheep, like having a good time. They need it and crave it. But they know when to take things seriously. They know how to listen for changes in their Shepherd’s tone. They’ve learned that fun at all costs isn’t worth the price.

Amiable & Onery

But, even with all that fun-loving independence, an orneriness lurks beneath the surface of a goat’s facade. The term “stubborn as a goat” exists for a good reason. Goats are indeed stubborn and hardheaded (literally). Goats are notoriously onery and rebellious. It’s their nature. Of course, some are more so than others. My grandfather would have called them cantankerous. Human goats are like that too. This puts them at odds with sheep, in opposition to undershepherds, and in trouble with the Great Shepherd.

While sheep are far from perfect, they have an amiable nature. They’ve learned to “strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14).” If it’s possible, and if they can do anything about it, they try to have peaceful relationships with everyone they encounter (Romans 12:18). This isn’t always easy. Still, it’s the will of the Great Shepherd, so they obey. After all, sheep don’t have to fight their own battles. Their Shepherd fights for them.

Shoats & Geeps

My daughter, our in-house animal expert, informed me that there are sheep-goat hybrids, usually referred to as “shoats” or “geeps.” I kid you not. The Bible never mentions these curious creatures. However, it does describe how every person has a war between two competing natures raging on the inside. You might say we’re all born with a goat nature, and the Holy Ghost gives us a new character. But even after receiving the Holy Ghost, we’re still a sheep-goat hybrid. That old goat nature desperately wants to take back control.

The apostle Paul lamented that the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the wishes of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other (Galatians 5:17). The apostle Peter called this inward struggle a war saying, “the passions of the flesh wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).” Paul homed in on geeps that had transformed back into goats when he said: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot (Romans 8:7, ESV). The transformation from sheep to goat and vice versa is always a possibility. Therefore, sheep must always be on guard, and goats have no choice but to repent or be lost.

6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles – Article + Podcast

Singles seem to fall through the cracks in our churches. That’s an observation, not a criticism. It’s one of those hard-to-avoid problems that just naturally occurs. If you’re single and reading this, you’re shaking your head in agreement right now. It’s not that churches don’t care about singles – they do – but being single isn’t a characteristic that necessarily unites people into well-structured little groups. For example, you can be 18 or 88 and be single; 18-year-old singles have a completely different set of needs than, say… a middle-aged single adult.

All the good and bad excuses aside, churches need to talk more about how Apostolic singles should approach dating and relationships. I see singles struggling to navigate dating and serving God faithfully at the same time from all age groups. With that in mind, these six dating standards are directed toward every age group. Some of these standards are solid biblical truths, while others are personal opinions based on years of counseling and observation.

Let me start with a few statements of fact: Being single does not mean that you are less valuable than married people, and it’s far better to be single than married to the wrong person. It’s a natural God-given desire to long for a spouse. You should pursue that desire on God’s terms, which leads me to point number one.

Being single does not mean that you are less valuable than married people, and it’s far better to be single than married to the wrong person.

1. Apostolic singles should never consider dating anyone (and I mean anyone) who is not Apostolic.

There is nothing more important to any relationship than walking in spiritual unity. How can you have anything truly in common with someone who isn’t in full agreement with the most defining aspect of your life (Amos 3:3, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, 1 Corinthians 15:33, 2 Timothy 3:5)? Spiritual and doctrinal disagreements impact every part of married life. I’ve heard all the arguments and excuses for why “this” person is the one good exception to that rule, and the story almost always ends in heartache or backsliding. I’ve observed countless situations where someone pretended to be serious about God to be in a relationship with an Apostolic guy or girl. In those situations, the entire relationship is built on a lie—hardly a good start to any long-lasting marriage. Dating someone into the Church is a bad idea – the happily ever after success stories are scarce. Beyond that, it’s a question of the heart. Why would you be attracted to someone who isn’t Holy Ghost filled, holy, and zealous about their faith?

Apostolic singles should never consider dating anyone (and I mean anyone) who is not Apostolic. There is nothing more important to any relationship than walking in spiritual unity.

Dating someone into the Church is a bad idea – the happily ever after success stories are scarce. It’s a question of the heart. Why would you be attracted to someone who isn’t Holy Ghost filled, holy, and zealous about their faith?

2. Mr. Right will attract Mrs. Right and vice versa.

Most singles have a mental (and maybe even an actual) checklist of what they want the “right” one to be like. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily (depending on what’s on the list). However, you should spend more time making sure you’re everything that you should be. You won’t attract the right kind of person if you aren’t working to be the right kind of person. Singlehood is a tremendous opportunity for self-improvement, preparation, spiritual growth, and maturation.

You won’t attract the right kind of person if you aren’t working to be the right kind of person. Singlehood is a tremendous opportunity for self-improvement, preparation, spiritual growth, and maturation.

3. Apostolic singles must trust that God is guiding their footsteps (Romans 8:28, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:9, Psalm 37:23).

Fate is not a biblical concept. God orders our every step if we are faithful to Him. That’s something every Apostolic single should believe wholeheartedly. God will guide the right person into your life at just the right time. You might look around your church on any given Sunday and think, “If these are my only options, I’m gonna die alone.” But remember, we walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you trust God and guard your integrity, God will orchestrate your future in ways that you can’t possibly plan.

Fate is not a biblical concept. God orders our every step if we are faithful to Him. That’s something every Apostolic single should believe wholeheartedly. God will guide the right person into your life at just the right time.

4. Speaking of guarding integrity, Apostolic singles should create and maintain protective boundaries in their relationships.

I’m confident the average Apostolic single doesn’t enter a relationship planning to be promiscuous, indecent, or sexually immoral. Nevertheless, if you don’t have defensive boundaries in place, lines can be crossed very quickly. Carelessness leads to sinfulness in a hurry.

So, let’s talk about dating and relationship boundaries for a minute. Under no circumstances should a man and woman be alone together in a house or bedroom unless they are married to one another. There’s too much opportunity for things to go too far in that setting, and even if nothing happens, it looks wildly inappropriate.

A couple should not be alone together in a house or bedroom unless they are married to one another. There’s too much opportunity for things to go too far in that setting, and even if nothing happens, it looks wildly inappropriate.

  • Dating couples need to spend time with groups of people. It would help if you saw how that person interacts with others and the people who are already a part of your life.
  • Dating couples should always have a plan. Don’t just get together and kill time. Boredom and too much free time are a dangerous combo for two people attracted to one another.
  • Singles of all ages must be open and accountable to spiritual authority. Singles should talk to their pastor, family, and trustworthy spiritual mentors BEFORE becoming too emotionally invested in a relationship. Singles who remove this boundary are dodging godly counsel.
  • When dating, singles should ask lots and lots of questions. Don’t take it for granted that you know what someone believes just because they warm a church pew. There’s always a Judas hanging around Jesus. Talk. Find out what they really think deep down. Talk about hopes, dreams, plans, goals, and aspirations. Find out if they are growing spiritually or dying spiritually.
  • When dating, watch how they respond in church services. If they sit in church like a dead frog, you know something is spiritually off balance. If they’re uninvolved and out of touch with their local assembly… run.
  • Stay modest, even when you’re not together. Texting, social media, video chatting, and tons of other technological advancements have changed the modern dating scene. If it would be immodest for you to show it or wear it in person, you shouldn’t be showing it or wearing it digitally.

5. Don’t date someone who isn’t marriage material.

Never date just to date. I’ve received a lot of pushback on this piece of advice over the years. I stand by it anyway; dating isn’t a game or a way to kill time. Dating shouldn’t be a temporary fix for loneliness. Dating is two people evaluating whether they are compatible and capable of truly loving one another for a lifetime. And by the way, spending all your free time with a member of the opposite sex is dating, whether you call it that or not. If marriage is out of the question, stop dating that person immediately.

6. Know your worth.

You are incredibly valuable. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you otherwise. In a culture of casual sex and careless relationships, Apostolic singles are set apart by God for better things.

Finally, marriage is by far the most life-impacting decision a person will ever make. Be prayerful, be accountable, be faithful, be prepared, and seek wisdom. Know that God cares about your happiness. God is in complete control of your future. Let the Lord lead you.

You are incredibly valuable. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you otherwise. In a culture of casual sex and careless relationships, Apostolic singles are set apart by God for better things.

Marriage is the most life-impacting decision you will ever make. Be prayerful, be accountable, be faithful, be prepared, seek wisdom. God cares about your happiness. God is in complete control of your future. Let the Lord lead you.

Relationslips (Part 2) with Taylor French – Article + Podcast

My wife, Taylor, is the most intelligent and intuitive person I’ve ever known. She can read people almost effortlessly without them realizing she’s doing it. Residing deep inside her is a wellspring of observational ability that enables her to know a person’s soul instinctively. More importantly, she fights for good relationships with the tenacity of a soldier. She’s like a relationship ninja. It’s pretty cool. I honestly envy those qualities. And while I do most of the talking in public formats, she is the better communicator in our relationship. We learn from each other, but I think I have more to learn than her. I’ve certainly gleaned new insights talking through this series with her for the last several weeks. And I’m incredibly grateful we’re on life’s journey together.

Get Caught Up

If you’re just now joining the conversation, you can listen to Part 1 of our Relationslips podcast here. If you scroll down, you’ll see a link you can’t miss for Part 2 of this series. Also, here’s a link to the first blog entry in this series. It’s worth looking at that article and reviewing the list of book recommendations. We’ve enjoyed responding to your questions and comments. Feel free to send more our way, and we will respond sometime soon.

 

Passive Aggressors & Energetic Attackers

One common source of relationship friction that causes “slips” is the ongoing war between passive aggressors and energetic attackers. And, of course, Taylor and I are opposites in this area. My natural, carnal, fallen, faulty response to frustrations, anger, feelings of offense, and disappointment is passive aggression. Allow me to define passive-aggressive behavior for those who might be uncertain. Indirect expressions of hostility, including negative attitudes, characterize it. Here are some specific passive-aggressive behaviors I’ve unfortunately struggled to overcome: 1) Resentment and unspoken opposition to demands from others. 2) Procrastination and intentional mistakes in response to others’ requests. 3) Cynical, sullen, or quiet hostility to others near me. 4) Masking my frustrations in complaints, sarcasm, humor, or hints and doing just about anything to avoid confrontation, argument, or outright hostility.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are people I’ve dubbed energetic attackers. Taylor falls into this category. So rather than running away from confrontation, she runs towards it. Sometimes she enjoys confrontation (although not always), but regardless, she isn’t afraid of it. She approaches relationship problems aggressively. She likes all the feelings out in the open. She likes to have all the cards on the table and all the soldiers on the battlefield. And although she never intends to attack people, she wants to attack the problem, which does cause some personalities to feel attacked at that moment. While passive-aggressive personalities can arguably be too patient, energetic attackers have little patience. They’re quick to speak their mind and openly push back when frustrated.

It’s easy to see how these drastically different personalities can “trip” each other up. But, as unlikely as it seems, passive aggressors and energetic attackers have traits that can bring balance. For example, Taylor has helped me recognize the value of confronting things in a timely fashion, and I’ve helped her learn the importance of finding the right time for confrontation. Timing is everything when it comes to healthy confrontations in all of our relationships. I naturally lean too passive, and she leans too aggressive. This personality dynamic creates tension in countless families, workplaces, churches, friendships, schools, and leadership teams.

Timing is everything when it comes to healthy confrontations in all of our relationships.

Finding Balance & Seeking Reconciliation (Relationslip Tip #4)

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there, remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:21-24, NIV).

The Bible isn’t silent on this issue. Jesus speaks directly to it during the famed sermon on the mount. He began by mentioning an injustice everyone can agree is terribly wrong, murder. Then He swiveled to the topic of anger without even saying whether or not it was justified. Ultimately, Jesus adroitly led the audience to consider how offenses destroy relationships.

Interestingly, when Jesus gave the protocol for dealing with anger, bitterness, insults, and general relational frustrations, He purposefully left a detail out that most of us would want to know. He never mentioned whether He was talking to the offended or the offender. Look at Matthew 5:23 again, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there, remember that your brother has something against you.” If I had been in the crowd, my hand would have shot up so I could ask Jesus, “Wait, does this apply if they have something against me because I did something wrong or because they did something wrong to me?” But Jesus didn’t bother to clarify because it didn’t matter. His instructions in the next verse apply regardless of whether I did wrong, they did wrong, or we both did wrong. Any way you slice it, what Jesus said next applies.

I’m taking a tiny bit of liberty with the text and putting it in today’s context. So, you’re at the altar in church when you remember that (for whatever reason) there’s some bad blood between you and so and so. Instead of pretending everything’s fine, or putting it off another second, find that person while your mind is focused on the Lord and make things right as best you can. You might think, but I’m doing something spiritual right now. I can deal with that later. Not so. Jesus told us that our highest priority should be seeking reconciliation if an offense is “slipping” up a relationship. When we go to that person, our main goal is to mend “whatever” it is that caused the rift.

Jesus told us that our highest priority should be seeking reconciliation if an offense is “slipping” up a relationship. When we go to that person, our main goal is to mend “whatever” it is that caused the rift.

Practical Advice Regarding Reconciliation

You might be a passive aggressor, an energetic attacker, or anything in between. Regardless, seeking reconciliation prioritizes people above being right, winning, getting everything you want, or having the final say. A reconciliatory attitude is stripped of pride, arrogance, and selfishness. If peace is possible, reconciliation achieves it. I’ve found that most people welcome reconciliation once they realize how much I value my relationship with them.

Seeking reconciliation prioritizes people above being right, winning, getting everything you want, or having the final say. A reconciliatory attitude is stripped of pride, arrogance, and selfishness.

With that said, here’s some practical advice for leaving your gift on the altar and having the hard reconciliation talk: 1) Calm down before going to that person. This can be especially hard for energetic attackers, but waiting until your emotions are under control is essential. 2) Think the problem through from your side and try your best to see their point of view too. You don’t have to agree with their views, but just putting yourself in their shoes for a little bit can change your perspective. 3) Pray about the situation. Pray for that person, and specifically ask God to help restore that relationship. Seek the Lord for wisdom, self-control, and guidance. 4) Plan a conversation that will bring about peace. A soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), so prepare your mind to speak with a tone that promotes healing, not anger.

Literalators & Exaggerators

I’m a big-picture guy. Taylor is a detail detective. I’ve learned that when Taylor asks about my day, she doesn’t want an overview; she wants every microscopic detail. I like to ballpark times and numbers. Taylor wants to know the exact milliseconds, pennies, and nanograms. Because I’m a big-picture, ballpark guy, I also tend to exaggerate. Typically, because I genuinely don’t remember the specifics. This can be problematic because if she’s taking everything literally and I’m ballparking, it creates disillusionment and miscommunications.

My father is also an exaggerator, and my mother is a literalator. Dad might say something happened recently that happened a decade ago. He isn’t trying to be dishonest or misleading. He just isn’t super focused on the time aspect of the story. It seems irrelevant to him. My mother can turn a three-minute story into a three-hour treatise on her trip to the grocery store because she feels the need to share every detail, precisely how it happened in real-time. So, you can imagine how literalators and exaggerators might have to work through communication issues and learn to meet in the middle.

Instructing Your Mouth (Relationslip Tip #5)

The heart of the wise instructeth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips (Proverbs 16:23, ASV).

People with wisdom in their hearts teach their mouths what to say, when, and to whom. I don’t enjoy giving specifics, and I wouldn’t say I like being given too many details. But I love my wife; she likes particulars, so I let wisdom instruct my mouth. She knows I don’t always want to hear the extended version of a story, so she allows wisdom to instruct her mouth. This is called relationship maturity. It’s learning how to communicate with others in a way that is meaningful to them. So, when literalators and exaggerators are together, they have to make concessions for each other in their communications.

Learn how to communicate with others in a way that is meaningful to them.

The Constant Thread

A constant thread of truth runs through these relationslip tips: Intentionality. Good relationships take time, energy, effort, care, selflessness, and intentionality. Great marriages don’t happen by accident. Lifetimes of friendship don’t just happen. Tremendous parents don’t just stumble on it. Happy workplaces don’t magically appear from nothing. Church unity doesn’t fall from Heaven on a few super-blessed congregations. No. Every meaningful relationship is fraught with protentional slipping hazards that must be carefully navigated. It can be exhausting; sometimes, we feel like giving up on certain people. But the benefits far outweigh the burdens.

Good relationships take time, energy, effort, care, selflessness, and intentionality.

What’s the Difference Between Godly Sorrow & Worldly Sorrow

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The Difference Makes the Difference

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul begins chapter seven by launching into a lengthy discussion about how to “perfect holiness” by “cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1)”. Inevitably, this dovetailed into a unique perspective on sorrow and repentance. Paul describes (and we’ll look closer at it in a moment) the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. It’s a vitally important distinction because one leads to spiritual death and the other to salvation. The difference makes the difference. We’ve all got to get this one right.

Called to Stop Sinning

The Bible teaches us that the Church is a called-out assembly. God has called us out of sin, and God has called us into holiness. We are supposed to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). That standard is very high because God is supremely holy. You might be thinking that it is impossible to be sinless. And in a way, you’re right. However, the New Testament reminds us repeatedly that we are to be without sin (holiness). In fact, 1 John 2:1 pauses and says, “Stop sinning. Just stop it!”

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not… (1 John 2:1).

If you take the Bible and boil it down to its essence, the central theme is God’s grand plan to get humanity from sinfulness to sinlessness.

Our Response to Sin is the Key

It’s easy to start sinning, but it’s hard to stop. That’s basically been humanity’s problem from the beginning. For most people, defining what is and isn’t sin is problematic. Sin is so pervasive and normal that we don’t feel horrified by it. And if we don’t feel horrified by sin, we don’t think of it as all that bad. My struggles with sin have taught me that sin’s grip is hard to break. If you’re human, you have your own stories and struggles with sin too. I also know how enticing sin can be from the countless hours I’ve spent trying to help others find deliverance from every sin you can imagine. I’ve noticed through the years that the real issue isn’t that we have sinned (because we have) or if we will sin (because we will).

The question that matters is, what will we do with our sin? How we respond to sin usually helps us stop or causes us to keep on sinning. Godly sorrow over sin produces genuine repentance, which allows the Holy Spirit to step in and empower us. Worldly sorrow leads to lackadaisical repentance, which only perpetuates sin in our lives. Worldly sorrow produces a self-sustaining cycle of sinfulness. Before highlighting the vital differences between godly and worldly sorrow, we must clear up an apparent contradiction in the Bible.

Does God Cleanse Us, or Do We Cleanse Ourselves?

Sin is a stain on our lives. God desires to present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). God is deadly serious about His church being holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). That’s why we’re all in such desperate need of the blood of Jesus. Only His blood cleanses all the stains of sin. But do we cleanse ourselves, or does Jesus cleanse us? The passages below might be a little confusing at first glance.

…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

To answer this question, we need to identify the context of these two verses. In the previous chapter, Paul clarifies his target audience, “for ye are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16).” Clearly, Paul is talking about repentance to people who have already obeyed the Gospel and are in the Church. He’s referring to the ongoing process of sanctification (holiness), which requires continued repentance. We must skip forward to pinpoint John’s intended audience:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

So, it’s clear that John is writing about the initial salvation experience, when we first take ownership of our sinfulness, leading to repentance and obeying the Gospel. At that moment, God covers us with His blood.

God’s Role & Our Responsibility

At salvation, something compelling happens; when we repent, our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9); at baptism, our sins are remitted (Acts 2:38); at the infilling of the Holy Ghost, we are empowered (Acts 1:8). God did the cleansing work at Calvary, and we stepped into that cleansing flow via obedience. However, regarding our continued walk with God, 2 Corinthians 7:1 clarifies that we must “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” In other words, God does the initial work. Then He expects us to put some effort into the process from that moment forward. To be sure, His Spirit comes inside to help lead, guide, comfort, correct, convict, strengthen, and encourage us along the way. But the infilling of the Spirit doesn’t remove our free will. After salvation, God expects us to exercise an often-overlooked fruit of the Spirit – self-control (Galatians 5:23).

Sometimes I hear church folks say, “if only God would give me the power over this ____ sin.” But God has already given us His Spirit. He’s already cleansed us. So now we must cleanse ourselves daily. If we’re not careful, we’ll use God as an excuse for our continued sin. God cleanses us first, and then we are responsible for walking in that cleansing. That’s the process of sanctification or holiness. In answer to the original question: Does God cleanse us, or do we cleanse ourselves? The answer is that God does the major cleanse first, and then we step in and do minor cleansing as we continue our walk with the Lord.

A Simple Illustration

A simple, albeit imperfect illustration, may help clarify this concept. Roughly once a month, I take our family SUV to a full-service carwash. They detail our vehicle inside and out. I do that because they have the equipment, chemicals, and expertise that allow them to do a thorough cleaning that I’m not capable of doing. It’s almost like having a new vehicle when they get done. I didn’t do the cleansing. They did. But if I eat a bagel in the car and crumbs fall everywhere, I must clean that mess myself. Otherwise, I’ve wasted my time and money on that professional cleaning job. They cleaned it first in ways I can’t do alone. But I still have a responsibility to keep it clean. In much the same way, that’s how walking in holiness works.

Problems in the Corinthian Church

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he is very forthright with them. The church was super messed up with big-time problems and significant sin issues. For example, a young man was having an affair with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). Even more revolting, rather than the church being grieved. They laughed about the situation like it was a joke (1 Corinthians 5:2). Paul was so angry that he demanded that if the guy refused to repent, they should turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5). That leaven of malice and wickedness would destroy the whole church if they didn’t deal with it correctly (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). All this background is essential because we can now understand 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 and answer the question: What’s the difference between godly and worldly sorrow?

I’m Not Sorry That I Made You Repent

8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance… (2 Corinthians 7:8-9).

In the above verses, Paul was trying to let the church know that his first letter (1 Corinthians), with its strong rebuke, was not intended to make them feel sorry but was a call to repentance.

…for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of… (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

In other words, when you have godly sorrow. It leads to godly repentance, and you don’t have to confess the same sin repeatedly.

…but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things, ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

The Contrast

In his unique way, Paul carefully contrasts these two types of sorrow. They both lead to outward repentance, but only one is genuine. The result of godly sorrow is a change in behavior and attitude. But worldly sorrow brings death. It certainly brings spiritual death, but in the immediate, it might mean the death of a marriage, a friendship, victory, blessings, spiritual power, or family relationships. Tragically, in extreme cases, it could culminate in an untimely physical death because of sin.

For All That Is in the World

Anything derived from the world is compromised, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).” Worldly sorrow is derived from either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. So, for example, a person might feel sorrow for their sin because of the pain it produces. They feel that pain in their flesh, and that pain can be intense. It’s real! Emotional and physical pain caused by sin can become unbearable at times. And many people assume the remorse they feel because of their agony is genuine repentance. But if that remorse is a temporary emotion birthed from pain, it’s not godly sorrow.

A second kind of worldly sorrow results from the lust of the eyes. People can be sorry because they see how sin has impacted their life; lost loved ones, broken relationships, wasted moments, embarrassments, and failures. Their kingdom might be crumbling before their eyes like a slow-motion nightmare. Consequences that used to seem so unlikely and distant come crashing into focus. They might think, “I’m going to lose my wife, kids, or job.” But ultimately, their focus is on their kingdom. Many people feel this kind of worldly sorrow and confuse it for genuine repentance. But true repentance is not self-centered. It’s God-centered.

Thirdly, the pride of life produces another type of worldly sorrow. People may feel sorry because they are embarrassed that people can see their sins. They see their reputation going down the drain, their influence waning, or they feel disliked. Perhaps they want to be viewed in a more positive light. But the critical issue is their name. Again, the sorrow is selfishly motivated. Therefore, the resulting repentance is only skin deep.

Me, Myself & I

Worldly sorrow always brings the focus on me. It’s all about my feelings. My pain. My reputation. My happiness. But godly sorrow focuses on the fact that my sin has grieved God and others. Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit. Godly sorrow is acutely aware that my sin has grieved the Holy Spirit. Godly sorrow isn’t just sorry because of sin’s consequences on my kingdom. It’s more concerned with God’s Kingdom. Godly sorrow isn’t worried about the reproach that I brought on my name but with the reproach that I brought on God’s name. As the prophet Nathan said to David after his horrific sin with Bathsheba, “You have brought great occasion to the enemies of the lord to blaspheme his name (2 Samuel 12:14).” Nathan was more concerned with how David’s sin would impact the world’s understanding of God than he was with king David’s reputation.

Seven Characteristics of Godly Sorrow

Paul doesn’t leave us with a nebulous definition of godly sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:11 describes what godly repentance looks like in action. He lists seven things that accompany godly sorrow. Numbers are significant in the Bible, and the number seven represents completion and perfection. Therefore, it could be said that these seven things signify complete and perfect repentance.

1. Carefulness

Carelessness leads to sinfulness. A careful person is full of care, caution, and intentionality. Godly sorrow produces carefulness where casualness once reigned supreme. Decisions are weighed out and made thoughtfully. Every action is measured according to the Word of God. Godly sorrow refuses to blame sin on ignorance, incompetence, recklessness, or inattention to detail.

2. Clearing of Yourself

Godly sorrow doesn’t make excuses. It doesn’t blame other people or circumstances for sin. There’s no hiding, covering, manipulating, shifting, or maneuvering of responsibility. Worldly sorrow keeps things hidden and harbors secret sins and motives behind closed doors. Godly sorrow seeks to clear the air and clean the conscience. It thrives on transparency and always advocates for the truth to be displayed.

3. Indignation

Godly sorrow recoils at the thought of past sins. Old lifestyles aren’t viewed as the “good old days.” It doesn’t laugh at sin or find it entertaining. Carnal things that used to seem euphoric become repulsive. The thought of sin and evil produces anger, indignation, and disgust. Godly sorrow views sin as a vile thing to be detested. It doesn’t despise sinners, but it does hate sin. In much the same way as you would hate cancer while loving a cancer patient.

4. Fear

I’m always nervous when someone repents of a particular sin and says, “I know I’ll never do that again.” I’d much rather someone say, “I’m going to take every precaution possible to make sure I never fall into that sin again because I’m afraid of going back to that terrible thing.” You will take godly precautions when you have a healthy fear of a possibility. Furthermore, a little fear of the Lord is a good thing.

5. Vehement Desire

Godly sorrow is fueled by a fervent desire to serve God and avoid sin. Vehement means to show strong feelings. It’s forceful, passionate, urgent, and intense. It isn’t mellow, mild, or casual. Godly sorrow recognizes the seriousness of sin and its desperate dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

6. Zeal

The Greek word for zeal is spoudē, found twelve times in the New Testament. The primary meaning of zeal is “haste” or “diligence.” Meaning diligence in the sense of “earnest zeal.” It’s always used in the context of living out godly lives.[i] The idea is that godliness takes ongoing work and tenacious effort.  

7. Revenge

When godly sorrow is in play, everything in your being wishes you could return and fix the things sin has taken from you. So, in a certain sense, you are looking for revenge against the enemy of your soul. That’s why brand-new saints often get so on fire for God. They are avenging what the enemy stole from them when they were under the bondage of sin. Godly sorrow never looks longingly back toward Egyptian taskmasters.

Final Thoughts

It’s not hard to receive the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. But if you’ve been around an Apostolic church for a while, you’ve probably noticed that some people seek the Holy Ghost for weeks or even months without being filled. The apostle Peter didn’t say, “repent and be baptized, and you might receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” He said, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” My experience has taught me that many people struggling to receive the Spirit are actually struggling with repentance. They might be sorrowful and going through the motions of repentance, but their sorrow is worldly and does not lead to life. Gently and lovingly, helping them to decipher the difference between godly and worldly sorrow can lead them to the breakthrough they need.


[i] Renn, Stephen D., ed. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005.

What Will Become of Us All? – A Poem

White picket lines of peaceful persuasion
Cannot undo the cost of invasion
Endless fine lines of baser perversions
Weakened strains of moral conversions
Flawlessly wielding falsified searches
What will become of us all?

Cold, calculating meaningless data
Hiding underneath the smiling strata
Clinging to less fortunate ideas
Laughing, dragging, while dreaming of sions
Intricate veins coursing with curses
What will become of us all?

Meanwhile, one white robed throng preaches the Writ
Tenaciously keeping holy flames lit
Falling valiant, bleeding from vicious slits
Ten thousand swords critically slashing hits
Battered, beleaguered saints climb past ashen fritz
What will become of us all?

One bright light pierces the eastern sky
A triumphant shout falls from mountain highest
One brilliant white horse gracefully flies
The armies of Heaven closely aligned
Every blood-stained voice shouts toward the sight
What will become of us all?

My Opinionated Opinion About Opinions

Your Opinion Matters

We’ve all received an email after visiting a retail or eating establishment titled something along the lines of Your Opinion Matters inviting us to give our feedback. Similar emails and text messages request our all-important answers for special surveys where our opinions are espoused to be desperately needed. I’ve even noticed this phenomenon at the beginning of a simple phone call. They ask right from the beginning if you’d be willing to stick around after the call for a brief survey—again, giving the illusion of an actual dependency on our opinions. In the latter case, I’ve been told by involved sources that those phone surveys don’t particularly care about our specific feedback as they claim. But companies know that if we’ve had a frustrating phone experience, we’re wired to feel better after complaining in a short survey, which means that we’re less likely to express our anger in some public way that might put the company in a bad light. In other words, we’re so prone to giving our opinion that we’ve become predictably naive and manipulatable. That’s one side of the equation.

Opinionated Opinions

On the other hand, I’ve noticed an ongoing social media trope declaring: People need your love more than your opinion. That statement may or may not be correct, depending on the circumstances. There are situations where I’d prefer my doctor to have valid opinions far more than lovingly offered incorrect opinions. Still, there are times I need a correct loving opinion. But who expects nuance in social media wisdom these days? However, let’s not let the irony pass us by that the statement, “People need your love more than your opinion,” is an opinionated opinion about having opinions. Perhaps it would be more correct to say make sure when giving your opinion you do so with love. But that doesn’t fit as easily in Instagram’s square box.

The Opinion that Cried Wolf

There’s a tug of war in our nature that does need reconciling. We do love to give our opinion. Even introverts can’t resist hinting at their firmly held opinions, even if they do so passive-aggressively or in coded language. Sometimes we are so loose with our opinions that we lose influence because people learn to tune us out. Sort of like the little boy who cried wolf when there was no wolf and when a wolf really did show up, no one believed the little boy’s warning. Similarly, many people waste their influence by spouting their opinion over myopic subjects that matter very little in the grand scheme of life. When their opinion really could make a difference, no one is listening.

The Facts Don’t Care About Your Opinion

To complicate things even more, we naturally enjoy giving our opinion much more than hearing the opinions of others. And that includes hearing the opinions of people who know more than we know about the topic at hand. No one likes a know-it-all, and no one wants to appear ignorant. It’s a conundrum that creates all kinds of problems. We like to feel as though we secretly or overtly know more than others. Of course, this is exacerbated by social media and the internet because we all have access to information that may or may not be correct. Let alone helpful. If you need an example, mess around on a medical self-diagnosing website for a few minutes. You’ll be convinced you have some rare condition you previously did not know existed.

Wisdom & Opinion

Because of my ministerial calling, the subject of opinions intrigues me deeply. The word alone is complicated to unpack because the question of how to separate opinion from fact (or truth) becomes paramount to this whole discussion. It’s easier to dismiss something as an “opinion” than to face it as an inconvenient fact we just don’t want to hear. Even the word opinion comes weighted with the “your truth” versus “my truth” connotation. Frequently we dump unwanted truth in the it’s-just-their-opinion basket. While other times, opinion givers package their unnecessary bias as a fact when it would be better to frame that thought as a personal opinion. Or better yet, leave the thought unstated altogether. That’s where wisdom comes into play. Oh, and humility too.

It would be misleading for me to infer I’ve perfected the art of knowing when and how to give my opinion. I’m certainly a work in progress. But I am slowly learning and struggling to grow in wisdom and humility. A case could be made that ministry and all forms of leadership revolve around the perfecting of opinions. Hopefully, those opinions are grounded in timeless biblical truths, Spirit-led wisdom, and intentional humility. Nonetheless, leadership in all its various forms is steeped in the wellspring of opinion. Indeed, preaching is divinely designed to shape, change, and rearrange fleshly views. Much of ministry encompasses the dispensing of opinion or offering wisdom to others.

The Difference Between Sacred & Secular Opinion

Ministry is dramatically unique from almost every secular leadership environment. Every opinion turned policy must be followed in the corporate leadership world, or you lose your job. That’s even more true in military leadership structures. All federal and local government jobs are that way too. There are typically immediate consequences for ignoring leaders’ opinions in secular leadership structures. But although ministers have God-given authority (and we could argue another time about how absolute that authority should be according to Scripture), that authority cannot and should not be imposed forcefully. The Bible is clear; shepherds must not lord over the flock (1 Peter 5:3). In this instance, I prefer the English Standard Version’s translation, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).”

Influence: The Currency of the Ministry

The harsh reality of ministry is that you spend more time counseling and comforting people after they discarded your opinion (wise counsel) than just about anything else. And after a couple of hundred hours of those sad sessions where you bite your tongue half off to keep from saying I-told-you-so, authoritarianism seems awfully appealing. Or, you might be tempted never to offer a wise opinion and just live and let live. Countless burned-out ministers have expressed that very feeling to me in private. I understand and relate to their emotions. The currency of ministry is influence, and that’s challenging to maintain ethically, especially when staying true to complex yet fundamental principles. Everything in this world is striving to gain influence over the people under a shepherd’s care. Most of those opinionated influences seek to undermine spiritual guidance, and a shepherd can’t use his staff to beat sheep into submission. That sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s less obvious when a shepherd sees one of his sheep following a wolf into the wilderness. So, let me offer my opinionated opinions about dispensing opinions, most of which are things I’ve learned through trial and error.

More Listening and Less Speaking

James 1:19 instructs us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:7 reminds us there is a time for silence and a time to speak. And Proverbs 17:27 in the English Standard Version says, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” Again, in the English Standard Version, Proverbs 18:13 declares, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” These, along with many other relevant Scriptures, underscore an important implied lesson about how every Christian should approach offering their opinions. Mainly, we should do less speaking and more listening.

There’s more wisdom in this little principle than we might recognize immediately. First, less speaking gives us more time to gather our thoughts and offer a well-worded opinion. Second, it allows us to hear all the relevant information before jumping to the wrong conclusion or getting ahead of the facts. Third, it enables us to maintain a calm demeanor that projects wisdom and understanding rather than impatience and impetuousness. There is a time to speak our opinion but learning to listen long enough is a discipline many leaders lack. I’ve found that many people will tell things they didn’t intend to reveal if I let them speak long enough, allowing me to understand what I’m really dealing with under the surface. If I’d spoken sooner, my advice would not have been helpful because I lacked awareness.

More Building Up and Less Tearing Down

Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Similarly, Ephesians 4:29 in the English Standard Version says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

It’s easy to focus on other people’s failures, negatives, and downright stupidity when offering opinions—that mindset results in an offensive, critical, condescending, and prideful demeanor. That doesn’t mean constructive criticism or outright correction is never warranted. Warnings and disapproval must be seasoned with grace and should fit the occasion. Don’t do a disapproval dump of the, and-while-I’m-at-it-let-me-say-this, variety. Most people can only handle so much constructive criticism at one time. If they feel like you’ve been waiting to pounce, it can be crushing to the heartiest of spirits. A good rule of thumb is to temper each negative statement with at least one or two positive comments. Never tear down without building up at the same time. Never lance an infection without applying ointment and bandaging it with care.

More Praying Before Answering

Numbers 9:1-14 recounts a fascinating leadership lesson from the early days of Moses’ ministry. The Israelites had been in the wilderness for one year after leaving Egypt, and God gave specific instructions on what day to celebrate the Passover. Moses dutifully passed the instructions along to the people, and preparations seemed to be going smoothly until a few men approached Moses with a problem. They had come into contact with a dead body rendering them ceremonially unclean which meant they were technically disqualified from celebrating the Passover at the God-ordained time. This might sound silly to our New Testament way of thinking, but this was a big deal with no obvious solution. And the way Moses responded to these men is an example for us all. He said, “Wait here until I have received instructions for you from the Lord (Numbers 9:8).” If we all prayed more before giving opinions, everyone would be in better shape. We’d likely throw our opinions out less often but with better results. Why? Because prayer forces us to make sure our opinion is actually God’s opinion, which makes all the difference.

More Replying and Less Coercing

One day King Zedekiah called for the prophet Jeremiah to come and speak with him. “I want to ask you something,” he said firmly. “And don’t try to hide the truth,” he demanded. Jeremiah’s response contains a lesson for us about when and how to handle knowledge. The prophet’s response is found in Jeremiah 38:15, and I’m using the English Standard Version, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.” Most people can’t wait to give their opinion, and they would be beside themselves if a king wanted their advice. Yet, Jeremiah knew opinions are a dime a dozen, and wasting advice on people who won’t receive it can produce more damage than good. After some back and forth, Jeremiah eventually did offer his opinion, but only after ensuring the king was sincerely ready to receive it.

Proverbs 1:5 in the English Standard Version declares, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” Again, in the English Standard Version, Proverbs 15:12 asserts, “A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.” Here’s the harsh point, if you have to chase people down to give them your opinion (or advice), you’re wasting your time. The moment you find yourself trying to coerce people into enduring your opinion, the struggle for influence has already been lost. That doesn’t mean you can’t regain it, but the timing is off. People ready to receive counsel will come to you. And those who never seek wise opinions would do well to consider Ecclesiastes 4:13 (English Standard Version), “Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.”

More Love and Less of Everything Else

I know it gets taken out of context quite a bit, but it would be foolish to have this discussion without referencing the admonition of Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth with love. The old saying is true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Beyond that, some people will never care how much you care or how much you know. Love them anyway, but save your breath for those willing to listen. But remember, even people willing to listen will reject your opinion if you give it without love. Let’s commit ourselves to the hard work of loving more than spouting off opinions. Cold-hearted leaders harm the truth with their actions despite their correct words—cloak hard facts in the softness of love. If they reject your wisdom and leadership, you can stand before the Lord with a blameless heart.

More Wisdom and Less Foolishness

Let’s switch gears from the subject of giving opinions to the importance of receiving correct views from others. Regardless of status, we all need wise counsel, or we will descend into foolishness. Fyodor Dostoevsky, the legendary author of Crime & Punishment, once said, “The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” President John F. Kennedy is noted as saying, “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Those two quotes are self-deprecating ways of articulating that even the wisest among us still need the wisdom of those more discerning. Intelligent people know their weaknesses and acknowledge their blind spots. Foolish people insist on trusting their insufficiencies to their detriment.

The psalmist promised, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1:1).” And Proverbs 13:20 warned, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20).” The apostle Paul cautioned the church in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” It’s not enough to know you need the opinions of others. Having the prudence to find good godly counsel is the key that unlocks the door to sagacity. Astute people seek advice from wise people, and silly people glean from the opinions of foolish people.

More Peace and Less Drama

James 3:17-18 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture (I’m quoting from the English Standard Version):

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

If you’re wondering how to decipher the difference between righteous opinions and fleshly opinions, the above passage should be circled and boldly highlighted in your Bible. Pious opinions are always seeking peace. That doesn’t mean they’re weak or watered down. It simply means they’re working hard to be peaceful, merciful, sincere, and impartial. Each one of those four things takes courage, effort, and intentionality. Things like contentiousness, cantankerousness, condescension, and downright divisiveness don’t require much exertion because they’re baked into our sinful nature. Look for leaders who strive to keep peace and attempt to be that kind of leader yourself. And if you do, you will reap a harvest of righteousness.

The Anatomy of a Failure (A Scriptural Survey of Why Sincere Souls Fail God) – Article + Podcast

The Anatomy of a Failure

During several formative years of my life, Bishop Douglas White ministered to my soul at camp meetings, conferences, and seminars. Time and time again, his stirring sermons send me running to an altar to touch God. His dynamic preaching ministry is in constant demand and has been for as long as I can remember. He has a way of preaching hard truths with love and urgency that compels you to respond. I’m grateful for his ministry. So, when I discovered his newest book, The Anatomy of a Failure: A Scriptural Survey of Why Sincere Souls Fail God, I purchased it faster than you can say “Visa.” Links to buy The Anatomy of a Failure are listed below. I suggest ordering several of them to give away.

Common Heartache

Every Apostolic reading this shares the familiar heartache of knowing friends and family members that have forfeited their salvation. And for those of us who genuinely believe what the Bible teaches about salvation and Hell, we agonize over the condition of their souls and the wasted earthly potential. We’ve all seen as White says:

A beautiful soul rushing back to a hideous condition. A victorious spirit tumbling back to a tortured existence. An honorable life stumbling to a dishonorable lifestyle. A blessed home collapsing into a cursed abode.

How does this happen? That’s the question White strives to answer in The Anatomy of a Failure. The book is a spiritual autopsy. A posthumous examination of dead souls that once thrived in the Spirit. More than that, however, White somberly reminds us that we too have the potential to fail God. This book equips us with defensive weapons and understanding that might be vital to finishing the race. Another byproduct of this book is the light it sheds on the process of backsliding. I finished reading The Anatomy of a Failure with a greater understanding of why good, and I mean “genuinely” good people, abandon Truth. My prayer is that by understanding backsliders better, I might assist them in finding restoration.

Losing Salvation is Possible

Grace is probably the most misunderstood, misconstrued, and misused doctrine in the Bible (I’ve written more about that here). It’s at least up there in the top five. With that in mind, White tackles that issue in the prologue titled The Fallacies of a Failing Soul. In what becomes the underlying text for the entire book, White cites Hebrews 12:14-15:

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.

Because grace is often tragically misrepresented as a Divine blank check enabling us to sin freely without consequence, White doubles down on the meaning of Hebrews 12:14-15, saying, “God’s grace never fails – but people can fail.” And he continues:

Nobody will ever stand before God, look Him in the eye, and say that His grace was anything but glorious and forgiving. However, when an individual spurns the grace that God is offering and continues in his sinful lifestyle, it is he who is failing God’s miraculous grace. It is one of the fallacies of a failing soul to think otherwise.

Nobody will ever stand before God and say His grace was anything but glorious and forgiving. However, when an individual spurns the grace God is offering and continues in a sinful lifestyle, it is he who is failing God’s miraculous grace. -Doug White

White moves on to address the most common objection to the reality that good people can fail the grace of God, “A loving God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell (I’ve written an in-depth study on the biblical doctrine of Hell here).” For me, White’s response was revelatory:

A loving God would not send anyone to Hell. But the moment a person dies, Jesus no longer sees him or her through the eyes of a loving God but through the eyes of a righteous judge that must judge every person by the same standard: Did they walk in obedience to God’s Word?

When a person dies, Jesus no longer sees through the eyes of a loving God but through the eyes of a righteous judge that must judge every person by the same standard: Did they walk in obedience to God’s Word? -Doug White

Ultimately, when sheep refuse to follow God’s ways, they forfeit the benefits and protections of the Great Shepherd. White says it best, “Offering salvation is God’s task; maintaining salvation is our task.” Later he rephrases it like this, “A sinful nature and a saved nature cannot coexist in your life.” It’s important to remember that not every falling away from God is accompanied by a dramatic, loud exodus from the church. Of course, some do, and we remember those moments the best. But more often than not, people slip silently away from God while quietly justifying themselves and ultimately convincing themselves they’re just as saved as ever. That’s the fallacy of a failing soul.

When sheep refuse to follow God’s ways, they forfeit the benefits and protections of the Great Shepherd.

Offering salvation is God’s task; maintaining salvation is our task. A sinful nature and a saved nature cannot coexist in your life. -Doug White

Not every falling away from God is accompanied by a dramatic, loud exodus from the church. People slip silently away from God while quietly justifying themselves and ultimately convincing themselves they’re just as saved as ever.

Four Main Reasons Good People Make Bad Mistakes

Bishop White identifies the initial source or the root of every backslider’s eventual failure. He insightfully leans on forty years of ministry to pinpoint four common trouble areas that fit into the anatomy of a body. The four bodily diseased areas that rip people away from the Body of Christ are feet, stomach, head, and heart. Learning to protect, heal, defend, and cultivate these areas is the key to successfully serving God for a lifetime.

Feet: The Instability of an Unsure Foundation

White reminds us that “the only hope we have of standing firm in living for God is determined by the quality of our foundation.” He makes a classic reference to the parable of the man who built his house on the rock compared to the man who built his life upon the sand (Luke 6:48-49). Everything else in our spiritual life is built on our initial foundation. This is perhaps the most crucial area to get right early on in the spiritual journey.

The only hope we have of standing firm in living for God is determined by the quality of our foundation. -Doug White

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Millennium Tower located in downtown San Francisco. The luxury condominium cost a whopping 350 million dollars to build in early 2002. It’s a beautiful structure, made chiefly of elegant glass that towers high into the horizon, reflecting the radiant hues of the sun. Until 2015 everything went precisely as planned. The building became a status symbol of wealthy city living and garnered several awards. It became the residence of choice for affluent San Franciscans. But that all changed when residents began to report loud popping noises and large panes of glass started cracking unexpectedly. And worse, experts noticed the building was sinking and tilting drastically. So far, it has fallen nearly eighteen inches into the ground and tilted another fifteen inches to the northwest. All that lurching, turning, and twisting is breaking all kinds of things from the top of the structure to the bottom. Even after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort, the renovations have done little to stop the problem. Groundwater loss from adjacent construction has been blamed for the issue by the tower’s developers, while geotechnical experts say the key is that its foundation is not rooted in bedrock. You see, where I’m going, it doesn’t matter how incredible the exterior looks if your spiritual foundation isn’t rooted in bedrock.

It doesn’t matter how incredible the exterior looks if your spiritual foundation isn’t rooted in bedrock.

White points to three crucial materials that must form every spiritual foundation: The Bible, faithfulness, and integrity. He says:

Far too many individuals walking through those spiritual realms struggle with being ‘tossed to and fro,’ in and out of righteousness because their feet are not firmly planted on the sure foundation that is provided by God’s Word.

Too many individuals walking through spiritual realms struggle with being ‘tossed to and fro,’ in and out of righteousness because their feet are not firmly planted on the sure foundation that is provided by God’s Word. -Doug White

In our podcast conversation, Bishop White made a profound statement, “The person in most danger of failing God in your church is the one who loves the music, loves the preaching, loves the worship, loves the fellowship but never settles doctrinal absolutes in their minds.” Without using the words, White spends a great deal of time pushing back against universalism and ecumenicalism, both of which are prevailing heresies of our age. While there might be room for disagreement on some biblical points, central salvific doctrines like the oneness of God, baptism in Jesus’ name, the necessity of the infilling of the Holy Ghost, holiness, and righteous living must become the bedrock of faith.

The person in most danger of failing God in your church is the one who loves the music, loves the preaching, loves the worship, loves the fellowship but never settles doctrinal absolutes in their minds. -Doug White

The second element in the threefold mixture that forms a sure spiritual foundation is deep, abiding faithfulness. White describes it this way:

It is faithfulness that refuses to negotiate with sin or temptation or even emotional upheavals. Those who live on a sure, solid foundation are the individuals who choose daily to live a life of faithfulness to God: Faithful involvement with God’s kingdom. Faithful gathering together with the saints. Steadfast in our walk with God. Authentic in our representation of God to our world. Regardless of how much you claim to believe in biblical truth, this truth is rendered completely ineffective in your life if you don’t baptize it with faithfulness… Your belief in truth is null and void if you don’t act faithfully upon the principles of that truth.

Regardless of how much you claim to believe in biblical truth, truth is rendered completely ineffective in your life if you don’t baptize it with faithfulness. -Doug White

The third and final element in the foundation mixture is unshakable integrity. White defines integrity as “having the ability to see yourself the way God sees you, not the way you would like to be seen.” A life of integrity is devoid of hypocrisy and infused with humility. I consider this to be White’s most impactful quote in the first chapter:

In most cases pertaining to spiritual stability, if you let your feet provide your direction, you won’t have to worry about problems your head could cause.

In most cases pertaining to spiritual stability, if you let your feet provide your direction, you won’t have to worry about problems your head could cause. -Doug White

Stomach: The Pull of an Unholy Consumption

If you could only read one chapter of The Anatomy of a Failure for some strange reason, it should be this one. I consider unholy consumption to be the primary reason the average person falls prey to the enemy. Because our highly advanced, super technological culture allows for instant and nearly unlimited access to the consumption of carnal things, countless Christians develop a habitual taste for dainties that slowly pushes out their desire for holy things. Just like the eunuch thought Daniel would be weakened by abstaining from defiling foods from the king’s table, society views our restrictive lifestyle of purity as fanatical and unsustainable. But our separated lifestyle is the key to our power. Sadly, some have come to view it as a hindrance because they desire to fill their bellies with unrighteousness. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness includes separation from immodest appearance, fleshly vices, worldly entertainment, and unholy speech. White says:

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness includes separation from immodest appearance, fleshly vices, worldly entertainment, and unholy speech.

While the story of Daniel is old, the principle it promotes is just as true today: The spiritual life of a child of God will either excel or decline depending on what their appetites are… If you fit into the category of someone who constantly struggles in your walk with God, I suggest you take an immediate inventory of what you are putting in your spiritual stomach. Such an inventory is necessary because allowing your spiritual man to exist in perpetual struggle eventually eliminates vital elements like joy, passion, zeal, and even a desire to continue serving God.

The spiritual life of a child of God will either excel or decline depending on what their appetites are. -Doug White

What you consume will affect you spiritually just as surely as the physical things you consume will affect you physically. It’s also important to realize that it’s not just sinful things that can potentially harm you. But if consuming hobbies or benignly distracting things pull you away from faithfulness, you will eventually fail God. White gives a good measuring stick for measuring the quality of your consumption, “Anytime you start feeling a fondness for a former slavery, it is a sure sign of partaking in questionable consumption.”

It’s not just sinful things that can potentially harm you. But if consuming hobbies or benignly distracting things pull you away from faithfulness, you will eventually fail God.

Anytime you start feeling a fondness for a former slavery, it is a sure sign of partaking in questionable consumption. -Doug White

The conversation surrounding what is acceptable for Christians to consume and still be saved is always fraught with disagreement. At the core of this conversation is wisdom. It takes wisdom to know what is healthy, benign, and unhealthy for a Christian to ingest. Sadly, I’ve been around many conversations revolving around how much junk a Christian can devour and still be saved. White mirrors those questions, “How much poison can I consume and still stay alive? How much filth can I eat without getting sick? How much rottenness can I devour without suffering the consequences?” He continues, “Knowing the challenges every individual has to contend with to serve God with integrity, why would anybody challenge themselves further by deliberately empowering their flesh?”

There’s an old Indian story of a grandfather telling his grandson about two wolves that live inside us all. One wolf is good, loyal, pure, and full of integrity. The other wolf is violent, angry, evil, and dishonest. “Each day, these two wolves fight inside of me,” said the grandfather to his young grandson. Wide-eyed, the boy asked, “Which one will win?” “The one I feed,” replied the wise grandfather.

Head: The Hindrance of an Unbridled Mind

This issue is so important that the Bible speaks of our thoughts 138 times and refers to our minds 137 times. White emphasizes how the battle for our soul begins in the mind. And while temptation is not sin, a runaway thought can morph into an unholy intention if it isn’t taken into captivity and cast down. White puts it succinctly, “Sadly, over time those thoughts became temptations, which eventually developed intentions. Those intentions eventually found an occasion to sin.”

While temptation is not sin, a runaway thought can morph into an unholy intention if it isn’t taken into captivity and cast down.

The old-timers used to say, “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from settling in and building a nest there.” We can’t keep unholy thoughts from flying through our minds, but we can make sure they don’t make a home there. As White wisely states, “Your mind will either assist you or assassinate you.” Gaining the self-control needed to retrain your mind from dwelling on ungodly things is paramount to every believer. White says it best:

To stop the catastrophic loss of salvation, your unbridled mind is hurling you toward; you must become spiritually mature enough to turn off the flow valve of the deadly sewage of unholy thoughts.

Your mind will either assist you or assassinate you. Gaining the self-control needed to retrain your mind from dwelling on ungodly things is paramount to every believer. -Doug White

Heart: The Delusion of Misplaced Passions

White comes out swinging in this chapter, “Our heart can either be our greatest advantage or our greatest adversary.” It’s eerily possible to be faithful, worship, praise, and go through the motions of godliness without engaging the heart thoroughly. White teaches that passion is the gauge for measuring spiritual heart health, “Passion is the tell-tale sign that our heart is involved; without passion, any work we do has ceased to be a matter of the heart.”

Our heart can either be our greatest advantage or our greatest adversary. It’s eerily possible to be faithful, worship, praise, and go through the motions of godliness without engaging the heart thoroughly.

This chapter revealed something that had perplexed me for a long time: How can people seem to love God but not serve him passionately? White reminds us that we are commanded to love God with all our hearts in no uncertain terms. He says:

Any time this commandment is casually diminished by placing a greater passion on something else, we have become the victim of a divided heart. The obvious way to tell if an all-the-way-salvation has become a divided-heart situation is to compare your passion for God with your passion for other things.

And here is the revelation that greatly enhanced my understanding:

Most people who backslide don’t fall out of love with God; they just fall in love with something else, leaving a divided heart.

Most people who backslide don’t fall out of love with God; they just fall in love with something else, leaving a divided heart. -Doug White

Conclusion & Summary

Pay prayerful attention, and you will find that everyone you have seen fail God fits into the four categories as defined by Bishop White:

  • They had spiritual feet that lacked a sure foundation, leaving them unstable and quick to fall.
  • They had a spiritual stomach that consistently fed on unholy things, leaving them weak and defenseless against the adversary.
  • They had a spiritual head that refused to restrain their unholy thoughts, allowing temptations to become sinful intentions, which led them to sin.
  • They had a spiritual heart that became careless, allowing them to misplace their passion in carnal things, deluding them with the idea that “selling-out” wasn’t as important as merely “claiming salvation.”

We are all susceptible to failing in these areas if we aren’t on guard. Awareness is half the battle. Viewing these anatomical areas invigorates my desire to put on the whole armor of God. Years ago, the Lord gave me a dream of thousands of Christians rushing into battle with incomplete armor. Some had everything but a helmet, while others had a sword. One by one, they fell to the enemy. In that graphic visual, the problem seemed so obvious. But Christians do this all the time, yet they feel safe because they have almost all the armor they need. They have an allusion of safety but lack the fullness of God’s necessary resources. I pray this is not so for you and for me too.

Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

Generally, it seems Bible-affirming Christians agree that drinking to the point of drunkenness is sinful. However, total abstinence of alcoholic beverages is viewed by the majority of the “Christian” world as puritanical and antiquated. There’s lots of talk about moderation and Christian liberty combined with distortions and contortions of biblical passages cited by the moderate drinking crowd. Others, like myself, are firmly planted on the side of complete alcoholic self-denial.

The Three Paths to Alcoholic Abstinence

There are essentially three paths leading to complete alcoholic abstinence. Path one, personal experiences, history, hurt, conflict, danger, abuse, and heartache associated with drinking either due to their addiction or the habits of someone close to them. These real-life experiences are deeply ingrained and hard to argue against because they are so compelling. Typically, I find this to be the most common path leading people to take an unwavering stance against drinking. Path two, a practical and moral approach against alcohol by observing the destruction it causes from a distance and recognizing that far more evil than good is associated with its use. Path three begins with a biblical grounding and proper application of biblical absolutes and principles, leading to a doctrine of total alcoholic abstinence.

Each of these paths are good, but without the inclusion of path three (right biblical doctrine), we are merely giving great advice rather than a true spiritual direction. That’s not to say anecdotal experiences, opinions, testimonies, observations, and innate moral wisdom aren’t powerful. Those things are essential and persuasive. This article will include those arguments against alcohol as well. However, there seems to be so much biblical illiteracy and confusion on this subject. It’s becoming far more crucial for the Church to recenter the focus of our anti-alcohol stance firmly around the Bible. If we could learn to merge these three powerful paths, it would forge a highway for people to access easily. So, we’ll walk down these three paths and culminate with a hard look at what the Bible has to say about the subject.

Practical Objections to Alcohol

Millions of people worldwide abstain from alcohol without any Scriptural grounding or religious affiliation because they’ve seen the dangers it poses. It’s not hard to pick on alcohol because it leaves a wake of devastation everywhere it goes. Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States, coming after tobacco. A person who succumbs to excessive alcohol use loses a potential of thirty years of life. As many as forty percent of all the hospital beds across the country are used to treat health conditions that develop from alcoholism.The epidemic is so bad that seventeen percent of men in the general population and eight percent of women will meet the criteria for alcoholism in their lifetime.

And those stats are only a reflection of individuals who obtained treatment. Many millions more suffer from alcohol-related issues and never receive any diagnosis or treatment. Many statistics indicate (and I’ve perused them, so you don’t have to do the tedious work) that roughly fifty-six percent of Americans suffer from alcohol dependence. Another subset under that stat may not be physically dependent, but their drinking has long-lasting social consequences on their health, family, friendships, and productivity. Drinking is a proven contributor to suicide. Many drink to forget, but in the end, it only worsens their problems. The vast majority of rapes in the U.S. involve alcohol. Thirty percent of all driving fatalities each year are directly related to alcohol. The U.S. spends 199 billion dollars per year, trying in vain to stop this problem. This list could go on and on (you can read all the links at the end of this article if you’re interested).

The Dragon that Won’t Let Go

What stands out to me from the mountains of data collected is how few people break free from the grip of alcohol. Governments spend billions of dollars a year trying to solve the problems. Thousands of privately funded organizations work admirably to help people stay sober. Yet, the data shows only about ten percent of the people who complete these programs remain sober long term. Human attempts to cure what many scientists call a drinking epidemic have been tepid at best. For example, by classifying alcoholism as a disease but treating the substance itself (the actual alcohol) as harmless, society lulls millions of victims into the clutches of a ruthless dragon called alcohol addiction. Society gives the false impression that drinking is harmless, frivolous, fun, and only problematic for a small minority of “sick” people. Yet, no one begins drinking, hoping, or expecting to be dependent on drinking. By refusing to take the problem seriously and not defining alcohol as the dangerous dragon that won’t let go, society is complicit in the staggering loss of life and potential caused by drinking.

One More Major Practical Objection to Alcohol

You could probably pick out a stranger on the street in five seconds and hear stories about how their family hurts because of alcohol. Massive percentages of parents are missing in action either emotionally, spiritually, or physically because they self-medicate with alcohol. This brings enormous dissonance and disconnection in the lives of children. Even if the children don’t imitate their parents drinking patterns, they live with emotional scars that never seem to heal. Divorce rates are intrinsically tied to drinking. Drinking is a leading cause of marital unfaithfulness, adultery, emotional abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological distancing. The drinker rarely sees themself as the problem. Meaning they project blame on the innocent people around them. Or maybe the drinker has legitimate grievances that people around them care deeply about, but the alcohol fogs their brain and keeps them from finding lasting solutions to their woes. They begin fighting the people who care about them the most. The dragon of drinking causes them to be at odds with God, which moves them further down the rabbit hole of turmoil. In my opinion, these practical moral objections to alcohol are reasons enough to abstain completely.

But Don’t People Drink in the Bible?

The Bible is perplexingly silent on wine or alcohol in the Genesis account from Creation to the Flood. Interestingly, the great evils of Nimrod and the degeneration of humanity after the Fall in the Garden of Eden wasn’t directly linked to rampant alcoholism. Some assume Jesus’ mention of pre-Flood people’s eating, drinking, and giving in marriage (Matthew 24:38, Luke 17:26-28) is a reference to alcoholism. However, when taken literally, the Greek word drinking Jesus used doesn’t necessarily imply drunkenness.[i] Jesus’ overall point about pre-Flood people was their lack of awareness and unwillingness to heed the signs of coming judgment. Indeed, all kinds of wickedness must have been swirling around within the human condition. Still, their most profound problem was their refusal to seek after God. The sinful human tendency to avoid God is still humanity’s most significant problem. Jesus knew complacency would become even more acute in the Last Days (Matthew 24:39-41), so He warned us to avoid the trap of assuming everything will always just be normal.

Noah Gets Drunk

This brings us to the curious situation of Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8) getting drunk (Genesis 9:21). We don’t have many details; Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), drank wine, and became intoxicated (Genesis 9:21). The Bible is commendable in that it never tries to cover up the flawed nature of its heroes. Whether or not Noah intended to get drunk hardly matters in the grand scheme of the story. His drunkenness produced nakedness (Genesis 9:21-22), a condition already marked by God as deeply shameful (Genesis 3:7-11, 21). Ham accidentally discovered his father’s scandalous condition and told his brothers Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:22). When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor and realized what Ham had done to him, he immediately pronounced a curse on the descendants of Ham (Genesis 9:24-25).

The Awful Aftermath of Noah’s Drunkenness

Speculation abounds as to what Ham did to his father to warrant such a harsh judgment.[ii] It’s safe to stick with the context and conclude that Ham took on a demeanor of disrespect towards his father. Rather than respectfully covering Noah’s nakedness and preserving his dignity, Ham gossiped about it to his brothers. Shem and Japheth wisely backed into their father’s tent and covered his shame without looking (Genesis 9:23). Noah’s failure is not a biblical license to excuse drunkenness. Noah was pre-law and pre-revelation, operating as best he could in a brand-new world full of uncertainty. He fell short, and the Bible wisely gives us the first recorded consequences of fermented wine. The Flood didn’t rid the universe of sin. It just gave humanity a fresh start. This tragic episode in Noah’s life story serves as a reminder of human righteousness’s frailty. It’s astounding how relevant Noah’s drunken failure is in today’s world. Wine lowered inhibitions, ushered in shameful nakedness and ripped a family apart. And, thousands of years later, intoxication is doing the same thing but on an epic scale.

It Just Gets Worse

The Bible’s second mention of drunkenness is even more horrific than the first. Lot had just barely escaped the fiery judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-29). He took his two surviving daughters to live in a cave because he feared the surrounding people (Genesis 19:30). His two daughters hatched a disgusting plan to get their father drunk so that they could have incestuous relations with him (Genesis 19:31-35). They desired to have children and preserve their future in some twisted way. Clearly, all those years living in Sodom had warped their morals. Their plan was successful to Lot’s abysmal shame, and from those incestuous children, two of Israel’s most antagonistic tribes were birthed: The Moabites and the Ammonites (Genesis 19:36).

This passage doesn’t explicitly condemn drunkenness or incest; it doesn’t have to. Every Israelite reader would have known these were sins to be avoided because two of Israel’s most troublesome enemies were spawned due to Lot’s drunken actions.[iii] Again, the Bible demonstrates that alcohol is at the center of familial brokenness, terrible judgment, and sexual deviancy. Furthermore, a pattern of generational curses and consequences emerges only nineteen chapters into the Bible directly linked to alcohol. The Bible becomes much more explicit and forceful in its condemnation of alcohol later, but these early chapters give implied warnings about alcohol’s evils. The Bible consistently sheds a negative light on drinking and the fallout surrounding it.

More Unfavorable Mentions

Nabal died of a stroke after insulting David and throwing a drunken party (1 Samuel 25:1-44). His name means “fool,” which fits perfectly with his actions. In one of King David’s vilest moments, he intentionally got Uriah drunk while trying to cover up that he had impregnated the poor man’s wife. When that didn’t work, King David arranged for Uriah to be killed (2 Samuel 11:1-26). Zimri assassinated wicked King Elah of Israel while Elah was drunk, fulfilling the prophecy of Jehu (1 Kings 16:7-14). A pagan king named Ben-Hadad made a strategic blunder in battle while in a drunken state (1 Kings 20:15-21). Interestingly misfortune befalls each of these people from Noah to King Ben-Hadad either while in their drunken stupor or shortly after they woke up.[iv] In my opinion, these stories alone give compelling reasons a wise Christian should avoid alcohol entirely without needing a single explicit biblical command.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Joel

4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten, and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten, and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. 5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth (Joel 1:4-5).

The prophet Joel viewed the locust plague as a manifestation of God’s displeasure due to His people’s sins, and, quite appropriately, he directed his first great caution, “Awake,” to a prominent class of sinners always present in any wicked society, the drunkards. The destruction of all vegetation, including the vineyards, would have interrupted and cut off the supply of intoxicants for years to come. Notably, Joel did not address this class as unfortunates overcome by some innocent disease. The Biblical view of drinking intoxicants and wallowing in drunkenness relates such conditions to wickedness and not to disease. As Shakespeare put it:[v]

O thou invisible spirit of wine, If thou hast no name to be known by, let Us call thee devil.[vi]

Unlike many of the other prophets, Joel did not condemn Israel for idolatry. Earlier in their history, when Joel was prophesying, idolatry was not the great sin in Israel. Joel only mentions one sin, the sin of drunkenness.[vii] It would be a grave error to overlook the gravity of this inference by the prophet Joel. Of course, the subtext is Israel’s spiritual drunken stupor, but their literal drunkenness is the obvious sin. Joel compares the easily visible sin of outward drunkenness to Israel’s spiritual indifference. Even more compelling is the parallel the prophet makes between intoxication and spiritual malpractice. How can intemperate people properly serve a temperate God? Joel pointed out the irony that God sent a plague of locusts cutting off Israel’s ability to remain intoxicated, forcing the people to become sober long enough to reflect on their sins and the resulting judgments of God.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Hosea

Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT).

In this blistering chapter (Hosea 4), God rebuked the Israelites, likening them to literal and figurative prostitutes. God described Israel’s culture as murderous, unfaithful, adulterous, unkind, dishonest, and idolatrous. Then God pinpoints why their society had become so awful because they didn’t have proper knowledge and understanding of God. Then God revealed the root of the problem: Wine has robbed My people of their understanding (Hosea 4:11, NLT). Notice, God did not say drunkenness has robbed My people of understanding. Wine compounds terrible decisions and poor judgment in all its recreational uses, usually resulting in spiritual ignorance and stupidity.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Isaiah

1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! 2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. 3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: But even these reel with wine and stagger from strong drink:

7 The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink; They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while seeing visions, They stagger when pronouncing judgment. 8 For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, so that there is no place [that is clean] (Isaiah 28:1-3, 7-8).

Ephraim and Israel are synonymous terms for the ten northern tribes, also called Samaria. The picture here of drunkards is both literal and spiritual. They were in a stupor as far as spiritual understanding was concerned. In this instance, to be spiritually drunk is to be filled with pride.[viii] In this great city of abundance, drunkenness had become the prevailing sin, or rather, the root sin that spawned many other sins. Like the prophet Joel, Isaiah strikes at the source of the problem.

Religious leaders who were supposed to seek God’s word and give it to the people could not blame an ecstatic experience of the Spirit for their condition. They drank of other spirits.[ix] The debauched leaders were consumed by what they consumed. Though no doubt literal as well, the metaphorical “vomit” of cynicism poured out of Jerusalem’s leaders.[x] Spiritual leaders, “so-called” influenced by alcohol, spew out false guidance and lead their followers astray. Like so many other biblical passages, this passage links the consumption of strong drink with sin, bad judgment, spiritual lethargy, pride, misplaced confidence, and dereliction of duty.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Habakkuk

4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. 5 Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people (Habakkuk 2:4-5).

Here the prophet Habakkuk points out the wickedness of the typical Babylonian: He was addicted to alcohol. War was his passion. The prophet described him as a man “who enlargeth his desire as [Hades], and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations.” But wine was his downfall.[xi] Several translations render “transgresseth by wine” as “wine is treacherous” or “wine betrays.” Depicting wine or alcohol in general as a betrayer is a truism that reaches beyond Babylon’s vices. No different from people today; Babylonians drank for pleasure but found pain instead. Drinking aggravated their baser passions, and they became a perverted people. Habakkuk continues this theme a few verses later:

15 Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! 16 Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the Lord’s right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory (Habakkuk 2:15-16).

Babylon is now condemned for leading others, her neighbors, into debauchery by causing them to drink intoxicants.[xii] In verse fifteen, drunkenness is connected with immorality (that he can gaze on their naked bodies), and they often go hand in hand.[xiii] Beyond the shame and sin of nakedness, this Scripture’s context suggests that perverse sexual acts accompanied intoxication.[xiv] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the correlation between alcohol, indecency, and sexual immorality. Ancient biblical prophets understood by observation and logic what we know scientifically; alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions and ability to exercise sound judgment. Inebriation leads to inhibition, inhibition often leads to indecency, and indecency often leads to sexual deviancy.

Old Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: The Prophet Daniel

1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone (Daniel 5:1-4).

Daniel prophesied during the time of Babylonian captivity when God’s people were essentially well-treated slaves in Babylon. We don’t know why but Belshazzar, king of Babylon, decided to throw a great feast. The Aramaic construction of “whiles he tasted the wine” from the text seems to imply “under the influence of the wine.”[xv] So, when Belshazzar became slightly drunk, he made a foolish decision he wouldn’t otherwise have made. He called for the sacred vessels taken from God’s holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought into the feast. Belshazzar and his entourage desecrated those holy vessels with wine and idolatrous worship. At that very moment, the hand of God wrote on the wall warning of Belshazzar’s judgment, and Belshazzar was assassinated that night (Daniel 5:5-30). Interestingly, Habakkuk condemned the Babylonians for their drunken lifestyle, and just a few years later, Daniel witnessed Babylon’s fall due to a drunken decision made by its king?

We can hardly misunderstand the importance of wine since Daniel mentions wine or drinking in each of the first four verses of chapter five. Daniel specifically links drinking with the pagan worship of gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. The curse of Deuteronomy 32:15 falls on those who practice idolatry.[xvi] And, later, Daniel rails against Belshazzar, saying, “…they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them (Daniel 5:23).” To be clear, Daniel explicitly connects not only Belshazzar’s idolatry but also the drinking of wine in sacred vessels to God’s wrath.

The Biblical Connection Between Alcohol and the Mishandling of Spiritual Things

I’m not taking liberty with the Bible to connect drinking with the mishandling of spiritual things. The story of Belshazzar alone is a great example. However, it’s worth noting that Daniel refused to drink the king’s wine after he was first taken captive by the Babylonians. More precisely, the Bible says, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank (Daniel 1:8)”. Most commentaries recognize two main reasons Daniel refused the king’s meat: 1) Babylonian meat would likely have been offered in sacrifice to false gods. 2) Babylonian meat would likely not be in keeping with Old Testament dietary laws.[xvii] However, the other foods Daniel agreed to eat would also have been dedicated to false gods rendering the first point unlikely.[xviii] Furthermore, accepting the second explanation supposes Daniel believed Babylonian wine was off-limits.

The question naturally emerges, why did Daniel refuse the king’s wine? I believe the answer is twofold, and we begin finding the solution by observing that it was the king’s meat and wine Daniel refused. This understanding leads us to the first of a twofold answer: Daniel avoided the luxurious diet of the king’s table to protect himself from being ensnared by the temptations of the Babylonian culture. He used a distinctive diet to retain his distinctive identity as a Jewish exile and avoid complete assimilation into Babylonian culture (which was the king’s goal with these conquered subjects).[xix] Two, to abstain from the Old Testament prohibition against “strong drink” (which we have already outlined to some degree), Jews customarily diluted wine with water. Some added three parts of water to wine, others six parts, and some as much as ten parts of water to one part of wine. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine.[xx]

In ancient times, wine and strong drink didn’t have the alcohol content associated with modern beverages. Diluting wine with water rendered it down to microscopically small levels of alcohol content. Even drinking the undiluted wine would have required drinking from early morning until night to achieve inebriation (Isaiah 5:11). Without jumping too far ahead into the New Testament, this is why Paul could write without hypocrisy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23)”. Obviously, the wine mentioned by Paul is not meant as a beverage but as a medicine.[xxi] This Scripture no more authorizes drinking alcohol for pleasure than it prohibits the drinking of water. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommended that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was often unintoxicating.[xxii]

Regarding Daniel, he refused the king’s wine out of wisdom and obedience to Scripture. Daniel was set apart for the Lord’s service, and Babylonian wine was contrary to that spiritual calling. Daniel knew that by honoring God and refusing the Babylonian lifestyle, he would be healthier than his pagan captors. By setting himself apart, he invited the favor of God into his life, and it was visible to everyone around him (Daniel 1:15-18). Beyond that, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17)”. Because mind-altering substances didn’t bind Daniel, he was able to handle spiritual things properly. Before you assume I’m stretching Scripture to fit my view, let’s look at the priesthood, the Nazarite vow, and the Rechabites.

The Priesthood & Alcohol

8 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses (Leviticus 10:8-11).

It seems this commandment from God was not random. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, had just offered strange fire before the Lord. God immediately responded by striking them dead with fire (Leviticus 10:1-7). In context, this prohibition suggests that intoxication led Nadab and Abihu to perform their blasphemous act.[xxiii] This commandment was necessitated by humanity’s inability to decipher the difference between “holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean” when under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol dulls the senses and clearly makes someone “blemished.” Only priests in full possession of their faculties could enter the Sanctuary, for anything less was not worthy of God. God requires the very best. Therefore, to be under the influence of alcohol is clearly to be “unclean.” And the uncleanness remains until the total effects of the alcohol have worn off. And if they did enter under the influence of alcohol, they were in danger of immediate death, for it would be seen as a direct insult to the holiness of God. This statute was set as permanent for all time, stressing its seriousness. Paul takes this up concerning Christian worship when he says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18-20)”. A state of intoxication is dishonoring to God. To be in such a condition is to be less than the best for God and excludes us from His presence.[xxiv]

The broader point being made in the Levitical instruction to the priests is that God is holy, and nothing that comes short of that holiness should be permitted into His presence. Nothing ritually unclean could enter the Sanctuary, or it would be defiled.[xxv] Some have speculated that God gave the priests (and, by extension, the rest of us) a license to drink when they were off duty. However, this is not the case. Rather, God forcibly demonstrated the importance of sobriety as an individual draws closer to God’s presence. The stress is on the importance of keeping the Sanctuary and its precincts holy to bring home the holiness of God. It meant that purity would become a daily concern for all the people, both physically and morally.[xxvi]

The idea here is that for anyone to come short of God’s requirements is to be rendered unclean. The priesthood’s duty was to discern, teach, and demonstrate God’s statutes and requirements, both concerning rituals and life. God’s people must always seek to avoid any possible sources of defilement. They, too, must be holy. For us, the question must always be, how can we ensure that we are the best for God? What should we avoid that might make us less than the best? In our case, it is spiritual cleanness that we must encourage and spiritual uncleanness that we must avoid (2 Corinthians 7:1, Mark 7:20-23). And we should be daily concerned that we do so. We must not enter His presence unclean.[xxvii]

This passage in Leviticus (Leviticus 10:8-11) clarifies several straightforward reasons modern Christians should avoid alcohol altogether. First, it demonstrates that God views alcohol as rendering a person unholy and incompatible with His presence. Second, it clarifies that alcohol renders a person unworthy and incapable of handling spiritual things. And thirdly, New Testament saints of God are likened to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost. Understanding the third point is probably the most crucial revelation a person needs to abstain from alcohol completely. So, let’s zero in on what it means for the Bible to liken saints to the priesthood, living sacrifices, and temples of the Holy Ghost.

New Testament Priesthood, Living Sacrifices & Temples of the Holy Ghost

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God (1 Peter 2:5, NLT).

Paul called the Church a “temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:21) and “a dwelling” (Ephesians 2:22). Believers make up the Church and serve in it, ministering as a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. All believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 4:16, Revelations 1:6) and need no other mediator than Jesus Christ to approach God directly. Priestly service requires holiness (1 Peter 1:16, 22).[xxviii] Not only does God consecrate us as a temple to Himself, in which He dwells and is worshipped, but He also makes us priests. Peter mentions this double honor as a call to holiness and purity. Of the spiritual sacrifices, the first is the offering of ourselves, as Paul says in Romans 12:1. Like the ancient priesthood, we can’t offer anything until we present ourselves unto God as living sacrifices, which is done by denying ourselves.[xxix] As becomes clear in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter evoked Exodus 19:5–6 and Isaiah 61:6, emphasizing that as priests (as well as stones) in this new temple, believers offer spiritual sacrifices, not physical animal sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15).[xxx]

The gravity of what the above Scriptures mean for New Testament believers can’t be overemphasized. Although many try to avoid it, the reality is that God views Spirit-filled Christians as priests, temples, and sacrifices. The holy Spirit of God dwells within us, and His holiness will not mix with unholiness. God’s Spirit will not compete with intoxicating spirits for our time, energy, focus, attention, or adoration. Furthermore, the same timeless (Leviticus 10:9) commandments regarding moral behavior and purity, which applied to the priesthood, pertain to modern believers. That word spiritual, when applied to house and sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), does not mean immaterial (humans are not supernatural persons), but rather influenced or dominated by the Holy Spirit; sharing the character of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11, 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15, 12:1, Galatians 6:1, Colossians 3:16). Christians are a new temple of God operating under the constant influence and power of the Holy Spirit.[xxxi]

The Nazarite Vow & Alcohol

A Nazarite was a person specially dedicated or separated unto God. They can be viewed as lay priests, although they were not necessarily Levites. Like priests, Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine or strong drink of any kind (Numbers 6:4).[xxxii] Nazarites were like standard-bearers to show other people the way. They shone brightly with the special glory of God (Lamentations 4:7).[xxxiii] When the prophet Amos chastised Israel and Judah for their backsliding, he mentioned the Nazarites:

11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? Saith the Lord. 12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not (Amos 2:11-12).

Amos was reminding Israel and Judah that godly prophets and Nazarites were a distinct blessing from God. But instead of honoring and appreciating holy examples, they enticed the Nazarites to drink wine and commanded the prophets to be quiet. Amos considered this a particularly heinous sin for which God would make them “moan” with pain (Amos 2:13). I hope not, but someone might remain convinced that drinking in moderation is not a sin (later, we will examine the difficulty of defining moderation). However, let me give a firm warning: Enticing others to drink alcohol will likely invite the anger of God. If a person remains unconvinced and unconvicted, they should leave the godly convictions of others alone. God always calls us to give deference to firmer and stricter convictions than our beliefs (Romans 14:15-23). Otherwise, we are enticing that person to sin (Romans 14:23).

Although the Nazirite vow is an Old Testament concept, there is a New Testament parallel to the Nazirite vow. Once again, we are connecting back to Romans 12:1-2, where Paul states:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, because of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (ESV).

For Christians, the ancient Nazarite vow symbolizes the need to be separate from this world, a holy people consecrated to God (2 Timothy 1:9). Thankfully, in the New Testament, we are no longer bound by ceremonial and ritualistic laws that have no bearing on our salvation because of the work that Jesus accomplished. However, we are now called and enabled by the Holy Ghost to be even more separated unto God morally in many ways.

15 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

The Rechabites & Alcohol

18 And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; because Ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab, your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever (Jeremiah 35:18-19).

We first read about Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in II Kings 10:15-23 when Jehu, the king of Israel, allied with Jonadab to destroy the followers of Baal. King Jehu knew Jonadab was zealous for God and an influential man. Together they completed what the prophet Elijah had begun. They killed all the worshippers of Baal.[xxxiv] So complete was this destruction that the pagan worship of Baal (which included human sacrifice, sometimes parents sacrificed their children) was wiped out in Israel, and the temple of Baal was torn down and made into a garbage dump.[xxxv]

In great wisdom, Jonadab commanded his family to abstain from wine and strong drink. He instructed them not to buy houses but to dwell in tents. He asked them not to plant vineyards or buy fields. Jonadab set standards to preserve his family both physically and spiritually. Some of his guidelines sound unreasonable to modern ears. But Jonadab wanted to ensure his family would survive the changes that would come to Israel when foreign invaders destroyed the nation. He took measures that permanently set them apart. He was preparing his family for the tragedies the prophets had been warning Israel about for years. Many other families didn’t survive the pagan invasions because they had been “living the good life.” But Jonadab’s family survived because they listened to the wisdom of their father.

Almost three hundred years after Jonadab’s death, the nation of Judah was in great turmoil. Idolatry was everywhere. Jerusalem was about to be captured, destroyed, and plundered by the Babylonians. Suddenly in the middle of all this turmoil, God said to Jeremiah, “Go find the descendants of Jonadab (Jeremiah 35:2).” They gathered the Rechabites together and offered them wine. Astonishingly, three hundred years later, the descendants of Jonadab refused wine and held to their father’s commandments. Jeremiah was using the Rechabites to illustrate faithfulness and obedience to the unfaithful and disobedient people of Judah. He wanted the leaders in Jerusalem to see what genuine dedication looked like. In Jeremiah 35:19, we see perhaps the most extraordinary promise given to a father and a family in the entire Bible. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying, “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever (Jeremiah 35:19).” Meaning, somewhere in our world today, at least one descendent of Jonadab is alive and serving the Lord.

Notice the enormous contrast the Bible spotlights between the families of Noah, Lot, and Jonadab. The involvement of alcohol brought lasting curses on the families of Noah and Lot. The absence of alcohol played a significant role in the physical and spiritual preservation of Jonadab’s family. If nothing else, the Rechabites further underscore the wisdom of complete temperance. The Rechabites’ biblical account gives a template for multi-generational family success: Holiness and separation from the world’s destructive habits and patterns. I am reminded of what Paul wrote:

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).

Proverbs Warnings Against Alcohol

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).

Wine is pictured as a mocker, scoffing at the person foolish enough to drink it. Beer or strong drink is portrayed as a brawler. It not only bullies the drinker but turns him into an aggressive fool.[xxxvi] This verse is the beginning of a long series of warnings against strong drink by Solomon. Wise people, he said, will not be deceived by it. Other proverbs in the series point out that wine leads to poverty (Proverbs 21:17; Proverbs 23:21); it produces sorrow, strife, needless wounds, gossip, and red eyes (Proverbs 23:29–30); however desirable it may seem, it is a deceiver and harms all who drink it (Proverbs 23:31–32); it fills a person’s thoughts with lust and leads to adultery (Proverbs 23:33); and, finally, it is addictive and unpredictable (Proverbs 23:35).[xxxvii] Notice the alcoholic drink itself—not just its damaging effects—is described in disapproving terms—no matter how much or how little is used.[xxxviii]

The Foolishness of the Moderate Drinking Argument

It’s incredibly foolish to take one sip of alcohol! Suppose we go to the airport to board a plane, and as we present our tickets at the gate, we are told that one seat in every eighteen will fall through the floor before the flight is over. Startled, we ask which seats will fall. The attendant says, “We don’t know, but probably more of them are on the left side of the plane.” What person in his right mind would board such a plane? When someone takes his first drink, he is like a person who would board that plane. To embark on such a course is to risk becoming a confirmed drunkard before the journey of life is over. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but it’s worth repeating: If you never taste alcohol, you will never get drunk. Furthermore, if intoxication isn’t the goal, what is the point of drinking alcohol at all?

When the arguments for “moderate drinking” are made, several questions and problems arise. Why drink something so potentially destructive at all? When does intoxication begin? How drunk is too drunk? How do you know the moment before you’ve had too much (especially knowing that alcohol lowers inhibitions and weakens the ability to make wise decisions)? Maybe you’re willing to risk becoming a raging alcoholic, but do you want to gamble with your kids’ lives also? Is sipping a tiny bit of alcohol more important than being a stumbling block to others? Can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ve never drunk to excess? Could you give it up tomorrow if you were convinced drinking is a sin? How do others around you view your drinking habits?

The reality is this. No one starts out planning to be a drunkard. But it happens every single day. Because alcohol is a mocker, it’s like a serpent that strikes unpredictably with lightning speed. Everyone goes through terrible seasons of pain, disappointment, suffering, and discouragement. Sadly, it’s during those seasons many people lean on alcohol instead of the Lord. Many “moderate” drinkers have become full-blown drunkards in seasons of depression. Honestly, the words alcohol and moderation are paradoxical; it’s just not reasonable for an individual to believe they can coexist indefinitely. Ironically, every alcoholic I’ve known whose life was in shambles considered themselves a moderate drinker who had everything under control.

New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Jesus

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34).

Because we don’t know the day or the hour of Jesus’ Second Coming, He warned us to keep a constant watch. Other Scriptures caution us to watch for the signs of His return, but Jesus instructed us to look inward and watch ourselves so that we will be ready and worthy when He returns. The prophets sometimes spoke of judgment as a trap that would catch the unprepared (Isaiah 8:14, Jeremiah 50:24, Ezekiel 12:13), and Jesus employed this exact terminology.[xxxix] Interestingly, The Living Bible provides the best modern translation of Jesus’ words:

Watch out! Don’t let my sudden coming catch you unawares; don’t let me find you living in careless ease, carousing and drinking, and occupied with the problems of this life, like all the rest of the world (Luke 21:34, TLB).

Alcohol, in all its various forms, is incompatible with a lifestyle of readiness for the rapture. Spiritual alertness is vital to the Christian lifestyle. We are like watchmen on the wall looking intently for the Lord’s return. Like soldiers, we are commissioned to prepare others for His return as well. Anything that dulls the senses, or weakens resolve, or misconstrues good judgment conflicts with our mission.

New Testament Warnings Against Alcohol: Paul & Peter

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober… (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

Some argue that Jesus was condemning drunkenness but not drinking in moderation. However, the apostle Paul understood precisely what Jesus meant, and he mirrored it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. Paul is basically quoting Jesus’ comments from Luke 21:34. The context of this passage is very important and can only be intentionally misconstrued. In verse six, Paul uses the word “sober” in relation to alertness. In verse seven, he references drunkenness, symbolizing lostness. And again, in verse eight, Paul commands us to be “sober.” Paul’s use of the word sober wasn’t symbolic. That’s clear contextually, and because Paul could have utilized other Greek words to signal figurative soberness. However, he twice used the Greek word nepho, which means to abstain from wine.[xl]

The apostle Peter also echoed the words of Jesus from Luke 21:34 in his first letter:

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).

Peter likely remembered Jesus’ injunction to abstain from drinking and his failure to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) while writing, “…be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Peter’s instructions were literal and figurative at the same time. Because you can’t be spiritually sober and physically influenced by spirits. Furthermore, Peter twice used the Greek word nepho (sober), which, as already mentioned, means literally to abstain from wine. 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to be sober and vigilant because the devil is like a lion roaming around seeking to devour us. Peter made a profound connection between alcohol and vulnerability to Satanic attack.

Again, 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to “gird up the loins of our minds” and be “sober.” In the next verse (1 Peter 1:14), he commented that some might have acted differently out of ignorance, but he emphatically warned them not to conform to their former desires. Essentially, he called the Church to a higher level of holiness than the Jews had previously followed. He explains why by quoting the book of Leviticus: But as the One who called you is holy; you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16, HCSB).

Of course, there are numerous New Testament passages strongly condemning drunkenness and demanding temperance. These verses are straightforward and require minimal commentary, so for the sake of time, I’ll list the references for those who might wish to dig into them and leave it at that (1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Galatians 5:21, Titus 1:7-8, 1 Timothy 3:2-3, Titus 2:2-3, 2 Peter 1:6).

Questions Answered: Did Paul Condone Drinking in Moderation?

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Paul’s directives contrast the differences between being under the influence of wine, which leads to reckless actions, and being under the influence of the Spirit, which results in joyful living.[xli] “Did Paul condone drinking wine in moderation?” is a question that understandably comes up over and over again from sincere and insincere people. I’ve already touched on this issue, but it’s such a common question that it deserves extra attention. Regarding Ephesians 5:18, many commentators argue that Paul condoned by omission moderate wine consumption because he only mentions drunkenness. As if staggering, falling down, slobbering drunkenness is the only drunkenness God forbids. However, in this instance, Paul’s consistent denunciations of drinking and calls for sobriety in other passages made it unnecessary for him to be redundant in Ephesians 5:18. Also, the King James Version’s translation of Ephesians 5:18, although accurate, is unfortunately easily misunderstood by modern readers. For example, “…wherein is excess…” sounds to some as if Paul is saying, “getting drunk is excessive but drinking up to the point of excess is fine.” The English Standard Version gives a clearer perspective:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).

Paul didn’t intend to give a new revelation about drinking or drunkenness. Actually, he was building on a concept his readers already understood to signify the importance of being continuously refilled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. But confusion surrounding the Bible’s overall view of alcohol stems from modern readers’ disconnection to ancient times.

Questions Answered: A Little Wine for the Stomach?

Drink no longer water but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23).

The above verse is probably the most cited verse used to justify moderate drinking, which is laughable because there are far more troubling passages of Scripture to contend with than Paul’s medical advice to Timothy. And this was medical advice. Timothy’s stomach trouble was probably due to the alkali (a mineral salt) in the water at Ephesus. For this reason, Paul recommends that Timothy use a little wine with that water to neutralize its harmful effect. Wine used for the stomach, according to ancient Greek writings on medicine, was typically unintoxicating.[xlii]

Paul was certainly not telling Timothy to get drunk; in Paul’s day, most wine was watered down two parts water to every part wine, and wine was not distilled, so the alcohol content was not high. At the same time, before refrigeration and hermetic sealing, any grape juice that had been kept for some months after the last grape vintage included some alcohol content. Would we tell every Christian today with a stomachache to avoid water and go have a watered-down beer? Or was that simply the best remedy available in Paul’s day, in contrast to our own?[xliii] If a pastor advises someone to take NyQuil or go under anesthesia, it does not mean they are recommending recreational drugs or casual alcohol consumption.

Questions Answered: Not Given to Much Wine?

Likewise, must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine… (1 Timothy 3:8).

Some interpret this as saying that deacons must not be habitual drinkers, which might seem to condone moderate alcohol consumption. However, in light of how strongly Paul condemns drunkenness (1 Corinthians 6:10), he probably had a different meaning in mind. Since there were many forms of wine available—both fermented (alcoholic) and unfermented—Paul is more likely advising self-control and warning against the excessive use of unfermented wine. In extremely pagan and self-indulgent cultures like Ephesus, excessive use of even non-alcoholic wine was prevalent. It often led to the use of other wines that were mixed and intoxicating. Essentially, Paul was emphasizing self-control and moderation in all areas of life, even in good things.[xliv] This answer and the previous explanations also apply to Titus 1:7 and Titus 2:3.

Questions Answered: Let Him Drink?

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more (Proverbs 31-4-7).

This passage is a song by Bathsheba written for her son, Solomon. Therefore, these troubling verses (Proverbs 31:6-7) are not to be taken literally. In essence, she seems to be utilizing a condescending figure of speech by comparing the poor’s drunkenness to Solomon’s regality. By contrasting the plight of the poor and dying, Bathsheba exclaims that Solomon should consider himself above such lowly things. Her advice to Solomon is relevant to us as well. We, too, should abstain from judgment perverting influences like strong drink.

For those who struggle with that viewpoint, notice that the Hebrew word used for wine in this passage does not necessarily refer to fermented wine (more on that in a moment). I can’t imagine a worse prescription for curing depression (even by modern standards) than drunkenness. Furthermore, why differentiate between strong drink and wine unless there is a substantive difference between the two? I have no issue with the ancient medical practice of giving strong drink to the dying or those in terrible physical agony. Likewise, few Christians would have any problem with cancer patients taking morphine or a strong narcotic for pain. Only the cruelest-hearted would deny the use of medical narcotics to a hospice patient. Such medical practices are a far cry from recreational drug use or drinking.

Questions Answered: Did the Early Church Get Drunk During Communion Services?

For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken (1 Corinthians 11:21).

In addition to the Lord’s Supper, the Early Church held what was referred to as the agape feasts, much like a present-day church fellowship meal (2 Peter 2:13, Jude 1:12). These probably took place in homes where those in the Early Church often met for worship and fellowship. “One remains hungry, another gets drunk” could also be translated, “One remains hungry, another is filled to the full,” since the word “drunk” (Greek methuö) can refer to being intoxicated or to being filled or satisfied without reference to intoxication. The context of this verse clearly relates to the meal in general. When the Corinthians came together for their fellowship meals before eating the Lord’s Supper, some gathered in small groups, separated by social class, and ate separately (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). The poor, who could not contribute much, if any, to the meal, were often ignored and left hungry.

Paul condemned the behavior of those who ignored the poor (1 Corinthians 11:17) for three reasons: One, they were practicing and encouraging division in the Church. Two, they were humiliating members of the Church who were poor and probably coming directly from work without food (1 Corinthians 11:22). Three, some of the rich saints may have brought fermented wine and got intoxicated, which Paul would have considered even more unacceptable. Some interpreters, however, feel that Paul was not referring to an issue of intoxication here, or else he would have severely condemned it as he did elsewhere in the letter (1 Corinthians 6:10). He considered drunkenness not only as an issue of dishonor toward others but also a condition serious enough to cause people to turn from God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:21).[xlv]

Questions Answered: Was Jesus A Winebibber?

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:19).

Glutton and drunkard were insults that denote a rebellious son who deserves to be put to death (Deuteronomy 21:18–21).[xlvi] Jesus compared John the Baptist’s rejection and his own to the behavior of childish brats who would not play either the wedding game or the funeral game (Matthew 11:7-22). Neither John’s ascetic abstinence (compared to mourning or singing a dirge at a funeral) nor Jesus’ enjoyment of food and drink (likened to dancing at a wedding feast) was satisfactory to the Pharisees. John was slandered with the charge of demon possession (Matthew 11:18), and Jesus was smeared as a glutton and drunkard because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. No doubt Jesus did associate with such folk, but the charges of drunkenness and gluttony were unsubstantiated lies, evidently circulated by the Pharisees, who objected to table fellowship with sinners.[xlvii] It’s almost dramatically comical that people use the lies of the Pharisees against Jesus to justify their winebibbing.

Questions Answered: Isn’t Aged Wine Fermented?

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined (Isaiah 25:6, ESV).

This eschatological passage is sometimes used against teetotalers to defend drinking aged (fermented) wine. The context of Isaiah’s prophecy is a victory celebration in Heaven given by the Lord for the saints. Apparently, some people find it easy to believe the Lord will happily get all the saints drunk in Heaven. Interestingly, this is a newer misunderstanding or misconstruing of Scripture, likely due to the English Standard Version’s uptick in popularity. The English Standard Version and many other translations butcher this verse and outlandishly alter its intended meaning by inexplicably adding the descriptors “aged” and “well-aged” to the word wine. Leaving hapless, low-information readers with the impression God approves of fermented wine. So much so that He will personally provide it for His people. One can only wonder if some of these modern translators had a pro-alcohol agenda? The King James Version is accurate although dated:

And in this mountain, shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Isaiah 25:6).

The words “aged” or “well-aged” are not in the Hebrew text. “Lees” is a good King James word meaning dregs or pulp. A banquet of “aged wine” (shemarim) is translated literally as “a banquet of preserves,” which probably refers to luscious grape juice that had been preserved for a long time for a particular purpose.[xlviii] And “refined” (zāqaq) is a Hebrew verb meaning to refine or to purify. The literal meaning of this word is to strain or extract. “Refined” is used about gold (1 Chronicles 28:18), silver (1 Chronicles 29:4, Psalms 12:6), and water (Job 36:27). It is also used regarding the purification of the Levites, comparing it to the refining of gold and silver (Malachi 3:3).[xlix] Interestingly, the prophetic wine Isaiah envisioned will be purified in every sense of the word.

Questions Answered: Did God Ok Strong Drink in the Old Testament

And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

This verse applies to special occasions for worship and thanksgiving by the entire household, including men, women, youth, and little children. The Hebrew word used here for “wine” (yayin) can indicate either fermented grape juice or unfermented grape juice. The Hebrew word for “fermented drink” (shekar) can be rendered “sweet drink.” This clarity removes the difficulty of suggesting that adults and children are commanded to worship God by consuming addicting and intoxicating beverages.[l] The purpose of the worship service was “that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). To properly worship God and learn to revere (regard with respect and honor) Him, we need to be alert and self-controlled (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

We should note that the Levite priests were present at the worship service (Deuteronomy 14:27-29). As we’ve already covered, the priests were absolutely forbidden to have anything to do with strong drink. Breaking that commandment invited the death penalty (Leviticus 10:9). It would be contrary to God’s holy character to commend the free use of intoxicants by the worshipers while in the company of the priests. Also, the nature of the festival was a harvest feast, during which time fresh harvest products would be used (Deuteronomy 14:23). This suggests that new fresh juice (non-alcoholic) was available. In this instance, the New King James Version gives an accurate English translation:

And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

Some conservative scholars think (shekar) is best rendered “strong drink” and that it was fermented but low in alcohol content. Others note that Numbers 28:7 uses this same word for the content of a strong drink offering, indicating perhaps that the strong drink was not drunk by the people but used in a drink offering to the Lord.[li] While those are interesting thoughts, I lean heavily in favor of the viewpoint that the word “strong drink” is mistranslated in the King James Version. The New King James Version gives a much better picture of the original Hebrew wording. Regardless, we can rest assured God was not promoting a drunken worship celebration involving children in honor of His holiness.

Questions Answered: Did Jesus Turn Water into Fermented Wine?

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now (John 2:9-10).

A quick Google search will show there’s a raging debate as to whether the Hebrew word for “wine” (yayin) only refers to wine that has fermented. Of course, pro-drinkers insist wine mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments is always fermented. For example, this is often cited to affirm the belief that Jesus’ first miracle endorsed the use of alcohol by turning water into fermented wine (John 2:1-11). “When men have well drunk” does not mean that they were intoxicated, though it is usually employed in that sense. In this context, it means when they have drunk sufficient, and the keenness of their taste has waned so that they could not readily distinguish the good from that which was worse.[lii]

There are numerous reasons to conclude that Jesus did not contribute to a drunken wedding celebration. Foremost in my mind is the reality that Jesus would not violate His Word: Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken (Habakkuk 2:15). It would have been scandalous to the highest degree had Jesus done such a thing. And not just in pharisaical circles but also among ordinary Jewish people. Furthermore, creating aged (fermented) wine would have been antithetical to the miracle’s message. Jesus demonstrated that His new wine is superior, as is everything tied to the new, Messianic age He was introducing.[liii] This introduction miracle is directly linked to the Feast of Pentecost, where the new wine of the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the Church (Acts 2:1-18). The new fresh superiority of the wine at the wedding feast typified the new fresh superiority of the wine poured out at Pentecost. Ironically, skeptical onlookers at Pentecost also mistook the miracle for drunkenness, and Peter quickly assured them they were intoxicated by the Spirit, not alcohol (Acts 2:13-16).

Questions Answered: Does Yayin Always Mean Fermented Wine?

Those who argue that the Hebrew word yayin (wine) and its Greek equivalent oinos (wine) always refer to fermented wine are forced to ignore several salient Scripture passages. In both cases, the biblical word wine is used interchangeably to describe fresh juice or various levels of fermented juice, depending on the context. Yayin is a generic term used approximately 141 times in the Old Testament which speaks of all sorts of wine (yayin). Sometimes, yayin is applied to all kinds of fermented grape juice. On the other hand, yayin is used for describing the sweet unfermented juice of the grape. It can refer to fresh juice as it is pressed from grapes. Isaiah prophesied, “The treaders shall tread out no wine (yayin) in their presses” (Isaiah 16:10).” Likewise, Jeremiah said, “I have caused wine (yayin) to fall from the presses; none will tread without shouting (Jeremiah 48:33).” Jeremiah even refers to the juice still in the grape as (yayin) in Jeremiah 40:10-12.

Further evidence that yayin at times refers to unfermented juice of the grape is found in Lamentations, where the author describes nursing infants as crying out to their mothers for their everyday food of “corn and wine (Lamentations 2:12).” Also, The Jewish Encyclopedia [1901] states: “Fresh wine before fermentation was called yayin-mi-gat (wine of the vat).”[liv] Fermentation is just another word for corruption. The potato must first rot (corruption) to make vodka. There is no corruption in God’s kingdom! Fermentation, corruption represents sin which is contrary to the holiness of God (Galatians 6:8).

In Conclusion

Deeply welded into our sinful nature is the predisposition to seek confirmation for our preconceived ideas. Just like two thieves could hang next to Jesus and reach completely different conclusions about Him, we are vulnerable to misperceiving Truths hanging all around us. Why can two people read the same Scripture and walk away with opposing views? And why can those two people be wrong at the same time? Often, it’s because they view Scripture through the grimy lens of existing beliefs and confusing distortions.

Simply put, our flesh tends to believe what it wants to believe. That’s why Paul exclaimed that he died daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). A carnal unsubmitted mind will never understand spiritual things. While I do pray, this treatise will persuade someone to walk away from the alcohol. I realize it will take more than mere words formed into arguments to break that yoke. Whether I’m completely right or entirely wrong will make no difference to a person locked into a position or bound by addiction. Perhaps this will strengthen wavering resolve in the hearts of unsure saints. Maybe a leader’s tired hands will be lifted by this work. Hopefully, a sincere-hearted questioner will find food for thought in this resource.

Like so many others, I’ve seen first-hand the wreckage and waste accompanying even so-called moderate drinking. I’ve seen personalities freakishly changed by drink. I’m firmly planted in the category of people who do not need a Bible to be convinced that alcohol is harmful beyond measure and without redeeming value. I realize that for some people, the dilemma isn’t so black and white. Those people look for gray areas and live in the shadows. There’s no long-term warmth or comfort in those shadows. But I chose a long time ago to live in the light.


[i] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “πίνω πίω πόω,” paragraph 4016. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#4016

There are at least six interpretations about the nature of this crime:

1. It was an act of incest between Ham and his mother. This is based on the later use of the phrase father’s nakedness to refer to the mother as translated word for word in the NASB (e.g., Leviticus 18:8). This interpretation sometimes suggests that Canaan was the result of this act of incest.

2. It was an act of homosexuality between Ham and his father. This is based on taking the phrase what his youngest son had done to him (Genesis 9:24) as referring to a physical act.

3. It was an act of trespassing by Ham into his father’s tent.

4. It was an act of castration. This view is found in the Talmud, a Jewish collection of rabbinical law, law decisions, and comments on the Laws of Moses. It is seen as a power struggle in the family.

5. It was an act in which Ham attempted to achieve authority over his father by “blackmailing” him with his indecent exposure. Ham, in this view, desired to be head of the family.

6. It was a viewing (accidental or purposeful) in which Ham did not treat his father with respect because he spoke about his condition to his brothers.

The last interpretation seems the most natural, when all the circumstances are considered. Any improper action can be seen as an attempt to embarrass the father and as a result possibly to take leadership from the father. The actions of the brothers Shem and Japheth seem to contrast with the actions of Ham. Since they actually covered Noah’s nakedness, Ham apparently saw and left his father in a compromising position and then gossiped about it. Since Canaan has been mentioned previously (Genesis 9:18, 22) and Noah’s curse on Canaan appears immediate, Canaan is best seen as living at the time of this incident.

[ii]Kenneth O. Gangel and Stephen J. Bramer, Genesis, ed. Max Anders, vol. 1 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2002), 94-95. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#1043

[iii] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 1747. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#1747

[iv] Joe Cathey, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “DRUNKENNESS,” paragraph 4819. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Dictionary#4819

[v] Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Joel 1”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/joel-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

[vi] William Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Sc. 3. Line 285.

[vii] McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 27: Hosea & Joel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

[viii] J. Vernon McGee, Proverbs—Malachi, vol. III of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), paragraph 30067. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#30067

[ix] Trent C. Butler, Isaiah, ed. Max Anders, vol. 15 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2002), 164. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#57819

[x] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 11539. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#11539

[xi] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), 212. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#35650

[xii] David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 27 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 64. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#38672

[xiii] Stephen R. Miller, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, ed. Max Anders, vol. 20 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2004), 63. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#73119

[xiv] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 19110. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#19110

[xv] Eugene Carpenter, “Daniel,” in Ezekiel Daniel, vol. 9 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010), 374. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#77030

[xvi] Kenneth O. Gangel, Daniel, ed. Max Anders, vol. 18 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2001), 132. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#67248

[xvii] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16837

[xix] Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 14336. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ESV_Study_Bible#14336

[xx] Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1330-1331. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#16838

[xxi] J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians—Revelation, vol. V of Thru the Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 454. https://accordance.bible/link/read/McGee-Thru_Bible#60675

[xxii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985

[xxiii] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), paragraph 3077. https://accordance.bible/link/read/MacArthur_Study_Bible#3077

[xxiv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10:9”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxv] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxvi] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxvii] Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Leviticus 10”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

[xxviii] Roger M. Raymer, 1 Peter (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 2:845. https://accordance.bible/link/read/BK_Commentary#30327

[xxix] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 97601. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#97601

[xxx] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 17181. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#17181

[xxxi] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 105. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Tyndale_Commentary#59428

[xxxii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 3685. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#3685

[xxxiii] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), paragraph 5239. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Calvin#5239

[xxxiv] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 14458. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#14458

[xxxv] A. H. Sayce, ISBE, s.v. “Baal (1),” paragraph 6416. https://accordance.bible/link/read/ISBE#6416

[xxxvi] Max Anders, Proverbs, ed. Max Anders, vol. 13 of Holman Old Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2005), 198. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Bible_Commentary#49971

[xxxvii] John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs, Volume Two, John Phillips Commentary Series. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), 56. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Phillips_Commentary#24180

[xxxviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 4746. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#4746

[xxxix] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, eds. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), paragraph 12568. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Cultural_SB#12568

[xl] Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “νήφω,” paragraph 3443. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Greek_Strong’s#3443

[xli] Edwin A. Blum and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), paragraph 22602. https://accordance.bible/link/read/HCSB_Study_Bible#22602

[xlii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11985.https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11985

[xliii] Craig Keener, The Bible in its Context, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: Oak Tree Software, 2015), 39. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Keener-Context#433

[xliv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 11961. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#11961

[xlv] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 10620. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#10620

[xlvi] Walter J. Harrelson, eds. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), paragraph 15714. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NISB#15714

[xlvii] David L. Turner, “The Gospel of Matthew,” in Matthew Mark, vol. 11 of Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 162. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Cornerstone_Commentary#89927

[xlviii] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 5293. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#5293

[xlix] The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, s.v. “ז,” 301-302. https://accordance.bible/link/read/CWSD-OT#3374

[l] Donald Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, eds. Fire Bible Notes. Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Life Publishers International, 2009), paragraph 1627. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Fire_Bible_Notes#1627

[li] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, eds. The Ryrie Study Bible. Expanded, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), paragraph 2891. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Ryrie#2891

[lii] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 6497. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Barnes’_Notes_(NT)#6497

[liii] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), paragraph 23006. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIV_Biblical_Theology_SB#23006

[liv] Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for ‘Wine’. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/w/wine.html. 1901.

Why I’m Against Halloween (It’s Not What You Think)

Noteworthy, Episode 47

My brother Nathan has outlined terrific historical reasons Christians should avoid Halloween on his Noteworthy podcast (episode 47). Everything he points out is relevant, valid, and (I can’t resist) noteworthy. I recommend you listen because it’s a great discussion. But honestly, I’ve never needed historical context to dislike Halloween celebrations. My main reason for abstaining from Halloween festivities is different from the average objection others give. My concerns stem from a unique perspective after observing many enthusiastic Halloween celebrators over the years.

Typical Christian Objections to Halloween

Many Christian concerns about Halloween have focused on how people unwittingly participate in satanic rituals. Or they rightly sight the cultural elevation of demonically grotesque images. Indeed, Christians have no business glorifying demons, Satan, torture, death, or gore. And Christians have accurately deemed the spirit of fear and the proliferation of horror as contrary to biblical values. It’s also true that Halloween is historically connected to some pretty dark things. Past fears of razor-blade-infested candy and real witches waltzing about in the dark make many people suspicious of yearly Halloween celebrations.

Halloween Goes Mainstream

When I was young, it was pretty commonplace for creepy teens to use Halloween as an excuse to do crazy things. There were lots of weird séances and Dungeons & Dragons loons playing with stuff they didn’t understand. There was a real emphasis on actually scaring people. I know some of that still happens on a small scale. But Halloween has gone more and more mainstream in modern culture. These days everything about Halloween is packaged as cute and family-friendly. The scares aren’t scary, and the demonic isn’t fearsome to the average consumer. The devil is portrayed with benign little horn hats and non-threatening little red-tailed costumes. Parents have no problem dressing their kids as little demons because they don’t actually believe in demons. It’s all make-believe, after all.

Parents have no problem dressing their kids as little demons because they don’t actually believe in demons.

Why I’m Against Halloween

Halloween went from being an overtly anti-Christian holiday to an unbelief-in-the-supernatural holiday. The satanic went underground, and naturalism is the name of the game now. I stand firmly against Halloween because it helps desensitize children to the realities of Satan, demons, evil, and Hell. Generations of kids and now parents are comfortable with innocuous fake versions of real and very evil things. Demonically supernatural things have been reduced to mere fantasy on the same level as fairy dust and singing chipmunks, which leaves our culture in a numbed stupor, and completely unable to discern the realities of spiritual warfare. This mass naturalism plays nicely into genuine satanic strategies to keep people focused on the temporal while ignoring and disbelieving in the eternal.

Halloween went from being an overtly anti-Christian holiday to an unbelief-in-the-supernatural holiday. The satanic went underground, and naturalism is the name of the game now.

Demonically supernatural things have been reduced to mere fantasy on the same level as fairy dust and singing chipmunks, which leaves our culture in a numbed stupor, and completely unable to discern the realities of spiritual warfare.

The Demonic is Real

A few years ago, I heard a mother reassure her little costumed daughter not to be afraid of the boy wearing a demon outfit because demons aren’t real. The little girl seemed skeptical, but a few more years of reassurance from her parents likely resulted in a teenager with no respect for spiritual concepts. It would be better to fear Satan than not believe in him at all. But I have encountered demons, demons in disguise, and demon-possessed people. I’ve seen vile manifestations of genuine evil firsthand. It’s not cute or cuddly. It’s wicked, despicable, dark, twisted, deceitful, and legitimately terrifying. If you’ve ever seen a person immediately after multiple demons left their body, you know just how grateful they are to be alive. You’ve seen the terror they lived with and the perverse distorted things they did while under the control of malevolent beings. And you know how nasty the demons were while being commanded to come out of that person.

It would be better to fear Satan than not believe in him at all.

Only Support the Good

I believe demonic encounters are less noticeable by hellish design. Demons are still working, but their work is subtle and nuanced. Where they once manipulated people with fear, they now influence people with unbelief. Christians should have the wisdom to stay away from this con game. Instead, we should affirm the supernatural, both good and evil. We should only represent and support things that are good and beautiful in God’s sight. Let’s keep reminding everyone who will listen to us that God is real, and Satan is real too. There is a profoundly sinister evil lurking beneath the façade of a blissfully ignorant (or perhaps, willfully ignorant) naturalistic society. I, for one, can’t play the game of pretend others seems to enjoy during the Halloween season. I hope you feel the same.

Christians should affirm the supernatural, both good and evil. We should only represent and support things that are good and beautiful in God’s sight.

I believe demonic encounters are less noticeable by hellish design. Demons are still working, but their work is subtle and nuanced. Where they once manipulated people with fear, they now influence people with unbelief.

The Argument for Holiness with Charles A. Rhodus (Article + Podcast)

Charles A. Rhodus’ new book, The Argument for Holiness, is not a teaching resource defending the minutia of biblical holiness. It isn’t a handbook or a study guide. Instead, it’s a concise and straightforward defense of the necessity of holiness preaching in the twenty-first century. The author makes a heartfelt plea to church leaders, asking them to acknowledge holiness as salvifically necessary. Rhodus is clear; holiness is just as essential to salvation as the New Birth. He implores saints to value holiness in their church and church leadership.

Holiness is just as essential to salvation as the New Birth.

The Spirit of Jezebel

In four short chapters, Rhodus lays the case for his concerns. He begins by pinpointing the spirit of Jezebel, which seeks to infiltrate our churches and destroy the love of holiness. And by extension, our genuine love and relationship with the holy God of the Bible. Rhodus doesn’t deeply define the spirit of Jezebel. Instead, he uses it as typical of seducing spirits that promote lust, immorality, indecency, immodesty, and rebellion.

The Watchman on the Wall

Rhodus gives his most robust clarion call in chapter two, The Watchman on the Wall, by invoking Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman see the sword come and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” Reminding spiritual leaders of their Divine responsibility to warn of danger and the personal consequences if they do not. Chapter three quickly pivots to a passionate look at the spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). In keeping with the book title Rhodus argues that feelings are not superior to the Word of God. However, as we submit, the spirit of holiness takes hold, and we become more sensitive to perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Feelings are not superior to the Word of God, as we submit, the spirit of holiness takes hold, and we become more sensitive to perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Aggressively Cleansing the Temple

In my opinion, chapter four is the most insightful area of study in the book. Rhodus draws comparisons between Jesus’ aggressive cleansing of the temple and our obligation to do the same spiritually with our bodily temples. I gleaned nuggets of inspiration during the process of reading The Argument for Holiness. For example, Rhodus cites James 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded,” and I noticed an element previously overlooked. The cleansing of the hands signifies outward holiness, and the purification of the heart implies inward holiness. I especially enjoyed my conversation with Rev. Rhodus in the Apostolic Voice Podcast featured below. We were able to rabbit trail in all kinds of interesting directions. Rhodus’ commitment to preaching hard truths with love and sincerity resonated with my spirit. The hour-long conversation flew by which is always an indicator of good content and spontaneous flow. I’m confident it will bless you while you’re listening.

The cleansing of the hands signifies outward holiness, and the purification of the heart implies inward holiness (James 4:8).