Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What's the Big Deal with Drinking? Drinking Series: Part 1

Last week, Angie Ammon courageously shared her heart with a room full of 300 people at First Pres as she told the story of her daughter Molly who died from alcohol poisoning. Working with teenagers, the topic of alcohol is always on my mind. I am constantly having conversations with high schoolers about drinking - either they are personally struggling with it or they are struggling with watching their friends do it. I am especially thinking of it, though, in the weeks following Angie's talk and with Gasparilla coming up this Saturday. 

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT)
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In conversations with my high school and college friends, the main questions I hear from those who drink before they're 21 are - Why is it bad? What's the big deal with drinking? Why does it really matter?  

Note how this passage in Ephesians isn’t just a list of dos and don'ts...Do say yes maam and no maam to your Mom, don’t cheat on exams, do be nice to your little brother, don’t get drunk....

No, it’s a word on how to live our lives the best way possible. Don’t be a fool, live intentionally, live with purpose. If you want to do this – if you want to make the most of every breath and every day God has given you - it won't happen if you are filled with alcohol. This will steal life away from you, and ruin this life God has offered you.

So often, people think God is just trying to take away the fun. But that is a false understanding of who God is. At the core of God’s character, he is good, loving, and faithful. Everything he has to say about our lives comes from this foundation of his good, loving, and faithful character. Also, if we are drunk and filled with alcohol, how can we be filled with the Spirit? If our mind is taken over by alcohol, how can we live for him?  I can tell you from personal experience, that filling my life with anything but Christ’s love for me leaves me empty and unsatisfied. It leaves me feeling anxious and agitated. Only when my life is filled with Christ’s love do I feel confident, secure, and alive. But I can tell you that about myself all I want…what will make a difference is if you can acknowledge what is truly going on inside of you. Take anything that you fill your life with other than Christ and put it to the test of these three questions:
Does it fix your problems? Does it love you back? And does it last?

I don’t think it is a coincidence that people see a contradiction in those who call themselves strong Christians and yet they get drunk every weekend. I also don’t think it is a coincidence that people begin to drift away from things like church, bible study, etc. when they are in the midst of that lifestyle. I've heard many express how distant they feel from God when their life is consumed with drinking. And why? Because your life can’t be filled with the things that God opposes and be close relationally with God. I truly believe the only people who will be able to stay away from drinking before they’re 21 are the ones who are focused on living for Christ. Those with a heart after God and a desire to share the life-giving truth of Jesus Christ with others are so consumed with their purpose, they don't have time to let anything drag them down.

So, I don’t want you to think to yourself OK, I’m NOT going to drink. Saying that is like saying you’re going to give up sweets entirely: how long will it last? Instead, I hope you will decide to pursue Christ. Truly pursue him. Spend time in conversation with him, spend time in his word, spend time with others growing together and talking through life. A commitment like that will transform your life to where your eyes are so fixed on him, that the temptation to do things that he opposes will no longer be a temptation. You’ll see how that doesn’t fit into your life filled with purpose and intentionality. Soon his desires and your desires start to become one – and that my friends – is how life was intended to be.

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