Drunkenness opposes the Holy Spirit
All food produced from God’s earth is good. The Bible points out that wine “gladdens the heart of man”. Unfortunately, mankind has a tendency to misuse God’s good gifts. Today, alcoholic binge drinking is socially tolerated and even glorified with stories of outlandish behaviour and missing memories. Many of us are unaware of the serious spiritual and physical consequences to drunkenness.
Psalm 104:14-15 ESV You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
The Bible warns us that “heroes at drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong drink” reject “the law of the Lord of hosts“. This angers God because Jesus died to give us His resurrected life through His Holy Spirit and cleanse our bodies from sin. We are called to be His consecrated temples. We can, however, ruin this temple with just one or two sessions of binge drinking.
Isaiah 5:22,24-25 ESV Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink… for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets…
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Alcohol’s damage to our brains, hearts, livers and immune systems
Overdrinking affects the frontal lobe functions of our brains and compromises our mental capacity for self-control, decision-making, problem-solving, and judgment. Over time, frequent intoxication shrinks our brains and causes lesions to appear. While this damage can be mostly reversed by abstaining from alcohol, the nerve cells we lose in the process can never be replaced.
Moreover, it takes just one occasion of overdrinking to damage our hearts, leading to irregular heartbeats, over-stretched muscles, and high blood pressure. Our immune systems are weakened and our pancreases produce toxic substances.
This should not be surprising, considering that the alcohol in wine, beer or spirits is ethanol, the same chemical ingredient used in antiseptic hand sanitisers and biofuel for cars. Ethanol is also used to dissolve many organic compounds that water cannot break down. Our bodies may be able to tolerate small amounts of ethanol in our drinks, but over-consumption is similar to over-loading and breaking down our own internal organs with antiseptic hand sanitiser.
It is little wonder why the Bible calls us to stay sober and not be tempted by Satan to overdrink, as this destroys our bodies, temples of His Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 5:8 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The spiritual roots of drunken destruction
Ever since wine and beer were first produced over 5,000 years ago, alcoholic beverages have been used for religious rituals, in addition to medicinal purposes, major ceremonies, and burials.
The ancient Greeks and Romans worshipped a god of wine named Dionysus. The historian Livy (c. 59 bce–17 ce) described the secret rites and festivals held in honour of Dionysus as involving “debaucheries of every kind,” from the “pleasures of wine and feasting” to “the promiscuous intercourse of free-born men and women,… false witnesses, counterfeit seals, false evidences, and pretended discoveries” and even murder”. These spiritual rituals were called orgies, which today, is still used to describe decadent booze-and-sex parties.
God’s Word warns us against “drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” and contrasts drunkenness with being filled with the Holy Spirit – pointing to the fact that we lose control over ourselves and allow ungodly spirits into our lives when we are drunk. Self-control is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 4:3 ESV For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.
Ephesians 5:18 ESV And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
A follower of Jesus Christ who used to over-drink shares this testimony.
“I used to go out clubbing often. My friends and I noticed that we would subconsciously chase alcohol after our third drink.
I did not drink out of happiness. When I was happy, I had a lot more control over my drinking. My drinking was worst when I was going through depression. I would get drunk every night. It was a numbing substance that slowed down all my senses. There was always a voice in my head telling me, “You will be set free, just drink one more. It’s just one night of freedom, live your night out.”
After I became a Christian, I noticed a difference when I have a glass of wine at home and when I am out at a bar.
At a bar, whatever issue I was facing would become huge. I would feel like the world was turning against me. Everything becomes hopeless. When I drink at home, I am much more myself and don’t feel this way. I don’t know if this is because of the spiritual influences in such places. My mother used to own a bar. She paid a medium to invite spirits to operate in the bar so as to attract more customers. Even the decoration and the colour of the lights were specifically chosen by the medium. The idea was to help the business become successful by getting people to drink more.”
No matter how strong the temptation is to become intoxicated with alcohol in order to relieve stress or to socialise, we need to remember that God’s Word forewarns us that it will only result in anguish, sorrow, fights, complaints, unnecessary bruises, and bloodshot eyes. “In the end, it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder“. Proverbs 23 uses the imagery of serpents and snakes for a reason. Serpents are used to refer to Satan and demons. Just as Satan tempted led Adam and Eve to sin and be separated from God, the devil will also tempt us to overdrink in order to gain a foothold in our lives and wreck our relationship with God. The Bible makes it very clear that those of us who get drunk “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Proverbs 23:29-33 ESV Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Temptations to overdrink
The temptation to binge drink affects both non-believers and believers. Some first-century followers even got drunk at the Lord’s Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:20-21 ESV So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat… one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.
Social culture and advertisements will depict alcohol as the solution to sadness, loneliness, and rejection. They will never show us the truth; that drunkenness often leads to physical and spiritual destruction. For every plausible reason the world gives us for indulging in alcohol, the Bible points us to the real answer for all our needs; God Himself.
1. Stress and frustration: Drink to relax
This world is filled with many family, economic, and social pressures. We need to stay alert for those times when our minds start to think of relaxing over a drink, rather than going to our Heavenly Father. We could be tempted by the devil into consuming more than we can handle. Relieving stress through alcohol does not solve our problems. Only God can. He calls us to cast our burdens on Him. See Please vent to God.
Psalm 55:22 ESV Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
2. Social pressure: Drink to fit in
Known as a “social lubricant”, alcohol can help some people feel more relaxed and sociable. If we are not careful, our innate desire for social inclusion can lead us to keep drinking in order to fit in. The problem is, as followers of Jesus, we are called to not fit in this world. We are reminded that this everything of this world will pass away. As Jesus’ chosen race and royal priesthood, we are to be set apart from this world for His Kingdom.
1 John 2:17 ESV And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
2 Corinthians 6:16-17 NIV … For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord…
3. Fear: Drink to be less inhibited
Some people turn to alcohol to calm their nerves and give them “liquid courage”. Unfortunately, this is false courage, one that is substance-dependent. True courage comes from knowing who we are in Christ. Our destinies lie in His hands, not other people’s.
Psalm 56:3-4 NIV When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
4. Shame and pain: Drink to forget
Alcohol may numb the pain and anxiety we feel inside of us, but it will never make it go away permanently. In fact, it usually only adds to our sorrow and sense of hopelessness, and we end up drinking even more in order to drown that too. Jesus came to free us into His love, joy, and peace. He is always close to “the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” when we call out to Him for salvation and healing.
Psalm 34:4-5,17-18 ESV I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
5. Suppression: Drink to release emotions
Some people suppress their true emotions so much that they only feel “alive” as they lower their inhibitions when drunk. This is not the eternal life that God has promised us. It is a temporary and counterfeit relief that leads us away from the true Source of peace. When we recognise our need for God’s healing and ask Him for help, His Holy Spirit will lead us to His perfect restoration. See Emotional suppression is ungodly and harmful.
John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Renewing ourselves in Christ
There is good news for every one of us who have ever succumbed to drunkenness, if we are willing to confess our past indiscretions and follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
1. Re-dedicate our bodies to God
We can start by confessing and repenting before God, asking for His forgiveness for mistreating His temple. Then, we ought to command all ungodly spirits that influenced us to leave in Jesus’ name and invite the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 12:1 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
2. Submit our cares to God
Sometimes, we are driven to indulge in alcohol because it helps us temporarily cope with other things that we find difficult to confront. These are things we need to leave at the foot of the cross so we can readily overcome the temptation to overdrink. Let us therefore first submit our anxieties, shame, and pain to Jesus through confession and godly counsel.
Luke 21:34 ESV “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life…
Romans 13:13 ESV Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness… But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
3. Practice fasting and praying
One way to train our bodies to tone down our fleshly desires and to tune in to the Holy Spirit is by fasting and praying. By doing so, we learn to subdue our flesh with its passions and desires. See The significance of fasting.
Galatians 5:17,19,21-24 ESV For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality… drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
4. Turn away from the wrong influences
It is wise to consider the messages and people we surround ourselves with, particularly if they tend to encourage us to drink. The Bible warns us that “bad company ruins good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33-34 ESV Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
5. Learn to just say yes to God and no to the world
Some of us may find it hard to say “no thanks” to people or things. In reality, saying “no” to this world is another way to say “yes” to God. There is little point in gaining the whole world but compromise our souls. Nothing is worth more than our own souls.
Proverbs 1:10-19 ESV My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
Matthew 16:26 ESV For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
6. Practice wisdom
The Bible calls anyone who gives in to too much drinking unwise and gone astray. We are not to be foolish but be careful how we live our lives because “the days are evil“.
Proverbs 20:1 ESV Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Ephesians 5:15-18 ESV Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
- Avoid associating with people who enjoy getting intoxicated | 1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
- Don’t just follow the crowd, make wise choices e.g. choose non-alcoholic beverages | Proverbs 27:12 ESV The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.
- Expect people to give you a hard time for not drinking | 1 Peter 4: 4-5,7 ESV With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead… The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
- Remember we should not cause others to stumble | Romans 14:21 ESV It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Jesus drank wine but He never became drunk. Just as our Saviour chose to glorify His Heavenly Father in everything then He did, including what He ate and drank, let us follow His example and do the same with whatever we drink.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
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