Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – Part 1
by Bill Hines
In ministry to addicts I have observed a tendency to make a mistake that I made as a young Believer. We think that because someone is no longer addicted to something they are doing well. When this is our attitude we settle for too little and we may end up doing the person great harm. We all, as biblical counselors, want people to find freedom over their addictions and it seems nice to praise them for no longer being addicted and we certainly should encourage them for their hard work. It’s not nice, however, if we are “nice” at the expense of lifechanging truth that has them truly pleasing God. We must not settle for too little too soon.
A couple of years ago I told a friend that if he wanted to just get sober there were probably several hundred programs in the Ft. Worth/Dallas area that could help him achieve that goal. I went on to say that if his desire was to get free of his drugs in order to please God and follow Christ that’s where I could help. We have all known the people that for years focus on staying sober but often their personal lives are simply a sober version of their old unredeemed self.
I am convinced by Scripture that God wants us sober but for far more important reasons than being free of addictions. I am certainly pleased when any person’s sobriety helps society, but I also understand that in terms of the addict’s relationship with God that he or she must become a follower of Christ in order to please God.
As a new Christian at age 15 I needed a reason to avoid alcohol. What did the Bible say about it? I was led to Ephesians 5:18 by my older brother. I focused on “Don’t get drunk” and I remained sober. But I didn’t take in the rest of the passage until later. As we examine the rest of the passage it will become apparent that God is calling us to a lifestyle that only a true Christ-follower can live.
Look at our passage in context before we make summary observations:
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:17-21 NASB).
As we look at the parts in summary, we see what it is that God wants of His followers (some comments are based on the Amplified Version thanks to biblegateway.com).
15-17. As Believers we are to walk through life carefully living life with honor, purpose, and courage while shunning those who tolerate and enable evil. As wise people we are to live in wisdom as those who live as sensible, intelligent, discerning people. Further we are to realize that our time on earth is relatively short. We are not to live as those who only have this life to be fulfilled or make our mark. Therefore, we should make the very most of our time on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence because the days are filled with evil.
It is after the statement of how we are to live in wisdom that Paul mentions drunkenness as an example of an unwise activity that would prevent us from living a life of wisdom under the Lordship of Christ. Paul could have used any sin but as we will see, drunkenness lends itself not only to explaining being under the control of a substance, but it also incorporates the doctrine of demons and the spiritual battle involved.
5:18 – do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation [or wickedness – corruption] but be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Concerning this passage of Scripture, John MacArthur states: “Although Scripture consistently condemns all drunkenness (see notes on Proverbs 23:29–35; Proverbs 31:4, 5; Isaiah 5:11, 12; Isaiah 28:7, 8; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1Peter 4:3), the context suggests that here Paul is speaking especially about the drunken orgies commonly associated with many pagan worship ceremonies of that day. They were supposed to induce some ecstatic communion with the deities. Paul refers to such as the “cup of demons” (see note on 1Corinthians 10:19, 20). Instead, be filled with the Spirit … True communion with God is not induced by drunkenness, but by the Holy Spirit.”
As is pointed out walking in drunkenness is to be motivated by and participating in the evil associated with darkness. Being under the control of alcohol invites the demonic to gain control. Our resistance is down, our sensibility is muted, and we give into demonically influenced debauchery.
So, is it enough to simply be sober? No. The context won’t let us stop there. The command is not only to not be drunk but rather to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be under His influence rather than being filled with wine and its influence. We are not to be under the influence of the powers of darkness we, as followers of Christ, are to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.
Next week, in Part Two 2, I will look at the Lord’s instruction regarding what to put on in the place of drunkenness.
Click to Tweet: We are not to be under the influence of the powers of darkness we, as followers of Christ, are to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. – Bill Hines #Help4Addicts https://ctt.ec/310F7+
 NIV, The MacArthur Study Bible, eBook (Signature) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Click here for: Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – Part 2
Bill Hines is the president of Covenant Ministries, a biblical counseling, education and Christian discipleship ministry in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is the author of Leaving Yesterday Behind and Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling (with Dr. Howard Eyrich). He co-authored The Pursuit of Perfection with Dr. Mark Shaw. He edited Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle Paul and is a contributing author of three of the chapters.
Covenant Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 121235
Fort Worth, TX 76121-1235
Do you need an extraction?
by Shirley Crowder
One morning I noticed an ingrown toenail causing a little irritation on my big toe. I was on my feet a good part of that day, and before long the irritation turned to pain. By that evening my toe was throbbing and felt like I had a needle pushing into my toe. When I finally got home late that night, I pulled off my boots and socks to inspect the toe. It was red, swollen, and, well, I probably shouldn’t go into more specific details. The pain radiated upward from my toe, seemingly all the way up to the ends of my hair!
It was time to pull out the pedicure instruments and begin the arduous task of performing an extraction of the ingrown nail before a serious infection set in. Surprisingly, it was not as arduous a task as I had anticipated. In fact, it only took a couple of seconds to slide a cuticle pusher around the edges of the nail to remove the minuscule sliver that had been causing my toe to hurt all day long. I felt immediate relief. Of course, I had to make sure to clean and protect it, and by the next morning the redness, swelling, and most of the pain were gone.
I began thinking of the similarities between that rogue, minuscule sliver of nail and sin in my life. Had I not taken action to remove that sliver of nail, my toe would have become badly infected and the pain would have been unbearable. In a similar way, if I take no action to confess, repent of, and seek forgiveness for my sin, the more pain it will cause and the chasm in my fellowship with God will grow even greater. Eventually the unconfessed sin builds, thus marring my relationship with God and poisoning every aspect of my life. I hurt as a result, and my attitudes and actions often hurt others.
When the cuticle pusher released that sliver of nail I experienced instant relief from the pain it had been causing me throughout the day and evening. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, we confess and repent, and immediately that sin is removed, as far as the east is from the west. We receive God’s forgiveness, our relationship with Him is restored, and the weight of that sin is lifted forever.
Just like I had to clear my toe of the sliver and then keep it clean and protected, once we have confessed our sin and received God’s forgiveness we must be obedient to God’s Word and be transformed by the renewal of [our] minds (Romans 12:2b) so that healing of our souls is encouraged.
Do you need a sin extraction?
NOTE: A devotional version is found in Hope for New Beginnings by Dr. Howard Eyrich and Shirley Crowder.
Shirley Crowder was born under a mango tree in Nigeria, West Africa, where her parents served as missionaries. Okay! She was actually born in a mission guest house under the shade of a mango tree, but that doesn’t sound as exciting, does it?
Shirley is passionate about disciple-making, which is manifested in and through a myriad of ministry opportunities: biblical counseling, teaching Bible studies, writing, and music.
She is a biblical counselor and is commissioned by and serves on the national Advisory Team for The Addiction Connection. Several of her articles have appeared in “Paper Pulpit” in the Faith section of The Gadsden Times, and in Seek magazine. She also writes for Life Bible Study, Woman’s Missionary Union, InspiredPrompt.com and TheAddictionConnection.org. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to six books. She has a four-book devotional series, co-written with her Nigeria MK cousin Harriet E. Michael, that will be released over the next two years.
Shirley has spiritual children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren serving the Lord in various ministry and secular positions throughout the world.
The Only Fix That Truly Satisfies
The first 27 years of my life was spent searching for this fix in every nook and cranny the world had to offer, all of these places were outside of Jesus Christ, of course. The last 15 years of my life I have found it absolutely impossible to find it anywhere other than in Jesus Christ.
Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act. Psalm 37:4-5
What happened that caused me to stop searching for a fix that the world had to offer? What did I find in Jesus that brought me the satisfaction the world never could? How is this still all-satisfying, today?
As I unpack the answers to these questions I hope and pray that they may bring you to a deeper understanding of God’s love for you or your struggling loved one. I pray that it might cause you to run the race that is set before you with a greater endurance than you had yesterday. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us how we are to do this. I have always liked the way the NASB translates this, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Fixes outside of Christ
The word fix in the dictionary is described as a supply or dose of something strongly desired or craved. Here are a few examples:
- The “alcoholic” craves a drink.
- The “meth or crack/cocaine addict” craves a line, or a glass pipe to smoke, or a needle and a spoon.
- The “coffee addict” craves a cup of coffee first thing after he rises in the morning.
- The “sex addict” craves some sort of sensual pleasure.
- The thief craves to steal something to bring fulfillment to his/her day.
- The bully craves to tear someone down in order to feel better about themselves.
- The “shopaholic” craves to purchase more stuff in order to be content.
- The “food addict” craves food to feel satisfied.
- The “nicotine addict” craves a chew or a smoke to feel relaxation and anxiety relief.
These are just a few examples of the fixes that the world offers. Have you found yourself settling for any of these fixes? Did they satisfy? In my personal experience with many of these worldly fixes, I would say that they did satisfy, initially. How about you?
I love what the Lord says in Jeremiah 2:13, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. In a sentence, we turn our backs on the living God in our rebellion and settle for the counterfeit “gods” that can’t deliver on their promises. The cup appears to be full of what we are looking for, but eventually we find out there is a hole in the bottom of the cup. At the time, it seems like the right way to go. Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
The Rolling Stones said it this way, “I can’t get no satisfaction. I can’t get no satisfaction. Cause I try and I try and I try and I try. I can’t get no. I can’t get no…” Just like the forbidden woman described in Proverbs 5:4-5 but in the end she is bitter as worm-wood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol.
How could something that once brought so much pleasure and satisfaction now leave us so miserable and thirsty? This is satan’s most common tactic and far too often we bite the bait hook, line, and sinker and he reels us in with ease. 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I will never forget the day I stumbled upon the book Desiring God by John Piper. It was 2006-2007 and I had been reading a lot of what I would call “soft gospel” authors. This book blew my mind as it spoke to the heart of the bulk of my issues. Hedonism according to Webster’s dictionary is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life. In simple southern Iowa language, it is saying that the satisfied life is all about my pleasure and my happiness being the end all, be all. This book flipped the script on me by using Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Another phrase and idea from Piper weaved throughout the whole book, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So, what does Christian Hedonism have to do with addictions/life-dominating sins?
- The addict and the whole world for that matter, is in need of a fix.
- We are all worshippers of either self, stuff, sin, idols, or God.
- Our hearts will never be fully satisfied until it is full of the fix that is found in Jesus Christ and HIM alone. Augustine wisely said this, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:6-9
This was, is, and always be the only fix that will truly satisfy our hungry hearts, friends! Nothing else will do, despite the messages and ideas the world gives us. This is the Gospel! Jesus came into this sin-infested world and lived the sinless life that we were not able to live. He died the death that we deserved to die and He rose again on the 3rd day conquering sin, death, and hell, that we should have been consumed by. When we turn from our ways and turn to Him we find the pleasure and joy we’ve all been longing for!
So I will close with the same verse I began with. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Psalms 37:4-5
- Delight yourself in the Lord.
- Commit your way to the Lord.
- Trust in the Lord.
- The Lord will give you what you need.
- The Lord will act.
Finally, in a sentence, I’ll answer the questions that I posed at the beginning of this blog.
What happened that caused me to stop searching for a fix that the world had to offer? I came to an end of myself and cried out to the Lord in desperation.
What did I find in Jesus that brought me the satisfaction that the world never could? True, lasting freedom and joy that doesn’t leave me thirsty.
How is this still all-satisfying, today? The Lord is infinite (limitless, boundless, never-ending) so this means there is always more of Him to have!
May you or your loved one who is looking for love in all the wrong places and settling for temporary fixes that the world offers come to know the only fix that truly satisfies, today!
C.J. McMurry currently lives in Winterset Iowa with his wife, Misty, and their three children Carter, Seth, and Maryssa. They have three more grown up children Sabryna, Bethany, and Ethan. C.J. is the founder of The Refuge, a ministry that offers hope and help to those who are battling addictions/life-dominating sin issues. He was also the Director of Freedom House, a men’s residential discipleship ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel. He is passionate about seeing lives transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.