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What will you find here? You will find thoughts on life and death, thoughts about God and humanity's relationship with the Divine, you will find links to other bloggers and websites that pique my interest, and hopefully yours too. And finally, you will from time to time find me waxing on about music, because there is probably nothing else in my life that I dig so consistently and fervently as good music. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dry Faith, Spiritual Thirst, and Prohibition

I grew up in a non-drinking home, except in cases of illness, where alcohol was used as medicine (to help sleep when very ill, lessen coughs, etc., following the home remedies of both my Grandmothers). There was never wine, cider, beer, or any such item at the table.  The denomination I grew up taught (but did not insist on) abstinence, teaching that while the Bible does not forbid the consumption of alcoholic beverages, it is still something that good Christians avoid.  (In a quick search of the internet, this is the prevailing perspective among most evangelical bloggers.) 
Smoking was strictly forbidden in my home.  As a result, I tried my first cigarettes as an act of rebellion.  I smoked for a few years, but never habitually.  Rather, I used the cigarette as an excuse to take extra breaks at work, but only when the weather was good. I did not really like the flavour and smell of cigarettes, though, so I quit easily, and haven't smoked a cigarette now for 13 years.

As an adult, I became convicted of the legalism I had been raised with, since the prohibition of drinking and smoking is in line with Scripture.  Most who try to justify their prohibition of one or the other with scripture must resort to some tricky and convoluted exegesis.  My position has been and conitunes to be, when referring to non-prophetic books of scripture, to let the text speak for itself, in both its immediate and larger Biblical context.

I am now a moderate drinker (16 years drinking, never once drunk) and an occasional cigar and pipe smoker. Neither of these items has hold over my life. They are not addiction issues for me, and I am free to enjoy them as I believe that God intended for me to.  
My gripe is with those well meaning Christians who take such a prohibitive stance.  I agree, that for people with addictions, they ought to avoid the object of the addiction, until they are healed of it by our Lord.  If they are not relieved of the burden they must not partake, lest they fall.  But to extend this prohibition to all is legalism.  It is the imposition of a law as master.  Christ has freed us from the law.  Such imposition of non-Scriptural rules dare not be done.  This makes us again slaves to the law.  
Galatians 5:1-4 says: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."
In other words, circumcision refers to bowing to law for the sake of the law, not due to personal conviction and leading by the Holy Spirit.  It is bowing to the will of man, not of God.  
Beware the Judaiser!

Open your Bible, and read Matthew 23.  I think, with some reservations, we could replace the words Pharisee and Scribe with Pastor and Assistant Pastor, and have a pretty accurate assesment of the type of morality taught in many Christian churches today.  It is outward morality, driven by the law.  It is slavery. 

 It undoes the work of reformers such as Martin Luther, who sought to free Christians from the tyranny of its priests.  We are saved by our faith alone.  Sola fide.  In James we learn that we must demonstrate our faith through our works, because a faith that does not drive the believer to good works is a dead faith. (James 2).  But it is not the works that saves us.  And the works James talks about are not some holier-than-thou morality, but rather works of love towards our neighbours.

Let me be clear, that I am not in any way advocating for the abuse of either alcohol or tobacco.  Regarding getting drunk, the scriptures are very clear: It is an act of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:21, among many other citations), and must not occur.  
There is no effort to teach self-control. We take an all-or-nothing approach to life, and that is not what God has called us to. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23).  

I find it interesting that many church leaders and lay-people rant on about the evils of alcohol or tobacco, yet find no issue with copious consumption of junk food.
Junk food is a different issue. I crave it. It has had a hold over me. I would wager that I am not alone in this.  The rapidly expanding waste-lines in filling the emptying pews in Western churches indicates to me that that this is an issue that needs dealing with.  

Personally, this is an issue of sin, because I surrender my better judgement about what I know is healthy to junk food.  Thankfully, where I now live, restaurants such as McDonald's are few and far between, fresh fruit and veggies are plentiful and cheap, so eating healthier is much easier.  This does not mean that I don't enjoy an hamburger and fries every couple of months, but rather that it is no longer a "necessary" part of my diet.
Gluttony is rightly numbered among the 7 deadly sins.  It will kill certainly kill people, it will certainly lower quality of life.  Occasional and responsible consumption of Alcohol and Tobacco is not nearly the same evil, if it is an evil at all.

More on Self Control
I believe (and have seen this proven in my own life) that our testimony as Christians is strengthened when we exercise self-control. We demonstrate that we are indeed free from slavery to sin, as well as free from slavery to law. Christ has set us free. And yet, sadly, so many Christians seek to impose unnecessary and un-Biblical rules on themselves and others. This Pharisaical approach to Christianity is no better than it was to Judaism, and it is no more glorifying to God.
I find this tendency to legalism and prohibition strongest among Pentecostal denominations, which I find ironic, given their claim to the work of the Spirit. The Word teaches us that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  This either means that the Spirit of the Lord is not in the prohibitive Pentecostal church, or He is being ignored by the law-giving pastors and overseers.

Brothers and sisters, it is time to quit calling things that are not sins, sins, and correctly call that which is a sin, sin. Just as in the days of the Pharisees, excessive and un-Godly laws and rules distracted from Him, today too, they distract from His love and grace.

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