Better Than a Pharisee

I posted recently about pastors and sin, because I think churches need to recognize that men are made of flesh and so they sin. It’s also true that women sin. Women are just as capable of having affairs, or getting divorced. They are made of flesh too.

People in the congregations act surprised or even scandalized when a woman cheats or gets divorced. “Oh my gosh! She got a divorce?”  Well, how is that a surprise?  53% of Christians get divorced. It happens! Women can make mistakes too. They forget to protect their marriages.

It’s not for us to judge them. It’s not our place to be shocked or to condemn them. Let’s just love on them. Why don’t we help them through it? When we do that, it’s grace, and grace is what we should be about. But people seem to think that she has to be held accountable. Held accountable for what?

When you condemn a woman who hasn’t succeeded in protecting her marriage, you’ve judged her. I’m waiting for Jesus to come and write in the sand, because you’re acting like a Pharisee.  Jesus will say, “I’m going to write in the sand. I’ll write everything that you do wrong, and then you can tell me why you think you’re better than her.” What would you do then? Don’t you think you’d just walk off?

JesusWritingInTheSand

Obviously I’m passionate about this.  It does make me angry.  But I’ve done it! I’ve sat there before, and read scripture, and then didn’t apply it. We all do it. We pick out a few verses and we live by them, discarding a lot of the rest of scripture along the way. But all that stuff about the Pharisees is in the Bible because most of us are them!  I know we don’t want to think that way. I don’t want to think that way! But we’re all vulnerable to legalistic thinking.

The answer is grace.  When we understand the identity of who Jesus is, holy and righteous, living in grace and love, we move away from pharisaical temptation. The temptation ends because grace gets us away from legalism.  Most of the Christians that are pharisaical are legalistic, law-abiding, Christian citizens.  But they are not grace-filled, free Christians. That’s why so many people don’t like them.

The free Christians, filled with grace, are the people that sinners want to be around. Sinners want to be around the Christians that share in the identity of Jesus. Think about it. Who hung around Jesus? Sinners!  Why?  Because He treated them like human beings!

Christians are popular when they are easy to be around.  People tell me, “Maybe we don’t agree.  But I don’t feel like you’re always condemning me.” When that happens, I say, “That’s Jesus.”

And then I tell them, “Hopefully, one day you’ll see that this love I have for you is the same love that Jesus has for you, and you’ll want to be a part of that. It is so liberating! You don’t have to lie in bed at night wondering who you are. You won’t be scared because you don’t know who you are, or afraid that you’re not going to add up. Instead you’ll find out how much Jesus loves you.”

He loves you so much that He’s given you freedom. In His eyes, you already add up. Your imperfections are why he died and He loves you. So you’re free to love like He does.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

The Appearance of Evil

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. Obviously gluttony could be a sin. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We don’t say, “Hey, you can’t eat.” So why do churches say you can’t drink?

There’s seems a common rule among some churches that if you’re on the church staff, drinking alcohol is not allowed. I don’t personally agree with that. You’re saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or somehow on staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at the dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why not? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that? Because of what it represents?

I’m not misrepresenting the church. Are you saying Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine? No!

People talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. The “appearance of evil” is if I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum. There it is. There’s your sin.

Simply enjoying a glass of wine with my wife is not the same as drinking to excess and losing control.  It’s not an appearance of evil. That’s just your judgment.  And it’s not appropriate to judge me or my wife, because we’re doing nothing wrong.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when the churches make this rule against drinking, they don’t do it out of fear of God. They do it out of fear of man, and that’s not a good place to live.

I feel like the churches are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will think that staff person is a bad person. They’re afraid people will judge the whole church! But that doesn’t make sense to me.  Why should anybody think you’re not good just because you had a glass of wine?  You’re not doing anything wrong.

The answer is usually, “Well, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning.” Now that really doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a nonbeliever judge me over something they don’t even believe in? Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and asks, “Aren’t you sinning?” I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” And when they answer “No,” I would say, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason for a nonbeliever to think that! It’s just a judgment. If you’re doing nothing wrong, if you’re not living in sin at the time of your alcoholic beverage, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil.

The standard is Jesus. Jesus, who I think drank wine, is the highest standard there is. The King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect.

See you Monday.

Because I’m Saved

What do children think when you hide alcohol in the house? Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it. You know that’s the thought process.

In my home, my sons will know where the beer is. I’ll tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it. You’re not old enough to drink. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get me a beer. I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.” I want them to be able to go get it, and hand it to me.

I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house, because I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Some parents try to guilt their kids or scare their kids into not drinking. But that’s a problem, because then those kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

LoveGreaterThanFear

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they will respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to start my relationship off with my sons by hiding things.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I’m scared of him.” I don’t want them to say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I hate feeling guilty whenever I’m around him. I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want my sons to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel so calm around him that I’ll want to do what’s right, because I respect him.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved. That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, because you’re the nurturing father figure of our home, I respect you and I love you. I’m not just obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because I’m your son. You have done so much for me and you care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. See you Monday.

Talking to Young People About Drinking

I like the taste of some beers. I really do. I like enjoying a nice beer. It relaxes me and it calms me. Wine does the same thing. That’s why my wife enjoys a glass of wine. It relaxes her, and relieves some of her stress. It eases up her shoulders after a long day. It’s okay to do that.

But you shouldn’t drink to a point where you’re no longer sober-minded. And my sons are going to know that.

If my sons ask me if it’s wrong to drink, I will say, “No. It’s not wrong. If you drink to drunkenness, son, that’s when it is wrong.”

I won’t tell them it’s a sin to drink, because that’s not true. But it is against the law to drink. I’ll tell them about that. I think that angle would work pretty well for most young people. It is illegal, and you’ve got to follow the laws about drinking.

So when my sons turn 16, they might ask me, “Why can’t I have a beer?” I’ll tell them, “In this country, it’s not legal for a 16 year-old to drink beer. That’s why. The Bible says to obey the government that you’re in, and this country, they don’t want you drinking at sixteen years of age.”

be sober

Because here’s another reality: at sixteen, you’ve just started driving. You don’t know whether to make a left turn or a right turn. You’re not even confident enough to know whether to speed up or slow down at a yellow light. So what makes you think that you’re going to make the right decision when you’re sixteen and drunk? If you get drunk and then drive drunk, people can die.

That’s why it’s against the law for teenagers to drink. There are huge decisions involved here, with huge consequences!

The government says that when you turn 21, you’re an adult.  At 21, you are expected to make adult decisions. And an adult decision is a decision that can influence another person’s life. So at 21, you can go ahead and drink. But if you drive drunk, and someone dies, you can be held with adults, and you can be punished as an adult.

I know young people will argue , especially when they reach the age of 18. They’ll say, “I’m 18 years old, so I should be able to make my own decisions.” Right. Because you’re good at that. At 16, 17, 18 years old, you’re telling me that the decisions you make are made with a lot of wisdom. You’ve been through life. You know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

I know you think you know everything. Well, you don’t. I mean, we all went through it when we were 18. I get it. I understand. But it is what it is. You have to wait until you’re 21. Anyway, when it comes to alcohol, too much of it can cause you to lose self-control, and that leads to bad consequences. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. People see self-control in us when we represent Jesus, and they don’t see Him in us when we lose self-control.

That’s what I’ll tell my sons. Because when you’re 21 boys, you are no longer in my control. When you’re 21, I can’t help you. You’ll be an adult then, making adult decisions. While you’re with me, I’ll give you wisdom. I’ll help you, defend you, and fight for you. But I’m not going to sit there and slap your hand if you have a beer or an alcoholic drink at 21. You can do what you want. Just know that I can’t go to battle for you anymore.

We can tell our children it’s a sin to drink. We can try to control them with fear. But why not relate to them instead, with love and respect? That’s what I want to talk about next time. See you Thursday.

Drinking to Drunkenness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:6

Drinking is not a sin. The sin is drunkenness.

Drunkenness is the sin because through drunkenness, you eliminate self-control. And when you eliminate self-control, a lot of bad things happen.

If you drive drunk, you can kill another person, another human being. That’s murder. That’s not good.

Think about all the date rape scenarios. College kids drink and the girls get raped. The guys’ hormones are high and through drunkenness, they lose self-control. They don’t understand what “No” means and they rape a girl.

Then there are the angry drunks. They beat their wives, they beat their girlfriends, or they beat their kids, all because they can’t contain their anger when they’re drunk. They cause pain.

In these scenarios, you’ve not only sinned, you’ve also committed a crime. That’s going to put you in jail. So nothing good can come from it.

When you’re drunk, you don’t even have control over your own thoughts. You don’t have control over what you say. Think about it: when you’re drunk, you don’t control your own tongue! I’ve been around drunk people that literally say whatever is on their mind. Well, some things aren’t meant to be said. So when you get drunk, you can say something to another human being that can cause a lot of pain.

You can’t do good things without self-control. Name one good thing you can do when you don’t have control over your own body. You’re falling down. You can’t even walk straight! You can’t make clear decisions.

The fear of the Lord is wisdom. It brings wisdom. That’s what it does. So when you represent Christ, you represent wisdom. You represent peace. When you’re drunk, you’re causing chaos. You can’t make peace when you don’t have control.

When you represent Jesus Christ, you make wise decisions. Drunkenness is a sin because when you’re drunk, you can’t live a right life. You can’t live a righteous life. The Bible says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. So when you want to live a life that’s right, you have to be sober.

Make a decision that’s wise. Don’t drink to drunkenness.

The government, the church, and parents all have to help young people understand these scenarios. I’ll pick that up next time. See you Monday.

Drinking Wine Like Jesus

A lot of Christian homes reach the point where they teach that drinking alcohol in any amount is a sin. I understand why this happens. Christian families are afraid for their children. They want to control them, to keep them safe. So they start teaching that it is a sin to drink alcohol.

I think that’s wrong. And I think that’s why you see kids rebel. Here’s my idea. You want to see kids quit drinking? Why don’t you just tell them that it’s okay to drink? It’s just not okay at sixteen. I guarantee they’ll stop then, because they don’t want to rebel against something that’s okay. They’ll say, “Oh, we can’t rebel against that.” Yeah! That’s right, you can’t.

The First MiracleI don’t believe in the whole fear factor. I don’t believe in the notion that we should spiritualize drinking and guilt kids through Christ. And I think the churches that counsel that way are wrong.

It is not a sin to drink. Nowhere can you see that or find that in scripture.

People forget this. They make all these rules saying drinking is a sin, so then they don’t want to listen to the first miracle. We forget. Jesus turned water into wine. And it wasn’t just an okay wine. It was the best wine you can have. I’m guessing the alcohol rate in that was probably not nil.

Then you get into the arguments. “Oh,” people say, “back then there was non-alcoholic wine.” No, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the ability back then to make non-alcoholic beverages. I don’t think there was a filtering system. They sat in a winery and stomped on berries. That’s what they did! There wasn’t a filter on the alcohol. It was fermented.

“Oh,” people say, “but Jesus didn’t drink.” Yeah, He did. In fact, Jesus was called a drunk and a glutton! When He hung out with people, He drank their wine. And so people started judging Him. They said, “Oh, Jesus is at their house drinking. He must be a drunk, because he hangs out with people a lot, and he always drinks their wine.”

Jesus drank wine. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

Obviously if there’s a pastor out there just slurring like crazy, and rambling, and falling over, you know what? His church will take some flak for that. James says the teachers of the Word of God are going to be held to a higher standard.

But the standard by which God’s pastors will be judged is not, “Did he drink alcohol?” Jesus is the highest standard there is! He’s the King of Kings! He is God in human flesh! And He had wine.

Drinking isn’t a sin, but drunkenness is. Next time I’ll tell you why. See you Thursday.