"For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7
If you were able to read my testimony last week (a link is below should you have not had the opportunity), you know that I spoke openly about my life and lifestyle before meeting Christ. I chose not to embellish upon the depth of my depravity, for you can certainly read between the lines and understand how far into the darkness that I traveled. In the past, I have boldly declared more openly my horrendous sin, to the degree that some pastors asked me when they discovered that I would be preaching my testimony, "Will this be the PG variety, or the R-rated version?" Some of these men heard me share my story in prison crusades, where I chose to bare my soul to those who were helplessly locked away from family, friends, and freedom. In those settings, I refused to withhold punches in presenting the power of the gospel to change any man's life!
One area, however, that I choose to be more open about today is the curse of alcohol in my past. I come from a family heritage with an intense problem of alcoholism. I'll not bring shame upon those that I love dearly that were hounded by this monster, but I will say that as soon as I began pleasure drinking as a teenager, it quickly began to control my life. I simply could not get enough, and before I was saved, I was consuming massive amounts of both soft and hard liquor products. When I drank beer, it was not one or two single cans or bottles, it was one or two six packs, sometimes more. Hard drinks were consumed straight out of the bottle, and usually a fifth at a time. If I decided to mix, it would be half and half, some kind of Coke product and PGA (pure grain alcohol).
Why share this information? Basically for three reasons:
1. There were those who knew of my salvation experience who pointed me in the direction of counseling for my alcohol abuse. They desired that I get professional and community support from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. I have the highest respect for these kinds of organizations, as well as for Christian counselors who seek to minister to people with these kinds of problems. Yet I joyfully discovered that by the grace of God, I had the Holy Spirit living inside of me, and He had no drinking problem. In the course of time, my personal dependence upon and desire for alcohol was completely broken by the power of the indwelling Christ!
2. Because of the longevity and depth of my abuse, some believed that I may have suffered irreparable brain damage. When someone is intoxicated, they have reduced the oxygen level in the blood, and replaced it with ethanol. This not only alters short term behavior, but it can lead to long term complications due to damaged brain cells. Thank God this was not true for me, or perhaps He gloriously intervened with a miracle in my case, repairing those injured cells.
Before graduating from MSU, I was called into the office of the head of the Management department in the College of Business and Industry. Sitting in his plush office, he opened a folder and said, "Charles please help me to understand your grades. I have your transcript from your previous experience at another university, as well as your grades since transferring to State. You have been on a steady progression the longer that you've been a student here. In fact, you have a 3.85 GPA in all of your business courses, and a 4.0 in your management classes. As a lifelong educator, what is the explanation for such a remarkable improvement?"
Not only was he the department head and a lifelong educator, but I also knew that he was an admitted agnostic. Saying a quick prayer, I replied: "Dr. Ray, you may not want to believe this, but the simple answer is Jesus Christ. My life was a royal mess when I transferred to State, and not long after arriving I met Tammy (she worked in the Management office at that time), who led me to faith in Christ. I know that you are not a believer, but after I had an experience with Jesus, He opened my eyes to see the importance of an education, how blessed I was to have a second chance, and that I should no longer pursue the things of this world, but apply myself to do my absolute best in the classroom."
"Well, Charles," he replied, "thank you very much. I appreciate your sincere answer. You've really given me something to consider. I enjoy having you as a student in my class, and every time I see you, I'll think about what you have told me."
3. The final reason in sharing my experience with alcohol, is because of the lax attitude among so many church members about this deceiving, destroying, and damning fact of life. I am hearing that some seminarians and younger pastors, who have a theological slant towards Calvinism, will drink socially. There are even those who will promote the smoking of fine, expensive cigars (claiming a personal enlightenment that liberates them from legalism, as well as a silly desire to be like Charles Spurgeon). The Bible says, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by it is not wise." The Bible also says, "The thief does not come but to steal, kill, and destroy." I believe he uses alcohol to destroy the lives, marriages, faith, homes, careers, testimonies and futures of those who listen to his lying tongue! And finally, the Bible says, "drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Yes, I've had those who blow up and get in my face about Jesus turning the water into wine. My questions have always been: (1) Do you know of a certainty that Jesus drank this miraculous product? And (2), were you there to drink it so that you know beyond a shadow of any doubt that it was fermented wine instead of good, fresh fruit of the vine (grape juice)? The Bible says, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by it is not wise." I've had others speak of Paul's instruction to Timothy, "use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities." Isn't it wonderful that Timothy could use these beverages for medicinal purposes? Yes, it certainly was. But why didn't he just go down to the local CVS and purchase some Maalox, or some Tylenol PM? Oh, that's right, he didn't have a CVS, nor any other kind of pharmacy. Therefore, he had to use what was available to him. Do not try to justify your petty little arguments about purchasing "medicine" at your local liquor store to a man who nearly had his life destroyed and his eternity damned by alcohol!
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by it is not wise." What a simple, straight forward verse of scripture. Before I mellowed as a communicator of the gospel, I used to tell folks that the country-boy interpretation of that verse would be: "Wine (and beer) are mockers, and anything stronger than those are raging, and if you are deceived by these, you are stupid!" Now, now, don't get all mad, remember, you might be reading the thoughts of a man with brain damage.
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