I used to have a personal limit of a couple of drinks. I figured it was a reasonable limit for a Christian to have. I’m not legalistic about alcohol, considering even Jesus enjoyed making good wine. Trouble is, when 2 isn’t enough. Especially after a good day of hunt’n, sitting’n round the campfire with the boys, suck’n on beers. 2 becomes 3 or 4 and pretty soon yer head feels funny. The personal limit became a sliding scale of how I felt at the time, but I can’t trust how I feel. Feelings are a good servant but a poor master. Most of the time fear and common sense have kept me in line, but I do admit to a few times that I could have been more resolute. Putting a limit on yourself is as comforting as having a plastic Jesus on your dash, and about as useless for keeping you from doing stuff you shouldn’t.
One day God spoke to me about it. I won’t go into detail of how but believe me, He really did. He asked me to limit my alcohol intake to one per twelve hour period. I argued in vain, remembering that God doesn’t negotiate, He’s always right. Now It was an issue of obedience to God. “Sure God, anything You say, I’m your man, I’ll obey.” Until I was on my boat, it was stink’n hot and the second beer was beckoning. I’m out in the middle of nowhere, what possible harm could come from one more? It actually crossed my mind that God might make an exception just for me, considering the circumstances. Then I came to my senses. What an idiot! You don’t mess with God or He might just step on you like an annoying ant, or send a tidal wave. Now if it was up to my personal feelings about my personal limit, for sure I would have caved in.
I’ve been thinking about a drug addict that I know. He regularly gets down on himself about his inability to control his addiction. Without a relationship with God, there are no absolutes in his life, just changeable feelings. We serve a God who sees and knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He is like a divine chaperone, keeping us accountable for our every word, thought, and deed. He requires us to be holy before Him in all ways. It never ceases to amaze me how some Christians think they can get away with stuff. Like God might not be watching, or that He might not care ?? Our lives are but a speck of dust in the bigger picture. But God, in his great mercy, cared enough about this little bit of dust to sacrifice His only son for it. In return He requires me to serve Him, by living in holiness before Him, and by following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
What you habitually do controls you. It enslaves you even though you don’t think you are a slave, you are. Beer commercials emphasize men’s crazed addiction to beer. Important things in life all take a back seat to the almighty beer. Coffee addicts are the most addicted and the majority of them are in total denial. They cannot function without their caffeine fix, and will go to great lengths to justify their addiction. I have a friend who had reoccurring migraine headaches. When I suggested that he give up coffee, he refused to believe there was any connection. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve accumulated several thousand dollars worth of coffee devices. I like cappuccinos so I have a machine on my boat, one on my camper, one at the shop, and a big one at home. When I realized I too was a slave to caffeine, it was amazing how much mental gymnastics I endured trying to justify my addiction. An addiction is no less of an addiction because you enjoy it. It only means that it is more fully entrenched in your life and will be even more difficult to quit. It’s not nessisarily because of the physical addiction, the real stronghold is in our minds. We reason that it is morally defensible to be enslaved, so long as we derive pleasure from it. This is a trick the devil deceives us with. His desire is that we would be as enslaved as possible and not even realize it. God’s desire is that we would be slaves of righteousness. Knowing that we cannot serve two masters, we need to purify our lives and purge any and all hindrances to serving Him. For me it also entailed giving up coffee.
Now cigars are another thing. I really enjoy puffing on a good Cuban stogie. Give me a good cigar, a glass of vino, a comfy chair on the deck of my boat, and I’ve gone to Heaven and come back again. Well not really, but it is quite pleasurable. Any person who would deny me this small indulgence is of course living in a state of sin. One fine day God put his finger on it. Gosh Lord, that too? Yup. So a few weeks later, Kyle pulled out some fat Cubans from his honeymoon trip, he and Sam left me and went up to the top deck of my boat to smoke them, beers in hand. Aside from that, it really hasn’t been hard at all. My lungs have thanked me and oddly enough, pretty much all of my headaches have vanished since giving up caffeine. One might question, why would a Christian allow himself to be restricted to such an extent that could make his life miserable? Didn’t God promise us an abundant life, and didn’t Jesus set us free from the law?
This smacks of a cruel and unusual punishment for a child of God to endure.
Then there’s the passage from Matt.7 that instructs us to…
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
It is normal for a Christian to seek sanctification for his life. If I want to become more like Jesus and have my life hid in Him, some of my habits and little pleasures need to be casualties for the sake of a higher calling. In the bigger picture, ditching a very small pleasures is not a big price to pay. If there is no cost to following Jesus then there is no value in what He’s accomplished for us. A stubborn Christian that remains the way he is without change, is one miserable person, never to experience the joy of The Lord.
Lord, help me to be willing to take the hard way that leads to life. I commit my ways to you Lord, whatever the cost.