Giving the gospel message to the unsaved is a mission of seemingly impossible proportions. Besides the obstacles inherent within each of us, a selfish flesh and a pride filled fear of men, and besides the aggressive efforts of Satan and his minions to keep the lost blinded in darkness, we face the challenge of a culture that actively opposes the preaching of the gospel message. We are daily confronted by a way of thinking that insists all beliefs are equally true and only the individual can measure the validity of a belief for himself. One can only say what is right and true for himself, but never insist on it’s necessary truthfulness for another. To make matters worse, the church, which is to be the pillar and ground of the truth, has abdicated its responsibility and allowed the culture to determine what truth is and how it is to be communicated. These forces combine to fill the heart of faithful Christians with fear and trepidation at the thought of telling others the gospel. Wise Christians will reflect on how the gospel should be given in the face of such implacable foes.
To answer that question, we can turn to the God inspired words penned by a man who preached the gospel in the face of vicious enemies, whose preaching was frequently rejected and whose message was overwhelmingly victorious. In Romans 1:16 Paul sums up his conviction about preaching the gospel to a world that trips over the supposed foolishness of the gospel. Paul says “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Despite all the opposition, the host of rejections, the persecution, the disappointments, the false professors and the false teachers, Paul looks at the gospel and declares, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” How should Christians give the gospel in our world today? In the same way Paul did, without shame. Though the world demands a softer, more user friendly gospel, we must give the Biblical gospel without shame. Though many in the church offer a gospel of personal ease, prosperity and comfort, we must give the Biblical gospel without shame.
Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? “for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Paul tells us several great things about the gospel that encourage us to give the gospel without shame or fear. The gospel message is the gospel of Christ. It is not about you. It is not about the lost person, their feelings or their desires. The gospel is about the work that Jesus has done to bring salvation. The gospel is a message given to you, to which you must respond, but the gospel is not about you. The gospel is a message given to each person, to which each one must respond, but it is not about him. The gospel is about Jesus.
The gospel is the power of God. One of the most horrible things to happen in American Christianity has been the acceptance of teaching that people will be not be saved unless the preacher captivate and entertains them. For nearly 200 years now, we have suffered under a steady string of celebrity preachers and performing evangelists who have redefined the preaching of the gospel in a way that bears only superficial similarity with what is found in the Bible. We do not need modern means and methods to make the gospel work. The gospel is the power of God! Insisting that the gospel preacher needs to captivate the audience and appeal to the desires of the seeker for the gospel to be effective is like giving someone a lit stick of dynamite and telling him that for it to work right he has to say “boom”. We don’t need to add our own special effects to the gospel. The gospel is the power of God! Nothing man does adds anything to His power. None can add anything to the gospel to make it work or to make it work better. The gospel works, just give it. The gospel does not need man’s wisdom to make it powerful. The gospel is the power of God. Unleash the gospel and it will transform hearts.
This is true because the gospel is the power of God! The gospel is not a message of human invention. The gospel is not a carefully crafted message of man’s wisdom dependent on the personality, charm, wit or intellect of the person giving the gospel. The gospel is God’s message about God’s Son filled with God’s power. You just need to give the truths. Our world demands a carefully choreographed multi-million dollar performance, but nothing that can be devised in Hollywood and performed by the greatest actors of all time can match the power of God. No special effects, CGI, moving dialogue, stirring orchestrals or heart rending scenes of tragedy and hope will ever come close to matching the power of God to convict of sin and draw the lost to Himself. Only God can change the heart and soul. Only God gives sight to the blind sight and life to the dead.
The gospel is God’s power to salvation. The power of God at work in the gospel is the power that saves men. Nothing else in this universe is promised to have the power to salvation. Creation speaks of God, but it is not the power of God to salvation. Apologetics can help remove some objections to the gospel, but it is not the power of God to salvation. Philosophy may help one think more clearly about truth, but it is not the power of God to salvation. Promises of the joy and comfort found in God may help prepare one to hear the gospel, but they are not the power of God to salvation. Nothing but the gospel is the power of God to salvation. Only the Gospel pierces to the depths of the human spirit. Only the gospel unveils the motives and desires of the heart. Only the gospel pulls back the masks and defenses all men construct. Only the gospel brings men to the throne of grace and gives grace and mercy to all who trust the Great High Priest.
How does the faithful Christian give the gospel in the face of intense opposition? Without shame or fear, for the gospel is not of his own devising and is not reliant on his own power. The gospel is not weak and helpless in the face of a world of rebels. The gospel is God’s power to salvation to all who believe.
Today is an age of tolerant intolerance to truth. Everyone’s truth is perfectly acceptable to who ever wants to accept it. Your truth is fine for you, my truth is fine for me and his truth is fine with him. Each one follows his own inner promptings to determine what is true for himself. The spirit of this age declares, “If your belief makes you feel spiritual, satisfies your longings or heals your hurts, then I am happy for you. Only, do not tell me that my beliefs are wrong” In this age of tolerance, all beliefs are acceptable, as long as one belief does not insist that another belief is wrong. Everything will be tolerated except intolerance.
Today is an age of religion as a buffet of pseudo-spiritual emotional and personal therapy. Religion is not a means of coming into the presence of the divine or of seeking divine blessing on one’s life. Religion today is a means of learning to feel better about one’s self, of receiving affirmation in one’s life choices, of having an all powerful back up when things go wrong and of acquiring the things one dreams to possess.
To make this problem worse, modern American Christianity has redesigned itself to appeal to precisely these mistaken notions of God. Modern Christianity has grabbed the world’s expectations and instead of confronting its error has latched onto the error to make it the main selling feature of the mega-brands of Christianity. Most of the largest churches in America have grown by finding out what appeals to the crowds and then providing it. The direct result is a Christianity that offers a Jesus who looks more like the world’s greatest girlfriend than the God of the universe. Jesus, in the mind of many Americans, is someone who will do anything you ask, whatever it takes to make you feel better and demands nothing of you. Christianity has become one very popular form of life coaching and emotional therapy.
In the midst of these pervasive errors, faithful Christians are called to give the gospel. How do we give the gospel in the face of these daunting obstacles? How do we teach of God, of sin of the Bible, of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and exaltation to a culture that only wants a Jesus who will take the wheel when things are difficult but will otherwise sit contentedly in the back seat? To answer that question, we must remember these kinds of idolatrous views of God are not new. We have put our own modern spin on unbelief, but at its basic levels, today’s idolatry is not much different from the idolatry faced by the disciples in the New Testament. How then does the Bible teach us to give the gospel?
One of Paul’s most impressive evangelistic defeats occurred in Athens when he preached Jesus from Mars Hill. Acts 17 tells us of this sad rejection of the gospel and Acts 18 tells that Paul left Athens to go to Corinth. In Corinth Paul connected with Aquila and Priscilla and continued the work of the ministry. In Acts 18:4-5 we learn what that ministry looked like, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.” Paul went to Corinth and began teaching in the synagogues just as he had done throughout his missionary travels. Paul went to Corinth and preached Jesus. What do we do when the culture of the day finds the gospel foolish and offensive? We do what Paul did, we keep giving the gospel just as it is recorded in the Bible. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds them of his arrival in their city and the message he preached. Fresh off the disappointing response in Athens, Paul committed himself to stay on message.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
We can do no less than Paul did, that men might be saved by the power of God.
“The importance of forgiveness is a constant theme of Scripture. There are no less than seventy-five different word pictures about forgiveness in the Bible. They help us grasp the importance, the nature and the effects of forgiveness.
- To forgive is to turn the key, open the cell door and let the prisoner walk free.
- To forgive is to write in large letters across a debt, ‘Nothing owed’.
- To forgive is to pound the gavel in a courtroom and declare, ‘Not guilty!’
- To forgive is to shoot an arrow so high and so far that it can never be found again.
- To forgive is to bundle up all the garbage and trash and dispose of it, leaving the house clean and fresh.
- To forgive is to loose the moorings of a ship and release it to the open sea.
- To forgive is to grant a full pardon to a condemned criminal.
- To forgive is to relax a stranglehold on wrestling opponent.
- To forgive is to sandblast a wall of graffiti, leaving it looking like now.
- To forgive is to smash a clay pot into a thousand pieces so it can never be pieced together again.”
John Nieder and Thomas Thompson, Forgive and Love Again
“Change is dreaded by the one in sin. They are content to remain as they are. In certain stages of a sinner’s life he feels as if he does not want to be anything but just what he is. He has succeeded in business, he is merry of heart, he is enjoying himself. No doubt there is a worm at the root of all his self-satisfaction, but he does not want to think about that worm. The tree looks all right—why do you want to interfere with it? The apple is beautiful, look at its fair rosy cheeks—suppose there is a maggot in the very core that will destroy it—why do you not let us look at the apple as long as we can be pleased with it? People who talk like that have built a very pretty house, but it is all cardboard—nothing more! But then, see how nicely it is painted and how very beautiful it looks! It is true that the first storm that arises will destroy it, but, possibly, there will not come a storm just yet, so why not let us be easy while we can? There are, alas, many of those easy-going souls. I pity the man who never has any troubles.
I believe that there are some people who never will have the heartache till they have known what it is to be hungry almost to starvation. It was so with that poor prodigal—he never thought of going back to his father till, “he would gladly have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: but no man gave any unto him.” Poverty, sickness, bereavement and sorrow of heart are often God’s angels that come to smite men on the side and wake them up, as the angel awoke sleeping Peter and delivered him from prison, where he was to have been led forth to die on the morrow! Some of you ought to thank God that He does not let you have a very easy or merry time. He does not let you settle on your lees, but keeps on emptying you from vessel to vessel. The reason for this is that He has designs of love for you and He means that you never should rest till you rest in Him! But it is often because of the pride which comes of fullness of bread and the fatness of heart which grows out of worldly prosperity that many a man says to the Lord Jesus Christ, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, You Son of the Most High God?”
And then, if you try to probe such people a little deeper and begin to talk to them about death and judgment, they probably turn upon you with great indignation, for they claim the right to be left alone. “Surely,” they say, “this is a free country, so we ought to be left alone and not to interfered with.” You will hear them say concerning a certain preacher, “Why does not that man preach his own religion and leave other people alone?” Perhaps one of them says, “I liked that sermon very well, on the whole, but I did not like that part of it in which the minister attacked such-and-such an error, as he called it. Why cannot he leave other people alone?” Yes, that is the old cry, “Leave us alone! Leave us alone!” If you will only let the devil alone, the devil will let you alone—but if you once attack him, he will be certain to attack you! But just think for a moment what this foolish sinner claims—he claims the right to live in blindness! You who can see must not tell him that he is blind! If you do so, he says you are infringing his rights. He says that he has a right to lie in prison if he chooses to do so! And if you come and hammer at the door, or shout to him through the iron bars that there has come One who can let loose the captives, he complains that you are disturbing him! Here is a man on the verge of destruction, asleep on the edge of a precipice! If you wake him, he tells you that he has a right to sleep there if he likes and that he does not want you to awaken him in that rough way and talk to him about his imminent danger! Here is another man lying down on the railway track and the engine and train are coming along that line. If you try to move him, he says that he has a right to lie there if he likes. What is it to you if the engine goes right over his body and cuts him in pieces? You cry to him, “Madman, escape for your life! The engine will be on you directly.” If he does get up, he abuses you and says, “Mind your own business! You go your way and leave me alone.” That is the style in which sinners talk when they claim the right to be left alone.
But everybody who has any sense knows that such talk is the language of a fool, for a man has not the right to be damned! He has not the right to destroy himself eternally. Our law very properly withholds from a man the right to commit suicide—if he is caught in the act of attempting to take his own life, he is punishable as a criminal. The act of suicide is a grave offense against the Laws of God and man, and no man has the right to damn his own soul and so to commit spiritual suicide. So we mean to interfere, by God’s help, with such a foolish and wicked man—and cry to him to escape from the wrath to come and, in doing so, we are only obeying the highest instinct of Nature—and the Law of Love, which is the Law of God.”
- CH Spurgeon
Here’s an excerpt from John Gill’s “Body of Practical Divinity” to help as you prepare your mind and heart for prayer meeting.
The parts of prayer, of which it consists; the apostle, in Philippians 4:6 uses four words
to express it by; and which are commonly thought to design distinct species or parts of
prayer; which are comprehended under the general name of “requests,” or petitions, as
“prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”: and he also uses four words for it,199 with
some little difference, in 1 Timothy 2:1 “Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of
thanks;” by which one and the same thing may be signified in different words, according to
the different respects which it has; but if these have different senses, and are different
species or parts of prayer, Origen’s account of them seems as good as any; that “supplication”
is for some good that we stand in need of; “prayer” for greater things, when in great
danger, that is, deliverance from it; “intercession” is expressed with more freedom, familiarity,
and faith, with greater confidence of having what is asked of God; and “thanksgiving” is an
acknowledgment of good things obtained of God by prayer. But to proceed, and more particularly
consider the parts of prayer, of what it consists; and I mean not to prescribe any
form of prayer, but to direct to the matter and method. And,
a. In prayer there should be a celebration of the divine perfections; and it is proper to
begin with this; we should declare the name of the Lord to whom we pray, and ascribe
greatness to our God; we should begin with some one or other of his names and titles, expressive
of his nature, and of the relation he stands in to us as creatures, and new creatures;
and make mention of some one or more of his perfections, which may serve to command
an awe and reverence of him; to engage our affections to him; to strengthen our faith and
confidence in him, and raise our expectations of being heard and answered by him, as before
observed; as of his purity, holiness, and righteousness; of his omniscience, omnipotence,
and omnipresence; and of his immutability and faithfulness, love, grace, and mercy.
b. There should be an acknowledgment of our vileness and sinfulness, of our meanness
and unworthiness in ourselves; we should come before a pure and holy God under a sense
of the depravity and pollution of our nature, and of our unworthiness to be admitted into
his presence, and to worship at his footstool; when we take upon us to speak unto the Lord,
we should own, with Abraham, that we are but “dust and ashes;” not only frail and mortal
creatures, but sinful and impure; and with Jacob, that we are not “worthy of the least of all
the mercies” showed us, nor of receiving any favour from God; and therefore do not present
our supplications to him “for our righteousnesses, but for his great mercies”.
c. There should be a confession of sin; of the sin of our nature, of original sin, of indwelling
sin; of the sins of our lives and actions; of our daily transgressions of the law of
They seem to answer to four words used by the Jews, of prayer, ברכה בקשה תפלה תחנה
God in thought, word, and deed: this has been the practice of saints in all ages; of David,
Daniel, and others (Ps. 32:5, 51:3-5) and which is encouraged (1 John 1:9).
d. There should be a deprecation of all evil things, which our sins deserve; so our Lord
taught his disciples to pray; “Deliver us from all evil;” and this seems to be the meaning of
the saints oftentimes when they pray for the forgiveness of their own sins and those of others,
that God would deliver them out of present distress, of what kind soever, remove his
afflicting hand, which lies heavy upon them, and avert those evils which seem to threaten
them, and prevent their coming upon them; in which sense we are to understand many of
the petitions of Moses, Job, Solomon, and others (Ex. 32:32; Num. 14:19, 20; Job 7:21; 1
King 8:30, 34, 36, 39, 50).
e. Another part or branch of prayer is, a petition for good things, which are needed;
for temporal mercies, such as regard the sustenance of our bodies, the comfort, support,
and preservation of life; so our Lord has taught us to pray; “Give us this day our daily bread;”
which includes all the necessaries of life. Agur’s prayer with respect to this is a very wise
one, and to be copied after (Prov. 30:7-9). Spiritual blessings are to be prayed for; which,
though laid up in covenant, and are sure to all the covenant ones, what God has promised,
and will be performed; and we may have this confidence in him, that whatsoever we ask,
according to his will, we shall have; but then they must be asked for; seeing, for what he has
promised, and will do, he will “yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for
them” (Ezek. 36:37).
f. Prayer should always be accompanied with thanksgiving; this should always be a
part of it; since, as we have always mercies to pray for, we have always mercies to be thankful
for (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6).
g. At the close of this work it is proper to make use of doxologies, or ascriptions of
glory to God; of which we have many instances, either of which may be made use of (Matthew
6:13; Eph. 3:21; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 1:24, 25; Rev. 1:5, 6), which serve to show forth the praises
of God, to express our gratitude to him, and our dependence on him, and expectation of
receiving from him what we have been praying for; and the whole may be concluded with
the word “Amen,” as expressing our assent to what has been prayed for, our wishes and
desires for the accomplishment of it, and our full and firm persuasion and belief of our
having what we have been asking for, according to the will of God.
This Sunday I tackled a challenging and at times controversial topic, the permissibility for believers to drink alcoholic beverages. Primarily for the benefit of the congregation, I want to post some of my observations on alcohol in the Bible and how Christians today should view this issue. Recently this matter has become a significant issue in evangelicalism. Some have acted as if the ability to drink alcohol is the defining hallmark of whether one is really living in their Christian liberty. The response from these ones has been such that a position of total abstinence is treated as if it is self righteous legalism. Neither assumption is accurate. However, on the other side of the issue, one must also be careful not to assume that any consumption of alcohol is sinful. The question I answered Sunday, and the question being debated is a very specific one. Is it alright for a believer to drink an alcoholic drink as a beverage? The question of medical treatment or water purification is not what the debate is about. The debate really gets down to whether the Bible allows Christians the freedom to have a glass of wine with supper or to have a few beers with some friends. To help think through this topic I want to give an overview of the Bible’s treatment of wine.
As with many controversial Biblical topics, it is at times very difficult to come to the text without a conclusion already in mind. The discussion of alcohol is made more challenging by the large amount of information that has been presented and misrepresented because of a personal bias or agenda. Saved and unsaved alike have shaped the discussion to their own ends, history and science have been manipulated to serve an agenda. The difficulty of finding sound information means any who study this topic need exercise great care to check and double check the accuracy of the facts being presented. Unfortunately, believers for and against the drinking of alcohol have distorted or misapplied information to bolster their argument. Because of that, let me give a quick conclusion at the beginning. The assertion that New Testament era Christians abstained from all alcoholic beverages except for medicinal purpose seem to me to fall flat, overlooking some passages that indicate believers did consume alcoholic drinks. However, to conclude that because some apostolic era Christians probably drank alcohol then the Christian today can drink as he likes as long as he does not get drunk is to fail to properly address the historical and cultural context of the issue.
To begin with there must be a proper understanding of the word wine. The words translated wine in the Bible, and in fact the original use of the English word wine, do not only refer to alcoholic wine. Today we never refer to ordinary grape juice as wine, but when the King James was translated, that was not the case. Into the 18th century we find evidence of “wine” being used in reference to alcoholic and non alcoholic fruit drinks. The same is absolutely true for the primary words in Greek and Hebrew translated wine in our English Bibles. Historically, both languages can be shown to use their word for wine in reference to alcoholic and non alcoholic fruit drinks. Don’t assume because our word today always refers to an alcoholic beverage that the Bible must be also. Secondly, we must realize the alcoholic beverages drank in the Biblical times have one major difference from much of that which is sold and drunk in America today, distillation. Distillation is the process by which the alcohol content of a drink is increased, allowing drinks to have an alcohol content well over 90%. Distillation was not known in the middle east until well after the time of Christ and the completion of the New Testament. All alcoholic drinks were limited to the physical limit of the sugars and bacteria present in the juice. That means, the maximum alcohol content of any beverage was around 15%. The strongest drinks were similar in alcohol content to today’s unfortified wines.
With those introductory thoughts out of the way, let me mention several important Biblical points in relation to this issue.
• The Bible clearly and unmistakably condemns drunkenness. The Bible does not ever praise drunkenness. The Bible does not condemn drunkenness every time it is tells of someone being drunk, but when it speaks to the morality of being drunk, Scripture always treats it as unsuitable for the child of God. Similarly, though the Bible does often speak of wine, it does not always offer either condemnation or praise. Similar to the Bible’s other references to historical events or facts, the Bible does not issue a judgment as to the morality wine in every discussion of wine.
• The Bible nowhere specifically forbids believers to drink beverages containing alcohol. Obviously, such a prohibition would make this conversation much simpler. There is no such command. However, the statement in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”, does give a strong warning about the dangers of alcohol. This discussion is not about a completely harmless substance. This discussion is about something that Scriptures calls a mocker which will deceive the foolish.
• The Bible does call for the use of alcohol for certain purposes. Proverbs 31:6-7 prescribes strong drink and wine for those suffering on the verge of death. 1 Timothy 5:23 prescribes the use of a little wine for Timothy’s ailments. The instruction to Timothy does not mean Timothy was to drink a glass of wine each day. It is more likely that Paul is telling Timothy to add a little wine to his water. There can be appropriate and legitimate uses of alcoholic drinks. On the other hand, one cannot justify recreational drinking based on medicinal usage. For that matter, one cannot justify a habit of drinking based upon perceived medical benefits. The heart benefits or antioxidants of any substance never determines the rightness of that substance for a believer. Our lives are to be lived based upon the teaching of God’s Word, not the personal benefit of any action.
• The Bible is consistent in its prohibition against strong drink. Save for on the death bed, there is a consistent repudiation of the use of strong drink. Remember, strong drink in Biblical times was not vodka, rum, whisky or port. Strong drink was the stoutest of natural wines, with an alcohol content of around 15%. Let me state it again, the Bible completely forbids all drinking of strong drink. If that includes the average wine and everything stronger, then the application to this issue should be immediate and obvious. No, you cannot have a glass of wine with supper.
• Ephesians 5:18 commands, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.” In Ephesians 5 Paul is probably concerned with correcting some of the behavior of the Bacchanals, drunken parties and parades that were familiar to citizens of large cities in the Roman empire. What is of particular interest in verse 18 is the word Paul used that is translated drunk. The word is one of three related words that are translated drunk, drunken or drunkenness. This particular use of the word indicates the beginning process of getting drunk. It is used in Luke 12:45 in the sense of beginning to be drunk. Paul’s command to believers is to not begin to get drunk. Certainly getting completely smashed is clearly forbidden, but Ephesians 5:18 drops the bar lower. Christians must not begin to get intoxicated.
I have not included all the many other uses of wine and strong drink in the Bible. There are many uses of the word wine in the Bible that are somewhat ambiguous. Many uses leave some room for discussion as whether it is certainly alcoholic or non alcoholic wine. These uses are usually interpreted based on one’s presupposition. Those who think all alcohol is forbidden see many of these ambiguous uses as non alcoholic wine. Those who believe there is a wide liberty with alcohol see many of these ambiguous uses as referring to alcoholic wine. There are several other things, culturally and historically that need to be considered before drawing any conclusions.
There is a definite cultural difference between the consumption of alcoholic wine in the ancient times and the recreational drinking of today. The wines commonly drunk were diluted, giving them an alcoholic content about that of the average modern day beer. These wines were drunk with meals, in limited quantities. The stereotypical drinking of today is an event more associated with bars and parties than with a family meal. Our culture has been overwhelmed with the abuse of alcohol. Our churches are filled with Christians who have come out of a life of drunkenness and who still struggle with the temptation to get drunk. The reality of these battles against sin must inform the Christian’s behavior in this matter.
Let me bring all these points to a conclusion. As with many controversial issues such as this, the topic ranges across that which is clearly sinful to that which may not be sinful. Strong drink is clearly forbidden. Whatever beverages falls into the strong drink category must be treated as wrong for the believer to imbibe. One cannot under any circumstance Biblically justify the use of hard liquors, distilled spirits, full strength wines or drinking lighter drinks until one is buzzed. Liberty may be possible in that which is not forbidden by the Bible. While there is no clear command against drinking beverages that contain alcohol, the sociocultural aspects, the great number in our churches who still struggle with the temptation to drunkenness, and the general difference in alcoholic content leads me to conclude the wiser choice is a position of complete abstinence. Though it may be permissible for a believer to drink a beer or wine cooler, it seems to me that the wisest and most charitable choice for an American believer is to not drink alcohol as a beverage. The right application of Romans 14 to this issue is to restrain liberty for the edification of believers and increase of the kingdom of God.
One other point of note, many churches still include in their covenant a prohibition against all alcohol as a beverage. If you are a member of such a church, then you are obligated to not drink. You have covenanted with that church body that you will not drink You may personally feel the liberty to drink a little, but as part of your submission to the authority of the church you have said you will not drink. That is not a light thing, and I trust none will elevate your personal
liberty over the integrity of your word or the authority of the church.
Let me conclude this article with a couple pertinent questions for you who may be inclined to insist upon the liberty to drink. Use these questions to evaluate your own heart as you think about this matter:
• Why do I feel the need or desire to drink?
• Is drinking today consistent with a Biblical way of living?
• What impact will this have on my fellow believers?
• What impact will this have on my testimony for Christ?
• Since drunkenness and intoxication are forbidden, what guards do I have in place to prevent intoxication?
In 1999 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Northland Baptist Bible College. Since it’s inception, Northland has been a school devoted to the training of full time Christian workers. As such, it has played an invaluable role for churches, particularly fundamental churches. Over the last several years changes have been taking place at Northland that have concerned many and of course have provided much fodder for bloggers. I have intentionally said nothing publicly about my own thoughts on the changes. The last few weeks, beginning with the release of Dr. Olson from the presidency, his subsequent rehiring and now the appointment of a new chairman of the board, have prompted me to voice my perspective for those three people who read this blog (Hi mom!). To understate the matter succinctly, I am deeply troubled and saddened by NIU’s decisions and direction.
With the appointment of an Evangelical Free pastor to be the chairman of the board and the reinstatement of Dr. Olson to “continue in the direction he has been leading”, the Northland of old is no more. Whatever your opinion of fundamentalism and fundamentalist principles, there is no question that Northland had been squarely positioned within northern fundamentalism (I speak of northern fundamentalism as a philosophy, not as a geographical region). Northland began by making changes to certain standards (which was absolutely not a departure from fundamentalism). Then they changed their discipline from a demerit based system to a discipleship based system. That change sounds very good, but the practical application doesn’t always work out so well. This Spring Northland officially announced it was no longer practicing certain kinds of secondary separation, including separation from those within the Southern Baptist Convention. Unannounced has been the recruiting of students at CCM concerts and the allowance of a faculty member to also be a member of a charismatic church. The recent resignation of four board members and the appointment of a new chairman of the board leaves no doubt that Northland has left its fundamentalist position and is intent on continuing in that change. Clearly, the philosophy and practice of ministry is not what it once was. Some of Northland’s changes were good and necessary course corrections. The more recent changes are not minor corrections, they are wholesale deviations from what Northland once was. Now, I can no longer call Northland a fundamentalist school. This is a great grief to a fundamentalist who upholds exegetical preaching, loving servant leadership and separation from doctrinal error. Northland once maintained an excellent position. They taught sound exegesis that digs out the authorial intent of the passage and then carefully shows the hearer how that original intent impacts the life today. They taught conservative and traditional standards without being legalistic. Northland was always clear and specific about the differences between institutional standards, personal standards and Biblical commands. They maintained a careful separation from doctrinal error without being harsh or divisive. Northland was a much needed training ground for reasonable fundamentalists. Sadly, that Northland no longer exists.
As a student and as a pastor I reaped great benefit from Northland. As an undergrad Northland shaped my ministry philosophy. After graduation I continued to benefit from conferences and pastor’s days at Northland, fellowshiping with other like minded men and gaining further ministry training. To our loss, that Northland no longer exists. There is now one less school to train another generation of fundamentalist leaders. This is a great loss to a fundamentalism that cannot afford losses. Northland as an institution will probably continue on for many more years. Sadly, the Northland I knew and that shaped my ministry practices and philosophies has passed away. NIU is not the NBBC that was, and many, myself included, are sorrowing at the loss.