Explore: Avoid alcohol and drug abuse

• The Explore the Bible lesson for April 27 focuses on Proverbs 20:1; 23:19-21,29-35; 31:4-7.

In the last two decades or so, social attitudes toward open, social consumption of alcoholic beverages has changed radically. Some church socials even include alcoholic drinks as an option at the refreshment tables.

This situation is complicated by the fact more and more states are legalizing the use of marijuana. Those who choose to lead lives that honor Jesus in this century are going to find themselves increasingly in powerful conflict with the flow of social trends.

Practical advice

The book of Proverbs provides practical advice about the abuse of alcohol. The broader application includes the abuse of illegal drugs.

The problem is—as it always has been—that knowing something is wrong rarely compels one to do what is right. Few people who have paid the price of alcohol or drug abuse did not know the dangers they faced. Something deeper motivated them to continue self-destructive behaviors.

It is important to know the boundaries that distinguish between right and wrong. Something greater is needed to keep people, even followers of Jesus, from crossing those lines.

Proverbs 20:1 reports what we all know: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

At the entrance of the home of a hospice patient, there was a sign outside and inside the door that warned people not to smoke because the person inside the home was using oxygen. Oxygen, exposed to flame, can create a deadly explosion.

Knowing right and wrong vs. acting on it

However, when I entered the home, the smell of cigarette smoke was overwhelming. An ashtray, sitting near the patient, was full of extinguished cigarette butts. Knowing what could happen through the open flame of a cigarette butt had not prevented her from igniting a cigarette.

All the way back to the garden of Eden, we have absolute proof there is a significant difference between knowing right from wrong and the capacity to live by it. The Ten Commandments distinguish between right and wrong. Only the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit has any hope of empowering us to live by it.

For far too often, the church’s response to alcohol or drug abuse has been to quote the biblical prohibitions against it. That is akin to telling a person who is late for a meeting to be sure to obey the speed limit for fear of forfeiting responsibility to be on time. The book of Romans clearly details the power of preaching the prevention of wrongdoing to create the opposite result.

Power to transform

The book of Proverbs tells us what we already know. The abuse of substances such as alcohol and drugs is not healthy and, in most cases, not legal. Yet prisons are filled with people who knew the rules and broke them. Cemeteries are filled with the corpses of victims who also broke them.

The teacher of the gospel will present the rules, present the obvious facts about the dangers of substance abuse. The wise teacher will move beyond simply quoting the rules and move toward the gospel of Jesus that communicates the power that transforms a person’s soul to live, not only in a way that reveals common sense, but also reveals the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the power of sin to destroy to the power of Jesus to live, now and in eternity.

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