Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Being Sober-minded

One of the most controversial occurrences in Christianity is people getting “drunk in the Spirit.” Some well-meaning Christians have preached against this manifestation by referring to Scriptures commanding us to “be sober.” Let’s look at some of them…

“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:6

“But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:8

“Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded” - Titus 2:6

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” - 1 Peter 1:13

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”- 1 Peter 5:8

There are different definitions of the word sober found in the Encarta World English Dictionary…

1. Not under the influence of drugs or alcohol
2. Not in the habit of drinking much alcohol or using drugs
3. Serious and thoughtful in demeanor or quality
4. Lacking vitality or brightness in appearance
5. Based on facts and rational thinking rather than on speculation

The New Oxford American Dictionary also defines sober as “muted in color” such as a sober gray suit. In this context, being sober would get boring after a while. God likes color and variety.

Let’s look at 1 Peter 1:13 again from the Amplified Bible…

“So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed.”

Notice in this translation sober is defined as “morally alert.” People under the influence of the Holy Spirit will not do things contrary to the word of God. Once in a while, you might see “drunken” Christians do silly things. But as long as those silly things are not sinful, we shouldn’t be too quick to judge these people.

A few weeks ago, a man e-mailed me protesting the spiritual drunkenness seen in some of my YouTube videos. He quoted several Scriptures on sobriety using the New American Standard Bible. Let’s compare some of these verses from the NASB with the New King James Version to gain a better understanding of what God’s word is saying…
  • 1 Corinthians 15:34 in the NASB says, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” The New King James Version reads, “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”
  • 1 Peter 4:7 (NASB) says, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” The NKJV reads, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:5 (NASB) says, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” The NKJV reads, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
People turned off by manifestations of spiritual drunkenness also like to quote 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” But a religious person’s idea of “order” may be different than what God’s is. Jeremiah declared, “My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the LORD, and because of His holy words.” (Jeremiah 23:9) And as my friend John Scotland points out, “The church began with drunkenness” in Acts chapter 2. There were critics of spiritual drunkenness on the Day of Pentecost as well.

Let us now look at Galatians 5:22-24…

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

One might ask, “Where’s the self-control in a spiritual drunk?” The Amplified Version of Galatians 5:23 reads, “Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].” Continence is defined as “able to control movements of the bowels and bladder” and “exercising self-restraint, esp. sexually.” The Wycliffe New Testament renders Galatians 5:23 as “temperance, continence, chastity; against such things is no law.”

In closing, I want to remind my fellow “solution drinkers” to always test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Never assume that all supernatural happenings are from the Lord. People who neglect time studying the Bible are more prone to deception.

“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” - Titus 2:12

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