This past Friday, I had a long chat with my son about alcohol.
I talked with him about how alcohol lowers inhibitions and what a lack of inhibitions looks like when someone’s drunk. We talked about how drunks and druggies can be talked by themselves or others into doing or believing all manner of stupidity they would not ordinarily do or believe when not drunk or drugged up. How bright people can no longer discern right from wrong when they’re high or bombed. The drunk/druggie thinks his slurred commentary is genius, but all ability to follow the wisdom of a subtle rebuke goes out the window. Drowsiness sets in. All self-control is lost. A fool is born.
Sitting in church on Sunday, that conversation came back to me. I realized that by that explanation, our entire society is wasted.
The Bible says this:
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
—1 Thessalonians 5:6 ESV
The problem that most struck me while I pondered this was how a substance abuser can be talked into believing almost anything. All the filters of discernment fail.
You hear some people talking about being drunk in the spirit. I wonder if they mean the spirit of the age. If anything, when we talk about the Holy Spirit, I wonder if the state of genuine union with the Lord should instead make us sober in the Spirit.
That’s what I want to be: sober in the Spirit.
This is what being sober in the Spirit yields:
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
—1 Corinthians 2:9-16 ESV
There’s a distinct lack of spiritual understanding today. In the American Church, we go for just about anything that seems right to us. We make assumptions about what is good, rely on our intellects, and then conform everything to that perceived good—yet we may not have been sober in the Spirit when we finagled that outcome.
It’s easy to pick apart a drunk’s argument, but what happens when the Church is not as sober as it should be?
Sure, some of us will take a look at the culture wars and wring our hands because we have lost and some of that junk is seeping into the Church, poisoning the well. But because we may be tipsy, subtler issues creep in, too, born out of listening to good-sounding ideas that were not subjected to spiritual sobriety. Sometimes, that’s how the bigger errors get through.
The following is NOT something Jesus said in the Bible:
“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of worship for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
—NOT Mark 11:17b
No, actually it’s not written that way. The correct wording is house of prayer, not worship.
Yet if your Sunday church meeting is like most big evangelical churches today, you’ll spend 20-30 minutes “worshiping” and about two minutes praying.
Sure, the temple was razed, but don’t we understand the priority from that passage? And that’s just one small aspect of Christian practice and living.
If we are drunk, then we lack the sobriety in the Spirit to know the difference between the good and the best. Have we asked soberly if spending 10-15 times as much time singing on a Sunday turns prayer into an afterthought? Should we then scratch our heads when nothing changes for the better? Should we then blame God for the fruit of our corporate prayerlessness?
Many issues as simple as that one perplex American Christians. But then we tell ourselves nothing is wrong, and it’s the other guy who needs to get his act together.
You can convince a drunk of anything.
Church, it’s time to get stone-cold sober in the Spirit.