John recorded this event to build our faith. He wanted us to know about the miracle that Jesus performed which fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. The prophets had said that when the Messiah comes the vats will overflow with new wine and oil (Joel 2:24) and the mountains will drip with sweet wine (Am 9:13). The miracle Jesus performed at the wedding in Cana proved He had the power to fulfill these prophecies. When John and the other five disciples who were there at the wedding saw this miracle, they recognized that it was a sign, and it caused them to believe even more deeply that Jesus was their promised Savior (Jn 2:11). But over the years, at least in our culture, the original message of this passage has been forgotten and has served as a proof-text for another message. It has been used to show that Jesus approved of drinking alcohol. Not only did Jesus miraculously produce a little wine, He turned 120 gallons of water into fine wine. So in the minds of some, He was setting this wedding up for some serious partying. Sadly, an event John hoped would build our faith in Jesus is now being used to justify alcohol consumption. I cant remember hearing this passage quoted for any other reason. This powerful sign of Jesus Messiahship has lost its voice.
However, since the passage is now used this way, lets address the subject because Jesus did turn water into wine
a lot of it. As disciples who are living in a culture full of alcoholism, we need to think through the role alcohol, and for that matter, mood-altering drugs in general, play in our lives. But first, lets go back and watch the sign Jesus performed.
The wedding at Cana (Jn 2:6-11)
I admit, the biblical guideline for alcohol is: You can drink it, but dont get drunk. The danger comes when people dont use it as a simple beverage but as a drug. And when used as a drug, it has terrible spiritual consequences. It damages the human personality leaving that person weak and dependent on a chemical for mental and emotional relief, rather than learning the art of breaking through into the comfort of Gods presence. You might say they use old wine when God wants His children to use the new wine (Mt 9:17). When alcohol is used this way, it halts a persons spiritual growth. Its very difficult, if not impossible, to have a meaningful conversation about God with a person whos drunk. Yes, I know some people talk a lot about God when theyre drunk, but its empty rambling. When someone is under the influence its like an unseen blanket comes over them and stifles the true person. You have to wait until theyre sober before you can talk to the real person.
But the problem with alcohol goes beyond occasional drunkenness. The desire for it gradually creeps up on most who use it until, whether they admit it or not, the fact becomes evident that they are using it to medicate themselves, in other words, to cope with physical or mental pain. When you warn people about this danger almost everyone agrees that it is a very real problem and that they see it happening to people around them, but then they claim that they themselves have learned to manage it properly. So it would be silly for them to stop drinking altogether, but yes, they do realize there are many people who should. Those who have this attitude seem confident that they could stop using alcohol at any moment, if they chose to, but then with deep conviction they defend their own right to drink. After all, Jesus turned water into wine, and theyre correct, He did. So what is the right course for a believer? In my opinion the simplest and healthiest option is to not drink, ever. But if you choose to exercise your right to drink:
1) Be totally honest with yourself. Is it a beverage or a drug for you? And ask others what they see, and thank them for their honesty if they tell you something you didnt want to hear.
2) Have the courage to say No, thank you in social situations. Be willing to be different and learn to be comfortable with it.
3) Think twice before teaching your children to be familiar with alcohol. If they watch you drink and its always present in the house, they wont hesitate to drink when theyre of age, and whos to say theyll have the same level of self-discipline you do.
4) Never cause someone else to stumble. There are many who are struggling with alcohol. Never by example, or by offering them some, help them fall back into its grip.
5) Dont drink until you feel a buzz, by that point youre drunk. Set a limit and never go beyond it. Dont let your boundaries migrate. Dont binge on special occasions. Drunkenness is never right. Listen to Paul:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived,
will (not) inherit the kingdom of God (1Co 6:9-10).
6) Make sure you have special occasions, family gatherings and parties without alcohol. If it wouldnt be special or fun without alcohol, youve crossed a line. You have a problem.
7) Realize that you and your family are being assaulted with advertising by the liquor industry. Theyre doing everything in their power to get you to drink or drink more. We live in a very dangerous environment.
8) When youre in pain (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) never use it for relief. Let the pain drive you closer to God.
Using alcohol as a drug rather than a beverage is not a new problem, even in the church. Pauls instruction to Timothy to use a little wine for your stomach and your frequent ailments was necessary because Timothy had stopped mixing wine into his drinking water in order to sanitize it, and as a result he was suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses. Apparently he had totally stopped using wine in order to model a sober life-style because alcoholism was a problem in the Ephesian church (1Ti 5:22-25). Paul himself felt it necessary to give the Ephesians this counsel.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord (Eph 5:18-19).
Essentially Paul is telling them: Dont medicate yourself with alcohol (or any other drugs), learn to find relief by gathering with other believers and worshipping until youre filled with the Spirit.
Learning new disciplines
Everyone faces temptation, and everyone has weaknesses. Life brings pressure, trouble and heartbreak to every one of us. No one escapes forever, and when it comes, we must find some sort of relief. Pain, whether its physical or mental, must be comforted. So the question is, not will we seek comfort in our pain, but where will we find it? The Bible says every true believer wants to please God. In the New Covenant God writes His Law on the tablets of our hearts (Heb 8:10). The desire to do the right thing is there. But if thats the case, why do some believers fall into addictions such as alcoholism? Does their addiction prove theyre not sincere? No, it doesnt! It means they have not yet discovered how to give that pain to God. Living free from all forms of addictive drugs has more to do with learning how to properly deal with the pressures of life than it does with a persons sincerity, though I admit sometimes people havent grown desperate enough to search for Gods answer. I think we all know sincere Christians who still battle alcoholism. They arent false when they say they want freedom, but they havent found it. They may be trapped in the cycle of trying to stop, succeeding for a while and then falling again. Is there an answer? There is, but real freedom requires the willingness to build new disciplines into our daily lives. Not often does someone say a prayer and the desire simply disappears. The key to real change, to true freedom is this: the desire must be fulfilled by something better; the pain must be comforted by something that heals, not destroys. And the reason some people dont find Gods answer is because His way requires much more effort. Its easier, when bad news arrives, when depression sets in, when anger grips our heart, to drink a fluid until were numb, than it is to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord (Eph 5:18-19). In other words, it takes much less effort on the front end to drink old wine than to worship myself strong in the Spirit. But heres the truth we have to see, the old wine just drags us deeper into despair and pulls us further away from God, while the new wine is Gods presence
and in His presence is fullness of joy (Ps 16:11)
and peace and wisdom and hope. Though it takes time and self-discipline to press into His presence, when we arrive there we dont find comfort by being numbed but by being strengthened, guided and encouraged. Each of us must learn for ourselves how to build those moments into our days and weeks. We need disciplines such as Bible reading, journaling, prayer, fasting, sabbath days and of course, worshipping alone and with others.
David at Ziklag - 1 Samuel 30
There are many examples in the Bible of men and women turning to God rather than alcohol for comfort, but one of the most powerful examples is David at Ziklag. After discovering that their camp had been raided and their families abducted, Davids men turned against him and spoke of killing him. David was suddenly plunged into one of those horrible moments when he desperately needed comfort, but David had learned to worship. He did exactly what Paul commanded us to do. Samuel records, But David strengthened himself in the Lord (v6). That means he went somewhere and worshipped until Gods Spirit came over him, and then he led his men into one of the greatest rescue missions in the Old Testament. He knew how to cope with pain
1) Can you think of an example when bad news came and you went to God and found comfort? Would you mind sharing that with us?
2) Share a time when you said no to drugs or alcohol. How did people treat you afterward? What did you learn about yourself in that moment?