Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Water to Wine
Pastor Steve Schell
John 2:6-11
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 can’t 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, let’s 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, let’s go back and watch the “sign” Jesus performed.

The wedding at Cana (Jn 2:6-11)
• DBS (Sun-Thurs)

Old wine
I admit, the biblical guideline for alcohol is: You can drink it, but don’t get drunk. The danger comes when people don’t 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 God’s 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 person’s spiritual growth. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to have a meaningful conversation about God with a person who’s drunk. Yes, I know some people talk a lot about God when they’re drunk, but it’s empty rambling. When someone is under the influence it’s like an unseen blanket comes over them and stifles the true person. You have to wait until they’re 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 they’re 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 didn’t 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 it’s always present in the house, they won’t hesitate to drink when they’re of age, and who’s to say they’ll 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) Don’t drink until you feel a “buzz,” by that point you’re drunk. Set a limit and never go beyond it. Don’t let your boundaries migrate. Don’t 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, …drunkards… 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 wouldn’t be special or fun without alcohol, you’ve crossed a line. You have a problem.
7) Realize that you and your family are being assaulted with advertising by the liquor industry. They’re doing everything in their power to get you to drink or drink more. We live in a very dangerous environment.
8) When you’re in pain (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) never use it for relief. Let the pain drive you closer to God.

New wine
Using alcohol as a drug rather than a beverage is not a new problem, even in the church. Paul’s 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: Don’t medicate yourself with alcohol (or any other drugs), learn to find relief by gathering with other believers and worshipping until you’re 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 it’s 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 that’s the case, why do some believers fall into addictions such as alcoholism? Does their addiction prove they’re not sincere? No, it doesn’t! 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 person’s sincerity, though I admit sometimes people haven’t grown desperate enough to search for God’s answer. I think we all know sincere Christians who still battle alcoholism. They aren’t false when they say they want freedom, but they haven’t 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 don’t find God’s answer is because His way requires much more effort. It’s easier, when bad news arrives, when depression sets in, when anger grips our heart, to drink a fluid until we’re 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 here’s 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 God’s 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 don’t 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, David’s 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 God’s 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…do we?

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? 

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