Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sobriety of Christian Faith

1 Thes. 5:4-11 (ESV)
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. [5] For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. [6] So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. [7] For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. [8] But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. [9] For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, [10] who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. [11] Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. What does it mean? Keep awake and be sober. At the bottom of this it is hold on to the faith. Faith waits for Christ, it hold’s vigil. It doesn’t fall asleep, and get tired of waiting. Faith stays sober. Though drunkenness is a sin that is rightly condemned in the Bible, here sobriety isn’t exactly what the local temperance society is recommending. In fact it may be quite the opposite. I find it fascinating that the desire to impose temperance on others is almost always accompanied by the worst heresies whether it be Wesley’s Perfectionism, now days the holiness movements, Islam or Mormonism. They would enforce a literal sobriety upon you, as they pour the dregs of their false doctrine down your throat. Being sober here has to do with being rational about your faith, not being caught up in these enthusiasms, and chasing after a drunkenness of spirit.
Christianity is a sober faith. It isn’t about being caught up in ecstasy, mystical experiences and so forth. It really is the most sober and rational of the religions this world offers. It is rooted in an historical event. It forces one to see the reality of the world, and who they are. It shows sin for what it is. There are no rose colored glasses with Christianity. There is only hope in the resurrection of Christ.


Anonymous said...


Great one. Here's another one you took the evangelical glaze off for me! It's so obvious after someone else points it out to you, you wonder why you miss it. Then you realize, "see how my own blindness even covers the obvious". It's like one is unaware of one's blinders one has had them on for so very long.

It's kind of like a patch on your eye. One thinks they are seeing something through that eye and doesn't realize its a patch and blackness/darkness. And a good pastor/teacher comes along and reaches over (exegetes a scripture as is with L/G in mind). One's first reaction is, "Hey what are you doing, don't do that I'm seeing something here and if you move that you'll blind me." Then the pastor does anyway. And one replies, "HEY what are you doing, are you crazy or something..." (then) "WHOAAAH what's that strange bright stuff...hey that's light, and there's a tree, and a yard, and a blue sky, and clouds, and, and, and". Then you thank him.



Bror Erickson said...

Love you man. Love your ego boosting comments anyway. So what did it clear up for you? I get that it cleared something for you, but not sure what your position was before or why. You have to understand I was blessed to grow up in a Lutheran home. I was never blinded by the veil of American Evangelicalism, though they did try once. So I only guess at how they might read a passage.
They tried, but preaching against beer is almost as bad as preaching against Christ in my book. I wouldn't give up my beer for Christ. Ironically that is what kept Christ for me. No reason to be a Christian if you can't enjoy the freedom of it!

Anonymous said...



Shepherds that give Christ truly and dutifully today are in very very very short order, and I can understand the internal pressures of the mind that go on when you seem to be running against the flow of most so called pastors in our day and age. That being said, I always want to tell them when they do and thank them, because the temptation to “give up” has to be tremendous at times, if not that then very lonely. Luther spoke of his greatest temptation from the devil was, “Do you alone know”. So I’m glad to encourage you (and others) and you receive it that way! It’s a small return on the times when pastors like you feed me and “renew” my own mind to the Gospel and Christ. I’m also more than glad to call out the bad guys too without sugar coating the language, probably to a fault (as you’ve read me doing I’m sure).

It was kind of like that turn around you posted a few months back concerning eating and drinking.

Within the passage at hand that one part “…and those who get drunk, are drunk at night”, that always became the focus or nexus of the passage. It would typically be used as reason not only “to not get drunk” but to not drink alcohol at all and more, then reinterpreted back all over the passage. I’ll try to spell that out. The “reinterpreted” meaning of the passage became, “Christians don’t or shouldn’t (and if you do whether you are or not a Christian is at minimum silently questionable) drink in order to protect their witness so as to live soberly in order to protect your witness…if you love the lost”. I think that would be it in a nutshell. But a further clarification, the “be sober” is what the passage says but in my prior understanding, the way I was told/taught, what the sober really meant was some tight as a rubber band pietist, and THAT becomes the “witness protecting” projection, if you will, that should “draw them in” and if you don’t this shows a lack of love for the lost and thus questions your own salvation.

The out play of this, the practical, is that every time in a normal life situation (e.g. an office picnic, marriage, etc…) in mixed company of believers and unbelievers if the beer, wine or other alcohol was to be there, you were NOT to be there (that’s the “being sober” part to “project” the “witness”). It got to the point for me that every time somebody mentioned the word “beer”, this is going to sound stupid to you (and don’t worry it doesn’t offend me because it IS stupid), you begin looking for an escape hatch from the conversation as if somebody uttered something forbidden and lightening was about to strike (just try ordering a beer among a known group of SB or evangelicals and NOTE the moment of sudden silence and looks around at each other and ‘looking for that hole to crawl into’). You get to the “guilt” point that you don’t want to, by your presence, convey you even condone the word “beer”. And if you do, you fall into that “did I just sin”, “am I protecting my witness”, “am I saved”. That probably sounds completely foreign to you being raised Lutheran.

That passage you posted a few months ago that I alluded to in the opening was the same way. It was always used as the defense for “protecting the witness” especially of beer, wine, and alcohol. Because if you’d say, “Well beer isn’t sinful, it’s not a sin to just drink a beer”. You’d be told a disarming, “True in and of itself its not, BUT (and here comes the circle back around to make such exactly sinful) BUT here Paul says he won’t eat or drink if it causes the weaker to stumble…”. So that while in and of itself if you drink it’s not a sin (I suppose in a closet with the lights out and door shut, very quietly), it would be sin if you didn’t “protect your witness” and caused the weaker to stumble. But what is eye opening about THAT passage is that Paul speaks not at all of that but in its context of the religions around them at the time concerning eating meats; “those who are weak see you eating meat sacrificed to idols (which you know is nothing) and think to themselves, ‘Oh my goodness, Jesus isn’t enough, Paul’s eating meat sacrificed to idols, this must be necessary too’ (the meat having so been offered to the idol god and then eaten, in a religious eating back of the sacrificed food” – don’t do that, don’t cause the stumble into unbelief that in a word communicates, “Jesus is not enough”.

I’ll give you some examples how this was and how it turned around for us, particularly my wife. When this, the way I was taught, first began to make me wonder if what I was being taught was right (protect the witness, don’t cause the stumble into unbelief, or show by drinking beer or alcohol a denial of Christ) was at one of my wife’s friends at work Catholic wedding celebration. Afterward they had rented this large hall for dancing, food and of course beer and drinks were served (Baptist ‘gasp’). We were Baptist, Calvinistic SB at that point. So we debated about going at all due to the beer but the crowd was large and we decided we would, and of course we didn’t drink. The room was field with round tables for the guest to sit, eat, talk, etc… We were sitting there with a bunch of her co-workers and most of us were some form of Christian. This other lady from her work comes over with a frothing beer in hand, an unbeliever as far as I knew, and went to sit down. Just as she was, very nice lady, she looked at us and then her beer and said, (very kindly not being sarcastic or anything at all, very politely) “Oh I’m sorry you all are Christians, you don’t drink, will this beer bother you?” Of course everybody shook their heads cautiously “no” being basically dumb struck (I joined in). (a visit to the darkness of my brain at that moment, I remember it as if yesterday) At first I thought to myself with chest puffed up, “Wow, we really protected our witness and this unbeliever is seeing that we are Christians because we don’t have beers”, good job ole boy. Then it struck me HARD, because I had JUST been out to Utah on a “mission” trip, us non-beer/alcohol drinking SB. We had been in a restaurant out there and had all ordered water (to save money), and our pastor/leader was telling us in the restaurant that ‘the waitress was probably being nice to us because she was probably Mormon and we ordered water and not tea, coffee or coke (the caffeine thing). The legalistic identifier of their religion, she may have assumed we were Mormons as such. Back to the wedding; it struck me that far from bearing witness to the Gospel did our actions do to this lady but that her impression, which we confirmed by NOT drinking, of “what is a Christian”, was “you all don’t drink alcohol DUE to your faith”. My happy “we did good” soured in my belly real quick and I have never been more ashamed of myself in my life (not even my gross sins were as sinful as that was). Our “witness protecting” “stumble preventing” BS basically communicated in one single nutshell, “Christians are getting to heaven by a set of rules and one of those rules is ‘not drinking beer’”. NOTHING could more deny Christ and the Gospel than that. The VERY opposite of what Paul warns about, completely using every verse Paul spoke, ironically, in opposition to how he meant them.

On the flip side, since we got out of that years later, my wife has had GREAT opportunity to turn that around at several professional dinner events and other outings with her coworkers and others. They’ll see her with a drink or some wine and say, “I thought you were a Christian…” (very curiously) and THAT opens up a wide open door to at least drop a line or few about the REAL Christian faith that they have NOT picked up by all the “witness protecting” “stumble” preventing so called witnessing by not drinking going on out there in evangelical circles. How ironic! Now I don’t have to look for a hole to crawl into when the word “beer” is mentioned or drank, and I too can enjoy the good gifts of God without pain of conscience. True physical drunkenness, of course, being understood appropriately as wrong.

What I struggled with in this verse and the one afore mentioned you’d helped on as well was “seeing how they fit” into the Gospel and didn’t basically mean what I’d been taught. Even though by other passages and firming up the Law and Gospel in my thinking over time, it was still hard for me to explain this when others would “pull them on me” like a gun. I had never been able to see the interpretation of them other wise than the way I’d been taught.

Hopefully that makes some sense and draws a picture for you of something you may not have experienced yourself as a Lutheran. Your read on how others “read this” though you say you didn’t experience the evangelical world is spot on and I say that as one who did experience it that way.



Bror Erickson said...

Thanks Larry,
Confirms what i was thinking anyway. I have hung out with Baptists before, they never liked me because I made a point of using colorful language, drinking beer, and smoking in front of them. While talking to non-Christians about Christ. Then I would tell them the joke about where there are two or three Lutherans there is always a fifth. Most didn't get it even though they grew up in the moonshine belt, I mean baptist belt, I mean Bible belt. Funny how those coincide, but if I had to live with that many baptists I'd need moonshine too!

Anonymous said...


That's a good one, a fifth, hillarious. Here's one for you, its an old baptist joke I use to here. It's funny because its true.

When you go fishing and you invite your baptist friend or deacons, always invite at least two. Because if you invite one he'll drink ALL of your beer and if you invite two they won't drink any of it.