3.2 Transparency and Conviction

Conviction Of Sin

The alcoholic needs to realize that what he is doing is wrong- not merely harmful to himself, but wrong before God. Alcoholics will generally lack the self-respect and have such a poor self-image that to merely argue with them that ‘You’re hurting yourself’ won’t make much headway. They need to be convicted before God of the simple fact that they are offending God their creator and moment by moment sustainer. So, what’s wrong with alcoholism? It’s a rather limited argument to reply: ‘Just because the Bible says it’s wrong’. Yes, the Bible does outlaw it. But there is a reason for God’s principles, they’re not arbitrary; and the alcoholic will unlikely be open to any argument that says ‘do this and don’t do that just because the higher power says so’.

- Alcoholism is based around an ongoing psychosis of lying. To oneself, to those around them. It’s not an occasional lie. It’s a situation where untruth is what fires a person’s life. The God of Truth requires us to be truthful with Him and to ‘live the truth’ in order to be His children.

- We are to live the life of the spirit, not the life of the flesh. In the flesh we cannot please God. Therefore we must make no provision for the flesh so that it can gratify itself (Rom. 13:14). Having alcohol around, the rural farmer consciously brewing it etc- this is doing exactly what God says not to do. It is planning and providing for our flesh to fulfil its lusts. Advanced alcoholism is a carefully planned piece of behaviour- the alcoholic cunningly plans to manipulate everything so that he or she can get access to alcohol and continue abusing it.

- Even though in a sense “all things are lawful” they are not permitted by God if they bring us under their power (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). Alcoholism is clearly a situation where the person has been enslaved. God wants us to serve Him in freedom; for freedom Christ set us free through the cross (Gal. 5:1 N.I.V.). Therefore we shouldn’t as it were undo the work of the cross by resigning that freedom for slavery back to sin.

- Alcoholism is a studied and persistent refusal to love. The ‘don’t care’ attitude to oneself and to others is incompatible with the basic teaching and example of Jesus. [The ‘don’t care’ attitude is only apparent; not real. The alcoholic cares very much- but feels he must drink]. If we do not have anything of His spirit / way of life and thinking, then we are none of His. This is not to say, of course, that every alcoholic is “none of His”. Alcohol inevitably ruins families; and if a man doesn’t try to care for his family, he is “worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8).

- We are to be open before God. Alcoholism disables us from knowing ourselves, knowing our patterns, our bodies, our pain, our relationships....when according to God’s word, we are to face up to them, by His grace.


The Bible teaches, and it is a first principle amongst true Christians, that knowledge is related to responsibility. I am not in the least bit interested in this context in how this affects the question of who will be resurrected and judged. Simply, if we know, then we have responsibility to act according to that knowledge. Alcoholics need help to take greater responsibility for their behaviour; this sense of responsibility is replaced in them by a self-defeating self-pity. One strategy with the Christian alcoholic, or even the unbeliever who has some knowledge of the Gospel, is to remind or teach them the basic knowledge of God. That they are His children, made in His image to reflect His glory, vitally important to Him; that His Son was of their nature but never once sinned, and gave His life as their representative, thus demanding a response from us to Him. This is where I believe that preaching the Gospel can go hand in hand with counselling and care for alcoholics. The more they know of the ‘higher power’, the more responsible they are to Him; and a sense of responsibility towards the ‘higher power’ is crucial in providing the motivation to quit.

Realizing Our Limitations

Recognizing human limitations is the key to the 12 steps programme of A.A. The carer needs to truly grasp that he or she cannot be the Saviour of the alcoholic. Change cannot be forced. And this throws us back onto a most basic question. Do we believe that Jesus means ‘Saviour’? do we believe in Him? Only the Father and Son can ultimately transform human life. We can pray for them to do this, and fervent prayer is something which arises from a correct response to the alcohol tragedy. But we of ourselves are powerless. The alcoholic himself also has to recognize this. Romans 7:15-25 needs to be read to the alcoholic repeatedly. For here one almost has the verbalization of the inner struggle of every alcoholic:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (R.S.V.).

When we seek to do good, evil is present with us. Oh wretched people that we are. But those words are not specifically about alcohol, grippingly relevant to it as they are. They are about sin generally. We are all gripped in essence in the psychosis of the alcoholic. And yet Paul goes on to triumph throughout Romans 8 that thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord we have a way of escape. The vague ‘higher power’ of A.A. is here defined specifically. It is only pride that makes all of us, be we alcoholics or carers for them, refuse to accept fully the need for the greatness of the Father and Son. We tend to think that in our own strength we will get through this problem.

Humility and love for others are so vital. The most tragic cases are alcoholics who went dry for some years and then returned- often because they have ceased working with others. In almost every case they drank again because of pride and refusing to realize their limitations. Truly pride comes before a fall (Prov. 16:18). I also note a definite pride in men who have only been sober say for a month. They are proud of the fact. Yet this pride leads them to forget their limitations, their need for God, and again they plunge into sin.

In God’s judgment of men it will be made apparent that it was so inappropriate for man who is made of dust to oppress his fellows (Ps. 10:18 RV). Respect of others is sorely lacking in our selfish natures. But the more we reflect upon our own insignificance, as creatures of dust, the more we will see that abuse of others in any form is inappropriate. And we don’t have to wait till judgment day to perceive this- for we know the mortality and constitution of man from basic Bible teaching. This link between our mortality and humility is brought out in Paul’s description of our present state as being “the body of our humiliation” (Phil. 3:21 RV). Believing we are mortal ought to be a humbling thing.

Our faith in God is mitigated against by our misplaced faith in humanity. We would rather trust a doctor, a repair man, a kind neighbour, ourselves... before throwing ourselves upon God as a last resort. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of” (Is. 2:22) compared to the great God of Israel? Job 27:9,10 seems to be saying [although the Hebrew text is rather obscure] that every man on his deathbed cries to God in some kind of prayer; but a belief in the mortality of man will result in the righteous man having lived a life of prayerful crying to the Father, which will be in context with his final cry to God in his time of dying. A true sense of our mortality will lead to our prayerful, urgent contact with the Father all our days. Thus destruction and death give insight into the true wisdom (Job 28:22). The alcoholic and his family are facing these things. The only, only way ahead is to recognize our weaknesses as humans, and the greatness and power of the Father and Son who have loved us more than we will ever understand.

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