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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Alcoholism vs. Legalism

The following is from a sermon John Piper preached almost 25 years ago. Keep in mind, Piper is against the consumption of alcohol… but he’s against something else far more adamantly…

I want to hate what God hates and love what God loves. And this I know beyond the shadow of a doubt: God hates legalism as much as he hates alcoholism. If any of you still wonders why I go on supporting this amendment, after hearing all the tragic stories about lives ruined through alcohol, the reason is that when I go home at night and close my eyes and let eternity rise in my mind I see ten million more people in hell because of legalism than because of alcoholism. And I think that is a literal understatement. Satan is so sly. “He disguises himself as an angel of light,” the apostle says in 2 Corinthians 11:14. He keeps his deadliest diseases most sanitary. He clothes his captains in religious garments and houses his weapons in temples. O don’t you want to see his plots uncovered? I want Bethlehem to be a place Satan fears. I want him to be like the emperor in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” And we will be the babes (not in thinking! 1 Cor. 14:20) who say, “Look, he thinks he is clothed in white, but he is naked and ugly.”

Listen as I uncover one of his plots. Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn’t look like one.

-Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.

-Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.

-Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.

-Alcoholics don’t feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.

Therefore, what we need in this church is not front end regulations to try to keep ourselves pure. We need to preach and pray and believe that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither teetotalism nor social drinking, neither legalism nor alcoholism is of any avail with God, but only a new creation (a new heart)” (Gal. 6:15; 5:6). The enemy is sending against us every day the Sherman tank of the flesh with its cannons of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. If we try to defend ourselves or our church with peashooter regulations we will be defeated even in our apparent success. The only defense is to “be rooted and built up in Christ and established in faith” (Col. 2:6); “Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11); “holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together … grows with a growth that is from God” (Col. 2:19). From God! From God! And not from ourselves.

HT: Brian Petak


Anonymous Stephen said...

I came across that sermon last week, and it increased my respect for Piper. He preached that about 18 months after he became pastor of Bethlehem, and I've heard it almost cost him his job because it touched a nerve. I absolutely agree that a misunderstanding of this issue colors the way many other passages are read, how rules are made, etc.

9:27 AM  
Blogger supersimbo said...

great stuff
i have his books in work and have never read any of his stuff but thats some great thoughts................i wish i could have showed that to my uncle Jim.........he died a couple of months back.........a christian struggling with alcoholism and legalism was the "cure" that he had been brainwashed with. breaks my heart when i think how he struggled and all he could go back to was his failings

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Katrina said...

Wow Ally. Sorry about your Uncle.

Chad this is one of the most powerful messges that the church could hear today. Just not sure if they would want to listen.

Piper is the man. I wonder how he is doing.

I also enjoyed your SBC entry. That was fun....unfortunately.


10:13 AM  
Blogger rie said...

ah legalism is creeping up everywhere me and melodie malone are actually working on a song relating to it. we're just having a heart time putting our hearts on paper. you're amazing.

10:27 AM  
Blogger *The Blogstar said...

I am glad to see that some of the 250 hits today have something to say about this post.

May we continue to be open to our Creator's heart and truth.

This is some hard shizle.

Thanks for hangin w/ me here.


5:21 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Your HT jumped you to the top of my referral list at You rock! Thanks for the props. Thanks for the readers.

Got your call - I owe you a call back. Let's talk soon.


8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you know if you're legalisitc? is that why its so easy to fall into? caseu you don;t know? How do you escape the trap of legalism? How do you obey God and his "rules" for good living, without suffering from legalism? Yah, so just wondering... but i guess there probably isn't a clean cut answer... Cause then we'd be leagalistic for following this answer? I don't know.


8:42 PM  
Blogger *The Blogstar said...

Laura. I wish I had more answers myself.

I'm not sure that God set up "rules" per say. He has however put some boundaries in place for our own good. If we stray out of bounds there are consequences. Sometimes mild to none, and sometimes hardcore. When we let those boundaries become legalism "rules", it will steal the very thing that Jesus came to give.

We must ask the Holy Spirit to continue to open our eyes and hearts to His heart. When we do that, I believe that legalism will have no place in our life.

Jesus came to give "life to the full"...legalism is a minimal life.

Enjoy the journey.


11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you seem to have some legalistic readers (judging from the last few days). I am glad to see this post. We should all think about things a bit more.

Well done mate.

3:34 PM  
Blogger *The Blogstar said...

SP- Not sure that I have legalistic readerS. There might be one or two that stop by.

I know which one you were referring to. She isn't a "regular".

For the record, I welcome anyone that wants to stop by. Legalistic or not.

Thanks for your continued input SP.

You should get a blog up and going.


2:18 PM  

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