Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Has American Christianity Been Robbed of Understanding

The Minor Prophets Speak to Today

Wine Has Robbed My People of Their Understanding



Okay, You Teetotalers, Put Your Superiority Away
There's Something In This For Us, Too!

“Wine has robbed my people
    of their understanding.
 They ask a piece of wood for advice!
    They think a stick can tell them the future!
Longing after idols
    has made them foolish.
They have played the prostitute,
    serving other gods and deserting their God.

In reading this verse, it is important to ask how the word wine is used in this statement from God. What does it stand for?

Clearly  wine here does not refer to the beverage drank at meal time. God is not saying if you have wine with your meal you are going to lose your understanding.

Wine here does not refer to its medicinal use. God is not contradicting Paul when he writes, "Take a little wine for your stomach's sake." Nor does it refer to the drinking of wine in lieu of water to avoid water borne illness.

1.  Wine here refers to the use of wine for the sake of pleasure.

One of the greatest lies today is that people must drink to have fun. Fortunately, I am encountering more people who know that a little alcohol can diminish inhibitions - thus open uptight people to pleasurable activities, but also know that drinking more opens people to foolishness and poor decision making.

NOTE: I am particularly glad to state that all these encounters with a better standard concerning alcohol use and pleasure have come from people under twenty-eight. I am glad that these statements are coming from non-religious individuals.

In today's churches it is the non-alcohol related pursuit of pleasure which has robbed God's people's understanding. The pursuit of ease and pleasure is taken as a right by most American Christians. It drives them to the pursuit of more money and more activities. What formerly only the rich could participate in has become the measure of the success of the middle class and even the poor. A person is looked down on who does not achieve mega pleasures. Some even label such individuals, "ye of little faith."

The standards of the world have become the standards of today's Christians instead of the pursuit of God, the care of the earth, and charity.

Earthly pleasures have robbed American Christianity of understanding.

2.  Wine here refers to wine used as part of replacing the Lordship of God.

In Hosea's day much of the excessive use of wine took place in the worship of idols and in the rituals of the day to which people dedicated themselves. Sex with male and female temple prostitutes in order to win divine favor or forces of nature for good meant many people needed to dull their senses and consciences in order to carry through with the requirements.

The stick of wood and idols replaced the Lordship of God in the peoples government, in their understanding of how to live well, and and in their worship.

What has replaced God's Lordship in America?

The answer is not hard to obtain. Politics has inflamed our hearts and minds. It has taken on a life of its own to the point it destroys wise goverance. Why? Because politics have taken over God's role in  defining our worldview, our national and individual actions, and the standards of right and wrong.

What has replaced God's Lordship in America?

Our American individualism has replaced the Lordship of God. Now we are told we alone have a right to define who or what God is to us. 

Sounds reasonable, but we have over emphasized the need for each man, woman, and child to accept a certain definition of who or what God is. Within American Christianity that has resulted in placing our self in the role of judge and definer of who God is. Most American Christians tell you what they believe about God rather than who God has revealed himself to be. 

We are ignorant of what God teaches us about the exercise of his lordship by the examples and teachings given in inspired scriptures. Our biblical illiteracy comes from lack of study and American individualism's rejection of outside authority - like pastors and bible teachers. , it also comes from not understanding when we are experiencing his lordship. 

Individualism has robbed American Christianity of understanding.

 3.  Wine here refers to wine used to numb the emotions or conscience.

Among us are those who drink to numb their pain - whether from their past, their present, or their inner life.

At one of my pastorates an alcoholic taught one of the children's Sunday School classes. I experienced her as a faithful attendee, a woman generations of children loved, a woman who gave those children a sound foundation in biblical education. 

After several months someone clued me in. But they were reluctant. They pitied the role alcohol played in her life but found it hard to condemn her because God clearly used her. They knew that she used of alcohol to numb the pain of a regularly abusive life - abuse as a child and abuse in her marriage to a violent alcoholic.
Grace in action sometimes get messy.

I read about a widow whose husband failed to get her a green card.  Desperate she prostituted herself to provide for her American children. She was a faithful church member and often sought prayer for her circumstances.  As part of prostitution she used drugs tto cover her hurting conscience. Finally a church member privately asked her why she did not get a different job. They found she had a cash only day job but it did not pay rent and utilities let alone food, school supplies, gas to go to work, and medical necessities.

This person saw the inflamed of her conscience and despair that she could ever escape her sin.  This individual marshalled the other Christians in her life to create the avenues needed to escape - and escape she did. Escape, blossom and grow - coming out of her trap with more spiritual maturity than most people in her congregation.

Other individuals in the church who are quiet alcoholics or drug addicts also use those substances to numb their consciences.

But are there other ways American Christians numb their emotions and consciences?

For some it is a recovery group that has displaced God with self action or group dependence. Whole churches have settled for psychological help or medications to numb their past, their present, or their unfulfilled godly potential. These things have a place in God transforming us. However, most churches do not understand how to use them as tools in God's hands to lead individuals to freedom.

In other churches emotional worship has become the "wine" that anesthetizes. For others total immersion in the programs of the church seek to drown out pain and conscience. Some practice highly emotive prayer services that produce a temporary catharsis. Autocratic mentorship or discipleship play this numbing role.

And let's not forget on of the most deadly form of numbing the conscience - excuses. The ways, sayings, and words of encouragement that excuse the conscience and thus truncate growth in grace, understanding, and the knowledge of God.

Our means of numbing emotion and/or conscience have robbed American Christianity of understanding. 


Wine used for these purposes robs understanding - especially spiritual understanding.

Photo Credits:
Sipping Tea by unknown
Teetotaler some rights reserved by Thomas Hawk

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