I confessed to the group that every couple of weeks I liked to drink a bottle of wine and smoke a pack of cigarettes and asked them what the Bible had to say about that. This question was received like a hot potato and it was hard to get a straight answer, but in sum, I was told it was a matter between me and the Holy Spirit and that we just don't want to cause someone else to stumble.
I wanted a more definite answer but was also hoping for a loophole that would allow me to continue to "treat myself" every now and then. When I spoke to different members of the group about "having to obey Christ", I was told that, that was legalism.
Other times I expressed concern that the sermons all focus on God's love but no one mentions his wrath and the other more troubling aspects of his personality. I was told that "God is Love" and "This is the Age of Grace" and to just "Go enjoy my relationship with Christ." I was ecstatic when one day after class, in response to one of my "what if" questions, one of the lead teachers told me that I could do the same thing again and again and again, and I would be forgiven every time. That was music to my ears; now I could still get drunk every couple of weeks and remain in good standing with Christ!
I was ecstatic when one day after class, in response to one of my "what if" questions, one of the lead teachers told me that I could do the same thing again and again and again, and I would be forgiven every time. That was music to my ears; now I could still get drunk every couple of weeks and remain in good standing with Christ!I knew I kept returning to my wine as a dog returns to his vomit (2 Peter 2:22) but I was returning to it less than before.
And if I did it less and less - let's say once every 2 1/2 or 3 weeks instead of once every 2 weeks, then I was becoming more and more sanctified. I listened to speakers from our church visit prisons and tell the inmates that if they believe in Christ, all God sees is Christ's righteousness -- not their sin -- when he looks at them. I knew that there had to be repentance from sins in order to come to Christ to be saved, but afterwards, it seemed that as long as you sinned less than you did before you came to Christ, then you were being sanctified and you were on the road to Heaven.
I got a John MacArther Study Bible and read in his commentaries how the fear of God really means "awe" of him. I also read and heard expressions like the "practice of sinning" and a "lifestyle" of sin, which made me feel secure because my drunkenness was only occasional and not a "lifestyle" or a "practice". I was that deceived! I even met some Baptist churchgoing people who professed and believed sincerely "covered by the blood" and on their way to heaven despite living together unmarried, etc.
I began to see the abuse of the term "liberty in Christ" used to justify sinful behavior. Because of all this, at my urging, our family left the big popular Baptist church in search of one with more "narrow gate" preaching. Other Baptist churches we visited had the same lopsided message. Finally we settled on a tiny Baptist church that was covenant reformed (did not know what that was; had not yet learned what Calvinism was).
I was still suspicious but the last straw was when I asked the pastor after church for advice on how to talk to family members about letting my child play video games and watch movies that celebrate magic and the occult (Lord of the Rings, etc.) when visiting them. Pastor said it would be alright for some Christians to watch those movies. I also told him that I drank occasionally. He responded that we had liberty in Christ - that this liberty allowed some Christians to watch these (occult) movies while it permitted others, like me, to drink.
I felt angry that a pastor would distort the "liberty in Christ" as an occasion to sow to the flesh. At that point, I quit going to church altogether because I was afraid of being subjected to and deceived by false doctrine; I didn't trust myself as strong enough to stand firm under it. I started to become obsessed with finding out whether or not eternal security was true and what were the real consequences of sin.
I felt torment about it --- probably because The Holy Spirit, in his mercy, was trying to get me to repent for salvation sake. Looking back now, I guess I had the fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume the enemies of God because I had deliberately kept sinning after receiving the knowledge of truth. (Hebrews 10:27) After much research and wrangling, I finally concluded that a believer can indeed fall from his secure position. (2 Peter 3:17)
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians. 5:4-8)
"There is one thing we can be sure of. The devil only has our eternal harm in mind! In other words, he will try to harm us, especially spiritually. One of the best ways to do this is to downplay the ultimate danger of sin, while not going too far in either direction so as to be easily detected. This is exactly what the teaching of eternal security does! By this I mean, eternal security teachers will readily preach against sin - openly declaring the pain, shame and regret it brings, even the loss of eternal rewards and one's position in the kingdom, but will never declare such has the potential of keeping a person who was once saved out of the kingdom altogether." (The Myth of Eternal Security p. 18).When Jesus Christ returns, His people are to be sober, not slightly drunk or drunk. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).