Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 12

Leslie Basham: When you’re trapped in addiction, it doesn’t just affect you. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If I am not self-controlled in some major area of my life that becomes disqualified, not only does that impact my relationship with the Lord, but how many other women could be impacted?

“Well,” you say, “I don’t have a radio program, a podcast . . . I don’t write books . . .” But if you’re an older woman, there are younger women watching you (women you don’t even know!), who are looking to you for help, for an example, for courage, and for the belief that God really can help them in this area.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

Nancy: We’re continuing in our series in Titus chapter 2, focusing on verses 3–5. We’re just taking it one word at a time, one phrase at a time, unpacking this and asking God to penetrate and pierce and change our hearts as we dig into this passage.

I hope that through this series you’re reading the book of Titus, meditating on it, perhaps memorizing these verses. I hope you’ll have at least these three verses memorized by the time we finish this series.

So, again, we pick up in Titus chapter 2. Verse 1 tells us, “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” We’ve been saying that sound doctrine—healthy, wholesome, biblical doctrine—has implications for everyday life. It has implications for men, for women, for older, for younger, and Paul is going on to say in chapter 2, “Here’s what that looks like.”

If you have sound doctrine at the foundation of your life, as you live it out—depending on your season of life, even gender-specific—here’s what that looks like. We talked about it in verse 2: "Older men . . . " Here’s what sound doctrine looks like when it’s lived out in the lives of older men.

And then we come to verse 3 where the passage says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.” Or as one translation says, “Not addicted to much wine.”

We talked a few days ago about being reverent in behavior, what that means, what that looks like. We want to be, as older women, reverent. And those of you who are younger women, don’t tune out when we say “older women,” because that’s what you’re supposed to be aspiring to—that’s what you should be moving toward.

You don’t wake up at age sixty and all of a sudden have these qualities in your life. You start them at six, at sixteen, at twenty-six. That’s why older women are supposed to be teaching the younger women, so they can be developing these lifestyles, these patterns.

Paul has said that there are two specific practical applications of what it looks like to be reverent in behavior (there are more, but he mentions two). The first is in relation to how we talk: the tongue. He says these reverent women should not be slanderers, and we’ve looked at that over the last few days.

Women who are reverent in behavior don’t use their tongues to slander other people. When I say “tongues,” it’s not just talking. It’s what we say on Facebook; it’s what we say on Instagram and Twitter. It's how we communicate. If we’re reverent in behavior, we’re not going to use those tongues to tear people down, to lie about them, to destroy them.

Then there’s a second practical application of what it looks like to be reverent in behavior, and that has to do with a temperate lifestyle. Reverent women are temperate in their behavior. We’re going to talk more about that throughout this series, but Paul is saying, “This is what reverent in behavior looks like.”

It affects the way we talk, and it affects the way we walk. This is the outflow of sound doctrine in a woman’s life. There is a certain kind of speech, there’s a certain kind of behavior that you look at and you say, “Here’s a woman who is reverent. She fears the Lord; she honors the Lord; she walks in the light of His presence.”

And so, Paul says these reverent women are not slanderers, and they are not “slaves to much wine.” Now, if you don’t drink, or you’re not an alcoholic—you don’t struggle with excessive drinking—you might be tempted to think, Wow! Finally, here’s a session that I don’t really need! I can turn the radio off, turn my podcast off, put down the transcript. I don’t think I need this. Let me just say, “Not so fast.” This is something we all need. God knows that—that’s why He put it here.

When I first started studying this passage and I came to this phrase and I would meditate on it—“Not slaves to much wine”—he doesn’t say that much to older women about their characteristics. I was asking, “Why this emphasis—this particular emphasis—to women in general, and older women in particular?”

Like, were all the old ladies in Crete (where Titus was the pastor) just getting soused? Were they drinking too much? Was this a huge issue in the church? Well, we don’t know exactly what was going on, but we know that every word of God’s Word is . . . God’s Word. It’s inspired.

The fact that the Scripture addresses this word to older women means that we all need to take heed to what he’s saying. And we need to consider, “How does this apply to me?” Even if you’ve never touched a drop of alcohol, how does this apply to you?

First, we need to see that “slaves to much wine”—that phrase, I think represents more than just being an alcoholic. I believe it represents a mindset, a spirit of overindulgence that invariably leads to bondage, to slavery.

It’s a temptation to eat, drink, and be merry, to live a life of ease, to pamper the flesh, to do whatever your flesh loves to do. And as we get older (older women, tell me if I’m right about this), it’s easy to think, I’ve paid my dues. I deserve a break today. I’m going to do what makes me feel good. Don’t you find that, as you get older, sometimes it’s easier to feel that way?

So Paul is concerned is concerned about overindulgence—about too much of anything in our lives. Then he’s also concerned about our tendency to become enslaved (“not slaves to much wine”) to certain substances, habits or activities that we may consider essential to our happiness, our sanity, or our survival. “I can’t live without this!” That is slavery.

Slavery is, as one definition has it, “A state of being bound by some external power; a state of being under the power of a force or influence.” It’s the opposite of being sober-minded, temperate, and self-controlled—which you see all the way through the book of Titus, and we’re going to focus on even more in this series.

Titus 2: “And not slaves to much wine,” (v. 3) is not just a prohibition against alcohol addiction. It certainly includes that (we’re going to talk about that today), but it’s also a warning, a caution against any practice, any behavior, any craving that has us in its grip—that enslaves us.

Now, we live in a highly addictive culture, and most of us struggle with some kind of enslavement or sinful bondage. (We’re going to talk more about that in the days ahead, and how we can be set free from every form of addiction and bondage.) But today and in the next program, I want to address specifically this issue of not being slaves to much wine. What’s that about?

You may wonder how widespread an issue this is. Well, the fact is that it is a significant and growing issue—among women in particular. A woman named Gabrielle Glaser, who is a journalist, has written a book called Her Best-Kept Secret. She talks about the little-known epidemic of female drinking in this book. She says,

By every quantitative measure, women are drinking more. They’re being charged more often with drunk driving. They’re more frequently measured with high concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstreams at the scene of car accidents. And they’re more often treated in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated. In the past decade, record numbers of women have sought treatment for alcohol abuse. 

But you think, Maybe that’s just an issue with women who don’t know Jesus. Is that really an issue inside our churches? Well, it absolutely is!

I’m finding that the issue of alcohol abuse—and the broader application of substance abuse and addictions in general—is far more common among Christian women than what any of us may have realized.

I’m thinking, for example, of a mature Christian woman who serves in a Christian organization in a highly responsible position. She confided in me recently that she had found herself returning to some destructive patterns that had plagued her before she came to know Jesus.

She’s gone back to them, including (this is her quote), “a super-unhealthy coping mechanism of relying on alcohol at certain times and in response to certain emotions.” I would have had no clue; you would have had no clue. But I’m so glad that this woman was willing to step into the light and say, “I need to deal with this. I don’t want this to control my life. I don’t want to be a slave to much wine. I want to be a woman who is reverent in behavior.”

So today and in the next session we’re going to talk about, “What does Scripture have to say about the use and abuse of alcohol?”

There are three recurring admonitions in Scripture that could perhaps give us a starting place, so I want to talk about those today. These may seem very obvious, but I think it’s a good reminder. I know we have some young women listening today. . . Could I say, I would be so thrilled if God would use this session—this part of the series—to rescue you before it’s too late from what could be a lifetime of bondage and slavery. My heart is especially for young women listening, but it's also for older women who’ve been years with habit patterns, saying, “I could never get victory over that.” Let’s hear what God has to say about this.

Number one, the Bible clearly and consistently condemns drunkenness. You say, “Of course!” Well, did you know that is not something that is widely assumed—even among Christians—today? I’ve heard of Christian younger people saying, “It’s all right. The Bible doesn’t really mean that.”

I think we need to just remind ourselves that the Bible clearly and consistently condemns drunkenness. One definition I’ve seen of drunkenness is, “Being in a state in which one’s physical and mental faculties are impaired by an excess of alcoholic drink; intoxicated.”

So drunkenness has to do with a loss of control that’s expressed in different ways. For some people, it makes them super-quiet; for some people, it makes them super-rowdy. It can be expressed in different ways. But they’ve given over control of their mind, their body, their faculties—to some extent—to an external substance.

There is not a single positive word in the Scripture about the overuse—or the abuse—of alcohol. To the contrary, drunkenness—in the Scripture—is associated with sensuality, immorality, carousing, violence, works of darkness, sinful and pagan behaviors. These things go together. Where there is drunkenness, there are going to be other things that are not good things!

This is a characteristic of unbelievers that we see in the book of Titus. It talks, in chapter 3, about how unbelievers are slaves to “slaves to various passions and pleasures” (v. 3). They’re slaves; they give over control; they lose control. They give it over to various passions and pleasures that they think will satisfy them—they think will make them feel better, but they end up being slaves.

This is the characteristic of people who don’t have the grace of God in their lives. Contrary to that, Scripture says godly women—women who fear the Lord, women who have God’s grace in their lives—are not to be slaves to much wine.

Number two, the Bible requires those with greater responsibility to exercise greater restraint. Let me give you some examples of that.

In the Old Testament, God said to Aaron about the priests in Leviticus 10:9:

Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die.

This was a serious thing! These priests were not to go into the temple to fulfill their responsibilities, having been drinking. They were to be in full control of their faculties. Many commentators believe that it was intoxication that caused Aaron’s sons—Nadab and Abihu—to sin, which resulted in their being struck dead by the Lord.

Now, I’m not saying that anybody who drinks is going to be struck dead by the Lord. I’m just saying that God took very seriously and said, “There’s something about this drinking of strong drink that is forbidden to the priests,” when they were fulfilling their responsibilities.

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel recalls what his mother taught him before he became the king. She instructed him, and she said in Proverbs 31:4,

O Lemuel [this is the soon-to-be king], it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed [forget the law of God] and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.

What is she saying to her royal son? She’s saying, “Drinking will impair your judgment. You’ll lose wisdom; you’ll lose self-control, and as a result, you will be less effective. You’re going to be less conscious of God’s laws. You’re going to be less sensitive to the needs of the poor and the afflicted. You’re not going to be able to fulfill your responsibilities if you’re drinking as a king, if your faculties are being impaired—if you’re losing control with alcohol.”

Come to the New Testament in the book of 1 Timothy (3:8) God says to the elders, the spiritual leaders of the church (and they would be the ones replacing, in a sense, the kingly and priestly leadership that we saw in the Old Testament), they are “not [to be] addicted to much wine.”

Another passage (Titus 1:7) says they are not to be drunkards. You say, “Of course!” But the Greek word that is used to describe this for elders means, literally, they are not to be “at” the wine; they are not to be “by” the wine or “near” the wine. It’s paraoinos. Para—“at”; oinos—“wine.” They’re not to be near the wine, they’re not to be with the wine. They’re to stay away from it because they need to be in full control of their senses. The Holy Spirit needs to be in full control of their body, soul, and spirit, in order for them to provide the kind of leadership that the church needs.

Even in the course of working on this series and this book, news hit the Christian press about a respected pastor of a large church who had to resign his pastorate because of alcoholism—could not control it. It became an issue, and it cost him the pastorate.

And then, you think about all the people in that church, all the people aware of this situation (it became a very public thing) and the young people and the families and the people struggling with their own addictions and the loss of credibility, the impact on the testimony. People feeling, “I’m struggling with addictions. If he can’t get victory over this, how in the world can I?” And all of the fallout and the impact of one man of God, one spiritual leader in the church—very gifted. . . I have no reason to believe that this man did not have a strong heart for the Lord.

I don’t know him, but as far as I know, he didn’t get control in this area, and it destroyed him in terms of his effectiveness and his qualification for ministry. This is not just because “God says you can’t do it.” God says you can’t do it for good reason! It has a lot of ramifications and impact.

You say, “Well, I’m glad I’m not a pastor or a priest or a king!” God speaks to us, too: “Older women . . . are not to be enslaved to wine” (from Titus 2:3). So two groups of people in the church—elders (spiritual leaders) and older women, who were particularly influential. They’re influencing those following them, and their example was going to be closely watched and followed.

These people—the spiritual leaders, the elders, the older women—have a responsibility for the lives of those who follow them. They’re to be examples of what it means to live a temperate, Spirit-controlled lifestyle.

I can’t tell you how often and deeply it weighs on me to think . . . I want to reverence the Lord. I want to fear the Lord. I don’t want to sin—just because God is God, and He’s holy, and I love Him!

But if there were no other reason to want to live an exemplary life, I realize how many women listen to what I’m teaching. They’re looking for an example of someone who lives this—not perfectly—but someone who is committed to live out the principles of God’s Word.

And I think, If I am not self-controlled in some major area of my life that becomes disqualified, not only does that impact my relationship with the Lord, but how many other women could be impacted?

“Well,” you say, “I don’t have a radio program, a podcast. I don’t write books.” But if you’re an older woman, there are younger women watching you—women you don’t even know who are looking to you for hope and for an example and for courage and for the belief that God really can help them in this area.

So those who have greater responsibility are urged in Scripture to exercise greater restraint in every area, but specifically when it comes to this matter of alcohol.

And then, number three, the Bible warns us about the consequences of abusing alcohol—excessive drinking. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler [and strong drink and brawling often do go together, don’t they?], and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” It’s foolish to be led astray by alcohol, to abuse it, to overindulge in it.

And then, Proverbs chapter 23. This is a lengthy passage; we won’t spend a lot of time on it. But it describes some of the symptoms and the effects of excessive drinking, beginning in verse 29:

  • “Who has woe? Who has sorrow?” These are emotional effects of excessive drinking.
  • “Who has strife? Who has complaining?” Those are relational effects of excessive drinking.
  • “Who has wounds without cause?” There are physical effects of excessive drinking.
  • “Who has redness of eyes?” What’s the answer to these questions? Where do these consequences come from?  
  • “Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.”

What are wise people supposed to do? How should they avoid these destructive effects? Well, the writer’s counsel—at the very least, for the person who’s described in these preceding verses—is straightforward.

Proverbs 23:31: “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.” Sparkles in the cup . . . it has a pleasant appearance, it’s appealing; it looks good to the eyes. Have you heard that somewhere? Eve with the forbidden fruit? It goes down smoothly . . . it feels good while it’s going down.

He’s saying, if you have these effects—this woe, sorrow, strife, complaining, wounds without cause, redness of eyes—then don’t look at the stuff! Stay away from it if this could possibly be an issue in your life that would bring about these consequences in your life. He’s saying, “Stay away from it!”

Then he goes on to say, “Also think about the future; think about the unintended consequences—the part that the commercials don’t tell you.” Verse 32: “In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.” In the end . . . this . . . can . . . be . . . deadly!

Verse 33: “Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.” Does that sound like hallucinogenic effects? And this can be, again, with overdrinking—with excess drinking; these are some of the things that happen.

Verse 34: “You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.” Foolish behavior. Can’t walk a straight line. Looking ludicrous—those who don’t heed this counsel. 

Verse 35 “'They struck me,' you will say, 'but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it.'” It can deaden pain—which is actually one of the reasons that some people drink in the first place, to deaden pain.

(Proverbs 23:35, continued): “When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” So the writer of Proverbs is describing this person who doesn’t heed his counsel. He has these consequences, these effects. He doesn’t think about staying away from that which is tripping him up, which is destroying his life. He doesn’t think about the future consequences.

He gets to the place where he wakes up every morning thinking, I have to have another drink! I can’t stop! He or she is enslaved. And, by the way, everything we’re saying about alcohol could he applied to some other areas.

For some of us, it’s not alcohol that has some of these effects on our lives. It’s food. Or shopping. Or something else, where we’re thinking about it all the time—morning, noon and night. It’s destroying our life! Now, that’s not to say you should stop eating or stop shopping. But it’s saying, “Look at the consequences of your overuse, your abuse of what could have been a good thing.”

I have talked and walked with people who are described in this passage—and I’ve also seen the extraordinary power of God’s grace to set them free—including the friend I mentioned to you earlier.

Are you enslaved to some substance? Maybe it’s alcohol, maybe it’s something else. But you know it controls your life. I just want to assure you, as we get into these next several days, that you can walk in freedom! You don’t have to be the slave of that substance!

Now we know that drunkenness is prohibited, biblically. But what about drinking at all . . . so-called “social drinking”? This is an area where there is a lot of disagreement—strenuous disagreement—among Bible-believing Christians. And I want to say, you will not find a verse in the Bible that says it’s wrong to drink.

But I believe this is an area where we need to look to God’s Word—we need to look to God’s kingdom values—to inform our thinking and the decisions we make in this and related areas. So, in the next session, we’re going to look at some principles, some questions to be considered, as you determine whether to drink at all.

I’m going to leave us there, and say, “Lord, what are You saying to our hearts today? Would You set captives free for Your glory? Amen!”

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been unpacking the line in Titus chapter 2 that says older women are not to be controlled by much wine. She’s been showing us some practical ramifications of that line, and she writes more about it in the brand-new book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together.

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Why are we so prone to fall for idols? Tomorrow, Nancy will explore that. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, encourages you to run from addiction, and it’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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