A Caution for Believers in 2015

The new year brings hope and opportunity. Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions we are firmly committed (at least for now . . .) to keep throughout the year. Every new year, though, also brings renewed temptations and fresh opportunities for failure. Consequently, this post is a caution based on the story of Noah’s drunkenness after the receding of the floodwaters (Gen. 9:20-27).

In this story, Noah became drunk with wine and lay naked in his tent. His son Ham saw his father naked and told his two brothers. While we can’t be certain of Ham’s sin in this situation, he dishonored his father by seeing his nakedness and then reporting his father’s state to his brothers. Both father and son had sinned, and the repercussions were serious and long lasting through a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan.

My intent here is not to debate the use of alcohol or to discuss the curse on Canaan. Instead, my goal is help us consider the consequences of one act of sin. Think about these conclusions from this story.

  1. Nobody—even the most righteous person today—is immune from sin tomorrow. Several times in the story of Noah, the scriptures speak of his obedience to God. He was “a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries” (Gen. 6:9, HCSB). Four times, the text says Noah did whatever the Lord commanded him (Gen. 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16). All of his faithfulness, though, did not keep him from getting drunk. Our temptations may be different, but this truth remains the same. Faithfulness today is no guarantee of our victory tomorrow.
  2. A powerful movement of God does not always keep us from sin. Think about it – God showed favor to Noah by personally communicating with him, warning him about the flood, giving him direction about the ark, and then safeguarding him and his family through the deluge. In fact, Noah’s first recorded act when his family left the ark was to build an altar to the God who had provided divine guidance and protection. Still, that history of the undeniable work of God did not keep Noah from making momentary choices that brought shame on himself. Regardless of what miracles God has worked in our past, we too can still fall today.
  3. Even a single act of sin can mar the record of years of faithfulness. Again, Noah found favor in the Lord’s sight and modeled faithfulness for his generation (Gen. 6:8-9, 7:1). So faithful was he that the book of Hebrews includes him among the models of faith (Heb. 11:7). The same Bible, though, does not shy away from Noah’s failure in Genesis 9. The account is brief, but the blemish is glaring – and the inspired Word of God does not allow us to ignore Noah’s sin even today. The danger of making a choice today that will mar the rest of our lives is ever before us.
  4. Seldom does our sin affect only us. In Noah’s case, the sin of a parent opened the door for the sin of a son; even a single failure became a stumbling block to somebody else. I have seen seemingly single acts of sin lead to ungodly anger, bitterness, and retaliation from others. Sometimes, the single act includes another person, who then also falls into the enemy’s trap. Too many of us can tell stories of those whose single acts of sin have left ongoing scars in others – and the risk of that story becoming ours in 2015 is a real one.

So, brother or sister in Christ, here is my caution: even a single wrong choice this year can carry heavy consequences. Join with me in praying that none of us would make decisions this year that will mar the rest of our lives. Let’s follow God—and lead His people, if that is our calling—from our knees.

28 Comments

  • Terry Powell says:

    I appreciate Chuck’s emphasis for believers, even for leaders, on the reality of indwelling sin and the implications for radical dependence and for constantly guarding our hearts. Reading works by the Puritan devotional writer John Owen has sensitized me–along with my own failings–to the truth of indwelling sin, which he said over 300 years ago the church neglected to its own peril . I believe Prov 28:26 has not been rescinded: “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” If I could fully trust my heart, why would I need to guard it (Prov 4:23)? Terry Powell

  • Bishop Martin Wilson says:

    I certainly don’t condone drinking, but I would like to ask a serious question?

    Does it specifically say that no one’s seen end or is your premise based solely on our cultural bias towards alcohol? Because of many cultures drink wine at every meal.

  • Bishop Martin Wilson says:

    I certainly don’t condone drinking but I would like to ask a serious question?

    Does it specifically say in the Bible that Noah sin or is your premise based solely on our cultural bias towards alcohol?

    If so this would be very unacceptable for anyone from any of the culture that may read this article.

    And please understand this is question then I’m seeking an answer for.

    Thank you

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Fair question. Genesis 9:21 indicates that Noah “became drunk,” and the Bible condemns drunkenness (Eph. 5:12, Rom. 13:13, Gal. 5:15-21); thus, his sin is evident. The post is not intended to be a commentary about the use of alcohol. Thanks.

      • Sue says:

        I’m not a Pastor or evangelical leader, but I am an avid student of the teachings of the Bible, and highly revere the word of God as truth with no error.
        I found misconception in this interpretation of the account of Noah’s drunkenness.
        First of all, doesn’t God describe Noah as blameless? For his son seeing him uncovered and declaring it to his brothers; how is it Noah’s sin when it is a sin to uncover your Father or Mother’s nakedness – as written in Leviticus?
        Who are we to say Noah sinned when the Bible itself doesn’t say that Noah committed inequity toward God, nor was in need of repenting? And there is no account of Noah repenting for this ‘sin’ you have declared he committed. Wouldn’t that be inconsistent with the character of Noah to not ask forgiveness for a sin?
        If a man drinks of his vineyard, and doesn’t realize the strength of the wine fermented; then perhaps it was accidental overdose; therefore making Noah unaware. Is this the sin? I can find no verse in the bible to condemn his actions or behavior – despite the general premise that all drunkenness is sin – no matter how you got that way.
        I do not believe that Noah’s intent was to become drunk to the point of passing out naked. No one should make that assertion. The story was told to Moses by God, was it not? Then who are we to interpret or input sin where no sin was before? Do you also believe that Abraham sinned for lying about being his wife’s brother when he went through Egypt? And do you believe it was sin when Christ asked God to take this cup from him before he was to be crucified? I have heard those that do, yet these are the Friends and Righteous declared by God himself.
        All in all – the son whom Noah cursed was the one who sinned by declaring his Father’s nakedness (a noted sin in Leviticus); and in turn, the righteous brothers entered the room backwards to throw a blanket over their Father to end the disgrace caused by the brother who mocked his Father’s nakedness. Think of what your own Father would do if you saw him naked and went and told your brothers without thinking to cover him up. My Father would be ashamed of me and embarrassed.
        The book of Psalms 78:65 describes God this way: ‘Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.’
        This passage reminds me of what Noah might’ve looked like when he had the blanket thrown on him, and realized someone must’ve saw him uncovered if someone was covering him.
        Jesus said, it’s not what goes into a man that defiles him; it’s what comes out that defiles.
        I agree that the ‘intent’ to seek after drunkenness (as described in Psalms 23:29-35) is the way a man can give himself a stumbling block. But Genesis did not describe Noah as ‘tarrying long at the wine’.
        In conclusion: I believe that Noah got drunk accidentally and was overpowered by the intoxicating effect of the wine; decided to sleep it off; didn’t realize he was uncovered: did not sin. But his son, Ham, did by dishonoring his Father. (honor thy Father and thy Mother). This curse was not even possibly from the words or power of Noah, but from the hand of God. Because Noah had no power in himself to bring about such a curse on Ham and his lineage.
        If God declared Noah blameless and righteous; who are we to say otherwise? I believe God.

    • Dustin says:

      Dr. Lawless did not say “Noah drank.” He said Noah got drunk. No matter your view on drinking alcohol, Scripture specifically says not to get drunk. We have no case for getting drunk, even if you believe it is acceptable to drink. Also, Noah’s drunken state caused him to expose himself to his family, and in effect, caused the sin of his son, whatever that sin may have been. There are many debates upon what exactly his son did, but many believe that it was not just looking upon the nakedness of Noah. If Noah had kept a sober mind, much, if not all, of this would not have happened. Getting drunk, not drinking, and the results of this sin, are what Dr. Lawless specifically addressed.

      In Christ,

      Dustin

      • Dustin says:

        Bishop Wilson

        What I mean by “even if you believe it is acceptable to drink” is not that you, the original poster, do. You said that you did not. What the you means is those who are okay with drinking alcohol have no basis for getting drunk. The “you” was not directed towards you, specifically. I did not want it to sound like I was speaking against you, but only the topic you addressed.

        In Christ,

        Dustin

  • Hurley J. Coleman, Jr says:

    I have read a number of post and printed them, and even shared them. This one is so powerful that I couldn’t resist a response. Today’s hectic environment for leaders often leaves us vulnerable for things that we may not even call or list as sin, because they are incidental to society, our times, and the pace of things. I have been really on a personal quest of self evaluation in this regard. The ramifications that are addressed in this post are the things that I want to avoid and pray against. The warning against it is timely because this is also a time when I believe that the Christian faith leaders can have a great impact on this world, if we allow the righteousness of God to have it’s place in our hearts.

  • Ron Keener says:

    It has been a difficult year since losing my wife in 2014, and strangely I came across (providentially, I believe) the verses in Proverbs 4:26-27 (NLT): “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked’ keep your feet from following evil.” It seemed like good advice for even a 75-year-old, and I have posted it in my office where I can remind myself in my old age. I appreciated Hurley Coleman’s (above comments) views as well, and make them my own. One doesn’t want to travel this distance after all these years (making some mistakes and bad choices along the way) only to let up near the end of life. What is the phrase? To “finish well”?

  • I agree with your point in number 3, but I think it is important to point out that the opposite side is true as well. We see Noah described in Scripture as being in sin, yet he is still regarded as one of the great men of faith in the Bible as well. We need to always keep in mind that one sin does not have to ruin us for life. It has been shown over and over again that this thought has led men within the church to cover up their sinful activities in order to try to spare their reputations and ministries.

    Reputation is important, but it is more important that we value repentance over reputation. A sin let out in the open might tarnish your reputation, but a sin left in the dark will tarnish your soul.

  • Todd Goulet says:

    Thank you Dr. Lawless, this is though provoking. I am finalizing my message for Sunday from Matthew 4, specifically the call and promise; “follow me, I will make you fishers of men”. This post here helped to cement a fleeting thought that I have been trying to put into words. That is; when we follow the command, Jesus makes us immediately available for the work of the Kingdom, but we also face a lifetime of sanctification which includes faults, failures and falling. Thanks for helping me in this.

  • Gus says:

    What great relief we have in knowing that when God pronounces a man righteous, he is just that: Righteous. (Genesis 6:9)

    I appreciate the article, but our focus on sin instead of Savior is almost blinding at times. As a believer, am I not cherished by God, loved by God, and dare I say even actually liked *gasp* by God at all times? Or…Did Jesus not do the job fully??

    We better hope the mountains of scripture that affirm that we are righteous and blameless before God by grace through faith are all right, because our sin goes vastly deeper than we can ever imagine.

    Noah’s problem wasn’t drinking or getting drunk…His problem was the same as ours: Sin.

    His salvation was the same as ours as well! Complete righteousness found by grace in faith.

  • Ken says:

    Good article. I firmly believe the most dangerous words a Christian can say are, “It’ll never happen to me.” When you start thinking like that, chances are the devil has you right where he wants you.

  • Louise says:

    It’s amazing how one little slip, one little rationalization, one little “I deserve” can spin so out of control. The pastor in our area now in jail for killing a jogger while driving intoxicated in the middle of the day. The pastor caught in an affair with a married church employee half his age, and who, in retrospect, obfuscated a lot in the aspects of his pastoral work while the affair was going on. The church survives, but not at the level of impact it once had. The wars that have been lost when over-confident generals took on mistresses that distracted them from the battle. The stories are endless. Life is hard, life as a Christian can be harder yet at times, but letting down our guard, putting ourselves before the One who is truly deserving, too easily leads to long term, even lifelong, consequences. Professor Lawless’s points are well taken…

  • Ros Thompson says:

    I think that such a message indicates a sort of last ditch attempt to help Christians and Leaders to survive, due to a poverty of understanding and receipt by faith of all that we are in Christ. The truth is that it is quite difficult for believers to sin if we have become all that Jesus opened to us through his suffering.
    Actually, if we accept that we are holy and without blame before him in love Ephes 1v4, that our hearts have been purified by faith Acts 15v9, that we are born of Gods seed (and scripture says we cannot sin) 1 John 3v9 and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (scripture says love faileth not) Rom5v5…and many more NT teachings, then it is actually very difficult for a believer to sin.
    Winning comes from delving without bias into what is written for us in black and white in the New Covenant. I agree that we are very vulnerable if we do not accept all of Gods revelation in Christ and enter into it by faith. Why go to the Old Covenant when all of the answers are in who I am in Him ?

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