The Gospel in the Liquor Store

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The following true story is about a seminary student sharing the gospel in a liquor store. The student is an acquaintance and the story is shared with permission. This is all that will be revealed of this student.

One of the most divisive disagreements among conservative Christians is the subject of Christians drinking alcohol. Tim Challies highlighted and commented on some of the recent disagreements about Christians and alcohol.1 Challies provides a big picture view of the subject with a caution to younger Christians to use their freedom wisely when it comes to alcohol.

I pray the following story is received as portraying the wise use of circumstances involving a Christian buying alcohol.

The Gospel in the Liquor Store

The seminary semester was starting soon and one student knew they would have to sign an agreement they he would not drink alcohol while enrolled as a student. Being a good Baptist he did not want to violate a signed promise. He is also believes that Christians have the biblical freedom to drink alcohol in moderation. Nevertheless, he knew he may not be able to enjoy a glass of beer for another year or so depending on his seminary circumstances.

The student decided he would stop at a liquor store on the way home and buy two beers until who knows when. Upon entering the store he asked an employee if they sold a certain brand of beer. The store carried the brand so the student grabbed two of bottles. The employee, busy stocking the shelves, was standing close by and asked the student about the beer he just picked up because he had never heard of it. The employee was a man in his mid-50’s.

The conversation lasted about 20 minutes and gist of it went something like this…

Employee: I’ve never tried that kind of beer before. Does it make you feel really good?

Student: Well, I don’ t drink for that feeling. I enjoy the taste and getting drunk is something from my past life.

Employee: So do you just get a nice buzz then?

Student: Well, I don’t do that either. Believe it or not, I’m actually a seminary student. I’m a Christian now and those things you asked about are in my past now.

Employee: So, you used to get drunk, but you don’t anymore? Do you miss it?

Student: I don’t miss it at all. The good news of Jesus has actually set me free from even desiring to get drunk or get a buzz. Do you know what the good news is?

Employee: Yeah, I was raised Catholic. I know all of that stuff.

Student: Do you consider yourself to be Catholic now?

Employee: Nah, Catholics have all of those rules and stuff to follow. I can’t keep up with them all and that’s not what makes you right with God.

Student: So where are you now with God? What is your relationship with God today?

Employee: Oh, I believe the Jesus Christ alone is the only way to heaven. He is the one and only Savior. Nothing I can do can save me. It’s all Him.

Student: Man, that’s great! So you believe the Jesus died on the cross for sinners and rose on the third day so everyone who believes this has their sins forgiven and has a right relationship with God? You believe that Jesus righteousness becomes ours through faith and that our good works contribute nothing in the way gaining acceptance into God’s Kingdom?

Employee: I believe that.

Student: I believe that too and it’s had a transforming affect on my life. As the Bible says, I am a new creature in Christ which is why I’m free from drinking beer in order to get drunk. I may not be able to have another beer for a year or so.

Employee: Wow! Really? Why not?

Student: Well, I’m Baptist. (smile) And I’m about to start seminary and the school has every student sign an agreement that they will not drink alcohol while attending.

Employee: That’s crazy. Drinking is not a sin.

Student: I know, I know, but that’s their rules. The good thing is that alcohol is not an important part of my life. Like I said, the gospel changed me and my desires. Just like I don’t need to eat quarter pound cheeseburgers, I don’t need to drink beer either. But I’m free to do both.

Employee: I hear you. I think it might be hard not to have just one beer for over a year.

Student: Since you said you believe the good news of Jesus let me ask you something. What does your life look like in light of believing in Jesus?

Employee: (Somewhat ashamed) It doesn’t really look all that good.

Student: Would you like it to be better? Do you have any Christian friends or a church that you could attend?

Employee: Nah, I don’t have anything like that.

Student: Would you agree that having those kinds of Christian relationships are important? Christians are supposed to be there for each other and encourage one another in our walk with the Lord. What do you think?

Employee: I agree. I know you’re right. I need to find a church to go to.

Student: Well, I’m part of XYZ Baptist church just a few miles down the road. You’re always welcomed to join us and I will certainly look for you so you won’t feel like a stranger.

Employee: You know. I’m getting the chills right now from this whole conversation. 

Student: Why is that?

Employee: I’ve been thinking about God and my life lately. You just show up here and we talk about all of this stuff.

Student: Providential, huh?

Employee: Yep! I know it’s God working.

Student: Yeah?

Employee: Yep. I’ve always believed that God is in control of everything. My Baptist grandparents always taught me that God is in control of everything so I trust God and just go on and not worry. When I was serving in the military I trusted God through some hard times. I just prayed and gave it to him and didn’t worry.

Student: Awesome! So if you trust that God brought us together will you trust that He is also the one inviting you to church?

Employee: Yeah, I’m going to make it over there to see you all. I’m telling you, this whole thing is giving me chills.

Student: I’ll be praying for you and looking for you then. If I don’t see you I may come back and check on you, okay?

Employee: Yeah, that’s fine. Nice meeting you. Take care.

Student: You, too. See you soon. God bless.

My acquaintance had an insightful thought as he drove home from the liquor store. He wondered who would share the gospel with this employee, and those like him, if so many Christians dogmatically and unbiblically shun alcohol as if the substance itself along with drinking it is inherently sinful. I agree. Abusing alcohol is a sin problem, not an alcohol problem, just as with any other thing that is sinfully abused.
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  1. Challies, Tim. Christians and Alcohol
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The above article was posted on November 29, 2011 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John November 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Amen, brother. Thank you for this. I often feel the same way about our interactions with homosexuals–if we shun them, from whom will they hear the gospel? We need to get over our moralistic inhibitions and get serious about the gospel.

2 Julie Clark November 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more. Jesus didn’t hang out with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He hung out with the tax collectors, prostitutes and other dregs of society. I love to share my love of Christ where ever I am. And sometimes it is in a tattoo parlor! God bless you!

3 Doc B November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

“Oh, I believe the Jesus Christ alone is the only way…”

Other than pastors and theologians, I’ve never heard anyone put the word ‘alone’ after ‘Jesus Christ’ in their testimony. Never.

“Employee: Yeah, I was raised Catholic.”
“Employee: My Baptist grandparents always taught me…”

So, was he Baptist, or Catholic?

Sounds suspiciously like a ‘preacher story’ to me.

4 Mark November 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Doc B,

I promise you this is not a preacher story. I’m relaying the story the best I can from memory and I’m told that my words accurately reflect the conversation even though they are verbatim. My friend and I actually ran into this man at a restaurant down the street from his work just last week and a confirming conversation took place. I also know the man’s name.

He is not Catholic by any stretch. It is my understanding the the conversation was centered on the gospel rather than ecclesiology.

Funny, I personally shared the gospel with a homeless guy at Wendy’s after I bought him a $20 Wendy’s gift card for food. He stated justification to me better than I have heard regular church goers. I was waiting for him to add the word “imputed” to his explanation. Again, true story. I amazed me.

5 Stan McCullars November 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Nice story and a good example of focusing a conversation on Christ.

Those anti-alcohol agreements really bother me. Sure, they’re voluntary but why have them? Why hold someone in bondage to such a thing? Argh.

My wife and I decided years ago we would never join another church that required such silliness. Call me shallow.

If all baptists were as enthusiastic about personal holiness and evangelism as some are about forbidding alcohol consumption…

6 Les November 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Great story to the glory of God.

7 Raine November 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I actually haven’t discussed this with people, so I know what follows is probably something you hear all the time, but may you please be patient with me?

“In biblical times, wine was necessary for health reasons. The risk of amoebae and parasites in drinking water could be significantly reduced or eliminated by mixing the water with a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23). The result was a greatly diluted wine that had virtually no potential for making anyone drunk. Purified tap water and refrigeration make even that use of wine unnecessary today.”

In light of this, isn’t it possible that this is the “wine” Jesus drank, as opposed to “strong drink?”

Also, it’s entirely possible to share Christ with bartenders without actually drinking. When I was 15 I went to a bar with my mom to watch a basketball game (we were poor and had no cable, and my mom knew the bartender). While I was there, two ministers stopped by and shared Christ with several people, including me. They bought water.

That said, I don’t discourage the evangelistic efforts and the boldness of the student. I pray that God will advance his kingdom through both you and him.

@Doc B
It’s possible that the guy’s grandparents were baptist and his parents were catholic. Mark also said that he was communicating the gist of the conversation, not quoting verbatim. I’m certain we have a pretty accurate account of what happened here.

8 Stan McCullars November 30, 2011 at 10:34 am

Wine today isn’t strong drink. In order for me to arrive at any level of intoxication I would have to drink so much wine that my stomach would be uncomfortable. It would be at least four (full) glasses of wine, and that in a very short period of time, before I would experience anything that could be considered remotely like a buzz. And since I only drink wine with a meal it would be a rare occasion for me to have more than two or three glasses in a one hour period which would not result in any sort of buzz.

Strong drink would be something more like Jack Daniels (or preferably Crown Royal) which would have a similar effect with much less volume.

9 Raine November 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm

That seems acceptable. Should stronger drinks be forbidden on the basis that it takes less to impact your mind?

10 Les November 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Raine,

I think the answer to that is what does the scripture say. Does God forbid strong drink? If so, then we should refrain. If not, then we are free to partake.

11 Les November 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Raine,

My response looks like it could come across as a “smart a@#” answer. I did not intend it that way. I was in too much of a hurry.

Deut. 14…” then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

This passage seems to allow for something more than wine or else under no circumstance would God ever have allowed for it.

Still in all cases, drunkenness is forbidden. Christians drinking scotch, for instance, will have to be more circumspect on the amount drunk versus wine or beer.

12 Stan McCullars November 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Les,
Amen! (on all counts)

13 Raine November 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm

You didn’t come across as smart. : ) The verse is helpful. Thanks!

14 Doc B December 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I’ll trust you on it. It’s just bizarre. I don’t know that a seminary student could have been coached any better on his terminology.

But then, stranger things have happened, like Tebow going 6-1 as a starter.

(OK, now for the math problem…this may take a while.)

15 Chris @ PrayBuddy.com December 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

@Les

Thanks for quoting Deut. 14. That’s talking about the tithe. I could just imagine going into my Baptist preacher’s office and recommending that they use some of the tithe money to purchase “wine or other strong drink”. They would probably put me on the prayer list for that. 🙂

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