Throughout scripture, God relates to our spiritual nature by way of our fleshly needs, specifically of food and drink. We are to eat the body of Christ and drink His blood (John 6:53-56). The kingdom of heaven is likened to a great feast (Luke 14:15), and in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks God to relieve his suffering by asking him to “take this cup” from Him (Luke 22:42). God constantly uses the tangible to explain the intangible – the fleshly to explain the spiritual. Since food and drink make up our most basic physical needs, they provide the perfect relational platform to describe our soul’s basic need of Christ.
Likewise, the evil of this world is related to in terms of food and drink throughout God’s word. The foolish man seeks to “eat, drink, and be merry” without regard for his spiritual welfare (Luke 12:19), and Jesus compares the corrupt nature of the Pharisees to yeast that effects an entire loaf of bread. Even the very first sin of mankind centered around food. Yet, even the physical hunger of Eve was merely a symptom of a greater spiritual craving. After all, did she not have every other tree in the garden for food? Her decision to satisfy her fleshly desires was a direct result of her choice to turn from the greater spiritual food and drink her God had offered her.
Perhaps the most powerful comparison between tangible food and drink and that which our spirits feed on, is through gluttony and drunkenness. As fleshly beings, most of us know what it is to be controlled by the needs and desires of our flesh – to be ruled by tangible forces and cravings. A drunk man acts not of his own accord, but is ruled by the drink. It influences his outlook, his thought process, his words, and his actions. One is not so much “under the influence” of alcohol, as they are under the control of it.
In exactly the same way, we can choose to live our lives under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians, Paul writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” In other words, choose which “drink” will control you. The “drink” may not be alcoholic. It can be anything that influences the way you view life, and controls your thoughts and actions accordingly. For some, it is suffering or oppression, for some addiction. For others, it may be the heavy yoke of unforgiveness or the materialism which so heartily feeds an already haughty nature.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God said this:
"Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what you Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends his people: ‘See, I have taken out of our hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, “Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.” And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over.’” – Isaiah 51:21-23
Whatever our drink of choice, we all have one thing in common: Among that which is offered to us on the menu of life, we all have the ability to choose a hearty portion of God’s salvation, with a side of peace and a refreshing cup of inevitable victory rather than any other less nutritious (and often deadly) dish. Jesus tells us that life is so much more than physical food and drink (Matthew 6:25), and He reminds us that we are not to be controlled by outward circumstances, but by the peace that surpasses all understanding, which comes from His spirit.
Paul instructs us to be intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. So, what’s your drink of choice? Do you choose to be controlled by drink in the traditional sense of drunkenness? Are you drunk with self-pity or highly influenced by a toxic mixture of worldly wisdom and pride? Perhaps fear of man has intoxicated you and dictates your actions. Does a love of money and material possessions compose your moral compass?
As a person once ruled by the literal drink, I find it easy to relate to Paul’s instructions in Ephesians as they relate to the effects of alcohol. So I ask myself, “Am I fully intoxicated by the Spirit of God? Have I been equipped with Christ-goggles, which provide not illusions of grandeur, but clarity and light (Matthew 6:22, 23)? Can I honestly say of every stranger, ‘I love you, man!’? Do I wake up each morning, instantly bombarded by a spiritual “hangover” of peace? Each day, do I choose to drink from the cup handed down by Christ even though the taste may occasionally sting my tongue or even act as a potent concoction to purge me of every worldly toxin?” The days I can answer “yes” to these questions are the days I know I am fully intoxicated by the Spirit of God.