Are You Sober?

Posted on November 2, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Answering the Question
The answer to the title should be “yes.” This doesn’t mean Christians should be shrouded in gloom, but should be sober in outlook.

But what does it mean, biblically, to be “sober.”

First, let’s look at the verse I’m basing this post on, 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”

Before we get to the “sober” part, we have to look at the clause, “The end of all things is near.” This refers to the notion among the Bible writers – particularly Peter, Paul (Romans 13:11), and James (James 5:8) – that the Lord Jesus could return to Earth in their lifetimes. As it turns out, 1,900 years later we are still awaiting the Lord’s return. However, the New Testament would have us live as though Christ could return at any time, and this is what 1 Peter 4:7 is getting at.

Somber and Sober
People often associate the words “somber” and “sober,” but they are not the same. To be somber is to be marked by gloominess, darkness, and depression. This is not at all what the Bible is calling us to. Rather, believers are to be hopeful and joyful (Romans 12:11-12).

Biblical soberness is entirely different. The Greek word for “sober” is néphó, and literally means the same thing it does in English: to not be intoxicated with alcohol. However, néphó also has a figurative meaning – to be free from the intoxicating influences of sin. We are to avoid those things which could lead us into sin.

Furthermore, to be néphó is a call for Christians to live rational lives, to keep our wits, and to have presence of mind in all situations. Obviously, we are closer to the end of this age of human history than ever before. This means Christ will soon return to rapture the Church and judge Earth. Peter describes it this way:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be [burned up]. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness (2 Peter 3:10-11).

In other words, being aware of the terrible things which await planet Earth ought to inspire Christians to live lives of seriousness and right-mindedness.

Personal Application
For me, living a “sober” life – a néphó life – is to more and more put away those things which place me into the world and pull me away from God.

For instance, I love secular music from the 1970s, classic movies, and classic TV – particularly the original Twilight Zone – and enjoy engaging in them. And living here in Orlando, I enjoy visiting the theme parks – particularly Universal Studios.

However, as I get older and witness the world’s rapid implosion, I find myself taking less enjoyment in those secular endeavors. One reason for this is that “The end of all things is near.” I mean this literally as at age 63 the end of my life is far nearer than it was 10 years ago!

Therefore, I truly do find myself living more soberly – more néphó. I retain the joy of the Lord and the hope of His coming, and in the process receive less pleasure from the things of the world.

I try harder to avoid the intoxicating influences of sin and instead live a more biblically rational life. And as much as I love The Twilight Zone, if its well-meaning but humanistic worldview is something I can’t condone, then I must spend far less time consuming it. The same goes for 70s music and classic movies.

As I get older, I strive to embrace a more biblically sober mindset – one filled with joy and hope – but sober (néphó) nonetheless. I hope you do as well.

May God help His children cultivate the proper mindset as we navigate life in this ever darkening world!

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