A Way Out of Temptation
Sermon 1795 1 Corinthians 10.1-13 March 20, 2022
Temptation. For the general public I might as well be speaking in a foreign language. Most don’t even know what temptation is and have even less an idea how to handle it. I know you are not the general public. You have gone to Sunday School. You attend worship. You are a Christian who is neither unacquainted with the devil’s snares nor a stranger to the Lord’s grace. For us, temptation is real and it calls forth resistance on our part. But how to do it? As Paul said just before our text, we don’t want to “fight like a man beating the air (1 Corinthians 9.26).”
A Way Out of Temptation
1. Be in Christ (1-4).
2. Be warned (5-11).
3. Be on guard (12-13).
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1-4).”
Paul takes us back to the forty years of wandering, from the time the Children of Israel came out of Egypt to the time Moses led them to the eastern banks of the Jordan River. They all experienced the majestic guidance of the Lord—a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They all crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. All of them were eyewitnesses. These mighty miracles of the Lord were performed for their personal benefit. That’s easy for us to understand. We have grasped the meaning of those stories since our Sunday School days. Now Paul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, pulls back the curtain of history and shows the behind the scenes working of God. The manna that covered the ground every morning, the quail falling into camp every evening, that represented the spiritual food God was giving his people, his revelation through his prophet, Moses. As for the rock, there was no physical rock that was rolling along behind the Children of Israel in their journey, but the power behind the miracle of Moses striking the rock and bringing forth a sufficient flood of water so that the whole nation of Israel could drink, that spiritual power was Jesus Christ, before he was conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. Jesus followed them, protecting them, guiding them, encouraging them in their faith, saving them through the promise of a future deliverance from sin, death and the devil. They had everything going for them. They were in Christ.
We are in Christ. That is why we are believers. Already at our baptism Christ was put on us. We were dressed in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness. “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3.27).” As the Children of Israel were initiated (“baptized”) into Moses’ leadership—we still use that term, “baptized by fire” to denote veterans who have faced live combat—so we were baptized into Christ. Paul is using picture language for the Children of Israel. It is literally a baptism into Christ for us.
Today our Sunday School is learning about our Good Shepherd. Quickly looking at Psalm 23, they compare it with Jesus saying he is our Good Shepherd. As the Children of Israel were spiritually fed with the Gospel, promised deliverance of the Savior to come—Jesus!—so Jesus continues to feed his people with his Gospel. That’s the green pastures and quiet waters which restore our soul. The Gospel tells us our many sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ great love for us.
That is the foundation for a way out of temptation. Be in Christ. In Christ, we have the power to learn from and resist temptation.
“Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (5-11).”
A way out of temptation—be warned.
Now Paul comes to the paradox, the unexpected reality. Though all Israel was under the cloud, passed through the water, ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual water, they sinned and sinned repeatedly. Sin earns God’s displeasure. Why else would we sing in the Create in Me, “Cast not your Holy Spirit from me”? For our sins, we deserve to have God abandon us and withdraw his Holy Spirit’s presence. For their many and grievous sins, the Children of Israel died in the desert. They littered the desert with their bones for the next forty years.
I won’t go into the events Paul summarizes. We learned them in Sunday School, just as your children are learning them in Sunday School. There was no excuse for Israel worshipping false gods while the true God was with Moses just up Mount Sinai. There was no reason they committed adultery with an enemy people whose women just happened to come on to them one day. That’s as idiotic as a ninety-year old oil tycoon with a faulty ticker thinking the hot 30-something babe coming on to him, “likes me for me!” This caught my eye—grumbling. So terrible was this sin that the destroying angel himself, the same angel which struck down the first-born in Egypt on the Passover miracle, the destroying angels himself struck down those who were grumbling about the Lord’s leadership through Moses.
We Americans think grumbling is a birthright! We gripe about everything. “The food at that restaurant is terrible.” “Yes, and the portions are so small!” The job, the weather, the wife, the kids, our health, our homes. My father-in-law one time was griping about his property taxes—his property was valued too high, he claimed. I asked him what the valuation was on the tax rolls and then said, “I’ll buy your house for that.” He looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s worth more than that!” I won’t even talk about our political views. Between Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden, I am surprised any of us still choose to live in America. Have they built a wall in New Zealand to keep us out? And if we complain about earthly things in the hands of mere mortals, what can the Lord’s view be of our grumbling about spiritual things in his hands? Evidently 9 and 10:30 are too early for Sunday services. And 7:30 is too late on a Monday evening. Don’t even start on Wednesdays. There’s too many people in church for me to feel comfortable or so few people in church it makes me sad. At the beginning of the year we were griping about virtual Sunday School and now when we have in-person Sunday School, we average of 19 students.
I will not to continue on this line of argument. It isn’t because I don’t have more ammunition, but because to continue would be to beat a dead horse. I have proven my point. We grumble. We are ungrateful. We despise the Lord’s blessings. If we are going to find a way out of temptation we need to be warned by history. We can see the faults of others so clearly. We can see how damnable their actions were and how justified the Lord was in bringing judgment upon them! We can be warned so we don’t repeat history, being guilty of the same sins as they. Be warned. Repent. We have a worthy Savior who daily praised his heavenly Father. He bore the weight of our complaints without a complaint when he hung on the cross.
A way out of temptation is open to us. Be on guard.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (12-13).”
Ok, we know our Savior. We know our sin. His strength, our weakness. What is left? Vigilance, Paul advises. Be on guard.
For a long time I tried to quit smoking. Inevitably I would go about two weeks without smoking and, stopping at a light, I’d look over at the car next to me. They were smoking a cigarette with their arm dangling out the window. I would smugly think, “What an idiot.” Within 24 hours I would be in the Circle K, plunking down hard-earned money on a pack of cancer sticks. It is true! Pride does go before the fall!
Don’t take pride in our self-control. Be vigilant, because temptation does not have to overcome us. Nothing will come our way that is out of the ordinary.
God is not going to let us down. He will be with us every step of the way. He will strengthen us and carry us when the going gets tough. It doesn’t depend on us. It depends on him. He won’t let us down, so don’t think it all depends on you, that you just aren’t strong enough when temptation strikes. No, our God is strong enough. Rely on him.
There will always be an end to the temptation. God will chart us a course out. Go back to the Children of Israel. He brought them out of the house of slavery in Egypt. They marched through the parted waters of the Red Sea. They escaped the power of Pharaoh’s charioteers. Look at Daniel. When he was faced with an impossible situation, worship God or be fed to the lions, God made a way out for him. God sent an angel to hold the mouths of the lions shut. The Persian king himself ordered Daniel lifted out of the pit. Look at the temptation the early Christians faced. When confronted by Saul’s methodical persecutions, they were tempted to give up their faith instead of being put to death. God made a way out by converting their persecutor! Saul the Pharisee became the Apostle Paul! God will lead us out of temptation, too, whether it is an irritating neighbor moving away or a new drug finally doing the trick on our nagging medical condition.
And what’s this “stand up under it” business? Contrary to the antacid ads on TV, relief seldom is instantaneous. The Lord, in his wisdom, sometimes takes his time. During that time when his deliverance is taking shape, God gives his people the added strength to stand up under the temptation.
Let me give you a very personal example.
I don’t like to see medicine commercials on TV. They are advertising stuff I take. For heart failure. I don’t like to think of what I have as heart failure, that without the pacemaker and pills my heart would clunk out after a couple of months. Talk about living on borrowed time! I don’t like to think about that. But I do know in heaven my heart will be strong and vigorous. If I want to take on a heavenly version of Mt. Everest, I’m good to go. Run a marathon? No sweat. But until the Last Day when this sorry body will be raised in glory, the Lord will give me the grace and faith to enjoy his earthly blessings and share them as best as I am able. And if he can do that for a hick from Minnesota, think what he can do with a cool person like you!
A Way Out of Temptation
1. Be in Christ (1-4).
2. Be warned (5-11).
3. Be on guard (12-13).
I know you grasp what I am saying. We know what temptation is—any situation where, if we give in to the enticement of the devil, the world or our sinful human nature, we will fall into sin. From our history as Christians, we have a very good idea how to handle it. Instead of flailing punches that can only tire us, we land knock-out punches on every source of temptation until the day we can hang up the gloves in glory.