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I Corinthians 10:6-13
Promises of Grace: “Cue the Dueling Banjos”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, we come to You today hungering for Your Holy Spirit to fill us with Your power and love, with Your grace and mercy, with Your truth and wisdom. Fill that need today, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This week has been a really, super, busy week – a few difficult disappointments, some hard challenges, some hard-fought victories, busy-paper-work (like Annual Reports to get ready for this afternoon’s meeting), and some really fun moments with friends. But busy enough that yesterday’s all-day meeting, which was great, by the way – full of inspired and inspiring moments, but yesterday’s all-day meeting almost involved a telephone call to Jeanette, my car-partner, with me telling her that I just wasn’t “up to it” (not truly a lie, but certainly an “alternative fact”). I was tempted to just say, “the heck with it”.
Am I alone here? Anyone else out there relate to that temptation? (Maybe that was your inner-conversation about coming to church this morning???)
The truth is – everyone faces temptation – probably every day! That’s why our Lord taught us to pray something like “Lead us away from temptation!” Now, I think we all know that temptation is not a sin, temptation is merely the world in which we live. Even Jesus was tempted. Being tempted is not a sin. The sin is in falling to that temptation – doing the thing which is wrong.
Everyone gets tempted – and everyone sins (Paul reminds us in his letter to the Christians in Rome that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”). But, while facing temptation is unavoidable, falling into sin is not unavoidable.
In this short series looking at some of the Bible’s teaching about God’s Promises of Grace, today we look at His promise of delivering us from temptation – the promise of deliverance (therefore the Sermon Title, “Cue the Dueling Banjos”). But note that God’s banjo always wins!
Listen with me as Paul writes these words to the struggling Christian people in Corinth. Listen for the temptations Paul brings forward, and then hear him describe the way out from under them. Hear the Word of God: I Corinthians 10:6-13 ….—-
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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 revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.
So, can you name one person who has never been tempted? [Trick question. You cannot! Even Jesus was tempted (remember the story about his 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness immediately following His baptism?). Yup. Even Jesus faced temptation!]
In verses 7-10, Paul mentions four different Old Testament incidences of temptation and sin (probably because these Christians in Corinth were facing similar temptations, and maybe you and I are also dealing with very similar temptations). Look at them:
- [Exodus 32:6 – (I just read this on Friday in my personal devotional reading🙂 Aaron and the Israelites in the wilderness at the foot of Mt. Sinai made and worshiped IDOLS – a golden calf. Why? Because Moses had been away from them for a few weeks, and they became scared of what may happen without their trusted leader – they couldn’t see God without Moses telling them He was there – so they made their own god, out of gold.]
- Of course the question for us is – what idols do we make and worship? Retirement plans, bank accounts, our fancy stuff, our position of authority and power? Do we feel absent from God with our health, our finances, our relationships? Do we lack the trust in Him that we used to have?
- [Numbers 25:9 – This is a story of Israelite men and Moabite women who fell into SEXUAL sin – which then led to more idolatry (because to keep your woman happy, you follow her religion, right?).]
- The obvious correlation for us has to do with the culture in which we live, and participate. Do we just sit back and condone whatever sexual license is demanded by the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the actions of our political leaders, our own hearts and desires toward falling? Do we just ignore what we read in Scripture? Maybe we think it no longer applies? Temptations we all face.
- [Exodus 17:2 (and also Psalms 78:16 and 106:4) – In this story the Israelites TESTED God – they were hungry, and then they were thirsty, and they did not ever trust that God would see them through. – He did – manna and quail and fresh water.]
- Do we ever put God to the test when we wonder why we’re dealing with some set of circumstances we don’t like? I’m not talking about things like Gideon’s fleece (the story in Judges where Gideon needs to hear God’s answer and puts out a fleece on the ground overnight to see if it gets wet from the dew or not); this kind of testing is when we tell God what He must do for us before we’ll believe Him. He just wants us to trust Him, and our life circumstances are not the canvas which displays His trustworthiness – our hearts
- [Numbers 16:41 – Here the Israelites GRUMBLED against God’s chosen leaders – grumbling, complaining, and being obstinate are seldom character traits of godly people. When things are wrong, godly people are called to address those wrongs with actions, involving speaking directly with the people with whom we have a problem – that is, admittedly, easier when we’re talking about a subordinate or a child or even a peer than when we’re dealing with a boss, a supervisor, or a political figurehead. And when we do take action, again, it should be guided by Scripture’s teachings of speaking the truth in love.]
- We might march with others who disagree with a politician’s agenda or a people’s ideology; we might write letters to leaders and support with our monies movements which align better with our own perspectives. Grumbling is seldom the right tactic.
What are the kinds of things that tempt you the most? [Are they physical activities, involving material things – wanting the newest, the latest, the better-than-the-Joneses stuff? Are they more philosophical in nature – dealing with ideas and ideologies? Are they more along the lines of strictly financial – whatever it takes to get ahead, to make it more securely than yesterday? Or maybe your temptations fall under a category of character traits – simply being a pain in someone’s backside, rude, vulgar, self-centered, egotistical, holier-than-Thou kind of attitudes?]
The truth is we all get tempted. I do, God knows; and so do you. But being tempted, I’m saying this again, is not a sin! Do not feel guilty for being tempted to be mean, for being tempted to want more, for the temptation to think a certain way. All of those things might, indeed, be wrong. But the temptation is nothing more than the effects of this fallen, broken world we live in.
The sin doesn’t come until we acquiesce to those temptations!
Look at verse 12 with me for a minute. 12 If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! The photo on the front of your bulletins is supposed to represent this warning. I should have looked for a photo of someone getting out of their car in our church parking lot! What is this warning actually about? [I think it is all about trusting in ourselves without any regard for God’s role in our lives. That’s the sin if falling to temptation. “Yes, I know God said not to eat of the fruit of that one tree, but I think I know better than God!” Last Sunday’s reading came from Matthew 6:33 (“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and God will take care of all your needs.”). That lesson was about trusting God above and beyond ourselves.]
In verse 13, Paul names two things we can depend on God to do for us when we are tempted:
- God will Not let us be TEMPTED beyond what we can BEAR. – the word used for “tempted” there can sometimes be used for “tested” (“God will not test us beyond what we can bear”) – has anyone heard it that way before? I do believe that that is also true – but not what this verse actually means. The context of everything in this pericope suggests that Paul was talking about temptations, not hardships. But either way, if this statement is true (and since it is in the Bible as a descriptor of God’s character, we believe it is true), then when we are tempted much (or burdened with more than seems bearable), take it as a compliment from God. He says we can handle it!
But how can I handle this much pressure. You don’t understand what I’m going through, Wheeler. That takes us to the second promise of grace we can depend on – deliverance!
- God will always PROVIDE a way OUT so we can endure the temptation (or trouble). Did you hear that? We do not have to succumb to the temptation! Whatever is your most constant, consistent, persistent, temptation – God provides a way out. What is that way? Jesus once said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I believe we can count on His strength to get us away, to calm our anxieties, to resist the strong lure. That is His Promise of Grace!
Your take-home assignment is to write that verse in your own words. What would it sound like if Paul, or God, were saying it directly to you, in your situation, on January 29, 2017, in Spokane, WA? [I think I would hear God telling me something like: “You’re not alone, Wheeler. You’re not that kind of special. And remember how much God loves you (Remind me who I am) – God loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son; therefore, you can know God’s power is with you – and that He will always provide a way to deliverance!”]
Gracious God, Grace-filled God, Grace-giving God, we recognize our own idolatry – self-sufficiency, simple lack of trust – and today we bow before You as the King of all kings, the Creator of the universe, the only One with the authority and the ability to actually conquer sin; and today, we choose to prioritize above all else Your Word and Your will for our lives, we want to experience Your power and love in brand new ways, and so we seek after Your Kingdom purposes and today we start to place our confidence in Your promise of grace. We anticipate Your deliverance when temptation comes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
McLaren, Ross, editor; Advanced Bible Study: Winter 2002-2003; Lifeway Christian Resources; Pp. 58-65.