Are you a student of history? World history? Your history? I have relatives who love to study geneology. Why? It gives them insight as to who they are, when they learn about those from whom they sprang. Unfortunately, sometimes, we ignore our history and the lessons it tries to teach us. We have all learned things from our parents, family members, teachers or acquaintances. Some of them are profitable; others are not.
Paul was pointing out to the Corinthians at the beginning of chapter 10 that they needed to learn from the negative examples set by their forefathers generations ago. As the saying goes, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." There are times that we make choices to do what we know is not beneficial to our Christian walk. We fool ourselves into thinking, "Oh, it's just a small thing." or "Just this once won't matter." But, it does. We may not see the long-range results immediately, but no action is without corresponding consequence.
Our focus this morning will be on 1 Corinthians 10:11-14 (The Message version):
People, especially young people, are susceptible to pride. They believe that they are "untouchable", that they will be immune to the traps of various sins, that they are "better" or "stronger" than their ancestors. And so, they dabble in sin. Before they know it, they are totally ensnared, trapped, taken captive. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, make you stay longer than you want to stay and make you pay more than you want to pay. As Paul said in verse 12, let the one who thinks he is standing pay attention so that he won't fall down.
Humility about our weakness is essential to living a discipled life, to walking the resplendent walk. Anytime we are beguiled into believing that our successes, our strength comes from any other source than Jesus Christ, we are committing idolatry. When young, I used to think that "idolatry" was a bunch of people bowing down to some little statue. That is a very narrow and dangerously naive definition. Idolatry is anything that draws a person farther from his or her relationship with Jesus Christ. An "idol" can be a "good" thing, under ordinary circumstances. But, if it is allowed to assume a place only meant to belong to Jesus, then it should be repositioned, at best, and avoided at worst.
A couple of examples:
1. There are people who worship their children or spouse or girl/boyfriend or pet. (Today is National Dog Day! Love ya, Charlie!) Oh, if you asked them, they would say, "That is ridiculous!" But, look at how they interact with their loved ones. The question is not: "Does their devotion go beyond what is normal?" The question is (as it is with all idols), "Is this relationship coming between me and my Savior?" Jesus wants to be #1 in our lives.
2. How do we spend our time? Someone said once, "You can look at someone and see what she loves, because she lavishes both her time and resources on that beloved person or thing." Well, whoever said that said it much more eloquently than I just did; but, you get the drift....
Let's be honest in our self-examination, Folks. Are we worshipping any idols?
If you are like me, you want to cling frantically to your idols with statements like, "I just can't help myself! I just can't resist!" "Nonsense," says Paul. In verse 13 he says, "Don't think you are some special case! There is no temptation out there that hasn't already occurred many times over to other people. With every temptation, God in His faithfulness will provide an escape hatch for you. Take it!" I'm both glad and devastated that this verse is in the Bible. It knocks all my excuses right out from under me. (Dang it!)
Then, Paul gives his best strategy for dealing with temptations and idolatry. RUN! Yes, get away from the source of temptation. Recovering alcoholics stay away from liquor or beer. Recovering smokers do not keep cigs nearby. Dieting people do not keep "Frankenfood" within reach.
The best example/application of this "running strategy" is from the life of Joseph. He found himself alone with his master's wife, somewhere there on the homestead, while the master was on a business trip. She made a move on him, and he ran outta there. In fact, he escaped so quickly that she was left holding his outer garment. (See Genesis 39:6-12).
It may seem that some "idol" has got it's claws in you, got a hopeless hold on you. But, God is faithful. He will rescue you, if you call out to Him. He.Is.Faithful. (vs. 13) He gives us His "God-confidence." Sometimes, we need earthly help to break the grip of some idol, and that's okay. God provides for us help in the form of other believers, programs, counseling, deliverance, etc. Some addictions and spiritual bondages are so very strong that spiritual intervention of another is needed. That's what the Body of Christ is for, to help each other in times of great need. You may not be "the runner" concerning some particular idol, because it may not now have a hold on you. But, you may be called to be "the sanctuary", the place of refuge and peace. You may be called to embrace the desperate brother or sister who is running to you for help.
In closing, let's consider the personal testimony of Paul, whom we so admire, from his second letter to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NET) - -
Father, there is no temptation chasing us that You cannot overcome. May we run from our idols, and straight into Your loving arms of refuge. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit", says the Lord! (Zechariah 4:6) In the name of Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, amen.