Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Be Careful: Don’t Fall! - February 28, 2016 - Third Sunday in Lent - Text: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
If you have ever worked with children, been around children, or been a child yourself, you know that children are not always logical, at least not in the way we think of logic. To many of us, children are not logical in their thinking, speaking and acting. Maybe that is why God refers to us as His dear children, because when it comes to our spiritual life and the things we do and do not do, what may seem logical to us, is not always right in God’s eyes. I am sure that there are many times when God shakes His head in wonder; wondering why we are the way we are and even wondering why He bothered creating us in the first place. Well, that’s the bad news anyway. The Good news is that no matter how illogical we may be, God is still God, He still loves us and He is always there to take care of us. Paul’s words to us this morning reminds us of these logical facts and he reminds us that God’s will is that we would serve Him alone.
Paul begins by pointing to the past, “1I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (v. 1-4). What Paul is doing is that he is reminding the people that God really is their God and He really does love and care for them. Paul points to the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage of slavery in Egypt as “proof” of God’s love for them. It is almost as if Paul were saying, “you would think that would be enough to convince the people that God is God, that He loves them, and that they should not and would not go running after other gods and idols.” But that was not the case. Time and time again the children of Israel would forget God. God would allow for them to be taken over by another country. The people would realize their sin, repent and turn to God for help and God would deliver them.
“Nevertheless,” Paul says continuing on in our text, “with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (v.5). How often they tried the Lord’s patience, once too often, and the Lord allowed for them to suffer the consequences for their sin. God allowed for some of them to die there in the desert, a physical death and for some, an eternal spiritual death.
And now Paul writes to tell us that these things were warnings so that we do not do the evil that they did. Yet, we often times follow right along in their footsteps. We know that God is God, and that He is our God. We know that He has redeemed us, lost and condemned creatures. We know that He has purchased and won us from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil. We know that He has done this with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. We know that He has done this without any merit or worthiness within us. We know this because this is what we have learned and been taught from early on. And yet, we continue in our sins.
Continuing on in our text, Paul hits us with the truth of the Law. How fitting it is that we have these words of law as we continue through the Lenten season. Remember, Lent is the time we take the time to contemplate our sins and our part in putting Jesus on the cross. Yes, Lent is the time we really look at our sin and look at our Savior as He suffers and understand that He is suffering because of us and for us, because of our sins, your sins and mine and for us, for you and for me. Unless we can confess our sins, unless we can admit to our part, there can be no forgiveness.
Paul says continuing on in our text, “6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ 8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (v. 6-10). Our natural inclination is to sin as God tells us, ever intention of our heart is evil all the time. We do tend toward idolatry. While we may not bow down and worship a graven image or an idol made of stone, yet we do tend toward idolatry nonetheless. We often put other things before God. We let the busy-ness of our lives interfere with our prayer time, with our time for reading God’s Word, with our personal and family devotion time, and sometimes it even interferes with our times of divine service. With so many things going on in our lives here on this earth, we get so caught up in the things that we think “must” be done that there is little time left for God. Thus, our idol becomes the busy-ness of this world.
We do indulge in immorality. We may not be out having affairs, but we do indulge in immorality nonetheless. How often do we find ourselves looking lustfully at a member of the opposite sex, or even today, some lust at a member of the same sex. How often do we find ourselves saying, “excuse me,” when words of profanity slip past our lips. How often do we find ourselves sharing with a friend, either sharing “in love” or even sharing the truth about someone else and what an awful person they are, as we sit at the gossip fence. How often do we find ourselves telling little “white” lies to “protect” someone else or ouselves? How often do we find ourselves running down our own church and then wonder why no one wants to come with us to visit? How often do we find ourselves blaming others and even blaming God for our struggles in life? How often do we refuse to acknowledge and confess our part in the struggles we face? How often do we find ourselves putting God to the test? And how often do we find ourselves justifying our thoughts, words and actions?
Yes, we do put the Lord to the test. How often do we find ourselves putting ourselves into situations where we know we will be tempted and then justify the sin by saying we were unable to overcome the temptation. How often do we tend to blame God for the things that happen in life when we are the ones who are responsible for our words and actions. Remember Paul’s warning, “11Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (v. 11-12). That last verse almost sounds like the old cliche, “pride goes before the fall.” Perhaps we would do well to read and reread Paul’s Word, which are God’s Word, then look in the mirror and make our confession.
How often do we find ourselves grumbling. “Nobody loves me, everybody hates, think I’ll eat some worms.” “Poor me, everyone has it so much better than I do.” “No bodies on my side, everyone is against me.” And, “If you think you have it bad, you should hear how bad I have it. Why doesn’t God just give me a break.”
Paul’s words of Law remind us that we are no different than the children of Israel and that we need to watch out, just as they did not do so. We need to remember what happened to the children of Israel, so that what happened to them does not happen to us.
Paul does not stop with just the words of the Law. He goes on to give us words of encouragement, even words of good news, “13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (v.13). Paul reminds us that the Lord is still our God. He is with us, and He will help us. That does not mean we can get all puffed up and challenge the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. No, instead, we must face each temptation with fear and trembling and take it to the Lord in prayer. In the time of temptation the Lord will help us. He will help us, either by removing the temptation from us, so that it is no longer there to tempt us. Or He will help us by providing us a way of escape, by opening a door to another option, or putting someone or something in the way of temptation so that we will have to go another way. Or He will help us by giving us strength to endure. God may have in mind to use this temptation to work strengthening of faith in us, so that as we work through the temptation you will be a stronger Christian and closer to Him.
Paul’s words are words we need to hear and we need to hear them quite often, whether we want to hear them or not. Paul reminds us of our need to admit our past sins. We need to admit that we have not been the people that God wants us to be. We need to admit that we do desire evil, that we have been idolaters, that we have indulged in immorality, and that we have grumbled.
Paul’s words remind us that we are not to lean on ourselves. We are not to be boastful of our ability to resist sin and temptation. Because if we depend on ourselves we will fail. We will fall into sin and temptation. We will be very much like the children of Israel.
Paul’s words reminds us, instead, we are to lean on the Lord who will help us. We are to pray in every situation. We are to pray and know that God will provide help, either by removing the temptation, or by giving us a way out, or by giving us the strength to endure.
Paul’s words reminds us that we are to look to the cross of Christ. It is because Jesus took our sins upon Himself, all of our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission it was because He suffered and paid the price for our sins, because He died on the cross that we are forgiven. It is to Jesus that we pray, knowing that He suffered even more than we will ever suffer. He suffered being tempted by the devil. He knows what we are going through, even more than we can imagine, because He has already experienced everything we are experiencing, and even greater temptations and suffering, so we know that He can help. Again, because of His suffering and death, we know that we have forgiveness and life. The very reason Jesus came to earth, was born, lived, suffered, died and rose was to pay the price for our sins, to earn our forgiveness which He freely pours out on us.
And so, Paul’s words remind us that we are to go to where the Lord gives His good gifts and blessings. We are to go to His Word and sacraments, the means of grace. Through these means the Lord gives us forgiveness of sins as well as the faith and strength we need to face the temptations and challenges of each new day, so that we may live each day to His glory.
Our text for today reminds us of Paul’s words in first Corinthians thirteen when he says, “now these three remain, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” Our faith is based on the past, that Jesus is the Messiah, that He did die for our sins and that He did rise from the dead. We do not forget the past, but we keep the past in mind to remind us to keep from sinning so that what happened to the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, does not happen to us. Thus, our hope is a sure confidence in eternal life in heaven. And we show our faith and hope through our love for the Lord and for each other. Our lives, then point to Jesus and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.