You’ve probably heard the story about the boss who wants a new chauffer. He gets two drivers to do a test run along one of the most challenging passes up around the mountains. One driver puts his foot down. He wants to show off his skills, he takes the car right to the edge of the cliff close to steep drops, he takes the bends at speed. The other driver takes the drive gently and slowly. He keeps right in to the inside of the road away from the edge. Guess which one gets the job! The driver doesn’t want a chauffer who will take risks and push the boundaries to prove his worth. He wants someone who puts his safety first.I was reminded of this story as I read through 1 Corinthians 8 -10. The Corinthians know the freedom they have in Christ. They know about grace and so they are pushing the boundaries and taking risks.
Remember, the practical question here is “is it okay to eat meat offered to idols at the temple?” They think that they are okay. They know they are free in Christ and that and idols are nothing.
However, Paul responds with the following argument
- But your priority is love not knowledge – how do you care for your weaker brothers and sisters? ( ch 8)
- Following Christ means we should be willing to give up our rights for the sake of the Gospel (ch 9)
And then the third point and the punchline
- The “weaker” Christians actually have a point – going to eat at the temple is more significant than you think. It may tell you something about where you really are in your faith. It may dangerously expose your weak points.
- We should exercise humble, honest self-discernment (v 1-13)
Verse 12 says: “If you think you are standing strong be careful not to fall.”
Paul goes back to Israel’s history for his example. God had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt. They escaped through the red sea and God led them by a cloud during the day and a fiery pillar at night – a type of baptism (v2)
God gave them Manna from heaven and water from the rock, spiritual food and drink provided by Christ – a type of communion (v 3 – 4).
But God was not pleased with them. Their hearts were not right and so judgement came( v 5).
You can attend church, get baptised, be active in church, see prayers answered, even go on mission and not be saved.
So then comes a set of warnings from Israel’s history.
- Don’t lust after evil ( v6)
- Don’t worship idols ( v 7)
- Don’t commit sexual immorality ( v8)
- Don’t Test Christ (v 9) -cf Nu 21
- Don’t Grumble (v10)
By the way, when we talk about evil and idols don’t just think Satan worship, horror movies etc. The whole issue is putting other things in God’s place including work, sex, money, TV, celebrities even ministries.
The warning from Israel’s history is that they seemed to have escaped Egypt, they were immersed (baptised) in everything that was happening among God’s people but death still came. They were ot saved (v 8).
We see as well, the natural human tendency is to complain, grumble, find fault. They displayed dissatisfaction. For the people of Israel, it was that the food God was providing was not acceptable/ not enough. To be sure, Moses took the brunt of their complaints but they were really complaining against God.
In Church life this can become serious. Now I don’t think this should stop genuine feedback and accountability but we need to be careful that we don’t end up being people never satisfied with what God provides and what God is doing.
The call is to check against pride -a re we really following Jesus -are our lives showing his work in us. Do we really belong to him. Be careful lest you fall.
- Verse 13 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. It’s not an excuse to push the boundaries. It’s a reminder that God doesn’t test beyond what we can bear.
In other words -where they have fallen – it’s their responsibility not God’s fault. God provided the means to escape the temptation. The way out is often the warning before you even get into the situation. It’s when someone challenge you with God’s Word. I remember one example of a young couple we advised. They were off to University and because they were in love they’d decided to go to the same place. They were even sharing a flat. We talked with them about the dangers of that the temptation that would be there. “No we’ll be fine” they replied. “We’ve been given a verse by someone else. “God won’t tempt us beyond what we can bear” They missed the point sadly that the way out was to not move into the flat together in the first place. The way of escape was the warnings and advice of people who cared about them.
Now the challenge for us here is this:
When we’ve looked and discerned, is there evidence of a genuine desire to love and fallow Christ, to put him first, to love others? Are we growing and bearing fruit?
For some of us the answer is yes but we would love to see more. That’s a good thing, it motivates us in our walk with Christ.
Others may be flat lining. What do we need – a prod, a kick, more religion, more rules?
No, we need to hear the Gospel again. Jesus died in your place – he rose for you. Don’t hang on to dead religion. Out your trust in him. Find life, joy, peace
Some of us need that spark rekindled -to have our hearts warmed again to God’s grace. You are greatly loved by God. He wants to renew and refresh you. To re-establish you and re-commisssion you.
- Focus on Christ, flee temptation and idolatry -exclusive faith (v 14 -18)
What the “weaker” brothers knew and the “mature” missed was this: there was real deathly danger at the Temple meals. They knew that they risked being pulled back into the whole lifestyle they’d escaped.
Flee idol worship ( v14) – run from danger like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife. Sometimes the simplest answer is that you have to get right away from something.
The internet is a place of huge opportunity but great temptations too. The obvious one is porn but also the way social media works can be toxic. Some of you don’t have a problem with that and have learnt to use the internet wisely. Some of us benefit from accountability. I found in my 20s as a single man that the best thing for me was to give up the internet at home completely (I could check my emails at the internet café). Guess what, you can live without an internet connection in your home!
What if you were to give up facebook, Snapchat, twitter … completely? Impossible? No! Painful, yes at first – but then the joy of discovering real friendship again. Learning to have meaningful conversations face to face again, discovering that real friends can’t be got rid of at the click of a button. Discovering a friend in Jesus who will never “unfriend” you.
Early we saw the warning against complaining and grumbling -back to my 20s again. There was a group of us and we found that we became cynical and suspicious -about everything in general but it overflowed into church life. The result -we became suspicious of the motives of leaders and looked down on their abilities and gifts, lost respect … in the process I think we lost a lot of the joy and delight that there should be in the Gospel and in church life.
For me personally, I had to cut away from that group and prioritise new friendships, give time to evangelism, spend time in God’s word and find that my joy and love for God, the Gospel and Christ’s church was rekindled.
But it’s not just about running from something – that way lies legalism.
Paul takes us to the communion meal – it’s a meal with Jesus -that’s our motivation for living differently. We know him, love him, belong to him Our focus is on Him. His glory becomes our priority This leads to a genuine concern for each other: to preserve unity, to care for each others’ needs.
Our meal with Jesus is a shared meal with each other.
Have you been driving close to the cliff edge? Maybe you’ve driven over the side and there’s been a horrific car crash. Maybe you’re afraid to admit it -you are expecting the full force of legalistic judgement.
But no -instead this morning we meet Christ -his arms are open. He is ready to love, forgive and restore.
Will you come (back) to him?
Search me, O God, and know my heart today, Try me, O Saviour, know my thoughts, I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me; Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin; Fulfil Thy word and make me pure within; Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame; Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine; Take all my will, my passion, self and pride; I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; Send a revival, start the work in me; Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need; For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
 J Edwin Orr