Move your glass away from the edge!!!
I can still recall hearing those words from my mom at the dinner table. I would get a drink of milk and then put my glass near the edge so I could reach it next time. However, she felt it was too close to the edge. It might fall off. But, of course, I knew better. The next time I took a drink, I replaced it closer to the edge. The closer to the edge, the more adventurous it was and the madder my mom got. Until, you guessed it, my glass fell off. The glass broke, the milk spilled, and I got in trouble. Such is the life of someone who wants to ‘live on the edge.’
Dropping a glass of milk is not so serious. But many people act just as childish with more dangerous situations in life. One question that youth ask is “How close to sin can I live my life?” They want to know what’s wrong with some activity they want to pursue. As we get older, we realize that it’s wiser to live away from the edge. This is the counsel of Paul to the Corinthians in the ‘gray areas’ of life.
In Paul’s day, eating meat that had been offered to idols was a gray issue. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul recognized that it was okay for Corinthian believers to eat meat that had been offered to idols. However, if it would cause a weaker Christian to sin against his conscience, love should compel a believer to not eat the meat. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul shares his own personal story of giving up his right to receive finances from the church so he could reach more people for Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul uses the people of Israel as an example of desiring things that lead to disaster. He cautions the Corinthians, and us, that the free use of liberty could lead into sin and the judgment of God. When faced with deciding the gray areas, it’s good to consider four aspects of God. This post will talk of two aspects. I will follow up with the last two later this week.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors 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 Corinthians 10:1-4)
Paul compares the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery in Egypt with the Corinthians salvation from the slavery of sin through Jesus. Both were redeemed by blood, immersed in water, received strength through water and food. Three blessings are mentioned for “all”: protection, guidance, sustenance.
Spiritual blessings are no guarantee of continued blessings. We can become over-exposed to God’s goodness. The supernatural becomes ordinary. We take God’s presence for granted. There are dangers to spiritual maturity as well as immaturity. They were over-confident that their desire for meat would not lead them into idolatry. Israel also desired meat (Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:4).
Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 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 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 Christ, 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 culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:5-12)
When Paul said “but with many of them God was not well pleased” may have the understatement of all-time. God was not pleased with a whole generation. All but two died – over 2 million. Their sins included:
- Idolatry (Ex. 32). When Moses was late returning from Mt. Sinai, the people made idols and worshiped them. Any false god, object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, or sport or whatever has one’s primary concern and loyalty or that to any degree decreases one’s trust and loyalty to the Lord. Anything that constantly pulls your heart from the Lord; that constantly wants the throne of your life.
- Immorality (Num. 25). When Balak tried to get Balaam to curse Israel, God wouldn’t let him do it. Balaam tempted the men into committing sex with the women so God would judge them.
- Testing God (Numbers 21). Israel complained about having been brought into the wilderness with nothing to eat or drink. They tested the patience of the Lord to see His breaking point.
- Grumbling (Numbers 14). Israel grumbled about the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
We are in a dangerous situation when we think sin doesn’t matter.The Israelites are a warning and an example of what happens when you want something wrong. As you inch toward the edge of right and wrong, it is tempting to step across the line.
I’ll share the other two aspects of God in tomorrow’s post.