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"Be Careful that You Don’t Fall!"

1 Corinthians 10:1-33

Jim Davis

As Paul writes to these new converts to Christianity he says, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it" (1 Cor 10:12-13 NIV). Conceit and pride are the greatest foes to spiritual growth. Newly acquired knowledge often leads to pride rather than wisdom. This is especially true with the novice. There is no surer way to fall into sin than to allow pride to lead us into placing confidence in ourselves rather than God. This type of pride always leads to destruction because it robs us of God’s power to withstand temptation.

What we accomplish as members of the kingdom of God is done by the power of God. The novice begins thinking that what he/she accomplishes is his/her own doing. The Corinthians had been enriched in every way with the knowledge of God, but pride in what they knew was about to lead to their destruction.

Knowledge can be mistaken for maturity, but true knowledge is designed to bring us to maturity. When we parade our freedom before others in an effort to reveal how much we know we reveal our immaturity and are treading on dangerous ground. Knowledge put on display leads to revelry and chaos. True knowledge brings discipline of self-control. Paul’s knowledge of God led him to lead a disciplined life for the benefit of himself and others.

1 Corinthians 9:19, 24-27
"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible . . . Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (NIV).

Learning From The Experiences of Others

True knowledge allows us to learn from the mistakes of others. Paul begins chapter 10 saying, "For I do not want you to be ignorant." This statement follows his admonition to live a disciplined life. He doesn’t want them ignorant of Israel’s failure to live a disciplined life. Their freedom from Egyptian slavery produced debauchery and revelry.

1 Corinthians 10:1-11
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers 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. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

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 pagan 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 the Lord, 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 fulfillment of the ages has come" (NIV).

The people of Israel saw God’s glory, and temptation still seized them. Throughout history, people with great spiritual privilege fell to temptation. As the Israelites discovered, temptation has terrifying effects.

It was very disturbing to Moses to witness those who had been divinely led and providentially fed engaged in revelry around the molten calf. It was no less disturbing to Paul to see this same behavior of Corinthian Christians as they gathered around the idolatrous temples. We have seen that the Corinthians were guilty of the same sins as the Israelites in the wilderness. Sexual immorality (chapter 6), idolatry (chapter 8; 10), drunkenness in worship service (chapter 11), and murmuring against God (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). Their worship services had turned into occasions of revelry and debauchery, which did more harm than good.

The worship service of the church in Corinthian had become a disgrace.

1 Corinthians 11:17-22
"In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!" (NIV).

A preacher preached a series of lessons on "The Sins of the Saints." One member apparently under conviction, disapproved of the series saying, "Sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the life of an unsaved person."

The preacher said, "You’re right, its worse!" We may want to think that it was worse for those Jews in the wilderness than for us, but it is actually worse for us. We have Israel’s example to learn from. We also have the Corinthian’s example to learn from.

The Signs of Maturity

A sign of maturity is to understand that when you think you’re standing is the most dangerous times to suffer a fall. Experience teaches us that we will never reach a point in our lives where we will be free of temptation and potential failure.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (NIV)

Steve Green, who sang six years with Bill and Gloria Gaither, tells about getting to know some of the work crews in the large auditoriums where their concerts were held. The Gaithers prefer concerts-in-the-round, which means extra work for the "riggers," who walk the four-inch rafter beams--often a hundred feet above the concrete floor--to hang sound speakers and spotlights. For such work, understandably, they are very well paid.

"The fellows I talked to weren't bothered by the sight of looking down a hundred feet," says Green. "What they didn't like, they said, were jobs in buildings that had false ceilings--acoustical tile slung just a couple of feet below the rafters. They were still high in the air, and if they slipped, their weight would smash right through the flimsy tile. But their minds seemed to play tricks on them, lulling them into carelessness."

Satan's business is not so much in scaring us to death as persuading us that the danger of a spiritual fall is minimal. No wonder Peter advised us to "resist him, standing firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:9).

Throughout the Scriptures we are admonished to take heed lest we fall into sin. Jesus’ last night in the garden with his disciples was spent in prayer. When Jesus was about to withdraw from his disciples to pray with blood sweat and tears, he told his disciples, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation" (Luke 22:40). After praying to his father he returns to find them asleep. Jesus ask, "Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’" (Luke 22:46).

Opposition is a fact: the Christian who is not conscious of being opposed had better watch out for he/she is in danger. All men are honest—until they are faced with a situation tempting enough to make them dishonest. You don’t have convictions unless you have been tested.

A sign of maturity is to understand that temptation is as real for you as it is for others. You should never think that you are better than others because what is tempting to them is not tempting to you. Our desires may be different, but we are tempted. Jesus was tempted in all points just as we are. Temptations from without have no power unless there is a corresponding desire from within.

1 Corinthians 10:13a
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man" (NIV).

You can’t see the flaw in a bridge until it falls down, or the flaw in a person’s character until flawed desires meet temptation.

A sign of maturity is to understand that God is faithful when you are undergoing temptation, and he will not leave you or forsake you because of your temptation.

1 Corinthians 10:13b
"And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear" (NIV).

A sign of maturity is to understand that God will work with you to help you find a way of escape so that you will not fall.

1 Corinthians 10:13c
"But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (NIV).

A sign of maturity is to understand that God does not promise to make your life free of temptation. He does not promise to remove the suffering of temptation, but he promises to help you "so that you can stand up under it," rather than free you from temptation.

A person falls into temptation because he/she is unwilling to stand up against it.

A sign of maturity is to understand the necessity to flee evil. It is not always easy to flee, because you don’t know who’s knocking—opportunity or temptation.

1 Corinthians 10:14-17
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (NIV).

James 4:7-10
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (NIV).

According to a radio report, a middle school in Oregon faced a unique problem. A number of girls began to use lipstick and put it on in the bathroom. After they put on their lipstick, they pressed their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Finally the principal decided something had to be done. She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained lip prints caused a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. To demonstrate how difficult it was, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into the toilet, and scrubbed the mirror. Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirrors.

When tempted to sin, if we could only see the real filth we'd be kissing, we wouldn't have any difficulty fleeing from it.

A sign of maturity is to understand how a permissible act can lead to chaos as it breeds an attitude of permissiveness. This was probably what happened when the man was going to bed with his father’s wife (Chapter 5). We have seen that an idol is nothing and meat offered to an idol is nothing (8:4-6), unless our association with it leads others to revelry.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand how it was possible to sit down and eat a simple innocent meal that could encourage others to engage in idolatrous worship. To the immature there may be no difference in eating meat offered to an idol and engaging in a feasts of worship at the temple of idols.

1 Corinthians 10:18-22
"Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (NIV).

Kevin Garvey has a thriving business in Broward County, Florida. He is the only trapper licensed by the county to remove nuisance alligators. In 2000, he received 616 alligator complaints and removed 97 animals. As of the end of July 2001, he had already received over 1,500 complaints and caught 130 alligators. The top spot in his county? Weston, a meticulously groomed planned city. Seems the homeowners there, who spent up to $700,000 for their homes, did not expect nor appreciate giant reptiles in their idyllic new community.

"That's probably gator heaven out there," says Jim Huffstodt, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, noting that Weston and other planned communities are often built right on top of the marshlands that were previously inhabited by the offensive reptiles. Just sighting an alligator in an area like Weston—filled with families with small children—is grounds for removal and destruction.

Such a story begs the question: How could anyone who moves into prime alligator habitat be surprised to see alligators there? In the same way, why do so many Christians settle for lifestyles that invite trouble, then act surprised when they fall into sinful conduct?

A sign of maturity is to understand how we get in trouble when we allow legitimate desires to dictate illegitimate actions. Maturity forces us to understand that the permissible can become harmful to others.

"Are we stronger than He?" (10:22.) This is directed at the "strong" or shall we say, "mature" Christian who was sure he/she could enjoy his/her liberty in the pagan temple and not be harmed. Paul says, "You may be stronger than your weaker brother—but you are not stronger than God!" It is dangerous to play with sin and tempt God.

Those feast usually ended in revelry. Paul is concerned about Christians partaking of the spiritual food provided by Christ and then rising up and worshipping idols by eating the sacrifices of the idols.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24
"Everything is permissible"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (NIV).

A sign of maturity is refusing to pass judgment upon the actions of others (4:1-4), while understanding that your actions are subject to the scrutiny of others.

1 Corinthians 10:25-30
"Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

"If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake- the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?" (NIV).

This attitude leads a mature person to avoid the very appearance of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (NIV).

We are judged by the company we keep away from.

Conclusion:

It is dangerous to play with sin. It is so easy to start out with something that is totally permissible. You may enjoy doing it but before you know it, it has taken control of you. Many start out to enjoy their liberty with every intention of self-control. Then all of a sudden your pride enters. Then you begin to flaunt your freedom as you begin to think that you are "mature" enough to handle when others can’t.

James 4:4-10
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

"‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.’

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (NIV).

 

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