Freedom and Conscience – 1 Corinthians 10

We were created by God for His glory.  His desire is for us to live a life that glorifies him in every way.  As Christians, we submit to God’s will and our desire is to please God; however, we all face temptations to turn away from Godly submission.  I don’t know the temptation you face, but I know you have temptations and will continue to be tempted. God gives us help to deal with temptation yet we often miss or ignore God’s attempts to keep us in-line with His will.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousands of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:6-11

God provides us examples of people that faced temptation and gave in to sin.  God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, divided the Red Sea, and provided food from Heaven daily to feed over a million people.  In turn, the Israelites built a golden calf to worship, were sexually immoral, tested God, and grumbled about what God provided them.  Obviously, this did not please God and he disciplined His children.  We have these great examples to show us how to live and how not to act.  We often scoff at the lack of faith found in the Israelites; however, we act the same way.  We need to learn from their example.

Fast forward a few thousand years and this is what Paul is telling the people at Corinth.  They had the example, yet still gave into temptation to sin and selfishness.  They were trapped by sexual immorality, testing God, grumbling, and had division in the church.  Fast forward a couple thousand years and, today, we are dealing with the same things in our lives.  Instead of thinking poorly of the Israelites or Corinthians, we should consider they did not have the examples we have and the Israelites did not have the Holy Spirit living in them.  We have less excuses than the early church and the Israelites.

In our own personal lives, we also have examples of when we gave into temptation and had to deal with the consequences.  Like the Israelites and Corinthians, we quickly forget the long-term implications of our sin and focus on the short-term feelings.  God shows us these examples so that we can see how giving into temptation causes us to be slaves to sin, hurts our relationship with Him, and causes problems in our relationships with others.  God doesn’t tell you and show you these examples because He wants to control you.  Like a great parent, He loves you and knows the impact to your life.

In addition to these negative examples, we have examples of Jesus in the desert, Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in captivity all facing temptation, yet choosing to honor God instead of committing sin.  We can also look to our own lives to see when we faced temptation and chose the right path. There are three ways most people deal with temptation and Paul discusses them here.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 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 Corinthians 10:12-13

Side Note: Verse 13 does not say that God won’t give you more than you can handle.  This verse clearly discusses temptations, not trials in life.  God will challenge you beyond your ability to bear so that you will trust fully in Him.  That is a lesson for another time.  (2 Corinthians 1:8)

One way people approach temptation is with confidence in themselves, too much confidence.  We watch that show, drive down that road, just cruise by the new houses or cars, go window shopping, simply surf the Internet, or just complain about someone a little and we give Satan a foothold with temptation and fall flat on our face.  We then act surprised.  We are to be alert because Satan is looking to see who he will devour.  Don’t get arrogant and think you can take Satan head on.  He has been in the deception business for over 5000 years and caused many great men and women of God to stumble.

If you think about people from the Bible or spiritual leaders from today that gave into sin.  They did not plan to sin; however, they often started to believe in their own righteousness instead of God’s grace.  You will be tested and you will come under spiritual attack especially as you grow in Christ and serve others.  Satan would love for you to hurt your example so others will doubt.  Stay focused, stay humble, and God with your life.

Another approach is what I call the wimp out approach.  The temptation is too strong and I’ll just sin anyway so why bother fighting it?  God will forgive me anyway.  What???  You don’t face any stronger temptation than anyone else.  You have rationalized your sin to the point you don’t really grieve your disobedience.  When you seek forgiveness for sin, God isn’t listening to the words; He is looking at your heart.  If you are not truly grieving, you are not truly repenting, because you don’t really want to turn away from sin and turn towards God in your heart.  This approach is all about taking advantage of your freedom in God’s grace to commit sin.  God’s grace is freedom from sin not freedom to sin.

There are people that teach we always have a little sin in us or we sin all the time without realizing it.  These are lies from Satan.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross and we accepted him as Lord and Savior, we were freed from the bonds of sin and when we sin, we are making a choice to be a slave to sin instead of a slave to Christ.  We get upset the way non-Christians act, but they have no choice.  They don’t face the temptation to sin, they live in sin.  Instead, we should be upset the way we act as Christians because we choose to treat people poorly or give into sexual immorality yet we have a choice.  We must stop using Satan as an excuse for our own fleshly desires.

There is one other way to deal with temptation and that’s God’s way.  Paul reminds us that God won’t let us be tempted beyond our ability to endure it.  Back the temptation truck up!  God allows us to be tempted!  Yes, no being is allowed to tempt you beyond what God says.  Why would God allow us to be tempted? He does this in order to enable us to grow.  So our testimony is seen.  So God is glorified by our actions.  If God allows it and God provides a way out plus He loves me and doesn’t want me to sin, I can certainly endure the temptation.  Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to live in us.  If we listen to Him instead of ourselves, we can stand firm.

I went through a time when I doubted God really gave me a way out of each temptation.  I now understand that He does provide a way; however, I often am not looking for a way out or I am so busy trying to go so fast, I don’t see it.  Either way, I am focused on me and not on God.

Lately, God has been working in my life to slow down before I speak or act.  By slowing down, I am able to respond to situations in a more godly manner. For example, because I was being impatient, I almost side-swiped an SUV. The problem, and the sin, did not take place at the moment I swerved around the slow driver, the problem and sin took place before then when I was being impatient driving down the road and ignoring God’s call to slow down and be patient. Sin takes place in the heart first.

How do we endure temptation?  As Paul said, we look at the examples to see what worked in the past.  Jesus was tempted, but did not sin.  He focused on honoring the Father and the scriptures. By knowing God’s Word, we are able to focus on what God wants our lives to look at. Dealing with temptation is spiritual warfare and Paul tells us in Ephesians to be ready for battle. A solider doesn’t go into battle without a weapon so why would you fight spiritual battles without a sword? Additionally, to be good in battle, you must train and use the weapon so you know it and come to trust in it. You must train with it and know the Word of God. Others, like Daniel, prayed turned in prayer to the Father for strength.  Joseph took a different approach and fled.  As Paul said in I Corinthians 6, flee sexual immorality.  Joseph was a man of great character and when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he ran out of the house rather than dishonor God. Colossians 2 & 3 are great guides for this.  Too often we make rules that we ignore.  Paul reminds us to focus on Jesus and things above instead of earthly things.  Don’t focus on not sinning; focus on glorifying God.

When you are saved, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside you. We can count on the Holy Spirit to guide us when we are tempted. We just need to learn to hear His voice. Like my driving situation, the Holy Spirit was talking, but I wasn’t listening. This is why we are told to be filled by, or controlled by, the Holy Spirit. As we move along in chapter 10, Paul hits on an area where temptation is an issue – idolatry.

Therefore, my dear friends flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 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? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 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. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

Idolatry is trying to live as a Christian and live like the world at the same time. Some of the believers in Corinth understood the food sacrificed to pagan idols that did not exist really did not harm them; however, less mature Christians may not understand this and may think they can worship both.  Additionally, the food was sacrificed to demons and we treat demons like they are just another Hollywood character.  Well, we don’t have to deal with food sacrificed to idols here in Beavercreek so what does this mean to me?  Idolatry deals with anything that takes our focus off of God.  Your idol could be money, cars, houses, job, family, friends, or entertainment like sports teams or TV shows.  Now wait a minute, “There’s nothing wrong with these things.”  On the surface, most of these things are fine; however, Satan is alive and well in the minds of people and just at the food sacrificed to pagan gods causes outsiders and less mature Christians to stumble, our focus on these idols, can cause you and others to fall into temptation and eventually sin.  I enjoy watching motorcycle racing, but when I find time to watch racing but struggle to spend time with my family, have a quiet time with my Lord & Savior, or serve others, I am not honoring God and the racing has become my idol. There is nothing wrong with watching the race; however, is it drawing me away from God and other priorities He has placed in my life? Lastly, Paul talks about causing others to stumble.

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:32-33

When we love Jesus and we love others, we need to ensure we aren’t using our freedom in Christ’s grace to cause others to fall into sin.  Our selfishness can cause us to have a “well, that’s their problem” attitude.  We should think of others first.  If the way we dress causes someone to have lustful thoughts, we have caused them to stumble.  Sure they need to have more self-control, but we are called to encourage and support each other in Christ.  If we ask someone over and over to volunteer and you know he or she can’t say no until they neglect family or the ministry God intended them to do, we are part of the problem.  As Christian, we shouldn’t be helping Satan out.  Don’t send me pictures of all the new F-250s; I don’t need that kind of temptation.  Don’t ask your guest to watch the Super Bowl halftime or the New Year’s Eve shows; we don’t need to see that.  If your spouse is dealing with jealousy, don’t interact too much with people of the opposite sex, thinking they need to get over it.  The key here is to think about and love other people more than yourself.

So we’ve hit on quite a few touchy areas so how do you know what to do and not do and when those gray areas of temptation lead to sin?  Verse 31 is one of the most important verses in the Bible to understand.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

When you need to make a decision, ask “Does this glorify God?”

-Should I buy a new car?

-Should I date that man?

-Should I take a new job?

-Should I have a drink?

-Should I have my kids play soccer on Sunday?
Our primary purpose in life is to bring glory to God.  God is not egotistical when He tells us this.  He loves us and wants to keep us from a life of strife, emptiness, and pain.  If we live to glorify God, we will stay in His will and He will transform us to be like Christ and use us to positively impact the lives of others for His kingdom.  So look at your life and ask if everything you say, think, and do glorifies God.  Even the small things.  When you focus on Jesus, the temptations in life don’t seem as important.  It doesn’t mean your life will be easy; however, you will have the faith to trust in a God that loves you and never leaves you.

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