Recognizing and Resisting Temptation
Text: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13
Proposition: The unseen dangers of our pride and the assumption that we are exempt from God’s correcting hand become to us temptations to sin.
Introduction: Imagine a nation of people whose task and identity in society is to be a slave. Your fathers a slave, your mothers a slave, your brothers and sisters will be slaves and this will be as it has been for over 4 centuries. For us that would be like every member of your family being a slave since the 1600’s. Then comes a day and the people are led out of captivity, out of the foreign country they have served for generations. By the time this people made their way to freedom they were over 600,000 men plus women and children. These were the birth pangs of the nation of Israel. The miraculous details of the splitting of the Red Sea, manna for food, water like a river flowing from a rock, the radiant glory of God’s presence on Mount Sinai, these became the events every Israelite knew. This is how this next portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians begins, remembering with them where they had come from and then recognizing with them how easy it was to get tangled up in temptation. Have a look at 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.
I. For Every Temptation… See Its Source and Pull.
As Paul starts he uses words that connected the experiences of Israel and Moses to the present day experience of the Corinthians with Christ. By using phrases like ‘under the cloud’ he reminds them they too are under the ever present care of the God the Father. ‘Baptized into Moses’, a reference that reminds the Corinthian church they are now baptized into Christ. The reference to, ‘all ate the same spiritual food’… ‘the same spiritual drink”, reminds them of their communion meal. In the lives of ancient Israel, in the lives of the people in the church at Corinth in the first century and in our lives here this morning there are amazing stories to tell of God’s great faithfulness, of the incredible journey in our life of faith in Christ. But then comes verse 5, “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” In the midst of counting all their blessings Paul then reminds them that though God was faithful, the people of Israel were not and it cost them dearly. None of the adults that left Egypt would survive the journey, it would only be their now grown children that made it there. Only 2 of the original 600,000 men would still be alive to see the end of the Exodus. The whole point here is that temptation was deadly, as their fathers faced it so too would the Corinthians experience it. So Paul reminds them and us of the various faces of temptation so they would recognize it and resist it. He says they shouldn’t lust (epithymeo) after evil things, then Paul lists what some of those evil things can look like.
1. verse 7, “do not become idolaters”, a reference to the time when Moses was up on the peaks of Mount Sinai for 40 days. The people all thought he was dead so they decided the gods of Egypt might be their next best resort. Whenever the presence of God in a person’s life fades what takes its place is not freedom, it’s a reverting back to the ways of your former captivity. In this case they reverted back to the idol worship of Egypt, to the sensuality that accompanied it and the excess it encouraged. Temptation then becomes like hypothermia or the bends for a diver, you loose sight of the reality of your present danger and go completely in the wrong direction.
2. …verse 8, “Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell”. The Greek word for ‘sexual immorality’ is the word ‘porneuo’, literally it means, ‘to permit one's self to be drawn away by another’. We recognize the word from words like porn or pornography. The issue of temptation here is that it is an act of your will that agrees with the temptation and as you agree you are swept away like the rip tide that pulls a drowning person deeper and deeper. In one day 23,000 people died because they chose sexual immorality over their faithfulness to God.
3. … verse 9, “nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted”. How could we tempt Christ, what does that look like? In the passage referenced by Paul the people were complaining about how difficult their lives were, they even complained about the manna they ate saying, ‘our soul loathes this worthless bread’ (Num 24). It would seem then that the to tempt Christ would be all about a loathing of what He provides. In this case what they loathed was a daily miracle called manna. So it starts with loathing something God provides and then begins to be a loathing of the very Provider. It might be things, wealth or lack of it or even the very people God has provided to be with you. The temptation to test Christ ultimately comes down to an unwillingness to do what He says, to trust Him for His ways, to be thankful for His days… obedience, thankfulness, patience, right? We tempt Christ when we doubt Christ, the idea is not so much tempting Jesus to do something as it is testing Him, not believing in Him doing what He said He would do. That’s what tempting God is and it’s why the people of Israel were corrected with a plague of snakes that had a dangerous venom. The cure for this snake bite was a bronze serpent wrapped around a pole and lifted up and if the people would look on it in faith they would be healed.
Know that temptation will always have its root in some kind of unbelief, unbelief in the Person, character or Word of God. In other words, temptation will always involve sin. In James 1:14, 15, it says “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” So identify temptation by asking yourself, “Is what I am about to do sin, am I being carried away by my own desires that seek to gain something that God wanted to provide in my life?”. What emptiness of my soul am I trying to fill with this temptation that God alone is able to fill and has even designed in me to be only filled by Him? So first recognize the temptation, identify it’s pull and then acknowledge the plan of God over you to defeat that temptations pull of sin.
II. For Every Temptation Recognize the Way to Resist It.
Check out what Paul says in verse 12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The main point, don’t let pride blind you into thinking you are immune or can somehow be fireproof to the flames of this fire. The warning in the phrase ‘let him who thinks he stands’ refers to your own false belief that you are entitled or justified in what you do. This ultimately is nothing but self-deception. So the first step to resisting temptation is to be aware of your own heart, how full of pride is it? If you can catch things here temptation can be resisted like the washing of hands resists infection. Then look at verse 13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” What’s the take away from this? It’s simply that you are not alone, you are not the only one who has wrestled with this temptation, you are not alone or isolated from resource and wisdom. God is still faithful even when we make wrong choices, He’s still there to bring hope, forgiveness, direction, rescue. In fact, this even says that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able if you will just call out to Him. He will provide a way of escaping the temptation, escaping its guilt and shame, escaping its grip and escaping the sin that entangles that you may be able to bear it, move past it. There’s this amazing verse in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It’s referring to Jesus Christ, the high priest of all who will come to Him by faith. Whatever your temptation the path to resisting it will involve the realization that this too Christ experienced and was able to bear it, to move past it without sin. Do you get that, this says Jesus knows and sympathizes with our weaknesses, He Who knows you best loves you most. There is a way to resist temptation, some of that will involve your own humility and all of it will require a surrender to Jesus that cries out to Him, Jesus save me. Show me the way through this, “restore unto me the joy of my salvation and renew a right heart within me.” That was King David’s prayer after he committed adultery with Bathsheba, it can be your prayer too as you surrender to Jesus.
Recognize and resist all temptation through the Lord Jesus Christ.