The Third Sunday in Lent
March 24, 2019
I Corinthians 10:1-13
Get Ready for Easter—
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. 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. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I remembered! Just this past week I sent an email to someone that started with those two words. Why? Because last Sunday someone asked me if I would send them something via email and I said, “Sure, no problem!” Thankfully, I wrote it down in my Day-Timer because by the end of Sunday I had forgotten all about it. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I saw my note— and sent them what they had asked for!
I have gotten to that point in my life where it is very good for me to write things down so that I can remember what I am supposed to do, where I am supposed to be and when I am supposed to be there. While I would like to tell myself that it is getting more difficult to remember things because there are just so many things to remember, I suspect that there is more to the story than that. So, I keep my trusty Day-Timer with me so that I can write down the things I need to remember.
As you and I continue our Lenten sermon series entitled Get Ready for Easter the apostle Paul comes to us like a loving concerned father. He sits us down and quietly but firmly says to us: Remember! There are three things Paul wants us to remember this morning. First, Paul says: Remember who you are! Then Paul says: Remember the warnings of the past! And finally Paul says: Remember the faithfulness of your God!
The Christian congregation in Corinth is the most richly blessed congregation that we read about on the pages of the New Testament Scriptures. This congregation enjoyed every spiritual gift that the good Lord granted to His Church here on this earth. (See 1 Corinthians 1:7) And yet, the Christian congregation in Corinth is the most troubled congregation that we read about on the pages of the New Testament Scriptures. This congregation was struggling with sins such as: adultery, incest, drunkenness, lawsuits, favoritism and a false understanding of Christian freedom. From Paul’s perspective as an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ the common denominator that linked all these troubles together was a lack of appreciation for the amazing grace of God! Therefore, in the section of this letter which comprises our text for today Paul quietly yet firmly says to his brothers and sisters in the faith: Remember!
First and foremost Paul wants God’s people to remember what God has done for them. First and foremost Paul wants God’s people to remember that purely by the grace of God they are privileged people! Look at the opening verses of our text. Paul writes, “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 all 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.”
Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul makes some very interesting and some very powerful connections here. First of all Paul connects the pillar of cloud that led God’s people out of slavery in the land of Egypt plus the parting of the Red Sea (which rescued God’s people from their enemies) with baptism. Every child of God who experienced this special kind of “baptism,” every child of God who followed the pillar of cloud out of Egypt and through the desert, every child of God who saw the mighty walls of water on their right and on their left as they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were indeed privileged people! No other people on the face of the earth could claim that God had done such wonderful things for them!
Paul then goes on to emphasize that God’s people of old were also privileged in the way the good Lord provided for their needs. Paul connects the manna that the Lord daily provided for His people and the water that miraculously flowed from a rock (See Numbers 20) with the spiritual food and the spiritual drink that God provides for His people right down to this very day. Paul even states that the “spiritual rock” that accompanied God’s people through the desert was none other than Christ Himself! Again, no other people on the face of the earth could claim that God had done such wonderful things for them! God’s people were indeed privileged people!
Everything that Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to remember here in our text— you need to remember too, my friends. Remember who you are purely by the grace of God. Remember the privilege that the God of heaven bestowed on you when you were baptized with water in His Name. Through this holy Sacrament God Himself washed you clean of all your sins. Through this holy Sacrament God Himself created the gift of saving faith in your heart. Through this holy Sacrament God Himself adopted you to be His own dearly beloved, saved and forgiven child! This baptismal font is a visible reminder to you that you are privileged people!
At the same time the God of heaven continues to provide you with the spiritual food of His holy Word and His holy Supper. Through these precious Means of Grace God Himself provides you with everything your faith needs to grow stronger and stronger as time passes by. Through these precious Means of Grace God Himself provides you with all the spiritual nourishment you need so that you can make it through the desert of this sinful world and enter into the glory and the happiness of the Promised Land of heaven. Truly, my friends you are privileged people!
Unfortunately, Paul also needed to encourage God’s privileged people to remember the warnings of the past. Look at verses 7-11 of our text. In verse 7 Paul emphasizes that even after everything the Lord had done for His people God’s people quickly turned to idolatry and made a golden calf to worship. In verse 8 Paul emphasizes that even after everything the Lord had done for His people God’s people knowingly and willingly engaged in sexual immorality. In verses 9-10 Paul emphasizes that even after everything the Lord had done for His people God’s people tested the Lord and grumbled against their God. Then Paul says in verse 11, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.”
Just as the Corinthian Christians needed to remember these warnings so that they did not fall prey to the sin of idolatry or the sin of sexual immorality or the sins of testing God and grumbling against Him— so also we need to remember those very same warnings. We live in a society where idolatry is rampant. Whether it is money or possessions, whether it is fame or popularity, power or pleasure over and over again you and I are tempted to sin against the Lord our God by pushing Him out of the #1 place in our heart and worshiping idols.
Like the Corinthian Christians we also live in a society that is saturated with sex. Whether it is television, movies, music, magazines or the Internet sex is everywhere. We, of course, know that casual sexual encounters have been going on for millennia. It just seems to be more out in the open and more acceptable now. In the 60’s and 70’s this was called “free love.” That transformed into what became known as “friends with benefits.” Now “friends with benefits” has been replaced by what is being called “hooking up.” “Hooking up” is having sex with someone you are not dating or someone you may have just met for the very first time. Apparently “hooking up” has to a great degree replaced traditional dating— not only on the high school level but especially among college students.
Just as God’s Old Testament people were not immune to this temptation, just as the Christians in Corinth were not immune to this temptation don’t think that we are somehow are immune to this temptation. Whether it is us or our children or our grandchildren Satan is very good at trying to get us to succumb to sins against the Sixth Commandment! So don’t think that you are strong enough and don’t think that you are smart enough to play with fire and not get burned. What was it Paul said here in our text? “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
And, of course, we do indeed live in a society where “testing” the Lord and grumbling against God is commonplace. Instead of asking, “How can I live my life to the glory of my Savior God?” even God’s people all too often wonder, “How much can I get away with before God steps in and disciplines me?” Instead of being content with whatever the good Lord has given to us even God’s people fall into the trap of always wanting “more.” We need to fight against those temptations!
Because of the fact that we are often confronted with the temptation to sin against God and because of the fact that even though we are indeed privileged people we still have to contend with our own individual weaknesses as well as our old sinful nature Paul closes our text for today by encouraging us to remember the faithfulness of the Lord our God. Look at verse 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.”
The fact that God is faithful does not mean that you and I will never be tempted to sin. No, rather, the fact that God is faithful means that: a) God will never allow you to be tempted “beyond what you can bear”; and b) God will always provide “a way out” of that temptation. The difficulty here is twofold, however. The first difficulty is that either we don’t realize how strong God has caused our faith to become or we don’t always agree with God’s assessment of how much we can indeed “bear.” As a result we all too often just “give in” to temptation with hardly even trying to resist it! Whenever we are tempted to sin what we need to do, my friends, is to lift up our eyes to the cross (Pointing) and remember the faithfulness of our God! Remember that God has promised never to allow us to be tempted beyond what our faith can bear. So, when we are faced with temptation we need to turn to our God and ask Him to help us! Ask Him to bring us to the realization that with His help and with His guidance and with His strength our faith is indeed able to bear this temptation! Ask Him to fulfill His promise so that we are not overwhelmed by that temptation!
The second difficulty is that even though our God faithfully “provides a way out so that you can stand up under it” sometimes we don’t want a way out, do we. Sometimes— for whatever reason— we want to indulge our old sinful nature and “enjoy” ourselves. This is where we need to stop and remember that we are indeed privileged people— not because we inherently possess that right, not because we have earned or deserve that right, but only because of the grace of God! This is where we once again need to stop and remember what our faithful God has so freely done for us to save us from sin! (Pointing to the cross) This is where we need to stop and remember that if we consciously live our life in a way that causes our Savior to cry that like God’s people of old we may end up forfeiting God’s grace and enduring the consequences of God’s wrath.
Because I usually write things down in my Day-Timer I can go back and remember where I was and what I was doing even if it was years ago. Because God has faithfully recorded everything He wants us to know right here in His holy Word we too have the opportunity to go back and remember. May God grant that as you and I continue getting ready to celebrate Easter that we will indeed use God’s Word to help us remember. Remember who you are! Purely by the grace of God you are God’s privileged people! Remember the examples of those who have gone before you so that you can learn from the warnings that are recorded in Scripture! Remember the faithfulness of your God! (Pointing to the cross)
To God be the glory!