Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sounds Tempting

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 10:1-22
     It is puzzling how several children can grow up in the same family, having the same teachings about life, about the Lord, about character, and each of these children will handle those teachings differently.  One child may internalize these values, embrace them, and apply them to his life.  Another child might test these teachings, stray for a little while, return to them and use them for the rest of her life.  Still another child may scoff at these values, push them aside, and live his life as he pleases, without thinking another thing about them.  How does that happen?  I think this chapter in I Corinthians is a good indicator.
     All of God's children, the Israelites, were stranded in the wilderness.  They ate the same meals together, they traveled to the same places together, they witnessed the same miracles together.  They received the same Ten Commandments together.  Some of them chose to follow God's commands, others chose to ignore them.  Why?  What would cause that?  Verse 6 says, "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted."  Lust for the things they were going after was the root cause of why they strayed, and ultimately were punished and destroyed.  Do we all lust after evil things?  We all have that sin nature, so the answer must be yes.  Now as Christians, we have a new nature that can overpower our sin nature, but how often do we listen to it? 
     "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."  The word "wherefore" points back to the previous verses.  Maybe the problem wasn't that the Israelites disregarded God's commands.  Maybe it was that since they were under God's protection, they thought they could not be affected by evil.  They had guidance from God's pillar of cloud by day, and God's pillar of fire by night.  They had been provided manna each day, falling from the heavens.  They had been given water from a rock.  Wasn't God in complete control of their lives?  If they were tempted with something, wasn't it God who allowed it?  Unfortunately, I have seen too many Christians justify their sin, by saying God led them to it.  I have heard on too many occasions that God would not have put such and such in their path if He didn't want them to participate in it.  Of course, we know that this is flawed logic.  The next verse tells us why.  "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;  but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."  There is not a single temptation in my life or anyone else's that someone else has not faced at some point.  This kind of goes in hand with Solomon's observation in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun.  The temptations I face today are exactly like the ones the Israelites faced in the Old Testament.  Okay, well maybe not in the exact form, but the exact sin.  For example, the Israelites did not have a TV set on which to watch music videos that blares blasphemous lyrics, with scantily clad women gyrating across the screen.  No, they could witness a live performance.  The Israelites could not access lewd photos via the internet, they could just let their mind do the imagining for them.  The Israelites may not have had to battle against street gangs and crystal meth.  I'm guessing the warrior nations were just as bad, and I don't know when opium arrived on the scene.  All our temptations are the same.  Not only does God make a way for us to escape these temptations, He makes a way for us to avoid them in the first place.  The verse immediately following says, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."  There is that word again.  Wherefore.  God gives us a way to escape by staying away from the stuff to begin with.  If we think we are too strong not to fall, then we most certainly will.  God will give us a way to escape but the primary way is to stay far away from anything that will tempt us.  Flee, God says.  Don't go near it.  Don't stay around it.  Don't play by it, or with it.  And if we stay close by, we still can overcome it, because God says we can, but His intent was never for us to get close enough to get burned.  Many of us can identify the particular sins that beset us.  The sins that I stumble over may not be the ones with which others wrestle.  Somebody struggles with the sins I struggle.  Someone struggles with the sins you struggle.  None of us is alone in this Christian journey.  None of us is the only one facing that particular temptation.  I think God tells us this so that we don't get a martyr's complex and believe that we can never overcome.  Others have, so I can too.  But the key to overcoming in the first place, is to keep as far away from the sin that most troubles me.
Breaking Away from Habits
Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     Parents often look for the weaknesses in themselves that may have caused their children  to decide to go their own way in the world.  We often blame ourselves when our children make wrong choices.  Here is the primary problem with that.  All of us are imperfect.  We all have weaknesses.  We all have character flaws.  We all have difficult choices.  Sometimes we will make the wrong ones.  Sometimes we will not always be the example we need to be.  But there is not a single perfect parent who does everything perfectly.  Since this is the case, we cannot blame ourselves for every wrong choice our children choose to make.  Do we need to try to make the best choices possible?  Yes.  Do we need to do our best to set an example?  Of course.  But if we are living our life in a way that we are doing our best to live for God, even in the best scenarios, we may have children who reject everything they have been taught.  Can you imagine if Moses blamed himself for each Israelite in the wilderness who helped to create the golden calf?  Was he guilt-ridden over each person who refused to look up at the brass serpent?  I know he mourned.  I know he sorrowed, but because of their own choice, not because of his.  If we have been the best example we can be, we need to realize that our children are responsible for their own choices.  If we have taught them to flee from evil, and they choose to run headfirst into it, we should not feel responsible for their disobedience.  Sometimes we do the best we can, and prayer is the only thing left.  God gives us principles and we must do our best to apply them.  But even in the best of families, there may be a child who follows after her own lusts.  Prayerfully, she will recognize her folly and return to what she has been taught.  If she does not, I should not assume it is something that I have done.  Even if I lived perfectly, she may have decided to perfectly avoid that.

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