August 9, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 10)

Submitted by Josiah W. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 10:1-12

  • What is the relationship between someone “who thinks he stands” (v. 12) and the failure to take warning from the examples Apostle Paul relates here?

In this passage, Apostle Paul points out that, from the outside, the Israelites of the Exodus from Egypt had a great deal to boast about. They had all experienced following the mighty cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They had all seen the miraculous parting of the sea to let them through when the Egyptians were hot on their heels. They had all eaten God’s miraculous provision of manna and quail in the dessert. They have experience the most magnificent rescue in history, God’s escape plan for an entire nation of people from the mighty Egyptians and His subsequent provision for all of them as they wandered through the desert. In their estimation, they had done everything right. Why else would God be on their side? In fact, they had obeyed God in passing through the Red Sea and by taking the Passover and leaving Egypt. They must have felt like very spiritual people. “Nevertheless, with most of them, God was not pleased.” (v. 5) What evidence does Paul cite of God’s displeasure? He points to the simple fact that, after all He had done to rescue them, they were “overthrown in the wilderness” by God.

There is a subtle temptation to simply assume that since I have experienced God’s mercy and his favor He must be very pleased with me and to assume that, therefore, I have some “wiggle room” with Him. God had warned the Israelites at Mount Sinai of what would happen if they followed idols. But the Israelites didn’t listen to these warnings. Paul reminds us that the very people who had been “baptized” in the sea, who had eaten the “spiritual food” and drunk the “spiritual drink”—yes, these very people—became idolaters, sexually immoral, ones who tested and grumbled against God. This kind of false confidence in themselves and obliviousness to God’s anger led them further and further down a path away from God. It began when they desired evil (v. 6) and ended with God’s wrathful judgment (v. 8-10).

  • What is my attitude towards examples that are written in the Bible as warnings for me?  Are there any specific warnings from God’s word that I have been ignoring?

My initial feeling is, “Well, I am different from them.” But then when I try to think about what actually makes me any different, I can’t come up with anything substantial. Paul has already laid out the similarities in a striking way. I, too, have been baptized and I now partake in the spiritual food and drink of communion. And as I participate in so many activities and serve in different ways at our church, I often feel like the reason God has treated me so favorably is that I’ve been so obedient to Him. But what if the reason for God’s favor is that He is patiently waiting for me to repent and change my ways? Then I am sabotaging myself of the opportunity to turn to God before it’s too late. And I am missing a second chance in that “these things took place as an example for [me.]” (v. 6) So with this urgency in mind, I really need to try to see my life from God’s perspective rather than assuming everything’s just fine.

One of the things that struck me as I was reading the list of Israel’s sins was that they grumbled and for this they were destroyed. This caught my attention because, recently, I have found myself grumbling in my heart. Is God really so angry with me for grumbling as He was with the Israelites? I think He must be. The similarities are just too striking. God has led me out of my captivity to many self-destructive sins, He has led me through the desert of health problems and rejection, and He continues to lead me today through every trouble. And then I turn around and say, “Why are You treating me like this, God? Why am I so tired and why do I feel like my schedule feels is so packed?” I grumble about having so little free time and being tired at work. I grumble about the commute and the traffic, the humidity and the heat. But how does God view all these things? It must be maddening to Him. The reason I’m so busy is because there’s a lot of meaningful work to do and because we are in a spiritual battle–so we need to make the most of every opportunity. And as I learn to endure the humidity and heat, it builds my character. In this view, my grumbling is very offensive to God. I want to praise God when these things come up rather than grumbling.

  • How does this verse help me in my struggle against temptation?

This verse reminds me that there is hope for me to change and to avoid the traps the enemy has laid in the way. By sharing my struggles with others, I have help in my struggle against the temptations because these are things that are “common to man.” So when I share about my struggle with comfort-seeking desire, with grumbling or with my spiritual pride, I keep finding that other guys have gone through the same things and they have a lot of help to give on the issue. But if I think that my temptations are something isolated just to my own life, I’m missing out on this huge source of strength in fighting against them. So I want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from others, to stand firm along with others who depend on God for victory against sin.

  • What are some temptation-fighting resources I have through the church?  Have I, for some reason, failed to rely on these resources to become “a way of escape” from my struggles against sin?

Some of these resources that God has given me to “escape” from sin are found in daily devotions, prayer times, messages, sharing times, and the many faithful friends and leaders God has given me within the body. I often think that others would be too discouraged by what I share with them, that they would think less of me for it, or that I could avoid dealing with my sins by not revealing them. But I’m starting to see why this is so foolish. When I share, it actually encourages others to share more freely and it allows me to receive advice, accountability and the power of God through prayer. And most of my friends can see through the thin mask I wear so that they know something’s wrong. But when I share it with them, it actually brings us closer in our struggle against sin together. Praise God for the body of Christ!

  • Think about the link between the blood of Jesus and what ties me to other believers.  To what extent have I experienced both the “participation in the blood of Christ” and the “participation in the body of Christ,” in my relationships with others in the church?

This participation in the blood of Christ has never seemed so real as when I have “come clean” about something that has been keeping me apart from God, one of the “idols” that I’ve been turning to. I can approach other believers my brothers because of the fact that we are recipients of the cleansing of sins through the blood of Christ. When, after these times, I receive encouragement and prayer from someone else, it forms a lasting bond that ties us together. I can always say, “That was the brother who encouraged me, gave me advice, or prayed for me when I confessed such-and-such.” And then I think, “Wow, he knows me pretty well and, in spite of this, I’m accepted.”

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your loving patience with me in spite of all the ways I do things that might anger you. I know that it doesn’t have to be like this. You could have destroyed me just as You destroyed the Israelites. I know that it must be so frustrating to hear me grumble, accusing you of treating me unfairly, when You’ve rescued me from a life of depravity and then set me on a new trajectory toward glory. Thank You for placing me in this “body” of believers, where You’ve provided an escape to endure every temptation that comes to trip me up. I want to use all of these resources to lay down my idols and disentangle myself from all of these things that keep me from being pleasing to You. Please help me to heed the warning given through scriptures in Exodus and teach me to consider the ways in which I’m not standing firm but falling.

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 10:1-12

  • What is the relationship between someone “who thinks he stands” (v. 12) and the failure to take warning from the examples Apostle Paul relates here?

The relationship between someone “who thinks he stands” and the failure to take warning from the examples Apostle Paul lists is that the person who think he stands is also the same person who fails to take warnings from these very examples.  The person who finds himself thinking he can stand is also the person who is likely to see sin in someone’s life and thank God that they are not struggling with that sin or that it’s not them or they’ll never be tempted by that sin.  They quickly push aside any possibility of connecting to examples of warning, and though they might not actually say it they live as though they are above sin and know themselves well enough to stand against sin.

  • What is my attitude towards examples that are written in the Bible as warnings for me?  Are there any specific warnings from God’s word that I have been ignoring? 

Growing up in the church I always saw Bible stories and parables as well written stories that often highlighted God’s anger and wrath.  It wasn’t until I actually learned to read the Bible at a deeper level that I saw real people with real sin issues and dealing with real consequences because of their disobedience to God’s word and His set boundaries.

This warns of those who indulged in sexual immorality, who put Christ to the test, who grumbled, probably justified away their behaviors, made excuses, dabbled into a little sin not thinking much of it, thought themselves more righteous than others who sinned more, or just didn’t want to deal with truth. The consequence that each faced was the same–they were all destroyed.

The more that I invite God’s truth into my life and allow different examples in the Bible to become a mirror for me, I see how God warns me about specific sins and my need to be honest and vigilant about struggling with God’s truth and His people. I always stand awestruck at how timely his word is and how fitting it is towards specific struggles, but at the same time I also see how strong my pride is in not wanting to admit my struggles through making excuses, belittling a sin, comparing myself with someone else, or coming up with whatever justifications for myself.  This is warning for me, that whenever I find myself in situations where I am making excuses, etc. I need to heed to God’s truth and recognize that I am no different from these people who were destroyed and that I am capable of doing the same things and receiving His rightful wrath.  However, thanks to God’s mercy through warnings such as these that I have the chance to look at myself with soberness, come before him in confession, and be saved from my own destruction.

1 Corinthians 10:13

“The ‘yous’ in the text are both in the plural, meaning that the experience of the testing and the efforts at handling it are never presumed by Paul to be borne by an individual alone.  Paul’s assumption is that any testing you experience is never in isolation. […]  And the bearing of the test, the handling of it, is never supposed by Paul to be done by an isolated individual; others will always be bearing it with the one who is tested.  So the text supposes that God will not test us beyond what all of us can bear together.  Paul’s outlook stands in sharp contrast with the modern tendency to privatize and individualize all religious matters and experiences, even including suffering.” [J. Paul Sampley, “First Corinthians”, New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol.X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 916.]

  • How does this verse help me in my struggle against temptation?

When I first became a Christian my junior year in college, I used to think that the struggles I had (such as how to spend my time as a Christian, fears about future career, struggle with media like wasting time on facebook, etc.) were struggles that no one else had or understood except me.  I used to think that no one knows what I am going through or could possibly understand the temptations I faced as a young college Christian, but as I grew as a Christian I began to see the truth of this verse, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man,” as I began to see that my sins and struggles are not unique to me but I have older brothers and sisters and spiritual leaders who have gone before me who may have faced similar struggles, and YET were able to overcome temptations and sin.  Therefore, in light of this truth, what Apostle Paul says is affirmation for me yet again, that as I struggle against temptation of old worldly values taunting me, I am not alone in my battle against temptation.

In fact, Apostle Paul says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  I have a God who is faithful; he will not allow me to be given over to sin but will provide the way for me to flee from temptation and sin.  This happens precisely through the church.  I have others in the church who can help me with whatever struggles I have at different junctures of my life whether it is learning to love my roommates when I first moved out of the dorms, learning how to build my own convictions based on the truth of God’s word instead of following what the wisdom of society says regarding career, finances, etc.  The truth is that we’re all human beings and we’re all sinners who go through the same stages of life and face similar struggles over similar issues.  Nothing that I encounter in life is so foreign to man that makes my situation so outstanding.   And because of this, we can help each other through struggles and temptations so that we can endure it.

Moreover the Bible also states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)  Here, I am reminded that above anyone else who faced temptations stands Jesus who was tempted in every way and yet was without sin.  Upon this truth, I can have confidence that God himself knows and understands my struggles against different temptations and he can help me overcome them through his word of truth and, again, through the church.

  • What are some temptation-fighting resources I have through the church?  Have I, for some reason, failed to rely on these resources to become “a way of escape” from my struggles against sin?

Some of the temptation-fighting resources I have through the church include spiritual leaders who are godly people who I can openly share with and have gone through the same stages of life that I am going through; so I can go to them for wisdom and counsel.  I also have peers who are going through the same issues that I face and can find encouragement from them to persevere.

When I fail to rely on these resources to provide a way of escape from my struggles against sin it is usually because of my pride.  I resort back to the mentality that no one really understands my temptation, it’s too shameful for anyone to know, no one will know what I’m dealing with, or everyone will think I’m a loser who can’t even resist this particular temptation.  Yet, it is because I fail to rely on these resources that I actually fall into greater temptation.  In hindsight, it was through those times of humbling myself before my spiritual leaders, my peers, and sisters in Christ, where I confessed different struggles regarding areas like my selfishness or grip on finances that I experienced freedom and help from around me.  It allowed me to openly talk without feeling shame or judgment with those who have faced similar struggles and be encouraged by how they were able to overcome these struggles as it gave me hope against my own condition.  Knowing that others are carrying this burden with me through prayers and specific words of encouragement, helped me (and continues to help me) to persevere and not give up struggling.  It is this grace that I experience from God and the church time and again that enables me to stand with confidence knowing that every time I come before God in honesty and truth, I am not condemned but given help to overcome temptations and sin.  Thus confirming for me that God is faithful and that he will provide a way out—precisely through the church, so that I will be able to endure temptations and flee from it.

1 Corinthians 10:14-17

“This is the positive counter reality set over against the danger of idolatry: authentic Christian worship draws us together around the table of the Lord in such a way that we become a covenant people, receiving the blessings of fellowship with God and sharing our lives with one another.  In order to flee from idolatry we must order our lives so that this koinonia becomes the focal point of our existence.” [Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville,KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 173.]

  • Think about the link between the blood of Jesus and what ties me to other believers.  To what extent have I experienced both the “participation in the blood of Christ” and the “participation in the body of Christ,” in my relationships with others in the church?

The link between the blood of Jesus and what ties me to other believers is that the blood of Christ covers all of our sins, and we are no longer lone wanderers in this world but are placed within the body of Christ in which we are covenantally connected.   I have experienced both the “participation in the blood of Christ” and also the “participation in the body of Christ” to the extent that I see how the same mercy and grace my leaders, older sisters, peers, and essentially the entire church received to fight against temptations and sins is also the same mercy and grace that I have received through the Cross. The same koinonia fellowship they’ve been called to live is the same koinonia fellowship I am called to live as well.  Thus having fellowship (participation in the body of Christ) with those I share this participation with (in the blood of Christ,) has helped me to be quicker in being honest and humble, and to set aside desires to want to keep an image.  It has also helped me to be freer in my relationships with my leaders and sisters in Christ as I know that my confessions of struggles and temptations are not received with judgment but with grace and prayers.

Personal Prayer

Father God, I thank you for the warnings that you have placed in my life so that I might look at myself with sober judgment and not fall into self-destruction because of failure to heed your word.  I confess that there are times when I am tempted to look away from warnings and think that the warnings don’t apply to me and there are also times when I am tempted to look at my sins and think that it’s so unique that no one understands; it’s essentially my pride that kick in and it leads me away further from truth that can ultimately set me free from sin and temptations.  I thank you that the reality is I actually do not stand alone in my fight against sin and temptation but you always provide a way out for me and this is precisely through the church.  I thank you that I am surrounded by believers committed to the truth of the Cross and committed to one another.  Through this commitment, I have come to experience koinonia fellowship based on grace and mercy, enabling me to find freedom to be myself without fear of condemnation and because of this I am also free to love others and help carry others’ burdens.

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