Summary: Our world lives life on the edge, and Christians can also push the limits of the acceptable and court temptation when they think their faith is strong enough to handle anything.
Life on the Edge
A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
We are now in the season of Lent, which began as a parallel to the forty days Christ spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. And it is temptation that I want to focus on this morning. Temptation is something that we all must deal with. It seems to be ever-present, and if we are not careful, it can have a strong pull on us.
Someone once asked, “Ever notice that the whisper of temptation can be heard farther than the loudest call of duty?” And it is when we think we are strong in our faith that we have a tendency to live life on the edge of our faith, right next to temptation’s door. And it is there that her whisper seems louder than ever.
Today we will be looking at 1 Corinthians, Chapter 10, to see what the apostle Paul has to say about this. If you have your Bibles with you, why don’t you take them out and turn there with me. We’ll be looking at the first thirteen verses.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he warned them about living at the edge of their faith and tempting temptation. He opens his letter by thanking God that the people of Corinth had a great knowledge of Christ and did not lack any spiritual gift. Yet despite this, they were divided about who they followed, and gave in to the temptation to lift up one man above another rather than letting Christ be their head.
Further down in Chapter 5, Paul castigates them for allowing sexual immorality and even being proud of it. These are the same people who had knowledge of Christ and lacked in no spiritual gift. And yet they did not flee from immorality.
And when Paul addressed food sacrificed to idols in chapter 8, he noted that some could eat with a clean conscience, while others could not. Those for whom it was not sin were pushing the limits of what they could do in Christ, and joining others as they ate the meat. And this was a cause of stumbling for the weaker brethren, and then it became a sin against the brethren (8:12). By saying, “My faith is strong enough to eat meat sacrificed to idols,” they were pushing their faith to the edge to see how far they can go without actually sinning. They were asking, “How much can I get away with and still be a Christian?” If you ever find yourself asking that question, it’s time to run away.
We Like to Push the Limits
It’s typical human behavior though. We like to push the limits and see how far we can go. If you ever turn on the TV or go to the movies, you know we like to push the limits of the acceptable.
Ford has a new car called The Edge. The refrain in their commercial is “I like to live on the edge.” And we do. There’s even a popular pizza called The Edge, where the toppings go out to the edge of the crust. We like to see how far we can go without getting into trouble, or getting a heart attack.
Even as young children, we have this tendency. When I build towers with my 2-year-old, we always have to put one more block on top. And if that holds, we put on one more, and one more, until finally we push it too far and everything comes tumbling down.
And it isn’t just, “what can I get away with doing?” but also, “what can I get away with not doing?” - Can I be complacent and still be a Christian? I probably don’t need to tell you that we do that at an early age too. But as we grow up, we don’t always lose that tendency. There are Christians who believe their faith is strong enough on its own and they don’t need to go to church regularly, they don’t need to read their Bible, they don’t need to be prayed for. But faith that isn’t nurtured quickly gets off balance. Far better to come back to the center, and I hope you will see the need for that today.
Blessings do not guarantee survival
In chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, where today’s lesson begins, Paul warns us that living life on the edge of our faith is a recipe for disaster. When we believe that our faith is strong enough to handle anything - that is when it is least likely to be able to.
To make his point, Paul begins with a lesson from Israel’s history. He begins by saying
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. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. (1 Corinthians 10:1-5, NIV)