Summary: Encouragement for us in the face of temptation.
March 14, 2004 — Third Sunday in Lent
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
When You Are Tempted, God Is Faithful
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word of God for our study this Sunday is our second lesson, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, as already read:
[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. (NIV)
This is the Word of our Lord. ]
Dear Perfected Saints of God, Still Struggling with Your Imperfections:
“I’m sorry,” said Scott, “I just couldn’t resist.” That was something his friends and family found him saying way too often. Sometimes he was less apologetic— “Oh, come on! You can’t expect me to pass up a straight line like that! She was practically asking to be zinged!”
Sometimes when he watched TV he’d ask, “Why is it that guys like Simon Cowell and lots of comedians get paid tons of money to put people down, and we call it entertainment, but I get in trouble for using my natural wit? It’s not fair — they work at it and get rich, and I just do what comes naturally and get nothing but grief.”
Every once in a while, after Scott’s “wit” had withered someone important to him, or he saw the pain that his put-down caused, well, then, he would promise he’d do a better job of controlling his mouth. But sooner or later he’d find the insults tripping off his tongue again, and there just didn’t seem to be anything he could do about it.
So some days he beat himself up for not having the strength and good sense to keep his mouth shut. And other days he comforted and justified himself with the thought that he really couldn’t help himself — whether his wit was a gift or a curse, he had no choice but to use it, and that meant some sensitive people were probably going to be hurt. He was sorry, but that was just the way things were.
We might have heard similar “justifications” from the children of Israel that Paul mentions in our reading: “Hey — everybody else is bowing down to this golden calf — I don’t really have a choice but to do the same thing.” Or: “Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to do it with anyone you’re not married to, but man, she looked so good — I just couldn’t help myself.” Or: “How can you expect me not to grumble and complain? This desert is boring, this manna is boring, I’m thirsty, and frankly, that Moses guy gets on my nerves.”
But no matter how they might have justified giving in to their various temptations, they couldn’t change the fact that they had sinned against God. And they paid for their rebellion with their lives. God takes his law, his name, and his people seriously — and he doesn’t take excuses.
Paul used the example of the Israelites in the wilderness to warn their spiritual descendants in Corinth not to make the same mistakes. The members of the Corinthian congregation were also being tempted to worship idols, to be sexually immoral, and to grumble and complain about the way God was, or was not, taking care of them. So Paul was using Israel’s example to show that the temptations the Corinthians were facing were nothing new to God’s people and therefore nothing they had no power to say “no” to.