************ Sermon on ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 26, 1998
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
"Be Careful You Don't Fall"
I Be Careful
A A big strong man walks on an icy sidewalk. He is athletic and confident of his footing. Suddenly, he slips and falls on the ice.
Paul suggests this kind of scene to us in our text: (1 Cor 10:12) "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"
Of course Paul is not really thinking of a man slipping and falling on ice; rather, Paul is thinking of a man slipping and falling on temptation. He thinks of a Christian who is over-confident, full of spiritual pride, self-assured. He is thinking of a Christian who believes he or she is so strong and firm in the faith that temptation can come knocking but the door will not be opened.
A couple of years ago at Promise Keepers I overhead two men talking. "I will never be unfaithful to my wife," said the one man. "I will never commit adultery." It is great this man could talk this way and I wish every husband could make a similar declaration. But do you know what Paul would say this to man? He would say, (1 Cor 10:12) "be careful that you don't fall!" If this man isn't careful I am afraid he is headed for a fall.
Perhaps there are some teenagers here this morning who say to themselves: "I will never do drugs, I will never engage in pre-marital sex, I will never get drunk or drink and drive." That's great to hear and I hope every young person will make that commitment. However, says Paul, (1 Cor 10:12) "be careful that you don't fall!"
Perhaps there are some here this morning who say: "I will never cheat on my taxes. I will never engage in unethical business practices. I will never embezzle from the boss or the company." Again, that's great to hear and I hope every businessman and employee can say this. However, says Paul, (1 Cor 10:12) "be careful that you don't fall!"
Perhaps there are married people here this morning who say: "I will never get a divorce. I will never use pornography. I will never abuse my kids. I will never use physical force on my spouse." That too is wonderful to hear. However, says Paul, (1 Cor 10:12) "be careful that you don't fall!"
Perhaps there are Christians here this morning who say: "I will never stop attending worship services. I will always hold up and pray for my pastor. I will always take the time for family and personal devotions." Wouldn't it be fantastic if every home and family could make such a declaration? However, says Paul, (1 Cor 10:12) "be careful that you don't fall!"
There are so many other temptations I could mention: gambling, lust, slander, revenge, pride, greed, materialism, a critical attitude.
What I want you to realize, my brothers and sisters, is that there are so many temptations, so many come-ons, so many lures that Satan dresses up to look as attractive as possible. And, when we least expect it, when we aren't watching and being careful, he sticks them in front of us and we slip and fall or wander away from the truth. It happens so easily, so quickly, that we are not even aware of it many times.
Topic: SinThis is what happens with sin: you nibble yourself into being lost. So Paul says to us: (1 Cor 10:12) "be careful that you don't fall!"
There are lots of cattle ranches in the foot-hills. Every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost. Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, "Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost."
B In our Scripture reading Paul reminds us that the children of Israel thought they were safe from temptation. They were over-confident. They thought they were immune to temptation's allures. They thought they would never fall.
The Israelites based their confidence upon the blessings and privileges God had showered upon them. Says Paul:
(1 Cor 10:2-4) 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.Paul compares baptism to passing through the Red Sea and through the cloud of God's presence. So, in a manner of speaking, all of the Israelites had been baptized. And, Paul compares the Lord's Supper to eating manna and drinking water from the rock. The Israelites thought these experiences would preserve them. Having had such tremendous blessings they thought they could not possibly fall.
Yet, when temptation came, the Israelites fell and fell hard. Paul lists for us their sins: idolatry, sexual immorality, testing the Lord, and grumbling. Let me remind you of the details of these sins:
Idolatry. Paul thinks especially of the golden calf the Israelites made and worshiped while Moses was on the top of Mount Sinai with God (Ex 32). Remember what the people said? "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt" (Ex 32:4). As punishment, some 3,000 of the Israelites were put to the sword.
Sexual immorality. Paul thinks here of the apostasy of Peor in which Israel "began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women who invited them to the sacrifices of their gods" (Num 25:1-2). God killed 23,000+ by the plague.
Testing the Lord. Paul thinks here of the people's impatience as they traveled around Edom. They spoke against God and against Moses (Num 21). God sent venomous snakes among them to bite them and kill them.
Grumbling. This was a constant sin in Israel. They were forever grumbling, complaining, and whining: about a lack of water and meat; about hardships; about the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic they had in Egypt but couldn't have in the wilderness; about the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Ex 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Num 11:1; 14:2; 16:11,41; Deut 1:27). God responded with a destroying angel and with fire, earthquake, and holes that swallowed men alive.
All the Israelites were baptized into Moses. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. They had so many blessings and privileges as the people of God. Yet, when temptation came they fell – and they fell hard. The result: premature death and everyone over the age of 20 was denied entrance into the Promised Land (Num 32:11).
The lesson to be learned from Israel is the words of Paul in our text: (1 Cor 10:12) "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"
C Paul tells us that we are richer in spiritual blessings than the believers of the Old Testament. Upon us "the fulfillment of the ages has come" (vs 11). The Israelites could only look forward to the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. As Hebrews tells us,
(Heb 11:13) ... They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (cf 1 Pet 1:10-12)We, on the other hand, have seen Jesus come; we have seen Him finish His work as Redeemer; we have seen Him rise from the grave; we have seen Him ascend into heaven; we look forward to Him coming again as the triumphant King and Lord; and, upon us the Holy Spirit has descended. We are all baptized in a way the Israelites never were. We eat and drink from the Lord's Table in a way the Israelites never could. But. BUT, in spite of these wonderful blessings, we are not beyond temptation. Says Paul, "be careful that you don't fall!"
Just as with Israel, there are terrible consequences when we fall into temptation and sin. Israel suffered premature death. If we don't repent we suffer eternal death. Israel was refused entrance into the Promised Land. If we don't repent we are refused entrance into the Kingdom of God.
D I don't know what temptation you think is no problem for you. But whatever it is, be careful. There is no place in the Christian faith for spiritual pride and self-confidence.
"Be careful that you don't fall!" Paul says this because he knows that in this life and on this earth and in this flesh none of us can stand firm all the time – no matter how strong we may think we are. There comes a time when all of us fall into temptation. There comes a time when all of us fall short of the glory of God. No matter how careful you are, you will and do fall; that happens to everyone here – to you and to me. So, again, there is no place in the Christian faith for spiritual pride and self-confidence. Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that you are safe from any sin. Don't put any confidence in your ability to stand firm and resist Satan.
When it comes right down to it, there is only one thing we can have confidence in when we are tempted – the one thing we can have confidence in is the blood of Christ offered for us fallen sinners. When we fall into temptation, in spite of how careful we are, we can have confidence that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all our sin. That is our only confidence in temptation!
II How Be Careful
A Listen again to the words of the inspired Apostle in our text for this morning. He says,
(1 Cor 10:12) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
How do we keep ourselves from falling? Or, if we have fallen, how do we stop ourselves from falling again?
Consider what Jesus did when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Jesus said, with all 3 temptations, "Devil, it is written. It is written." That's what He said. "It is written." And every time the devil opened his mouth Jesus threw Scripture in his face. He came back at him again and again and He said,
Devil, it is written: Man shall not live on bread alone. It is written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test. It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. (Matt 4)He hit him over and over and over with the Scriptures. And guess what happened? The devil ran! And guess what you can do beginning this morning? You don't have to fall into temptation. You don't have to stay in your sin. Like Jesus, hit the devil with Scripture. Spend time with the Word, and the devil will run. Spend time with the Word and you can easier stand up to temptation.
This reminds me of what James says. He says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Jesus resisted the devil, and the devil was forced to leave.
Topic: SatanThe devil, like the coyote, cannot handle aggressive behavior. When we resist him and fight him, he flees away.
Subtopic: Duty of Resisting
According to the Denver Post, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays and electric fences. She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs -- fifty last year alone.
Then she discovered the llama -- the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama. "Llamas don't appear to be afraid of anything," she said. "When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they won't have anything to do with that ... Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take away that opportunity."
B Another thing you can do is pray. When you "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" "you can take your stand against the devil's schemes ..." That's what Paul says in Ephesians 6.
God gives His grace and His Spirit only to those who continually ask for them and groan inwardly. Prayer, you see, opens the flood gates of heaven. Prayer puts us in touch with heaven's power. It is by prayer that God's power flows into us – power that keeps us strong in temptation!
C A third thing we can do is keep watch or stay alert. The devil is very inventive. He comes to us as a wolf dressed up in sheep's clothing (Mt 7:15). He often masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). And, He does a superb job of dressing up evil as good. Unless we keep watch we will be fooled. Satan fools a lot of people when he calls abortion "pro-choice" rather than what it really is. Satan calls the lottery "fun" rather than gambling. Satan calls extra-marital sex a "fling" rather than adultery. Satan calls pictures of naked men and women "freedom of expression" rather than pornography. In each and every case he makes something bad sound like something good. So we need to keep watch. We need to watch for his attacks. Or else we will fall when temptation comes.
Topic: TemptationIn the same way, Christians often fail to identify the attacks of Satan for what they are. They fall asleep on the job without doing a thing about it.
Maybe you remember this?! In June 1989 a 19- year-old German named Mathias Rust created quite a stir when he flew a Cessna 172 airplane more than 400 miles into Soviet airspace. Rust's five-hour trip ended when he landed his plane near the Kremlin in Moscow.
Soviet officials then scrambled to find out how a teenager could slip past their air defenses. Apparently radar had picked up the craft, but it was presumed to be a Soviet plane so no attempt was made to identify it. Later, air force jets twice flew around the intruding Cessna without doing a thing.
D Ultimately, our strength in resisting Satan lies not in ourselves but in the Lord. Only when we are armed with His Word, and filled with His power, and infused with His Spirit can we begin to stand firm.
Listen again to the words of the inspired Apostle in our text for this morning. He says,
(1 Cor 10:12) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
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