Saturday 23 March 2019

The Epistle for Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent, is from 1 Corinthians 10 v.1/13

Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church to give guidance and encouragement. In the previous chapter he defended his authority as an Apostle uniquely and especially chosen from God, against those who wished to discredit him. He claimed he kept himself strictly controlled lest he failed in his mission. If he fell into temptation, he would lose his Apostleship and the divine authority given him, and there would be nothing left for him, and people could be led astray.

Every Christian should remember when we identify and claim to be followers of Christ, we are his ambassadors in this world, and if we act in any way at all which is contrary to what is contained in the New Testament, we are creating opportunities for people to mock the Christian faith.

When we act in a way which is stated to be wrong in the Bible, we lose the support and strength of Christ, and like Samson who thought he could do what he liked, when in fact he lost the strength God had given him, he ended up a broken man.

Whatever attributes we have in charm, personality or academic ability, if we lose the presence of Jesus, we are indeed lost. As Christians we have great privileges and promises, but these demand great responsibility.

As we come to the 10th Chapter he is talking of giving up personal rights for the sake of the gospel and uses the example of Israel’s experience in the wilderness as a warning to the Corinthians. He is pointing what can happen when people hear God’s Word and do not let it relate to them.

Whilst most of the Corinthian people were Gentiles, he sees a continuity from the lessons in the Old Testament and Israel. Paul is outlining the love God had for his people Israel by providing protection, guidance and food and drink whilst they were in the wilderness

The reference to the cloud is what God provided that led a generation of Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and the sea is the Red Sea which God used for Moses to part so the people of Israel could escape and the Egyptians drowned in. These were symbols of the protection God gave to his people and the guidance by which he led them.

God also provided food and drink by sending manna from heaven and water from a rock and Christ is now the rock who answers all our needs. However, because of their disobedience and grumbling against God, the Israelites having experienced God’s goodness, were not permitted to see the Promised Land.

Emphasis is placed on the word ‘all’; all under the cloud, all passed through the sea and all were baptized unto Moses.All who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour have been saved, and all are under God’s protective hand. We have that ‘rock’ to cleft and rest on and the rock in the Bible is in fact Jesus Christ.

As Christians we should as the hymn says bind together, united in what we share, cleansed by the blood of Christ, sustained by the amazing grace of God. We can go to most places on this earth and meet with men and women of different race and colour, and as children of God see each other as brothers and sisters with the same (heavenly) Father.

We too have been warned just as strongly as the Israelites were. The whole history of Israel shows people who enjoyed the greatest gifts that God could give, were also subject to temptation.

The Bible states God will not lead us into temptation, but we all face temptation every day in various and multiple ways. We do not worship idols of wood or metal, but anything which we are prepared to give precedence over worship becomes an idol.

There is the temptation to follow the false teachers who encourage people to follow their own desires for God will forgive,thereby
abusing God’s mercy.

In today’s modern culture there is the constant pressure to engage in all manner of sexual activity based on the claim we are in 2019 and standards have changed and all is permissible in our age.

Paul refers to twenty-three thousand people dying after indulging themselves is sexual immorality This should be a warning to Christians who engage and behave in immoral ways, which the Church at the highest level is condoning and embracing

Paul ends this passage with the warning that temptation is part of life, but it is not meant to make us fall, but rather to test us so we come out stronger.

Temptation may come but there is always a way of escape, not by any ordinary way, but the mercy and grace of God.As we reflect on our lives, we may find ourselves recalling the way we slipped away from the course we should have followed, and how many times have we said the two saddest words, ‘if only’. I find myself saying it more and more as I look back. Sometimes we take the wrong decision, other times we act as we later realized was wrong, but once acted we may have lost so much.

God will not take temptation out of your life, but will not let you be tempted more than he knows you can bear, but he may let things happen to you to show how fragile you are without his help.

The Bible states, that when you come to Jesus to drink, you don’t just get a single drink, you get rivers of living water will flow into you, you will never have to search again for a source of satisfaction for your soul. Jesus never leaves.

May you grow in grace and may rivers of living water flood into your life.

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