Paul is challenging the Corinthians on wanting to have it both ways – of wanting to have both God and their idols. This is typical of human nature – wanting to have multiple gods – but you can’t just switch gods when it’s convenient; God has a right to us and a right to be our God because He made us and He is the only true God. We are made to worship Him alone – that’s where we find true life, that’s where life makes sense. Our relationship with God must be exclusive like a marriage – God won’t accept other idols, otherwise it means we don’t really love God.
We also can’t use the line of “being all things to all men” or trying to be culturally relevant as excuses for idolatry. We may think it’s harmless but we allow idols to have power over us when we worship them.
Paul goes back to the Exodus of God’s people to make his point. He says that they did the right “Christian” rituals – once saved by God out of Egypt, they had their own equivalents of baptism and communion – and yet God still overthrew them in the wilderness and all but 2 out of 2 million failed to fulfil their destiny, even though they still remained God’s people and didn’t go back to Egypt. We are foolish if we take that lightly.
Paul says that eternal life is something we need to “lay hold” of. We are saved – by grace – for a reason; we have a God-given purpose to fulfil. And the hurdle we fall at is tempation.
1. Be ready
- Prepare to be tested. Be careful, don’t be cocky, because testing will come. Wake up!
- Do not misunderstand or underestimate our enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 – our enemy, the devil, wants to destroy us. He is real and he will use anything at all – any desire or longing or thing we want – as bait to lure us away from God’s purposes for us.
2. “Special case” syndrome
- We so often make exceptions for ourselves, saying that we can handle certain temptations that others can’t, or that our circumstances excuse us from not giving into temptation because it is just to hard for us.
- But obedience to God is always hard and any temptation we face is one common to man.
3. Hold fast to Scripture
- This is the antidote to the devil’s lies, because when we give into temptation it means that we are believing the false promises of Satan and the false picture of the future that he presents.
- The devil casts doubt on God in our minds and makes us distrust Him – so we need to beat the devil’s promises with God’s promises.
- Whenever we sin, we are effectively saying that we don’t trust God, but we need to know that God is faithful and that the one who is trustworthy is the one who hung on a cross for our sake.
4. God is in control
- You are not “giving God a break” when you give into temptation – that is nonsense!
- God allows the temptation to happen – He knows how much we can handle and He always provides the grace we need to endure it.
- God does not tempt us, He tests us – to strengthen us. The devil tempts us to destroy us.
- God cares so much about us – He is our good Father.
5. It will end
- The testing won’t go on forever – God always has an escape (literally “outcome”) ready for us at the right time.
- The way to endure is to remember that God has an outcome prepared, that there is an end in sight.
- Sometimes we think we can’t go on any more, but God gives us the grace to just get through one day at a time.
- Jesus endured every temptation and endured the cross, and yet He really was abandoned – for our sake, and so that we can endure and reign in life with Him, never being forsaken.