11th Pentecost Sunday
August 5, 2018
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
1 Corinthians 10:1-5,11-13
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors 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 in the wilderness…
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5.11-13
“Believer, Be Careful…Pride Goes Before the Fall”
1) Be Warned: Life in Christ can be Lost
2) Be Assured: Our Powerful Lord Will Keep Us Safe at His Side
Dear disciples of Christ,
Running can be hazardous to your health. Did I read that right? Running can be hazardous to your health? Yes, above the picture of a jogger, an early WELS Evangelism campaign featured this same headline four weeks in a row, ‘Running can be hazardous to your health.’ I know, you who run marathons might immediately protest. You may explain how running exercises my muscles, tones my body; increases my stamina — truths I cannot refute. You might also warn me, if I do not use my muscles, I will lose my muscles. Again, I dare not disagree. But I trust your protest will not only subside but turn into full-fledged agreement as ads for the fifth & sixth week in this outreach campaign add a critical phrase, ‘Running on Sunday morning can be hazardous to your health.’
Obviously, these ads do not indict our member who, after we worship, will sometimes run to his home on the other side of Sioux Falls. The point people are to grasp is that running, a physically beneficial activity, can damage our soul if we run past church, run away from church, if we are running instead of worshipping Sunday morning. A warning to not let faith fall into disuse – not let our saving, eternal life-giving faith disappear – is a warning God issues again as he shows us Israelites the Lord saved from slavery in Egypt, shows us souls Moses was leading into God’s promised land; shows us people whose ‘bodies will (for the most part) be scattered in the wilderness’ rather than enjoy life in the promised land.
Be warned, ‘If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!’ What is God saying to you; to me? ‘Believer, be careful!’ Proverbially warning us pride goes before the fall, our Lord wants us to be aware our life in Christ can be lost. In fact, eternal life in Christ is lost, is thrown away more often than any of us want to admit as every imaginable evil deviously walks souls away from our Savior today – a catastrophic loss of life our media seldom mentions. One could cite statistics revealing a decline in people professing faith & a smaller number of souls worshiping in Christian churches every weekend in America – declines our average WELS congregation will also report as a little less drastic slide. We may easily remember friends confessing faith in Christ Confirmation Sunday, but never following through on — or in a few short years forgetting — their sacred promise to regularly hear our Savior’s truth; to persistently study & to apply our Lord’s Word in this life we live as a redeemed child of God.
Please understand, people falling away from faith today is nothing new, as if our society invented evil erasing righteousness when souls let themselves be separated from God’s life-giving, life-guiding truth. No new stories illustrating imminent spiritual danger need to be told. Scripture offers all the examples we need to be warned to never take faith for granted. ‘If you think you are standing firm’ — if you feel your faith is strong enough to cling to Christ from here into heaven — never forget Moses leading two million souls out of slavery in Egypt. Remember, of all the Israelites older than twenty who walk to safety through the Red Sea, only Joshua & Caleb will walk into the Promised Land forty years later.
Without a doubt, Paul points out, God did not fail. ‘I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers & sisters, our ancestors were all under the cloud; they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud & in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food; drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them. That rock was Christ.’ God graciously rescued every one of these Israelites. God led these souls to safety, appearing in a cloud by day; in a pillar of fire at night. Every Israelite is connected to Moses, their God-given guide. Everyone is walked through the Red Sea on dry ground God miraculously provides as he blows back the water into two walls. Every Israelite is given more than enough manna to eat every morning. Everyone drinks water which flows from a rock Moses strikes as God commands at Mt. Horeb. Discounting a legend that this rock follows the Israelites through the wilderness like a floating fountain Moses can turn on or off every place they pitch their tents, Paul clarifies the fact their blessings come because they are connected to Christ – they rely upon; they trust in their Lord’s promised Savior.
Could people freed from Egypt be in a better position than to have God giving them whatever they need in life as he leads them to his Promised Land? Could our life’s situation possibly be any better than what we enjoy today as we believers – set free from our inherited slavery to sin & Satan — are being led to heaven by our faith-working Lord God who promises he will provide whatever we really need to live in this world? Like Israelites leaving Egypt, our position as children of God is ideal. But our faith – forgiveness & eternal life in Christ — is not to be taken for granted. Paul reports, ‘Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of the Israelites; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.’
Why would the Lord put his people to death outside the Promised Land? God did not fail, but people fell away. Souls walked away. Souls ran away from God, refusing to faithfully follow their Lord’s instructions. Paul quickly catalogs examples ‘written down as warnings for us…to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.’ At Mt. Sinai, people ask Aaron to make a golden calf they can worship instead of worshiping God who covers this mountain in a cloud. When Israel’s ‘men begin to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, the Lord’s anger burns against them, killing twenty-three thousand.’[NUM 25] Impatient people complain as God walks them all the way around Edom instead of taking a quick shortcut through the center of this country. ‘The Lord sends venomous snakes who bite the people; many Israelites die.’[NUM 21] Korah, Dathan & Abiram try to lead people into the Promised Land as the Lord first turns them back into the desert to die because everyone except Joshua & Caleb believe ten spies saying the giants in Canaan are too strong for God to overpower. The Lord ‘opens the earth’s mouth to swallow these rebellious souls.’[NUM 16]
‘Examples written down in the Scriptures as warnings to keep us from setting our hearts on evil’ are a gift from God who cautions, ‘If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.’ You see, we saints ‘on whom the culmination of the ages has come’ – we children of God who live in the last days – face the same challenges Israel encounters in the wilderness. Are we ever tempted to worship gold instead of God? In our world, money often asks – money seems to insist – that our bank account’s bottom line be the deciding factor for decisions we make, not only as we bring offerings to support the Lord’s work in our church, but as we budget for fun, food, clothes, housing, etc. Again, are we ever invited to ignore the Lord’s plans for our sexual relationships – urged to follow; to supposedly satisfy my sinful flesh’s desires? In our society, every day!
Are we, like rebellious Israelites, tempted to complain about guidance God offers us in his Word? Are we encouraged to take the reins away from the Lord – try to run our own life rather than rely upon God to bless us when & where he desires? Absolutely! You & I, like souls constantly grumbling against Moses; grumbling against God while wandering in the wilderness forty years, too often – too easily – trust myself; rely upon my faith rather than rely upon our Lord Jesus to guide the life he gives us. Paul’s warning is always appropriate; is personally appropriate, ‘If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!’
Warning us we can lose our God-given life in Christ if we run away from God, if we walk away from worship; if we crawl away from our Lord’s Word of truth, inspired Apostle Paul at the same time assures us our powerful Lord plans to keep us safe at his side. ‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 you can endure it.’
Be warned! Be aware! Relying upon our own faith to follow our Lord’s instructions, we will fail; we will fall into sin again & again & again. Like Eve & Adam eating forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, like Israelites grumbling in the wilderness when nothing but manna is on the menu; like Peter denying rather than confessing a close connection to Christ when he is asked about Jesus as he stands around a warming fire out in the courtyard while Jesus is on trial inside, if we rely upon our own faith or faithfulness, we will fail miserably; we will repeatedly fall into sin because the devil is wiser, craftier, more powerful than we are. But when we are tempted; as faith is challenged, we need not fail – sinning is not necessary – because God’s power will lead us to confess Christ the way the Lord led Peter to fearlessly confess Jesus as the all-powerful Savior for every soul when Peter was later arrested by the same Jewish judges who crucified Christ.
Are we facing sexual temptations? Are money problems challenging our faithfulness? Is daily routine trying to make us take God for granted? Is success telling us we do not need God? Is a lack of success encouraging us to grumble about God not blessing us the way we want? Be assured, every temptation we face today is something God’s people have faced in the past. Every situation we encounter is one where our Lord has already uncovered a solution for souls who listen to his instructions. When it comes to sin, there is nothing new under the sun. There is no sin our Savior cannot forgive. There is no sin our loving Lord Jesus will not forgive because his atoning death redeems us from every evil.
Knowing God’s gracious forgiveness; experiencing Jesus’ saving love, will I run away from my Savior? What foolishness! Why would we ever take God for granted? Why let Satan slide the Lord out of our life by substituting something as seemingly healthy as a Sunday morning run through the park in place of worship? Why let the devil distract our attention or drop us into despair in any way when the Lord promises (option one) his wisdom – revealed in his Word — will either walk us away temptation or (option two) his strength will enable us to faithfully endure – will enable us to withstand without sinning – whatever evil situations we may be unable to avoid?