Ponder the Past
Your Failures and His Faithfulness
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
It is the people we hang out with that shape us as a community. All people need community. We all came from families. No person has ever been born independently of himself. We are made from and made for community. Community shapes us. Because of this, parents often want to pick their child’s friends. You’ve seen it when you hang around with a group of people long enough that you begin to do what they do, good and bad. I worked in the shipping department in a warehouse with a couple of friends. We were a community together inside that community. As the other employees swore almost every sentence, you can imagine what happened to my community of friends.
Here’s the question for us to consider this morning. What kind of community are we at Grace? Are we willing to do what it takes to make this community flourish and grow?
One church in the Bible struggled with their concept of community. It was not the pagans or the Jews, it was the Christians. Paul started a church in the city of Corinth. Corinth itself was a cut-throat city with a reputation like Las Vegas. Every two years, half the Greek world would show up there to watch the Isthmian Games (held in the off years of the Olympics). There were chariot races, boxing, wrestling, and a no-rules fighting event called Pankration. Notice that none of them were team sports, but games where individuals triumphed. This spirit bled into the church.
Part of the attitude in the church was “I can do, say, think what I want. You can’t tell me what to do.” Others viewed it as a club where the individuals would check in and out. They would come to get their meal, baptism, grace, and love from Jesus without showing much love to one another, unless it would ultimately benefit the individual. That attitude doesn’t work in family. Paul uses a history lesson to help bring this church to their senses.
1 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. Paul mentions a familiar story to them, the Jew’s dramatic escape from Egypt. The Pharaoh let them go but then chased after them to get them back. The camp of people was trapped between a great body of water on one side and one of the most fierce armies in the known world on the other. God separated the Red Sea so the people could walk through, a wall of water on both sides. They were under a cloud (which God provided as a guide). From this, Paul makes a parallel to baptism. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. In a sense, their passing through the sea was a baptism for them. They came out free from the enemy on the other side. As in our baptism, we are free from sin and Satan.
Notice how he continues to stress their all-ness, community. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; At this point I would be wondering, “Paul where are you going? God gave the people manna to eat and even water to drink. But that was real food, not spiritual food.” Paul finally explains. for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. All followers of God are in the same family. Christ, the Savior who was promised long ago, is the same leader of Old Testament times and New Testament times. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Why? Paul continues.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Paul is telling them, “Stop taring each other apart as you are doing. It didn’t work for them, it is not going to work for you.” Example 1: 7 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 revelry.” About 30 days after the people were saved from the Red Sea, the influence of the community plunged them into worshiping a false God. Example 2: 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. This time the influence of a different nation that practiced prostitution in their worship destroyed their community. Example 3: 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. The grumbling spirit of the people spread like a disease that led to God sending poisonous snakes to attack the people. Example 4: 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. They grumbled about the leaders, they grumbled about the food, they grumbled about the changes, but ultimately, they were grumbling against their faithful God.
Why point out all these examples? 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. “It is time to shape up. Let these serve as warnings before it destroys the community completely. It doesn’t have to end poorly.” Paul anticipated a rebuttal, “Sure it happened to them, but that would never happen to us.” 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! If you really think that you are immune to these problems, think again. This sounds like the parent’s repeated warning. “I don’t want you hanging out with them because you will start to be like them.” To which the child objects, “Ah, come on. I would never do that. I know they will, but not me.” 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. It is all the same sin repackaged for a new generation.
Some of you are grumblers. You grumble against change, about people, about circumstances that are out of your control. Some of you influence others towards sinful behavior. Others of you are influenced by the sinful behavior of those around you. You know that one solution is to leave the group you are in but you just don’t want to leave. Others of you think about this church as a club, kind of like a bird watchers club. In a group setting, one birdwatcher says to the other, “Why are you dating him?” You say, “Let’s get back to bird watching. I came here for one thing and that is not for you to talk to me about my life.” All these attitudes and behaviors are community destroyers.
How do we stop the cycle of destruction? We don’t. God does. 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 an [outcome] so that you can endure it. The faithfulness of God through history. In Egypt, the faithful God released them from slavery. At the Red Sea, the faithful God provided an escape. When the snakes attacked, the faithful God told Moses to form a bronze serpent so that anyone who looked at it could be healed and live. God faithfully sent leaders and messengers who were true to his word to warn them of the dangers of sin and call them back to God. God was faithful to his promise of a Savior whose sacrificial love would change a world of selfish individuals, you and me, into a community, a family.
In WWII, some of the Japanese captured Scottish soldiers and forced them to build a railroad through the jungle on the River Kwai. One prisoner named Ernest Gordon, wrote a book about life as a POW. The group of prisoners, who at first banded together, later degenerated to barbarous behavior, “the law of the jungle” as Gordon recalled it. It was every man for himself and the prisoners were terrible towards one another. But one afternoon something happened. A shovel went missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot.
Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. There had been a miscount at the first check point where the one man died for the group. This one act of sacrifice changed them to act as community.
Your brother, Jesus Christ, came to give up his place in heaven so we could have it, he came to give up his sonship so that we could be a family. Let Christ and his sacrificial love shape our community. Every Christian needs this community. We are a family that is not just a club. In a family you play, eat, study, walk, talk together. It is the people we hang out with that shape us. It is not just coming to class and services, it is about getting to know people. Be in a group of friends inside the church where you are playing, recreation, studying, living together. We are family. Let Christ’s sacrificial love shape who we are and the impact we make on others. Amen.
Pastor Josh Bishop – March 24, 2019.