Faithlife Sermons

Trippin' on Idols

Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:59
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The Race

1 Corinthians 9:24–27 ESV
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
This last week Logan had his first track meet. He’s done a few of them now, but last week Wednesday was his first. He did so great! Running hurdles, 100m, 300m, threw the shotput. That looks fun.
One of his longtime friends, friends since middle school, Mason has been doing track for a long time.
Mason is faster. Mason has been doing it longer. Mason has helped teach Logan the ways of the hurdle.
But on that Wednesday, first track meet of the season… Logan smoked him. 3rd place overall, Mason got 4th.
Do you know why Mason lost that race?
He tripped. He caught his foot on the third hurdle. You can knock the hurdles, you can kick them over, one dude even famously just ran through them all. But Mason went up, caught his foot on the hurdle, tripped him up and he spilled to the ground.
He was a sport. He got back up and finished the race. But that one moment of inattention cost him the prize.


Paul has been resolving this dispute among the Corinthians. Can we eat meat sacrificed to idols?
Sure, if it isn’t an area of weakness for you… but be eagerly willing to sacrifice your own preferences out of love for your brother or sister. Paul is willing to sacrifice his cultural practices and preferences, his relationships, his reputation, his finances… all in the hopes that some might be saved.
He knew something about the gospel maybe we don’t understand yet. The Kingdom of Heaven erupts in celebration when one sinner is saved. We should all be willing to sacrifice anything and everything to see that happen.
To win the prize.
But be careful.
Hear Paul’s concern here?
He runs to win the prize, but it requires discipline:
1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)
27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Can you imagine?
There is danger here. We have alluded to it a few times. In all this talk about “weaker brothers”… what is the danger?
That you think yourself strong. And in your arrogance, you rely upon your own strength.
That you know yourself weak and pretend to strength. Too embarrassed to admit your weakness before others.

Consider the Israelites

They had every spiritual advantage. The miracles of the Exodus, God making himself known in incredible power. It’s obvious. God giving them His name, God caring for them through the desert. Miraculous mana, water from rocks… with all that, they still fell into sin.
1 Corinthians 10:1–13 (ESV)
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
Remember that? Cloud by day, fire by night.
2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 and all ate the same spiritual food,
That’s manna
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
The rock, Moses struck it and the water flowed. Both the bread and the water, here a type for Christ. Pointing forward to the bread of life and the living water that is, Christ himself.
With all of those advantages, all of that spiritual evidence...
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
With every advantage, they fell into idolatry, making idols to seek to control God, to understand him, to manipulate him, or even to replace.
They fell into sexual immorality, into grumbling, into revelry. These are different sins… but all sin has one root.
What was it Satan said to Eve? “You shall not surely die, but you will be like God...”
Idolatry, worshipping our selves, worshipping our desires, worshipping an addiction or external pleasure, or worshipping an actual other god (aka demon). Idolatry is at the heart of every sin. We are choosing something else as god.
We are putting something else on the throne of our life.
That’s what the Israelites did. Even though they “should” have been mature. And righteous. Even though they had seen every evidence of God at work in them. What did they do?
7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”
8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,
10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our
instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

The Limits of Temptation

1 Corinthians 10:12–13 (ESV)
12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
So he warns us. BEWARE!!! Beware that you fall!
You are running along, jumping the hurdles.. Because you are a “mature” Christian. You are one of the “strong ones.” You don’t have to worry about hurdles, that’s for the weaker Christians.
That’s a lie, isn’t it? How many incredibly strong Christians were caught out in sin, caught by it, entangled in it… and fell hard!
They thought they were strong where they were weak...
They knew they were weak and pretended to be strong
Either way… that’s a failure. It led to their fall. By the grace of God, they are forgiven in Christ if they repent of their sins… but it’s still usually the total and complete end of their ministry.
Be careful, you “strong” Christians. Paul himself says he has to pay attention, to discipline himself that he himself not be disqualified. He knows he has weak spots… and the enemy will absolutely attack him where he is weak.
Satan knows your weakness.
We have an adversary that seeks to destroy you. If he can, he will lull you to sleep, keep you apathetic and powerless. That’s his favorite. And it is working well in general with the Western Church.
If you are awake and alive and effective for Jesus?… then he is going to seek to bring you down. and he will attack you where you are weak.
But take heart… we stand on this promise.
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The word “temptation” here could be translated “test.” Same word in the Greek. The difference between a “temptation” and a “test” is what? It’s all about the intention and the outcome.
Satan is seeking to tempt you… because he wants you to fail.
God may allow Satan to test you… he knows you can succeed.
In fact, what does He say here? God guarantees that you can succeed.
God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.
When you are in the midst of temptation, that is a word of hope. You can resist. You can flee temptation, or fight it, or endure it, stand against it… there is always the “way of escape.”
When you are tempted, that is hope.
Here’s the other side of that coin.
When you fall into temptation… there is no excuse.
You can’t say, “well, there was an Internet popup, and I accidentally clicked on it, and fell into old cycles of pornography and sexual addiction. The Internet made me do it!”
Nope, no excuses, God made sure you weren’t tempted beyond your ability to endure.
You can’t say “all my friends were doing it...” or “the box of girl scout cookies was just so good...” or… pick the excuse you make for your weakness.
You know what it is.
In the midst of temptation we have hope: God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure. To resist. To choose righteousness.
In the aftermath, all our excuses are out the window. We only have one option: confess our sins and repent and He is faithful to forgive and restore us to then go and sin no more.
And whatever your weakness is, there’s an aspect of idolatry to it. Who is on the throne of your life while you’re choosing sin? Hint: it isn’t God. It isn’t Jesus. You aren’t listening to the Holy Spirit in that moment. You’re listening to something else.
1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
Now there is another pattern here at play. Knowing that God is more powerful than Satan… and that the things of God, the forgiveness of Jesus is more powerful than any sin… what if I play this game:
I’ll sin however I want. Say I go to the temple, join in the sacrifice, that way I get to follow my old patterns with my old friends. I still get to do the things in the world with the world.
Then, I’ll come to church and get cleansed of all that. Forgiven. I’ll take communion and that will be like the antidote to the idol worship.
This is what the Corinthians were doing!? Crazy? Don’t we do the same thing? We justify sin and patterns of sin like this all the time.
1 Corinthians 10:15–21 ESV
15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
There’s a sure rule of thumb for you. You can’t drink the cup of demons and the cup of the Lord.
That is to say, you can’t say that you following Jesus as “Lord” if you are constantly turning around and living and acting, purposefully, willfully, in ways that break his heart. In direct disobedience to him!!!
That’s not what “Lord” means. That’s not how this works!
That is idolatry too. But in a manipulative way, as if we can use God like a palate cleanser to wash the stink of sin from our mouth and be ready for the next thing.
1 Corinthians 10:22 ESV
22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
No. That’s not what your Christian freedom is for. That’s not what you are called to, what you are redeemed for, what you are freed for, what you are created for.
What is it?
To love God.
To love others.
How simple is that? All the way simple. That is what your life is for… and what your Christian freedom is for. So we are to engage, in every moment, in every action, in every decision, in this process:
Is this loving to God? Glorifying to him? Pleasing to him? In obedience to Him? I’m saying the same thing every time. Is this loving to Him?
Is this loving to others? If it is truly loving to God it will always be loving to others… sometimes it’s easier for us to see what is loving to others because they are more like us. That helps us understand God’s law, His righteousness...
And so Paul pulls all the last three chapters together here in application. How does this apply to eating food sacrificed to idols???
I make absolutely sure I am loving God, worshipping Him alone, He alone is on the throne of my life.
I make absolutely sure I am loving others, willing and eagerly sacrificing my preferences or even my freedom for their good.
1 Corinthians 10:23–30 (ESV)
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
Powerful principle.
24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—
29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?
30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
How practical is that? Eat it without questioning its origin. What do you care? But if someone makes a point of pointing out where it’s from… clearly it’s important to them, either to test you, or accuse you, or it’s an area of weakness for them. So then skip it.
Boom. Solved. Here is the bottom line:
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Love God. Love others. Love God. Love others. Love God. Love others.
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
One way we do that? Make sure what you are doing is loving to others.
1 Corinthians 10:32–33 ESV
32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Again, the goal, the most thing we can possibly do for others is to bring them the gospel, the good news.
Paul sets the example, the athlete striving for victory, disciplining his body to run the race well. And he invites us to follow:
1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Running for the Prize

So, Christian. You strong Christian you.
What do you need to watch out for?
Where is Satan tempting you? Where is your weakness?
DANGER: If you are pretending you don’t have any… you are in danger. There should be someone in this room who knows what your struggles are and is holding you accountable to it. It doesn’t have to be everybody, that’s usually not a good idea. But you should have men and woman of God who know the real. Who have permission, invitation, to press in, to ask hard questions, to get real answers.
For your own spiritual health, you need that. That will not only help save you from tripping… that is someone who can help pick you up and keep running the race.
Someone should know that you have a hard time stopping when you start drinking. Or eating. Or stealing. Or lying.
Someone should know that you are having sex outside out marriage. That isn’t God’s best for you… and no matter what the world tells you, that isn’t the best for your significant other and any future possible marriage. God is clear on this. He knows how this works.
On that note:
DANGER: If you are justifying sin to yourself, figuring “God forgives me anyway” or I’ll just wash off the sin-stink at church. God wants more for you than that! That’s trying to trick Jesus by calling him Lord one day and living for yourself the next. You can’t drink the cup of demons and the cup of Jesus. It doesn’t work that way. You are hurting yourself and others, even if you don’t want to see it right now.
Find a brother or sister you trust. Confess your sin. Hear the forgiveness of Jesus, the unconditional love and forgiveness… and the command to “go and sin no more.”
Hear the hope: he won’t tempt you beyond your ability to endure. To resist. To flee idolatry in every form...
So that you can love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, and strength.
So that you can love others as yourself.
So that in all things:
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Let’s glorify Him now, together.
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