God took the Israelites out of Egypt, they passed through the Red Sea, they went through the cloud, ate food and drank water that God provided for them. God took them through all of this, and what did they do? They worshiped other gods, they fell into grievous sin. They whined and complained. They were fearful and faithless.
These things happened as examples for us. They are illustrations, typologies, for us to learn from. You see, we've passed out of death and into life. We've been baptized. We've been fed spiritual food and drink. And yet, many of us act like the Israelites did. No faith, but lots of fear. No gratitude, but lots of sin.
God was not pleased with the Israelites' behavior, and they died in the wilderness. Out of the 600,000 men that came out of Egypt, how many entered the promised land? 2,000? 200? 20? Just two Joshua and Caleb.
1Cor. 10:11-12 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Are you standing today? Are you feeling pretty secure in your salvation, regardless of your actions? Take heed, lest you fall. Jesus said,
Matt. 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."
I'm not trying to get you to be eternally insecure in Christ. But if your life is characterized by habitual sin that you're not dealing with, examine yourself. "Am I a new creature in Christ?" "Am I denying myself and following Jesus?" "Could I be one of those people who call Jesus 'Lord, Lord,' but He doesn't know me?" The book of Hebrews says,
Hebr. 3:12-14 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
Is your life characterized by repentance and good works? Or is it characterized by lawlessness, by habitual sin? Be concerned.
Now, our gut reaction is to answer, "I'm a Christian. I love Jesus. But the temptations I'm dealing with are too intense! You don't understand how hard it is to fight them off." The next two verses have your answer.
Some of us struggle in specific areas of temptation. We are slaves in subjection to a master our flesh. But that old excuse of saying, "It's too difficult. I just can't," is NEVER valid. Because there is no temptation that you're dealing with that doesn't have a way of escape.
Matt. 16:24-26 Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?"
Yes, that denial of self, beating our body to make it our slave, is very difficult. But it's not impossible. There are two very clear steps lined out in the Word of God to bring victory over temptation in your life. The first is "be prepared."
Your spirit and your flesh are constantly at war with each other. Galatians 5 says,
Gal. 5:16-17 ...Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
When it comes time to face temptation, what will decide the outcome is your preparation. Your spirit needs to be fed a healthy well-balanced diet from the "four spiritual food groups." It's what the early church lived on:
Acts 2:42 And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Apostles' teaching: Are you in the Word? Waking up in the morning with devotions? Driving in the car with Bible teaching? Attending church regularly to travel through the whole counsel of God together with us?
Fellowship: Are you fellowshipping with other believers? Not just on Sunday mornings, but spending your time outside of church with them as well? Have them over for dinner? Spending a day with them up at the lake. Taking your lunch hour to fellowship with a brother or sister? If you're not spending the time with someone who will build you up, you're spending it with someone who'll tear you down.
Breaking of bread: Are you regularly partaking of communion during worship? We are instructed to do it often. Coming to a regular remembrance of the cross and crucifixion of Christ is very essential to a victorious walk.
Prayer: How can you be claiming to know God if you never spend any time with Him? Pray, pray, pray!
If you are regularly feeding your spirit instead of your flesh, you will be learning to control the desires of your flesh. Prepare in advance for victory over the temptation.
Now, let's get specific. What is your major temptation? Do you feel addicted to it? Pornography, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, television, food? Jesus said,
Mark 9:43-47 ."..If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire... And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell... And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell."
Cut it off. It's that simple. A very big temptation of mine is to watch too much television. I find that when I have 75 channels to choose from, I waste hours watching show after show. First "Gilligan's Island" is on. Then there's a nature show about the feeding habits of crocodiles. Then a documentary about the history of rubber bands. I could waste my entire day sitting there. That's a major temptation. So how have I dealt with it? When we moved into our new house, there was cable running to nearly every room in the house. I knew that each day would be a temptation to call the cable company and get it turned on. So the first home improvement I did was to rip out every foot of coaxial cable in my home. I cut it off right at the box. I don't ever struggle with that temptation anymore. I've cut it off.
What's your temptation? Where do you fall into sin? Are you struggling with cigarettes, alcohol, or food that's bad for you? Pornography? Sports? Soap operas? Catalogs of expensive things that you don't need but have to buy? Get it out of the house! Pitch it! Cut it off! How long do you think you can win a war when you've got the enemy living right in your house?
This section of Scripture is a sobering challenge for us to look at our lives in Christ. Paul brought his flesh into subjection to guarantee that he had full assurance of his salvation. Being sold out to sin instead of being sold out to salvation leaves a big question mark on your life, as to whether or not you are truly a Christian. Don't be in that gray area that's a miserable existence. A fruitful life is to have sure footing. Struggling with sin? Be prepared in advance, and cut off what's tempting you.
In that culture, eating with someone was to become a part of them to be a sharer with them. Think about it: If I were to take a loaf of bread, and break it into pieces, we would each be eating our own piece of bread, but we would be eating the same loaf. The same bread going into YOUR body is the same bread that's going into MY body. Also, in that culture, there was frequently a bowl in the middle of the table with some sort of dip or soup. And we would be dipping into that same bowl sharing the same soup. The same soup going into you is going into me.
This was of course a big deal to the Jews, especially when Jesus came and was eating with all kinds of strange people.
Matt. 9:10-11 And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"
It was bad enough in their eyes to be associating with these people, but to eat with them was to become a part of them. That is why also in the Scripture we are told that there was a problem that Peter had. You see, the Lord had revealed to Peter that the Gentiles were also to be reached with the gospel, and he began to reach out to them. But Jews didn't associate or eat with Gentiles. So, there's Peter eating with them, but when some legalistic Jews came around, Peter started to wimp out. And others followed Peter's example and stopped eating with the Gentiles as well. The Apostle Paul had a problem with that and got in Peter's face about it. You can read the account in Galatians 2.
So, to eat with someone was in a sense to become one with them. In communion, we're all drinking from the same bottle of grape juice, we are all eating from the same box of Matzo we are becoming one body IN Christ. We also are becoming one body WITH Christ, for we are sharing in His body, in His blood. There is a supernatural sharing, partaking, partnering with Jesus when we partake together of Him and with Him.
Now Paul reminds them of Israel itself. When they would bring the sacrifice of a peace offering to God on the altar, God is partaking of that. Remember that the smell of the offering was a pleasant aroma to God as He breathed it in through His nostrils. Then a portion of the meat and bread was eaten, and thus that same thing that happens when we share a meal with someone would happen supernaturally with God. What God had taken in, they too were taking in. They were sharers in the altar.
So Paul makes his point if we are partnering with the people we partake with, and if we are partnering with Christ in Communion, and if we are partnering with God at the altar, then we are partnering with an idol when we knowingly eat the meat sacrificed to it.
And although an idol might physically be just wood or stone, behind that statue is a demonic being. Back in Deuteronomy 32, Moses was reviewing the apostasy of Israel. He said,
Deut. 32:16-17 "They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known...
Sacrificing to an idol is to sacrifice to a demon. I admit that oftentimes, it is hard to imagine the spiritual world that exists. Angels and demons living and existing in a realm that we can't see into. But that doesn't mean it doesn't. We can understand four dimensions, but science has proven the existence of at least ten dimensions. And in our four-dimensional bodies, we can't see into them.
That is by the way one reason why there is no such thing as a true atheist. An atheist is one who claims to have examined everything and has proven that there is no God. But there are at least six dimensions which the self-proclaimed atheist has not explored yet! He cannot possibly have examined everything.
So there is a spiritual realm of which we are not typically aware. But the Bible tells us,
Eph. 6:12 ...Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Physically, an idol is just a hunk of stone or wood. But spiritually, there is a demon behind that idol. And if you are eating things that you know have been sacrificed to, and shared with, a demon, how can you eat it? You become a partaker of the table of demons!
And as you partake of the cup and table of demons, you're provoking the Lord to jealousy. Remember that God said,
Exod. 34:14 ...you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God...
Don't be two-timing the Lord of the universe you aren't stronger than Him.
The expected argument goes back to "I thought since I'm forgiven, I can do anything I want. I can get away with anything I want." Paul reminds them again,
1Cor. 10:23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
Yes, if the blood of Jesus has cleansed you from all sin, you can do anything, but a lot of that "anything" will make you spiritually bankrupt. Yes, you have freedom in Christ, but if you exercise that freedom with things that don't edify you, build you up, then they will tear you down.
And ultimately, Paul says, "Forget about this 'freedom' argument! You should be focusing on loving your neighbor, not yourself. You should be concentrating on helping your brothers and sisters in Christ, not helping yourself to carnal pleasure."
So Paul gives them practical advice in how to deal with this meat issue. His basic premise is, "Ignorance is bliss! What you don't know won't defile you. If you think it's just plain ol' meat, then it is." He reminds them of this with a quote from Psalm 24:
Ps. 24:1 The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.
"Yes," he tells them, "go ahead and buy meat at the meat market, that's fine, just don't ask where it came from. And you can go ahead and eat the meat at someone's house but just don't try to find out where they got it. But if you do find out that it was sacrificed to an idol, don't eat it." That seems strange, doesn't it? Why is it okay to eat it in ignorance, but not once you know? He tells us that it is for the sake of the conscious of the other person.
Last Friday, there was a Halloween party at my work. I don't celebrate Halloween it's my conviction that I am to have nothing to do with it. One of my co-workers came in to say, "Hey, the party's started, come on downstairs." I told her that I didn't do Halloween. "How about just coming down for lunch?" "No, thanks" Why did I refuse? Would I have been defiled had I gone to eat lunch? Don't I have the freedom in Christ to eat a free lunch regardless of the decorations in the room? Sure. But for the sake of conscience, I didn't. Not my conscience, but theirs. Everyone there who would have judged me as a Christian. "Oh, look at this strong Christian, making a stand against all things evil, and here he is at our Halloween party!"
Like it or not, as a Christian, your freedom is judged by other people. And as a Christian, you are slandered when you participate in things that the world knows Christians shouldn't. You have total freedom to walk into a rated R movie. But if you've been sharing Christ with someone, telling them about the wickedness of the world, and how it separates you from God, they have just pegged you as a hypocrite, and you've seriously hindered the opportunity to share with them again.
The people in Corinth knew that Christianity condemns idolatry. And if your unbelieving host says, "Hey, this meat was sacrificed to an idol" and you keep on eating it, you've given him opportunity to slander and judge you and your Jesus as hypocrites.
So, the rule of freedom is: whatever you do, do it with the motivation of glorifying God. If you eat, eat to glorify God. If you see that not eating would glorify God, then do that instead.
Paul makes himself the example. Having total freedom, yet giving so much of it up. Having so many opportunities to seek his own profit, abandoning them so that others could be saved. And he says,
1Cor. 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
The victorious Christian walk is not about freedom and liberty. It is about imitating Christ. And since we can't see Jesus physically, Paul says, in the areas that I imitate Christ, imitate me. That's practical advice. And I give that to you as well. The book of Hebrews tells us to be
Hebr. 6:12 ...imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
I love to be in the Word of God. A day doesn't go by that I'm not reading or studying it. Jesus loved and studied the Word too. So, imitate me as I imitate Christ. Don't imitate me in everything, for I am a poor example of Christ in many areas. But look around you. One man exemplifies the meekness of Christ strength under control. Imitate him as he imitates Christ. One woman is a servant, much like Jesus was a servant. Imitate her as she imitates Christ. Another always has such joy, just like Jesus did. Imitate them as they imitate Christ. John the apostle wrote,
3John 11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
Look at the people around you, find the areas that they imitate Christ in, and imitate those characteristics. Practical, real-world examples of living Christianity.