The following article are my sermon notes from the 03.27.11 sermon preached at my church. The text was 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:14. I hope this will serve you as you continue to grow in practically applying the gospel to your everyday life.
Introduction – Because we all have failed to be what God wanted us to be, we stand under the judgment of God. Even worse: we are incapable of changing our situation and escaping judgment. We are deeply flawed and broken. The human condition is pathetic because of sin. Even the good things we do are done through selfish motives and though they can be perceived or accepted as good, they are not accepted by God as an answer to the human dilemma.
According to the Bible, we are stuck. We are deeply flawed and because we are deeply flawed, the Bible demands that we pay for our misdeeds and flaws. This creates an unsolvable problem from a human perspective: the corrupted, finite cannot satisfy the Infinite, Holy God. However, the Bible offers hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection is the heart of the gospel.
The Father punished His one and only Son for our sins and now we have the privilege of trusting in the works of Christ (the gospel) rather than our own. If we do trust in Him, we can be saved from ourselves and the penalty and future punishment that all unbelievers will receive. This is what it means to be saved by grace. The Savior accomplished everything that was needed for us to be right with God.
The very good news for the “incapable” is that we only have to trust, believe, rest, and rely on this truth: my salvation is 100% in and on the person and work of Christ (the gospel). If that is the case for you or me, then we are not only born again, but we will be able to enjoy and serve God throughout eternity.
A Problem for the Christian
Because salvation does not remove the sin problem from our lives or our world, we can drift from the truths of the gospel. Although salvation and sanctification are 100% about the grace of God, we can begin to grow in some kind of entitlement mindset after our salvation. Basically, this is a distortion of what grace is. We might think “I deserve better than what I am receiving.” This kind of thinking can further lead to “I’m not happy with my circumstance, and I’m going to change it. Therefore, I will do what I need to do to change my circumstances, even if I sin. Besides, God will forgive me.”
Big idea from the sermon: The problem is, though I am free from the penalty of sin, I am not free from the consequences of my sin. Grace does not give me the freedom to live a selfish or self-indulgent life.
Yes, God will forgive me for all of my sins. He is a gracious God. This is one of the many benefits and privileges of being a Christian. However, if I sin, there are still consequences for my sin and God will not always remove the consequences of my self-centered thinking and/or living. The consequences of my selfishness can disqualify me from certain things (Read: blessings), even though I am a believer and I’m going to heaven.
The issue here is not whether I am saved, but whether I will enjoy the full benefit package that God holds out to any Christian who will trust Him regarding his salvation AND his sanctification.
Verses 1-4 – Israel was saved by grace. The main point, which Paul says five times, is “ALL.” They were constantly aware of God’s saving power and sustaining hand. They all experienced God’s provision in the wilderness. They “all” were baptized in Moses, meaning they all identified with the salvation that they saw, learned, or experienced through Moses. What they experienced was the “real presence of Christ.”
Though they predated the historical Christ on earth, they experienced God’s presence, power, and provision in the gospel of Christ. The God of the OT and the God of the NT was very much the same. (Note how the Bible tells one story, the gospel story as seen in Christ.)
Verse 5 – with most of the Israelites, God was not pleased with their presumption upon His grace, so He struck them down in the wilderness. They became presumptuous, complacent, grumbling, and dissatisfied with God’s methods and God allowed them to experience the consequences of their sin. This is what happened to them in the past, but here is the warning: It is what can happen to us now.
God is mercifully instructing us through Paul to not set our hearts on evil as the Israelites did. This begs the question: Where are we going to set our hearts? They set their hearts on the things that pleased them. They were acting like the spoiled children of a very rich man. They grew into an entitlement mindset. It was presumption on God’s goodness and mercy. Paul called their sin idolatry and he is telling us not to be idolaters when things do not go according to our plans, thoughts, hopes, dreams, or expectations. They began to drift from God and soon erected idols that were more reflective of their hearts.
Ultimately people are true to their real selves. Who you really are and what you do are consistently the same. This is your most authentic worship. You cannot serve two masters. The stronger master (Read: passion) will always displace the weaker master. Though the weaker master can rule from time to time, ultimately the stronger and more ensconced master will characterize you.
Ensconced means: an established, settled, and secret place that brings me comfort. Whatever this established and settled place is in the secret recesses of my heart, it will be the animating center of my life and it will be reflected before God and others.
What was reflected before God and others, as it pertained to the Israelites? Grumbling! They grumbled. They complained. This was a clue to their animating center, their true passion. Plus, they were spreading their idolatrous thinking to other people, which not only contaminated others, but it motivated God to judge them. He had no choice but to judge His saved children.
Charlie’s Application from the Sermon
Application Idea – Even though these people were saved by grace, the children of Israel were testing God rather than trusting God and they experienced the consequences of their lack of trust.
- Verse 11 – These things happened as an example for our instruction. Just because you experienced God’s grace initially or in the past in profound ways, it does not mean that things will always be the same. The application of grace should be a daily occurrence.
- Verse 13 – when your test comes, there is a way out of that temptation because God provides that way of escape. You can actually trust God in times of testing.
- Verse 14 – We are to flee idolatry?
Idolatry Defined – When you look to some created thing to give you what only God can give you, that is idolatry. An idol is anything in your life that is so central to your life that you can’t have a meaningful life if you lose it. Dr. Tim Keller, from a message preached at The Gospel Coalition.
WARNING – The solution to the problem of idolatry is not to trust your willpower: trying to defeat your weak will by your own strength.
KEY: Self-control in times of temptation is determined by what your deepest passions are.
- Do you know what your deepest passions are?
- Do you know what your deepest passions should be? (Hint: the gospel)
Your deepest passions will run your life. If your deepest passions are not the gospel, then your deepest passions will ruin your life. There is only one right answer as to what your deepest passion should be: It is the gospel.
Exhibiting self-control, which is how we respond to our situations is determined by our animating center. What is your animating center? My heart and your heart are always looking for one supreme object to rule us. What really rules you? Note, according to Keller’s implication of idolatry: the only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one. Are you experiencing the expulsive power of the gospel?
Solution to our dilemma: Therefore, we need to have our lives ordered by one supreme, expulsive affection.
Hebrews 12:1-3 paraphrased: Let us run the race by having our affection set on Christ (the gospel). If He, the MOST ULTIMATE JOY KNOWN TO MAN, is set before us, then we can run the race, endure all manner of hostility, not grow weary or fainthearted. The way of escape is the gospel (Christ). Keeping the cross before us is the key to enduring any kind of temptation.
Reflective Thoughts and Application Questions
Idolatry – When you look to some created thing to give you what only God can give you, that is idolatry. An idol is anything in your life that is so central to your life that you can’t have a meaningful life if you lose it. – Dr. Tim Keller
What is the key attitude that gives you a signal that you are idolatrous? Here are some hints: anxiousness, fear, impatience, frustration, gossip, inward-private-judgements, grumbling, cynicism, fretting…
Why are these attitudes “keys?” The reason is that all of them indicate a lack of trust (belief in God in moments of temptation). Whenever we are not trusting, then we are idolatrous. There is a dissatisfied craving in the soul that we are trying to satisfy in our own way, which is idolatry, which leads to unsavory consequences.
- When you are selfish or self-centered regarding a relationship, how have the consequences of your selfishness hindered that relationship? What do you believe that relationship could be if you were relating to this person like Christ, or Paul or how other mature Christians would relate with such a person?
- Grumbling – They began to drift from God and soon erected idols that were more reflective of their true selves. How do you think your life sinfully reflects your true self? Do you know? While there are many things we do that reflect the character of Christ, we can still “hold out” on certain issues and, thus, set up relationships or contexts that sinfully reflect our hearts. This “tests” Christ and brings negative consequences to us. It is like saying, “I know what I really need and want and God does not.” In such a case, we set-up contexts and relationships (idols) that best soothe our desires, even if those desires are contrary to the purposes of God. It is “setting your heart on evil.” It is saying, “I need something more than what Christ has done because He is not giving me what I want.”
- Are there ways and times in which you presume on God’s grace by doing what you want to do, even though the Spirit is guiding you in a different way?
- What can be some of the consequences for the Christian disobeying God? What have been some of the consequences you have experienced for not trusting God?
- Verse 13 – when that test comes, you have a way out of that temptation because God provides that way of escape. You can actually trust God in times of testing. What is the purpose of this? What is God trying to do for you? (HINT: grow in your affection and trust of Him, which will further fortify you in future temptations.)
- The big question: What is your true master, the one that typically wins the day in your heart? If it is not the gospel, then your animating center needs to change. How can you change your affection from whatever it is to Christ?