Idolatrous Assimilation

Introduction: Letter update.

In the beginning of I Corinthians 7 Paul begins to address several concerns the Corinthians had questions about from a letter they wrote to him. In I Corinthians 8 Paul began to address what they should do about food sacrificed to idols. Apparently there was a debate on whether or not the Corinthians should eat it. It would seem the legalistic Christians were saying to all the Corinthian Christians had to stay away from food sacrificed to idols. Paul brilliantly explains the simple answer but also makes them look deeper than the simple shallow answer. Paul is going to do the same thing here.

 

In our text today Paul is not addressing the legalist, but the antinomians. These were the people who did want to consider the well being of others when expressing their “religious freedom.” Their desire was not to be different from the world but generally look like the world. We need to keep this in mind as we read our text because Paul will use OT illustrations to demonstrates the dangers of these practices.

 

Theme: The everyday stuff of life is helping to grow or wither our affections for Christ.

 

1. Idolatry is only dug out through toiling humility—I Cor 10.1-13.

Paul uses language in I Cor 10.1-4 to immediately make connections between the redeemed of the OT and the redeemed of the NT. Paul explains how the crossing of the Red Sea was a simple of baptism. The manna they ate in desert to help sustain their lives is similar to the bread we eat during communion that symbolizes our sustaining bread from heaven. And if all that was not clear, then Paul makes it very clear in I Cor 10.4, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” The point Paul is trying to make in these first four verses is the Israelites of the Exodus experienced the power of God’s salvation.

 

But even though they experienced the power of God’s salvation, even though they regular experienced His life sustaining power in the wilderness, they still turned from Him toward worthless idols through worthless practices. Paul begins to set the stage for his warnings in I Cor 10.5-6. This means Paul sees similarities to what the Corinthian Christians are experiencing and what the Israelites experienced in the wilderness. These warnings should have bearing on our lives as well (I Cor 10.11-13).

 

According to I Cor 10.7 Paul believes the root of the Israelites problems was idolatry. This means he believes the root problem among the Corinthian Christians is idolatry. And what do you think our root problem is? Yes, idolatry.

 

And for those of you who are tempted to believe you are not idolatrous let me briefly explain what idolatry is. It is simply “inordinate desires.” Whenever we have desires they are not in their proper order we become idolatrous. And according to the Bible whenever we desire something more than God we have inordinate desires. Psalm 16 tells us there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forever more” in God. Therefore, God commands us to delight ourselves in Him for our good. When we pursue lesser joys we are pursuing lesser joys. And if we are not careful that cannot only lead to lesser joy, but our own destruction.

 

I Cor 10.7 has a quote from Exodus 32, and if you know your OT well that is the place where the Israelites made the golden calf. Now let me explain the depths of what was happening there, because they were not just making an “idol” but continuing to worship like they were Egyptians. The golden calf was a practice they learned in Egypt. When you did not know what your “god” looked like you made a golden calf, so you could worship your god. They made the idol and had a feast. Paul wants the Corinthians to see the danger of continuing to worship like the world. If God says you are not to worship me that way than you cannot do it. Some of us believe we are worshiping God with our finances, career choices, dating life, parenting, in our marriages, but are you sure? Have made sure you are checking life choices with the Word of God?

 

I Cor 10.8 tells us about a Israelite man who married a pagan woman in Numbers 25. God was so angry a plague came over Israel. Before we are quick to dismiss this, what in the world have you been aligning your heart with? What are the things of the world that are taking our hearts slowly away from one true love? For some of us that is a person. That is why this man was not aloud to marry a pagan woman, because God knew her beliefs would spread like a plague, so he sent a physical plague to awaken the people to the poison that was entering their community. What poison is entering or trying to enter our homes, hearts, church, and etc?

 

I Cor 10.9-10 is talking about a story found in Numbers 21. In the story the Israelites had to take a longer trip and got irritable with God and Moses. They began to grumble and complain. God sent serpents into the camp and they began bit people and they were dying off. Let’s not forget the first serpent questioned the decrees of God and brought death upon humanity. How many of us have been questioning God? How many of us are beginning to grumble and complain against God’s plans?

 

According to I Cor 10.11 Paul reminds us of all of these examples for our “instruction.” And what is the instruction? If we want to root out all forms of idolatry in our communities, church, families, friendships, or any other relationship it must be done by toiling hard for humility. I Cor 10.12 tells us if we think to much of ourselves we will FALL. James 1, II Chron 7, and Ezra 8 all remind us if we humble ourselves before the LORD then He will lift us up.

 

In the last OT illustration God provided a way to escape the curse of the serpents. God had Moses construct a bronze serpent and had him place it on a pole for the people to look to for salvation. In John 3 Jesus tells us He is the bronze serpent in the wilderness that we are to look to for salvation. This explains I Cor 10.13. Jesus is the One who was tempted in every way and yet escaped. Jesus is the One who will help us escape the wrath of God. In Jesus God demonstrated His faithfulness. Only when we get this can we truly understand the significance of I Cor 10.

 

2. True Christian freedom has deep roots in sacrifice—I Cor 10.14-22.

Paul begins I Cor 10.14-22 with the heartbeat of his instruction—“FLEE from idolatry.” The “flee” means run, sprint, go completely the opposite way. Imagine you are walking down a dark alley into danger, and then you see clear danger coming, what would you do? I hope run the other way.

 

The Corinthian Christians were not only eating food sacrificed to idols, but many of them going and partaking in the pagan temple practices. In Corinth you would attend a temple service with friends and then share a meal together served by the priest or holy men. The Corinthian Christians were still doing this. Therefore, it looked like their Christianity did not really change who or how they worshiped. Paul wants them to understand they have a meal they take with their community. That new meal is the LORD’s Table or Communion. You cannot partake of the unifying bread and cup of Christ and partake of the disunity of demonic idolatry.

 

Do our lives look like we are partaking in the disunity of demonic idolatry? Let me close today by giving you one clear instruction I believe Paul is giving here, and exploring it more deeply. Look with me in I Cor 10.17. At one time we were once not a family, but now we are. Once we were divided, but no longer. The things we pursue among each other should be to seek unity.

 

Some of us give no thought to the words we use around others, the shows we watch, and the way we even dress. Obviously you cannot people please everyone. We are not talking about legalism—Paul warned us about that in I Cor 8. But, like Romans 12 mentions, we are talking about is “living sacrifices”. Who are those people who walk into our church that you would not naturally talk to? Who are the people at your work, neighborhood, family member, or etc.? That will require sacrifice. But if we remember the sacrifice that Christ brought into our lives then it should radically change our hearts. You see if we are not willing to pursue the outcast then we don’t remember that you were once an outcast. If we are not willing to give up something for the sake of someone else’s concerns then we do not fully grasp the fact that Christ was willing to give up His life for the concerns of His Father and us.

 

Our Christian “religious freedom” is not so simple. Christian liberties have deep roots in sacrifice. Take time, pray, think through the choices you are making—what you watch, say, how you spend your money, where you live, and whatever else you can think of. Eating and drinking are normal life practices, but in our text today it was matter of worship. The everyday stuff of life are serious matters. The everyday stuff of life is a matter of worship. The everyday stuff of life is helping to grow our affections for Christ or decrease our affections for Christ.