I Corinthians 10: Part 2: The Apprenticeship
All of a sudden I begin to realize what Paul is getting at with his examples of Israel and their sins in the desert following their miraculous delivery out of Egypt- the underlying, dominant theme is the danger of idolatry. In verse 7, Paul warns us to not become idolaters. In verse 14, Paul tells us: flee from idolatry. Idol or idols are also mentioned in verses 19, 28 in the NKJV.
WHAT IS IDOLATRY?
Webster defines idolatry as:
“Worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing. “ The history of Israel reveals a pattern: idol worship; punishment, restoration & forgiveness, and then a return to idols. This leads us to question what is an idol? And why are idols dangerous? What do idols look like today?
Colossians 3: 5, 6 tell us: “Put to death, therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity (uncleanness), lust, evil desires, and greed (covetousness) which is idolatry. Because the wrath of God is coming.” So there is the answer to the question why idols are dangerous- it is because the wrath of God is coming upon idolatry. God said in Exodus 20: “you shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness or anything that is in heaven or this in the earth beneath or that is under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. The wrath comes on idolaters and it comes because God is a jealous God. An idol is anything we desire more than God.
The jealousy of God is a loving jealousy, a righteous jealousy. We were made to find our greatest joy, when God and God alone is our greatest treasure. Plus God knows when we seek our joy and treasure outside of Him it will destroy us. God is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance. God wants to prevent us from destroying ourselves. Paul said covetousness is an idol. Idolatry is the activity of the human heart. The heart in the Bible is referring to the mind, the will and emotions. The very soul of man, which was designed to have the Word of God engrafted into it. The human heart of natural, fallen man is described as desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. It all starts in the heart, a thought which produces a craving, wanting or longing for some treasure besides or instead of God.
So an idol is a thing or person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, longed for more than God. It could be a person, good grades in school, popularity, and success in business, a hobby, power or possessions which possess you. God knows what will bring us the most joy- for our greatest joy comes from our enjoying God and desiring God more than anything else.
Romans 1 tells us: ‘ The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who suppress the Truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For this reason these men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became as fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (idols) made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.’ Idolatry is when man worships and serves the creature, the created, and not the Creator. The seek to find their treasures and pleasures from the vine of the earth, which is under the sway of the evil one. As believers we are branches in the Vine of Heaven, the Lord Jesus and we find the abundant life in Him, if we abide in Him.
When God’s children turn from idols to the only true and loving God, I Thessalonians 1 tells us we escape the wrath of God which Jesus delivers us from. He is our ark who protects us from the storm and flood of God’s wrath. We are sealed in and He has closed the door which no man can open. This does not mean a Christian can sin without consequences.
What began as a question in Chapter 8 regarding the eating of meat offered to pagan idols seemed to be an ancient problem which was not applicable to life in the 21st century, until we realize idolatry as the Bible has defined it, is an everyday problem in the life of Christians today. The idols and sacrifices have changed, but the problem is as real today as it was when Paul gave the church, the believers these instructions. Just because we have been promised we would not have to endure the wrath of God, we tend to take sin less seriously and all sin is based in idolatry, which God hates. Sin has consequences in the life of the believer and we will face the discipline of our Heavenly Father, because whom He loves, He chastens.
SECURITY OF THE BELEIVER
We believe once truly saved, always saved. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Yet Paul started this chapter with a history lesson. The children of Israel were saved by the blood of the Lamb, they ate the spiritual food, drank the spiritual drink from the Rock, which was Christ in whom they were baptized, just like us. Their story of death in the desert is a warning to us. Lest we think we are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall. God did not take them out of Egypt to spend their lives in the desert of carnality. He wanted them and us to live in the Promised Land. A land that flows with milk and honey, where a cluster of grapes was so large it took two men to carry it on a staff between them. Do you see the promised fruitfulness which living by the promises of God and in the promises of God provides? Of course we also see, just as it was a battle to get out of Egypt, and the sin and sins that enslaved us- it is also a battle to get into the Promised Land. We get into the Promised Land the same way we got out of Egypt- by grace through faith. Amazing Grace- how sweet it is- that saved a wretch like me! Do you know what is missing in our daily lives? The commandment God wants us all to pursue. “Be holy, for I am holy.” Are you serious about being holy? God knows we are not going to be perfect on this earth. But we are not to use this as excuse for our sins. It begins with grieving over our sins, not justifying them. It begins with desiring God more than anything else. It is a personal, daily pursuit of holiness. Because if we begin to think we are standing firm, be careful lest we fall. I want to remind you- God despises sin. And every time we sin, no matter how trivial in our view, God will not overlook it. No wonder Paul is warning us to be careful.
Here was the thinking which led to their sin and to ours and remembers all sin is a form of idolatry, where we desire something or someone more than God. We believe because we have been baptized into Christ, partakers of His divine Nature, partakers of His spiritual food- His Body, our Bread; His blood our wine, our spiritual drink. This leads us to believe we can participate in the feasts of idolatry with our old friends because these acts and my position have made me secure from the wrath of God. Paul is saying- Look at what happened to these people who were miraculously delivered out of the slavery of Egypt and thought they were immune from God’s judgment. We are safe from the judgment and wrath of God at the Great White Throne. But we are told plainly to ‘be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit will reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.” God cares about how we live our lives as His children, just as you do as parents about your children. We will all bear the consequences of our behavior and conduct for a long time- both good and bad. This should give you great concern for what you do.
Now what Paul is saying to the Corinthians and us is very simple: Let him who thinks he stands firm take heed – be careful you don’t fall. Being baptized into Christ, drinking of the spiritual drink and partaking of the spiritual bread as we do in the Lord’s Supper does not protect us from God’s judgment and correction if we go on craving, grumbling and making idols in our lives.
Herein lies the problem: we are substituting sacraments – baptism, observing the Lord’s Supper, attending church, and tithing for the pursuit of personal holiness.
“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in the Lord’s Table and the table of demons. Or do we want to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of others.”
Paul will end this portion of his letter by telling us to not abuse our freedoms. But to consider others before ourselves. As far as the eating of foods sacrificed to idols, Paul said whatever you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. Paul says he is not seeking his own good, but the good of many, so that they might be saved.
The first verse of I Corinthians 11: 1 is really connected to these thoughts when Paul tells us: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. ( NIV) “ Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (NKJV)
When we got saved, we became new creatures. The sanctification process is learning how to live as this new creature. It is about living and behaving in accordance to who and what we have become.
There is only one way this can be accomplished. There is only one way to live the Christian life as it was intended for us to live, as Jesus lived it and as Paul said he imitated Christ, so imitate him. The only way to live the Christian life is to have your mind transformed.
By now most of us realize life comes at you fast. It is unpredictable. Yet nothing takes God by surprise and everything is being worked out according to the counsel and purpose of His will.
So even though many days seem to be just like the day before and life seems to go on as it has before, things are happening faster than ever before.
Here is how we are to live and later on in I Cor 13, we will observe how we are to love. What a pity to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and never learn how to live a life that honors Him. Listen to Paul’s plea to us:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12; 1, 2) Adrian Rogers says there is a formula found here: Presentation + Transformation = Revealed Will of God.
Our minds are renewed as we study and meditate upon His Word. Our hearts are changed as we submit to His will in obedience, an act of our will.
We have to begin to clean out the old leaven. We have to take off the old and put on the new. Whatever storms await us in 2017 and the days ahead- God’s Word in an immovable anchor in the times of storms.
It is obvious now; Prince William is destined to be King of England. He has been serving an apprenticeship for becoming a king. It was rigid training devised by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, who learned it from her father, and he the king before him as it has been for each one who were born into the royal family and destined for the throne to rule and reign.
Prince William served in the military, both the Air Force and Navy. He even experienced combat in a raid on drug dealers and smugglers.
He was trained in etiquette from when he was a boy.
After the military he worked in government in various departments at Whitehall. He was an apprentice, an intern being mentored by experts.
He made visits to various countries in the presence of his father and grandmother. Then he was sent out solo to various countries and cultures in the British Empire. In some ways, the king-to-be lowered himself to work among the commoners.
He has worked with the charities of the royal family. For Prince William is in the family business and it is a royal family business.
He was briefed on government by former Prime Minister John Major. He has been trained in the management of the many royal properties and estates.
In other words, when the time comes he will have served an apprenticeship for ruling and reigning since his birth. This is what he was born to do.
What a picture this is of what the Lord Jesus wants us to do when we were born again into the kingdom of God to rule and reign with him. He has sent mentors to come along side us, teachers to teach us who we are and what we are, and then train us so we might live the life the way we are supposed to live. Our sanctification process is to train us and prepare us for ruling and reigning with Him in eternity.
The Bible is our training manual. We have so many who are our mentors and those who have given us the examples we are to follow.
Jesus said he would love to train you. He says to all who are weary and heavy laden trying to live the Christian life in their own power, to come unto Him and He will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light.”(Matthew 11)
The Apprenticeship. Learning from the Master. Personal instruction from an all-wise teacher.
To avoid the sin of idolatry we are to pursue holiness.
Paul told us to run in such a way to get the prize. In Hebrews 12:14, we are told to pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord…” we need to be in training. The word pursue suggests two thoughts: first, effort is required, diligence. Second, the word pursue suggest this is a lifelong task.
The question is- what are you pursuing? What do you want?
Paul told us these examples of Israel’s sins ‘were written as an example that we should not lust after evil thing as they lusted.’ Lust is defined as a strong desire for someone or something, usually of a sexual nature. We are taught the enemy tempts us in three areas: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. Lust is the negative use of desire. Desires come from the heart. “Above all else guard your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)
Who gives us a heart with desires? God created us and therefore He created man with the ability to have desires in his heart. God is not against desire, far from it; He gave us a heart that desires deeply. He gave us hungry hearts. Desire is a powerful force which can lead you to the life God intends for you to live or wrong desires which can get you in a lot of trouble. God wants to use desire to draw us to Himself. We see the enemy of our soul, the deceiver, the father of lies and a murderer who wants to draw us to himself and the things of the world as being what will satisfy our deepest desires.
What do you desire? For desires are speaking to you, but the well spring of the heart (mind, will and emotions) must be kept clean and true. How do we keep our hearts clean- His word cleanses our hearts. God speaks to your heart. But we must take the time for Him to speak to us. Be still and know that He is God. We live in a noisy world where news and entertainment and distractions come at us 24-7. We have become a nation, a society with Attention Deficit Disordered. We live amid numerous distractions.
From the very first moments Jesus started his ministry we see Him asking those He encounters the simplest, yet most penetrating questions.
John the Baptist points out Jesus to young Andrew and John and tells them: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. They followed after Him, and Jesus turned to them and asked: “What do you seek?”
The man who could not walk who was laid by the pool of Bethesda in hopes of a miracle for 38 years, his whole life, was asked by Jesus: “Do you want to be made well?”
Two blind men who cried aloud for Jesus, Son of David, as he walked by them on the road to Jericho, Jesus went to them and asked: : What do you want me to do for you?”
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well He could give her fresh, living water. An artesian wellspring of fresh, eternal water. ‘Come unto me all you who thirst, come to the waters. Eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’ (Isaiah 55) To the weary, Jesus offers rest. To the lost, He speaks of finding the way. Again and again Jesus says in so many ways and encourages us to: ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened.
In fact Jesus is the Door to the life we are meant to live. He says those who come to Him will find all they need. (John 10)
We can become His apprentices for eternal living. Delighting ourselves in Him and in His Word and He will give us the desires of our heart. This is how we avoid idolatry. This is what we satisfy our hungry hearts.
When I found Him on September 16, 1977, I knew somehow I had found the One my heart had been searching for all those years. A lost sheep who found his Shepherd…but in reality, it was the Shepherd who came and found me. Like a near-sighted sheep who had strayed away trying to find pasture and satisfaction I was close to falling off a precipice. In heaven on that day Jesus called out to His Father and the angels: “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!!!”
“To Him who is able to keep me from falling and to present me before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God, my Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more. Amen.
A GRATEFUL APPRENTICE.