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Dear Christian friends,
Our God has a remarkable ability to be able to tell us what would have happened if we had made a decision to take another route in our life. Jesus once said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.” Do you hear what he said? If Tyre and Sidon, Gentile cities, had seen the miracles of Jesus, they would have repented unlike Chorazin andBethsaida who saw them but didn’t believe. IfSodom, so many centuries previous during the time of Abraham had seen the miracles of Jesus, they would have repented and the city would be there to this day Jesus promised. Jesus knows what would have happened if we gone down the road not taken. Remember that famous poem by Robert Frost.
For me personally, I think back on a conversation that I had with my Dad when I was in the 8th grade. I told him I wanted to follow my two brothers to prep school to pursue the ministry. He didn’t want me to go. He told me he wanted a son who was a doctor or a lawyer. He said he would pay for med school or law school. I know he didn’t have any idea how much that would have cost. I liked sciences as a grade schooler; that’s why he probably suggested medicine. I also liked to argue with my parents as a kid; that’s probably why he wanted me to be a lawyer.
But that’s not what happened. It doesn’t do any good thinking about it either. I can’t change that; I don’t want to change anything. Instead of changing history, we need to learn from history. That’s a truth that Paul certainly shows us clearly today. Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation remind them that – God’s Grace Is Amazing. 1) Use it; 2) Don’t abuse it.
Rome had destroyed the city ofCorinth in the year 146 BC. A hundred years later it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar. Corinth was a center for trade. People from all around the world lived there. It was an obvious target for mission work by the apostle Paul. He probably got there in 54 AD and stayed there for 18 months. The town was dominated by the worship Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love. There was a huge temple to honor her. What kind of worship went on? We need to protect young ears to describe it completely, but suffice it to say the English language contains a verb “to corinthianize’ that describes the lifestyle there. It means excess of every kind, a license to sin.
Corinthneeded Jesus. Corinthalso needed to keep Jesus once the people had him. The environment in the city and all the sin that was practiced tested the environment. When you play in the pigpen, you can expect to get dirty.
They needed to learn a lesson from Israel’s history. Israelhad indeed been graced by God amazingly. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” No other nation ever got to see the Lord like Israel saw God. They could see him as he was present with them. In the book of Exodus Moses wrote, “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” This was the Kabhod Adonai, the glory of the Lord. Israel was certainly graced by God.
Not only did they see the Lord but they also saw what the Lord could do. You remember the Red Seagreat escape. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” They saw him and they saw what he could do…all by grace, his amazing grace!
What Paul says next is interesting! The Corinthians were not denied any of that grace, nor are you. Paul says, “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” One thing I have noticed is how the word ‘baptize’ is used in the Bible. In baptism a connection is made. What I mean by that is this. At the end of the book of Matthew Jesus gave the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of he Holy Spirit.” That passage actually could be better translated “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them into the name of the Father and into the Son and into the Holy Spirit.” Because of sin we are outside a relationship with the LORD but through baptism we are brought into a relationship with the Triune God.
In Romans 6 Paul says something similar. When we are baptized we are baptized into his death and burial and resurrection. We are connected with Jesus. Paul says here, “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” When that cloud protected them and they passed through the sea, the people were connected with Moses and Moses to his people. At Baptism God connects us with Jesus. That was true ofCorinth and that is true of us. We receive that gift of grace.
There was more grace. “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” God gave them manna to eat miraculously, the food that appeared on the ground. God provided water for them atMassa and Meribah and Kadesh. Kadesh was the place where water came out of a rock. Grace to the nth degree.
How did God grace Corinth? How does God grace us? We already mentioned about Baptism and how it connects us with the Triune God and with Jesus, his death, burial and resurrection. But it doesn’t end there. At his altar we receive his body and blood to be individually guaranteed the forgiveness of sins. We are not just receiving bread and wine but also his body and blood that paid for forgiveness. We have the Rock, Jesus Christ who is the Water of Life. We have God promises in what looks like a common book that is filled with uncommon promises from the Word of God.
You have not been cut short; you have not been denied anything. Use those promises. Believe those promises.
Don’t abuse God’s grace like Israeldid. Paul brings up the sad fact of examples. “Do not be idolaters. As some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” Remember when God gaveIsrael the commandments. Moses disappeared for forty days and the nation became impatient. They made a golden calf. They worshipped it by letting themselves go again with sins that young ears shouldn’t hear. InColorado where my daughter lives, Somalians have been hired to do the agribusiness that is so prevalent there. Five times a day they stop work for prayer to Allah.
We think of that when we think of idolatry. But that is the only form of idolatry. Every sin you do is nothing less than idolatry. Every sin we commit puts the almighty me in front of Almighty God. That’s idolatry. Don’t abuse God’s grace like that.
“We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.” The Bible says that “While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods.” What happened at Shittim? Again, we need to remember the young ears. Satan had a field day there that day too. Sexual sins were and are a weakness, aren’t they? Not much on TV is clean anymore, except Duck Dynasty.
“We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.” Think about it. All those people who exited from Egypt forty years earlier were buried in the desert floor except for Caleb and Joshua because they grumbled and mumbled and despised God’s grace.
Are you a complainer? I am. I complain about the President; I complain about the Democrats; I complain about the Republicans. I complain about the Israelites because they complained all the time. How about you? “These things happened,” Paul says, “to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” In other words, don’t just admit that you’re a complainer, do something about it starting by asking God to forgive.
Allow me to administer a test. While I was reviewing those examples, did you think that you would never have rebelled against Moses like Israeldid? Did you think that you could never have been tempted by the Moabites like Israelwas? Do you think that you would have never mumbled and grumbled like Israeldid? Allow me to quote Paul, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
Who would have thought Abraham would have lied twice about Sarah to try and pass her off as his sister he was afraid for his life? Who would have thought that David, whom God called the apple of his eye, would have committed adultery with the wife of a very loyal soldier and then kill him to cover up the baby that David fostered? Who would have thought that a man God blessed like Solomon would make Hugh Hefner look like an altar boy? Remember all of us have a sinful nature, a very strong sinful nature. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
Not only heed that warning but believe this promise, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Three promises are found in this passage. First, God has not singled you out to suffer from temptation more than anyone else. You are not unique. Others also experience the same temptations that you have been exposed to.
Promise two. God promises to be faithful to you and promises that he will not allow a temptation or test that is beyond your ability to endure with his help. He doesn’t promise that it won’t hurt or be tough. He doesn’t promise that it will go away immediately when we pray. He promises to get us through it.
The third promise is that he will provide a way out. The Scripture says, “Resist the Devil and he will flee you!” God provides us with power to resist the devil and sin through the power the Spirit supplies. The Spirit comes to us in Word and Sacrament.
Life is indeed a hard long journey. But God’s Grace is amazing. Use it! Don’t abuse it!