A Principle to Live By

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:27-31

The overarching theme to this chapter has been stumbling blocks because of what you do or think. In this chapter’s context, it was eating and drinking things there were offered to idols. In general, though, it’s been about causing others to sin or stumble by our sometimes careless actions.

Paul summed it up nicely by making sure whatever it is we did, we did it to God’s glory. That’s actually a pretty good principle to live by.

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Fine, But…

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

Idolatry seemed to be prevalent in the Church when Paul wrote this. The central point in these words seems to be in the words of verse 23: I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. People were lording their freedoms over each other.

  • “I have the right to drink alcohol.” Yes, but is it constructive for you or the church?
  • ‘I have the right to not go to church.” Yes, but the church needs you, and you need the church.
  • “I have the right to work on Sundays.” Yes, but when’s the last time you truly rested?

I had some Believer friends who went to see the Harry Potter movies and gleefully proclaimed that fact as obnoxiously as possible. My answer to them is “fine, but was it constructive to boast about going in front of dozens of Believers who were opposed to the witchcraft in them? Did it help build the church or unify the body?”

So, as with most anything in life, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.

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There’s Always a Door

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

This is perhaps the biggest shortcut to dealing with temptation in the Bible. A verse that is related to this is similar in scope 1 Corinthians 6:18 – just a few short chapters ago, “Flee from sexual immorality.”

You will always find a door or a way out of the temptation you find yourself in. Always. Now, do you want to take that way out is perhaps a bigger question. Let’s face it, temptation is, well, tempting. What tempts you may not ever tempt someone else. What tempts them may never hint at tempting you. If it tempts you, then there’s an allure to it. You won’t naturally want to take the way out. (And sometimes the way out is not putting yourself in a position to need a way out in the first place).

It’s not wrong to be tempted. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan himself. But every time there’s a temptation, there’s a way out – a door – to get away.

Are you looking for those doors? Do you see how it could be beneficial to begin looking for these kinds of escape routes? I’m not a big proponent of formulaic quick fixes, but this is one that will be good for us all the way around. There is no “downside” to beginning this habit.

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Of Warnings and Patience

8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:8-11

These were three very different sins committed by three groups of people, but they all shared the same horrible fate. As the text states, they were examples for us. Many people think God is up in heaven looking for us to sin, and when we do, He’ll zap us! That’s so far from the truth. We have a loving Heavenly Father. He doesn’t want us to sin and goes out of His way to help us. In fact, tomorrow we’ll read the one verse that is the key to unlocking God’s power over sin and temptation in our lives.

But today we are warned. It’s not just about those three sins but about the sin you know is haunting you, or the sin you don’t like to talk about. God is very patient; just look at the world to see that. But, as verse 9 warns us, we should not test Christ.

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The Distinction

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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 revelry.” 1 Corinthians 10:6-7

Why do people set their hearts on evil things? The easy answer is ‘sin nature’ and “it’s what we do.” It’s also the right answer.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, we have had a natural bent towards sin. We, by nature, gravitate towards sin unless there’s something compelling enough to deter us.

That something for Believers is the Holy Spirit living inside us. I can’t write that enough because it’s the distinction that makes us Believers.

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Spiritual Food and Drink

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. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Paul wanted us to know that his some of his forefathers were as much Believers as you and I are. They had obedience and loyalty problems just like we do. They served the same Christ that we do, even though He hadn’t come to Earth yet. They were not superior in any way to us.

We look at them at times and think what it must have been like to see the Hand of God moving so mightily in their lives that they must have been super-spiritual. Then we read the rest of the story about them grumbling, complaining, building a golden calf, and giving their leaders many more gray hairs.

Frail. Disobedient. Blessed. Indulgent.

Just like us.

Or we’re like them.

Predictably so.

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Godly Passion

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul was a driven man. He had an inner force compelling him to persevere and pressing on. Was he a perfectionist or just hyper-focused.

Not everyone can be or should be Type A personalities like Paul. We all, however, have the same motivating “force” inside all of us. Paul didn’t let frailties and imprisonment stop him from doing what he was called to do. His was an all or nothing gambit. He lived Jonathan Edwards’ famous saying, “Lord, stamp eternity onto my eyeballs.”

But to put Paul on a pedestal would be wrong. He was a human with all the weaknesses and temptations we have. He had a very narrow goal and did everything in his power to achieve it. We are privy to some of that journey.

It’s fair if we all step back from time to time evaluate what we spend our time doing. Do we have the passion Paul did? Do we care that we don’t?

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Where There Is No Gospel

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Christ was our ultimate example in becoming like us. He was God in the flesh. He took on flesh to experience what we experience. He experienced hunger, thirst, laughter, sorrow, pain, joy, and contentment. He knew how to work and how to play. He became one of us.

Similarly, Paul also became someone different to win those people. Missionaries do that all the time. While it’s impossible to become 100% native in a different culture, missionaries spend years studying languages and culture so that they might win some. After they win some, those people can carry out the remaining task.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this space, missionary work is hard and often discouraging. In lands where the Gospel has never been preached, it is often dangerous to be a Christian.

Perhaps you know someone in what we would consider an “obscure” part of the world. Pray for encouragement and strength for the days ahead. Pray that others will see the faithfulness of these missionaries and inquire more. Pray for a ripe harvest amid barren lands. Then let your missionary friend know you’ve prayed. They will be encouraged.

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Asking The Tough Questions

13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:13-17

Paul wasn’t an itinerant evangelist for the money. And he went out of his way to make sure there were no improprieties in his ministry. He knew that money was a pitfall that many after him would fall into.

Billy Graham understood some of these principles and would never go anywhere without another male present. He took a modest salary from his ministry.

The late contemporary recording artist Rich Mullins let his local church board decide what his salary should be (even though he could have been a multi-millionaire). He understood the trappings of wealth so he put it in the hands of those who held him accountable.

There are many many temptations in ministry. Some are very obvious; some are extremely subtle.

Choose a leader you’ve been praying for these past two days. Pray that they will put measures in place to minimize financial and moral temptations. Pray also that they would have good people over them asking the difficult questions regarding temptations and ministry.

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