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I CORINTHIANS 10:1-13 | FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED
I CORINTHIANS 10:1-13
FEBRUARY 28, 2016

 

 

MOST OF THE TIME, WHEN WE WANT TO INSPIRE SOMEONE, ENCOURAGE THEM, HELP SHAPE THEIR LIVES AND BEHAVIOR, WE SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE, SOMETHING UPLIFTING, SOMETHING WORTH EMULATING.

IT’S WHY PARENTS TEACH THEIR CHILDREN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG. IT’S WHY CHRISTIANS QUOTE THE GOLDEN RULE. IT’S WHY ALL OF THOSE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES GET SHARED AND “LIKED” ON FACEBOOK.

BUT SOMETIMES – PEOPLE COME INTO OUR LIVES AS EXAMPLES OF WHAT NOT TO DO; OF WHO NOT TO BE. THESE PEOPLE ARE OUR “CAUTIONARY TALES.”

BY TAKING A LOOK AT THEM, AT THEIR LIVES, THE POOR CHOICES THEY MAKE, THE BAD DECISIONS, THE MISSTEPS, AND INTENTIONALLY BAD BEHAVIOR, WE ARE FOREWARNED ABOUT WHERE SUCH A LIFE WILL LEAD.

“THESE ARE THE PEOPLE,” AS JIMMY BUFFET REMINDS US, “THAT OUR MOTHER WARNED US ABOUT.”

NOT THAT THERE ISN’T SOME FUN TO BE HAD, SOME ADVENTURES TO BE TAKEN, AND THEN TALKED ABOUT FOR YEARS TO COME, BY LIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THINGS;

THE PRODIGAL SON PROBABLY HAD A LOT BETTER STORIES TO TELL THAN THE SON WHO STAYED HOME DOING AS HE WAS TOLD;

AND IF WE LIVE TO TELL ABOUT OUR STORIES, SOME OF OUR BEST STORIES COME FROM MOMENTARILY LIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THINGS.

AS THE OLD SAYING GOES: A FRIEND WILL COME BAIL YOU OUT OF JAIL; A REALLY GOOD FRIEND WILL BE SITTING IN THE CELL WITH YOU, SAYING, “MAN, THAT WAS FUN!”

I JOKE – BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS – A STEADY DIET OF LIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THINGS – CAN DESTROY YOUR LIFE; AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

AND THE REAL TRUTH IS, IT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE TO BE A STEADY DIET OF DOING WRONG THINGS…

ONE MAJOR SCREW UP, ONE DUI, ONE HOT-HEADED RANT, ONE RASH DECISION, ONE PULL OF THE TRIGGER, CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER; OR END IT; OR SOMEONE’S ELSE’S LIFE; ALL IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE.

THIS IS SORT OF WHAT THE APOSTLE PAUL IS UP TO IN THIS CAUTIONARY TALE TO THE CORINTHIANS IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING.

PAUL IS WRITING THE CHURCH AT CORINTH, A GROUP OF PEOPLE SEEKING TO BE FAITHFUL TOGETHER, AND INDIVIDUALLY, AND HE IS WARNING THEM ABOUT LIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF LIFE.

AND HE TELLS THEM AS MUCH:

“I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE UNAWARE, BROTHERS AND SISTERS…

NOW THESE THINGS OCCURRED AS EXAMPLES FOR US, SO THAT WE MIGHT NOT DESIRE EVIL AS THEY DID…

THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO THEM TO SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE FOR US, AND THEY ARE WRITTEN DOWN TO INSTRUCT US…”

AND THE EXAMPLE OF WHAT NOT TO DO; THE EXAMPLE OF WHO NOT TO BE LIKE; THE CAUTIONARY TALE PAUL TELLS; IS THAT OF THE PEOPLE OF THE EXODUS.

PAUL IS TELLING ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE SEEKING TO BE FAITHFUL AND DO THE RIGHT THING, THE CHURCH AT CORINTH, NOT TO BE LIKE ANOTHER GROUP OF SUPPOSEDLY FAITHFUL PEOPLE TRYING DO THE RIGHT THING.

MAY I TAKE JUST A MINUTE OR TWO TO REMIND US OF THE EXODUS STORY?

THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL ARE IN SLAVERY IN EGYPT UNDER THE REIGN OF PHARAOH. MOSES HAS BEEN SENT BY GOD TO PHARAOH TO DEMAND THEIR RELEASE. AFTER SEVERAL FAILED ATTEMPTS, PHARAOH FINALLY RELENTS, (AFTER TEN DIFFERENT PLAGUES HAVE STRUCK EGYPT), AND HE LET’S THE PEOPLE GO.

YOU WILL REMEMBER THAT BY THE TIME THEY REACH THE REED SEA (OFTEN WRONGLY IDENTIFIED AS THE RED SEA) PHARAOH HAS CHANGED HIS MIND AND COMES AFTER THE ISRAELITES. IT IS HERE THAT IT IS SAID THAT MOSES PARTED THE SEA, AND THE ISRAELITES PASSED THROUGH THE WATERS SAFELY, WHILE ALL OF PHARAOH’S TROOPS ARE DROWNED.

THEN, ONCE THEY ARE OUT WANDERING AROUND IN THE WILDERNESS, THE PEOPLE BEGIN TO COMPLAIN ABOUT EVERYTHING.

SINCE THEY DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY ARE GOING, GOD GIVES THEM A PILLAR OF SMOKE TO LEAD THEM BY DAY, AND A PILLAR OF FIRE AT NIGHT.

WHEN THEY COMPLAIN ABOUT THERE NOT BEING ENOUGH FOOD – GOD PROVIDES MANNA AND QUAIL;

WHEN THERE’S NO WATER – GOD HAS MOSES STRIKE A ROCK, AND FRESH WATER POURS FORTH;

WHEN SNAKES BEGIN TO INVADE THE CAMP, BITING AND KILLING PEOPLE, GOD HAS THEM FASHION A SERPENT OUT OF GOLD, PLACING IT ON A POLE IN THE MIDDLE OF CAMP, SO THAT ANYONE WHO IS BITTEN, AND LOOKS UPON THE GOLDEN SNAKE, WILL NOT DIE.

BUT REALLY, IT IS FORTY YEARS OF NOTHING BUT COMPLAINING, OF FUSSING AND FIGHTING, OF QUESTIONING MOSES’ LEADERSHIP AND WHETHER OR NOT GOD IS REAL, AND OF BEHAVING RATHER BADLY.

IN FACT, IT IS PRECISELY BECAUSE OF THEIR BAD BEHAVIOR AND LACK OF FAITH THAT GOD CALLS MOSES TO THE MOUNTAINTOP, AND GIVES HIM THE TEN COMMANDMENTS TO TAKE BACK TO THE PEOPLE, SO THAT THEY MIGHT LEARN HOW TO LIVE WITH GOD AND WITH EACH OTHER.

BUT MOSTLY, THE PEOPLE JUST BREAK EVERY ONE OF THE COMMANDMENTS, AND NOT JUST IN THE WILDERNESS, BUT FOR MOST OF THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND THE NEW, AND AS WE KNOW, RIGHT UP TO TODAY.

I WANTED TO REMIND US OF THE FACTS FROM THE EXODUS STORY BECAUSE THEY SERVE AS SOMETHING OF A KEY TO OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING.

WITHOUT THIS KEY WE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT PAUL MEANS WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT OUR ANCESTORS “BEING UNDER A CLOUD AND IN THE SEA, AND EATING SPIRITUAL FOOD, AND DRINKING SPIRITUAL DRINK, BEING ‘BAPTIZED’ IN THE PARTED WATERS OF THE REED SEA.

WITHOUT THE KEY WE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHY PAUL CALLS THE ROCK OUT OF WHICH THE WATER POURED FORTH “CHRIST.”

WITHOUT THE KEY WE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND THAT THE PEOPLE WERE BITTEN BY SNAKES AS PUNISHMENT FOR THEIR DISOBEDIENCE, NOR THAT THEY WERE HEALED BY THE GOLDEN SERPENT ON THE POLE, JUST AS WE ARE HEALED OF OUR SINS BECAUSE OF CHRIST LIFTED UP ON THE CROSS.

YOU SEE, THERE ARE DIRECT PARALLELS THAT PAUL, WHO WAS FIRST, A GOOD JEW, IS DRAWING BETWEEN THE EXODUS STORY AND THE CHRIST STORY, WITH THE FIRST SHOWING US WHAT NOT TO DO, WHO NOT TO BE, HOW NOT TO ACT;

AND THE LATTER STORY, THE CHRIST STORY, TELLING US WHO WE ARE TO BE, AND HOW WE ARE TO LIVE AND ACT.
BUT I WANT TO GET BACK TO WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HERE THIS MORNING, ABOUT THIS PASSAGE BEING A CAUTIONARY TALE ABOUT HOW NOT TO LIVE, AND HOW TO LIVE.

THE PEOPLE OF THE EXODUS FALL OFF THE PROVERBIAL WAGON, THEY LOSE FAITH, THEY LOSE THEIR WAY, THEY ACT HOWEVER THEY CHOOSE, THEY LIVE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF LIFE…

EVEN AFTER GOD GIVES THEM THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ABOUT HOW TO LIVE WITH GOD AND WITH EACH OTHER, THEY BLATANTLY CHOOSE TO BREAK NEARLY EVERY ONE OF THEM.

NOW PAUL FIGURES, THAT IF HE REMINDS THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH OF HOW THE EXODUS PEOPLE ACTED; A SUPPOSEDLY FAITHFUL PEOPLE ACTING BADLY; HOW THEY GOT OFF TRACK; HOW THE WHEELS CAME OFF FOR THEM BECAUSE OF THEIR LACK OF FAITH AND POOR BEHAVIOR;

PAUL FIGURES THAT HE CAN HELP SAVE THE CORINTHIANS FROM ALL THE HEARTACHE AND HARDSHIP OF ACTING LIKE THE PEOPLE OF THE EXODUS.

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED.

BUT RATHER THAN JUST OFFERING THE CORINTHIANS A GENERALIZED, “JUST SAY NO” KIND OF WARNING, PAUL REMINDS THE CORINTHIANS OF THE SPECIFIC SORTS OF ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS THAT GOT THE EXODUS PEOPLE INTO TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE, IT INCLUDES THE LIST OF USUAL SUSPECTS:

A LOSS OF FAITH; IDOLATRY; DRUNKENNESS; SEXUAL PROMISCUITY; DOUBT; WHINING; COMPLAINING; PIG-HEADEDNESS; PRIDE – WHICH AS USUAL, GOES BEFORE THE FALL.

PAUL NOT ONLY TELLS THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, HE GOES ON TO SHOW THEM, USING THE EXODUS PEOPLE AS A CAUTIONARY TALE;

HOW EVEN SUPPOSEDLY FAITHFUL PEOPLE, CAN GET THEMSELVES INTO TROUBLE, BY IGNORING WHAT GOD HAS TOLD THEM TO DO AND NOT DO;

AND BY LIVING HOWEVER, SAYING WHATEVER, TREATING OTHERS HOWEVER THEY FEEL LIKE IT.

TEST GOD, PAUL SAYS, AND YOU WILL VERY LIKELY WIND UP BEING LIKE THE EXODUS PEOPLE, WANDERING AROUND TRYING TO FIND YOUR WAY, AND IF NOT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD, LOSING YOUR LIFE IN THE PROCESS.

AND WHEN WE ARE TESTED, PAUL SAYS, GOD WILL NOT ONLY PROVIDE US WITH THE STRENGTH TO ENDURE IT, BUT ALSO PROVIDE US THE WAY OUT (BY WHICH HE MEANS CHRIST, AGAIN).

SOMETIMES PEOPLE COME INTO OUR LIVES AS AN EXAMPLE OF WHO NOT TO BE, OF WHAT NOT TO DO; BUT IT IS UP TO US, THE CHOOSE A BETTER WAY, THE RIGHT WAY, GOD’S WAY.

AND SOMETIMES IT’S UP TO US TO BE THE ONES WHO SHARE OUR FAITH IN GOD IN A WAY THAT HELPS OTHERS NOT ONLY COME TO FAITH, BUT TO LIVE BETTER LIVES.

IT SEEMS TO ME, WITH SO MUCH RHETORIC OUT THERE TODAY, WITH PEOPLE ACTING HOWEVER THEY WANT, SAYING WHATEVER THEY WILL…

WITH ALL OF THE PREJUDICE, HATRED, VIOLENCE, XENOPHOBIA, MISOGYNISTIC ATTITUDES…

WE, AS CHRISTIANS, SHOULD BE SAYING THINGS, AND DOING THINGS, DIFFERENTLY THAN MUCH OF THE WORLD.

DR. TOM LONG TELLS THIS STORY FROM A TIME WHEN HE WAS A PROFESSOR AT EMORY UNIVERSITY IN ATLANTA:

“NOT LONG AGO, THE UNIVERSITY WHERE I TEACH, AWARDED SEVERAL HONORARY DEGREES AT THE COMMENCEMENT SERVICE. EACH OF THE RECIPIENTS WAS INTRODUCED, WAS GIVEN A DIPLOMA AND CITATION, AND THEN MADE A SHORT SPEECH.

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS ARE NOT WELL KNOWN FOR THEIR DECORUM DURING GRADUATION EXERCISES, AND THIS ONE WAS NO EXCEPTION.

A PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT RECEIVED A DEGREE, AND THE STUDENTS CHATTED NOISILY AND JOKED THROUGHOUT THE SPEECH. THE SAME THING WAS TRUE FOR THE WORLD-CLASS MATHEMATICIAN AND THE INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN DIPLOMAT.

IN FACT, THERE WAS ONLY ONE MOMENT DURING THE ENTIRE CEREMONY WHEN THE STUDENTS WERE SILENT AND ATTENTIVE. IT WAS WHEN A MAN NAMED HUGH THOMPSON WAS SPEAKING.

THOMPSON WAS PROBABLY THE LEAST EDUCATED MAN ON THE PLATFORM THAT DAY. HE GREW UP IN THE LITTLE VILLAGE OF STONE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA, IN A FAMILY OF MODEST MEANS. HE STARTED BUT DID NOT FINISH COLLEGE, CHOOSING INSTEAD TO ENLIST IN THE ARMY, WHERE HE BECAME A HELICOPTER PILOT.
ON MARCH 16, 1968 HE WAS FLYING A ROUTINE PATROL IN VIETNAM WHEN HE HAPPENED TO FLY OVER THE VILLAGE OF MY LAI JUST AS AMERICAN TROOPS, UNDER THE COMMAND OF LIEUTENANT WILLIAM CALLEY, WERE SLAUGHTERING DOZENS OF UNARMED AND HELPLESS VILLAGERS – OLD MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN.

THOMPSON SET HIS HELICOPTER DOWN BETWEEN THE TROOPS AND THE REMAINING VIETNAMESE CIVILIANS. HE ORDERED HIS TAIL GUNNER TO TRAIN THE HELICOPTER GUNS ON THE AMERICAN SOLDIERS, AND HE ORDERED THE TROOPS TO STOP KILLING THE VILLAGERS. HE THEN CALLED FOR OTHER HELICOPTERS TO COME TO THE AREA AND TO EVACUATE THE SURVIVING VILLAGERS AND TAKE THEM TO HOSPITALS.

HUGH THOMPSON’S ACTIONS SAVED THE LIVES OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE. HOWEVER, FOR HIS EFFORTS, HE WAS ALMOST COURT-MARTIALED BY THE ARMY.

IT WAS THIRTY YEARS BEFORE THE ARMY RECOGNIZED HIM AS A HERO AND AWARDED HIM THE SOLDIER’S MEDAL FOR HIS COURAGE.

AS HE STOOD AT THE MICROPHONE, THE NORMALLY ROWDY STUDENT BODY GREW STILL.

‘I’D LIKE TO THANK MY MOTHER AND FATHER FOR TRYING TO INSTILL IN ME THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG,’ THOMPSON SAID TO THE HUSHED CROWD.

‘WE WERE COUNTRY PEOPLE, BORN AND RAISED IN STONE MOUNTAIN, BUT THEY TAUGHT ME ‘DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU’… JUST A LITTLE THING CALLED THE GOLDEN RULE; YOU TRY TO LIVE BY IT, AND YOU’LL BE OKAY.’

THE WORDS WERE SIMPLE, BUT THE STUDENTS WERE STARTLED AND INVIGORATED BY THEM.

IN A WORLD OF WEASEL WORDS, SELF-SERVING WORDS, LYING WORDS, THEY WERE AMAZED AT THESE WORDS, THE WORDS OF JESUS, WORDS FROM SUNDAY SCHOOL, WORDS FROM WORSHIP, WORDS OF CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY, WORDS THAT WOULD ENABLE A MAN TO PUT A HELICOPTER DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ATROCITY AND TO DO THE RIGHT THING.

THE STUDENTS LEAPT TO THEIR FEET IN A STANDING OVATION, THE ONLY ONE OF THE DAY.

HUGH THOMPSON WAS COURAGEOUS IN VIETNAM, BUT PERHAPS NO MORE COURAGEOUS THAN THAT DAY, WHEN HE STOOD OUT IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE AND GAVE HIS TESTIMONY.”

PERHAPS IT IS TIME FOR US TO STAND UP FOR WHAT WE BELIEVE, TO SAY IT, TO LIVE IT, TO SHARE IT WITH OTHERS;

AND IN THIS CASE, TO BE THE POSITIVE “CAUTIONARY TALE” OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO US, AND TO OUR NATION, IF WE ALLOW BAD BEHAVIOR TO CONTINUE TO NOT ONLY GO UNCHECKED…

BUT PROMOTED AND LAUDED BY THE MASSES.

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED.

 

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