America seems obsessed with idols. For 15 years we have watched a show that would pick our next musical stars for us, and worse, would teach aspiring singers what to sound like. We have now produced an entire generation of singers who sound the same.
For years now, we have followed the technology of the culture to make sure we have the latest/greatest phone/tablet/tv/streaming service/apps at our disposal.
We watch the stock market, the news channels, the websites; that will tell us how we should spend/invest our money.
We have followed the cultural trends toward how we relate to each other: living together, same sex marriage, which gender we “decide” to be, etc.
We do all of these things (plus so many more), in order to be like everybody else. We want to be hip…popular…trendy…noticed.
Followers of Christ are given some amazing instructions about this type of existence. Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians. Paul lays out four specific areas of life that we each should address–that we MUST address in our own lives.
He begins with a description of the Israelites. They began following God, but it wasn’t long before they took up idols. He said of them, “with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.”
I’ve thought a lot about that very phrase. Two distinct realities that I never want said about me. First, God was not well-pleased. I want to live a life that brings God great joy and pleasure. Second, I never want to be laid low in the wilderness–although I have been before. To know that God is not pleased with me and sets me aside from His great service is the worst possible thing. So how do we stay free from this pronouncement?
Paul lays out four areas of life to examine:
- Don’t follow idols (1 Cornithians 10:7). What is an idol? Webster defines it this way: “a representation or symbol of an object of worship; broadly : a false god“. Simply put, anything that takes our attention off of God is an idol. Whether it’s a gold statue or a gold investment; whether an apple on a tree or an Apple iPad; whether it’s a woman bathing on a rooftop or woman at the office; any of these and more can be our idols.
- Don’t act immorally (1 Corinthians 10:8). The Word continues and says, “…as some of them did, and 23,000 fell in one day.” That’s a pretty clear picture of how God feels about immorality, isn’t it. What starts as a casual glance, can end up with the destruction of a marriage and all the families involved. When we exchange what God has designed for what we design, destruction is always the result.
- Don’t try God (1 Corinthians 10:9). Who would consciously put God to the test of the limits of His patience. Yet, we do that every day just by choosing not to listen to Him and do what He says.
- Don’t grumble (1 Corinthians 10:10). Ouch, this one hurts too! Who doesn’t sit around grumbling about situations that don’t go our way; about people who don’t treat us the way we expect? The problem with that is that we are turning to our own wishes (making ourselves/our interests the idol) instead of what God knows to be best for us.
You’re probably thinking about now, “this is impossible! Do you know the temptations that I face every day?!”
Well, that’s where God shows His way! He doesn’t just issue to us a list of things to not do, but He gives us the way and the power! 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a very powerful reminder for us: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Christ, who was tempted in every way, never gave in to the temptations. He can relate to you! He knows what you face and will NOT let you be overtaken. He will provide a way of escape, BUT you must take the way!
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14). Paul tells us that in light of these four things to avoid, God will give a way of escape EVERY TIME, so you…FLEE!
As believers in Christ, let’s live differently, and in so doing, let’s show the world the hope that is found in Christ. Let’s live a life that well pleasing to GOD, and let’s not be laid low in the wilderness!