Living in a Pagan World.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty “.

“In your view you are in danger of seeing Me in My holiness as totally separated from you. Far above everything – pure – so pure I am unapproachable. But the reality is that although I am that holy – I am totally other and separated from you – totally pure in my motives, thoughts, love and faithfulness – never able to lie or be unfaithful. Although that describes Me – I have made a way through Jesus to also be the one who is intimately close to you – who can draw next to you and comfort you and be your friend – who takes you by the hand and leads you – who pours love into you continually. My holiness does not preclude this – in fact it is what is the motive behind this love relationship I have with you. So, sing ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’, with full gusto and understand that because I am totally other and different – I can be all things -great and awesome – yet a close friend to you. “

I recently had a conversation with a mature Christian friend about the enigma of apparently mature Christians who unexpectedly fall away completely from the faith. I have always held the view that once we are saved, we are sealed “in Christ” and nothing can tear us from His grasp. This seems to be the main focus of ch 10 of 1 Cor. Look at vs 12. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall…”

You see what Paul is addressing? The sense of complacency that comes from experiencing the new-found “freedom in Christ”, without understanding the responsibilities that go with it. He starts with showing how the Israelites had experienced all the benefits of salvation on being taken out of Egypt. They subsequently, despite all these, all fell away because of disobedience. Remember that the Corinthians were living in a society whose social life was focused on the temples. That is where they went to eat out and socialize with their friends. The meat in the market butcheries was mostly meat which had been offered at some time as sacrifices to the demons.

Now there seemed to be a number of Corinthian Christians who felt that they had been set free from slavery to demons and therefore could still go and join their friends. So, Paul brings this strong warning that they are flirting with idols. There is only one way to treat idols and that is to “Flee from them”. v 14. They should not think that they cannot fall vs 12. Everyone is tempted and we are not tempted where we are strong. We are tempted in our weakest places and moments.

His warning is that they were thinking that they were stronger than God. By doing that they were actually tempting Him .vs 22. Towards the end of the chapter, he draws a parallel between these temple feasts and the celebration of holy communion, which he will address in greater detail later.

So how do we apply this to ourselves? There are no longer temple feasts and meat offered to idols. So, what about today? Well, I don’t need to remind you that we live in a world every bit as pagan as the Corinthian’s was. The types of temptation and idols have changed over the years, but they are just as plentiful now as they were then. I have found myself from time to time thinking that there is no way a certain temptation will catch me. That is when I am at my most vulnerable. We are all involved in a mighty spiritual battle which is fought to a large degree in our minds. It is exactly in the area where we are least expecting it that Satan will introduce an idol or reawaken an old one.

It seems the only way to protect ourselves is to remain supremely conscious of this battle and to be sure that we stand firm, aware of what may be coming. Most important is to remember that we should not face Satan in our own strength. We need the full armour of God and with continual prayer and watchfulness. Not for nothing did Jesus have in the Lord’s prayer “Lead us not into temptation”. God is faithful, though and will help us in our times of temptation if we turn to Him.

In this passage there is also the strong undercurrent of the Church’s role in the believer’s life. We are there to help each other to stand and we should be very careful that we are not the very means that Satan uses to cause a brother or sister to fall. Not for nothing that the warning is that we cannot live as true Christians without the family of believers in a local church.

The safest way to gauge whether your activities are “safe”, is to follow the instruction Paul gives in vs 31. Ask yourself regularly whether you are happy to say that what you are doing or eating or drinking, or your relationships are to His glory. If you are in doubt flee.

Billy Graham was once asked what he thought his first emotion would be when he entered heaven. He replied, “relief”. We should never rest on our laurels; the battle will only be over when we are finally at home with Him. But at the same time His power is supreme and if we continue to walk with Him, we will be held securely in His love till the end in this world. Romans 8:31 – 38

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