Monday, June 22, 2015

Not As Strong As We Think

As most of you are aware by now, the focus of my messages, this summer, is on failure.  We’re looking at the failure of the great men of faith in Scripture, and on the grace of God given to them in spite of their sin.  We’re doing this as an encouragement for ourselves, that we might not grow discouraged, but trust in Christ alone in the face of our own shortcomings.
            Returning from Annual Conference, news reports were circulating about the moral failure of yet another prominent pastor.   Prior to my departure, we saw incessant reporting on a moral failure of a well-known Christian family.  And every time we see these reports, we’re shocked.
            We’re shocked because those who fell seemed so strong in faith.  They seemed to have it all together.  And we’re left wondering if it was all an act.  We’re left wondering if they are the people we always believed them to be.
            Although these feelings are normal, we really shouldn’t be shocked in the least.  We shouldn’t be shocked because we’re all failures.  As Paul tells us in Romans 3:23: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
            This is why Paul gives us the above warning.  He begins 1 Corinthians 10 using the people of Israel as an example for us.  He begins the chapter, saying: For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”
            What he’s telling us is that the people of Israel had received the redemption and the provision of God.  They were led by God, as he went before them in the pillar of cloud.  They were rescued from slavery, as God brought them miraculously through the Red Sea.  They were baptized into Moses, they emerged as a new people, as they were separated from the Egyptians by the cloud and the sea. They also received life through the miraculous provision of Christ.
            Yet, even though this was true of them, even though they had received these great blessings, they fell time and again.  They fell into idolatry.  They fell into sexual immorality.  They tested the Lord and they grumbled against him. 
            Paul says that these things are written for our instruction.  They’re examples for us.  If we think that we stand, we must take heed lest we fall.
            When we read about the failure of Israel, and when we hear about the failure of prominent Christians today, our immediate reaction is one of judgment.              We think that, knowing the blessings God has given them, they must be stupid to fall into these sins.  After all, how could they risk these blessings when God has given them so much?
We tell ourselves that we’d never do such a thing.  We tell ourselves that we could never fall in such a way.  Even acknowledging that we’re sinners, we think that we’re above such things.
            The reality, however, is much different.  We are all sinners.  We all possess a sinful nature.  We all face great temptation every day of our life.  And, because of this, the possibility of our failure is ever present.
            No matter how strong our faith, none of us is above the failures of others.  In fact, when we start believing that we are above it, when we start to believe that we stand, we are most susceptible to sin. We’re most susceptible to sin at this point because we’re looking to our own strength. 
We’re the safest when we look not upon our strength, but when we look upon our weakness.  Only then will we fully depend upon the grace and the provision of God.  And, as Scripture tells us time and again, we receive God’s blessing not because of anything in ourselves, but through faith.

            Let us, then, take heed.  Let us be aware of our own weakness.  And may we look to Christ, and to Christ alone, for the forgiveness of our sin and for the strength to live for his glory.

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