Home > Trinity 6-15 > The Way of Escape. Trinity 9, 2014. 1 Cor. 10:6-13

The Way of Escape. Trinity 9, 2014. 1 Cor. 10:6-13


burial9th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

1 Corinthians 10:6-13

August 17, 2014

“The Way of Escape in Temptation”

 

Iesu iuva!

 

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  1 Corinthians 10:12

St. Paul wrote the epistle reading to the congregation of Christians in the Greek city of Corinth.  It was one of the centers of trade in the Roman empire, a wealthy city famous for its loose morals.  Its streets crawled with sailors in search of wine and prostitutes.

 

The Corinthian church was a small outpost of Jesus’ kingdom in a teeming metropolis of paganism.  All around her the worship of idols and the sexual immorality that was part of the worship left its stain on nearly every social interaction.  They were surrounded by temptation.  As you might expect, the power of the world surrounding the church had left its mark on Christ’s bride.  The Corinthian church had fallen into a number of sins.

 

We also are a small outpost of Jesus’ kingdom surrounded by a pagan world.  We too are surrounded by temptation, and this temptation has left its mark on us.

 

God provides the way of escape in temptation—Jesus Christ, who put sin to death in His flesh.

 

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” in the 6th petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  In the Small Catechism we are taught to say:

What does this mean? 

God tempts no one. 

We pray in this petition

that God would guard and keep us

so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature

may not deceive us or mislead us

into false belief, despair,

and other great shame and vice.

Although we are attacked by these things,

We pray that we may finally overcome them

And win the victory.

 

There are two chief temptations that always try to deceive and mislead us.  These two temptations are false belief or false security and despair. 

 

False belief or false security is the temptation that Paul warns the Corinthians about.  It is the belief that we are so secure that we cannot fall away from Christ; everything is fine.  We have nothing to worry about.

 

Despair is the other side of the coin.  It is the temptation that tells us it is impossible for us to be saved.  Despair says, “God’s grace is not sufficient for you.  You are so weak that even the grace of God is not enough to get you through.  And even if it is, God will not give you His grace.  Your sins are too many and too great for you to hope for the grace of God.”

 

Despair and false security often look the same on the outside.  A person may turn to idols, false gods, because he thinks he can get away with it and it doesn’t matter.   Or he may turn to the worship of idols because he believes he is too great a sinner for God to accept him and there is nowhere else for him to go.  A person may commit sexual immorality because it seems pleasurable to him and he thinks God will accept him anyway.  Or, in despair, he or she may commit sexual immorality because he or she has fallen so many times in the past it makes no difference what they do now.

 

Paul is warning the Corinthians against false security, false belief—the voice that says, go ahead and sin.  God will still accept you.  You’ll still be saved, and everything will be all right.  Against this he warns—Look at what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness.  They were all  believers in Christ, who had been baptized spiritually and who ate and drank spiritual food and drink, just like us.  Yet with most of them God was not pleased, and they died in the wilderness.  Out of the 600,000 men that left Egypt, only two went into the promised land.

 

We are tempted by false security too, but it also seems to be true that many of us are afflicted with despair.  We put Christ to the test, or tempt Him, by doubting whether He is really among us, leading us by His grace into heaven.  We grumble, not only because we are arrogant and are angry that God is not giving us our way, but also because we despair of His grace and think that He must be against us.  The weight of our past failures and sins weighs us down, and we lack energy for prayer and desire for His Word not only because we think we are so strong that we can get by without it, but also sometimes because we despair that it will make any difference.  After all, we have prayed and heard God’s Word before, and look how badly we fell into sin in the past!

 

Do you see how we are tempted by false belief and despair?  Both are grave sins.  One tells us we are doing so well that we don’t need God’s grace.  The other tells us we are so evil that we are beyond God’s mercy.

 

Here is the good news that Paul proclaims to you who are tempted either by false belief or despair—or both.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  [1 Cor. 10:13]

 

God provides the way of escape in temptation—Jesus Christ, who put sin to death in His flesh.

 

Jesus Christ is the way of escape in temptation.  Look at Him and you see what the way of escape looks like.

 

His Father didn’t take him out of temptation.  “He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.”  (Hebrews)  When Satan tempted Jesus to lust after evil, to grumble against God, to tempt God, to commit idolatry, Jesus responded with God’s written Word.  “It is written,” He said to Satan three times.  Jesus did not rely on His own strength, but relied on the written word of God.

 

That is what it looks like to endure temptation.  When He clung to God’s Word, Satan fled.

 

But Satan came back again.  That’s what Satan does, until he either wins, or is finally defeated.  His defeat came in death—Jesus’ death.  Jesus did not grumble or tempt God.  When He was faced with the most horrible death—death for our sins—He continued faithfully entrusting Himself into His Father’s hands, not giving way to despair, but believing that the Father would free Him from suffering, sin, and death.

 

Jesus is the way of escape in temptation.   We follow His example when we are tempted.  He is the pattern of escape from temptation.

 

But Jesus is not only the example of resisting temptation.  That wouldn’t be enough for us, because we are not strong enough to follow His example.  He Himself is the escape.  He not only shows us the escape route.  He is the escape from temptation.

 

At the Red Sea, the children of Israel were trapped.  Behind them was Pharaoh’s army coming to ride them down in chariots.  In front of them was the Red Sea, which they could not cross.  There was nothing they could do except cry to the Lord, but it looked like the Lord had planned their destruction.  And yet in that impossible situation, God provided the way of escape.  He parted the sea.  He not only showed the Israelites the way but opened it up for them.  They passed through the sea on dry land, but when Pharaoh tried to follow them, He was drowned with all his host.

 

Jesus is our way of escape from temptation.  The Father opened Him up for us as the new and living way into His presence.  In His flesh all our defilement, all sin, was put to death.  It was nailed with Him to the cross.  The sea of God’s wrath poured over Him and swept Him into the grave.  Then the waters receded and Jesus emerged with sin dead and death and Satan underneath His feet.

 

We entered this way of escape in Baptism.  There, like Jayceon today, we were thrown into Christ, the way of escape from temptation.  We were thrown into His suffering, His crucifixion, and put to death finally and forever.  We were brought safely through the raging sea of temptation.  Our feet were placed on a rock.  Clean white linen was placed on our bodies.

 

When we are tempted, we turn to Christ nailed to the tree and ask Him to drown us in Him.  To drown us in His death and burial, to submerge us in His tears for us and His bloody sweat.  To do within us what He has already done in Himself.  In His flesh He killed our sin, even the ceaseless raging lust of our hearts that defiles our consciences.  In Baptism He drowned us and raised us in Him.  Keep doing this, Jesus, we pray in temptation, until finally the devil comes to tempt us no more, because he is defeated by death, because all that is old in us has died and nothing is left except that which rises from the tomb with You.

 

But Jesus’ death is an iron wall and shield that puts Satan to flight in frustration.  He could not succeed in tempting Jesus to sin.  He could not prevent Jesus from destroying sin in His death.  Satan can tempt us, but he cannot overcome us by false security or despair when we hide in the body of our God and Lord that was pierced for us.

 

But what about when it is too late and we have fallen into sin?  In reality, we have usually sinned before we are even aware of it.  The lust of our old Adam after evil, which lives in our hearts, makes it impossible for us to be without sin, even when by the Holy Spirit we restrain and put to death our flesh and its lusts.

 

The lust in our hearts after what is evil is the beginning of sin, and it is enough to defile our hearts and consciences, so that we feel unworthy to approach God.

 

This is where the sin of despair often manifests itself in us, looking like spiritual laziness.  We don’t feel like reading the Bible, praying, going to church, going to Bible Class, receiving the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood.  We are spiritually tired, worn down.  It doesn’t feel like anything can help.  In fact it seems like doing those things will just make things worse because they will reveal our guilt and condemnation.

 

Jesus is the way of escape from this temptation to despair, just as He is the way of escape when we are tempted to false security.  Jesus has not only put our sins to death so that we can go to Him when we are fleeing temptation to sin.  He has put our sins to death so that we can flee to Him when we have already sinned.

 

When sin stains our conscience, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous One, who is the propitiation that turns away the wrath of God and the memory of our sins.  They are blotted out with His red blood.  Sins we have done and left undone.  Sins we know and sins we cannot name.  Specific sins and the whole cloud of guilt that settles over our consciences.

 

By His holy, meritorious life, and by the shedding of His blood, Jesus clears away this guilt—the guilt of our past.  His death is not only defense and refuge against temptation to sin, but victory over sin, over the weight of sins that stain us and weigh us down.

 

This forgiveness and the new life that flows from it, this cleansing and the peace that flows from it, He gives in His body and blood.

 

Are you overwhelmed and tired spiritually?

 

Or are you tempted to think you’re just fine?

 

Come to the table of our gracious Lord.  He will give you life.  He gives you His body and blood with the bread and wine, and with the body and blood of Jesus comes forgiveness of sins.

 

With forgiveness of sins comes every other good gift.

 

A new life.  Not a false one of our own making, nor the bitter despair of our own life of failure.

 

New new life.  With His body and blood He gives You His Spirit, who strengthens you to overcome temptation, to flee to Him when false confidence and despair threaten to overwhelm you.

 

He gives you new life through the His life that was poured out for you.

 

God provides the way of escape in temptation—Jesus Christ, who put sin to death in His flesh.

 

Amen.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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