Robert Jeffress - Believer Beware
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. It doesn't take much for Satan to gain a foothold in our lives. I can assure you, he's working overtime to sabotage our best intentions. Today we'll turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10 for an important reminder that we should never overestimate our spiritual strength or underestimate Satan's ambition to destroy our lives. My message is titled, "Believer Beware" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
It was a year 549 B.C. And the Persian king Cyrus wanted to overtake the city of Sardis. The problem was the city of Sardis was located on a 1,500 foot plateau that was surrounded by steep unscalable cliffs. The residents of Sardis were absolutely convinced that no one could overtake them. They didn't realize how resolved king Cyrus was. So Cyrus ordered his soldiers to find a way to overtake the city of Sardis. In fact, he said, whatever soldier can find a way to invade the city, I will give a special prize to. Well, one of the soldiers of Cyrus, a man named Hyroeades, decided he would take the king up on the challenge. And so from a distance, he watched that city of Sardis on the plateau, watched it day and night, trying to figure out a way to scale the cliffs and invade the city.
And one day as Hyroeades was watching, a soldier marched around the city wall of Sardis, he noticed that the soldier accidentally dropped his helmet over the wall, it fell down the cliff to the bottom and Hyroeades watched as that soldier climbed over the wall, climbed down the cliff, retrieved his helmet, went up the same way and back into the city. Hyroeades had found the way into the city. And that night, while the residents of the city of Sardis slept, Hyroeades led a team of soldiers up that same route, over the wall, into the city, and the city of Sardis fell. Sardis was defeated for two reasons. First of all, the citizens of that city underestimated their enemy's resolve to overtake them. But they also fell because they overestimated their own strength. They thought they were safe from defeat.
You know, Christians make the same mistake today. There are Christians today who have fallen into sin and have become the recipients of God's judgment. And they have fallen into sin for two reasons. First of all, they have underestimated their enemy's resolve that overtake them. But we also make an equally lethal mistake when we overestimate our ability to defeat the enemy at least in our own strength.
There are many Christians today, perhaps some of you, who think that because of a special spiritual experience you've had in the past... Maybe it was a dramatic salvation, maybe it was an answer to prayer, maybe it was the fact that you were reared in a godly home, you think somehow while other people may fall into sin, you will never fall into sin. That's exactly the mistake the Corinthians made. And Paul talks about the danger of overconfidence in the passage we're going to look at tonight. If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10. 1 Corinthians chapter 10. And the theme verse of this passage is verse 12, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". The fact is no one of us here tonight is immune from the possibility of falling into sin and experiencing God's judgment.
That's what he said to the Corinthians. He said, "Corinthians, just because you were miraculously saved out of an idolater's lifestyle, just because you have sat under the greatest preaching in the world, the preaching of Apollos, and others, and even the apostle Paul, even though you've experienced God's supernatural provision in your life, those things do not guarantee that you will not fall into sin as well". He said, "If you don't believe that, if you don't believe that you are as in danger of falling as anyone else, then consider what happened to the Israelites". And that's what he talks about beginning in verse 1 of chapter 10. Even though the Israelites were God's people, they had experienced God's supernatural deliverance, they had received God's supernatural provision and revelation, yet they fell into sin and they experienced God's judgment.
Corinthian Christians, Christians at First Baptist, Dallas, the same thing can happen to you and me. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". Now to make his point here, Paul, first of all, begins by talking about Israel's unique place of privilege. Now let's look at three specific ways that they had been blessed by God. Look at verse 1 of chapter 10, "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea".
Now what is he talking about there? Well, for 400 years, remember the Jews had been in Egypt in bondage, they had cried out for God to deliver them supernaturally. And so after 400 years, Exodus 14 tells us, God led them out of Egypt and he caused them to pass through the Red Sea. It was a supernatural deliverance by God. And even though they were pursued by Pharaoh's army, remember what happened to the army? They were destroyed and Israel was delivered. And whenever from that point on, whenever the Israelites begin to doubt the power of God, the leaders of Israel would always remind them of that signal event of their supernatural deliverance. Not only that, but they were also the recipients of God's supernatural revelation. Look at verse two. And all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
What does that mean they were baptized into Moses? That word "Baptize" simply means to identify with. He's saying here, they identified with their leader Moses, they were under his leadership and of all of the things that we know Moses for, he's probably best known as being the law giver. On mount Sinai he received the supernatural revelation of God. And because of that, he passed that revelation onto the Israelites. And so Israel received God's supernatural revelation through Moses. Thirdly, they were the recipients of God's supernatural provision. Look at verses three and four, "And they all ate the same spiritual food".
Now this is a reference to Exodus chapter 16. They ate the same spiritual food. What was that spiritual food? When they went around eating the Word of God, it's not talking about food that has as its nature a spiritual quality: it's talking about the source of the food: it's talking about the manna. It came from a spiritual source: it came from God. Now they were recipients of all of these things, God's deliverance, his revelation, his provision. But notice what happened to them, verse five, in spite of these things, Paul says, "Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased, for they were laid low in the wilderness".
That word laid low is the word strewn, they were scattered in the wilderness. This is a reference to numbers chapter 14, you know the story. The children of Israel, shortly after leaving Egypt, they were standing at Kadesh Barnea, the entry point into the Promised Land. And remember they sent 12 spies in to see what obstacles they might overcome or encounter in trying to overcome their enemies. And remember the report, 10 came back and said, "The challenge is too great, we can't do it". And the two that we remember, Joshua and Caleb said, "Yes, the challenge is great but our God is greater than the challenge. And if we'll follow him, we can overtake the land". And of course we know what happens, the people believe the negative report of the 10. God was so angry with them that he decided to damn them for all eternity. Moses interceded on Israel's behalf and God relented of his decision to damn the people. Nevertheless, he pronounced this judgment against them.
Look at numbers 14, verses 22 to 23. Hold your place here, turn to numbers 14, verses 22 to 23. "Surely all the men who have seen my glory and my signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put me to the test these 10 times and have not listened to my voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned me see it". Look at verse 28, "Say to them, 'as I live', says the Lord, 'just as you have spoken in my hearing, so I will surely do to you, your corpses will fall,'" there's that word, "'in the wilderness, even all of your numbered men, according to your complete number from 20 years old and upward, who have grumbled against me'".
Now go back to 1 Corinthians chapter, 10 verse 5. Paul is talking about that. He's talking about God's judgment against the Israelites for not believing them. What happened to those Israelites who failed to believe God? Were the ones who were saved, did they lose their salvation? No, their salvation was secure but they never entered the Promised Land. They experienced the harsh discipline of God. Their bodies were strewn, they were scattered in the wilderness. Some people estimate as many as two million Israelites died in the wilderness. What sins are guaranteed to bring God's judgment into our lives?
Well, I want you to notice from Paul's example of what happened to the Israelites, there are five specific kinds of sin that he mentions in this passage that are guarantees of God's judgment. First of all, he talks about evil desire. Look at verse six. "Now, these things happened as examples for us that we would not crave evil things as they also craved". See, the problem was they were longing for those things that were outside of God's will for their life, that's what he means by evil desire. An evil desire is longing for something you know is outside of God's will for your life. Why is that so dangerous? Because Proverbs 23, verse 7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he". Whatever it is we long for eventually will seek to fulfill in our life.
And that leads to a second sin, misplaced affection. Look at verse seven. He said, "Do not be idolaters, as some were, as it is written, the people sat down to eat, and drink, and stood up to play". God hates idolatry today just as much as he did 3,000 years ago. And you say, "Well, I may have committed a lot of sins, pastor, but I have not made a golden calf. I don't have a little statue in my home that I bow down to. That's one sin I don't have to worry about". Oh, really? You know what an idol is? An idol is anyone or anything that you love more than you love God. An idol is anything or anyone you love more than you love God. Your idol might be your child. It might be a mate. It might be a job that you have, it might be a possession that you own. But anything that you love more than God is an idol. And God judges idolatry, misplaced affections.
Number three, blatant immorality is a sin that brought God's judgment against Israel. Look at verse eight. "Nor let us act immorally as some of them did, and 23,000 fell in one day". Now that's a reference to numbers chapter 25 when the Israelites engaged in a sexual orgy with the Moabite women, and if you want to know what God thinks of sexual immorality, of adultery, or premarital sex, just look at how he judged this particular sin. God hates immorality, he judges it. He did then, he does now.
Fourth, the Israelites engaged in continuing rebellion against God. Look at verse nine. "Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents". That word try means to test, to push to the limit. The reference here is to numbers 21 when the people so tried God's patience that he sent those fiery serpents to destroy the Israelites. What does it mean to try God, to test him, to push him to limit? It means to keep on sinning against God and take him for granted that he's going to forgive you. You see a lot of people mistake God's patience with God's tolerance for sin. If God has given you a period of time before he judges you, it's only so that you might repent. There is a limit to God's tolerance and patience with sin.
Fifth, he mentions bitter discontent, look at verse 10. Don't or "Nor grumble, as some of them did, who were destroyed by the destroyer". God hates grumbling, he hates grumblers. You know why God hates grumbling so much? Why does he sent a destroyer who killed 15,000 Israelites in a single day according to numbers 16? Because when you grumble, when you complain, you are voicing dissatisfaction with God's plan for your life and with God's provision for your life. You're saying, "God, you have shortchanged me". "You haven't done me right. And because of that, I'm going to grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble". When you grumble, it is a terrible testimony of the God you supposedly serve. And because of that, God will send judgment into your life, because of grumbling.
Now, look at verse 11. "Now these things happened to them," and there's the word again, "As an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come". The reason God recorded these events of what happened to the Israelites is for our benefit that we can learn from them. God has no patience for evil desires, for misplaced affections, for grumbling, for immorality. God is certain to judge those sins. I want to say this very carefully, because I know I can be misquoted. I do not believe that all suffering is a result of God's judgment.
There are a variety of reasons people suffer. People suffer sometimes because of the fallen world in which we live. People suffer because sometimes God plans suffering for the strengthening of our faith. I don't believe all suffering is a result of sin, but some of it is. Some of it is. When we look around and we see Christians going through suffering, when we look at our own lives and we go through suffering, many times it's God's judgment against our disobedience. We have different names for it. Sometimes we call it cancer. Sometimes we call it heart disease. Sometimes we call it an accident. Sometimes we call it a financial reversal. But what it really is, is God's discipline for our disobedience against him. You cannot keep on sinning against God in these ways without experiencing God's judgment in your life. That's the theme of this passage.
Now, Paul closes with this warning in verse 12, a warning and a promise. Look at the warning in verse 12. "Therefore," he says, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". No matter what spiritual privileges you have experienced in the past, don't think you're immune from sin and God's judgment. Instead, Paul says, "Take an inventory of your heart right now". Are there things you are secretly craving in your life that you know are outside of God's will for you? Is there anyone or anything that you love more than you love God? Are you engaged in some secret sin of immorality in your life that you think no one knows about? Are you basically going around discontent, dissatisfied with what God has given to you? Be careful. Learn from the example of the Israelites. God will not let those kind of sins go unpunished.
Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, the Bible says. But Paul closes in verse 13 with a promise. And this is the message of hope, look at verse 13. This will give you a context for a verse you know so well. He says, "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 that what you are able but with the temptation will provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it". This is a sobering promise. No temptation comes into your life that is not common to everyone. Everyone is tempted with evil desires in this place of affections, and idolatry, and grumbling. We all are tempted with those things but we don't have to give into those things, why? Because with every temptation, God has provided the way of escape.
Now, some of your Bibles say, "A way of escape". I bet some of you learn the verse that way. With every temptation, God will provide a way of escape. That is not an accurate reading of the Greek text. It's articular, it is the way of escape. There's one way of escape every time you're overcome with temptation. What is that way of escape? Real quickly, turn over to Hebrews chapter 12, verses one to three. Here is the way of escape, the way of escape from sin and God's resulting judgment.
Look at this. The writer says, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who is injured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" what is the way of escape from temptation, sin, and God's judgment?
If you want to escape sin in your life, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Now, that doesn't mean kind of walking around with this ethereal, heavenly, you know, look in your face, "Oh, I'm looking at Jesus. I'm looking at Jesus". He's being very practical here. He said, if you want to know how to have victory in your life, fix your eyes on Jesus, look at how he lived. Look at how he dealt with the temptation of sin. Consider it, study it, and imitate it in your life. What did Jesus do when he was tempted, when he was in the wilderness? He prayed. When he was in Gethsemane and wondering whether or not he was going to follow through on God's will for his life, he prayed. When he was on the cross, he prayed. Prayer was instrumental in giving Jesus the spiritual strength he needed to say no to the evil one. But not only that, secondly, he saturated his mind with the Word of God. We saw that in our study of the temptations. Jesus so knew the Word of God inside and out that he knew exactly what scripture to use in what tempting situation.
Now here's the point, ladies and gentlemen, if Jesus, the perfect Son of God, knew he could not afford to become complacent in his spiritual life: if he knew every morning of his life he had to get up early in the morning before it was Dawn to go out and to take hours to pray with his Heavenly Father: if he knew that every moment he was on the brink of falling into temptation: if he knew he had to continually fortify himself through prayer and through God's word, how much more important is it for you and for me to guard against complacency?
To think because of some experience we had 5, 10, 30, 40 years ago, somehow we're exempt from sin. That's what he's saying. The writer of Hebrews is saying, look at what Jesus did. Look at how he prayed, look at how he saturated his mind from scripture. Imitate his life and you'll also imitate his victory over sin. Tonight's passage is a serious passage. One which the writer of Hebrews sums up this way when he says, "Therefore, take care, lest there be in any one of you, an evil unbelieving heart and falling away from the living God".