Wesleyan Roots: “Temptation”


Wesleyan Roots: “Temptation”

A Message on 1 Corinthians 10:6-13

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Oct. 7, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

1 Corinthians 10:6-13 (NRSV)


Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.


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Today we are continuing our sermon series on “Wesleyan Roots” by exploring 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 and John Wesley’s sermon on that scripture titled simply, “Temptation.”


Now I’m sure most of us are aware of what temptation is, right? It’s a desire someone has to do something, usually something that is not good.


Now in the scripture we read today the author, the Apostle Paul, is talking about people that caved in to temptation. He’s talking about the Israelites from back in the old Testament.


If you remember back in Exodus Moses goes to the Pharaoh of Egypt and says, [sing] “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, ohhhh baby, let my people go. Ugh! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.”


Pharaoh finally lets them go, the people travel to the Red Sea,  Pharaoh changes his mind and sends his army after them to annihilate them, but then God parts the waters and the people walked through the sea to the other side. And when Pharaoh’s army tried to follow them the waters covered them and they drowned.


So they go to the base of Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Saini, and the people get freaked out by fire and smoky clouds and trumpet blasts and so Moses goes up on the mountain to speak with God and he gets the 10 commandments.


Now prior to this the people say that they will listen to God and do whatever God says. “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do,” they promised. (Exodus 19:8)


And yet, when Moses is not as quick about coming back down the mountain as they expected, what do they do? They give in to temptation. They convince Aaron, who is Moses’ brother that he leaves in charge of the people while he’s gone, to make a golden calf for them to worship.


And Aaron does.


Now here’s what I think is the interesting part. The Israelites demand a golden calf, so where does Aaron get the gold? From the Israelites. He has them give him their earrings that they had. And where did the Israelites get the gold earrings? After all, they were slaves in Egypt, right, and slaves don’t have gold.


They got them from the Egyptians as they left. Yep. They plundered the Egyptians for gold and silver and the Egyptians gave it to them because they were happy to see them go. The 10 plagues more than convinced them to let them go.


So the Israelites, who finally obtain freedom from the Egyptians, take the gold they had plundered from the Egyptians, made a golden calf like the Egyptians, and worshipped it like the Egyptians.


They became like the Egyptians. Even though they had been held as slaves by the Egyptians, even though they had been mistreated by the Egyptians, and even though the Egyptians did things like making a law to kill all male Israelite babies, they still became like the Egyptians.


They gave in to temptation and became like the very people that had oppressed them.


That’s what Paul is talking about in the scripture today. He is talking about how the Israelites kept giving in to temptation instead of following God’s laws and trusting in God.


And then he adds some words of advice: “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)


In other words, don’t get too comfortable thinking you are winning the war against temptation, because when you become complacent and don’t focus on resisting temptation, those are the times that you are most vulnerable.


In his sermon on temptation, John Wesley expounds on this: “Do not Satan and his angels continually go about seeking whom they may devour? Who is out of reach of their malice and subtlety? Not the wisest or the best of the children of men.”


We all get tempted. It’s just part of human nature. And Satan is very good at tempting us with those things that we are most susceptible to. Whatever happens to be your achilles heel, that’s where Satan will aim his arrows.


If you have a weakness for food, that’s where Satan will aim his temptations. If it is an attraction to persons other than your spouse, Satan will put some gorgeous individuals in your path. If it is buying new things, you will find some things on sale that will be extremely hard to resist. If it’s alcohol or drugs, you will find those things popping up and available to you. If it’s money, you will face situations that might be a little shady, illegal, or even maybe immoral but that could earn you some money.


You get the idea. And don’t think it doesn’t happen to you. It does, and it will.


I gave into temptation this week. Many of you may not know that I used to play trombone. I paid for most of my first two years of college at Henderson County Junior College with a music scholarship playing trombone.


Well Mike Kellogg, our music director, found an old trombone at a garage sale. It wasn’t very shiny and pretty but it was a brand-name trombone and it had a trigger, which means you can play notes easier and deeper than a trombone without a trigger.


Anyway, Mike and I got to talking about trombones this past week and started talking about this trombone. I was tempted to buy it. Really tempted. We talked some more and ended up agreeing on a deal for me to buy the trombone. I was excited! I got it home, put a mouthpiece on it, and started playing it. Or start trying to play it. It was pretty awful. Well, that’s not exactly true. It was REALLY awful!


I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy that trombone. Pam wasn’t too happy when she got home and I had to confess to her what I had done. (She’s STILL not happy…)


We will always have temptations. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God gives us the power to overcome those temptations. But there is a catch: you have to work at it. You have to try. You have to consciously decide to resist temptations.


Paul writes about this in his letter to the church at Corinth that we read from today.


“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”


Here’s how Wesley describes it. “He [God] sees exactly how much we can endure with our present degree of strength. And if this is not sufficient, he can increase it to whatever degree it pleases him. Nothing, therefore, is more certain, than that, in consequence of his wisdom, as well as his justice, mercy, and faithfulness, he never will, he never can, suffer us to be tempted above that we are able: Above the strength which he either hath given already, or will give as soon as we need it.”


Now I want to offer something here that I think is important with regard to temptation. I don’t believe God tempts us, but that God allows us to be tempted. For me this is a big differentiation. Now God has the power to cause us to be tempted, that I believe, but I don’t believe it’s in God’s nature to use that power to purposefully tempt us.


One of the reasons I believe this is because of what is written in the first chapter of James: “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.”


So God doesn’t do the tempting. No. But, God does provide us with the strength to overcome those temptations.


Wesley summarizes it this way: “Let us then receive every trial with calm resignation, and with humble confidence that He who hath all power, all wisdom, all mercy, and all faithfulness, will first support us in every temptation, and then deliver us out of all: So that in the end all things shall work together for good, and we shall happily experience, that all these things were for our profit, that we ‘might be partakers of his holiness.’”


It is important for us to remember that Jesus was tempted. Prior to beginning his ministry, right after he was baptized, he spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness where Satan appears and tempts him three times. He tempts Jesus with food, with ego, and with power. Each time Jesus responds with quotes from Deuteronomy, successfully resisting the temptations.


Why does it matter than Jesus was tempted? Because Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. Jesus experienced everything that we experience as humans. That includes temptations.


Jesus resisted temptation, and so can we. It’s not easy, and it requires us to lean upon the power of God to be successful, but it can be done. And it should be done.


So my challenge to you this week is to resist temptation. Acknowledge that you don’t have the power to be successful resisting temptation by yourself, but utilize the power God provides to overcome temptation.


And if you want to get together to help me practice my trombone, let me know. (But don’t tell Pam.)


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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