Last weekend I watched a football movie called The Replacements. The story was about an eclectic team of players who were hired to replace the original pro team, which is out on strike. During the training there is a scene where the head coach, Jimmy McGinty, tries to get his players to bond and work as a team. The coach asks his players to talk about their fears. The quarterback, Eddie Falco, tells everyone he is afraid of quicksand. He says, “Running a play by yourself is like stepping in quicksand; one moment you’re confident and self-reliant then all of a sudden everything unravels and no matter how hard you try you can’t pull it back together.”
I think this is a great analogy for 1 Corinthians chapter 10 because in a lot of ways the Corinthians were a lot like Eddie Falco. In their ambitious freedom, they were confident and believed they could walk the straight and narrow path to Christianity on their own. But some of them failed and stepped into quicksand - the quicksand of temptation. This warning is summarized in verse 12, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” You see, how we use or misuse our freedom can affect our service to Christ.
One of the most common ways we fall into the quicksand of temptation and then sin is being over confident. For example, some of the Corinthian believers thought they were strong enough to freely associate with pagans in their ceremonies and social activities without being affected. Paul, the author of 1 Corinthians, tells them they were self-deceived. Abusing their freedom not only hurt believers but also endangered their spiritual lives. Because of our own sinful nature, we simply cannot live long on the far edge of freedom without falling into temptation. Mature Christians don’t try to stretch their freedom to the extreme, to see how close to Satan they can get without being harmed. Temptation is a real danger for us as believers. Because once we fall into sin we lose our usefulness in God’s Service.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul compares the Corinthians to Ancient Israel and their forty-year wandering between Egypt and Canaan. When Paul writes, ‘I do not want you to be unaware, brethren,’ (1Cor. 1-4) He is preparing them for new insights into old and familiar stories.
Israel as a nation was given every blessing and protection by God while in the wilderness. But, they became too confident in all the things they were able to do under Moses. Israel misused its freedom by falling into idolatry, immorality and rebelliousness. They became prohibited from entering the Promised Land and lost their special service to God as His messenger people. Paul was warning the over-confident Corinthians, “Don’t let what happened to the nation of Israel happen to you.”
This reminds me of when I was on the Junior High Track Team. My event was the final leg of the relay races. During one close competition the team mate running the baton to me tripped and fell early in his run. He just gave up and sat on the field. Seeing this, I ran to him, took the baton, and ran to the finish line to complete the race. The crowd cheered, but our team not only lost. We were also disqualified for breaking the rules. At the end of the day I was recognized for having team spirit. Like my team mate, if we depend on our own strength, we can be ineffectual. In real life, when we step into the spiritual quicksand of temptation our prognosis isn’t good. But when we rest in Jesus, through His strength and victory on the cross, we are made holy and ready for the Lord’s service.
Out of the multitude of Israelites who left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Even Moses was barred from entering because Moses struck the rock at Meribah in his own anger at the rebellious Israelites (Num. 20:8-12). Because of their disobedience, the Israelites were laid low in the wilderness. Laid low (Greek: katastronnumi) means literally ‘to strew or spread over.’ All of Israel had been graciously blessed, liberated, baptized by the water and sustained by the Lord in the wilderness. But in that test of obedience and service, most of them fell short (1Cor.9:24,27). They misused and abused their freedom. In selfishness and overconfidence they tried to live on the edge of their freedom and by doing so, they fell into temptation and then, into sin.
Many of the Corinthian Christians, overconfident in their own moral and spiritual strength, had become careless about their activities where false Gods were worshiped. They believed they could be associated with such pagan activities without being spiritually harmed. Some of the believers in Corinth, like Israel in the wilderness, were in danger or had already backslid into actual idolatry. The Corinthian idols represented false gods, gods who were really demons. Paul warns later in Chapter 10 that, “you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (1Cor. 10:20-21).
When Christians worship anyone or anything other than God, it is idolatry. Worshipping the Virgin Mary, saints, icons, or angels is idolatry. No matter how sincerely they are meant to honor God, such practices are false worship and are strictly forbidden in scripture. Anything that replaces our first love of God, is an idol. Please remember the first commandment God gave Moses, “You shall have no other Gods before me” (Ex.20:3).
Early in my own career I stepped into such a quicksand. I thought the only way to be successful was to work long hours and dedicate myself to my career. I practically cut God and family out of my life. I became miserable and so did my family. Quality of life definitely improved when I took a step back, slowed down, and began to act normal again with God and family back in the center of my life.
In closing let’s pray. Dear heavenly Father, thank you understanding we are weak and will be tempted by one thing or another in this world. Father because you care so deeply about us you have taken action to help us through times of temptation. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we are told, “but remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand against it. When you are tempted he will show you a way out so that you will not give into it.” Father, we can rest in your love because we know when we face temptation you will always give us the power to resist, or give us a way to escape it. Amen.