Friday, March 21, 2014

The Weight

 History is a heavy load to carry.  

First glance at the title and I'm willing to bet most people will immediately think that we are about to engage in some Biggest Loser talk about losing those unnecessary pounds.
No, "the weight" we are going to discuss today is more of the spiritual variety.
And, while the physical can sometimes be a result of the spiritual, at the end of the day we need to take care of the heart of the problem and not just treat the symptoms.
That is to say, we could talk about the physical weight of a person and beat ourselves up about how we look or dress or our earthly appearance. But, is that really going to address the problem?

We are spiritual beings. We are also rooted in an earthly world where we are hereditarily tied to people and situations all around us where we find ourselves knee deep in history.
History is one of my passions. I like to find out what makes a person or place tick.
And, you will usually find exactly what your looking for in regards to that issue when you dig into a person's history and background.

The Apostle Paul pens one of our most famous lines of scripture here in 1 Corinthians.
What is often missed when this passage is quoted, however, is the rest of the passage that it comes from. Have you taken the time to read this verse in the context of the first thirteen verses of chapter 10? Lets take a look verse 13 and then talk about the larger context.

1 Corinthians 10:13

New International Version (NIV)
13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Chapter 10 in 1 Corinthians has the subtitle "Warnings From Israel's History".
Through this first letter Paul has been dealing with Jewish leaders who have come into the fray and tried to get the Christians in this place to follow Jewish Law to a T in order to follow Christ in this new found faith called Christianity. Paul has had his hands full trying to iron out what these Jewish leaders have been spouting off about and teach the new Christians in Corinth what they need to know about following Christ.

By the time we get to chapter 10, Paul uses a very well thought-out illustration right out of Israel's own backyard. Their own history book. Much of his audience are Jewish people who are living in other parts outside of Israel. How did they come to be there? What brought them to these parts of the world? Job relocation. Family business. Maybe some were exiled. Some can't return home to the land they remember. A new life must be found where they now live.

The Jewish history book is something that all Jews would be familiar with.
Hearing the stories from of old and about your ancestors is something I cherish.
I can remember sitting at my dad's feet hearing him go on about fixing cars with my Grandpa Shank.
My grandfather was a parts manager for Hicks & Martin in my hometown of Shelby, OH for about 40 years before he went out to his own home in the country and opened shop in his own garage.
Hearing stories about fixing cars, going to get parts, sitting at the counter at the local parts store drinking a Coke and eating a candy bar while Grandpa Shank waited for his parts order were stories that are treasures to my ears.

My dad had a simple philosophy about life from fixing cars with Grandpa Shank. He passed it along.
"If you want to learn how to do a thing, just watch." That's how dad learned how to fix a lot of things on cars. He just watched. My dad was the youngest of 4 kids. But, my grandpa was 42 when dad was born. You might say he was the 'surprise' child. His 3 sisters were pretty much grown up by the time he came into the world. I can remember dad talking about getting off the bus and running to the garage in a hurry to be there while Grandpa Shank worked on a car. Grandpa would tell him he needed to get his homework done first. So, dad work would go get anything done he had from school and then haul it out to the garage to be with Grandpa.

Dad's stories about the rhetoric in the garage were just a priceless as the fixing of a rod in a 4 cylinder engine. People brought their Ford and Chevy cars and trucks to Grandpa. When someone brought a Chrysler, that was just too much fun to pass up. Never understood what they didn't like about Chrysler made products, but they would call people out on their ownership of such a vehicle.
"Chrysler? Oh geez. You brought that in here. Get that thing out of this garage!"
Grandpa would fix it regardless. He was no bearer of ill will.

The Apostle Paul pulls some famous instances out of Israel's history and helps them to see that maybe that have been harboring some ill will in their own lives. Maybe they are repeating the same history that some of their ancestors have already covered. Check out his opening words in Chap 10.

1 Corinthians 10

New International Version (NIV)

Warnings From Israel’s History

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

It seems like Israel's ancestors had a relationship with the Almighty God.
They seemed to be in contact with the Lord on some level. They partook in the blessings of beings God's people. What went wrong? Why were they scattered in the wilderness?
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

Paul doesn't mince words here
. History is in place for a reason. To show us what we should or should not do. And, that wisdom can be applied to us in the right here and now. What kinds of things did their ancestors do?

Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

Seems like their were some very specific things that Israel's forefathers were engaged in.
Idolatry - they needed something they could cling to and hang on to. A relationship with a God of fire and smoke, leading through the wilderness, was not enough. We know their story. Making golden calves. Turning to the gods of their neighboring countries. Their gods were made of stone or wood.

Sexual Immorality - In Paul's day there were temples made to false gods and the kinds of things that were doing with the human body are images I will not open the door to in this message. People were doing horrible things to each other in the Old Testament to honor some god made of stone and the same customs were still in place as Paul writes.

Testing Christ - other manuscripts would also say "testing the Lord". The image of Christ and his promise can be seen through the prophecies of the Old Testament. So, in testing God they inadvertently were testing Christ. Abraham was thought to be the Father of the Promise. His offspring the children of God. God wanted to bless them. They grumbled and griped and missed the blessings. Which brings the last item up for business...

Grumbling - isn't that next to impossible to ask human beings to do? Look back on the generations behind us and see what they grumbled and griped about. Now, don't do the same things they did. Don't grumble and gripe like they did. Don't repeat the same things that have already made life unbearable and made situations impossible. What good does grumbling and griping do? Blood pressures get raised. Health gets squandered. All because we can't can't be happy with what we have, so we end up grumbling because we aren't getting what we want. And, our ancestors did the same thing. Where did it get them? Did it get them what they wanted? No. But, it didn't stop them either. And, it doesn't stop people today either.

 George Santayana is famous for this quote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Paul would tell his readers at verse 11...
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

Many of the Christians of Paul's time frame saw themselves of the generation of the Return. Christ would come back and they expected it. So, before Christ gets here, maybe we should let go of everything we don't need. Including, all this historical weight.

Family history is something that can weigh us down.
In 2010 I went through what I can only describe as a mid-life crisis.
For all the good stories I had growing up of my Grandpa Shank and how he treated his fellow man there isn't much good to share about what I saw my own father doing. He is my step-father. He adopted us. There's a lot of good I could say about that. But, I saw a lot of harshness and hatred there as I grew up. I did not see a man who really acted like he "loved". And, in the hereditary way of following in ones footsteps, I began to act like him. All I ever wanted was to be someone's son. To feel like I had a role model there to follow. And, so, in 2010 it really hit me full force that I was doing the same things I had heard him doing. Repeating the same sarcastic phrases. Using the same harsh putdowns. Talking to my kids & my wife the same way I heard him talk to me and my mom.

Sometimes, our greatest temptation is to simply repeat the same old things our ancestors did.
And, for me, the temptation was to desire my father's approval. Regardless of the consequences it might bring to my family or my marriage. My dad had said this or that about life. He must be right and everybody else is wrong. It's a smack in the face to our ideology when we suddenly realize the way we are treating other people is simply a repetition of the hatred and grief we have already seen in our lives, hereditarily.

Paul brings his readers to their knees.
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

To those Jewish leaders who were trying to get people to follow the law, like their ancestors tried to follow the law to that T, and they couldn't keep the law, and they all died in the wilderness, what kind of future do Paul's readers think they'll have trying to follow the law?

For us today, as we read the passage, what kind of weight is resting on our own shoulders?
What kind of history are we just repeating again and again?
It is in the context of all of this, that Paul says this verse...
13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

There is
a temptation to just do a thing because that's the way our ancestors did it.
That temptation is a weight that human beings find hard to bear.
God doesn't want us to repeat the same old mistakes, the same old failures.
And, so, he makes us a way out of temptation.

Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil.

When we are tempted to repeat the mistakes of the past, he provides us a way out.
And, the blessing is that God keeps his promises.

A promise is a sure thing. Temptation is not.
Standing on the promises that can not fall.
Listening every moment to the Spirit's call.
Resting in my Savior as my All in All.

Get yourself some promises today.

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