Temptation: A Way Out
Temptation: A Way Out (1 Corinthians 10:11-13)
Do warnings about temptation really matter? Do you give heed to warnings? Do you listen to multiple, cumulative warnings? Paul gives some warnings and encouragements in the matter of temptation. Many people give no attention at all to warnings about temptation. If it feels good, they do it. They also suffer the consequences of such choices. On the other hand, you can choose to listen to the warnings about temptation and encouragements to find a way out. Our faithful God provides a suitable way out in every temptation.
Remember the Results of Failure to Resist Temptation
Divine biblical revelation as well as mere human history leave no doubt about the results of failure in temptation. You pay a price when you fail to resist. There are real results when you fail to resist temptation: "these things happened to them as examples" (v. 11). We are not without exemplary evidence that failure in the face of temptation can be fatal. Verses 6-10 list four temptations failed by Israel: idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and grumbling (which God takes more seriously than Baptists). These Old Testament accounts show how God will act in similar cases.
This evidence is repeated. If what happened were a mere fluke, we could ignore the consequences. Yet multiple, successive examples make it too clear to avoid. Failure in temptation costs. A whole train of events in Israel's history and world history demonstrate the cost of yielding.
This evidence is recorded. "These things . . . were written down as warnings for us" (v. 11). The record of Israel's failure was of little help to Israel; they had already failed. The biblical stories are intended for us as warnings. They are admonitions that we change our behavior before facing the same end. Indeed, we are those upon whom "the fulfillment of the ages are come." You have more examples, warnings, and clarity in the matter of temptation than any generation before you. The whole of secular and sacred history stands as a warning. Listen to it!
Understand the Results of Overconfidence
For those who are arrogant and presumptuous, there is the possibility of overconfidence. "That's the last thing I would ever do. I've done that before but I'll never do it again." Such statements predict a fall: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). You may think that you stand fast or have security in the face of one or all temptations. You may think that this is the case because of earlier spiritual privilege or progress. Yet Israel had incredible spiritual experiences before yielding (1 Cor. 10:1-5). No kind of earlier spiritual experience exempts you from temptation.
There is the peril of overconfidence: "Be careful that you don't fall!" (v. 12). You may stumble so as to fall beyond recovery of testimony. You may have a moral fall that can involve personal ruin. This does not mean to "fall out of salvation." It does mean to fall in the face of temptation in such a way that you lose influence, integrity, peace of mind, and sometimes much more.
Recall the Remedy in the Time of Temptation
Such warnings could lead us to despair. If so many have fallen, how can we stand? These are words of encouragement. Remember the limitation on temptation: "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man" (v. 13). No temptation has come that is above human strength to withstand. There are no "superhuman" temptations. If you sin, you choose to do so. Every temptation you face has come to other humans and been resisted by other humans. No Christian can ever truly say, "It was more than I could handle. The devil made me do it."
Recall the character of God. Our mainstay in the face of temptation is the character of God. "God is faithful." God is worthy of all our reliance in times of temptation. Such times are inevitable, but God does not allow us to face temptations beyond His provision to deliver us. God always intervenes so that tempting power does not exceed our ability to resist.
Recall the provision of God. "He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Temptation and possibilities of escape go in pairs. When temptation comes there is an exit, a way to get clear from the struggle. For any given temptation there is a given way out. You may or may not use it, but the way out is always present. You will not be cornered or stuck in a cul de sac. At the front end of temptation there is a way out. At the back end of sin there may not be. Find the way out at the beginning. Sometimes the way out is to run out. At other times it is prayer, reliance on Christ, and the presence of others. When temptation comes, find the way out—God always gives it.