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Real Life Warnings

1 Corinthians 10:6-10
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 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.' 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, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel. (NIVUK)

The narrative passages of the Old Testament are not just history. They show how God interacts with His people when they are faithful (in blessing), and when they are unfaithful (in judgement). Paul used episodes from Israel's wilderness wanderings to illustrate some things which God will not tolerate. They were also the same behaviour patterns which were considered normal in Corinthian society, from which God had called the believers.
The problem lies deeper than wrong actions. Every sinful activity is preceded by an evil desire in the heart (James 1:13-15). That is where changes need to happen. Behaviour-modification by itself is doomed to fail. Instead, we need to know what pleases the Lord and what He hates. Without that teaching true discipleship cannot develop. So Paul highlighted episodes from the wilderness journey: idolatry (Exodus 32:1-6), alcohol fuelled orgies (Exodus 32:6), sexual immorality (Numbers 25:1-2), questioning God's sovereignty (Numbers 21:4-6) and grumbling (Numbers 16:41).
Each sinful episode which ended in judgement and death had started with a wrong desire. Those accounts are real life warnings to all God's people in any age; but especially to the church in Corinth where the pagan culture encouraged all those desires. The apostle was calling the church to be counter-cultural. If they were to be true disciples of Jesus they could no longer be disciples of the Evil One, fulfilling his desires (John 8:44). They needed to have a clean heart and right desires (Psalm 51:10).
Warnings are only useful if you know that they apply to you. The apostle's directness can be applied to many believers today who live in cultures which reject the supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ. But first we need to apply our minds to identify the behaviour patterns into which we easily slip. Once we see that we are doing the wrong action, we can pinpoint the area of our heart which is brewing up evil desires. Confess those desires to the Lord and reject their authority over your life. Ask the Lord to help you be satisfied by His love, and choose to accept His grace. Our hearts change as we abandon our selfish striving for satisfaction and learn to receive the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Holy God. Thank You for giving such clear warnings to Your people so that we can learn to reject what displeases You. Thank You for making me aware that Your warnings are intended for me. I repent of harbouring and growing evil desires in my heart. Please create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me; and teach me to live in a new way which pleases You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams