Immersed into Moses

Jesus not only said to seek first the kingdom of God, but He also added, "and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews also added this exhortation, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). The intent of Godís scriptures is pretty clear, that each saint is to exercise self-control in all things. "I buffet my body," was Paulís way of making this point, "and make it my slave." If he did not control himself, then ó regardless of how many thousands of others his messages had saved ó he himself would be disqualified at the gates of eternal life. This is a sobering thought for any modern Christian making the claim to godliness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, and the renewing of his mind by the scriptures, the disciple of Christ can win this battle with self, and exhibit the righteousness and holiness that the Father desires and requires from His children.

Paulís reason in bringing this example forward is to warn the brethren. "Nevertheless," he points out, "with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness" (I Corinthians 10:5). It is not enough for an individual to simply be immersed into Christ; he must follow through and live successfully under the terms of this wonderful and final new covenant. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling," is Paulís exhortation (Philippians 2:12). Modern saints must buffet their bodies and make them their slaves, lest they also be disqualified.

Do Not Crave Evil Things

It is possible to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is possible to walk as Jesus walked! But sinning is a possibility also; the scripture talks about it, and warns against it. The writer of Hebrews has a similar thought to that which Paul expressed to the Corinthian brethren when he wrote, "Let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). The god of this age is hard at work, appealing to every lust of the flesh, every lust of the eye, and every bit of the pride of life to turn saints aside from the path of righteousness. Hence it is that the apostle Paul seriously warns the brethren in Corinth not to follow in the steps of the children of Israel after the crossing of the Red Sea, but rather to go forward and take hold of the abundant life in Christ.

It is clearly important, then, that the saint recognize the importance of having the driving desire to please God. If He is not happy with an individual, that individual is going to be really unhappy for all eternity. "Walk as children of light," Paul exhorted in another place, "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8,10). The saint will take spiritual inventory of his progress and position at this point, and make the adjustments necessary. He is to put a stop to any craving of evil things, and focus his entire attention on pleasing the Lord. In so doing, he will cross his own Jordan, and conquer the "lands" that the Lord has set out for him!

Warnings from Israel's Wanderings

An estimated 1.5 million Israelites perished in the wilderness of Sin and related locations over a period of forty years. That averages out to a little more than 100 people per day, every day, for those years! Thatís 100 families per day in the camp affected personally by death; thatís 100 funerals per day in the congregation in the wilderness. These are sobering statistics to contemplate, and that contemplation is exactly what God wants His new covenant saints to do. "They were laid low in the wilderness," Paul had stated, and that "these things happened as examples for us." Christians, if they do not maintain their proper spiritual focus, can be sucked into Satanís schemes just as Israel was pulled into idolatry and moral destruction.

God, then, expects His children to step up and perform worthy of the family Name. One of the points in these exhortations is that there are consequences for running counter to the direction the Lord would have us to go. "Now these things happened to them as an example," notes Paul, in reference to those millions who perished in the wilderness, "and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:11). The instruction is given; will we heed the instruction?

Heed What Is Written

One of the common, but mega-important, statements of the Bible is: "It is written Ö" From the time that Moses inked the first scroll, God has pointed truth-seekers to what is written for instruction and direction. When Israel was pictured as hesitating between what was muttered by the mediums and spiritists, the prophet cried out, "To the Law and to the testimony!" (Isaiah 8:20). Hence it is that New Testament apostles, preachers, and teachers would continually appeal to what was recorded in the sacred scrolls. Even our Lord Jesus, during the days of His sojourning in the flesh, again and again pointed people to those written documents of authority with words such as, "have you not read?", "it is written," and "the scripture cannot be broken." Thus the apostle Paul, in this epistle to the Corinthian brethren, adverts that the Old Testament scrolls were really written and preserved for the sake of the followers of Christ. Referencing the Old Testament quotation, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," the apostle had posited, "God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written Ö"

"I buffet my body and make it my slave," Paul had commented concerning himself, to enjoin upon the brethren the seriousness of their commitment to Christ, "let possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." Most of the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea failed to cross the Jordan; the modern saint needs to somberly consider that truth, and be certain to heed the things that are written!

What God Can Do

The spiritual warfare is intense. The temptations are great. The forces of evil are at work, clawing and tearing at the defenses of the Christian, to wear him down. The devil is prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy. The saints, then, are warned by Paul and the Holy Spirit that "we should not crave evil things," that we should "not be idolaters," "nor act immorally," nor "try the Lord," nor "grumble." The saint is cautioned that he should, when he "thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." When these are the considerations, the picture painted is pretty bleak. And if the saint were on his own, then the outcome would most likely be one of failure. But these are not the only considerations by far. The focus is really on what God can do! "What God has promised," the scripture affirms, "God is able to perform" (see Romans 4:21).

He has given the saints His word, "which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). He "is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). He "is able to save forever those who draw near to God" through Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). If He is able to do these things, why ó to parallel one of the apostle Paulís points before Porcius Festus ó would it be considered incredible if God is able to deliver the saints from temptation?

Faith That Overcomes

Are Christians fighting the battle against temptation, but guaranteed to lose? This, of course, is the position of Catholics and Calvinists, of denominationalists and deniers of the faith once and for all delivered. Catholics are encouraged to petition for Mary to pray for them as sinners even in the hour of their deaths. Protestants, with their Calvinistic foundation, believe that they are simply sinners, and always sinners, saved by Godís grace. But this is not the picture the inspired scriptures paint. Rather, Christians are represented as those who are overcomers ó those who overcome sin, self, and circumstance in order to propagate the faith of Christ throughout the world. They are to "lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily besets" them (Hebrews 12:1). They are to "stop sinning" (I Corinthians 15:34). "The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked," walking in purity and sinlessness and compassion, "because as He is, so also are we in this world" (I John 2:6; 4:17).

If the temptation is too strong, there is a way out. "God," says Paul, "with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." Sometimes the way out is simply to shut off the TV, walk out of the movie, stay out of the bar Ö whatever! But there is always a way out, so there are no excuses! Christians, then walk by faith and live by faith. They trust in the truthfulness of Godís word; they donít find excuses ó they find a way forward!

Flee From Idolatry

Idolatry and paganism are powerfully deceptive. Most of Abrahamís descendants descended into paganism; most of Israel was swept away by idol worship; and it was a tremendous battle in the early church. Will not the weaker brother, asked Paul, if he sees you who have knowledge dining in an idolís temple, "will not his conscience be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?" (I Corinthians 8:10). The pull of paganism is obviously powerful, so powerful that the apostle exhorts, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (I Corinthians 10:14). Some idolatry is subtle. "Greed," says Paul, "amounts to idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). "A covetous man," says he in another place, "is an idolater" (Ephesians 5:5). Jesus thus talked about "unrighteous mammon [taken from a pagan god of wealth]" (Matthew 6:24). But some of the idolatry the early church faced was open worship of the pagan gods, and due to family and peer pressures, the pull exerted was so strong that the saints were simply exhorted to flee.

Paulís desire is to emphasize the importance of fellowship with Christ. The thoughtful individual ó and certainly every Christian should be one of these ó recognizes that continued participation in the body and blood of the Lord is the only means by which the proper eternity is secured for him. Hence the beginning point in the apostleís carefully reasoned presentation against any semblance of participation in idolatry is his emphasis on the importance of sharing in the body and blood of Christ. "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry!"

Nature of Our Participation

Godís goal has been to move man from focusing on the physical to a sharing in the spiritual. "The things which are seen are temporal," noted the apostle Paul in another place, "but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18). The elements of the Old Covenant were of necessity physical in nature, whereas the elements of the New Covenant are spiritual, although occasionally with physical touchstones to make the bridge to the spiritual. The thrust of immersion into Christ, for example, is primarily spiritual, involving unseen forgiveness of sins and a new spiritual birth, but it has the physical component of having a physical body plunged into physical water. Similarly with the Lordís Supper; it has the physical elements of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, but the significance of the Supper is spiritual. The "cup," then, is "a sharing in the blood of Christ," and the loaf is "a sharing in the body of Christ."

There is one God, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, and those who participate in the Lordís Supper have fellowship with the Father and with the Son. But if there is a distinction between the altar at which the Old Covenant priest served (which was ordained by God) and the spiritual altar of the New Covenant, how much more distance is there between the pagan altars and the participation the body and blood of Christ! "You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" (I Corinthians 10:21). The saint, then, must choose which side he will fellowship with; either he participates with his pagan relatives and demons, or he participates with the Lord and His brethren. No one can choose "the middle ground" because there is no middle ground.

Common Sense Edification

God has always indicated that He will brook no competition. At the beginning of Israel as a nation, God spoke through Moses, saying to Israel, "You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14). And reaching to the other end, as the prophet Ezekiel looks to the church, he quotes the Almighty as saying, "Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I shall be jealous for My holy name" (Ezekiel 39:25). The revelation of that love and jealousy is expressed through the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. Thus Jesus would say, "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33). A situation, then, where a Christian would participate in the sacrifices at an idolís temple, or would light a candle, saying, "Caesar is Lord," would be tantamount to denying Christ before men!

God is a jealous God! He sent His only begotten Son into the world to rescue the lost, demonstrating His love for His brethren. How then could they participate in "other communions?" How could they drift over and eat at the temple of Zeus, or participate in the sacrifice to Poseidon? How could they participate in the ashrams of Hinduism, or the mosques of Islam? How could they share in the so-called eucharists of the Greek Orthodox religion, or participate in that offered by the Roman Catholics? How could they share with the Methodists or Baptists? Assemblies of God? Presbyterians? Episcopalians? So-called Disciples of Christ? Lutherans? Fake churches of Christ, or compromised Christian churches? How could they share "communion" with any of the thousands of denominations out there who "have a form of godliness" but deny its power? Would they provoke THE LORD to jealousy?

That They May Be Saved

Free in Christ! Free at last! Free at last! But what does that mean? Over the centuries God has used political freedom and political tyranny, slave holders and slaves, to communicate the difference between slavery to sin and freedom in Christ. One of the great lessons exhibited in the inspired records of Israelís history, and confirmed in the experiences of the Roman republic and the American republic, is that only a self-governed, reasonably disciplined people can remain free. When the public begins to lack discipline, and heads down the road of being dissolute, then that same people at some point no longer have the capacity to be free; they disintegrate into being ruled by tyrants. Liberty is lost through those who become libertine. In Christ, then, is true freedom of the spirit. But as political freedom can be lost through lack of discipline, so the saint is warned about his behavior under liberty. "For you were called to freedom, brethren," the apostle Paul reminded the saints in the Roman province of Galatia, "only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). "Act as free men," was Peterís contribution, "and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God" (I Peter 2:16). Liberty in Christ must be managed!

God is glorified when saints are conscious of the impact of their actions on others, and how it may impact their desire to be open to the gospel. "By this is My Father glorified," affirmed the Lord Jesus Himself, "that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8). In that context, therefore, the apostle Paul issued this positive challenge, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1).