Tuesday, August 13, 2013

As Common as Bluegrass in Kentucky

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:13

Most of the time the truth is painful. We are going along our merry way and some Nathan (II Samuel 12) comes up and tells us how it really is. All of this can feel a bit like getting punched in the gut. I Corinthians 10:13 contains several of these Nathan moments. We learn here that we can resist temptation. We learn here that God is faithful. We learn that God provides a way out for us every single time. One could leave this verse feeling like they have no excuse for sinning. And that would be correct.

But I want to focus on the very first clause of this verse. In this clause, the Holy Spirit through Paul says something amazing. All of our temptations are common. None of our temptations are special or unique. Millions of men, women, and children experience the exact same temptations you and I do. Abraham felt them. David did. Paul did. The peasant in the middle ages did. Your mom and dad did. Your brothers and sisters at church do.  Paul has just walked the church at Corinth through the wilderness wanderings (verse 1-10). He has told them how God was not pleased with Israel even though he delivered them. Why? They lusted (vs. 6). They worshiped idols (vs. 7). They committed sexual immorality (vs. 8). They tempted Christ (vs. 9). They complained (vs. 10). Then Paul says that all of this was written as an example to us. Then he warns the church to not get proud (vs. 12).  He closes with verse 13 where he reminds them that they are not special. The situation at Corinth was not a once in a lifetime experience. What they were going through was as common as the sand on the seashore.

When we sin (or want to sin) we often excuse our sin by claiming that we are different or that our situation is unique. Sin feeds us the lie that we are special and therefore we can or must go ahead and sin. Of course, we would never say this out loud. But in our minds we directly contradict what Paul says here. We think, "My temptation is not common to men. I am going through something no one else has ever had to go through. Therefore my sin is excused." There are at least two ways we do this.

First, we claim that our situation is special . If you had my parents you wouldn't honor them. If you had the day I had you would yell at the kids too. If your wife was the ice block mine is you would look at porn also. If you had my husband you wouldn't respect him either. All these "ifs" are code word for "My situation is special and therefore my sin is excused." Or we talk about our upbringing and blame our parents. My parents did not train me right. Blame them for my sin. We can also blame the actual tempting situation itself. If that woman in a bikini had never shown up on my computer I would never have looked at porn. If that man in the red Corvette had not cut me off in traffic then I would not have gotten angry. If my boss gave me more work I would not waste my time. If the people at my church were kinder I could really love them. Over and over again we put ourselves in a special category the "I have an excuse for my sin category." But your situation is not unique. It is common. No temptation you face is special to you.  Millions of men throughout history have experienced the exact same thing as you. Stop excusing your sin because you think your situation is unique.

Second, we claim that our personality gives us an excuse for sin. We are special because we have a particular personality trait. We excuse our sin by saying, "I am just wired this way." I am withdrawn (i.e. I am not kind). I am moody (i.e. I go into fits of rage). I am outgoing (i.e. I spend my day at work talking instead of working). I am generous (i.e. I blow my money). I am frugal (i.e. I refuse to share). I am a visual learner (i.e. I can't sit still and listen to a sermon). My personality clashes with hers (i.e. I am mean to her).  We blame our personality for our sins. But again no temptation is unique. Your personality is not brand new in the history of mankind. Stop excusing your sin because of your personality.

Let me clarify a few things. People do have leanings toward particular sins. Our personalities draw us toward vices. And some people do have trying circumstances. All of this is true. But none of this is an excuse for sinning.

So one of Paul's points here to the Corinthians and to us is that we are not special. Our situation is not special. Our personalities are not special. Our temptations are not special. Who we are and what we face each day is the common lot of all men.

Once we realize that our temptations are as common as bluegrass in Kentucky then we can start dealing with our sin and stop excusing it.  We can look to Christ for forgiveness. We can look to Christ for victory over our sin. We can look for the way of escape our faithful Father always provides us. We will not fight and overcome sin if we keep excusing it because we believe our situation is unique.

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8