Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learn From Our Example

                One of the things that I have always wanted for my children was for them to be better people than their father and I. I have desired for them to learn from our mistakes, and to not make the same ones we have. Most of us who are parents feel the same way. We don’t want our children to
My Children: Ages 4 & 2 (I think!) 
make the same mistakes we have made, so we teach them and tell them what we have learned, hoping that they will heed our warnings. The same is true for us as Christians. Throughout the Bible we have been given examples to learn from, to listen to and to teach us how to live this Christian life for God. The greatest example we have is Jesus. He lived a perfect life here on this earth so that we could live a perfect one with Him in heaven. But, He is also Father, and He too wants us to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us and not make the same ones that they did.
                Over the years I have heard people tell me that it was encouraging for them to read the Old Testament accounts of the people of Israel because it made them realize they weren't so bad either. God loved them in the midst of all their rebellion, and it gives them comfort that God loves them to. I am not disagreeing with this statement, but I do think that we have begun to use these Old Testament examples as more of an excuse than what they were actually meant to be.
                “For I want you to know brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the Spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 (ESV)
                 The Old Testament believers that we read about are our examples, not to follow in their footsteps, but to learn from their mistakes. Just like we want our children to not follow in our mistakes, God is writing through Paul and telling us not to follow in theirs either. There is also a difference between us and the Old Testament believers. We have something that they did not have. We have the Holy Spirit. We have the very presence of God living in us and through us. We have been given the gift of God’s presence through Jesus Christ. Christ had not come yet, the only thing the Old Testament believers had was the Law, given to them through Moses. They had the presence of God through the cloud by day and the pillar by night leading them and guiding them (Exodus 13:21), and they also had Moses. But we have the Holy Spirit.
                These men and women were baptized into Moses. They were baptized into the Law. Moses was God’s representative under the Law which pointed to Christ, the Rock who was to come. It followed after them, but had not yet come. Every man and woman went to Moses, but we now have full access to God through Jesus Christ. Our Old Testament examples did not have what we have today. That is why God does not want us looking at them and excusing ourselves because they did it, and He still saved them. No, He wants us to look at their examples and learn from them. Not that we are comforted to sin, but that we are reproved to not make the same mistakes as our fathers did in the wilderness.
                Many times I think we use their rebellion as an excuse for our own. We say look at how long they wandered in the wilderness, but God still led them. Or we say look how much David sinned yet God still said he was a man after His own heart. I think God wants us to stop using these men and women as excuses and start seeing them for what they are intended to be- mistakes we need to learn from so we do not repeat them. Paul shows us that we should take heed to these examples because God was not pleased with many of them. (1 Cor. 10:5)
                These men and women we try to use as comfort for our sinful rebellion are the same ones who fell into idolatry, they “sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play”, and they indulged themselves in immoral behavior. “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:7-9) We might not be partaking in sexual immorality or falling down and worshipping idols, but many of us are testing the limits of God’s Word over our lives. We fall into compromise, we justify our behaviors, or we try to cover our sins in the excuse of grace. One of my bibles (Women’s Study Bible, Second Edition, Nelson 1982, pg. 1482) states that tempting Christ means to try His patience thoroughly. “The Israelites had pushed God to the limit by constantly compromising His commands.” We cannot compromise the Word of God; we cannot test the patience of Christ. Because, like Paul warned, God was not pleased with many of them, who says He will be as pleased with us?
                “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the age has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11 (ESV)
                We are to look at the Old Testament examples that are written down and we are to be encouraged to be different, to be better disciples than they. They did not have the Holy Spirit as we do. We, my brothers and sisters, can no longer use them as an excuse for our sinful behaviors. They are given to us so that we do not repeat their mistakes. We are without excuse because we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they did not. “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.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

                We have no excuse. They are our examples, our admonition to take to heart and to heed so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. We have been given the Holy Spirit to live out this life for Christ. We have been given everything we need to live this life of godliness and righteousness before God. Let us take heed to ourselves. Let us not be so confident in our own ways that we fall. Paul tells us to take heed to our examples; God was not pleased with many of them like they thought He was. God will keep us from the temptations of this life, the same ones that our examples faced. “If God keeps us from temptations greater than we can withstand, we cannot plead our temptations as an excuse for sinning. Sin is never a necessity for a believer.” (Reformation Study Bible, pg. 1656; Ligonier Ministries, 2005).  The Old Testament believers are our examples, not our excuses. God our Father desires us to learn from them, not follow after them. Amen?