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Friday, December 30, 2016, 6:19 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Draw Me Close to You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:13 (ESV).

Running the Race (9:24-27)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Evidently the race Paul had in mind here was an athletic contest similar to the Olympics. The athletes went into the strictest of training for these games. The athletes had to be fully dedicated to the contest, doing what it took to win, for them even to be considered as contestants (or participants), I believe. And, they had to be very self-disciplined, exercising self-control in all things, always keeping before them the goal of winning the prize.

And, so we should be, not in our own strength and power, but in the strength and power of the Spirit of God living within us. We should have the same type of commitment to our Lord and to the race he has set before us, which is our walk of faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We should not be meandering around aimlessly, with no real direction, doing what pleases ourselves, with little thought to what we were saved from, and to what we were saved for (or to). For Jesus died, not just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).

“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5).

We can’t serve God and our flesh, too. We can’t walk in the Spirit and walk according to our sinful flesh, to fulfill our fleshly desires. This does not mean we will be perfect, or that we will never sin, but it means that when we believe in Jesus we die to sin so that we might live to righteousness. The Holy Spirit of God transforms our hearts and minds away from living in sin to living in victory over sin because of what Jesus did in dying for our sin. We now have the Holy Spirit living within us teaching, guiding, empowering, strengthening, encouraging, counseling, correcting and convicting us so that we know the direction not to go, and so we know the way we ought to go.

The Christian life is not free from rules. The New Testament is our rule book for Christian living, and it contains many, many rules by which we are supposed to live as followers of Christ. There are all kinds of dos and don’ts, and put ons and put offs, and warnings of the consequences should we decide to ignore the rules and to go our own way instead. Those who would tell you that God requires nothing of us at all are telling you lies. Jesus and his NT apostles taught repentance and obedience as required for salvation and for forgiveness of sins. So, we need to put off sin, and put on Christ and his righteousness, getting rid of even the things which might lead us into sin, so that we can run the race God has marked out for us to run.

God was Not Pleased (10:1-5)

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were 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.

There is a popular teaching today, even in evangelical churches, that says that once you believe in Jesus that God is pleased with you no matter what you do. That is blatantly false. It is not what the Bible teaches at all. And, some take it a step further by saying that God delights in us even when we are steeped in sin and rebellion against him, and we are ignoring his commands, and we are boldly and willfully choosing to sin against him, and right in his face, too. At least, that is what is implied.

Yet, consider these verses: “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Ro. 8:8). “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Co. 5:9). “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8). “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (2 Tim. 2:4). “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:6). "...and find out what pleases The Lord" (Eph. 5:10).

Don’t Put Christ to Test (10:6-13)

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil 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 rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 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.

So, because God was not pleased with the Israelites whom he had delivered out of slavery in Egypt, but who continually rebelled against him in the desert, even turning to false gods in rejection of the One True God, he killed them all off so that they were not able to enter the Promised Land. Only those who remained faithful to God and believed him and did what he said were able to enter. And, this was written down for us (Christians) as an example to us so that we don’t do like they did, and end up not being able to enter our “promised land,” i.e. eternal life with God in glory.

For you see, Jesus said that if we would come after him we must deny self and take up our cross daily and follow him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life. Paul reiterated this when he said that if we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in the darkness, we are liars, and we don’t live by the truth (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6).

So, don’t put Christ to the test, i.e. don’t test the limits of his grace. You know the rules. Live by them, and do not do what you know is contrary to his commands (his teachings/instructions to us). If you do, you are playing with fire, and the end result may not be what you are expecting at all. He died that you might no longer live for yourself, but for him who gave his life up for you, so choose to live to please him in all things from now on.

Draw Me Close to You / Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I'm Your friend

You are my desire
And no one else will do
'Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace

Help me find a way
Bring me back to You
You’re all I want…