FOLLOWING JESUS

 
Reading: Mark 1:9-20
 

    INTRODUCTION

 
    (a) The world is often in total confusion as to what  it  means  to  be
    a Christian.  The  simplicity  of  the  Gospel  is  complicated  beyond
    measure.
    [*] Someone said me, "I want to  get  the  catholicism out of me" as he
    felt this was somehow necessary, in order to be a Christian.
    He had, some time ago before,  made  a decision for Christ, but because
    of an unwillingness to face  up  to  certain  aspects  of his past that
    needed to  be  dealt  with,  he  found  he  just  came  to  a  dead end
    spiritually.
    (b) The  whole  essence  and  meaning  of   being   a   Christian,   is
    found in being a FOLLOWER OF CHRIST!!
    There is no such thing as STANDING STILL on the Christian pathway!
    i. We are either going FORWARDS OR BACKWARDS!
    ii. We are either CLIMBING up the spiritual mountain,  which  takes   a
    LOT OF EFFORT, or we are, WITHOUT ANY EFFORT AT ALL, SLIDING BACK  DOWN
    AGAIN - OVER ALL THE OLD GROUND, WE FOUND IT SO HARD TO GET PAST IN THE
    FIRST PLACE!
    (c) There are a lot of PIT-FALLS on the way  on  which   the  Christian
    travels and if we do NOT STAY CLOSE TO THE LORD and His  teachings,  we
    will most certainly come a cropper!
    (d) The Bible says, "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall."
    (e) But the positive side is also stated in Scripture, for  those  that
    stay close to Him, it says, HE IS ABLE TO KEEP THEM FROM FALLING!
    Also, "THEY THAT WAIT UPON THE LORD SHALL RENEW THEIR STRENGTH!"
 

    POINT 1

 
    (a) Such a short time into the new year, it is good to remind ourselves
    of something  Rev.  Dr.  Ian  R.K.  Paisley  said   on   one   occasion
    concerning the future!
    He said, "It is an EMPTY VESSEL. You can FILL IT with  the  POISON  of
    SINFUL LIVING, or the PERFUME of SAINTLY LIVING."
    (b) He also said something else quite striking.
    He said of the path which we are to follow, that it is
    an UNTRODDEN PATH, AN UNKNOWN PATH, AN UNEXPLORED PATH,  AN  UNSURVEYED
    PATH, AND AN UNCHARTED PATH.
    (c) But if we are to be a FOLLOWER of Christ, which is what a Christian
    actually is, WE MUST WALK THAT PATH! THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE!
    (d) It is easy to take our eyes of the Lord and not know where to go!
    i. It is easy to be DISTRACTED by the  pathway  of  SOMEONE  ELSE,  and
    start to GO ALONG IT WITH THEM!
    ii. It is easy to ALLOW SIN TO ENTER our lives, and end up in a sort of
    SPIRITUAL DARKNESS, not having a clue where we are!
    (e) WHICHEVER WAY it happens, it means we have  STOPPED  FOLLOWING  THE
    LORD along the Christian pathway!
    (f) It also means that ONCE RECOGNISED, if we DON'T DO  ANYTHING  ABOUT
    it, we are heading towards SPIRITUAL CATASTROPHE.
 

    POINT 2

 
    (a) We sometimes seem to forget, that it IS NOT THE  LORD  WHO  FOLLOWS
    US ON OUR PATHWAY, BUT WE WHO MUST FOLLOW HIM ON HIS!
    (b) WE can only do that by keeping CHRIST'S STANDARDS!!
    (c) We CANNOT SAY WE FOLLOW  HIM,  and  then  THROW  TO  THE  WIND  HIS
    STANDARDS OF LOVE, PURITY, HONESTY AND MORALITY!
    (d) Following the Lord, is sometimes far from easy.
    i. Sometimes it  means  for  his  sake,  GIVING  UP  SOMETHING  OR EVEN
    SOMEONE,  that  is  near  and dear to us.
    ii. It could mean giving up SOMETHING WE KNOW TO BE  WRONG,  which  has
    been with us for a large part of our lives!
    (e) For a young girl in Belfast, at a meeting at   which   I   preached
    as a Cadet from the Training College, it meant GIVING UP THE PARTNER to
    whom she was ENGAGED, and going off to the Training College  to  become
    an officer!
    (f) For many OTHERS, it has meant LEAVING HOME AND  FAMILY,  and  those
    they love, to travel to FAR-OFF LANDS, to be a missionary.
    (g)  What  is  MORE  IMPORTANT  THAN  THE  ACTUAL  SACRIFICE,  IS   OUR
    WILLINGNESS TO MAKE IT!
    Some years ago when I wrote a series of articles for the Salvationist,
    I spoke of ABRAHAM'S WILLINGNESS TO OFFER UP  HIS SON ISAAC to God as a
    sacrifice!
    GOD STOPPED HIM DOING IT AT THE VERY LAST MOMENT!  But  he  HAD  TO  BE
    WILLING to carry it through - to offer up his only  son  -  that  which
    meant more than life itself to Abraham!!
    (h) It ALL HANGS ON HOW MUCH THE LORD MEANS TO US, and whether  SOMEONE
    or SOMETHING means more!
 

    POINT 3

 
    (a) There is NEVER a POINT to which we get, from which it is IMPOSSIBLE
    TO FALL!
    (b) ADAM and EVE fell in the  garden  of Eden, after GIVING HEED to the
    Serpent!
    (c) JONAH fell, because of his UNWILLINGNESS TO OBEY GOD, and he  ended
    up in the belly of the whale. Everything went wrong, because he  walked
    on another pathway, from that which he knew to be the will and  way  of
    God!
    (d) KING SAUL fell in his JEALOUSY over the POPULARITY of the  Shepherd
    boy DAVID! God had to remove Saul!
    (e) KING DAVID himself, who, as we're well  aware, was said to be a man
    after God's  own  heart,  FELL,  because  of  his  LOVE  AND DESIRE FOR
    SOMEONE ELSE'S WIFE!
    (f) Even the great PETER, who was so haughty and said,  "Oh  no  Lord,
    even if they all desert You, I will stay true! I  will  even  die  with
    you!" Yet In the courtyard  of  the  high  priest there he was  DENYING
    HIS LORD WITH CURSES AND OATHS in  an  effort to save his own miserable
    skin!
    (g) So we could go on!
    The Bible says, so clearly,  "Let  him  that  thinketh he standeth take
    heed  lest  he  fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12)
 
 

    POINT 4

 
    (a) It matters not where we stand in our spiritual experience,  or  how
    ADVANCED AND MATURED we may think ourselves to be, the DEVIL IS A  VERY
    POWERFUL ADVERSARY, and unless we are vigilant - we will fall!
    You know what they say, THE BIGGER THEY ARE, THE HARDER THEY FALL!!!
    (b) There are SOME CHRISTIANS, who have  been  on  the  road  for  MANY
    YEARS, and self-righteously become  VERY  CRITICAL  of those  who  have
    BACKSLIDDEN or CARELESS in their faith, as if they felt "It could never
    happen to me!"
    (c) I remember ONE SUCH MAN, some  years  ago, a stalwart of the corps,
    yet it did happen to him -  and  when  he  fell, what a  heavy  fall it
    was, and what mighty ripples it made!! And he fell into the very sin he
    had been so critical with others about!
    (d) Sometimes it  can  happen,  because  someone  takes  their eyes off
    Jesus, and  start looking at other Christians instead.
    (e) I am always concerned when I hear a Christian, all  wrapped  up  in
    the actions of someone else - what they're doing, what they're  failing
    to do. One thing is certain, they are not looking in love!
 

    CONCLUSION

 
    (a) The simple fact  is  that,  when  we  take  our   attention    away
    from Christ, our own following of Him becomes suspect.
    (b) As Jesus put it on another occasion, we can be so taken up with the
    SPLINTER in someone's  eye,  we   are   unaware   that   there   is   a
    PLANK
    entering our own eye!!
    (c) If our spiritual life is not maintained with  care,  it  will  grow
    sickly and wither up.
    (d) The children's chorus says,   "READ   YOUR   BIBLE,  PRAY EVERY DAY
    IF
    YOU WANT TO GROW."
    [*] It's  GOOD  INSTRUCTION  for  all  of  us,  but  we  must  add  the
    footnote, that if we DO NOT KEEP OUR EYES FIXED ON JESUS, we will CEASE
    TO FOLLOW.
    [*] If we ALLOW  OUR  ATTENTION  TO  BE  TAKEN   AWAY   FROM  HIM,  and
    fixed on SOMETHING  ELSE  -  then  obviously  our  attention   will  be
    following  that  something else, and OUR  WALK  IN  THE WAY OF THE LORD
    WILL BE AFFECTED!
    (e) I trust that is not the situation for  you, but if it is and God is
    revealing it to you,  then  it  is  time  to  with  His help, make some
    decisions, and put things right spiritually!
    (f) Maybe there is someone here, and as yet, you haven't  even  started
    to follow the Lord! You have not become His disciple!
    (g) Maybe you feel, "Well yes, I know it's the thing to do, and I will
    - SOMETIME!"
    (h) You know, it's a bit like counting the  prune-stones,  THIS  YEAR,
    NEXT YEAR, SOMETIME NEVER
    (i)  I  remember  preaching   on   "THE   DEVIL'S   SECRET   WEAPON   -
    PROCRASTINATION!", or to be blunt, PUTTING IT OFF!
    (j) King Agrippa said to Paul, that he would call for  him  in  a  more
    convenient season. We never read of that more convenient season coming!
    It probably never did - because GOD'S TIME IS NOW!!
 
 
    THE BIBLE SAYS, NOW is the day of God's Salvation, NOT  TOMORROW,  OR
    THE NEXT DAY - BUT NOW He does not promise us a tomorrow, or that  He
    will still call us if it comes. HE WANTS  A  RESPONSE  NOW!  WHILE  HIS
    SPIRIT SPEAKS!
    [*] HE SAYS, "MY SPIRIT SHALL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE WITH MAN."
 
    SALVATION ARMY SONG BOOK
 
    SONG                TUNE
    483                 644
    PRAYER CHORUS NO 57
    278                 859
    498                 378
    490                 685