Reading: Mark 1:9-20
(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
[*] 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
(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
(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!"
(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.
(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
(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
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!
(a) There is NEVER a POINT to which we get, from which it is IMPOSSIBLE
(b) ADAM and EVE fell in the garden of Eden, after GIVING HEED to the
(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
(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
(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)
(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!
(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
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
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
[*] 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
(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
[*] HE SAYS, "MY SPIRIT SHALL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE WITH MAN."
SALVATION ARMY SONG BOOK
PRAYER CHORUS NO 57