My daughter took a safety class recently and one of her assignments was to create a PowerPoint presentation on Fall Protection. She let me view it before she left for class, and as I was thinking about it a bit later, I was struck by how very applicable this topic is to the Christian life! …not like falling off a jet; rather, stumbling, tripping, or falling in our relationship with Jesus.
Time and again we see this caution in scripture – Take Heed! It is interesting that God gives us some very specific areas where we need to be mindful:
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them…” (Matthew 6:1)
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones…” (Matthew 18:10)
“…Take heed that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:4)
“…Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15) [This one comes across to me as significant in that, He is not only referencing religious opinions, but also political stances that run contrary to scripture.]
“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:33)
“…Take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:18)
“…Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:35)
“…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
“…Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life…” (Luke 21:34)
“Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
(1 Corinthians 10:12)
Falling isn’t about losing our salvation because we have these assurances:
“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know then, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29).
It’s about those things that interrupt our fellowship with God, our peace, and our relationships with others—and I can think of no greater benefit of our salvation than friendship and intimacy with God. We have this assurance, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).
Having some huge failures in my past, I recognize that the stumbles began in my thoughts, thinking because of the brokenness of my past, there could/would be a “special” dispensation for me, that God’s requirements for holy living were adjustable for individual lives; or looking at circumstances with a sense of being overwhelmed—allowing them to dictate my emotions and thoughts.
More recently (in the past week), I’ve become aware of my propensity to sympathize or commiserate with others without speaking the truth found in God’s Word. …not even just acknowledging the problems facing those I love, and then moving on to encouraging praise to God for His love for us and His sovereignty (both integral to who He is and our relationship with Him), but getting stuck in attitudes of frustration and victimization, resulting in complaining and speaking derogatorily about those people or institutions that are causing friends or family members grief.
It is quite easy to fall when it comes to my attitudes and the words I speak. It is especially poignant that scripture declares me an overcomer, but my words betray what I actually believe. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
The apostle John wrote these words to the church at Ephesus: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; Repent…” (Revelation 2:2-5)
It was to this church, Paul had previously written: “In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…”; “…Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…”; “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 1:13, 15-16; 2:1)
At what point did this congregation, the ones who Paul rejoiced with, saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast…,” (Ephesians 2:8) begin to put the emphasis of their lives on “works” while shifting their focus away from the gift? Even now, it is all too easy to do, given the environment of our culture and the needs of various ministries.
Notice, the Holy Spirit’s warning through John about the church becoming consumed with “good works” and fighting evil while abandoning their passion for Jesus, was given to the same Spirit-filled church that the apostle Paul had written pointedly and powerfully about spiritual warfare: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places….” (Ephesians 6:10-12)
What happened to this congregation over time?
Could it happen to us if we don’t “take heed”?
“Be sober, be vigilant;
Because your adversary the devil walks about
Like a lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith…!
1 Peter 5:8, 9