Summary: Christians are warned to "take heed; be careful" against the Dangers of Presumptuousness, Complacency and Compromise and to ensure that their life’s work will survive the fiery trial of the Judgement Seat of Christ.
When I’m preparing a message I usually have a Bible concordance within easy reach. A little while ago, as I was turning to a word I wanted to follow up, my eyes fell on the phrase "take heed" and I was surprised to see how many references there were - over 50 ! This was clearly of some importance so I made a note to return to it later for a closer look. My concordance is for the Authorised Version so the words "take heed" are often given in modern translations as "be careful". In fact the Good News Version is even stronger. When the apostle Paul wrote to his converts at Corinth concerning "Warnings from Israel’s History", he put it like this: "Whoever thinks he is standing firm had better be careful that he does not fall" (1 Cor 10:12). Wait a moment, someone might challenge, “we’re living under grace, not law!” That’s true, but we must distinguish between becoming a Christian and living the life of a believer.
I’ve been in accountancy for 50 years as student and professional member and I remember back to when I was studying for the exams. The president of the Institute came to Guernsey to talk to the students. He told a cautionary tale of a student who cheated in an exam and was thrown out of the profession. The fear of being hauled up before the disciplinary committee has been in my mind ever since! Just to reinforce the warning, the monthly magazine reports the disciplinary judgements of those who’ve committed some misdemeanour. Fortunately I’ve escaped their attention but I must still be careful as a retired member not to break the code of ethics.
It’s a wonderful thing to a Christian. How we rejoiced when we first trusted in Jesus as our Saviour; that we were no longer estranged from God, enslaved by sin and Satan, but now forgiven and made alive in Christ. That’s one side of the coin; the other side is we must be aware of God’s purpose for us. It is, as Paul put it, "We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). God has brought into being a new race of people who are being transformed, recreated in Christ, so that one day we will reflect His image perfectly. Clearly, we’re in our new relationship for the long haul. The Christian life isn’t so much a sprint but a marathon. Or to change the metaphor, it’s like the Grand National, with many a fence to jump but with potential to fall.
That’s why the Scriptures contain so many references to "take heed; be careful". When the “Titanic” was built it was hailed as "unsinkable" and to believe otherwise was "unthinkable". But it was the victim of some terrible mistakes and complacency. The owners rashly went for the Atlantic crossing record and set a course too far north in the area of icebergs to reduce the mileage. She sailed without sufficient lifeboats as they’d been deleted from the specification to cut costs. But these factors didn’t matter because the ship was "unsinkable"! That wasn’t all. Disaster struck with tragic consequences. SOS messages weren’t sent to a passing ship because the radio officer was busy sending messages for the first class passengers. Lifeboats were launched half empty and didn’t return because the officers were afraid of being swamped when the ship went down. Arrogance and neglect brought about this tragedy on a grand scale. We would do well to reflect if it could happen in our lives - in our careers and vocations, temporal and spiritual. If we trust ourselves to be "unsinkable", it’s then that the "unthinkable" will happen!
When I was leaving a previous employment to go to a more senior position a colleague told me with a twinkle in his eye, "Don’t forget that the higher you climb, the further there’s to fall!" There’s nothing the media like to report than a Christian who’s fallen from grace. It’s invariably a lay preacher who’s put his hand in the till or a minister who run off with the organist! But it’s not always the big mistakes in life that can bring us down. The USA thought it was secure behind its nuclear shield. But what was the first step in the crashing of aircraft into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Half a dozen penknives that the terrorists had smuggled into the aircraft! They were the only weapons they had to overcome the pilots!
If God’s Word contains so many warnings to "take heed; be careful" it must be for a good reason. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers there’s no suggestion that they were going to lose their salvation or be disinherited from the family of God. But there’s a strong warning against falling away from God. Let’s face it - we are fallible, and the more secure we think we are, the greater is our danger. What perils are there to be avoided? There’s: