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TEXT: 1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Three Pitfalls for the New Believer to Avoid (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #7)
During our last message in this series, we accompanied Christian as he came to the place where he received what he had set out from his home city to find — deliverance from his burden of sin. He found this deliverance at the cross. His burden of sin was rolled away, and he was given a clean slate as a child of God. You might be tempted to think that all is well with Christian now that he has reached his goal, but the truth of the matter is that Christian’s journey is just beginning. He will face dangers, setbacks, and troubles along the way. In fact, he is not too far gone from the cross when he comes upon an interesting scene. Please listen as I share this part of the story from Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan:
I saw then in my dream, that he went on thus, even until he came at a bottom, where he saw, a little out of the way, three men fast asleep, with fetters upon their heels. The name of the one was Simple, another Sloth, and the third Presumption.
Christian then seeing them lie in this case went to them, if peradventure he might awake them, and cried, You are like them that sleep on the top of a mast, for the Dead Sea is under you—a gulf that has no bottom. Awake, therefore, and come away. Be willing also, and I will help you off with your irons. He also told them, If he that goes about like a roaring lion comes by, you will certainly become a prey to his teeth. With that they looked upon him, and began to reply in this sort: Simple said, “I see no danger;” Sloth said, “Yet a little more sleep;” and Presumption said, Every vat must stand upon its own bottom; what is the answer else that I should give you? And so they lay down to sleep again, and Christian went on his way.
Yet was he troubled to think that men in that danger should so little esteem the kindness of him that so freely offered to help them, both by awakening of them, counseling of them, and proffering to help them off with their irons.
Not too long after he begins his journey from the cross, Christian comes across three men — Simple, Sloth, and Presumption — who also have come by the way of the cross, yet did not get very far beyond that. They, for one reason or another, gave up before they could grow into mature Christian believers, and they sit by the wayside as distractions to others content in their spiritual infancy. Today, I want to talk from the Word of God about three things we must do if we are going to grow in our walk with Christ, and not remain, as these three men were, babes in Christ.
1. The first pitfall is not being serious about our walk with Christ. The Bible commands us to “be sober.” The word “sober” means to be serious-minded or grave. Many new believers come into the faith thinking that now that they are saved, the rest of their life as Christians will be easy. They think that from here on to Heaven it will just be fun and games.
The church of today, particularly in the Western world, has fallen into this trap. We try to make church “fun” in order to attract more people, but we do not inform them that there is a devil who is out to devour them and destroy them. A Barna Group survey revealed that 60% of people who identify as Christians do not believe that the devil is a real “living being.” Many churches do not prepare people for the trials of life that will wear and tear on their Christian faith. And we wonder why there are so many unfruitful, ineffective Christians in the church today — people who are just pew-warmers. They were never serious about the Christian faith.
Recently, there has been somewhat of a backlash against how the modern church has done “youth ministry,” probably stemming from the tide of young people who are drifting away from the institutional church. Some are now saying that it was a mistake to begin separating children and young adults from the main congregation. The church’s focus on making Christianity “fun” for children has produced spiritually deficient adults who have not grasped the seriousness of the faith they are a part of.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian, spent nearly 15 years of pastoral ministry working with youth. He wrote a little-known article titled, “Eight Theses on Youth Work.” Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary, writes of Bonhoeffer’s theses: “When we put together ‘Christian’ and ‘youth,’ young people are no longer disciples, and full participants in the church community through baptism. Rather, they become a distinct species called ‘Christian youth.’ And when the ‘youthful’ part of the label no longer fits, then neither might the ‘Christian.'” That is exactly what is happening with young people today because the church failed to communicate the seriousness of the faith.
That is why Peter urges us to be “sober.” We don’t want to be like Simple, Sloth, and Presumptuous who did not take their walk with Christ seriously. As the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace,” says, “through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.” If you are a follower of Christ you will face dangers, toils, and snares, but you can depend on the ‘grace that carried you thus far to lead you all the way home.’
2. The second pitfall is not taking the time to get educated about the Christian faith. Peter goes on to say, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” I mentioned that 60% of Christians do not believe the devil is real living being. Well, if these dear Christians would take the time to read their Bibles, they will find that the same Bible from which they learned how to get saved also informs them that there is a devil and he is out to devour them.
Looking back at the excerpt we read from Pilgrim’s Progress, we see that when Christian tries to awaken the three men who were slumbering by the side of the road, one of the men, whose name is Simple, replies, “I see no danger,” and goes back to sleep. Here we see the epitome of the term, “ignorance is bliss.” Because he does not know of the dangers of the Christian life, he acts as if they do not exist.
The Bible pleads with “simple” people to wake up and learn the truth. Proverbs 1:22 says, “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” As a new believer, you must avoid the pitfall of thinking that just because you are saved, you are already equipped with everything you need to live the Christian life. No, you need to read and study the Word of God every day. You need to get under the teaching of a Bible-believing pastor who will help you understand the word of God.
When I was a young Christian, one of the things that was of great benefit to me was listening to preachers on the radio. I listened to men like J. Vernon McGee, Oliver B. Greene, and John MacArthur make the Scriptures plain. My spiritual life and my understanding of the Bible grew tremendously from that experience. Later on, I also took advantage of Christian higher education, and I would encourage you to do the same.
More than ever today, the world needs Christians who are knowledgeable about their faith — not only in order to more effectively and consistently live out their walk with Christ, but to be able to speak intelligently about Christian beliefs and practices in the public square.
So, first, get serious about your walk with Christ; understand that it is not all going to be easy. Second, take the time to become more educated about the faith.
3. The third pitfall is thinking that we can live the Christian life on our own. First Peter 8-9 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” Although you may feel as though you can, you cannot live the Christian life or resist the devil who is seeking to devour you on your own. That is why Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of us and empower us to live the Christian life. And He has given you the Word of God
However, the same survey that I mentioned earlier also found that only 34% of Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a living being. Many people are not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in their life simply because they do not take the Holy Spirit seriously. They cannot resist the devil as Peter talks about because they are not relying on the Holy Spirit to enable them to do so. Nor are they relying on the Word of God. One commentary states that “resist” is “a term of defense rather than attack. Christians may stand firm against Satan only if they depend wholly on Christ” living in them through the Holy Spirit and the Word.
We don’t want to be like the character named Presumptuous in Pilgrim’s Progress — a person who acts as though he knows what the Christian life is all about and as though he does not need any help or guidance along the straight and narrow road.
If you try to live the Christian life on your own, you will fail every time. If you try to resist the devil on your own, you will not experience the joy that can come through gaining victory over temptation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead, you will flounder in your Christian life. You will be ineffective as a witness for Christ. You will unfortunately end up like those three men who Christian saw slumbering by the wayside, letting the time that they could be using for useful and profitable Christian service go to waste.
I encourage you, as a new believer, or even if you have been saved for some time, but never got firmly rooted and grounded in the faith, to avoid these three mistakes. Understand that walking with Christ is serious business and that it is not always going to be easy. Second, take the time to become more educated about your life, duties, and responsibilities as a Christian. Third, choose to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to resist the devil and live a victorious Christian life.
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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be reconciled to God today.
1. Accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
2. Accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
3. Accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The Bible says in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
4. Accept the fact that you cannot do anything to save yourself! The Bible states in Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
5. Accept the fact that God loves you more than you love yourself, and that He wants to save you from hell. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
6. With these facts in mind, please repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and pray and ask Him to come into your heart and save you this very moment.
The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9 and 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
7. If you are willing to trust Christ as your Saviour please pray with me the following prayer:
Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have sinned against you. For Jesus Christ’s sake, please forgive me of all of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again for me. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart, save my soul, change my life, and fill me with your Holy Spirit today and forever. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God. Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your new found faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you! We love you! May God bless you!
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in twenty-three foreign countries. He is the author of thirty-four books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts, The Prayer Motivator Devotional and the Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report and the Second Coming Watch Update. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, and a Master’s degree in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for twenty-five years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.