SIGNS OF FALL 9-29-19
Signs of Fall
September 29th, 2019
When you saw the title of my sermon, “Signs of Fall”, the first image that probably came to your mind is the leaves outside, changing their color from green to red, yellow, and orange. As such it is a beautiful season. Cool breezes replacing the sweltering summer sun, s’mores melting over a crackling fire, pumpkin spice everything… Problem is that autumn all too quickly turns into winter, which means getting out the snow shovels, coats, and boots, to go out into a frozen landscape of empty fields, barren trees, and gray skies.
But the season of autumn isn’t the only ‘signs of fall’ that I want you to think about this morning. I would like you to also consider the ‘signs of fall’ in believers, in churches, and even in our country. In our first Scripture reading, a portion of the familiar parable of the sower, you heard about the seed planted in the rocky ground, which symbolizes the believer who quickly falls away when trouble or persecution comes because their faith was shallow and never developed roots. Often such a person is what I call a ‘believer of opportunity’. They might profess to be a Christian because of some earthly gain they believe it will bring them, whether it be a good name in the community, or an ‘in’ with someone that belongs to the church. Or maybe they just got caught up in the moment when listening to a charismatic speaker or a song that hit an emotional chord within them. But whatever the reason, their faith most likely did not include genuine repentance. They might have been remorseful over some recent sin, but not enough so to want to give up all sin in their life. Maybe all they wanted was a ticket to heaven to keep tucked away in their back pocket until the day they need it. Or they might have thought they’ll give Jesus a try, and see what He can do for them, and then when He didn’t come across like a fairy godmother, they fell. Like the fish that got away, sometimes they can be drawn back to Christ, and eventually make a sincere commitment to Him. And in a few cases, if they truly were sincere to begin with, and just crumbled under a series of bad circumstances, they only need encouragement and restoration to come back to life after their season of winter is over. This is where those of us who love our Lord and live our lives for Him need to step in. As you heard in our third Scripture reading (Hebrews 3:12-14), we need to first examine our own hearts to make sure we are steadfast in the faith and committed to Christ. Then we must help our brothers and sisters who are struggling spiritually under the weight of trials, plagued with doubt, or are being enticed away by sin. In other words, those who are showing signs of falling away.
But it is not only individual believers that can exhibit ‘signs of fall’ - churches can as well. A church that is stagnant or declining usually displays one or more of these common signs:
- Conflict and power struggles among the members.
- Lack of funds, resources, and volunteers because people don’t feel driven to support the ministry of the church.
- No desire among members to invite people to church, to reach the lost with the message of the Gospel, or to help people in need.
- Lack of interest in learning more of God’s Word - or worse yet what Timothy warned of when he wrote: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3). There are churches that do preach what ‘itching ears want to hear’ and fill their pews, but at the expense of souls lost for all eternity.
Jesus instructed John to write His words to seven churches, and these words still speak to the churches of today. To the church of Ephesus he said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:2-5) I urge you to read all of them for yourself in Revelation chapters two and three, and to pray for your church, and for all of the churches that are part of the Body of Christ, that the fire of the Holy Spirit burn within them as it did when they were first founded.
And lastly, countries can also show ‘signs of fall’. The single most important thing for any country to remember is the words of Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” The farther a nation departs from God, the less His blessing will be upon it. Proverbs 14:34 declares that “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” When sin is no longer viewed as something contrary to the morals and laws of the country, then that nation has become a disgrace in God’s eye. Timothy warned us in our second Scripture reading (2 Timothy 3:1-5) that these days would indeed come. Also, when political correctness is more important than saving souls, and ‘not being offensive’ means not speaking out against hypocrisy, blasphemy, and evil, then our enemy has effectively disarmed us. Because without the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17) we are powerless to defeat him. Never forget, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).
Yes, ‘signs of fall’ are all around us. May the Lord shield us and protect us during the winter to come, that we might once again blossom under the warm Spring sun, full of new life, filled with His Spirit. Amen.
"Rocky Ground" (Bruce Springsteen) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPmIIXXv0d8
"Worn" (Tenth Avenue North) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-METBrlP3xU