Most people have heard the saying, “If you don’t learn from history, you are bound to repeat it,” but how many people actually listen to this advice? This is such a true statement, yet many see it as just another cliché or whimsical saying.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon spoke many years ago on something called “The Downgrade Controversy.” This topic spoke of how the church was changing, not for the better, but for the worse. One of the many things he said about this was, “Everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is, the better.” He wrote that more than 100 years ago and it is even truer today. He was burdened with what he saw happening to the church in his time and it eventually led to his early death.
Why was he so concerned? Because he saw the Scriptures, and Jesus Christ, taking a back seat to whatever the people wanted. No one wanted a lengthy sermon that expounded the Scriptures or made them feel convicted in any way. Instead they wanted to have a quick speech full of illustrations that would make them laugh so that they could go away feeling good about themselves.
Take a good look around. The same thing has happened today, only I feel it has gotten worse; and I, like Spurgeon, am burdened and troubled by this. I have been told by other pastors that I should keep the sermons I preach down to 20 or no more than 30 minutes because people can’t pay attention any longer than that. Since when has the Word of God become so mundane or boring that someone can’t, or won’t, sit for a 45-minute, or heaven forbid, an hour-long sermon?
When Jesus spoke on some hard things that the people didn’t like, we are told that many disciples fell away and followed Him no more. When this happened, He looked at His 12 chosen disciples and asked them if they too wanted to go away. What happened next was amazing; Peter answered Him with, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).
They understood what Jesus was saying was absolute truth and they would find this truth nowhere else. But you see, the truth isn’t popular anymore. People would rather hear something else instead. This goes right along with Scripture, because we are told in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers according to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
It breaks my heart to see this happening, yet at the same time, it reinforces to me the absolute truth of the Scriptures. Because of this, I, and every true believer, should declare war against error in all forms, and we should fight strenuously for the truth because we are instructed in Jude to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
Let’s not continue in this “Downgrade Controversy,” but instead let’s stand up for the absolute truth of the Scriptures and fight for this truth, no matter the cost. When we do, the Gospel will be advanced even more and God will be glorified. Isn’t this what truly matters, anyway?
The Rev. James Cole is pastor of Sovereign Grace Community Church in Grovetown.