A foolish old farmer decided the oats he fed his mule were costing too much.
– He began mixing a little sawdust with the feed — each day a little more.
The mule didn’t notice the gradual change, so the farmer thought things were fine and kept decreasing the amount of oats.
– Weeks later he fed the mule nothing but sawdust; the mule finished the meal and fell dead.
A silly story — a parable of a backslider who slips further and further away from God through sin or neglect.
Our souls can’t survive on spiritual sawdust, but we convince ourselves a little won’t hurt too much, and a little less real spiritual food won’t be missed.
– Over time, the proportion of sawdust increases while the oats gradually disappear.
Before long, the change is complete, and our starved, sawdust-stuffed spiritual life has collapsed. The intimacy we enjoyed with God has evaporated.
This process can be so subtle we don’t recognize the problem.
– Yet the “mule”displays symptoms warning all isn’t well.
3 things describe a critical loss in our spiritual life:
– The loss of love for God, fear of God, and faith in God.
1. Loss of Love for God
Pastor Jimmy Brown wrote:
I remember the first girl that ever caught my eye.
– We were in 2nd grade. (Until then I just wanted to throw rocks at girls).
Her name was Sherri — she was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.
– She had the prettiest smile with that middle tooth missing.
– She could jump out of a swing farther than any boy. — She was great!
One day she passed me a note: “Do you love me?”
– I didn’t understand love, but I knew girls like to hear you love them, so I checked, “Yes” and passed it back.
At recess she said, “Say if”
– I had no idea what she wanted. “Say what?” -“Say you love me.”
– That embarrassed me, but I said, “I love you.”
The next day she asked, “Do you really love me?” – “Yes”
– “Mean it? A lot of boys tell me they love me, but some don’t mean it.”
I knew the answer. “Sure I mean it.”
– That satisfied her, until the next day…She said, “If you love me and you mean it, why don’t you show it?”
– I’d given her my candy bar — I’d stopped pulling her hair, I made boys stop calling her names. What more did she want?
“You’re supposed to hold my hand, and play with me at recess. And sit with me during free time…you’re supposed to show it.”
30 years later — it’s amazing how God uses ordinary events, even for a 7 year old boy, to teach US about Him.
– God asks the same questions — “Do you love me?”
Quickly we check the box, “Yes. Of course I love you, God.”
– “Then, say it.” — Psalms 107:2
“T love you, Lord, “we say, particularly on Sundays.
– “Do you mean it,”He asks. “A lot of people say they love me, but don’t mean it.” — Mark 7:6
– “Of course, I mean it!”
– “Then show it.”– John 14:15
Do you love God? Do you really love Him?
SAY IT, MEAN IT, SHOW IT. Say it with words, mean it in your heart–show it with actions.
– That’s what God did for you.
Loss of joy shows something’s wrong
– We find joy in what we love.
– Losing joy in our relationship is a sign love’s diminished.
– Losing joy in our relationship with God indicates our first love has dimmed.
Aversion to prayer and God’s Word. We want to spend time with those we love.
– When we develop an aversion to spending time talking and listening, that’s a 2nd sign of love lost.
We talk to God in prayer and listen as we study and meditate upon Scriptures.
– A devout rural pastor said, “I’ve a relish for Goo’. If you love squash, you eat it for breakfast, dinner, and supper. You just can’t get enough of it. – And if you love God, you can’t get enough of Him. You want to pray and read the Word.”
If you’re not willing to spend time with Him it’s a sign your love for God has cooled.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God the 1st sign of their fall was they hid from God whose fellowship they’d always enjoyed — Genesis 3:8
Aversion to Christian fellowship.
– You enjoy spending time with your friend’s friends but when your friendship turns sour, you lose interest in their friends too — you avoid people who talk about who you want to forget.
Christians whose love for God grows cold because of sin tend to avoid Christian circles.
– He doesn’t want to be around people who remind him of God he’s trying to forget.
Hebrews links fellowship with God to fellowship with other believers. – Hebrews 10:22, 25
– We can’t draw near to God without drawing to others who love Him.
Giving my lover is delightful — Why are many Christians stingy with God?
Misplaced treasure — Matthew 6:21
– When we lose love for God, other loves take His place.
– Time we spent with God is now devoted to other pursuits with no spiritual value.
The backslider gets pre-occupied with worldly concerns he substitutes for his spiritual life.
– Entertainment replaces prayer and the Bible as a “diversion”– taking our attention from thoughts that lead to self-examination.
“Safe”secular friends with no spiritual interests replace Christian friends.
Energy once spent in evangelism and ministry now focuses on financial or career goals.
– Money used for church and charity now goes to selfish or frivolous ends.
Once we stop searching for the pearl of great price — Matthew 13:45-46, we devote our time, energy, and money pursuing other treasures.
– Having lost our first love for God – (’70s song) “are looking for love in all the wrong places.”
Something’s wrong in my Spiritual walk when I no longer want to please God.
2. Loss of Fear of God
– We think love and fear are opposites; the Bible says a mature relationship with God has both attitudes — Psalm 147:11
When we drift awayArom God, we lose love for Him, and fear of Him.
– Proverbs 9:10, then losing fear is the beginning of dangerous folly.
What signs show we no longer fear God?
– Proverbs 8:13, we need examine our attitude toward sin.
– A growing attachment to sin warns we’re losing our fear of God — shows itself in several stages:
Covering up sin. 1st try to hide sin. Adam and Eve are the example: After their fall, they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves — Genesis 3:7
Trying to hide sin from God is useless — Psalm 94:9-11
– But in this early stage of disobedience, we fool ourselves thinking somehow God won’t know we’ve sinned as long as we don’t admit it to anyone.
Denying responsibility. When we see we can’t hide sin from God, the next step is to insist it isn’t our fault.
– Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent — Genesis 3:12-13
We make excuses: “Yes, it’s an ugly habit, but I was raised this way” “Of course I’m not supposed to hold grudges, but how could anyone be expected to forgive what they did to me?”
– Whatever the excuse, sin continues, and the sinner gets further from God.
Procrastinating repentance. Once we see we can’t shift blame — we know we’re responsible for our sin — but we put off repentance.
– Augustine recounting his promiscuous youth, remembered praying: “Lord, give me self-control, but not yet!”
Believers who disobey God forget His warning: — Psalm 95:7-8
– They wait until tomorrow to repent, but tomorrow never comes.
– Their hearts harden like lumps of clay left in the sun, becoming useless because they can no longer be used for God.
Justifying sin. Put off repenting long enough our conscience becomes seared — 1 Timothy 4:2
We stop hiding sin, or making excuses; instead we convince ourselves it isn’t really sin. – We grow brazen and openly defy God or others who condemn our behavior.
King Saul was a master rationalizer.
– Samuel rebuked him for disobeying God’s command to destroy everything in Amalek, – Saul tried to justify his behavior claiming he’d saved the best to sacrifice to God.
Samuel said Saul had disobeyed God’s clear instructions.
– Saul insisted he’d done no wrong — 1 Samuel 15:1-21.
The high priest Caiaphas had an elaborate rationale for murdering Jesus:
– If He wasn’t put to death Christ’s followers would cause trouble and Rome would react violently — the Jewish nation would be harmed — John 11:45-50
– Having Jesus executed was obviously the right thing to do.
The backslider embraces sin and refuses correction.
– All fear of God is gone. — Proverbs 30:20
Loss of Faith in God
Unrepented sin leads to unbelief and a disastrous rejection of God.
– Israel hardened their hearts in the desert having lost gratitude for all God had done to save them, they persisted in sin until they lost faith altogether.
They concluded there was no God — something else delivered them from bondage.
– They worshiped a golden calf of their own creation — Exodus 32
I’ve known Christians who followed that path, rejecting God altogether.
– Despite once knowing God, they gradually slipped deeper and deeper into sin.
– They lost their love for God and their fear of God and no longer believed even the basics..
– Finally, declaring they were no longer Christians
Why does loss of faith follow loss of love and fear?
– Prayer, meditating on the Bible, and fellowship with believers feeds our faith.
– Avoiding these starve our faith.
– The old “mule”needs oats; sawdust in the feed bag is deadly.
Another reason for loss of faith is those who justify their sin deny the truth.
– Once they’ve undermined God’s Word, they open the door to doubts about its other claims.
Ever since the serpent tempted Eve, Satan’s tried to seduce believers with the question: “Did God really say…?”– Genesis 3:1
Affirming God’s existence and His claim to our obedience while we disobey Him creates tension that becomes unbearable.
We’ll never convince ourselves our behavior’s justified when God plainly said it isn’t.
– If we refuse to repent, the only solution to the dilemma is concluding He hasn’t truly spoken or He really doesn’t exist. — Hebrews 3:12
I’ve seen Christians look for a less demanding faith because they want to keep a pet sin.
– They usually end up in some New Age religion because it has few moral demands.
They rid themselves of the inner tension by denying there’s a God who commands: “Be holy, because I am holy” — 1 Peter 1:16
Paul said — 2 Corinthians 13:5
Have you failed to quit sinning and developed a hard-heart toward God?
– Have you lost your first love and your fear of God?
God will help you find your way back.
The spiritual disciplines you’ve forsaken — prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship — can rekindle your love and a health fear, leading you to repentance and a new beginning.
– The prayer of Jude 24-25 can become your hope: