When Christians Backslide

When Christians Backslide

Do you know someone who used to be a strong Christian but for some reason has ultimately abandoned the faith? When Christians backslide, people can’t help but wonder if they are still saved or are forever lost. What future awaits those who came into the saving knowledge of Christ but in the end chose to go their own separate way?

In this post, we will have a Bible study on backsliding. What does it mean to be a backslidden Christian? What are the causes and results of backsliding?

Biblical Definitions of Backsliding

Before going any further, it is important that we first discuss what backsliding really is. What does it mean to say that one is a backslidden Christian?

The Cambridge dictionary defines backsliding as “going back to doing something bad when you have been doing something good, especially to stop working hard or to fail to do something that you had agreed to do.” 

But what does the Bible say?

1. Backsliding is turning away from God.

We read in 1 Kings 11:9-10 that “the Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded.”

As we can see in this particular text, backsliding starts with the heart setting its focus on someone or something else other than God. It could be fame, wealth, power, and whatever it is that the world has to offer. The person who is on the verge of backsliding may not even be aware or could be in denial until it’s too late. 

This is a reminder for us to not only guard our hearts (Proverbs 24:3) but also to rend it and make it subject to the Word of God. Why? It’s because our heart is deceitful and could lead us astray (Jeremiah 17:9).

Guard your hearts

2. Backsliding is growing cold and leaving your first love.

Revelation 2:4 says, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

In Jesus’ letter to the church in Ephesus through the apostle John, He specifically rebuked them for not loving Him and each other with the same intensity that they used to. Their love has become lukewarm and God said He does not want lukewarm Christians.

If you find yourself growing cold in your love for God, that should immediately raise a red flag. One of the signs that Jesus mentioned when His disciples asked Him about the signs of His coming is that “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). 

Are you still zealous for God and His kingdom? Do you still find joy laboring in God’s vineyard the same way you did when you first came into the saving knowledge of Christ? The apostle Paul exhorts us to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11, NIV).

3. Backsliding is turning away from the simplicity of the Gospel to salvation by law.

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Most of us may not be aware that one of the signs that someone is backslidden is when they start questioning the sufficiency of the finished works of Christ and argue that good works are necessary for salvation. But we are warned that teaching work-based salvation is contrary to the gospel that Paul and the apostles preached. 

When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30),  it meant that God’s justice has been satisfied and His wrath appeased. Jesus has paid the price for our sins and He paid it in full. We do good works and try our best to live in accordance with the will of God as evidence that we are truly saved; not to add to what Jesus has already accomplished on the cross at Calvary.

4. Backsliding is separation from the Lord because of sin or iniquity.

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).

When you find yourself committing the same sin over and over again, that is an indication that you are no longer listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Either your heart has become callous or you are choosing to willfully and deliberately disobey God’s word. 

Causes of Backsliding

Although there are several outward causes of backsliding such as covetousness and love for the world, and the things that are in the world, we will focus on the true reasons why Christians choose to turn away from the Lord go back into the world.

1. Failure to pray.

Prayer means talking or communicating with God and consistent communication with Him is what strengthens our relationship. I remember my senior pastor saying, “No communication means no relation.”

How is your prayer life? Do still enjoy spending time with God, talking with and listening to Him?

To fail to pray is also a form of pride. When we do not consult with God in regard to any decision we make, we are saying we do not need His guidance and we do not care about His will.

2. Failure to read the Bible and meditate on it.

If you sincerely want the Lord’s will to be done in your life, then you need to feed on God’s Word. As I often say, “The Word of God is the will of God.” Watching preachers on TV or the internet is not the same as reading the Bible for yourself and asking God what He wants to tell you in His Word.

In the same way that our bodies need food, our spiritual life also needs spiritual food which is the Word of God. Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:4 hold true and remain to be true for every one of us who claims to be a follower of Jesus. how much time do you spend daily reading and meditating the Word of God?

Man shall not live by bread alone

We need to pray and read the Bible at the same time not only to be informed of the will of God and enlightened, but also to be encouraged and strengthened.

Note: Regular daily time spent alone with the Lord in prayer, praise and worship, and meditating the Bible is referred to as quiet time. And backslidden Christians who have come back to the Lord say that they lost out with God in their quiet time.

3. Failure to attend church.

Be sure to go to church at least once a week. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You can’t expect to grow and mature spiritually without church fellowship. Many Christians who stopped coming to church eventually abandoned the faith and went back to their old sinful life.

4. Failure to obey the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is what convicts us of sin and when we do not obey Him, He is grieved. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Hebrews 10:25).

Note: As I already mentioned, willfully and deliberately disobeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit is a strong indication that we are turning away from the Lord. So, when you find yourself going against what God has said in His Word, know that you are heading towards destruction.

5. Failure to confess Christ.

We are given a stern warning in Matthew10:33, “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

One of the many things distinguishing a new believer from those who have been Christians for a while is their boldness to declare Christ as their Lord and Savior to the world. Sinners who just came to faith in Jesus are so pumped up and overwhelmed with the amazing grace of God that they want to let the whole world know how Jesus saved them despite their wickedness.

When was the last time you confessed Jesus as your Lord before a hostile group of people?

6. Failure to walk in the light.

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

God has called Christians out of the darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Thus, we are to not only walk in the light but are also to be the light in this world of darkness (Matthew 5:14). 

Note: Generally speaking, backsliding is growing cold, losing interest in the Lord, Bible reading and meditation, prayer, church attendance, and witnessing, and turning toward or going back to the world.

Heres a song to remind us of the commitment we made to follow Jesus.

Results of Backsliding

1. Backsliding will result in the loss of power, a loss of peace, a loss of joy and happiness. Murmuring and darkness will begin to cloud the daily pathway.

2. Backsliding will result in the loss of salvation.

Consider the following passages:

“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him a warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 3:20).

“But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).

See also Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:10-11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21.

Does this mean that a backslidden Christian is forever lost? No! God’s unconditional love and amazing grace compel Him to constantly call and invite people to return to Him, accept His forgiveness, and be in fellowship with Him. One just needs to repent and receive God’s invitation.

Conclusion

We must understand that nobody backslides suddenly.

I am reminded of a church-mate who used to be very active in the church. She was the leader of the Dance Ministry and always sat on the front row for many years. Until one Sunday, she came to church but opted to not join her ministry for praise and worship. 

Surprisingly, she sat on the third row (or was it the fourth?) instead of her regular spot which is the first row in the music and dance ministry sitting area. The following Sunday she sat near the very back row. This continued for several Sundays until such time that she stopped coming. 

To end on a positive note, this sister was restored, praise God! The church leadership came to her rescue, counseled, and prayed for her. It turned out that her fiancé called off their engagement because he wanted to marry another woman. She has gone through a difficult ordeal but God is faithful.

He promised to “complete the work He has begun in us until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). 

Let us then “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).


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2 Replies to “When Christians Backslide”

  1. Thank you very much for this encouragement.

    We are in a season when Christians are being discouraged from attending church. We really need to pray for each other more.

    This post has touched my heart and opened my eyes. As a believer of Christ I have been struggling since the church doors reopened after their closure due to Covid-19. God being merciful and hearing my cry for deliverance this morning led me to your website.

    I’ll be visiting again soon. God bless you.

    1. Hi Natiesha,

      Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

      It’s a blessing for me to know that you have found this article helpful.

      You’re absolutely right. We need to continue praying for one another because there are many fellow believers in Jesus who are being discouraged as a result of the situation we are in.

      But despite everything that is happening, I do believe that God has something better and greater in store for His children. We just need to trust God because He is in control and He definitely knows what He is doing.

      I hope to hear from you again. God bless you more.

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