Life as a Christian can be quite an adventure. It is like the amazing journey that Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee went on in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
You may progress from hiking along a treacherous mountain trail, to braving a fierce storm, to battling the enemy, to sailing on a placid lake or strolling through a pleasant field.
There are ups, downs, and unexpected turns. Though you may go back along a trail you have been traveling, the one thing you don’t want in your Christian walk is to go backwards spiritually.
Backsliding refers to going backwards spiritually and morally. When a believer backslides, he falls back in some way into a less desirable condition. His lapse may be a relatively minor one and unintentional. He may simply fall back through neglect by not praying, reading the Bible, and keeping his focus on living for God.
On the other hand, a believer may backslide by deliberately choosing to indulge in this life’s sinful pleasures. This type of backsliding can carry disastrous consequences. It can bring dishonor to the One who laid down His life for us, Jesus Christ. It can also sadden and bring grief to the lives of loved ones. Of course, backsliding can bring turmoil into the believer’s own life. He may be plagued by guilt or even a feeling of despair or condemnation.
But there is good news for the backslider! God does not condemn him. God’s loving concern for the backslider is steadfast and sure. The Lord calls that person back to Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit. We can see this clearly in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, the father saw his son returning while he was still far off. But the father did not lock the doors or demand that his son leave. Instead, the father welcomed his return.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. ( Luke 15:20 )
Then the son confessed to his father:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (v. 21)
The father’s relief and joy at seeing his son was so great that he did not even reprove him or rebuke him. Instead, the father instructed his slaves:
Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found. (vv. 22-24)
The father showed that the son’s return was not a time for condemnation, but for celebration.
And they began to celebrate. (v. 24)
If you are backslidden.
Like the parable of the prodigal son, know that the Heavenly Father truly cares about you and wants you to return. He does not post an angelic guard to keep out your prayers and your heart’s cry. When the Lord hears you calling out to Him, He will respond positively to you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. ( James 4:8)
Do not let anything hold you back from God and His forgiveness and grace. Don’t let the pleasures of sin deceive you. In time, sin will bring you pain. Also, do not let doubt or guilt hold you back, for He promises you:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ( 1 John 1:9 )
The Lord’s mercies are new every morning, but do not assume that you are promised tomorrow. Pray to the Lord now.
After you have called upon the Lord and asked for His forgiveness, believe His promise to forgive you. He will surely cleanse you of your sins and restore you to fellowship with Him. Let His Spirit touch your heart and bring healing to your soul.
If you hurt people while you were backslidden, then ask them for forgiveness. Do what you can to repair any damage you may have caused in other people’s lives. Seek healing and reconciliation of broken or injured relationships.
Learn from the mistakes you made that led to backsliding, and determine to not repeat those mistakes. Ask the Lord for wisdom in how to live faithfully as an overcomer.
If someone you know is backslidden.
It can be disappointing or even heartbreaking when someone close to you backslides. But be encouraged and do not give up on him or her.
First, intercede for the one you are concerned about. Bind the work of the enemy in that person’s life. Be faithful to pray for him every day.
Ask the Lord if you are to say something to the person, and if so, what you should say and how you should say it. Always keep a loving and humble attitude toward the backslidden person. You don’t want to push him farther away.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. ( Galatians 6:1 )
There may be a time for tough love, but make sure that you are being led by the Lord and that you are not reacting out of your hurt, frustration, or anger.
How to keep yourself from backsliding.
Pay close attention to matters of the heart. The Christian life is about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Avoid focusing primarily on a list of dos and don’ts. Stay close to the Lord throughout each day. Keep your heart and mind upon the kingdom of God.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. ( Prov. 4:23 , NIV)
Beware of the enemy’s schemes. Flee from situations that tempt you. Rebuke Satan when he attacks you. Have a trusted prayer partner that you can share your personal struggles with.
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. ( 2 Timothy 2:22 )
Finally, let the Holy Spirit lead you, fill you, encourage you, and empower you as you go through the day.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ( Galatians 5:25 )