Summary: Backsliding is when a born-again believer in Christ turns back to sin or becomes stubborn in his heart and refuses to submit to the will of God in his life
Backsliding- The greatest sin for a Believer
Backsliding is when a born-again believer in Christ turns back to sin or becomes stubborn in his heart and refuses to submit to the will of God in his life. The outward actions are only symptoms of the real problem -- the attitude of the heart -- which must be dealt with in order to change the actions.
What does Scripture say
"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which 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 2:4,5).
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
"When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you" (Luke 15:17,.18).
"...let him turn to the Lord...for he will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:7).
"I will heal their waywardness and love them freely..." (Hosea 14:4).
The Causes of Backsliding
"Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord? Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you..." Jeremiah 2:17, 19
The causes of backsliding are many and varied. Some are hidden; others are obvious. But the usual tendency is to emphasize the externals: pornography, illicit sexual relationships, drunkennness, etc. The lack of positive, spiritual input (prayer and Bible study), however, has just as detrimental an effect upon the soul as the introduction of evil influences. Starvation can be as deadly as the ingestion of any lethal substance. Jesus condemned the Pharisees not for what they did, but for what they failed to do: "...you neglect the weightier matters of the law," such as mercy, He said. He also told his disciples that they would be judged not just according to their relationship with him, but also by their neglect of "the least of these" (Mat 25:35-45).
Not everything "lawful" is "expedient" or beneficial, Paul writes. Reading romance novels, for example, might not in itself cause one to go out and sin. (It could). But neglecting the Word of God certainly will. The "lust of the flesh," the "deceitfulness of riches," "the love of the world" – all these can entrap us and cause our downfall. But the pride of life, and hatred toward a brother, eat away from within and are just as destructive.
Does God Condemn Backsliders?
God does not condemn us -- our own wickedness and backsliding do that (Jeremiah 2:19). Nor did Jesus come to do so, but to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). Therefore, if you will confess your sins, God will forgive you (I John 1:9). Accept His forgiveness and then forgive yourself.
Forgive those who have wronged you. Go to anyone you have wronged or resented and ask their forgiveness. Make restitution in whatever ways you can for any wrongs your backsliding has caused. If you are not baptized with the Holy Spirit, ask for and receive it (Luke 11:13). Then grow in Jesus and the way of the Lord. The Holy Spirit gives a Christian the ability to overcome sin. He gives power to be a Christ-like person. He guides, comforts, teaches spiritual truth, and equips with the gifts and qualities of God (Acts 1:8; John 14:16; I Corinthians 12; Galatians 5:22,23).
Consequences of Backsliding
"Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord..." Jeremiah 2:17, 19
Backsliding often carries its own punishment (Prov 14:14; Jer 2:17, 19; Rom 13:4). And its effects often extend far beyond the experience of the offender alone. Causing a brother to stumble is a serious offense. We will be held accountable not only for our own relationship with God, but for our conduct before men as well. Our life is "an open book," Paul writes, "known and read of all men." People who do not hear what we say cannot help but observe the way we live. "Your actions speak so loudly," the saying goes, "that I can’t hear a word you’re saying." Therefore, we are to "love not in word, but in deed..." (1 Jn 3:18). Anyone who has experienced the Presence of God will never find lasting satisfaction outside of His will. This accounts for the inner frustration and bitterness of soul accompanying the abandonment of one’s soul to the unruly state of life without God.