Summary: A Sermon on Backsliding


Hosea 4:16


ILL: What’s a Backslider?

"Dad, what’s a backslider?" the boy asked.

"Well, Son, that’s a man who leaves our church and goes to another."

"But Dad, then what do you call a man who leaves his church and joins ours?"

"He’s a convert, Son, a convert!"

The idea of backsliding is mentioned quite a few times throughout the Bible. Sometimes it is called sliding, turning aside, turning back, falling, etc… The word actually means exactly what it sounds like it means. To backslide is to go backwards in your spiritual life!

Hosea 4:16 likens a backslider to a heifer. The backslider is like an ox that is in a double yoke. Both of the oxen are supposed to pull together to drag the cart, plow, etc… forward. The backsliding heifer decides to turn to the side or to stop in its tracks or even to go backward! Of course, this hinders not only the heifer’s progress, but also the progress of the other ox and the cart or plow itself! Can you see the application?

Jesus said for us to take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. We are supposed to be laboring together for the cause of Christ while getting to know Him more! When one of us backslides—stops doing our part in praying, devotions, giving, witnessing—the church suffers and ultimately the cause of Christ suffers!

Let us note a few things about backsliding:

I. The Causes of Backsliding

A. Spending Time with the Wrong People

1. "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (I Corinthians 15:33).

2. "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father" (I Kings 11:4).

3. "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25).

4. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20).

5. Don’t tell me that the people you hang around do not affect you!

6. The Bible teaches that we become more like the people we spend time with.

7. A wise man once said, "A year from now you will be the same person you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet!

8. Solomon, the wisest man in history, who had direct revelations from God himself, let people turn his heart away from God!

9. O! How many times have I seen Christians who were truly devoted to the Lord let someone close to them distract them and cause them to backslide!

10. I know—you value them as friends and do not want to offend them by turning down their invitation to go to places that you would not normally go!

11. Maybe they invite you to do something on Sunday, which will keep you out of church!

12. Whatever it is—do not let someone else determine your spiritual altitude!

B. Spending Time in the Wrong Places

1. Because it does matter what you see!

a. "Mine eye affecteth mine heart…" (Lamentations 3:51).

b. "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…" (Psalm 101:3).

c. Many people think they can go watch a movie or go to a beach full of ¾ naked people and not be affected by it!

d. I am here to tell you today that it is at the least, spiritually unhealthy!

e. At worst, it will cause you to lust.

2. Because it does matter what you hear!

a. "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

b. Well, the devil knows the Scriptures, too.

c. He knows that he can affect people, not only through the eye gate, but also through the ears as well!

d. Why do you think he bombards us with his music everywhere we go?

e. Have you ever heard the song little children sing?--"O be careful, little feet…"

f. We adults would do well to remember those principles that even children understand.

g. The places we go, the people we meet, the things we see and hear, all affect our inward man—which is directly linked to backsliding!

C. Developing the Wrong Passions

1. "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (Revelation 2:4).

2. Jesus spoke these words to a church that had all the outward signs of spirituality.

3. They were correct in their doctrine and practice!

4. But they had left their honeymoon for Christ!

5. That is really the main cause for backsliding —misplaced priorities concerning people and places that lead to declining passion for the Saviour that bought you with His life and saved you from sin!

6. Would you rather watch television than spend a moment with God in Bible Reading and Prayer?

7. Would you rather go play some sport than be in your place at Church?

8. Would you rather for people at work not to know you are a Christian?

9. All these things are signs of cooling love for God.

10. These are signs that you are already in the process of backsliding!

11. Get your passion back for God—return to that first love you felt as a young Christian—ready to charge hell with a wet rag!

II. The Course of Backsliding (Proverbs 14:14)

A. It begins in the heart—"backslider in heart."

1. Long before you ever get completely out of church or do something we would call really sinful, you get backslidden in your heart!

2. Psalm 78 is a condensed version of Exodus through Deuteronomy.

3. In Psalm 78 we see a nation who backslid time and time again.

4. Verse 37 gives us a clue as to why they backslid so many times: "For their heart was not right with him."

5. Keep your heart right with God, for out of it are all the issues of life!

6. Everything that you do on the outward is influenced by what is inside!

7. You can do the right things without the right heart; the Bible is clear on this subject!

B. It fills every part of your life—"will be filled."

1. Either you are going forward for God, or you are going backward!

2. If you continue going backward, you will get into more and more things that you said you would never do.

3. If you stay backslidden long enough, there may come a time when people would laugh at you if you tried to tell them you were a Christian.

4. Lot did that and received the same reaction!

5. The Bible teaches that the path of backsliding is progressively worse.

6. Psalm 1:1 tells us a lot for such a short verse. Turn there with me and let us discuss it a minute!

III. The Consequences of Backsliding (Proverbs 14:12, 14—"his own ways)

A. A backslider hurts himself.

1. "Be not deceived…" (Galatians 6:7).

2. Everything we do will return to us!

3. Have you ever heard the saying, "What goes around comes around"?

4. Well, it is true.

5. If you backslide, you hurt yourself spiritually.

6. You hurt your testimony with others.

7. Backsliddenness results in spiritual deadness (Proverbs 14:12).

B. A backslider hurts others!

· Jonah’s story is a perfect example of this idea.

· He ran from God and got on a ship going the opposite way from where God told him.

· He figured it would affect no one but himself!

· Well, he was wrong!

· God sent a storm that affected everyone and everything on that ship.

· Even the unbelieving sailors suffered because of a backslidden preacher!

1. Children

a. Your children, both physically and spiritually, will be affected if you backslide!

b. I am working on a message on influence.

c. We do not realize sometimes the amazing influence we have over many lives!

d. But people are watching us.

e. The people who are looking to us to set the example will be hurt when they see us backslide.

f. Some will be disappointed in us.

g. Some will be discouraged by us!

h. Some, unfortunately, will follow our lead.

i. If they do not see us at church on Sunday night or Wednesday night, they may not see the importance of faithfulness to church!

j. If they see us in the wrong places, they may think it is okay to go there for them, too.

2. The Church

a. Our church suffers when any member suffers, according to the Bible.

b. If anyone is sick spiritually, it is like a part of our body being sick.

c. I have an earache this morning—do you know that my brain has been telling the rest of my body for hours that my ear hurts?

d. Well, a backslidden member hurts his or her church!

e. We are to be salt and light to a dying world.

f. Even one backslidden member hinders our mission as salt and light bearers!

g. It hurts our unity.

h. It hurts our effectiveness.

i. It hurts our meetings.

j. It hurts in every way.

k. I would like to say, it pains me, as your pastor, when I realize some of you are backslidden.

l. Not because I care about how many we have in church or what our offerings are like or how effective we are—but because I hate what you are doing to yourself and to the little lambs in our church!


1. This morning I want every one of us to evaluate our life!

2. Are we indeed backslidden in our heart?

3. Has it progressed to the point that we do not care who it affects and what people think about our actions?

4. If you are saved but backslidden this morning, please come to Jesus today, confessing your sins, and restore fellowship with Him once again!

5. Make some commitments to be faithful to do as you should concerning your walk with Him and faithfulness to His church!

6. If you are not saved, confess Christ as your Saviour, before it is eternally too late!