A Warning to the Backslider
INTRODUCTION: In Proverbs 14:14 Solomon advises that, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The word “BACKSLIDER” has a negative ring. Most people cringe or tighten when the word “hypocrite” is mentioned. So it is with the term “backslider.” It’s like bad breath – most people won’t tell you if you have it.
Now I encourage you to listen carefully, very carefully, to this rather short message because this may well be the most important message you will hear as a Christian. I have over the last few weeks talked with a number of people who exhibit evidence of backsliding, either in speech, attitude, activity, or action.
It’s important that we realize that a backslider is one who has lost fellowship, not salvation. The joy and happiness depart, but not the Spirit. When King David sinned so grievously and finally came to himself, he prayed in Psalm 51:12 “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” He did not pray for his salvation to return, but his joy.
Think of the Apostle Peter the night Jesus was going through His trials.
Peter’s began his backsliding when he became “self-confident and boasted, “I will never forsake the Lord.”
He was next seen following afar off and soon was warming his hands by the enemy’s fire. An old Scottish woman said, “Peter had no business among the flunkies.”
The story is told of a parrot that got loose and flew into the cornfield with the crows. When the farmer began to shoot the crows, the parrot was wounded. While picking up the dead crows, he saw the wounded parrot and picked it up. The parrot spoke “Bad company, bad company!” Remember when a person lies down with the dogs, he’s likely to get up with fleas!
Peter’s bad company and distance from the Lord’s presence soon resulted in cursing and swearing. Finally, he left the Lord to go back to his fishing business. His action was sad, because it influenced several others to do the same. Backsliding can be characterized as “giving up ground once claimed for God.” It can also be described as “spiritual staleness” or being luke-warm.”
In Jeremiah’s day, Israel was a backsliding nation, soon to become swept into captivity.
In Jeremiah 2:2-4 we read, “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. (3) Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD. (4) Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:” Here we discover that Israel was God’s first love. They were Holiness unto Him. They were a delight unto God.
In verses 5-8 we read, “Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? (6) Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? (7) And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. (8) The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.” Notice:
Backsliding is forgetting from where you came.
Backsliding is characterized as gone from the Lord.
Backsliding is walking in vain and empty things.
Backsliding is forgetting the Lord, as God has just become a by-word.
Now notice: “(11) Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. (13) For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (19) Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. (20) For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. (21) Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? (29) Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD. (30) In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion. (31) O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee? (32) Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”
In Jeremiah 3:20-25 we read “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD. (21) A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God. (22) Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. (23) Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. (24) For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. (25) We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”
Backsliding brings SUFFERING, SHAME and REPROACH to the name of God. You suffer, others suffer, and God is not glorified. Backsliding will lead you into paths of SHAME, REBELLION, and CONFUSION that you never dreamed possible.
For the rest of this message, let’s focus on three areas: in order to avoid backsliding
FIRST: SIGNS of BACKSLIDING Someone said, “If you were ever closer to the Lord than you are right now, you’re backslidden.” Another once asked his preacher, “What’s wrong with me? I don’t have what I used to have.” The preacher answered “You have lost you zeal and intent, and as a result you have become discouraged, distracted and miserable.”
There are several identifying signs that reveal a backslidden condition.
Number 1: Loss of Heavenly Values When the excitement of Bible truth about the things of God is weak, worldly pleasures get a grip and claim our interest and time. The Bible gets dull. Prayer is commonplace and church attendance does not have a pull. Giving is hard. The problem is obvious – you are in a backslidden state of mind, attitude and action.
Remember in Colossians 3:1-3 we read, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (2) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Number 2: Loss of Conviction of Sin The darkness in a restaurant is bad until our eyes adjust to it. The closer to sin we get, the less we see what is wrong with it. We see the worldly crowd and all that it invokes far more than we see the things of God.
Number 3: Lazy in Service Initiative and aggressive action is the theme of the Bible Christian. A tombstone in an old graveyard read: “Here rests John Brown. That is all he ever did.” There are thousands of Christians like this, living but doing nothing as far as Christian service.
Yet in I Corinthians 15:58 we read, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Number 4: Putting People’s Word Ahead of God’s Word Some are persuaded more by the opinions and advice of others than the plain, clear teaching of the Bible. They argue with Biblical advice and walk away from counsel preferring to do it their way and not God’s way. They have a problem called a backslidden condition.
Number 5: Loss of Testimony In Matthew 5:14, 16 we read, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” We are to let our lights shine. Your Christian character is like a tree, and your testimony is its shadow. It all depends upon your relationship to the Son.
Years ago during a street meeting several men had given testimony of the joy of the Lord in their lives. Finally the leader asked a man standing on the edge of the crowd if he would give a testimony. He bluntly answered, “I beg to be excused. I don’t have any testimony.” How sad to be in that condition.
Now I am sure there might be other signs. But let’s move onto…
SECOND: CAUSES of BACKSLIDING Sin for the Christian falls into two categories – sins of omission and sins of commission. One leads to the other. Most of the causes of backsliding are sins of omission. Here is a partial list.
Number 1: Evil Thinking When a person’s heart is not pure, he will begin to think evil.
Solomon said in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
A Christian would do well to post a guard at the door and windows of his mind, lest as Mark 7:15 tells us “that which entereth into a man defileth him.”
Number 2: Worldly Attitude This problem is not just in things or involvement in worldly pleasure, dress and activities. It is an attitude or spirit of worldliness to which we must be alert.
Remember James 4:4, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Number 3: Root of Bitterness How sad to see a bitter person. He has usually slammed the door on a lot of people who love him and are concerned for him. Oh, the misery of a heart filled with grudge and an unforgiving spirit.
Number 4: Self-Centeredness Some live only for themselves. Number one is all that matters! They have never learned the blessing of living for others. Jesus said that we are to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Number 5: Prayerlessness Someone said, “If we are not praying, we’re playing.” A spiritual, victorious person will delight to talk to God in prayer, and will do it at every possible opportunity.
One preacher said, “I love to preach, and I’ll preach at the drop of a hat. If necessary, I’ll drop the hat.” It should be that way with us when it comes to praying.
Number 6: Gossip Surely no one will argue that the gossiper is backslidden. Paul said in Ephesians 4:31, “let all…evil speaking be put away from you.” Like leaven through bread and a drop of ink in a glass of water, gossip will spread out over the whole area and leave its dreaded effect.
Number 6: Unbelief To doubt is to drift. A person who is unsure will not boldly charge ahead and accomplish things for God. Where seeds of doubt are planted, backsliding begins to grow.
THIRD: INSTRUCTIONS for the BACKSLIDER If a Christian sees signs of backsliding and understands the cause of backsliding, he surely will be interested in the pathway to being restored. Return to Jeremiah 3 and notice verses 12-15:
“Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger forever. (13) Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. (14) Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: (15) And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
In the process of being restored, there are several things to be done.
Number 1: Confess your sin to God We must come to ourselves like the Prodigal Son and say to the Father, “I have sinned.” We must acknowledge our iniquity.
Remember I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he (God) s faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us form all unrighteousness.”
Solomon said in Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Number 2: Forsake your sin Return to doing that which is right. Start doing the right until the right becomes a delight!
It is necessary to break with sin. There must be a humbling and seeking after God. The instructions God gave to Israel are the same for our nation as well as for you and I as individuals. They are found in I Chronicles 7:14 where we read,
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land.”
If you find yourself backsliding and out of the pathway of God’s blessings, heed the call of Hosea 6:11 “Come, and let us return unto the Lord.”
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “A Warning to the Blackslider” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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