In the book of the prophet Hosea is described the undying love of God toward a people whose hearts have wandered far from His ways. Here are expressed the deep, inner longings and desire of his heart to woo them and win them back by His love. “I will heal their backsliding,” He promises; “I will love them freely…” (Hos 14:4) The word “backslide” literally means “turn back” or “turn away” from our first love, or from the gospel, to Satan, to evil, or to the world.
Scripture metaphorically describes the backslidden state as:
- serving two masters,
- forsaking the Lord,
- going our own way,
- leaving our first love,
- forgetting God,
- falling away,
- turning aside,
- growing cold,
- departing from the faith,
- putting a hand to the plow and looking back,
- “salt that has lost its savour“,
- “a dog returning to his vomit”
The backslider does not suddenly wake up one morning and go out and commit adultery. Over a period of time, he may have become lax in his thought life, or entertained fleshly desires.
TYPE OF BACKSLIDER
According to Jesus in one of His famous parables there are ways a person can backslide. (Mark 4:3-20).
- Seed that falls by the wayside, seed that falls on stony ground, and seed that falls among thorns.
- Seed that falls by the wayside is the word of God that you get but don’t understand. The devil comes immediately causing you to forget. Then you go back to what you’re used to doing and you backslide.
- Seed that falls on stony ground is the word of God that you get and understand but it’s not rooted inside you. So when the devil comes with hard times you can’t handle it. This offends you, so you get mad and backslide.
- Seed that falls among thorns is the word of God mixed in with the cares of this world, pursuit of riches, and other lusts. This chokes the word before it can produce and you go back to doing what the world does, give up and backslide
THE CAUSES OF BACKSLIDING.
A. BAD RELATIONSHIPS.
1. Marriage to the ungodly.
2. Bad friendships.
3. Lack of fellowship; isolation.
4. Sexual defraudation in marriage.
5. Divisions, arguments.
6. Jealousy, envy, hatred.
B. SPIRITUAL LACK.
1. Heresy, philosophy.
2. Inadequate teaching; poor foundation.
3. Poor (or no) leadership — or an over-dependence upon it.
4. Neglect of prayer life.
5. Spiritual apathy.
6. Spiritual blindness.
7. Deliberate disobedience.
C. COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD.
1. Competing interests: compromise.
2. Ingratitude; independence from God.
3. Spiritual adultery; idolatry.
D. ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS.
1. Seeking the praises of men.
3. Rebellion; hardened heart.
6. Over-confidence; self-deceit.
7. Lack of endurance; fear of persecution.
8. Fleshly lusts.
9. Despair; guilt.
SAFEGUARDS AGAINST BACKSLIDNG.
B. The Word of God.
C. The prayers of others.
D. Diligence to spiritual things.
E. Walking in the Spirit.
G. Godly living.
H. Self-examination (good, to a degree).
I. Submission to the discipline of the Lord.
J. Good preaching.
K. Exhortation of other believers.
RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD THE BACKSLIDDEN.
Although the spiritual welfare of God’s flock is primarily the responsibility of the shepherd, or pastor, every believer ought to have a burden for the backslidden.
A. We are our “brother’s keeper.”
B. We should “bear one another’s burdens.”
C. Paul says we are to exhort one another daily.
D. We should pray regularly for our brother.
E. We are to confront and correcteach other in love (even if our words are rejected).
F. A reward awaits those who retrieve a fallen soul. Jas 5:20 “…he which convert- eth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.”
1. In attempting to bring back a fallen brother, however, we must make sure we ourselves are strong enough in the faith to stand secure.
2. Those who have forsaken the Lord tend to bring others down. Prov 28:10, Mat 18:6, 1 Corin 15:33
3. Therefore, we are specifically exhorted to avoid those who have completely hardened their hearts through sin.
4. Our attitude toward them, however, should remain one of mercy: 2 Thes 3:6, 15 “Count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
There is no way for young converts to keep from being backsliders, but by guarding against the beginning of decline. Backsliding comes on very much like intemperance, gradually, from the smallest beginnings, in a way that is overlooked.
You see the duty of church members to watch over young converts in love, and put them on their guard against the beginnings of backsliding. They should watch them, just as a mother watches her little child, to see that it does not go near where it will fall. Look out for them, and if you see them verging near the lines, warn them, “Beware! go not near that brink–hell is there.” Ask them, early and frequently, “Do you pray now as frequently and fervently as you did? Do you love the Bible as much as you did?” And keep them on the guard, and thus prevent them from backsliding.
The backslider is any one who was once converted, but who does not enjoy secret prayer, and hold daily communion with God. A man may keep up the form of prayer, he may be on his knees a great deal, and yet have no communion with God–not feel that God is present with him. He may pray ever so much, in form, and yet have no spirit of prayer. If in your secret prayer you do not actually draw near to God, you are either a backslider in heart or a hypocrite. No matter to what church you belong, or what office you hold, or what character you may bear in the sight of men; God regards you as a backslider, if you do not enjoy the spirit of prayer.