Study 6 THE DANGER OF SPIRITUAL RELAPSE
The Shining Pathway
by Francis Dixon
(Key verse: “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” Proverbs 14: 14 KJV)
Some Bible names cause one to shudder - for instance, Judas Iscariot (Matthew 10:4); Demas (2 Timothy 4:10); Diotrephes (3 John 9); and other names coupled together in the scriptures have a similar effect upon us - for example, David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3-4); Samson and Delilah (Judges 16:20); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1). Then there are names of places that cause us to search our hearts - such as Sodom (Genesis 13:13); Sardis (Revelation 3:1). Perhaps it is the presence and use of certain words in scripture that more than anything else cause us to think seriously - for example, disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27); reprobate (2 Corinthians 13:5, KJV); or the word in our key verse – backslider (Proverbs 14:14, KJV). What or who is a backslider?
A backslider is a Christian who gets out of touch with the Lord, a careless, disobedient, unhappy, ineffective Christian who has suffered a relapse and he (or she) is one of the most miserable people on earth. The Christian who is enjoying the fullness of blessing in Christ is entirely satisfied with the Lord Himself; the non-Christian can be happy up to a point because he has never tasted (and therefore does not miss) the things of Christ. But the backslider is isolated between two worlds - he is not able to enjoy the Lord and he cannot enjoy the world! Is that a description of you?
Notice three vital truths which emerge from our key verse:
1. Every Christian is faced with the danger and the possibility of spiritual relapse.
Backsliding is not necessary, for in the Lord Jesus Christ every provision has been made for us to be more than conquerors all along the line, and to be able to live a life of deliverance to the praise and glory of God (Romans 8:37). However, it is important to note that there is no position of grace from which a fall is impossible. Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, particularly noticing verses 6, 11 and 13. If we depend upon our Lord Jesus Christ, and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit, we need not backslide and suffer the spiritual and moral relapses that are so common among the people of God. But let us not forget that we are always faced with the danger of backsliding.
2. Backsliding always begins in the heart.
It is the backslider in heart who is filled with his own ways. Backsliding begins inwardly, long before the outward evidences are seen (such as giving up church attendance, prayer and Bible reading, and losing love for the Lord’s work and for soul-winning). Read about the relapse of John Mark (Acts 13:13); of Demas (2 Timothy 4:10); but note that the record only tells of the outward evidence of backsliding which had begun previously in the heart. What is the state of our heart? - for sooner or later its state will be manifested in our life and the inward condition will come out. When some trial, bereavement or trouble comes, then we may find we have no resources to draw upon, and we shall be “filled with (our) own ways.”
3. The outward evidence or the result of backsliding is always the same.
Our key verse says, ”The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” In New Testament language that means “walking according to the sinful nature” instead of “living by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). What a paradox! A Christian filled with himself - self-willed, self-assertive, self-centred, self-opinionated, filled with self-pity, self enthroned instead of Christ - a self-filled Christian! Notice that because the backslider is filled with himself instead of with Christ:-
- 1. His state is insecure. As to our standing, we are eternally “in Christ”, and thank God, that can never be altered (Ephesians 1:3)! But as to our state, what we actually are down here in the flesh, that can and does alter very much. Our state is what we are in ourselves, and the first result of backsliding is that the backslider is insecure. He is still a Christian, but he has no sense of security and assurance.
- 2. His profession is insincere. When we backslide we usually keep up a pose before our friends and the world - look up Matthew 15:8. What insincerity! - still going to church, holding office, preaching, a missionary, a pastor, an evangelist, making a great profession - but a backslider!
- 3. His life is inconsistent. God wants our profession and our walk to correspond, but every backslider is living an inconsistent life - it cannot be otherwise.
- 4. His service is ineffective. How can service be effective if self, instead of Christ, is on the throne? If we are filled with ourselves then our service is born of the energy of the flesh, and that can bear no fruit nor bring any glory to God. The service of a backsliding Christian is always ineffective.
Thank God, backsliders may return and be sure of a welcome - look up Jeremiah 3:12! If we need to do so, then let us come back with contrition and confession in our hearts and upon our lips, as we rest upon and rejoice in the truth of 1 John 1:9.