Study 6 THE MISERY OF THE BACKSLIDER
TEN STUDIES IN PROVERBS
by Francis Dixon
(Key-verse: Proverbs 14:14)
There are some Bible names which cause us to shudder – for instance, Judas Iscariot (Matthew 10:4); Demas (2 Timothy 4:10); Diotrephes (3 John 9). In the same way there are names coupled together in scripture which have a similar effect on us – David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3); Samson and Delilah (Judges 16:4); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1). Then there are names of places which cause us to search our hearts – for instance, Sodom (Genesis 13:13); Sardis (Revelation 3:1). Perhaps, however, it is the presence and use of certain words in scripture which more than anything else cause us to feel serious and thoughtful. One such word is ‘castaway’ (1 Corinthians 9:27 KJV); or ‘reprobate’ (2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV); and in our key-verse is the word ‘faithless’, or ‘backslider’, one whose faith has become careless.
What is a backslider? A backslider is a Christian who for one reason or another gets out of touch with the Lord and then continues out of fellowship with Him. A backslider is a Christian, but a careless, disobedient, unhappy and ineffective Christian, one who has suffered a relapse. Is it possible that you are a backslider? If so, then you are one of the most miserable people on earth. The Christian who is going on with the Lord, enjoying the fullness of blessing in Christ and living a dedicated life, is entirely satisfied with the Lord Himself. On the other hand, the non-Christian can be happy up to a point because he has never tasted the things of Christ, and therefore he does not miss them. But what about the Christian who is a backslider? He is isolated between two worlds: he is not able to enjoy the Lord, and he cannot enjoy the world. Is this a description of you? Notice three truths which emerge from our key-verse.
1. As Christians we are always faced with the danger and the possibility of a spiritual relapse
Thank God, backsliding is not necessary, for in the Lord Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, every provision has been made for us to be “more than conquerors” and to enable us to live a life of deliverance to the praise and glory of God (Romans 8:37); but it is important to note this: there is no position of grace from which a fall is impossible. A careful study of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 emphasises this, and particularly notice verses 6, 11 and 13. If we depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit, we need not backslide and suffer spiritual and moral relapses which are so common among the people of God; but let us always remember that we are all the time faced with the danger of backsliding.
2. Backsliding always begins in one place: it begins in the heart
We have reference to “the backslider in heart” in the King James’ Version, and he is the one who is filled with his own ways. Backsliding begins inwardly. Long before anyone openly backslides there is an inward relapse. If the outward evidences appear, such as giving up church attendance, prayer and Bible reading, losing love and enthusiasm for the Lord’s work and soul-winning – before ever these things happen there must have been an inward relapse which began in the heart. This poses the solemn question: what is the state of our heart? – sooner or later the state of our heart will be seen in our life; that is, the inward condition will come out. It may be hidden for a while, but when some test, temptation or bereavement comes then we shall find we have no resources to draw upon.
3. The outward evidence or the result of backsliding is always the same
The wise man says, “The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways”; this means pleasing the “sinful nature” instead of living “by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). What a paradox – a Christian full of himself, self-willed, self-assertive, self-centred and self-opinionated; with self enthroned instead of Christ; wanting his own way instead of the Lord’s! Notice his position:
- 1. His state is insecure. As to our standing, we are eternally “in Christ” and that can never change (Ephesians 1:3); but regarding what we actually are down here in the body, that can and does alter very much. Our state is what we are in ourselves, and the first result of backsliding is that because the backslider is filled with himself instead of Christ, his state is insecure. He is still a Christian but has no sense of security and assurance; he is filled with uncertainty.
- 2. His profession is insincere. What he says before the world is not sincere; the backslider usually tries to keep up the sham before Christian friends and before unbelievers (Matthew 15:8) – still attending church, holding office, preaching, working on the mission-field, still a pastor, an evangelist, a minister, and making a great profession – but a backslider!
- 3. His life is inconsistent. The one thing God wants is that our profession and walk should correspond, that doctrine should be translated into duty; but every backslider is living an inconsistent life (Titus 1:16).
- 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 carried out in the energy of the flesh, and that can bear no fruit or bring any glory to God. The service of a backsliding Christian is always fruitless – look up Hosea 14:8; John 15:5.
Thank God, backsliders may return and be sure of a welcome (Jeremiah 3:12)! We need to come back with contrition and confession in our hearts and upon our lips as we rejoice in the truth of 1 John 1:9. Look up Psalm 87:7; John 4:14.