Study 7 THE DANGER OF LEAVING OFF
by Francis Dixon
Key Verse: “He has ceased to be wise and to do good” (Psalm 36:3)
We rejoice when we see a new believer enthusiastic to grow in his walk with God. How sad it is when one who started well has cooled off and no longer has any appetite for the things of God! What a tragedy when a soul turns back, for Jesus said - Luke 9:62! Those who turn back are never really happy. They may return to their old ways and their old friends; they may go back to all that the world can offer and try to stifle the inward voice that calls them back to the Lord, but they can never quite silence their conscience once they have known what it is to be wise and to do good!
Why do people who start out so hopefully turn back? Consider some reasons:-
1. A DEFECTIVE START
If a man leaves off he must obviously have made a start, for how can he give up what he has not started? There is, however, what we may call a defective start. There are many people who once attended church, and took part in some form of Christian service, who were never born again - look up John 3:5. They had a form of godliness, but no inward reality - look up 2 Timothy 3:5, and compare 1 John 2:19! There are many who, when they started, confessed their allegiance to Christ but did not really get right into the kingdom - look up Mark 12:34. They have only been Christians in a nominal sense; they have never received the Lord Jesus (John 1:12), nor trusted Him as Saviour (Acts 4:12).
2. NEGLECT OF PERSONAL DEVOTION AND FELLOWSHIP
Here is a reason why many lose out spiritually. They start out well in the Christian life and then flounder, for the simple reason that they do not feed upon the Word of God (Colossians 3:16); do not regularly spend time with the Lord in prayer (Luke 18:1); and do not cultivate regular attendance at the house of God (Hebrews 10:25). Is it any wonder that those who neglect these means of grace break down spiritually? If we neglect food, fresh air and exercise we soon break down physically; and if we neglect Bible reading, prayer and worship with the Lord’s people there is bound to be a spiritual breakdown.
3. SUCCESS, PROSPERITY AND THE ATTRACTION OF THE WORLD
We have all seen Christians become slack when they began to ‘get on’ in the world. They have been promoted in their job and have moved to a larger house, bought a bigger car, have prospered and have become what the world calls ‘successful’. And when this has happened they have grown cold, careless and dull spiritually. The world’s pull is very powerful, and it is easy to go the world’s way instead of God’s way - look up 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17.
4. OVERWHELMED BY ADVERSITY OR PERSECUTION
Sooner or later every Christian is persecuted for Christ’s sake and is chastened by the Lord for the purposes of sanctification. Jesus told us that in the world we would have tribulation, and that if we seek to live faithfully we will be persecuted - look up Matthew 5:10-12; John 16:33. The Bible also teaches that every Christian must expect suffering, trial and testing. This is all part of God’s permissive purpose and plan in training us and making us the people He wants us to be - look up Hebrews 12:6-11. But sometimes, when persecution is fierce or adversity is severe, God’s people fall and are turned aside.
5. INDULGING IN SOME KNOWN SIN
If a Christian harbours some sin then most certainly sooner or later he will be out of fellowship with the Lord. For example: if a Christian man marries a non-Christian girl, in all probability through this act of disobedience (1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14) he will become worldly. Sin always puts a barrier between us and the Lord (Isaiah 59:1-2).
6. DECEIVED BY FALSE TEACHING
Everywhere today Satan has his ministers (2 Corinthians 11:15), false teachers who propagate error and seek to turn aside even the elect of God - look up and compare Matthew 24:11 with 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Be on your guard lest the subtle endeavour of some Jehovah’s Witness, Christian Scientist or Spiritualist turn you aside from your hope and from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Look up Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1-3.
7. JUST PLAIN DISCOURAGEMENT!
Yes, some Christians simply get discouraged, and it is well to remember that discouragement always comes from the Devil - but it does come! He sees to that! Very often it succeeds in turning aside the Christian who in his heart of hearts desires to love and serve the Lord. How?
- Little by little. No-one leaves off all at once. A zealous Christian does not suddenly say, ‘I’m going to give it all up!’ No, it is a gradual process.
- It begins in secret. It begins in the heart, secretly and unobserved by any human eye - look up Proverbs 14:14, and compare Judges 16:20.
- With remorse. No-one ever leaves off following the Lord happily, contentedly. Every backslider constantly remembers the better days.
Suppose someone reading this Bible study has ceased to be wise and to do good, has grown cold, indifferent and out of touch with the Lord: can he or she make a fresh start? Thank God, yes! What must be done? Three things:-
- Make a full and frank confession to the Lord Himself, and be assured that He will forgive, cleanse, restore and reinstate. Look up Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9.
- Return to the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. Look up Isaiah 55:7; John 21:15-17.
- Trust Him to keep you, to support you, to sustain you and to give you strength day by day. Look up Hebrews 13:5-6; Jude 24.