If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Slip Slidin' Away

"Backslider". We used to hear that word more than we do nowadays. Not that it's any less of a problem than it ever was. The thing of it is, it sometimes seems to be more of a problem for the people pointing it out than for the people they're pointing it out to! It is a word which, all too often, is used by one Christian in criticism of another Christian. Generally, it comes at some point from a preacher delivering a sermon or a Sunday school teacher's lesson for the day. And it is usually delivered rather harshly. Backslider!!!

They might merely say " . . . all those backsliders . . .", but what is heard is ". . . all those dirty, rotten, stinkin', low down, no good, sin lovin' backsliders . . .". Man! How is any body gonna come back from that?

Maybe it's not put out there with any harshness attached, but we hear it that way because what hits home hits harder.

Backsliding is not the same as our "everyday" sin. Both happen. Neither is good. But, backsliding is more problematic. Mirriam-Webster's online dictionary defines backsliding as: 1. to lapse morally or in the practice of religion   2. to revert to a worse condition :  retrogress 

To backslide is to step back into old ways. Usually, it means that someone has pretty much completely fallen away from their commitment to live for God. They are a long way from where they were and they wonder if they can ever get back. (Commitment is the problem. I'll address that a little further down.) It might not always involve falling back into former sinful activities, though. This Christian life is progressive. We are always moving forward, growing. At times it's an up hill climb. God's enemy is always seeking to bring us down, make us ineffective. So, a backslide could be taking a step or two back to a place you just went through on your upward Christian walk. Not that you slipped up and sinned, but that you have stepped back into something that you have grown past. God wants to draw you nearer to Himself and you are not merely dragging your feet, you've moved back, maybe just a little further away than you were.

That could be as easy, and as common, as going through a time of "life is easy, things are good" where you don't depend on God as much as you did in more difficult times. Maybe you are not praying like you once did. You're not going to church and getting together with your fellow Christians as often as you used to because it's just easier to stay home. Perhaps you've allowed circumstances to keep you from tithing and giving like you once did. For whatever reason, and in whatever way, you have stepped back from your pursuit, your search for God in all matters of life.

Maybe you know your spiritual condition and you feel all the worse for it because you always think of the word backslider as being accompanied by a fist pounding the pulpit, and that fist may as well be pounding you for all the help it provides. Life is beating on you and so is someone else's opinion of you. You've fallen back for sure, but how are you now going to step forward?

Take heart. The answer is near, and the answer is instant!

 “Return, you backsliding children,
And I will heal your backslidings.”
                                  Jeremiah 3:22  

If you read this entire passage from Jeremiah you can hear the tenderness, the care, the love, in God's voice. He is not beating you up. He's not accusing you. He knows where you are, and He knows He is your only answer. You can't make your own way back nor can you earn your way back. You have to be brought back by God, and He is ready, willing, and well able to do just that!

Luke 15:11-32 is called the story of "the Prodigal Son", but it is really about the love and forgiveness of the father. Read the story again and see how the father, seeing his son returning in the distance, ran out to meet him and immediately restored him as his son.

And then there is John 21 which recalls Jesus restoring Peter to his place as an apostle, a loved, effective, and anointed leader of the faith.

There are so many examples of forgiveness and restoration in the Bible. The process of coming around in the mind may take some time. That's you and I. The healing in the heart, the healing of your backslidings, is instantaneous. That's God. Our acceptance of that is paramount to the completion of the process. 

I mentioned commitment earlier. The problem with us making commitments is that we control the length and depth of the commitment. We are only committed under certain conditions and circumstances and when either of those change our commitment is subject to change. When Jesus said "take up your cross and follow me" He was calling for a total surrender to Him. In surrender we have no agenda of our own. We control nothing. In surrender, Jesus is truly made Lord of our lives. 

Commitments are easily broken even with every intent of fulfilling them. We are simply trying to take control of the circumstances. A change in the terms of surrender requires escape, which requires purpose, which requires planning. It's easy to break a commitment. It's not so easy to escape even when you've surrendered of your own free will. And when you belong to Jesus nothing will separate you from Him. You will not want to "escape". You will go to your Lord and ask for help and see Him glorified as He answers your call.

So, take that area of your life where you've fallen back and surrender it to Jesus. Return to God and He WILL heal your backslidings.    

God deals with you from the state of your heart, not your actions. He doesn't make you grovel or jump through hoops. He knows your heart, and the moment you turn back to Him in your heart you are with Him. He has always been with you, but, just like that, you are back with Him! Don't let Satan or any of his minions, which may well be someone very close to you, tell you any different. The healing of your backslidings is a work of God, not of your self. You must be strong and faithful and live it out, but the work is done!

And, please know, that I only use all these "you's" and "your's" because I have been there myself.


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