<<revert, go back to the old ways>>

As the result of not maintaining the close relationship with Christ that they once experienced, a Christian’s love and devotion to Him slips, sin creeps back in and they revert into worldliness and indifference; being a friend of the world is being an enemy of God’s, for no one can serve two opposing masters (Mt 6:24; Jas 4:4). Some of the terms used in the Bible are “Falling away…Departing from the truth…Drifting away” (2 Thes 2:3; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 2:1). Satan is not pleased when a sinner leaves his kingdom and becomes a Christian so he does all he can to regain their allegiance. This lessening of one’s commitment to Christ, through compromising with sin and not obeying the Holy Spirit, can continue in a downward spiral, ultimately resulting in apostasy (turning one’s back on Christ). When this happens a person cannot be brought back to repentance and so forfeits their salvation (Heb 6:4-8).

There are multitudes who have at some time registered a profession of faith or even had a definite conversion experience but today are far from the Kingdom of God, with their eternal security in doubt (Mt 7:21-23). “The Lord knows those who are His” and although we can’t judge another’s heart, we certainly can see their behaviour – whether it reflects God’s standards (Lk 6:37; 1 Cor 5:12; 2 Tim 2:19).  In the parable of the soils Jesus identified people who would ‘spring up’ in almost immediate response yet because of the underlying bedrock nothing permanent would result because there was no depth of root to sustain life (Lk 8:6,13). These people often have an emotional encounter but when their faith is tested, they discredit the gospel. We should never hurry a person into receiving salvation, as the seriousness of sin must be clearly outlined, with an emphasis on repentance.

As well as individual believers, it is possible for a church as a whole to backslide from intimacy and devotion to Jesus. The Bible describes such groups as having ‘left their first love’ and consequently being half-hearted or lukewarm in their devotion to Him – which He finds repulsive (Rev 2:4, 3:15,16). Satan would suggest we ease back, and if we must still follow God, do it without passion or

Satan wants to take people out of the race 

commitment, yet Jesus requires total loyalty to Him, so rather than contemplating what we have left behind, or the present troubles we may be experiencing, consider the blessing and future we will have with Him (Lk 9:62; Rom 8:18; Heb 10:38,39). Christians are not promised a trouble-free life this side of heaven, however Jesus said He would never leave us and will help us to be overcomers (Jn 16:33; Act 14:22; Heb 13:5).

Possible causes

All believers will be tested in their level of commitment to God through times of despondency and discouragement yet testing comes to make us strong, not destroy our spiritual life (Rom 5:3-5; 1 Pet 1:6,7). Everyone has experiences that could cause them to fall away from walking with the Lord yet as eternal life is only found in Him, do not be deceived into taking the less demanding route (Jn 6:68, 10:10, 14:6; Heb 10:35). There are a multitude of reasons for backsliding including disobedience, disappointment, peer pressure, taking offence over unanswered prayer (not the response we expected) or the sinful nature reasserting itself (Heb 3:12). Strongholds of the past must be cut off and the lure of sin broken as the old life is ‘put off’ and the new ‘put on’ by pursuing Christ’s calling on us (Phil 3:13-15). Through the events of life, we have the choice to resort to self-pity, become bitter and disillusioned, falling away from Him, or to grow stronger in our character because of these events and our love for God. Satan desires to destroy us through adverse situations while God’s goal is to enlarge us and bless us. All the things that would seek to turn you away from the life of faith can actually work for your good in His hands (Rom 8:28; Phil 1:12).

The remedy

As with any other sin, the remedy involves repentance – an acknowledgement of the wrong that resulted in the backsliding, coupled with a turning from this serious condition back to Christ. God says, “Return to me and I will return to you…Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to

The way back to God is always via repentance

you" (Zech 1:3; Mal 3:7; Jas 4:7,8). The responsibility for the first move is ours. We must be diligent and disciplined to say ‘No’ to the flesh and ‘Yes’ to the Spirit, as these two options are not compatible – to walk with God it must be on His terms (Amos 3:3; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:5-10; 1 Pet 1:16).

Build yourself up ‘in Christ’ and be in good relationship with others, so when the storm strikes you are prepared, as well as being able to receive support from others. Likewise, be ready to speak the Word of God into others’ lives. Reconnect with the body of Christ, remind yourself you are part of God’s solution to the world, and bolster your inner being with the Word of God while being accountable to others.  If you have lost your joy or assurance of salvation, this is also an incentive to turn again to the Lord, whose promise is “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13). Be devoted to Him and deal with any issues that hinder the most vital relationship humanity can experience. The Bible’s message is clear, get rid of what is ‘of the flesh’ – as it easily hinders and causes us to sin – then we can enjoy a growing love relationship with the one who died to save us (Gal 4:21-31, 5:7). Keep your eyes on Who is for you, rather than against (Heb 12:2; 1 Jn 4:4-19).

Applying the principles

Practically we can help backsliders return to Christ by praying for them, befriending and lovingly restoring them. This may require humbly challenging them about issues that are not fitting for a believer, or (where appropriate) meeting their specific needs whilst being vigilant so we don’t end up in a similar position (Prov 4:26; 1 Cor 10:12; Gal 6:1,2; Jas 5:19,20). In helping restore those who have fallen always ask, ‘What was the trigger point that caused it?’ so that, by identifying the entry point, steps can be implemented to guard against future assault. Seek to “Encourage each other that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb 3:13).

It’s not just the start of our Christian walk but the continuing and finishing well that is of utmost importance so challenge those who are coasting along in their commitment to Christ. Jesus said, “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray” (Jn 16:1). The Bible warns about drifting away through only having a superficial knowledge of

Daily make Christ LORD of your life to avoid backsliding 

righteousness without a growing relationship with Christ and His ways hence “We must pay careful attention…so that we do not drift away” (Heb 2:1, 5:11-6:12; 2 Pet 2:20-22). “Those that love the Word of God won’t fall” (Ps 119:165). This is more than just giving mental assent to its teachings, it means “Doing what it says”, by living according to the principles it contains (Josh 1:7,8; Ps 1:1-3; Mt 7:24,25; Jas 1:22; 2 Pet 3:17).  While there will be some fluctuations in our relationships with Christ, there should be an overall progression in connectedness. Is my love for Jesus greater than it was yesterday?

As Christians, we should be monitoring our actions, words and thoughts eliminating those which are not Christ-honouring and severing destructive relationships (Rom 12:1,2; 2 Cor 10:5). Take personal responsibility and be self-disciplined, endeavouring to keep all the desires of the body in check (1 Cor 9:27; Jas 3:2). A true Christian who temporarily falls back into sin is still saved, while it is doubtful if a person who lives a life controlled by sin is. 

See also: apostasy, cheap gospel, Christian, disillusioned, entry points, eternal security, give up, offence, persevere, prodigal, put off/put on, repentance, restitution/restore, self-discipline, self-pity, temptation.