“I will heal their backsliding.”
I talk with backsliders all the time. Most don’t notice their rut or direction, and almost as many don’t really care. It usually their closest loved ones who seek out a pastor for advice and encouragement.
I also find that when people strongly desire change (circumstantially), but are not willing to change themselves, they are in the throngs of many dangers. At least one of those is how we creatively find ways to meet our heart longings in ways that can slowly (or quickly) destroy us. Our poor decision-making accumulates over time, for very few people wake up one day and say “I want to run from God and make a mess of my life.” Little by little we get stuck in a rut of our own choosing, not recognizing the warning signs, and sometimes ignoring them. When confronted by loved ones, we minimize, deny, deflect, distract or minimize our issues, numbing the pain while making it worse.
Consider the analogy of a muddy road:
God’s people let themselves drift. We fall into backsliding gradually, a process unfolding over time. This is no surprise, for apart from the grace of God we remain children of Adam our entire lives. We can never shake off our old nature completely; it clings to us with the tendrils of countless sinful tendencies.
The life of God’s child is illustrated in a frequent scene in rural Michigan [or Central Oregon, where I grew up] during the winter weeks of heavy snow. The lanes and smaller roads, many of them unpaved, become muddy and nearly impassable. Looking down these after a snow, at first only one set of tracks appears. As each subsequent vehicle follows the same tracks, the ruts grow increasingly deeper, until someone finally becomes stuck and can go no further.
Similarly, God’s children are prone to follow the tracks of their muddy human nature, following those tracks wherever they lead. The further they go, the deeper they sink into the ruts, step by step, one thing leading to another until they get stuck. What are these ruts believers are so inclined to fall into? I can enumerate at least these six:
- Coldness in prayer
- Indifference under the Word
- Growing inner corruptions
- The love of the world
- Declining love for believers
- Man-centered hopes
—Joel R. Beeke, Getting Back in the Race: the cure for backsliding
Backsliding is always an issue of love. Our heart longs for something, usually a legitimate need, yet we somehow invent illegitimate ways to meet those needs. (Such as when a teenage girl desires affection from her father but goes with a vastly incomplete substitute: a boyfriend.) When we’re bored with God and His good will for us, we seek out alternative routes to travel. Killing sin isn’t about never getting in a rut; it’s about finding the desire to run to God, and seek help, when we get stuck.
For more on backsliding see:
- “Backsliding Healed,” a sermon by Charles Spurgeon (March 13, 1870)
- Getting Back in the Race: the cure for backsliding [kindle], by Joel R. Beeke
- Redeeming Love: a novel, by Francine Rivers
Every day I talk to a potential backslider. Myself. (You do too.) Preach the Gospel to yourself each and every day. Teach yourself to love God and His good news.
Image credit: “Bad Road” by National Library of Scotland