Is Backsliding Real?

The old hymn that we sing says, “Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” The subject of “backsliding” is one that is usually misunderstood by people on both sides of the fence.  Some people reject any idea of backsliding in the Christian life.  Others follow a different path whereby they believe it is possible to backslide indefinitely.  At some point or another, we have all heard someone request prayer for someone who they claim was saved but has not been living like it for many years.  Was the person truly converted by Christ?  Is backsliding a real condition that we can experience or is it merely an excuse to sin?Psalm 119 is a wonderful Psalm full of glorious truths about the Word of God.  The Psalmist spends 175 verses describing the Word of God as a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path.  He also calls it his hiding place (114)!  At one point in the Psalm, he writes these words, “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. (43-44)”  However, he goes on to end his wonderful Psalm by saying these words, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. (176)”The Psalmist, after viewing himself in the mirror of God’s Word, realizes that he has gone astray.  The subject of backsliding is a much debated issue, but the reality is that anyone who has “gone astray” has backslidden on God.  If you are not as hot today for Christ as you once were, you have gone astray.  It may not be as far as others, but nevertheless, you have gone astray.  It doesn’t matter if you have walked a short distance off of the path of righteousness or journeyed down a long winding path – the truth is you have walked away from God and like the Psalmist – you have “gone astray.”The Baptist Faith & Message, article V, declares the following:All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.The article claims that all true believers endure to the end.  In other words, a person who is truly saved will not walk away from God indefinitely.  However, we have many people in our communities who have at some point walked down the aisle of some local church, prayed a prayer, and been baptized.  However, at this present moment, they are no longer involved with their local church and their life does not have any resembalence of God.  Is that person a true believer?  The answer to that question is rather complex since we cannot judge a person’s heart.  However, we can inspect their fruit and by all outward appearances, it seems as if they are not saved.1 John 2:19 – They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Therefore, we must conclude that all people who profess Christ but then go astray forever without repentance and revival in their personal lives were never true believers.  However, at the end of the day, we must stand upon the Word of God.Practical Implications Regarding Backsliding1.  Every Christian experiences moments of digression in their Christian walk and that is considered a backslidden condition.  Like the Psalmist, when we look into the Word of God – we see who we really are and our true spiritual condition.  It may not be illicit sin, but any distance from the path of righteousness is “going astray.”  The fact that all Christians experience this at some point or another is evident in Holy Scripture.King Solomon: 1 Kings 11:9 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice.The Church at Colosse: Colossians 3:5-7.The Church at Ephesus: Revelation 2:4.2.  Like the Psalmist, every true child of God will desire God and His Word.  Although a true believer may walk off from God for a period of time, like the Psalmist, there will be a time where he returns to God!Psalm 119:176 – I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.3.  The Bible provides a glorious truth to all of us as children of God.  While we will never be perfect, we desire to live holy.  However, along the journey of life, we all make mistakes.  The Word of God declares that there is forgiveness available in Christ!1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Therefore, as we examine the Bible, we see that backsliding is possible.  However, we also see that a person will not remain in a backslidden state forever.  We must make sure we never use Grace as a license to sin – but if we do sin, we can experience the forgiveness and restoration that comes in the abyss of God’s well of Grace provided in the blood of Jesus Christ.C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Remember that if you are a child of God, you will never be happy in sin. You are spoiled for the world, the flesh, and the devil. When you were regenerated there was put into you a vital principle, which can never be content to dwell in the dead world. You will have to come back, if indeed you belong to the family.”Pastor Josh Buice