Each revival in history ends up with three kinds of people: (1) truly converted believers who persist on, (2) the backslidden – those who after a while lose their first zeal and remain cold and formal, and (3) those who reject (or betray) the Truth they had first believed.
The most dangerous situation of these three is the backslidden condition. The backslider treads on middle ground. He is neither hot nor cold. He or she partly identifies with things of God and also things of the world. The backslider wants to serve both God and Mammon! But, like the Lord Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat.6:24). So, the backslider’s heart actually leans towards evil but only wants to use God for safety or a public appearance.
A backslider prays together with believers. He also raises his voice in prayer and in singing praises but his mind is actually on business. His mind is on watching soccer. His mind asks, What time will the church service end? His mind is comforted by the presence of backsliders in church so that he is able to say, “it’s a problem other believers also face.” See, like the Scripture says, “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways” (Pro.14:14). Dearly beloved, the hour is late and we ought to be wise, “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph.5:17).
Now, to those who think they are the strong and not the backsliders, take heed for Satan also seeks after you – “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor.10:12). Indeed, there are many believers who think they are still standing when they actually fell from the first love and zeal they had. Like the Spirit admonished the church at Ephesus, these words apply to many believers: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev.2:4-5).
But, how shall one know that they are in danger of backsliding? How shall one know that they have already fallen from the First Love? Well, the condition of a backslidden believer develops gradually.
Symptoms of Backsliding
We can guard against the condition of backsliding when we know the symptoms:
Loss of the “Joy of the Lord”
Believers have joy in their heart that comes from being in prayer and fellowship. They look forward to another prayer meeting, another Bible Study, another time to meet and encourage one another with a person of like-faith. When a believer is in prayer, there is this joy in their heart that gives them strength (Neh.8:10). However, when one backslides they lose that Joy, and with the loss of the Joy, one has no strength to resist evil. It is for this reason that David when repenting of his sin cried saying, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Psa.51:12). Oh, how we need that Joy to keep us going in this troubled world
Comfort in the Congregation of the Dead
When a person backslides, fellowship with spiritual people is replaced with company with carnal people. The person is continuously found with people who have no revelation of Truth; His new friends are people who see nothing wrong with listening to worldly music, with taking a beer, with chilling out at a party, and all such vanities of the world. In his or her early days of hanging out with such people, the ‘believer’ tries to hide his true beliefs for fear of looking odd. But with time he slowly blends in and begins to do things that were once nowhere close to his lifestyle. That’s the way of a backslider, he finds himself in the congregation of the dead because he himself has died spiritually! Like the Scripture admonished, “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Pro.21:16).
Indifferent attitude towards spiritual things
A backslidden person is not committed towards spiritual activities. When there is a prayer and fasting programme, he or she is never bothered to attend. The backslider is always busy with a certain appointment, event, business, or work. A backslider is ‘another face’ in church – he or she is not a pillar that can be relied on. Backsliders don’t share burdens of the church or the ministry. They are simply not involved in visiting that brother or sister who was announced to be sick at home or admitted at a hospital. In their mind, that ‘work’ is for certain committed people in church. A backslider is not bothered by the Scripture which says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal.6:2).
No longer bothered by doing things scripturally right
A true believer is like the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:27 who “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” It is important here to note that a church environment can influence people to backslide. A true church should look carefully into the ways of her household – are things done scripturally correct? Are people dressing modestly, in a manner that is pleasing to God? Is there casualness towards worldly behaviour? Is there alertness to remove any leaven that is found among believers? (1 Cor.5:6-7). Just like a church can become indifferent towards sinfulness, a backslidden believer gradually gets unbothered by habits which he or she once resented. The backslider is no longer much bothered by what the Scripture says on certain of his conducts or behaviour.
It is my prayer that you walk faithfully before the Lord. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luk.21:36).
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