–How Not to Backslide!
The Bible instructs us to “no longer walk as [unbelievers] walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:17-18). How can we become alienated from the life of God?
We become separated from the Lord when we become separated from the Word, because Jesus is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).
So it is the Word—whether or not we live in the Word—that determines whether we’re close to the Lord or alienated from the Lord. When we neglect the Word, we neglect the Lord.
This is what’s wrong with many Christians. They rarely read their Bibles or delve into the Word. They might have a little daily devotions or something, but most of them hardly even have that. They depend on Sunday church services to give them all the Word they need for the week. Well, it’s Word for the weak, all right, and usually pretty weak Word! It certainly isn’t enough to last them all week. That’s like expecting one meal to last them all week. They don’t treat their bodies like that; they feed them well, three times a day. Food for the soul is important. You’ve got to feed yourself spiritually or your soul is going to suffer!
You have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). “Desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Without the Word, we will not only stop growing spiritually, but eventually we will wither away spiritually.
What is the life-giving flow that gives life from God?—It’s the Word! Just like we have to eat food in order to have physical strength, we have to eat of the Word to have spiritual strength. That’s what gives us spiritual life and nourishment and strength and health. When someone gets cut off from the Word, it’s like cutting off their food and stopping the flow of nourishment.
A lot of Christians never mature. They stay spiritual babes and never get very deep spiritually, and many of them go back on the Lord, or “backslide.” They stop trying to please or follow the Lord, and sometimes stop believing in Him altogether. Backsliders “follow afar off,” like Peter did, to the point where they could even deny Him, like Peter did (John 18:25; Matthew 26:58).
I had been asking the Lord, “What’s the process that backsliders follow that in the end completely estranges them from You?” And parts of that verse came to me right away: “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God.” Now that doesn’t mean they lose their salvation—that’s impossible—but they become separated from fellowship with the Lord. How? They neglect the Word.
It’s when people get separated from the Word that they go back on the Lord. When they lose faith in the Word or are separated from it, that’s when they become “alienated from the life of God.”
What is the life of God? Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Think of that! They are spirit and they are life. His words are real things! These are things that can’t be seen or touched, but without them everything would be totally dead spiritually—and without the Word, people become completely dead spiritually.
Science still doesn’t understand the essence of life. Minutes or hours after a person is dead, they’re still all there physically, materially, but something’s gone that science can’t isolate or measure. They’ve weighed bodies right after they died and there was no difference in weight, but something was missing—some spark, some energy. The spirit was gone, which gave that body life. The life of God is in His Word.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and, “I have come that they might have life” (John 10:10). The Word came that we might have life. How do we get the life? Through the Word—Jesus! His words, both the recorded Word and the words He speaks directly to us, are life!
People backslide because they get away from the Word. If they were living in the Word, they wouldn’t fall away. They couldn‘t fall away, because they’d be full of the life of God, the Word.
That’s why we should memorize and study and get so full of the Word that we can’t get away from it. Jesus is the Word, He is spirit and life, and we have to have a good dose of Him every day.
What starts people on the road back? What is it that causes their love for the Lord to cool off? Well, what feeds a fire? It’s the fuel. And what’s the fuel? It’s the Word, right? It’s the Word that feeds our flame. And when people run out of fuel, like the five foolish virgins ran out of oil (Matthew 25:1-13), the fire goes out, the light goes out, and they wind up in darkness, alienated from the life of God. Their fire dies because they haven’t fed it with the fuel, the Word, which is Jesus.
It’s dangerous to neglect the Word! The minute people start crowding the Word out of their lives, they’re getting too busy! Or the minute they lose confidence in the Word because it offends them or they don’t like it, they’re in danger. Without the Word you’ll be totally defeated at the first attack of your spiritual enemy, the Devil.
You wonder how backsliders could possibly go back on the Lord. It’s because they weren’t really followers of the Word. They didn’t build their spiritual house on the Word; they had the wrong foundation. In fact, they didn’t even have a foundation—just sand! And when the storm came, their house fell because it wasn’t built on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27). And who’s the Rock?—Jesus, the solid Rock foundation of the Word! He’s the Word, and if they don’t build their lives on the Word, they’ve got no foundation. Their lives are not built on the Rock, so they fall.
I’ll bet you would find by their own confession that those who have turned away from the Lord were weak in the Word, didn’t really live in the Word, and were not real students of the Word, and so they lost any interest they may have had in doing what the Word says (James 1:22-25). And I’ll bet you’ll find the strongest Christians today are those who really know the Word. They’re strong because they really have faith in the Word and they live in the Word.
So that’s the secret—the Word! The secret of power and victory and overcoming and fruitfulness and fire and life and warmth and light and Christian leadership—everything—is the Word! And the lack of it is the secret of backsliding and failure and coldness and darkness and weakness and dying spiritually without the Word.
There’s nothing wrong with worshipping the Word. The Word is Jesus! He says He has exalted His Word even above His name (Psalm 138:2).
So there it is! That’s why people backslide. It’s all because they neglect the Word. Neglecting the Word is almost as bad as rejecting the Word, because if anyone doesn’t love it, they don’t believe it. You believe in the Word as much as you read it and live in it and practice it and obey it.
Backsliders don’t, so they get weak spiritually and lose the life of God, the life-giving flow. They don’t drink it, eat it, live in it, or get strengthened by it, so they become dark in their understanding—and then they often become filled with the lies of the Devil. Because they have rejected the Word, the Lord allows the Devil to send them lies in its place, and they believe the lies instead of the Word (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). They’re going to believe one or the other. They’re either going to be filled with the Word and God’s truth, or they’re going to be filled with the lies of the Devil and darkness!
Backsliders, by their poor examples, are often a witness against the Lord, even if they claim to still believe in Him. They’re often not following and obeying His Word, no matter how much they claim to remember it. The Word tells us, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). We’ve got to not only read it and hear it and agree with it in theory, but we’ve got to obey it. We’ve got to do it to prove our allegiance and our loyalty and our faith in it.
Some people probably think, “Well, it’s hard to believe that just a little thing like neglecting the Word could cause me to backslide.” But that’s the problem: They count that as a little thing instead of one of the most important areas of their Christian life.
So that’s the secret! It’s the secret of victory or defeat! It’s the secret of success or failure! It all depends on how you treat the Word and how you live in it, or try to live without it.
Backsliders “forsake all” too: They forsake the Word, the Lord, the life, the light, and the Father’s house.—They forsake it all! They forsake all in the wrong direction. They forsake all that the Lord had for them, and they go back to the beggarly, filthy elements of this world (Luke 9:62; 2 Peter 2:21-22; Galatians 4:9).
This is what’s wrong with many Christians—they’ve neglected the Word. They’re starved for the Word. They get a few little crumbs on Sunday and starve themselves the rest of the week. They’ve gotten weaker and weaker until they’re defeated by the world. They’ve put their money into bags that have holes in them, labored for that which is not meat, and stored their crops in barns that others will inherit (Haggai 1:6; John 6:27; Luke 12:15-12).
(Prayer:) Jesus, please help us stay close to You and Your Word, or get back to the Word if we’ve strayed. Sometimes You let us go down a hard road until we realize that we’ve gotten out of Your will and away from You, out of fellowship, alienated from Your life, darkened in our minds, and hardened in our hearts. If we’ve gone down that road, help us to turn and repent, to have a change of heart and mind, and to really come back to You and Your Word. Amen.
God bless and keep you in His Word!