A few days ago, a dear friend of mine shared that he was not feeling very well.
He felt that his spiritual growth was diminishing, that he was “backsliding” in his walk with God.
That word “backsliding” caused me to want to get more information on this.
Here's what God showed me when I studied the whole "backsliding" issue.
First, there is no mention of "backsliding" in the New Testament. Sure, some people might say Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of people who "backslide":
4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
However, this verse refers only to people who have "tasted" the heavenly gift, but didn't drink it in completely. For example, Judas Iscariot experienced Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry. When he betrayed Jesus, he was then sorry for it, but ultimately resorted to paying for his own sins rather than believing in Jesus' Finished Work. Hebrews 6:4-6 verse does not refer to believers who have "backslidden", but people who heard about and experienced the Gospel in some way, but sadly do not believe and choose not to believe. They were never believers to begin with!
The first mention of "backslide" in the Old Testament, Meshubah in Hebrew, appears here:
"For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." (Proverbs 1:32)
Yet even under the Old Covenant, God is going out of His way to restore us!
The first mention of "simple", the word used in Proverbs 1:32, appears in the Psalms:
"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)
He wants the simple (i.e. unbelieving, unwise) to believe!
The second mention of "backsliding" in the Old Testament appears here:
"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts." (Jeremiah 2:19)
Here, God is speaking to the Israelites. They routinely would fall away from God, not honoring His Covenant (no longer shedding of blood through bulls and goats; not honoring the Sabbath days), and they would run after other gods.
One phrase in the above passage stood out for me: "My fear is not in thee."
I then heard the LORD tell me: "Look up where I will say that I will put my fear in them."
Here's what I found:
"And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jeremiah 32:40)
God would provide a way to put the fear of Him into their hearts, so that they would not depart from Him. Keep in mind that "fear" in these contexts is not about inspiring terror or fright, but rather honor, respect, and worship.
You and i need to know that God has taken every step so that those who believe on Him never have to worry about "holding onto God" so to speak. This is so awesome! This promise speaks to the New Covenant that God will cut for everyone in the world who believes on His Son Jesus!
Notice how God turns the issue of man’s sin into a means of showing His grace. Man may struggle in his ability to focus on Him, but He makes it clear that he will “not turn away from them”. What a wonderful God we serve!
Jeremiah reveals this New Covenant in the two previous verses, too:
38And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: (Jeremiah 32:38-39)
Jesus talks about the New Covenant at the First Communion, which was cut through His blood:
"Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:20)
The writer of Hebrews repeats all the elements of the New Covenant:
"10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
"11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
"12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:10-12).
So, God makes it very clear that He will go out of His way to heal Israel from the very nature of sin, which inevitably leads to them to turning away from Him, or backsliding. God is more interested in us not feeling that we have fallen away than even we are!
Consider also what Hosea prophesied:
"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him." (Hosea 14:4)
The solution to a sense of "falling away" is to remember that He loves you freely, and that His anger is turned away from you.
How can you know that He loves us freely and that He is no longer angry with us? Because of the CROSS! Jesus accomplished a perfect work, taking upon Himself all our sins, and sin itself, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of all that Jesus has accomplished, God the Father has seated us in Christ, at His right hand! (Ephesians 2:4-6). We cannot backslide anymore, for we are forever seated in Christ!
We see the full power of the Cross also prophesied in Isaiah:
“For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” (Isaiah 54:9)
Because of what Jesus did, my friend, God will never be angry with you again! His anger is turned from you.
BUT ... those feelings of "I am far away, I am backsliding" come up from time to time, don't they? That sense that “I am not close to God because I have done something wrong” still troubles us from time to time. What do we do then?
This is the revelation for everyone: If we "feel" that we have fallen away from God, the answer is to remember that ALL our sins are paid for, and just to keep receiving those gifts of righteousness and abundance of grace (Romans 5:17).
Sadly, what often happens is that people think that they have to start "doing" something to "get back to God", because they they think that they have "backslidden".
The moment that you start trying to "do" something, though, you fall from grace (Galatians 5:4), and then you end up back in the "wandering-wondering" Romans 7 experience, where you want to do good, but the bad ends up emerging in you instead.
So, realize that in Christ, you can no longer backslide. Your righteous standing in Christ can never be taken away from myou. Stop doing, and start believing that Jesus has done the perfect work, and that nothing can separate you from Him! (Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5)
To summarize (thanks for bearing with me in this), if you feel like you are backsliding, the solution is not to look at yourself or to do something to restore a right standing with God.
The solution is to … just come to Him!
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
There's no greater time of need than we you "feel" that you are far away, or that you have failed or sinned. God doesn't say "Get your act together, and then you come to me." He says "Come to me, and I will get your act together!"
In sense, there is no longer any backsliding. If we fail, it's a falling forwards, a falling upwards, as we keeping coming to our Loving Father, receiving more of His grace and favor in our lives.
I know and believe that this will bless you!