There are millions of deceived people in this nation who believe they are still following Christ when in fact they are not. What makes it deceiving is that some are still regularly attending Sunday church services and/or reading the Bible and praying on occasion.
Before we continue let me first define what I mean in this article by the word “backslider.” By backslider I mean a person who is losing ground spiritually and is not as committed to growing, seeking, and loving Christ as they did at one time in their life.
Backsliding is a spiritual disease that many leaders are afraid to confront and many in the church are afraid to admit. Some of these signs may fit a backslider, but in many cases just one of these signs is enough to fit the category of backslider.
Falling away from God (or apostasy) is not only possible but also warned against in Scripture in many places (read Hebrews 6:1-4, 10:23-26; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Ezekiel 3:20; Colossians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:2). Truly it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31)!
We as believers all need endurance, so that after we have done the will of God we may receive what has been promised (Hebrews 10:36). The purpose of this article is both to exhort the church and to put fear into the hearts of those in this category so as to provoke them to repentance (including myself if I fit the criteria!). The following are some of the biblical signs a person is a backslider.
I. They no longer regularly seek the Lord as their first priority (Revelation 2:4)
Jesus rebuked the Ephesian church because they left their first love. This rebuke came in spite of them being involved in many good works and teaching sound doctrine. This shows us that we need to maintain the same heart for seeking God that we had when we first came to Christ or when we were at our highest point in devotion to Christ.
II. They live with excuses as to why they don’t have to be involved anymore in ministry
It’s one thing to take a sabbatical from ministry to seek the Lord but I meet hundreds of Christians who have served in some form of church-related ministry for years who no longer do so. Often they have stopped serving because they think they have already put in their time and that now they should enjoy their lives. This is a sign of being in a backslidden state because it is never God’s will that we walk away from serving Christ with His church.
III. Their closest friends are those who have stopped serving God
Since “birds of a feather flock together” those that are backslidden will seek out other people who have left the church or stopped following Christ–not to minister to them but to be with people they have something in common with! In the same way baseball players play on a team to fulfill their purpose or dancers hang out together in studios or in clubs dancing with other dancers, backsliders have their own community that serves to encourage one another in their backslidden state.
IV. They have bitterness and resentment against the Body of Christ and spiritual authority
People will always let us down, including Christians and spiritual leaders. That’s life and that’s human nature. But that is never an excuse to avoid church or to live in bitterness and resentment against the entity that Jesus shed His blood for (Acts 20:28)!
All of us who serve in church leadership have been hurt, betrayed, lied to, and let down by numerous people in the church–whether by other leaders we serve with or by those to which we minister.
I have come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we experience such pain is because the gospel confronts our darkness, sin, pain, and issues, and forces them all into the light which opens up a door for great spiritual warfare and relational conflicts between those who are dealing with these issues. When an exterminator sprays pesticide it causes all the bugs to come out of hiding and run. But we don’t blame the exterminator for the appearance of the bugs, they only uncover what was already present but hidden! In the same way, we shouldn’t blame the church for the issues of people; we should thank God the gospel creates an environment in which our issues surface so we can finally deal with them and move toward emotional maturity.
V. Their lifestyle choices conforms to the world and not to Christ (James 4:4)
The world system built upon the fleshly trinity of pride, power, and greed will always appeal to our dark side as long as we are on this side of heaven. Although God so loved the world (John 3:16), in this passage He is primarily referring to the people He came to redeem so they in turn could transform and redeem culture (the world system).
We know we are backsliding when we begin to live for the status, pleasures, and desires of unredeemed men and women. I have seen many good saints become deceived by power once they entered politics, and others become deceived by the lust of the flesh and the pride of life after they became affluent.
We are called to love the world in the same manner as Jesus who, through His incarnation, came into this world to minister and redeem sinners like us–without compromising His value system and mission.
VI. They do not follow the sense of their God-given purpose
I know many believers who once lived lives full of purpose but then wandered off track because they were emotionally wounded or because they became so spiritually lethargic they lost their sense of mission. These people live as if there is no eternity and cherish the things of this world as if that is the only reward they will ever have. When you speak to those like this about their missing edge they agree with you but never do anything to change.
VII. They insulate themselves from all conviction and avoid certain people and topics
Many who have fallen away from God purposely attempt to insulate themselves from church, purpose, mission, and even from certain people who once spoke into their lives and tried to disciple them and hold them accountable. These people have created a false sense of reality that justifies the false way they are living. Thus whenever a conversation comes up that reminds them of their false construct they recoil and even become angry and stop the conversation or immediately remove themselves from that environment.
VIII. They hold a syncretistic view of God
More and more so-called Christians believe that all good people go to heaven irrespective of their religion and faith. Carlton Pearson wrote a book entitled God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu… that basically summarizes the position that all people are automatically saved if they try hard to live good lives.
King Ahab of 1 Kings 17-22 attempted to live a life in which he respected Jehovah but also worshipped Baal, and even had state sponsored prophets who told him what he wanted to hear (1 Kings 22:13-28).
If it is true that all religions are equally true and that all their adherents are going to heaven then Jesus was a liar because He said no person could come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Also, the apostles must have lied to us when they said that only the name of Jesus could save anyone (Acts 4:12)! This would also imply God is not rational and is actually schizophrenic because Islam, Mormonism, and Judaism all deny the deity of Christ, while Buddhism denies the existence of God. Thus if all religions are equally redemptive and there are many ways to God then God has lied to us and is not rational. So how could we even trust in such a confused God?
Those who say they are Christians but hold to syncretism have fallen from the faith because they have insulted the blood of Christ and say there is another sacrifice or another way to the Father besides His precious blood! I agree with the words of the apostle Paul who said that if we or an angel from heaven preach another gospel than the one he preached to them, let them be eternally condemned (Galatians 1:8-9)! So much for biblical syncretism!
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