When a born again Christian rebels against God, refuses to listen to God, rejects God, leaves the Father for the world and sin, then he is a “backslider!”
A backslider is a Christian who has gone backward spiritually instead of forward. Backsliding is a very-prevalent, present-day menace to Christianity! The average church is reeling from the losses of people who have gone back into sin. Our communities are filled with backsliders, some quit, never to be seen again, some just quit in their hearts. Proverbs 14:14 – “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above.” NKJV
The process of backsliding is a gradual one, often overtaking a person by surprise, one degree at a time. It begins in the heart and will eventually result in the person totally rejecting God. This happens because we neglect our salvation: Hebrews 2:1 – “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” NLT
God clearly warns us to pay attention because backsliding is a real danger: Hebrews 3:12 – “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.” NLT
The devil will work to try to keep the sinner lost, but the moment he is saved, he will go to work to cause him to backslide. The devil is working on every single one of us, trying to get us to backslide. If we let him, he wins! If he wins, we lose!
Probably more Christians have backslidden than have remained faithful. It is hard to understand why any Christian would ever want to turn his back on God and the Christian life, give up the blessing of heaven for the horrors of hell. But many do!
Backsliding is a problem that we must all watch out for, because backsliders are lost!
Backsliders have told me, “I tried it once, but I just couldn’t live the Christian life.” I have never seen a happy backslider. Most are still trying to convince themselves and others that it is not their fault they left the Father, most also think they will get back into God’s favor before they meet Him in judgment. Most are mistaken! Most backsliders never return to the Lord!
I. All that I have lost
Allow me to introduce myself. In life, I was a backslider, and I never returned to the Lord. I want to talk with you today about “all that I have lost” because of the poor decision I made to turn my back on God!
a) Because I was a backslider, I lost the favor and close, warm fellowship with my heavenly Father, the greatest blessing a person can have in life!
I was worse than a man without a country, family, or friends. I was a man without my God!
The Bible warns that a backslider is in for plenty of grief and heartache: Jeremiah 2:19 – “Your wickedness will bring its own punishment. Your turning from me will shame you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him…” NLT
Like Cain and King Saul, I learned the hard way what it meant to not walk with the Lord every day. I learned that God will not walk with a person who will not repent and draw near to Him. I learned that a holy God cannot fellowship an unholy person.
I learned that 1 Peter 3:12 - “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” NLT
I thought God would overlook my sin – I thought wrong!
Hebrews 10:37-39: “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.” NLT
b) As a backslider, I lost the fellowship of my Christian friends!
Even though I was a backslider in my heart, I kept going to church for a while. But I was just going through the motions, so others would think I was religious. But I gradually hardened my heart, and began to look for other things to do. I turned my back on God and the church. In the turning, I withdrew from my friends, but it was a miserable life.
Oh how I missed fellowshipping with the saints, my heart was heavy, but I grew harder and found other companions, evil companions, worldly companions who thought like I did!
1 Corinthians 15:33 - “Do not be deceived; evil companionships corrupt good morals.” ASV
I paid a terrible price, for I was happiest when I was with my brothers and sisters in Christ!
c) As a backslider, I lost my name, respect and influence for Christ!
Proverbs 22:1 - “You should want a good name more than you want great riches. To be highly respected is better than having silver or gold.” NIRV
When I lost my good name, I lost the respect of my community and my influence for Christ.
My influence for good was shattered when I hid my light under a bushel. At first, I would try and tell others they were wrong, but they only called me a hypocrite because I was doing the same things I was condemning. Once I tried to tell someone he was wrong, but he said “That is like the pot calling the kettle black, now isn’t it!”
My life was a disgrace; my name became synonymous with “backsliding.” When you think of Judas, what do you think of? Traitor, thief! Demas - backslider! Saul - fool! Jezebel - wicked! The church at Ephesus - cold! The church at Laodicea - lukewarm! I was all of these!
d) As a backslider, I lost my salvation!
2 Peter 2:20–22: “And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.” NLT
Friends, listen! If you go back into sin and die out of fellowship with God, it won’t matter that you were baptized, or how faithful a Christian you once were, or how many souls you won to Christ or how many sermons you preached or how much money you gave to the church. According to the Word of God, if you die in your sins as a backslider, you are headed straight to hell just like any Christ-rejecting sinner now living! If you continue as a backslider, heaven will never be your home!
Because I was a backslider, I am in hell now, and I will never get out! I lost every good thing in life and in eternity! Now I have to spend eternity alone in a place of darkness, a blackness of darkness, a pit of darkness where it is so dark, even the light from the flames don’t light the place up. I was a Jude 13 - “…wandering star (apostates) for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” NKJV
Because I was a backslider, I lost the opportunity to live in a place where there is no pain and suffering: Revelation 21:4 – “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” NKJV
Now pain and suffering is all I feel – I weep, I wail, I gnash my teeth, I am tormented day and night in the flames, the agony never ends, I am experiencing an 2 Thessalonians 1:9 - “…everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…” NKJV
I spend my days and nights screaming for mercy - but mercy doesn’t come!
Because I was a backslider, instead of walking down the golden streets of heaven, walking by the river of life and sitting under the tree of life, my body is rolling in flames of liquid fire.
And the loneliness - is unbearable, I can hear others screaming and crying but I can’t see them because of the darkness. I can’t sit with them because I live in a lake of fire! I have no hope, no help, and no comfort – I truly have lost everything! I don’t want to be here, I wish I would have listened, I wish I could have just one more opportunity!
e) When I became a backslider, I also lost my family for Christ!
My ungodly lifestyle and indifference made a very negative impact on the spiritual life of my wife and kids. Through my influence they backslid as well, lost their love for Christ, and lost their souls in hell. I suppose they are in here somewhere as well, I may have heard them screaming and crying, but I’m just not sure – it’s impossible to tell who is who!
II. Examine yourself
So here is what I am begging you to do! Examine yourself carefully today to see whether or not you are a backslider?
2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified.” NKJV
Friends, do you really hunger for the things of God? Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” NKJV
Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God.” NKJV
Do you enjoy studying the Bible: Psalm 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” NKJV
Are you ashamed of Jesus in the presence of sinners? Mark 8:38 – “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” NKJV
Do you want to be with other Christians, with spiritual people and talk about spiritual things?
Do you want to hear preaching that convicts your conscience?
Do you see “little” sins cropping up in your life, but it doesn’t bother you?
Is it easier to see the shortcomings in others rather than in yourself?
How much preaching does it take to get you to do something for Jesus?
Do other people care more about your soul than you do?
Are you even concerned about the lost?
Is it easy to come up with excuses for not doing what you should do?
Are you here because you have been doing the same thing so long it is habit, or are you here because you love Jesus?
Friends, when we come to worship but don’t worship, we need to be alarmed. When we don’t sing, pay any attention during the prayers, and sleep during the sermon, we are in trouble. When we are more concerned with money and the things money can do than with the things of God, we are on dangerous ground. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper without thinking a thought about Jesus, we are spiritually sick. When we become clock watchers who can’t wait to get home, we are headed in the wrong direction.
Matthew 23:28 - “Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” NLT
In all likelihood, there is somebody here right now who is righteous outwardly as far as men are concerned, but are backsliders in their hearts before the all-seeing and never deceived eye of God! I urge each one of us, and I mean all of us, to search our own heart carefully to see if we may be guilty of a backslidden heart.
If you are a backslider, you are lost! If you realize that you are a backslider, then repent and return immediately, do not wait until you stand before Jesus. Do it now, so that your face to face encounter with Jesus will be terrific, not terrifying!
Remember how the prodigal son sinned, came to his senses, repented, and returned. Remember how he was accepted. Make no excuses, give no alibis, but simply face your condition and do something about it. Now is not the time to ignore God, to drag your feet.
Isaiah 55:6 – “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” NKJV
Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!” TLB
Joel 2:12-13: “That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” NLT
Hosea 14:4 – “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.” NKJV