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The mechanics of backsliding
- Jacob Ninan
Backsliding begins in the heart. If we think of it as going back to a ‘worldly life’, it would be like ignoring physical symptoms till we need surgery. Just like surgery is more painful, expensive, takes more time for recovery and leaves scars behind, backsliding which has come to the second level is more difficult.
Backsliding is a cooling down of the heart’s fervour – in terms of love for God and men and also in terms of love for righteousness and hatred for sin. When things are fine between the Lord and us, these are the things that are on fire. We love God with all that is in us, and we are as concerned for others as we are for ourselves (Matt.22:37,39). God’s nature in us gives us a burning desire for holiness (Heb.1:9). Backsliding is when this fire begins to cool down.
It happens that for many of us, there has never been such a fire in our heart even though we have placed our trust in Jesus and are born again. In many cases this is because we have not yet experienced a ‘full scope conversion’. Perhaps we have not heard the gospel properly and have only responded partially. For example, we have experienced a miraculous healing in our life and as a result we have come to place our trust in Jesus as the true and living God. But we have not understood much about sin, repentance, forgiveness, etc. God may have accepted us with a large heart, because He will never reject anyone who comes to Him (Jn.6:37). But we have not experienced a full scope conversion yet. We may not be able then to detect backsliding of the heart, because our heart has not been hot in the first place.
Let us look at how this cooling off happens.
An attraction for the old pleasures
The devil reminds us about the sinful pleasures we have given up. After the children of Israel left Egypt, they longed for some of the food items in Egypt (Num.11:5). When we see some of our old friends enjoying themselves without any punishment from God, or when we are going through a rough time in our own life, we feel foolish to have given up such fun.
A weariness with continued self-denial
Denying ourselves constantly in order to obey God has made us 'tired' and we look for relief by relaxing some of our standards.
A lack of trust in God’s promises
When we don't get answers to some prayers, we begin to place less confidence on God's promises, and we begin to pray less.
A neglect of God’s warnings
We have experienced God's mercy and patience so much that we think that His warnings don't really apply to us.
Disobedience to the Spirit’s warning
As we neglect to obey the promptings of the Spirit, our sensitivity in spiritual things goes down.
As a result of all these, we begin to desire the things of the world in our heart. We begin to imagine how nice it would be if we could have the greatness and pleasures of this life. Soon the direction of our life itself changes.
But all this begins secretly in our heart (Pr.4:23).