Comfort & Counsel

*Frequently asked questions*

The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan

Return from backsliding

1. What do you mean by 'backsliding'?

Backslding is what happens when a man begins to cool down in his love for God. Instead of growing up in the love of God, he slides down. Other things have begun to become more important to him than God. He begins to be careless with sin in his thoughts, and then in his words and actions. He finds excuses for skipping reading the Bible, praying, attending church, etc. This is a way that can ultimately end up in giving up his faith. See Backsliding is a downward slope

Backsliding begins in our heart. We must not think that it means only falling into gross sin or worldliness. These are fairly advanced stages of backsliding.

2. If you put it like that, wouldn't it be that most Christians backslide now and then?

It is true that we have a strong tendency to backslide. Either we become careless, or we get deceived by things that attract us and draw us away from God. The problem becomes serious if we don't recognise that we are already backsliding when we begin to cool down towards God.

3. Is it possible at all to avoid backsliding?

Jesus was tempted like us in all things, but it is clear that He never backslid at all in His whole life (He.4:15). And as far as we know, the Apostle Paul also never backslid (Ac.26:19). So even if we have failed in the past , we must conclude that with the grace of God it is possible for us to avoid backsliding.

4. I am already far too much backslidden. Is it possible for me to come back to God?

Of course. That is the glory of the love of God that has been shown through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that any sin or blasphemy can be forgiven (Mt.12:31) (except an outright blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is the ultimate form of backsliding). If we repent and confess our sins, God will be faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn.1:9). In the Old Testament we see the sad history of the people of Israel who had left God and started worshipping idols and committing immorality. Yet God promises them that He was willing to heal their backsliding (Hos.14:4).

5. How can I come back to God?

How quickly we come back to God depends on how radically and thoroughly we repent, and also on how much we see of God's mercy.

First of all we must recognise that we have been most stupid to backslide from God. Think of how ungrateful and callous we have been towards God who has done so much for us! Think of the way we have betrayed His love and grieved His heart! Haven't we brought dishonour to God in front of the angels, the demons and people by behaving the way we have done while calling ourselves children of God? See how patient He has been towards us in spite of what we have done! Haven't we lost out on what God wanted to give us during the period of our backsliding?

Try to understand how it happened, and why we backslid. How did it all start? Think of what all we did wrong and what we should have done instead. Maybe we were proud, and thought that we could manage our lives quite well. Perhaps we imagined that a little excursion away from God would not harm us. Did we think that we could always come back to God and that He wouldn't be too harsh on us because we are His children? Perhaps we imagined that our Father would "understand" our weaknesses and tolerate them. Maybe we believed the devil when he told us that God's ways are too strict and that we need some relaxation now and then.

Think also of how God tried to warn us when we were going astray to the right or to the left of His ways (Is.30:21). Perhaps He spoke to us in our heart or through some other people or through something we heard or read. But see how we ignored His voice or defied it. Now when we need to hear Him most, we can't hear! (Pr.1:24-29;66:18).

Be honest with God. Confess your sins without trying to cover up or finding excuse for any one of them. Don't bother to use pious, religious language. Don't act humble, but be humble. Remember that God knows everything you have done and that He understands you and your attitudes and actions perfectly clearly. Acknowledge that you deserve judgment, but ask Him to show you mercy and to forgive you (Ps.38:1). Read Ps.51 as a prayer before Him. Ask Him to help you so that you won't go back to your folly in future. Don't feel shy of tears if they come. If you think it would help you, pray along with someone you trust.

Finally receive forgiveness from God in the name of Jesus. Remember that Jesus has suffered and paid for this backsliding too. Believe that God's mercy is deep enough to cover your sins and that His heart is large enough to show you mercy. Make up your mind not to betray Him any more.

6. How can I prevent backsliding in future?

Don't think it can never happen again! If it has happened once, it can happen again. But it need not, if we learn to walk humbly before God. This involves a humble recognition of our weaknesses, a willingness to totally depend on God's grace to help us, a constant seeking after God from our heart, a willingness to learn and to receive warnings, an eagerness to do whatever God wants us to do, etc. We must become alert and watchful against temptations. That is how Jesus Himself lived (Mt.26:41). Watch out especially for situations that can tempt us where we have fallen before. Don't imagine that little spiritual naps won't do any harm (Pr.6:10,11).

7. I try to repent. But I backslide easily.

Don't think that your situation is hopeless. Jesus says, "My grace is sufficient for you." If you can believe that God is stronger than your weakness, you have already won, and your victory is on the way!

At the same time, recognise that sometimes repentance can be painful. It may be difficult for you to accept the fact that you are not the strong person you had thought you were. It may be difficult to accept the shame of acknowledging that you have sinned. But remember God is with you to save you. Those who put their trust in Him will never be disappointed (Ro.10:11).

8. I have repented. But other people won't accept me back.

Yes, sometimes this can be a major problem. The world is not fair, and even the Christian world can be cruel to a repentant sinner by not showing the compassion he needs at that time. But don't be too much bothered about it. After all, they are only imperfect human beings who do not understand all things. But if God has forgiven you, can people take that away from you? Have patience. Don't give up. When they see over a period of time the change that has come over your life, they too will accept you.

Some additional reading

Ten causes of backsliding by George Douglas Watson
Remedy for backsliding by George Douglas Watson

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