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The Christian life is like rowing a boat against the current; the moment we stop rowing, we lose speed and start going back with the current. The current we are rowing against comes from the lusts in our flesh, the attractions of the world and the manipulations of the Devil. One of the meanest lies that the Devil has spread among Christians is that once we are saved and become children of God we are safe, and many churches are actually teaching this as a doctrine. Just one verse, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb.3:12) should be enough to warn any sincere Christian about the danger. It is addressed to Christian brothers (and sisters), and it talks about the possibility of unbelief coming in, and finally the possibility of our falling away from God. There are many more warnings from the Bible as well as real life examples we can see before our eyes.
There are some who give up on God when one of their sincere prayers is not answered. There are some others who get confused by the conflicting philosophies of this world and are not able to figure out how an almighty and loving God allows evil to happen, especially when it touches them or their loved ones. These were real Christian who, at one time, started trusting God but who got waylaid by the Devil. When we read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which is not the word of God but based on general observation of life along with Biblical understanding, we can see how it describes the many traps a Christian can fall into. It will be silly of us if we imagine that nothing can happen to us, go ahead and get caught in a trap.
When we talk about backsliding, many think in terms of a gross turn around, such as a believer going back to drinking, getting caught in an affair, publicly making statements against Christ or the Bible, etc. But in defining backsliding in this way, what they miss is to notice the beginning of backsliding. Backsliding does not begin as a major fall; it is a cooling of love towards God that can go unnoticed for a long time, by others and the person himself, till it reaches deep levels. People who have begun to backslide can be blind about it because they are still involved in external religious acts such as reading the Bible, attending church, taking part in church activities, etc., without really recognising that their heart is going away from God.
This can happen to any of us. It happened to the leader of the church in Ephesus. Once he was known for his zeal for God’s work, uncompromising attitude towards evil and false doctrine, discernment, perseverance under trial, etc. But now his love for Jesus had become lukewarm (Rev.2:2-4). Perhaps most of the people in the church did not recognise this, and he was still the leader. But Jesus wanted people who loved Him with devotion, and He was not happy with half-hearted ones or those with a divided heart. That is the challenge for us.
Therefore we need to sensitive to how our heart stands towards God and His people. Are we losing our first love? Are other things or people becoming more important for us? Are we beginning to think that His commandments are a bit burdensome? Are we getting tired of having to carry our cross every day and deny ourselves? Are we becoming envious of others who are not making the sacrifices that we have made and still prospering? Do we think we deserve to enjoy ourselves more rather than deny ourselves all the time? Are we getting upset with God for not rewarding us for all that we are doing for Him? Is there some sin that we gave up earlier beginning to have an attraction for us? Are we being tempted to think that we cannot afford to give up some earthly position or someone’s love just to keep what we think are some details of God’s laws? There are many other questions we can ask ourselves that can show us which direction we are heading – closer to God or away from God.
It is obvious that the only way to stay faithful to God is by seeking all the time to get closer to Him. If we slip up at times, we need to pick ourselves up, confess our failure, get back to God and ask for His grace to learn from our mistake and become more careful. This is not drudgery, but the regular routine of a faithful man or woman of God. We are in the process of growing up spiritually to get to the full stature of Christ (Eph.4:15;Col.1:27,28). Therefore we need to proactively press on towards that maturity (Heb.6:1). It is not going to happen automatically, and if we do not press on in that direction, we will soon find ourselves sliding in the opposite direction. Let us beware, lest we fall away after all that the Lord has done for us and in us. The Lord is able to keep us from falling (Jude.24), but we must not think that we can never fall away (1Cor.10:12).
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