Words of hope for backsliders

Spiritual backsliders are a reality in the Christian community. While some abandon all thoughts and expressions of faith in Christ, proving they were never genuinely born again in the first place, others fall short of abandonment. Some backslide in their faith by becoming lethargic and disconnected from the physical body of Christ which causes spiritual paralysis. Others, well, they turn their back on the LORD Jesus by pursuing sin. The fact is, anything which becomes a higher priority than the LORD  is sin and initiates a believer’s backsliding (Mark 12:30). Priorities are the truest tell-tale of faithfulness or not. Priorities can quickly identify idolatry at any level, and therefore, exist as an effective self-diagnostic tool. After all, evaluating the true condition of our heart is difficult due to our propensity for self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9).

No group of people have experienced spiritual backsliding more often and more severely than Israel. So, learning how the LORD responds is of great interest, as backsliding is a two sided story that rarely gives God the opportunity to speak. 2 Chronicles 30:8-9 speaks of Yahweh’s invitation to backslidden Israel. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

No matter what the condition, mercy is waiting to be dispensed. The ear of our loving God is inclined, listening, prepared, and desiring to apply forgiveness and restoration. For all who repent, mercy is greater than judgement. Grace always prevails in heaven’s courtroom when sin is confessed and turned away from. Rejection by the Lord is not an option, He will not turn away his face from you.

Returning to the LORD requires a right understanding of the way forward. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22). Abandon whatever took priority in your heart which led you away from obedience to the LORD. There can be no compromise as you yield to Christ as your God.

For the believers who welcome a restored believer back, it should be remembered that it takes a community of God’s people, as together they pursue righteous living. Open-hearted and united forgiveness that lives with patient and compassionate perseverance is essential for longevity of faith. Paul exhorts us in this endeavour, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).

Recovery from backsliding is rarely easy, and it can be lonely if not surrounded by Christlike support and fuelled by a healthy diet of God’s Word, prayer, and worship. There should be no  delay, as cleansing and refreshment are readily available from the LORD. Return, seek the LORD to create in you a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you (Psalm 51:10). Invite the Saviour to infuse His love for righteousness into you so that your desires and motives change to become His. Ask that His determination for faithfulness becomes your determination, for this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

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