When I first become familiar with the Church and its message, I was introduced early on to the concept of backsliding. It was a huge theme in the early 1970s, and it was preached quite often to remind people that they had to constantly work at keeping their lives right with God. The abuses of the concept happened as early as the concept was preached, and people felt that any infraction was a sure sign they were backsliding away from God.
So, let’s define what backsliding is: “The action of relapsing into bad ways or error.”
For the Christian, the optimum word is relapsing. It is relapsing back into a state of unbelief or patterns of old behavior from your former life. Some backsliding feelings can be the result of an overactive guilt complex where you never feel good enough. Being good is not the result of you doing anything … it is what God makes you, and you can only be made good by His Forgiveness.
Much of what we teach in our Christian circles has to do with behavior modification. We come to Christ and the Church teaches us a system of Morals and behaviors. Those sanctioned behaviors are enforced perpetually throughout its ministry. I am not saying this system is bad, but it can give people the wrong impression that all they need to do is fit into the system and all is well. This wrong impression is the first step of backsliding. Why you ask? Well, it makes the system of behavior more important than Knowing God and being Transformed by His Spirit, rather than your behavior. God does care about your behavior, but there is a difference between behavior that is being modified by a human standard and behavior that is generated by a heart that is pursuing God.
I think you see this explained by King David’s behavior when he sinned with Bathsheba and he penned Psalm 51. His immediate reaction wasn’t guilt but sorrow for his sin, and he know he had sinned against God. He was not in a state of guilt because he failed a Moral system; he was found guilty of sinning against God. Why is this so important to understand? Because to David, God was everything. Read Psalm 51 and see for yourself. God has to be everything to us … not a Moral system or a belief system, and more than just Principles, Values, and doctrines. (These can never save you from backsliding.)
People think if you know the right doctrine, it will keep you from sinning and keep you on the straight and narrow. Not true. Doctrines are like guardrails on highways … they keep you safe from going in the ditch, but they do not prevent accidents. You can hit a guardrail and be thrown into oncoming traffic. My point is that David’s idea that his life was only worth anything as it pursued God is the key to a relationship. A spouse can easily forgive a transgression if they know love is at the core of their relationship. Does God know you love Him? I’m not talking about your emotional time of worship, but about the core of who you are. Do you pursue Him without reservation, and are you determined to give up everything to do so? Do you think about Him more than anyone or anything else? Do you wonder what He thinks and what would please Him? Do you ever just tell Him that you want Him to change you, to make you know His ways like the Psalmist did?
You see, without a deep desire to pursue God and to become a moldable piece of clay on the Potter’s wheel, you will be susceptible to backsliding. The human heart has to be given away to something or it will drift into irrelevance and depression. You have to worship something. That something is what the Devil is relentless in trying to get you to do … to worship the wrong things.
Backsliding is a reality in most people’s lives, but it doesn’t have to be. You can maintain a life of devotion to God and keep yourself free from the stains in this world. It takes work, it takes Courage, and it takes Strength to overcome the temptations around you and to remain on the potter’s wheel.
Jeremiah 18 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Like Israel, we need to be in the molding hands of the Lord.
Keeping Life Honest and Truthful … Larry Kutzler