You've probably heard the word before... maybe even thousands upon thousands of times:
It's the dreaded, dead, spiritual condition of any Christ-follower; no one wants to be a backslider. We've heard it said: "if you're not moving forward in God, you're moving backwards!"
No one really plans on it either. But I think, if we were all completely honest with ourselves, that each of us have found ourselves in that place one time or another.
Maybe you find yourself there right now.
Maybe you feel like you're far from God. You've made too many mistakes. You failed too many times. You've broken too many promises.
And maybe you're wondering how you're ever going to get back to that place you once were in your relationship with God: the place where you felt connected and spiritually alive.
Maybe you're BACKSLIDING.
But I'm convinced that this phrase we use to scare people out of complacency and into a religious pursuit of God (whether the motivation is pure or not), is actually an impossibility for the man or woman found in Christ.
In fact, I happen to think the only reason you may ever find yourself backsliding is because you actually believe it is possible.
Don't believe me? Don't want to take my word for it? Let me give you a few reasons why:
YOU AREN'T THE ORIGINATOR OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
One of my favorite books of all time is "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer. In it, he presents the doctrine of "Prevenient Grace" which states that, God - as a Sovereign Creator, must be before all things.
"He says, "God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust."
This is incredibly important for our understanding of how our relationship with God works. It's easy in the beginning of our salvation experience to realize that Christ saved us... that we were lost in our sin and He found us - adopting us into His marvelous love.
But it can be easy to lose sight of this truth the longer we live our lives for the Lord. We can begin to slip into the perversion of falsity that WE are the pursuers of God. This is, in fact, impossible. Apart from the grace of God, humanity cannot reach God - no matter what. Romans 3:11 tells us that no man even searches for God apart from Divine Intervention.
Why is this important to discuss? Because if you begin to believe that your spiritual condition is simply up to YOU, than you have forgotten who started this thing in the first place.
Don't begin with Grace and end with works.
"Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?" - Galatians 3:3
YOU CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM AN ETERNAL UNION WITH GOD
When you became born-again, something supernatural took place in your spirit. You weren't simply given a "clean slate." You were given something far more significant: Jesus' slate.
Colossians 3 tells us
"you died and your life is hidden in Christ."
You are not an addition to the Trinity. You were grafted into the Son, who will always have unbroken union with God.
This is important to understand because it recalibrates our understanding of our connection to God. Often times, we feel distant from God because we sinned that week or forgot to spend time with the Lord in prayer.
The truth of the matter is that you will never be closer to God than you are right now.
Your life is found in the life of Christ, which means that you are sitting IN Him at the right hand of the Father.
Because Jesus' position is SECURE, so is yours.
This is incredibly vital because we must have a theologically accurate understanding of our place as believers. Nothing can come between you and the one you have been legally and spiritually bound to.
You can't backslide because Christ can't backslide. Sure - you can clutter your life up with sin and distraction, but you can't undo what Christ did on the cross. Yes, you can choose to run from Him and do everything to rid your awareness of His Presence. But, like David says,
"Where can I go from Your Presence? Where can I flee from Your Spirit?" -Psalm 139:7
BACKSLIDING COMES FROM BAD THINKING
Paul gives us a clear definition of how we perpetuate the transformation process in our lives:
"Do not be conformed to the likeness of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds." - Romans 12:2
I am truly convinced that the only way we find ourselves backsliding is to think that it's actually possible to do so.
When we think of idolatry, we think of carven images and sinful desires, but I've learned this:
Even our own pursuit of God can become an idol, standing in the way our true identity: the pursued.
Your revelation of truth is the most important weapon you have against backsliding. And here's the truth: you HAVE a RESPONSIBILITY to steward what you believe. You might be saying to yourself, "well, I don't feel like I'm connected to God" or "I am struggling to much with desires to sin and walk away from God."
This is why Paul tells us to:
"Reckon yourselves dead to sin but alive to God IN Christ Jesus." Romans 6:11
A life lived dictated by emotions will always lead you to a path of destruction. Bill Johnson always says,
"If you had friends that lied to you as much as your feelings do, you wouldn't be friends with them anymore."
As a result, bad thinking leads to bad living. To break it down for you, here are a few, sure-fire ways to slip into a season of backsliding:
- Begin believing that you are the one responsible for your spiritual progression, instead of the Grace of God's constant pursuit of you
- Begin believing that every time you sin, you move further away from God
- Begin believing that God is in the heavens and not residing inside of you at all times, in every season and every moment
- Begin believing that it's your good works (prayer, Bible-reading, service, etc.) that make you "closer to God" instead of your already-purchased position in Christ
- Begin believing that your sin & failures come as a surprise to a Sovereign God who knew every failure from the moment He chose you
- Begin allowing all these false-doctrines to have residence in your heart, breeding a desire to run FROM God and not TO God.
If we were to constantly live with the belief and conviction that we are ONE with God in Christ, the idea of backsliding would never even be an option. Living from the reality of union with the Almighty God would eliminate any opportunity for sliding back into our old ways of thinking.
Trusting in God's accomplishment on our behalf through Christ:
- Overrides my emotions of feeling "far from God"
- Eliminates shame & guilt from past, present and future failures
- Allows us immediate access into the Presence of God, despite our feelings or lack of "experience"
- Gives us confidence in our prayers and petitions through our position in Christ at the right hand of the Father
- Empowers us with the reality of the Person of the Holy Spirit to live lives of holiness, purity and responsiveness to God through obedience
- Identifies us rightly as "dead to sin and alive to God"
- Motivates us to pursue God FROM a place of being pursued BY God
- Glorifies God as we trust in HIS work and not our own.
If you're struggling with feeling "far from God" today, I have a simple solution for you:
Just turn to Him. He's right there.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jared Ellis was called into ministry at the age of 16 years old, after being delivered out of a life of darkness, depression and depravity. He has traveled all over the world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and has worked with some of the leading churches in the nation such as Bethel Church and Elevation Church. He also pastored in Abilene, Texas and grew a youth ministry of 12 students to over 300 - signs, wonders and miracles taking place each week. Jared is the author of "Yes: Simple Response | Radical Results." He travels full-time as an Evangelist, preaching at churches, conferences and events. He is also the GE Coordinator at Christ For The Nations Institute where he teaches and trains Youth Pastors and works as a church consultant. While at home in Dallas, TX, he serves as a worship leader at Trinity Church.