How To Avoid Backsliding?
- Watch and pray.
Keep the fire of prayer burning in your life. Jesus told the disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41 NKJV). Mark 14:38 and Luke 22:46 record a similar instruction by Jesus. Unfortunately the disciples slept off in the place of prayer and couldn’t withstand the temptation that followed. They all deserted him. Maintain a vibrant private prayer life.
- Walk in the spirit.
To walk in the spirit means to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Gal 5:16 says, “So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (NLT). If you walk in the spirit consistently, you’ll not backslide. Not to walk in the spirit is to walk in the flesh. Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God before he was led into the wilderness, so he didn’t fall for satan’s temptation (Luke 4:1–13).
- Do regular self examination.
Do a frequent spiritual check-up to be sure your life is right with God. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor 13:5 NKJV).Identify any sin in your life, confess, repent and forsake it. Don’t tolerate sin; don’t play with it; don’t rationalize it. No sin is too small to take anyone to hell fire! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10 NKJV).
Concerning the church of Ephesus – the loveless church – the Bible says, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent” (Rev 2:5-6 NKJV).
God is ready to forgive any sinner who genuinely repents. He’ll receive him and will not count his sin against him. He’ll treat him as if he has never sinned. “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zech 1:3 NKJV). You can repent and return to God today. He’ll heal your backslidings. “Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we are come unto thee; for thou art Jehovah our God” (Jer 3:22 ASV).
- Embrace holy living.
No habitual sinner is a Christian, and no Christian is a habitual sinner. “Those who are God’s children do not continue sinning, because the new life from God remains in them. They are not able to go on sinning, because they have become children of God” (1 John 3:9 NCV).
Whoever says he knows God and doesn’t keep His commandment is a liar (1 John 2:4). And the summary of these commandments is love – love God and love fellow human beings. Love is the fulfillment of the law. “Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements” (Rom. 13:10 NLT).
- Listen to and respond to anointed messages that convict sinners of sin and call back sinning Christians to the path of righteousness (1 Tim. 4:6, 16).
There are messages that make those living in sin to be comfortable in sin. This is dangerous.
After an anointed, convicting and convincing message preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls were saved, baptized and added to the church. They were not pressured. No. It was the people themselves, after listening to him, that asked what they must to do to be saved. “Peter’s words convicted them deeply, and they said to him and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38 NLT).
We need messages that will save sinners who are outside the church (non-believers) and save (cause repentance in) sinning Christians. We don’t need messages that make both categories of sinners feel comfortable. This is a serious challenge to ministers of the gospel to watch what they’re preaching. Are you preaching a permissive message or a salvation message, edifying message? Paul told Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16 NLT).
- Respond to God’s discipline.
If you sin and God disciplines you, in whichever way He chooses, respond by repenting and forsaking your sin. That is how not to be completely lost. Don’t reject the discipline of God persisting in sin. God disciplines you because He loves you and wants to save you from a journey into hell. “And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, ‘My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Heb. 12:5-11 NLT).
- Seek the Lord daily and don’t neglect fellowship with fellow Christians.
Don’t let the devil isolate you from the ministry of the church. He can do that by making you see faults in other Christians causing you to want to have nothing to do with them. By that, he also keeps you away from fellow Christians who can speak into your life and support you in your hours of trial, and the devil can exploit this to draw you away from God.
Withdrawal from fellowship will deny you the protection of the church and other benefits that church membership offers. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Heb. 10:25 NLT).
- Pray for one another.
In addition to personal prayers, believers need one another’s prayer to stand and keep standing because we are all members of the body of Christ. 1 Cor. 12:26 says, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (NLT).We should be our brothers’ keeper.
It was the prayer of Jesus that saved Peter. May be he would have ended like Judas Iscariot who committed suicide. “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJV). We need each other, and we need one another in the Christian race. Soldiers don’t fight separately; they fight as a unit. “Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere” (Eph 6:18 NLT). No wonder, Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:25 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Pray for us.” The same phrase is written in Hebrews 13:18, and Paul is one of the persons Bible scholars have mentioned as possible writer of the book of Hebrews.
9 Encourage one another.
This is one of the key benefits of fellowshipping with fellow believers. There are times when a believer is weary or his faith is low, encouragement from a fellow Christian becomes an energizer. According to Titus 1:9, a person to be ordained an elder/pastor/bishop is expected to be able to encourage others with right teaching based on the trustworthy message he has been taught. In fact, there are Christians who have been giving a special gift of encouragement. Rom 12:8 says, “If your gift is to encourage others, do it!” (NLT)
Everybody needs encouragement at one point or the other. The person giving it now may soon need it. No Christian is superman. Discouragement is one reason people backslide. Christians ought to be like that apostle, Joseph or Joses named Barnabas by the other apostles, and Barnabas means son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). Indeed, he was an encourager. In this passage where his name is first mentioned in the Bible, it says he sold his land and brought it to the apostles (verse 37). We see Barnabas later being a great encouragement to Paul, John Mark and the early church.
Christians should deliberately encourage one another. That’s why the epistles are full of words of encouragement to the church then and indeed the church today. Apostle Peter said, “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens” (1 Peter 5:12 NLT). Paul wrote to the Romans, “I’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other” (NLT). Did you see that? The people Paul wrote to needed encouragement just as he did too. Every Christian needs encouragement. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24 NLT). And Paul, writing to the Corinthians said, “Encourage each other” (2 Cor. 13:11 NLT). Timely encouragement can save many believers from backsliding.
- Persevere in whatever hardship or persecution you’re going through.
Hardship or Persecution is another reason people backslide. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12 NKJV). Did you see that? Expect persecution the moment you choose to live a godly life.
If you’ll not backslide, you must endure to the end; you must stand firm despite all persecutions. Jesus said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matt 10:22-23 NKJV).
Matt 24:12-14 says, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (NKJV). Persecution is part of the Christian package.Mark 13:12-13 says a similar thing. “Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (NKJV). Despite persecution, you mustn’t backslide; determine to endure to the end and God will help you. He’ll keep you from falling (Jude 24).
You must not allow hardship or persecution to abort your journey to eternity with Jesus. You’ve laid your hand to the plough; you mustn’t look back no matter what. “Let this encourage God’s holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus” (Rev 14:12 NLT).
2 Tim 2:3 says to endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ. Stand firm, stand strong in the faith. Don’t go back because of any negative experience you’re going through. You won’t backslide in Jesus’ name. And if you’ve backslid, repent and return to Jesus. The Lord will forgive you and receive you back. Always remember that your affliction is temporary. “For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” (2 Cor 4:17-18 NLT). Hallelujah, the troubles you see will soon be over!
Conclusion: There is restoration for every backslider if he repents. If you’re in that condition repent, confess your sins and return to the Lord. Don’t die in your sin and go to hell. If you’ve not backslid, pay attention to the Word of God and keep asking for grace to stand to the end. You’ll make heaven in Jesus’ name.