Backsliders' pathways away from God

by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Summary: Coming to the Lord is not difficult. The pathway to Him is paved with the mercy and grace of God. Walking away from the Lord, sad to say, is also easy. Come and read these five biblical warnings, which will help you remain solid in your walk with Jesus Christ.

John 6:60, 66  On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"... [66] From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

(1) Watch out that you don’t get offended at “hard teachings”.

•• When a pastor preaches biblical themes like commitment, submission, and faithfulness, some hearers automatically reject those truths. They feel that those things violate their (erroneous) understanding of being “free” in Jesus Christ.

•• Similar negative reactions sometimes occur to teachings like:
• the cost of discipleship

forsaking all to follow Jesus

speaking in tongues as the evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit

• the giving of tithes and offerings to support the work of God

• and many more
•• Like some of Jesus’ early disciples, there are modern-day Christians who reject biblical truths that make them uncomfortable, labeling them hard teachings”. By doing so, they risk entering the slippery slope of the backslider’s pathway away from God.

•• No Bible author ever said that Christianity was an easy life. There are great demands and high costs to following the Lord diligently. Count the cost of walking faithfully with the Lord. It is worth any price.

Luke 8:14  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

(2) “Life's worries, riches and pleasures” can choke your Christian walk and prevent you from ever maturing.

•• Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.... You cannot serve both God and Money ( Matthew 6:24). Are riches evil in and of themselves? No. It’s what we do with them, and our attitude towards material wealth, that can choke our Christian walk. The apostle Paul warned ominously, “...the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Not money, but the love of money.

•• Jesus said the same about “life’s pleasures”. God has placed many things on this earth for us to legitimately enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). But the primary pursuit of pleasures once again violates Jesus’ warning that we “cannot serve two masters”. We will serve God ... or we will serve the pursuit of pleasure ... but not both!

•• Another thing that Jesus warned about in the parable of the seed was the harmful effect of “life’s worries” on our spiritual walk. By definition, worries keep our minds focused on the problems — real or imagined — of this world, rather than on God. A wonderful antidote to harmful worrying is to be found in the apostle Paul’s encouragement:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7).

Luke 8:13  Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

(3) “Times of testing” can cause us to fall away if we haven’t worked at growing solid “roots” in our Christian walk.

•• Jesus said that “in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33). In America today it is permissible, even fashionable, to ridicule Christians. In some nations of the world, Christians are even in this 21st century losing their lives as martyrs. Over the centuries, millions have been killed for their Christian faith.

•• I have noticed time and again how a cold chill seems to settle over some conversations when you mention that you are a Christian.

•• The point that Jesus was making in that portion of the parable is that we need solid spiritual roots in order to have the strength to remain victorious in “times of testing”. These roots are grown and sunk deep in our lives through faithfulness to such things as:
prayer

Bible reading and study

• faithful attendance at church services in a Bible-believing local church

gathering to worship ... also worshiping and praising God by yourself at times throughout your day.
•• As you do these things, you will build a strong foundation for your Christian walk. And when the winds and storms of trials and testings come your way, you will stand strong.

Hebrews 3:13  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

(4) We can subtly, progressively, almost imperceptibly be “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”.

•• Rarely does a right-on Christian just suddenly backslide.

•• No, sin is usually more subtle. Sin can creep gradually into your life, you get in the habit of giving in to it, and the next thing you know, some conduct you would have previously rejected now seems “OK”.
• Anger, or a short temper, gets easier to vent.

• Movie standards drift downward, and you find yourself going to movies that just a few years ago you would have avoided.

• Covetousness and materialism begin to have a stronger grip on your attention. And prayer, devotional time, and church attendance begin to suffer.
•• What happens? What is the typical process? — (1) A sin occurs ... (2) There don’t seem to be any immediate negative consequences ... (3) the deceived heart is hardened and finds the next sin easier. This process repeats itself over and over, until a hardness builds up in our hearts and we find sin tolerable. Soon we find ourselves on the backslider’s path away from God.

1 Corinthians 15:33  Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

(5) Keeping bad company will lead you astray. And if you don’t believe that, you’ve already been led astray in your understanding. The apostle wrote: “Bad company corrupts...” Twenty centuries have elapsed since he wrote that, and his warning has proven true again and again.
• I recall my last two years of high school. At that time I was not serving the Lord. I fell in with some bad company, and peer pressure induced me to participate in some alcohol-related activities that could have brought great harm to me or to others. Mercifully, the Lord spared me that. I blame no one but myself. I allowed myself to be swayed by the corrupting influence of bad company.
•• Proverbs 13:20  He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

In sum, we have looked at five pathways to walking away from God:

1. Becoming offended at what we consider “hard teachings” from the Bible

2. Allowing life’s worries, riches, and pleasures to choke our walk

3. Not cultivating deep spiritual roots in order to maintain victory in times of testing

4. Allowing our hearts to be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness

5. Permitting the corrupting influence of bad company

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©1994, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.