DEFINITION: Backsliding is when a believer deliberately goes back into sin, turns away from God, or becomes rebellious to the will of God. Backsliding starts in the heart and then is expressed through outward actions.
FACTS ABOUT BACKSLIDING:
Backsliding is closely aligned with carnality. One’s own desires and devices are acted out in opposition to God’s will (1 Corinthians 3:3; Proverbs 14:14).
Backsliding results from a general falling away from God due to conscious rejection of the truth revealed in His Word. Sins of the flesh also lead to backsliding, i.e., deliberately engaging in immorality, addictions, etc. There is an indifference towards God, His Word, and the church, and making other things a priority ahead of the spiritual.
Your own backsliding condemns you. It is your own backsliding that condemns you (Jeremiah 2:19). Jesus did not come to condemn you, but to give you abundant life (John 10:10)
Backsliding is a sin. Like all sin, God will forgive it when you repent.
DEALING WITH BACKSLIDING:
Identify the issues that caused you to backslide. Was it disappointment with God? Did you refuse to do something God asked you to do. Was it because of unanswered prayer? Hanging out with worldly people in worldly places? Unwholesome media through the TV, Internet, videos, music, and literature? Did you continue to engage in willful sin or did you just grow cold in your intimate relationship with God? It is important to identify where you began to backslide so that you will not fall into the same trap again.
Confess backsliding as sin. Ask forgiveness, and you will be forgiven (1 John 1:9).
Pray for restoration. David prayed: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).
Make a new commitment to God. After praying for restoration, David promised to make evangelism, praise and worship, and sacrificial living a priority (Psalm 51:13-19).
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT BACKSLIDING:
Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water? While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. (Job 8:11-13)
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:12)
Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:25)
If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. (Isaiah 7:9)
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Let him return unto the Lord … for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7)
“Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. (Jeremiah 2:19)
Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding. Yes, we will come to you for you are the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)
Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:5)
1 will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely… (Hosea 14:4)
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them…Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mark 4:1518-19)
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee… (Luke 15:17-18. The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is a tremendous example of being restored after backsliding.)
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:3)
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. (Revelation 2:4-5)
(See also “Unfaithfulness” in this database.)