The Dangers of Backsliding

James 5:19–20 (ESV)

"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." 

In this passage, James is talking about a believer who has wondered away and fallen into sin—one who is no longer living a life consistent with his beliefs. While Christians disagree whether or not it is possible for people to lose their salvation, we should all agree that those who move away from their faith are in serious trouble and need to repent. James urges Christians to help backsliders return to God. By taking the initiative, praying for them, and acting in love, we can meet them where they are and bring them back to God and forgiveness. Regardless of our denominational differences, we should all be involved in the restoration of those who have turned away. In verse 20, James makes an allusion to Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

Why do we backslide? Because we are human born in sin with corruptible hearts. We only need to turn to the many examples of Israel in the Old Testament as proof. In Judges 2:11-13, we see a nation turning away from God towards the idolatry of the Canaanite people. Why would the people of Israel turn so quickly from their faith in God? Two words: lust and pride.

One of the more attractive features of the Canaanite religion was that people could remain selfish and yet fulfill their religious requirements. They could do almost anything they wished and still be obeying at least one of the Canaanite gods. Male and female prostitution were not only allowed, but were encouraged as forms of worship. Morality was not necessary to serve their pantheon of gods.

But it’s not just in the evilness of our hearts that we backslide. We can also backslide because things are going so good that we perceive we do not need a God who will just ruin our fun. In times of plenty, we often take credit for our prosperity and become proud that our own hard work and cleverness have made us rich. It is easy to get so busy collecting and managing wealth that we push God right out of our life. This was exactly what Moses warned Israel against in Deuteronomy 8:11–14:

“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,"

Worldly worries, a false sense of security brought on by prosperity, and the desire for things plagued humans back then and it hasn’t changed much for us today. How easy it is for our daily routines to become overcrowded. A life packed with materialistic pursuits deafens us to God’s Word. In our quests for the ultimate Facebook post to show how fabulous our life is, we too become trapped in the world we live in and lose focus of our purpose. God is placed on a backburner and only if time permits, will we squeeze in time to sit in a church for an hour or so once a week.

Satan is definitely smiling.