It’s Monday Grace!
There are few things easier than returning to an old habit. Overeating, smoking, cussing—we clean up our act for a while then slip back. Sometimes it is a small step, and sometimes we just jump right back in with both feet.
I have written a lot about the flesh, those patterns of living and coping we learned before we came to Jesus. They are so familiar, so automatic, and they feel so right. They were normal for us. Now, in Jesus, things are different. We are different people, and our lives are drawn from a new source. The old ways no longer define us. At the same time, we continue to live in a familiar world, surrounded by familiar people, and the old familiar ways come back easily.
Now, that’s all that is meant by the term “backsliding,” as used by the Scriptures. It means to turn away from the new path toward the old familiar way. The problem, of course, is that the old way either wasn’t getting us anywhere or was taking us into serious trouble. Who would want to go back?
I think it was Keith Green who sang about the people of Israel wanting to go back to Egypt. Egypt was their place of bondage and pain and hopelessness. But life in the camp of the Lord was not easy. Everything was different. And our minds have a way of redecorating the past to look better than it was.
So, we slip back. Into old habits, old relationships, old risks and dangers. They are even worse than they were before, but at least they are familiar.
Preachers love to warn people about backsliding. If most preachers couldn’t scold their people for slipping back to the old way, they wouldn’t have anything to say. It does little good to tell unbelievers not to do bad things, so these preachers have to rail against their own people.
And, to be fair, there are warnings against backsliding in the Bible. Jeremiah mentions it a lot as he grieves for his people. It is worth talking about. Paul asked an interesting question of believers:
What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. Romans 6:21
In other words, why would you go back to the behaviors that defined your life apart from Jesus, the ones that brought you so much pain? The only end to those behaviors is negative.
Yet, those old sins call to us. Their memories and patterns are still with us. Are we doomed to bounce back and forth in shame and repentance until we die? That’s what you might learn in some churches.
But I would bet you have never heard this verse:
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him. Hosea 14:4
Who will heal your backsliding? You? By your own efforts? By accountability groups or a stronger will? No. God will heal your backsliding. How? By the living Spirit within you. The more you open yourself to the Spirit’s power and love, the more consistent your walk with Jesus will be.
The message of grace is that any “do-it-yourself” message is not only false, but doomed. You have no more ability to fix yourself now than you did before you came to Jesus. The power is His. Look to Him. Ask Him to guide you in your actions, to heal your thinking, and to keep you close in His presence. Trust that He is working all the time to heal you.
God is not angry with you. He loves you and is working good in your life. Trust Him.