Going back to our old sinful ways is a temptation we all face as Christians. Even after receiving salvation through faith in Christ, the pull of the flesh and the world can lead us to revert to past behaviors and thought patterns. However, Scripture provides many warnings against returning to wickedness and encourages us to continue pursuing holiness.
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore biblical teaching on what causes backsliding, its dangers and consequences, as well as how to guard ourselves against falling into old habits. We will also look at God’s promises of restoration for those who have stumbled in their walk but turn back to Him in repentance.
- Backsliding is caused by losing focus on God, neglecting fellowship, unconfessed sin, and unrenewed minds.
- Dangers include broken relationships, bad influence on others, loss of rewards, and God’s discipline.
- We can avoid backsliding by prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and resisting temptation.
- God graciously forgives and restores those who repent and turn back to Him.
What Causes Backsliding?
The Bible points to several root causes that can lead believers to revert to their old ways:
Losing Focus on God
When we take our eyes off the Lord, it becomes easier to drift back into ungodly habits. If God is not our first priority, the things of this world will slowly capture our attention and affection. The author of Hebrews warns:
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1 NKJV)
We stay spiritually sharp by fixing our minds on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). But if we fail to seek Him diligently, our hearts will wander.
Neglecting Fellowship with Other Believers
God designed us for community and placed us in the body of Christ. When we isolate ourselves from regular fellowship with other Christians, we lose a key defense against backsliding:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
Accountability to brothers and sisters in Christ helps us stay on the narrow path. Staying connected provides encouragement, prayer support, and loving correction when needed.
When we allow sin to go unchecked in our lives without repenting, it gains strength and leads to more compromise:
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13 NKJV)
Little sins lead to big sins. Nipping temptation in the bud through confession and repentance prevents further backsliding.
If we constantly consume worldly entertainment and media without filtering it through Scripture, our thinking will become corrupted:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)
Feeding our spirit with God’s Word renews our mind and enables us to discern the Lord’s will rather than revert to old ways of thinking.
Dangers of Backsliding
The Bible warns that reverting to wicked ways leads to numerous dangers and consequences, both for ourselves and others:
Broken Fellowship with God
Sin causes a breach in our close walk with the Lord. Unrepentant backsliding can lead to loss of joy, spiritual power, and awareness of God’s presence.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2 NKJV)
As our sin cuts off intimate communion with the Lord, we will feel greater temptation to continue wandering away.
Damaged Christian Witness
When believers publicly go back to sinful living, it brings reproach upon the name of Christ and gives nonbelievers a reason to reject the gospel:
“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV)
Our backsliding can sabotage evangelistic efforts and Bible teaching we have done in the past.
Negative Impact on Others
If we have any position of spiritual leadership or influence, returning to sin sets a bad example for those who look to us for guidance:
“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1 NASB)
Younger believers can stumble when church leaders fall back into ungodliness. We must take care to live exemplary lives.
Loss of Eternal Rewards
At the judgment seat of Christ, there will be a reward or loss of reward based on how we ran our race:
“Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” (2 John 1:8 NKJV)
Backsliding into unfruitful works may cost us eternal blessings we could have received.
Experiencing God’s Discipline
The Lord disciplines those He loves, and unrepentant backsliding brings His correction:
“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.'” (Hebrews 12:5 NKJV)
God’s discipline is intended to bring us back to holiness and reverence. If we continue in sin, we may face stronger correction.
How to Avoid Backsliding
Scripture provides wisdom on how to avoid going back to our old ways. Key strategies include:
Consistently communing with the Lord builds intimacy with Him as the center of our life:
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV)
Earnest prayer keeps our focus on Christ rather than wandering back to the world.
Bible Study and Meditation
Immersing our minds in God’s Word renews our thinking and helps us discern His will:
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
Scripture arms us to resist temptation.
Gathering regularly with other believers provides accountability and encourages spiritual growth:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24 NKJV)
Staying connected to the body of Christ deters backsliding.
We must flee situations that open the door to sin and compromise:
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV)
Guarding our eyes and hearts prevents small sparks from becoming raging fires.
Examining Our Heart
Taking spiritual inventory through self-reflection reveals areas we need to shore up:
“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 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV)
Looking deeply at our walk with Christ shows where we might be faltering.
If we stumble, we must quickly confess our sins and turn back to righteous living:
“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 NKJV)
immediate repentance keeps isolated slips from becoming patterns of backsliding.
God’s Grace to Restore Backsliders
Despite the dangers of backsliding, Scripture offers hope to believers who have drifted from the Lord but desire to repent and return to Him:
God Yearns to Redeem Us
The Lord takes no pleasure in those perishing apart from Him. His heart longs to restore the wayward:
“Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11 NKJV)
Our gracious God holds out His hand to receive us when we turn back.
He Forgives and Renews Us
No matter how far we have wandered away, God promises total cleansing from sin when we repent:
“If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; If you remove unrighteousness far from your tents.” (Job 22:23 NKJV)
He will renew and sanctify us through His Spirit when we return to Him.
Our Stumbling Can Deepen Faith
For prodigal sons and daughters, the agony of backsliding and restoration process leads to a more mature and enduring faith.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2-3 NKJV)
The refinement of suffering strengthens our walk with God.
Restored Fellowship with God
The Lord promises closeness with Him when we draw near in repentance:
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NKJV)
He welcomes His children back to intimate fellowship.
Renewed and Increased Ministry
After Peter’s denial of Christ, he was recommissioned in a deeper way:
“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.'” (John 21:15 NKJV)
In the same manner, God can take our past failures and multiply our usefulness in His kingdom.
Reverting to our old sinful ways is a real danger faced by every believer. But Scripture gives wise counsel on how to avoid backsliding by keeping our focus on Christ, resisting temptation, doing self-examination, and quickly repenting if we falter. Most beautifully, the Bible reassures us that our gracious God stands ready to fully restore all who turn back to Him with a contrite spirit. Though the consequences of backsliding may be severe, the Lord can heal and renew us to follow Him in greater devotion.