Backslidin’

backslidingBack in June, we discussed some weighty passages in the blog series “A License to Sin?”  This three-part series was pretty complex and I really hope that you take the time to read them because they are filled with scriptural references to strengthen the believer all centered around Romans 6:1-2 ESV, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  In these posts we established that just because we accept Christ as Savior and are recipients of His amazing gift of grace, this does not simply give us a free pass to continue sinning.  As the Apostle Paul exclaims, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  Then in August we learned of the necessity of having Jesus Christ as our Lord in The Lordship of Jesus, centered around the passage of Luke’s Gospel, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46 ESV The essential Biblical truths here were, why would we refer to Jesus as Lord if we make no effort to obey His commandments.  In fact, as we pointed out, He tells us if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments. John 14:15 ESV Two weeks ago in Check your Motives, reference was made to the Carnal Christian vs. the Spiritual Christian and I want to reconcile that statement using the Biblical foundation of those earlier posts mentioned above along with some additional truths below.

 

As we previously learned, we are not given leeway to continue living in sin once we accept Christ as Savior.  As the Apostle Paul states, “22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV  However, in light of this, we know that the Christian life is not perfect, sin does occur, and at times in our Christian walk we slip and fall, perhaps even hard.  We pointed this out last week as we looked at the backslidden nature of the Apostle Peter.  Jesus predicted Peter’s denial yet told him that when he “returns” to strengthen his brothers. Luke 22:32  Ironically in II Peter 1:5-7, Peter highlights 7 fruits of faith: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love but follows these with a statement concerning the lack of these fruits, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” I Peter 1:8-9 ESV Peter points out that if you lack these fruits by falling into the trap of sin it renders you ineffective and unfruitful because you are so nearsighted, meaning you are looking towards the pleasures of this world rather than eternal glory and you’ve forgotten that Jesus Christ cleansed you from your old self so that you never return back.  That in essence is the nature of the backslidden or carnal Christian, one who has become so nearsighted they are blind and have forgotten what they were cleansed from.

 

In no way contradicting his earlier message from Romans 6, but instead exhorting those who have fallen, the Apostle Paul points out, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:11-14 ESV Paul is pleading with those Christians within the Church at Rome to wake up from their sinful, backslidden slumber because salvation is so near.  On a side note, salvation here does not refer to initial belief, but instead salvation in the future from the wrath of God at judgment that comes only with the justification of our sins through faith in Jesus. (See also Romans 1:16)  As the passage continues, Paul persists in his plea for those believers to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” something that would be impossible if those within Rome had not already believed and come to know Christ as Savior.

 

In the Blog posts discussed earlier, the importance of avoiding sin, yet repenting of those sins when they occur was highlighted.  It is a biblical fact that we do not have a license to sin, as pointed out in the post of the same name, yet I’m a living testament, just as some of you might be, that we mess up as Christians and fall into patterns of sin or get overcome by things we struggle with.  It’s not the result of zero faith, but rather immature or weak faith and it is a deadly place to reside.  Paul states in Romans 1:17 that, “the righteous shall live by faith.”  Backsliders are not living by faith but instead live by the flesh and as we mentioned earlier there is likely no evidence or fruits of salvation.  In the following chapter, Paul continues, “6He will render to each one according to his works: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Romans 2:6-8 ESV Note this passage very carefully.  God is going to give each one of us what we deserve, in other words we will be judged by Him according to our works. 

 

How do we reconcile being judged according to works when we know that Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV says, “8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Faith is what saves, the works don’t, but instead they bear witness of our salvation without which we have no demonstration of faith.  Just as James 2:17 ESV states, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  Our “works” on which we will be judged come from the obedience of our faith. Grace is the gift that saves through faith (Ephesians 2:8 ESV), faith works through love (Galatians 5:6 ESV), love produces obedience (John 14:15 ESV), and obedience is following what God commands  (I Corinthians 7:19 ESV).  The converse of this would be disobedience equals a lack of love, a lack of love shows a lack of faith, and faith is required for salvation, it’s not contradictory, it’s consistent, faith without works is dead.

 

So then the question becomes for those drifting backwards in a backslidden state, how long will you backslide and disobey God?  If you love Him, obey Him.  Won’t you turn back to Him like Peter did?  How long will a tree go on not producing fruit until it dies? “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10 ESV  Like Paul said, salvation is nearer now than when we first believed, so wake from your slumber!

Romans 6:22 ESV “But now that you have been set free from sin and have becomes slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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