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Away from God and the church

I came to accept Jesus Christ when I was a youth. My career kept me busy later. I had a painful fallout with my priest. That was the final nail in the coffin; I began to hate anything that any religious person said. I feel I have backslidden. My friends have too. What can we do? I just cannot seem to be able to pray. 

Believers agree that backsliding starts first in the heart and then is expressed through outward actions. It happens when we deliberately go back into sin, turn away from God, or become rebellious to the will of God.

The Christian life is not always easy. Even if its yourself or a dear one, help yourself and him/her get back on track. The Bible asks us in the book of Hebrews to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ daily, so that no one turns away from the living God.

Backsliding results from a general falling away from God due to conscious rejection of the truth revealed in His Word. There is a sudden or gradual indifference towards God, His Word and the church, and making other things a priority ahead of the spiritual.

Backsliding is also a sin as it involves going backwards spiritually and morally. But like all sin, God will forgive it when you repent. A believer may backslide by deliberately choosing to indulge in sinful pleasures.

This type of backsliding brings dishonour to the One who laid down His life for us, Jesus Christ. It can also bring grief to the lives of loved ones and turmoil, guilt and condemnation into the believer’s own life.

While wounds from the religious can cause many to backslide, THAT is no excuse for staying away from God – JESUS died for you! HE loves you unconditionally. Do not let any human being make you forget that. If you are feeling far away from the Lord and think you might have backslidden, make an effort today, right now.

It can be heartbreaking when someone close to you backslides too. But be an encourager and do not give up on him/her. Pray and intercede for the one you are concerned about DAILY. Bind the work of the enemy in that person’s life. People who are wounded, do not need more criticism from you. You don’t want to push the person farther away from God. Many people hate God and the church because of what they experienced from human beings who wear ‘religion’ like a cloak, but do not practise His love. You can become the saving grace here. Be faithful to love the person and check on the person too, often. Like they say, we are the only Bibles that some people are reading.

Ask the Lord if you are to say something to the person and if so, what you should say and how you should say it. Always keep a loving and humble attitude toward the backslidden person.

Deal with your own situation too. You need to first identify all the issues that caused you to backslide. “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)

Ask yourself why you moved away from God? Was it disappointment with God, or just the church or Christian leaders? Was it only because the priest hurt you? Did you refuse to do something God asked you to do – like hold on to anger and an unforgiving attitude? Was it because of unanswered prayer? Have you been hanging out with worldly people in ungodly places? Has unwholesome media through the TV, Internet, videos, music and literature stolen your time?

Did you continue to engage in wilful 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. You and I have to be aware that 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).

Make a new commitment to God. “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) The Lord has said, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely”. (Hosea 14:4) and “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)

After praying for restoration, David promised to make evangelism, praise and worship, and sacrificial living a priority (Psalm 51:13-19). “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”. (Psalm 51:12)

There is more good news for the backslider! “Let him return unto the Lord … for He will abundantly pardon”. (Isaiah 55:7) God does not condemn him. “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) God’s loving concern for the backslider is steadfast and sure. Jesus did not come to condemn you, but to give you abundant life (John 10:10) Confess backsliding as sin. Ask forgiveness, and you will be forgiven (1 John 1:9). Then 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).

The Lord calls that person back to Himself through Jesus’ death on the cross and through the work of the Holy Spirit. We can see this clearly in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, the father saw his son returning while he was still far off. But the father did not lock the doors or demand that his son leave. Instead, the father welcomed his return. The father’s relief and joy at seeing his son was so great that he did not even reprove him or rebuke him. Instead, the father showed that the son’s return was not a time for condemnation, but for celebration.

If you have backslidden, know that the Heavenly Father truly cares about you and wants you to return. When the Lord hears you calling out to Him, He will respond to you. Do not let anything hold you back from God and His forgiveness and grace. Don’t let the pleasures of sin deceive you. In time, sin will bring you pain. Also, do not let doubt or guilt hold you back today, for He promises you: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

If you hurt people while you backslid, then ask them for forgiveness. Do what you can to repair any damage you may have caused in other people’s lives. Seek healing and reconciliation for broken or injured relationships. God forgave your countless sins. Extend that same grace and mercy to another. Do not let that one offence from the priest keep you away from heaven. Make amends. Do it TODAY.

Continue to daily seek the Lord with your whole heart. Examine your faith-life regularly. If you find yourself drifting away, turn back immediately. You would daily need by your side, these things – a Bible, daily time with God, one or two dear Christian friends from both sexes, a solid church and a godly mentor. Come to God daily for forgiveness and cleansing. Stay in the Word of God; keep studying and learning daily. Stay in fellowship often with other believers.

Stand firm in your faith and stay alert to face difficult times in your Christian life. Persevere. Develop a daily habit of spending time with God. Habits are hard to break. Memorise Bible verse to recall in difficult times. Listen to Christian music, watch Christian movies, listen to the Word being preached and read good books, to keep your mind and heart in tune with God. Develop Christian friendships so that you’ll have someone to call when you feel weak. Get involved in a prayer group and meet or interact with other Christians at least twice a week.

Learn from the mistakes you made and determine to not repeat those mistakes. Ask the Lord for wisdom in how to live faithfully – as an overcomer. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. (Phil 4:13)

Stay blessed!

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