Scripture : Proverbs 14:14
“The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways”
Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot are two disciples of the Lord Jesus. They were chosen by the Lord Himself and followed Him everywhere He went. They had a common experience of falling into a terrible sin. Peter denied the Lord three times (Mat 26:69-75) whereas Judas betrayed the Lord by selling Him to the chief priests, scribes and elders for thirty pieces of silver (Mat 26:14-16). Both of them acknowledged that they had sinned against Jesus and were remorseful (Mat 26:75, 27:3). Peter came back to the Lord and was restored, while Judas went away and committed suicide. The question is, why was Peter restored, but Judas was not?
Peter, when he fell into sin, was in a good spiritual state. He was in love with the Lord Jesus that he said that he was willing to die with Him (Mat 26:35). Judas, on the other hand, was already in the backslidden state when he betrayed him. He used to steal the money that was put in the money box before he sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (John 12:6).
When we fall into sin, it doesn’t always means that we are backsliding in our heart or in a bad spiritual state because falling into sin and backsliding in heart are two different things. Falling into sin is an event whereas backsliding in heart is a state. It is true that when we are backsliden in heart, we will easily fall into sin. Nevertheless, we still could fall into sin even when we are in a good spiritual condition. The possibility is always there.
King David fell into sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband, Uriah. But, he was not backsliding in his heart from the Lord. His heart was still loyal to the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4). King Solomon, on the other hand, was backsliding in his heart from the Lord in his later years and fell into the sin of idolatry. He worshiped foreign gods (1 Kings 11:4-6).
We could fall into sin at any state, whether when we are backsliding in our heart or when we are moving forward spiritually, though the chance of falling into sin when we are backsliding is greater than when we are moving forward. If we fall into sin when we are backsliding, it is more difficult for us to be restored. We may be remorseful, but we may not come back to the Lord because we have lost our love for Him and find our heart so hardened that it is difficult for us to repent. There is always a danger that we sink deeper and deeper into sin until we cross the line where we find no place for repentance anymore like Esau (Heb 12:17). On the other hand, if we fall into sin when we are moving forward, we can be restored immediately because we still have love for the Lord and our heart is still gentle and soft. Nevertheless, we will suffer some consequences in proportion to the gravity of our sin. King David was instantly restored when he was rebuked by Nathan of his sins of adultery and murder because he still loved the Lord. His heart is still gentle and soft that he readily acknowledged that he had sinned against the Lord his God (2 Sam 12:13). Nevertheless, he would have to suffer the consequences of his sins. There would be adversity against him from his own house, his wives will be taken from him and be given to his neighbors, and his child who was to be born to him would die (2 Sam 12:10-12,14).
There is always a possibility of falling into sin even though we are in a good spiritual state. The reason for this is human weakness and imperfection. If we stop when we are supposed to move forward, we make ourselves vulnerable to temptation and we can easily fall into sin. King David was supposed to go out to battle, but he lingered in Jerusalem and was idle in his house (2 Sam 11:1). One evening he walked on the roof of his house and he saw a woman bathing. He was tempted and fell into adultery (2 Sam 11:2-4). This sin should have never happened, but because King David stopped moving forward and did not guard his heart, he fell into it. There are occasions when we fall into sin which we could have avoided. We fall into it because we stop moving forward and do not guard our heart with all diligence. However, there are also times when it is impossible for us not to fall into sin even though we don’t stop from moving forward spiritually. This is because of the inherent nature of independence and stubbornness that we still have inside us. The Lord Jesus knew that Peter would fall into sin by denying Him three times when satan sifted him as wheat although he said that he was ready to go with Him, both to prison and to death (Luk 22:31-34).
The most dangerous state that we can be in is backsliding in heart (Prov 14:14). It is the state of our heart in which we draw back from God. We move away from Him and our soul no longer follows closely behind Him. There are three stages of backsliding in heart :
1) We harden our heart (human choice).
2) Demons harden our heart (demonic bondage).
3) The Lord hardens our heart (God’s judgement)
The first stage of our backsliding in heart takes place when we begin to lose our focus on God. Other things, such as the cares, riches and pleasures of this life (Luk 8:14), begin to distract us and we no longer look unto Jesus (Heb 12:2). Slowly but surely, we become occupied by them. Our heart is divided. This affects our relationship with God. There is no longer intimacy in our fellowship with Him and we become far from Him. God’s commandments become burdensome to us and we begin to do things our way. At this stage, we will still feel the Holy Spirit grieves in our heart (Eph 4:30) and convicts us in our conscience so that we may repent (Heb 3:15). However, if we choose to harden our heart, He will draw back from us. Our heart will grow hard like Pharaoh (Exo 7:13,22; 8:15,19,32).
If we continue to harden our heart when our heart is divided instead of repenting immediately, we are in danger of being pulled away farther from God by the evil force. Demons begin to bind us (2 Tim 2:26) and we will have no power to overcome temptations. We will fall into sins and not able to rise again. We will be enslaved by sins (Rom 6:20) and sink deeper and deeper in our sins. We will be filled with our own ways (Prv 14:14) and be entangled again in the pollutions of the world and overcome (2 Pet 2:20). At this stage, our heart will be so hardened like Pharaoh (Exo 9:7) because of the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13) and the demonic bondage. Now, if it is the first or the second time we fall into this stage, God will still have mercy on us. He will help us come to our senses (Luk 15:17) and deliver us from the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). However, if we have been in and out of this stage several times, God may choose to have us delivered to satan for the destruction of our flesh, that our spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 5:5)
The third and final stage of backsliding in heart occurs when we become separated so far from God that we cross the line of death. Every sin committed before we cross this line is sin not leading to death and every sin committed after we cross this line is sin leading to death (1 Jhn 5:16). Once we cross this line of death, we will fall away completely and God Himself will harden our heart like He did with Pharaoh (Exo 9:12,35; 10:20,27; 11:10) so that He might execute His righteous judgement on us. Our conscience will be so seared with a hot iron (1 Tim 4:2) that we will sin willfully even though we have received the knowledge of truth (Heb 6:6; 10:26). At this stage, we will be counted as those who have trampled the Son of God underfoot, crucified Him again for ourselves and put Him into an open shame; counted the blood of the covenant by which we were sanctified a common thing; and insulted the Spirit of grace (Heb 6:6; 10:29). We will fall into the hands of the living God and will be counted as His adversaries. We will find no place for repentance anymore, but a certain fearful expectation of judgement and fiery indignation from God which will devour us (Heb 10:27; 12:17). Our name which has been written in the Book of Life will be blotted out (Rev 3:5).
Backsliding in heart is a serious matter. God has no pleasure in us if we draw back from Him (Heb 10:38). The question now is “How can we keep our heart from backsliding?” The most important thing that we can do is to make sure that our heart is always completely surrendered to God. Then, we must also keep this surrendered heart with all diligence that it stays surrendered and does not become divided. If we find ourselves begin to be distracted by other things and we tend to do things our way, then it shows that our heart begins to stray away from its surrendered state. We must come to God as soon as possible, repent sincerely and surrender back our heart to Him. A daily communion with God and a consistent assembling of ourselves together where we can receive exhortation daily will create an atmosphere that helps us to keep our heart from backsliding.