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Causes of backsliding

Why do people leave the Church and seem to forsake all they once believed?

If you ask this of those who have departed you will probably get many different answers. Some will blame the behaviour of other Christians, others will tell you they want to ‘be themselves’ and that they can’t realise their potential in the church. Others will complain that the Church is too restrictive in its beliefs and permitted behaviour. It could be too old fashioned, too sombre, and out of touch. For others it maybe because the church doesn’t give us the answers we would like to our questions concerning life, pain, suffering and death, or because it doesn’t fit in with modern thought.

Whilst these matters may be of real concern there is a more basic reason.

When the elders of Israel demanded of Samuel “Give us a King”, they first of all suggested it was because Samuel's sons were not worthy of being his successor. 

Whilst this was true it wasn’t the only or even the most important reason.

Faith in God and Obedience to God were being rejected because they didn’t like being different, they wanted to be the same as the nations around them with a king they could see, to believe in and follow.

Even in our society today people often don’t like to be thought of as being different, they may well feel awkward and embarrassed, perhaps even inferior. Sometimes those differences mark them out as objects of bullying, mockery and scorn, leaving them marginalised and afraid. Discrimination and prejudice often strike fear and terror into the hearts of those of differing colour and culture as well as those with some physical deformity which causes others to view them as ‘not one of us’.

According to Paul a number of the members of the church in Galatia didn’t like being different so they adapted their beliefs by ‘adding to the Gospel’. They reasoned that if they added the requirement to be circumcised they would  remove their differences with the Jews, make themselves  more acceptable and thereby diminish the likelihood of persecution (Gal 6:12).

It is our faith in God, our allegiance to Him, because we are His children that we are so different from others, but sometimes we don’t like being different, we want to be like others and go our own way. Like the prodigal son we want to throw off restraint and take our lives in our own hands. We want to be ‘our own man’ rather than ‘Gods man’.

The Devil would have us believe his lies as he did when he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, telling her in effect she couldn’t believe God with the words “You won’t die, what will really happen is that you’ll be as God” and that is sadly what we want to be.

All too often, we find Christians prepared to add to or take from the Scriptures in order to be more accommodating of others and making ourselves more acceptable to them.

The devil was partly right, in one sense, in taking the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve would become ‘as god’, they would make their own rules; they would decide what was right and what was wrong. They would reject their Creators wise rule and go their own way. Sadly they were to find out that the Devil was wrong when he told them there would be no consequences that would cause them to regret what they had done, he was wrong to say they would ‘not surely die’.

When a person is ‘born again’ he dies to self and becomes ‘alive unto God’. The apostle puts it “it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives within me”. In simple terms it is no longer I on the throne of my life but Christ; it is His rule and will that counts.

This is the fundamental difference between those true members of the church and those who are not. When we backslide we reverse the process and reassert our own rule with all its tragic consequences.

Samuel sought to persuade the Israelites not to seek a king and outlined to them how by insisting on their own way they would lose more than they would gain.

When we insist upon going our own way and backslide by rejecting the reign of God over our lives when we adopt the beliefs and behaviour of the world around us because it seems a more comfortable and enjoyable way to live, we will have lost far more than we have gained.

When we leave the church we are not simply rejecting a human congregation.

When the elders of Israel demanded of Samuel that he appoint a king to rule over them, Samuel felt the people were rejecting him but God told him “they have not rejected you, they have rejected Me” (1 Sam 8:7) the reason being they do not want “that I should reign over them” (KJV) or “they have rejected me as their king” (NIV).

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