Proverbs 14:14 says, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The good man doesn’t live for self because he lives for God by practicing self-denial (Luke 9:23), therefore he is satisfied from himself. His satisfaction and joy comes from heaven, not from his own selfish desires. However, our text declares that the backslider is filled with his own ways. That is, he is satisfied with himself. He is so satisfied with himself that he is even filled with his own ways.
After thirty-six years of being a Christian and nearly thirty years of being involved in various aspects of ministry, it is this preacher’s belief that most Christian’s are backsliders. If we use the standard of Luke 17:11-19, then at least ninety percent are backslidden. Some of them know they’re backslidden, but most probably think that all is well because “salvation is the main thing, and I took care of that years ago.” That is, all of their actions, words, and thoughts are somehow acceptable to God simply because of a spiritual highlight that took place years ago. Salvation was a finish line that they crossed in the past, not a starting line that put them in a life-long race for God. These are the spiritual losers in life, the deadbeats who are more than happy to take a handout from God and give nothing in return. Sure, salvation is a free gift, but a cleansed heart should be a grateful heart as well (Luke 17:11-19), and something is definitely wrong when it isn’t.
Backsliding is mentioned about seventeen times in the Bible, mostly in Jeremiah and Hosea, and it describes a condition in which someone slides back from where they once were. Another New Testament term is very similar. The “falling away” of II Thessalonians 2:3 is from the word “apostasia,” which means to “forsake” or “fall away” from truth. Every backslider has fallen away from truth. In fact, when a man receives Christ he receives the way, the TRUTH, and the life (John 14:6). When he receives Christ he receives the truth that God has for him, or better yet, the beginning truth that God has for him, or the first truth. He now has the responsibility to continue in the truth (Gal. 2:5), to walk in the truth (III John 4), to be sanctified by the truth (John 17:17), and to be guided in all truth (John 16:13). But, like the nine ungrateful lepers, most Christians become backsliders a short time after conversion and they remain backsliders for the duration of their lives.
Jesus said that the last days before His return would be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot (Luke 17:26, 28). Noah was a dedicated saint who remained faithful to God in spite of surrounding iniquity. Lot, on the other hand, was a slothful backslider who vexed his righteous soul with the surrounding iniquity (II Pet. 2:7-8). So there are two kinds of Christians in the last days: the faithful and the backslidden, and the backslidden make up the vast majority.
Since Jesus referenced the days of Lot, and Peter used Lot as an example of a typical backslider, I’d like to take a closer look at Lot’s life and point out several things that constitute the “ways of a backslider.” I beg you, dear reader, to please examine your own heart and life because the odds are stacked against you; you might very well be backslidden.
Walking by Sight Rather Than by Faith
In Genesis chapter thirteen, Abraham (called Abram at the time) and Lot decided to split up so as to avoid future strife between their herdmen. Being the gracious saint that he was, Abraham gave Lot the first choice at the land (Gen. 13:9). Lot, being the carnal backslider that he was, made his choice based totally on sight: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” (Gen. 13:10) The first thing Lot did after being given first pick was lift up his eyes. That’s also what we read about Eve in the garden: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food . . .” (Gen. 3:6)That’s what we read about David on the roof top: “he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.” (II Sam. 11:2)That’s the thing that got Achan in trouble: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment . . . then I coveted . . .” (Jsh. 7:21)
That’s the very reason why some Christians have no business on the Internet or watching television. They are backsliders, like Lot, and they can’t think and live beyond what they see with their physical eyes. They see, they covet, they err. The spiritually-minded Christian, on the other hand, lives beyond the things that can be seen. As Paul states in II Corinthians 4:18, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Years ago I heard a story of a young evangelist who visited a church to preach, a circuit rider, I think. For now we’ll call him Brother Jack. When he arrived at the church there was no one there. He started to leave, figuring that he must have gotten the dates confused. Then he felt impressed to go ahead and preach anyway. So, without seeing a soul in the building, Brother Jack went to the pulpit and preached a fine salvation message. Then he prayed and went home. Many years later he was invited to preach at the same church again. Before he preached, the pastor of the church stood in the pulpit and said, “Brother Jack might not remember this, but many years ago when he was a young evangelist he came to this church to preach and found no one here. But instead of leaving, he went ahead and faithfully preached Jesus Christ. He might have felt foolish, thinking that he was preaching to an empty building, but he wasn’t preaching to an empty building. Being a young boy at the time, I had slipped into this building to play. When I heard the preacher enter, it scared me, so I hid behind something until he left. That means I heard his entire message. God convicted my heart and I received Jesus as my Saviour. Later, I would become your pastor.”
The backslider doesn’t have such experiences because he doesn’t walk by faith. He doesn’t see the fruit of faith because he has no faith, or very little of it. Just like a lost man, he walks by sight.
Making Decisions without Praying
Immediately after lifting up his eyes and coveting the plain of Jordan, Lot made his move: “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.” (Gen. 13:11) Nothing is said of Lot taking time to pray about his decision. In fact, the Bible never says that Lot ever prayed at all.
Many Christians today are just like Lot. They buy cars and houses without praying. They change schools, they change jobs, and they even change churches without praying. They date without praying, and some even marry without praying.
Why would a man not consult the Lord before making a decision? It really boils down to one reason: he doesn’t care what God thinks about it. He already knows what he wants to do, and consulting God might hinder his plans. What if David had prayed when he first saw Bathsheba? What if Cain had prayed about his bitter feelings toward Abel? What if Eve had prayed about the forbidden fruit? People refuse to pray when they are moving away from the will of God. They don’t want to hear anything contrary to their own wills. Rather than being their first concern, the will of God is often their last concern. They make decisions without praying because, like Lot, they are backslidden.
Enjoying the Company of Worldly and Wicked People
We read in Genesis 13:12 that Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” and then in Genesis 19:1 “Lot sat in the gate of Sodom.” The Holy Spirit is careful to point out in Genesis 13:13 that “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” Yet, this fact doesn’t seem to bother Lot at all. Maybe Sodom had a booming economy and Lot figured that he could “better himself” by moving there. Maybe he already knew some folks that lived in Sodom and had “connections.” Regardless of Lot’s motivations, he did move there and wreck what little righteous testimony he may have had.
A standard excuse used by backsliders is that they can’t win the lost if they aren’t around them. From that we are supposed to assume that they are living righteously among the lost and witnessing to them, but usually they are doing neither. When they are among the lost, they act lost themselves. When they are among the righteous, they talk religiously in hopes of sounding spiritual. But, as Proverbs 14:14 declares, they are backsliders in heart regardless of what efforts they make to camouflage themselves.
It didn’t seem to bother Lot to be around Sodomites on a regular basis. He vexed his soul from day to day with evil company (II Pet. 2:8), yet he never saw this as a problem. He heard filthy communication and saw filthy conduct, yet he refused to separate himself from it. This obviously vexed his family as well because his wife ends up dead while lusting for Sodom (Gen. 19:26), and his two daughters decide that incest is the answer to their problems (Gen. 19:32-36). For social, financial, and political benefits, the backslider Lot enjoyed the company of ungodly people and lost his family in the process.
The New Testament standard for all Christians is clear: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (II Cor. 6:17) Backsliders live in blatant violation of this principle.
Being a Burden Instead of a Blessing
About Abraham the Lord says, “thou shalt be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2) This turns out to be the case not only during Abraham’s life, but also in the lives of millions of people for thousands of years (Gal. 3:8-14). Lot, on the other hand, was never a blessing to anyone. He was a burden to Abraham, a burden to Abraham’s servants, a burden to himself, a burden to his family, and a burden to the Lord.
It was Lot who got himself taken captive and had to be rescued by Abraham (Gen. 14:12-16). It was Lot who defiled his family with the ways of the heathen in Sodom, and it was Lot who had to be rescued from Sodom before God destroyed the place. Abraham was a blessing to all who knew him, and he passed his blessings on to his children. Lot was a blessing to no one, and the only thing he passed to his children was the curse of two bastard boys by his daughters. From these boys came Ammon and Moab, two enemies that would burden Israel for thousands of years.
Churches are filled with backsliders like Lot, people who are a constant burden to others and seldom a blessing. Their prayer requests will always outnumber their praise reports ten to one—at least. Services and events are often held up because they are “running late.” Plans are often changed at the last minute because they “couldn’t make it” or because they are sick due to their unconfessed sins (I Cor. 11:30-32). When a backslider marries, he often burdens the church by either bringing more backsliders in or by leaving the church and taking others with him. It seems that backsliders go the extra mile to be a burden to others, yet they never make any extra effort to get right with God and be a blessing.
I recall a certain incident back in the early 1990’s when a church I was in was about to blitz the county with gospel tracts in an organized outreach plan. Then some lazy backsliders started whining and the preacher backed out and did nothing. This same bunch of backsliders tried to hinder a $400 gift for a missionary in need by saying that it wasn’t “fair” to give money to one missionary and not to all of our missionaries. Thankfully, they lost on that one, but they remain in that church to this day being a burden and hindering as much spiritual activity as possible. Like their ancestor Lot, backsliders are a burden, not a blessing.
Seeking Honour from Men Rather than from God
The next thing we notice about Lot is that he is trying to climb the social ladder and be honored by his fellow man, although he seems unconcerned about God’s honor. As we’ve already seen, Lot is sitting in the gate at Sodom (Gen. 19:1). That means he has become a town leader by hanging out with people like the Masons, the Mooses, the Elks, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Civitan Club, and the Jaycees. He’s probably on the board of directors for the Bank of Sodom, the deacon board at the Sodom Memorial Community Church, and he doubtless plays golf with the king of Sodom once per month. It takes effort to earn a chair in the gate of Sodom, and you can bet your boots that ole Lot worked overtime time shaking hands, attending luncheons, donating money, scratching backs, and flattering ugly old Sodomite women. Trouble is, the more he pleased men and advanced in their circles the more backslidden from God he became.
Paul said, “. . . if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10) Also notice Jesus’ sharp warning from John 5:41-44: “I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” It’s a total contradiction to seek God’s honour and man’s honour at the same time, so people choose one or the other, and they usually choose the vain honour of man. The serious Christian who loves the Lord will always seek God’s honour. He understands that pleasing men means displeasing God. Rather than work the social circles in hopes of advancing himself, he humbles himself and trusts God to exalt him in due time (I Pet. 5:6). This exalting might come in the form of a job promotion or pay raise, but it might also come in the form of good health, a happy marriage and family, spiritual growth, a good church, good spiritual friends, etc. But with the backslider it isn’t so. Like Lot, he’s more interested in his fellowship with men than in his fellowship with God.
Compromising Moral Standards
As these words are being written it has been less than a week since the U. S. Supreme Court legalized Sodomite marriages in all fifty states (June 26, 2015). To celebrate this ruling, many people on Facebook used a rainbow embellishment over their profile picture to show their support for the Sodomite victory, including a great many professing Christians. More and more professing Christians are compromising their moral convictions regarding sodomy and numerous other sins. Why is this happening? It’s happening because the never-ending pressures of the world are weakening God’s people and causing them to backslide and embrace things that they once abhorred.
Lot did the same thing. In Genesis 19:8 he was willing to turn his virgin daughters over to sex perverts in hopes of appeasing them. It isn’t likely that he would have done so ten or fifteen years earlier. But the weak morals of Sodom had heavily influenced him, and now he was willing to allow things that he had formally opposed. II Peter 2:8 says that Lot “in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” Without realizing it, the ways of the heathen had corrupted and weakened Lot. While probably boasting that “we don’t do those ungodly things,” the sight and sound of those very sins pounded away at Lot and his family and weakened them in ways they weren’t expecting. Lot wasn’t a Sodomite, but he was corrupted by Sodomites.
Most Christians today are corrupted by the sinful ways of the world. They might not tell dirty jokes and use profanity, but they’ll not remove themselves from such harmful atmospheres either. Little by little, they become vexed by seeing and hearing wicked things. David understood the danger of this when he wrote, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes . . .” (Psa. 101:3) It wasn’t enough to not do wicked things; not seeing wicked things was also the standard. Christian friend, is this your standard in regards to the company you keep, the books and magazines you read, and your television and Internet time? If it isn’t, then you are at high risk of becoming backslidden, and you might be backslidden already.
Do you still believe that all gambling, smoking, and drinking is wrong? Do you still reject contemporary “Christian” music as you once did? Do you tithe? Do you spend as much time in God’s word as you once did? Do you still witness and hand out tracts? When’s the last time you went street preaching and at least held up a scripture sign? Do you have Scripture magnets on your car? If you have a Scripture shirt or jacket, do you wear it in public or just to church events? Do you have a Scripture sign in your yard? Are you a member of a militant, cross-bearing, King James Bible church, or did you leave such a church for a larger and more popular church? Do you call homosexuals “Sodomites,” or have you forsaken God’s word and installed the word “gay” on your heart and tongue? These are the kinds of things that begin to slip when a Christian begins to backslide. It happened to Lot, and it can happen to any of us if we don’t guard ourselves from the wicked ways of the world.
Testimony Not Taken Seriously
As God was about to overthrow Sodom, Lot made an attempt to warn others, but there was a problem. Genesis 19:14 says, “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.” He seemed as one that mocked. He didn’t seem like a serious man of God. It was just old Lot having another one of his religious moments. “Just ignore him,” they figured, “he’ll be back in the gate of Sodom acting like his old self tomorrow.”
Many righteous people have had their witness rejected, even Noah who was a “preacher of righteousness” (II Pet. 2:5), but no one thought that Noah was mocking. They just didn’t believe him enough to repent. Lot, on the other hand, had not established a strong testimony with these people, so his attempt to sound a warning only came across as a joke, as an entertaining act.
The saddest thing was that it was too late to repair his testimony. Had the Lord declared that He would destroy Sodom in ten years or so, then Lot would have had time to set his house in order and establish some credibility with folks, but Lot had procrastinated and kicked the can down the road for so long that there was no time left.
Friend, now is the time to be a strong believer. Society is crumbling all around us, and things are not going to get better. It could be that the church’s finest hour is upon us because many people do not understand what is happening to the world and to America, and we have the opportunity to tell them. As the last days unfold, many people who have never had an interest in spiritual things will be seeking for answers. Will they believe your testimony? Is the life you are living right now a strong and convincing life of righteousness and truth. Do others think of you as a serious and non-hypocritical Christian, or do they perceive you as just another half-hearted backslider? Are you a strong believer like Noah, or are you a weakling like Lot? Are you headed for the Christian hall of fame, or will you end up in the backsliders’ hall of shame?
Not Winning Souls
From the account in Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen, the indication is that Lot had made no attempt to convert others. In our last point we saw that his attempt at witnessing wasn’t taken seriously, which indicates that witnessing and warning others of judgment was not something that folks had seen Lot do before. Then we learn in chapter nineteen that Sodom didn’t have even ten righteous citizens. God agreed to spare the city if only ten righteous people could be found (Gen. 18:32), yet only Lot and his family were taken out of the city (Gen. 19:15). Abraham’s reasoning in his conversation with the Lord was probably that Lot and his family had surely gained a few converts while in Sodom. He was doubtful that Lot had gained fifty souls, but ten seemed like a safe number to assume. Lot’s immediate family would make four, then the espoused sons in law would bring the number up to six. Only four more were needed, and surely Lot had a few servants and neighbors that had forsaken the ways of Sodom and embraced the righteousness of the Lord. But it wasn’t to be. Lot had not attempted to win anyone and he had only his immediate family. Not even the sons in law were righteous, and his wife never made it out alive.
Lot pictures the Christian that makes a profession and talks the talk when around other Christians, but doesn’t seriously try to convert others. If Lot lived today, he would probably be a Sunday morning Christian in a typical denominational church. He would belong to the same clubs and groups as everyone else, and he would not bear a cross for Christ. He would not preach on the street or personally speak to the lost about Christ, nor would he have a scripture sign in his yard or scripture magnets on his vehicle. He might have a fish symbol on his car or maybe a “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” sticker. He might even sing an occasional special at church and call it witnessing, but that’s about it. He would not bear a cross and suffer reproach for Jesus Christ, and none of his spiritual children do today.
Friend, there’s just no excuse for not doing something to warn the lost. In addition to many natural openings that the Lord will give you, if you will only pray for them, you can also witness to people in numerous indirect ways, such as web sites, Facebook posts, tracts, t-shirts, yard signs, and scripture magnets on your vehicle. A couple in our church lives on a main highway, so they installed a large 4’ x 8’ scripture sign on their property and have witnessed to thousands in doing so. Just a scripture magnet or two on a vehicle can be read by hundreds of people weekly. I know of one man in particular who has his vehicle totally covered with scripture magnets. This naturally attracts attention and increases the number of readers. “Yeah, but he looks silly,” you say. He doesn’t care. He’d rather bear a cross and witness than look normal and do nothing. Besides, does God think he looks silly? Friend, you can make a thousand excuses for not taking a public stand and trying to win others to Christ, but will you be pleased with yourself when you stand before the Lord. Better yet, will the Lord be pleased with you?
Lingering Instead of Obeying
The angels had told Lot to get his family and leave town in Genesis 19:15, but then we read in verse sixteen: “And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.” He lingered. Just like a typical backslidden Baptist, Lot just poked around and acted as though he had a hundred years to obey God. No zeal, no urgency, just slothfulness.
A man that is right with God wants to do what God says as soon as possible because he feeds on the satisfaction of knowing that God is pleased with him and that God’s work is getting done. He agrees with Paul’s words to the Romans: “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) But the backslider doesn’t want to obey God anyway, so he stalls and drags around about things. Unfortunately, our churches are filled with such people.
Dr. Bill Grady once told a story at our church of a preacher who developed a habit of going down to a train station and sitting for hours watching trains go by. The church became concerned for him so they sent one of the men down to talk with him. The conversation went something like this:
Deacon: “Preacher, how’s it going?”
Preacher: “Oh, just fine, I suppose.”
Deacon: “Uh, are you okay? Anything wrong?”
Preacher: “No, nothing’s wrong.”
Deacon: “Well, it’s just that you’ve been coming down here a lot and just sitting. We thought maybe something was wrong and wanted to check. Sure nothing’s wrong?”
Preacher: “No, nothing’s wrong.”
Deacon: “But what you’re doing is a little strange, preacher. Why are you just sitting here for hours watching trains go by?”
Preacher: “Because, brother, sometimes it does my heart good to see something move that I don’t have to push.”
You’re backslidden if you’re always lingering and having to be pushed into obeying God.
Denying God’s Word
Finally, the Lord is about to destroy Sodom and the angel tells Lot to escape for his life to the mountain. (Gen. 19:17) Lot’s backslidden response is recorded in verse 18: “Oh, not so, my Lord . . .” He then proceeded to present to the Lord a “better” idea.
There are no better ideas than God’s ideas. In fact, Lot ends up moving on up to the mountain anyway in verse thirty. God’s ideas never need to be improved, and only a backslider or lost person would think they do.
Jonah didn’t like God’s word, so he headed to Tarshish. Did God rethink His plan and give Jonah some revised instructions? No, God said, “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” (Jon. 3:2) The child of God is backslidden until he does what God tells him to do because, whether he admits it or not, he is living in denial of the words of God. Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) He also said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
As this booklet was being written, former President Jimmy Carter stated in an interview with HuffPost Live that he believed Jesus approves of same-sex marriage. His exact words were, "I believe Jesus would. I don't have any verse in scripture . . . I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that's just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else . . .” Jesus clearly honored traditional Bible marriage only (Mark 10:6-9), so Mr. Carter is denying God’s word. He said, “I don’t have any verse in scripture . . .” Of course he didn’t, which means that Jesus did not approve of Sodomite marriages. I seriously doubt that Carter is a Christian at all, but if he is a “born again Christian,” as he claims to be, then he is so far backslidden that he has no business commenting on Bible issues at all. Like Lot, he is misguided because he is denying the word of God.
Friend, are you living in obedience to God’s word, or has the ever-changing world with its vain philosophies, attractive styles and political correctness caused you to deny God’s word? In the day of judgement you will not be held accountable to the world, but rather to the word. Don’t be a backslider. Don’t waste your life doing anything less than your very best for Jesus Christ. That means living in accordance with His words—all of them (Mat. 4:4). Re-discover God’s word and honor Him with your obedience. Most Christians are backslidden, but YOU don’t have to be one of them.
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