Bringing Back Backsliders

Bringing Back Backsliders

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667-1670 Bartolome esteban Murillo

What is backsliding? In his book Getting Back in the Race: A Cure for Backsliding, Joel Beeke (the modern day puritan) writes, “Backsliding is a season of increasing sin and decreasing obedience in those who profess to be Christians”[1]. Backsliding is the dark and debilitating reality of disobedience. For some it is a season of compromise, whereas for others it is the process that begins to reveal that they are not genuinely converted. In Beeke’s excellent book, he reveals the signs of compromise: (1) coldness in prayer, (2) indifference under the word, (3) growing inner corruptions, (4) the love of the world, (5) declining love for believers, and (6) man-centered hopes (pp. 21-36). All of us battle with this and must be dealing with such practices daily by means of God’s grace.

What can we do for backsliders? At the end of his letter James writes these words,

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

The individual that “wanders from the truth” (5:19) has come from within the Christian fellowship (“among you“). They could be a genuine believer who is backsliding, or an individual who has not been converted. In either case, it is the church’s responsibility to bring them back. Such an action will result in restoration before God (5:20). Consider the following principles for bringing back backsliders.

Firstly, pray for those who are backsliding. Pray that the Lord would restore them and use others in their life to be of godly assistance. Secondly, examine yourself to see if you have any inner compromises (1 Cor. 10:12). Thirdly, if it is possible, graciously confront this individual privately with the goal of helping them see the error of their way (Matt. 18:15). The apostle Paul instructed,

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1)

We are to be concerned for backsliders, and we are to be mindful of ourselves too. Let us be reminded of the subtly of sin and the need to be concerned for those in this dark and debilitating condition.

[1] Joel R. Beeke, Getting Back in the Race: The Cure for Backsliding, CruciformPress, 2011, p. 16




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