In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13), Jesus describes 4 types of soil. Considering the parable one concludes that we should strive to be the good soil that allows the seed to grow in our hearts and bear good fruit for the Lord. The first soil represents one who never becomes a Christian because the seed never enters his heart. I would to consider the 2nd and 3rd types of soil, the stony and the thorny ground represent those who receive the seed (the Word of God) into their hearts and the seed begins to grow, but after a time the slide back and become unfaithful.
What is a backslider?
The Bible describes and a defines a backslider as one who turns away from God. Consider what God says regarding Israel of old, “The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot” (Jeremiah 3:6 KJV). “And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah” (Jeremiah 3:11 KJV). Paul warns those under the New Covenant that the same may happen to them (Gal. 5:3-4, Heb. 3:12).
Those on the stony soil turn away from God because of various trials and persecutions. Those on the thorny soil become unfruitful. One may say that these on the thorny soil have not fallen away, but I disagree. We must understand that one can still be attending church and still be a backslider. Just because we warm a pew does not mean we are faithful. As Christians, we need to be constantly bearing fruit for the Lord. Jesus describes those in Ephesus as having left their first love (Rev. 2:4). They were going through the motions of “doing church”, but had backslidden into cold formalism.
What are some of the causes of backsliding?
From the parable of the soils we see that two possible causes are represented in the stony and thorny soils. Those on the stony soil became unfaithful because of persecution and affliction (Matt. 13:20-21). Those on the thorny soil became unfaithful because of the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:22, cf. 2 Tim. 4:10). Another cause of backsliding is the influence of false teachers. Paul warns Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 KJV). Guard against anything that would cause us to backslide, turning away from the Lord.
What preventive measures may be taken to prevent backsliding?
The Psalmist tells us that treasuring up God’s word in our hearts is a safeguard against sinning (Psa. 119:11). Jesus serves as a great example in that when faced with the wiles of satan himself the Lord fended off the tempters attacks with “It is written” (Matt. 4:1-11). Christians need to take time to be holy each day through spending time reading, studying and meditating upon God’s Holy Word. Turn off the radio and the television, put down the magazine or popular fiction novel and pick up God’s book. Spend time each day in fervent prayer.
Christians may also guard against backsliding through continual growth through putting on the Christian’s armour (Eph. 6:10-20) and adding to their faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Peter says “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 KJV). Add these things and abound in them to guard against the dangers of thorny soil.
Backsliding is totally preventable
Peter says “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (2 Peter 1:10 KJV). Let us ever strive to be faithful by recognizing the causes of backsliding and strengthening our faith each day.