Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Difference Between Backsliding and Falling Away

Q:  If Christians sin willingly, knowing what they are doing is sin, What then, are they still saved?
   A: There are [mainly] two opposing, schools of theology on this. Both sides ignore certain scriptures that refute their views [which in our opinion, are extreme]. We believe the truth of the matter lies somewhere between the two. 
   One group says, once saved, always saved, meaning that no matter what, it is impossible to lose salvation once one is born again. All sorts of human examples are given to under-gird this doctrine--many more so than actual scripture. This group usually deals with the issue of habitual sin by saying  the sinner must have  never been saved in the first place.
   The Bible does say that true Christians cannot practice sin without conviction of wrong-doing. It also says that, over time, practicing sin sears the conscience. This can only mean that, at first, the Christian was convicted of their sin, but ignored the conviction to the point where their conscience became hardened, and they become comfortable in their sinful choices. Because of this, we believe that taking the position that habitual sinners never got saved to begin with, is a cop out.  
   Those who teach this, are taking the path of least resistance. It is simply easier for spiritual leadership to say that a professing Christian was never saved in the first place, than to deal biblically with habitual sin in a believer’s life.
   The other group takes the opposite view. They do not agree that professing Christians who practice sin never got saved in the first place. Their position is, that some do get saved, and then fall back into sins that easily beset them. They teach that if one slides back into sin after coming to Christ, they lose their salvation. But...if they repent, and give up the sin; they are renewed back into salvation, and, if they continue in the faith, will "make it" into Heaven.
   We call this "Yo-Yo" Salvation. Lost it--got it back--lost it--got it back.--lost it--got it back... 
   The scriptures teach neither Eternal Security nor Yo-Yo Salvation. But the Bible does teach both Assurance and Continuing in the faith. These are not contradictory to one another when the scriptures are taken as a whole and when we understand the difference between backsliding and falling away. The one there is a remedy for. The other is terminal.

It is impossible to go into as much detail as we would like in a short article, so we will focus mainly on what James had to say about the subject of sin, backsliding, and falling away, and comparing it with what the writer of Hebrews had to say about the same subject. 
    The scriptures teach that if a Christian "falls away," renewal back into repentance is impossible (Hebrews 6:4-6). Wow. If one ever falls away, right standing with God can never be regained. Why? Because there are no more sacrifices left. Jesus cannot be crucified again. That is why it is a fearful thing to insult the Spirit of Grace by trampling underfoot the Son of God and counting the Blood of the Covenant that made us clean in the first place, an unholy thing.
   So where does that leave Christians who sin? For scripture assures that we will all certainly sin after we are saved.
   New life in Christ, does not translate into lives completely free of sin. First of all, we need to believe the scriptures. There is only one sin that can cost us eternal life, and that is the sin of rejecting Jesus. All other sins committed after one is saved, can be repented of and forgiven (1 John 1:9). So does that give Christians a license to sin? 
  Absolutely not! But no one [except God] can say when that awful line might be crossed from backsliding to falling away, so it is important not to rush to judgement. Condemn not that you be not condemned. Rather, always be ready, with love and humility, to reach out to those ensnared and trapped by sins that easily beset them. All Christians struggle with such, but sadly, the tendency is to focus on the more obvious sins--the ones that produce social stigma--forgetting that some of the worst sins can live in the hearts and minds of those whose social appearance is quite acceptable.
  It is also important to understand that neither belief nor unbelief are mere intellectual acknowledgements. Every devil/fallen angel--even Satan himself--believes in (acknowledges the existence of) the incarnation [life], birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scripture says they exist in abject terror because of this. 
   There are no unbelieving devils/fallen angels...Yet they are not saved.
   We can learn from the experience of fallen angels, who even though they believed, fell because of unbelief... which was expressed in choices. Choices which changed their way of thinking so radically, that they finally fell into irreversible condemnation. Granted, that was before the Cross, but New Testament scripture says the same thing can happen to Christians.
   James 1:13-15 is a clear warning against the danger of sin. In this passage, the brother of Jesus, uses the analogy of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth to reveal the enemy's methodical plan for sending Christians into a downward spiral away from God [backsliding], that if not arrested can lead to "falling away" [complete and eternal separation from God] by searing (hardening) the conscience. 
   First, according to James, we are drawn away by our own lusts and enticed. God will never tempt us with sin (death). Rather, Satan tempts us with things that attract us
  When he succeeds in this. When we are drawn away and enticed, our own lust conceives (becomes pregnant with sin/death).  At this point, it is still possible to abort (confess and forsake). 
   Choose to abort the sin and death, because James goes on to say that we don't, then life can be aborted (he is not speaking to just physical life in this passage). James is speaking to Christians in this passage. We know this because he concludes by saying, "Do not be deceived my beloved brethren.
   If the "pregnancy" (the gestation of of sin and death) is allowed to reach full-term, and bring forth that which it conceived, James 1:15 says it will give birth to "death"-- the very death described so graphically in Hebrews 10:26-29. When this happens, a "falling away" occurs. Backsliding can be temporary, but falling away is irreversible and permanent. It involves a conscious rejection of Jesus Christ, after having known him and the awesome powers of the age to come.  Hebrews chapter 10, says this is a fearful thing.
   Do Christians lose their salvation every time they sin? No. There is no need to be afraid that we may not "make it." The Bible says we have assurance that if we have the Son, we have life, and if we say we have no sins, we are liars, and the truth is not in us. The Bible says if we confess our sins we have an advocate with the Father who is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
   If we were sinless, there would be no need of a savior.
   But take care not to fall into the deadly downward spiral described by James. Heed the warning in Hebrews. For the Bible also says that after we are saved, if we continue in the same sins we participated in before we came to know Christ, that our consciences can become so hardened that we are no longer convicted of them.
   Backsliding can be repented of. That means agreeing with God about the sin in our lives and hearts, while walking away from sin and fully embracing life and liberty (liberty to do good and not evil) in Christ. Turn to Jesus, our advocate with the Father. Confess and forsake known sins. When we do that, John wrote that he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all [even as yet unknown] unrighteousness.

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