By Rev. O.L. Johnson
Backsliding can ruin your day, but you can stop it in its tracks. It depends on your approach.
The Israelites of old were no strangers to backsliding. The prophet Jeremiah often referred to them as “backsliding Israel.” Their approach to the problem was the wrong approach. They failed to follow God’s lead to simply return to him. That’s all it took.
Before proceeding, let’s define the word for clarification. Strong’s concordance defines backsliding simply as “turning away,” implying that it refers to one who after becoming one of God’s people goes astray and transgresses against his word. The dictionary gives us a more complete and a more descriptive definition.
If we combine the two, the word means to relapse into bad habits, sinful behavior or undesirable activities as compared to the requirements of God’s laws. This is a good description of the behavior of the Israelites in the Old Testament, which earned them the title of “backsliding Israel” we see in Jeremiah 3:6, 8, 11 and 12.
Now let’s continue with our discussion. We learn from Jeremiah 3:8 that God equates his relationship with his people as a bond of matrimony. But when we backslide, God literally divorces us, thereby breaking the bond and pushing us away from his presence.
This need not be a permanent condition. God has given all of us a way out.
Realizing the Israelites were not perfect, God provided them with hope in that he only required that they return to him and all would be forgiven. That is the Old Testament’s equivalent of the New Testament doctrines of reconciliation, confession, repentance and forgiveness, and since it is, all of us today have that same assurance if we backslide.
Earlier we mentioned a certain approach to the backsliding problem. So far, we have dealt with the reactive approach that God, in his infinite wisdom, has provided for all of us imperfect people. But there is a second approach he has provided, a preventive, proactive approach that is the best way of dealing with backsliding — don’t do it at all.
Since the Bible teaches us that we will eventually do what we think about, it naturally follows that to prevent backsliding we must control our thoughts. The trick is to find out how to do that. Paul helps us with this in 2Corinthians 13:5, where he encourages us to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.”
So, the proactive approach attacks the problem before it is a problem. It involves stacking up our thoughts against the results of the self-examination suggested by Paul. If the thoughts we harbor are at odds with the faith we profess, then this approach teaches us to abandon the thoughts, a sure way of avoiding backsliding and staying in God’s good graces.
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church. Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles. Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.