The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
Reader, beware! Slipping spiritually in your heart is a subtle danger. It can happen easily and with little warning, but the consequences are terrible. God will pour out confusion and pain on you, agreeable and in proportion to your backsliding. But a good man, one who keeps his heart diligently, will have the continual feast of joy and peace in his heart.
Forget a common idea of backsliding – leaving religion and returning to drugs, sex, or violence as a lifestyle. Satan wants you to think that is backsliding. Instead, keep the light of this proverb on your heart – the true source of backsliding. It is your heart that first slips away from the Lord, His word, His holiness, and your previous hatred of sin. Sin takes you from the inside out – in the heart – as James carefully explained (Jas 1:13-16).
You must fear and hate this enemy. It can be as subtle as losing your first love, like at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7). It also involves losing your spiritual joy, praying less, singing less, minding earthly things, and becoming spiritually dull. Of course, it also is allowing your heart to consider sins that you would have fervently despised before. Reader, how is your heart? Do you have a fervent zeal for spiritual things, or have you slipped into a routine?
Solomon taught his son to diligently keep his heart, for out of it are the issues of life (Pr 4:23). Are you keeping your heart carefully? If you allow thinking contrary to the word of God, there will be hell to pay. The blessed LORD, and rightfully so, will bring severe chastening to bear, as He did on His people Israel over and over again. If you allow your heart to slip away from Him, He can give you horrible leanness of soul (Ps 106:13-15).
But a good man, who lives faithfully with a pure heart, will have God’s peace and assurance in his soul that he pleases his Father. What a difference! Fervent obedience brings God’s blessing and confidence in your soul (Gal 6:4; Jas 1:25-27). Such men know they are righteous and appeal to it before God (Neh 5:19; Ps 18:20-27; Is 38:3). They go forward boldly, knowing they have a pure heart, which God will reward.
The cure for backsliding is easy, by God’s grace. Jesus said, Remember from where you have fallen – repent – and do the first works (Rev 2:5). This three-step process will work. Remember the faith, joy, and peace you once had; repent of the sins of your heart or life that you have allowed; and repeat the same fervent actions you did in the beginning.
Do not say with Governor Felix that you need a more convenient season (Acts 24:25). Today may be your last chance (Pr 29:1). Return to the LORD now and repent for any foolishness, slothfulness, or backsliding. He will forgive. Commit your heart fully to tear every idol and temptation out of your life to be holy once again. Prepare for a blessing.
Backsliders are weak men; they are fearful men. The Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched in their lives, and they do not have the joyful confidence they once had. It is imperative that every man examine himself and repent, if he finds the least compromise in his heart. “Purify your hearts, ye double minded,” is what James would tell you (Jas 4:8).
Believers are to exhort one another daily, so they are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and turn away from the living God (Heb 3:12-13). Saints need one another to provoke them to love and good works, lest they forsake their professions of faith (Heb 10:23-25). It is for this spiritual and life-saving purpose that believers assemble in congregations.
Jesus Christ warned His disciples that abounding iniquity would cause the love of many to wax cold, and such a state of affairs must be more true of this generation than it was theirs (Matt 24:12). How is your heart? Hot, cold, or lukewarm? Beware (Rev 3:14-16)! The judgments and blessings of God are just and proportionate to the state of your heart.