Maybe you’ve heard the old line, “The world has become so churchy and the church has become so worldly that you can’t tell the difference between the two.” Unfortunately there is a great deal of truth to this. Backslidden Christians create such a major hindrance to what God wants to accomplish in the world. Even more than that, they do untold harm to their own lives.
One of the best descriptions I’ve ever read concerning the worldly, carnal, backslidden Christian comes from Charles Spurgeon. In the October 14 evening devotion from his book Morning & Evening, he compares such a Christian’s entrance into heaven to a shipwrecked sailor having to climb up the steep rocks of his homeland just to get home. There is no peaceful sail into the safe harbor. There is no confident expectation of praise for a job well done. There is no triumphant entrance. There is only the exhausted, worn out, frazzled Christian scratching and clawing his way to a place of safety.
My guess is that Spurgeon had 1 Timothy 1:18-20 in mind when he used that illustration. In those verses, the apostle Paul explains to the young preacher Timothy that some Christians have rejected faith and a good conscience and “concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.” Paul then gives the specific names (Hymenaeus and Alexander) of two such Christians and says that he delivered them to Satan so they would learn not to blaspheme. According to 1 Corinthians 5:1-7, the term “delivered them to Satan” means what we call “church discipline” (excommunication, “churching” someone). This should show us just how serious backsliding is.
Spurgeon closes out his devotion with the following words:
It is dangerous for an heir of heaven to be a great friend with the heirs of hell. Even small inconsistencies are dangerous. Little thorns make great blisters, little moths destroy fine garments, and a little frivolity and mischief will rob faith of a thousand joys. O believer, you do not realize what you lose by your conformity to the world. It cuts the tendons of your strength and makes you crawl where you ought to run. For your own comfort’s sake and for the sake of your growth in grace, if you are a Christian, then be a marked and distinct Christian.
To these words I can only add the question: “Christian, do other people think of you as a marked and distinct Christian? I once heard a preacher say, “Some Christians don’t do enough for the Lord to attract a used demon!” Is that you, Christian? Are you, as not only Spurgeon but also Paul described, living a shipwrecked walk with Christ? If you are, my prayer is that you will do the necessary confessing and repenting today. Remember that 1 John 1:9 is still in the Bible and it still works:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.