TO CHEW ON: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?" Galatians 4:9
In our reading today Paul continues to make his case against the Galatians returning to life under the law. What he calls a "turn again" we might label backsliding [a relapse into bad ways or error]. We find the tendency to turn again, turn back, or backslide throughout the Bible.
Backsliding in the Bible
- Moses warned the Israelites about returning to the ways of Egypt in his Deuteronomy sermon - Deuteronomy 17:16.
- Throughout the Old Testament the prophets pleaded with the Israelites to stop their backsliding - e.g. Hosea 6:4. For them the symptom was often idol worship. Such backsliding was called a sin against God (Jeremiah 14:7) and a sin that angered God (Isaiah 1:4).
- The backslider's heart was affected. It was self-absorbed (Proverbs 14:14), stubborn (Hosea 11:7), cold (Matthew 24:12), and loveless (Revelation 2:4).
- Backsliding caused people to make nonsensical substitutions. The psalmist called it a return to "folly" (Psalm 85:8). In Galatians 1:6 Paul called it a return to a "different gospel." In our reading he described that to which they were returning as the "weak and beggarly elements" which would put them in "bondage" (Galatians 4:9). Peter described such a return to the old as becoming "again entangled" (2 Peter 2:20).
- Backsliding made the backslider unfit for kingdom work (Luke 9:62; Hebrews 10:38).
How to keep from backsliding
We recognize that we are as apt to backslide as were the Israelites and the Galatians. What can we do to keep from going back, both into old sinful lifestyles and/or old spiritual forms and practices?
* Guard who we associate with. Solomon was lured into backsliding by his idol-worshiping wives (1 Kings 11:4).
* Beware of the world's attractions (2 Timothy 5:10).
* Don't let success change us and tempt us to become self-sufficient (Zephaniah 1:6).
* Become rooted in God's word (Luke 8:13).
* Fill our lives with good things (Luke 11:24-26).
* Depend on the Holy Spirit's insights (John 6:63,64,66).
PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to be aware of my own tendency to backslide in big and little ways. May my life be one of progress in Kingdom growth, not regression into faithless fear, self-direction, and independence. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.