2001-09-03 - Backsliding
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear you.
The Question: "What is a Christian to do when he [or she] falls back to some of the old habits like smoking and in the mean time you realize that your heart is hard also, and you can't seem to hear God anymore."
As far as falling back into old habits, this is never a good thing if the old habits are sinful habits. I personally don't think that smoking is a sin, but I know that some Christians do. What is sin is to let anything control you and master you. For me, getting together with some friends on a back porch and smoking a cigar as we discuss theological subjects long into the night is not sinful because I only do this 3-5 times a year. The cigar has not mastered me, but rather I enjoy the cigar in moderation.
I also think that every Christian has dry times in their walk with the Lord. The fact that you realize that something is up in your walk with the Lord is a good thing. To know that your heart is hard signifies that your heart may not be as hard as you think. The fact that you realize that you can't hear God anymore means that you are still seeking to listen for His voice.
There are lots of examples in the Bible of backsliding. For example the evil King Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:1-13, was so wicked that the Lord caused him to be captured and sent him into exile in Babylon. It was when Manasseh prayed to God that the Lord restored his throne in Jerusalem, verse 13. So the lesson is that when we realize that we have forgotten the Lord and failed to seek His face, we need to refreshen our relationship with God and simply seek Him as we did in the past. A great way to begin this process is to confess and acknowledge before God that we have failed and to ask Him to give us the faithfulness and strength to remain steadfast in Him.
We all need to closely examine our lives often and seek out the areas where we may need to reform our conduct. It was long the custom of several branches of the Christian faith to review the previous day, in prayer, before going to sleep. These men and women knew that their natural propensity was toward degeneracy and backsliding in their faith. Thus, they guarded carefully against it, as we should also. It is much more difficult to reform our ways than to stay firm on the straight and narrow course.
I have tried to answer your question in a general way because it was, in many ways, open and general in nature. If I were to rewrite your question and what I think you are asking I would phrase it, "I see sin gaining ground in my life and I don't like it. What should I do?" The answer is first to turn Christ for strength to stop those practices and aspects of your life that you see going down hill. Secondly, we continue to rest in Christ, the forgiveness offered in the Gospel, and the perseverance promised to those who are children of the living God. Lastly, I would encourage you to make sure that you have good fellowship and accountability with other Christians.
Soli Deo Gloria,