Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Backsliding and How it Can Affect Our Children

I doubt there’s a Christian parent anywhere who doesn’t have at least some regret about how they parented their children.   I do.   When I observe some of the devoted young families in our church I see there are certain areas of training we could have done better with. 

Raising kids in church in the 70’s and 80’s was a little different than today.   Evangelical churches typically didn’t use catechisms or have the in depth doctrinal teaching our conservative reformed churches have.  Family worship wasn't  emphasized like it is now, and we weren’t nearly as consistent with family devotions as we could have been.  

Even so, if I could turn back the clock the thing I would most want to change would be me.   Although we never missed church, there were seasons when my prayer life and Bible study wasn't what it should have been.    I can’t help but wonder how that affected our children's spiritual growth.   But I’m thankful that in spite of  our shortcomings,  the Lord honors His Word and gives grace to families who strive to do right by their children.

 It may seem like a little thing to become spiritually lazy at times, but it should be an early warning sign to us that we'd better wake up and get with it.  Backsliding is on a spectrum when you think about.    It starts gradually with a little neglect here and there, but left unchecked it will turn into apathy and eventually into full blown apostasy (which means falling away).

In his book Getting Back Into the Race; the Cure for Backsliding, Joel Beeke outlines six ruts that backslidden believers fall into.  

1. Coldness in Prayer
2. Indifference under the Word
3. Growing inner corruptions
4. The love of the world
5. Declining love for believers
6. Man-centered hopes  

The consequences of full on backsliding are serious and multi-faceted.   God’s holy name is impugned; we will suffer and cannot enjoy assurance of salvation; we drag other believers down;  and we may lead our children into a life of sin and apostasy.
  “It is not uncommon for children to follow their parents in sin “unto the third and fourth generation” (Ex.20:5). It sometimes is even the case that when a believer backslides by clinging to a cherished sin for a time, his children grasp hold of his favorite sin or idol and carry it all the way to hell. Lot was vexed by the wickedness of Sodom (2 Pt.2:7), but his attachment to that unholy city made him lose his wife and his daughters to worldliness and wantonness (Gn.19). David repented of his sins, but his adultery and murder were followed by his son Amnon raping his half-sister Tamar; another son, Absalom, became a deceiver, usurper, and traitor to David’s own throne. Shall we pray for our children’s salvation with our mouths but point them to damnation with our actions?”1
However, not every child who rebels does so because of a backslidden parent.  The Puritan Edward Lawrence offers words of comfort to parents of prodigals.  “Ye must not think of this as if ye were the first godly parents of ungodly children, or as if herein some strange thing happened unto you.”2    
The only cure for backsliding is sincere and complete repentance, a return to daily prayer and Bible reading, and regular participation in corporate worship and prayer.   
Our Lord is full of mercy and tenderness towards us when we fall. If we belong to Him, He will do whatever it takes to bring us back.  If we return to Him with a broken and contrite heart, He will heal, reconcile, and restore us to Himself. 
 “Our Physician has such an abundance of potent medicines to heal his wounded people.  In Christ, they are reconciled with God and filled with peace that passes all understanding!   Pardon decreed from eternity and purchased in time yields peace and joyful communion.  The filthy garments are stripped away. “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”  Zech.3:4 2.3

 1. Getting Back Into the Race; the Cure for Backsliding, Joel Beeke; Cruciform Press; 2011; pg. 38  
 2.  Parents' Groans Over Their Ungodly Children by Edward Lawrence (1623-1695)   
 3. Beeke; ibid; pg 87

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