A Journal for Bible Teachers

The Restoration of the Backslider

The Restoration of the Backslider

Terrible consequences result when a Christian chooses to wander away from Jesus Christ and the pathway of life. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul admonishes us to consider the history of Israel and the mistakes they made when they turned away from the Lord. “And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.

Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof” (2 Chronicles 36:15-19). Although this Scripture is speaking of the nation of Judah, it well describes the condition of the individual backslider. Everything falls apart after a time, leaving their lives in chaos.

The parable of the prodigal son describes a similar condition. “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him” (Luke 15:14-16). Not only does financial loss occur, but also physical, mental, and spiritual. Again Paul gives this advice and further identifies the plight of the backslider. “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26). They lose control of their own life because they resisted the Holy Spirit’s control. The backslider becomes a slave to Satan who can have his way with that person until they acknowledge their sin and repent. Often it takes time and struggle to be freed from spirits that have had free course in their lives.

The God of Restoration

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God wants to save anything that can be saved. His heart yearns for backsliders who are willing to return and repent. Many portray restoration as a simple matter of the backslider telling the Lord he is sorry and just going on from there. Backsliding is like a geographical journey away from God. The further a person goes from God and His ways, the longer it takes to retrace those steps back to full restoration. Scripture indicates that godly wisdom and maturity is required for those who help in the restoration process (Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 2:25-26).

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are accounts of God restoring the Jews back to Jerusalem after 70 years of Babylonian captivity. These books help provide a spiritual map that retraces the spiritual steps necessary for the restoration of the individual

Rebuilding the Temple, the Seat of Worship, the Spirit

Rebuilding the Temple

The rebuilding of the temple was accomplished in about 17 years. The walls around Jerusalem were reconstructed in 52 days. This demonstrates the difficulty of restoring man’s spirit to its proper place in response to God again. The project began in the book of Ezra with the rebuilding of the altar (Ezra 3:3). Immediately after the altar was finished they kept the Feast of Tabernacles. One of the spiritual truths that come with this feast is the thought of restoration.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a three-part feast –Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. The first two parts were days of confession of sin and repentance. “He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light” (Job 33:27-28). Restoration cannot begin until there is acknowledgment of the root issues of departing from God. The issues of heart that caused a person to resist God still exist and must be faced and dealt with for restoration to begin. King David took these steps. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalms 51:1-4). The prodigal son made a similar confession. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).

The altar was a place of meeting with God and giving of sacrifices for sin to obtain cleansing of body, soul, and spirit. David cried out to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). The purging of the spirit includes the cleansing of the conscience, motives, and attitudes. This opens the way to begin establishing the relationship with God that has long since ceased. Prayer, praise, and thanksgiving must be reinstated in the one being restored.

The next step was the laying of the foundation for the temple. Foundational truths are lost when a person backslides. A person must be re-established upon Christ, the Cornerstone, and the realities of the foundational doctrines in Hebrews 6:1-2. They must study the Scriptures once again and be further cleansed by the washing of water by the word.

When a person receives Christ as Saviour and Lord, He places him in a church under spiritual authorities. “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:2). “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). Often a person rejects and forsakes the spiritual authority God placed them under. Usually, it becomes necessary to be restored under that authority once again to help guide them through the restoration process.

The Temple Finished

Restored Temple

In the book of Ezra, the temple was finally finished after a great struggle and a number of setbacks (Ezra 6:14). The worship was reestablished. Worship is so very important because one becomes like the one they worship. Other gods (demon spirits) are removed (Psalms 81:9). God makes major transformation as one beholds the beauty and glory of God in worship.

Ezra, the priest, went to Jerusalem after the temple was completed to restore the law of the Lord. Godly boundaries, discipline, and self-control were needed to maintain the things that God was restoring so that government could be reinstated in the city of Jerusalem. The backslider must allow God to reestablish the control of the Holy Spirit and His lordship once again so that Satan cannot continue to have his way.

The keeping of the Sabbath was reinstituted (Nehemiah 13). God knows that a person needs to cease from his own labours and pleasures so that he can draw near to God. A backslider needs a transformation of his desires. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalms 37:4). If a person delights in the Lord, God will give him the right desires. It becomes much easier to keep God’s ways if we have the desire to. How does one delight in the Lord, then? “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14). Through the keeping of the Sabbath a person’s spirit ceases from the normal routine so that they can focus on the Lord and hear from Him. He then causes them to delight in Him and He imparts to them godly desires.

The giving of tithes and offerings was restored (Nehemiah 10). When a person is obedient to the Lord and puts Him first in the area of money and finance, their heart is opened to fresh opportunities for God to teach them obedience, to trust Him in new ways, and for Him to encourage and bless them.

The Restoration of the Soul

The rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah gives a type portraying the restoration of the soul of the backslider. In his restoration David prayed, “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalms 51:18). The restoration of the spirit of man must come first. However, if there will be proper governance and defense against the enemy, the walls of salvation must be rebuilt around the soul. The soul consists of the mind, will, and emotions.

The Mind

When God’s walls of salvation are torn down, the mind becomes full of uncontrolled thoughts that wander far away from God. The backslider follows the course of the world. Thoughts must be brought under control through a transformation of the mind. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Thoughts enter the mind through gateways that must be guarded. Once the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, gates had to be placed and sentries controlled access into the city. In the same way, God wants to place sentries to guard access to the believer’s mind. These spiritual sentries that God wants to place at the gates to the mind are listed in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” If a thought cannot pass each of these, it must be locked out and refused entrance into a person’s thought life.

The Will

The backslider sets his own will against the will of God. His will that is contrary to God needs to be broken, harnessed, and subjected to the Holy Spirit. Notice what Jesus said about His own will. “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). God wants to break that stubborn will that resists God and make it compliant to Him. David petitioned the Lord, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Psalms 51:11-12). The phrase “uphold me with thy free spirit” can better be understood as “uphold me with a spirit of willingness.” God can work with a willing-hearted person.

The backslider cannot restore himself through will power. He must fully rely on the Lord. Peter stumbled because he made a strong declaration that he would never forsake Jesus rather than crying to God for mercy to be kept. “Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33). Had he not been so sure of his own will power he could have humbled himself and found victory.

God wants to build up the will of the backslider so that he can resist those things that attracted him to backsliding. We are commanded by God to resist evil and the devil. ”Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God will build up the will of the backslider so he can refuse evil and choose that which is good in God’s sight.

The Emotions

Backsliders often become involved in sins that destroy emotional stability. Those involved in the sin of adultery and other sins are often scared emotionally and allow emotions to run their lives in some respects. In Titus 2:4,6, Paul gives these admonitions, “That they may teach the young women to be sober…Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. The word “sober” means “to be of a sound mind.” It has much to do with taking control of the emotions and not allowing them to guide a person into whatever they may “feel” like doing. Backsliders have often degenerated to a state of acting solely upon impulses stemming from their emotions. God wants to restore self-control so that the Spirit of God can lead a person and make him sensitive to His feelings and what is upon His heart.

The Long Road Back

Road to Recovery

King David repented and began his journey back to the place he once had with God. The process of restoration continued to the end of his life. Look at the value of paying the price to get back to God and His purposes. Consider the Holy Spirit’s assessment of David in Acts 13:22-23, “And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.” David allowed God’s working restoration to the extent that David will be King over Israel during the Millennium (Ezekiel 37:25). David declared in Psalms 51:13, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” David welcomed the process of restoration and he will lead backslidden Israel on that same pathway back to their Beloved.

The road back is difficult and often tedious, but well worth the end result. Many will return to the Lord in days of great revival. May God grant us grace, wisdom, and understanding that we may help in that process and see many sons brought to glory.

About the Author

Rev. Robert A. Tucker has pastored Starville Church, Marine City, Michigan for over 30 years. He graduated from Elim Bible School (Dip. Min) and received his masters degree from Regent University (M.A.O.L.). Rev. Robert Tucker teaches in Bible schools and in leadership seminars throughout the world. He authored articles and books that are published in many languages and used in many different countries.

Rev. Tucker is married to Angeline and together they co-authored a book that is a practical study on marriage and family life. They have two grown children, both serving the Lord, and four grandchildren.

Related Articles