“O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.” – Jeremiah 14:7-9
This is a very interesting passage in which the cry is gone forth as of the cry of a people saying, in essence: “O God, we know we are not doing what’s right in Your eyes, our sins (or bad fruit/works of our lives) are evidence of that. But You are a good God, a God of love and mercy, and for Your names sake, for Your reputations sake, (so that people will like You) ignore our sin and don’t turn away from us.”
This people had once been “saved“, they were God’s people, their sins had been forgiven, but they had chosen to returned to them even stating that they were “backsliders“. Yet they tried to obligate God to overlook their willful disobedience to His Word by inciting His love, telling Him that for the sake of His name He should do this. The cry of this people’s heart was this: “Though we have not even tried to do what is pleasing to You, oh God. Nevertheless, for the sake of what people think of You, do what is pleasing to us.”
Does this sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the world and even much of the church today. They have a knowledge of God, His word, His will, and His commandments but they do not obey it. They acknowledge and believe in God just as these Israelites did, but they did not give up their sins. Repentance and obedience to God’s word is “required” for Him to consider you to be one of His. Though there were times in scripture that God did things “for the sake of His Name“, that was because He had given a promise, and though the people did not deserve for Him to fulfill that promise, He still did it. Not so that people would be pleased with Him but so that He would be pleased with His own righteousness. He did it because He said He would, and He can not lie. How arrogant that man might think God is worried about what we think of Him when He does not please us, all the while having no concern at all about what He thinks of us when we do not please Him. What do you think God’s response to this people (and likewise, those who say the same things in their hearts today) was?
“Thus saith the Lord unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet (from sin), therefore the Lord doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.” – Jeremiah 14:10
Though their sins had been forgiven and forgotten by God, because of their backsliding and returning to it, God says, He will now choose to remember their sins once again. In other words, they are no longer forgiven. It’s as simple as this, if you will not turn away from your sin, God “will” turn away from you.
The chapter goes on to declare from God that He will not hear their prayers, their fasting and offerings will be of no use, He even tells Jeremiah not to pray anything good for them because He will simply not hear it. He has left them. This account is the true process, explanation, and experience of one who has backsliden. Put simply, it is someone who was saved and serving God but chose to return to their sin, knowing it is sin, so God has left them.
This is not to say that there will not be times of honest mistakes, however, once that mistake is brought to light you must repent of it. Remember that to repent is not simply to be sorry that you sinned but to stop doing it. It literally means “to turn away from that sin and not continue in it”. If once knowing a sin is in your life or even just in your heart, you do not fully repent of it, God “will” remove Himself from you and send judgment in it’s place.
You might say, “ok, that was Old Testament, now we are under grace. That doesn’t apply to us”. Know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and to that end, the Old Testament is not negated by the new, it is confirmed and clarified by it. This is why Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” If this is true (and it is because Jesus said it) then what does the New Testament have to say about all this?
You can’t get anymore “New Testament” then the book of Revelations and in Revelations chapter 2 we read of a church and people who had served God greatly doing many faithful works for the kingdom of God. Yet it goes on to say that they left their first love (being Christ as their heart’s primary focus). They had begun to backslide, and for this cause God gave them a clear warning. “Repent, remove yourself from sin or else I will remove My Spirit from you”.
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” – Revelation 2:4-5
The truth is that the Bible in its entirety tells this tail over and over and over, in hopes that people might grasp the truth that we are required to live faithful, obedient, and Holy lives (1 Peter 1:16). Not being overcome by sin but being overcomers of it (Romans 8:37). So where does this idea come from, that we are all sinners but that’s ok because of grace? That God will ignore our willful sins and disobediences and as long as we believe in Him He will never turn away from us? For the answer to that we turn to the short but powerfully informative book of Jude and read:
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for (fight to maintain) the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness…” – Jude 1:3-4
Let us dissect this a bit. First lets look at that word “lasciviousness“. The Greek word used here in the original text was “asélgeia“, and it is defined as “unbridled sin, unbridled lust, the unchecked fulfillment of selfish desires, excess, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence“. In other words, it’s doing what you want unrestrained and unashamed before God, despite of what you know to be right. Does this not sound like the modern use for the term “grace“? The word “Grace” here in it’s original Greek is “cháris“. The meaning of this word is “the Divine influence of God on the soul, and the power of God granted to man to resist sin“. So understanding this passage, we see that lasciviousness is the desire to excuse sin, while Grace is the desire and power to abstain from it. Then we are left to ask, who are the ones that were condemned of old that Jude says has crept in unaware with the intent to turn the grace, or power of God to abstain from sin into lasciviousness, or an excuse to sin? The answer to that is made very clear in Second Corinthians when we read:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
Now that’s not to say that all who believe this are ministers of Satan, at least not knowingly. Many are simply repeating what they’ve heard or been told to repeat, but at it’s origin this idea came from Satan himself and is (and always has been) perpetuated by the fallen. Jude points this out as the passage continues and he proceeds to follow the history of this concept back to its source. He also makes it a point to emphasize God’s lack of tolerance for the behavior this lie enforces, both then and now. Stating:
“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” – Jude 1:5-8
From these passages we can begin to see a clear picture being painted here. Satan and the fallen angels, who having full knowledge of God and His commandments, willingly chose to disobey God’s will for them. They rebelled against God and God cast them down, separating them from Himself. They have ever sense labored to cause man to do the same. Sending out their ministers preaching lies, disguised as ministers of Christ. Know that God has placed judgment upon them and He will do the same to all who follow their lead. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. If you find that you have been led astray by one, or perhaps you even now realize that you have unwittingly been one, fall on your face before God, repent, turn away, and walk in the truth, victory, and power of God and the fullness of His gospel.
God requires Holiness in His people, a pure and spotless bride, and to that end He has given us His Grace. That is to say, His divine influence which empowers us to resist and overcome sin. Let no man, demon, or even Satan Himself convince you to replace God’s grace (the power not to sin) with lasciviousness (an excuse to willingly sin). Jesus said that a good tree can not produce bad fruit (a sinful life), nor can a bad tree produce good fruit (a Holy life). You are one or the other. Take a moment to examine your fruit because He also says that the tree which produces bad fruit (sin) is cut down and cast into the fire (hell). Jesus continues to make it abundantly clear that he is referring to people who believe in Him and even call him Lord but yet are still bringing forth the corrupt fruit of sin and disobedience to God’s Word and Will.
Simplified, it comes down to this: We are saved by faith, we are empowered to maintain our faith and abstain from sin by grace (if we so choose to use it), and we are judged by our works. By this we understand that Faith, Grace, and Works is the full embodiment of a true child of God. You can not have any one without the others, because if you truly have one you will have the others.
And with that I will leave you with the words of James (the brother of Jesus), and then those of Jesus himself speaking on this very thing. After all, who could say it any better then this:
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well (he says sarcastically): the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”- James 2:18-20
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:15-21