GALATIANS 4:8-10: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 1 am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”
OBSERVATION: Can a Christian backslide without falling into overt sin? This may appear to be a strange question at first. Whenever we think of the term “backslidden”, we think of a Christian who has been set free from a particular sin, once again falling prey to it. We all can relate to this experience. We have all faced this battle. Yet, there is another form of “backsliding” that is more insidious and is much easier to fall prey to than falling back into a previously conquered sin. What is it?
Paul’s answer is – it is the temptation to backslide from “Grace”. This is the most common temptation that a believer who truly desires to follow Jesus Christ can fall into. Paul reminds the Galatians over and over again that it is by Grace alone that they stand. He reminds them of the victory they have experienced in Christ over the “worthless elementary principles” they once held on to. When he warns them about backsliding from “Grace” he does not reference any overt act of sin. What does he reference? He says – “You observe days and months and seasons and years!”
What does this mean? It shows us how easy it is to begin a walk our walk of faith, in total dependence upon Jesus Christ by grace through faith, and then slowly begin to replace this childlike dependence upon Him with our own rules and requirements. If we are truly “spiritual” then we will – – – (fill in the blank). This is what it means to fall from “Grace”. It is replacing the simple and pure dependence upon Jesus Christ with a man made checklist that gives us a false assurance, and fosters spiritual pride. It is not an overt act of “sin”. However, it is sin none the less. In fact, it is much worse than overt sin because it is clothed in a false sense of spirituality and religious pride.
So how do we avoid this common pitfall? We must return to our first love. We must daily reestablish our full and total dependence upon Jesus Christ. We must run to the Cross and allow it to do its’ full work in our lives. We must affirm the Grace of God in everything we do and everything we are becoming. We must foster love and forgiveness. And, we must nail our “lists”, these “worthless elementary principles”, to the Cross! Satan does not try to derail the fervent believer with gross sin – he tries to subvert them through “worthless elementary principles”. He tries to move our faith and dependence away from Christ and on to something we do and control. This only encourages and fosters a critical and judgmental spirit that both destroys the unity of the Spirit and keeps those who are diligently seeking the Lord at arms length.
Lord, deliver me from “lists”, from the “worthless elementary principles”! Draw me every closer to Your heart. Lead me to the Cross of Jesus Christ. May I rejoice fully in the Cross. It is only through Your Cross that I am crucified to the world and its’ “worthless elementary principles”, and the world is crucified unto me. It is only through Your Cross that I find Your Great Grace! In Jesus Name!