By Larry White
In living our lives as Christians we must all be aware of a common foe, he's our adversary we call Satan. The one thing Satan wants most in this world is to see a child of God grow cold and indifferent and finally leave the Lord. We see it happen in the church and we wonder, "Why did they leave? I thought they were doing so good." "Who's fault was it?" "Is the church inadequate?"
It's very foolish of us when we sometimes forget that Satan's still around working on us.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
Lest we get into a situation where Satan can get an advantage over us, and deceive us into giving up our faith in Jesus Christ, I'd like to look at some warning signals that we are, or might be, straying from God and slowly being coaxed back into the world.
1.) Are we praying less and less?
The most sanctifying, strengthening, renewing and preserving thing we can do is to lift our hearts and minds up to God in prayer. Not that prayer in and of itself is strengthening, renewing or preserving, but God to whom we pray is, and these are some of the blessings he pours out upon us in answer to our prayers.
If you want to feel close to God - then pray. If you want to walk with God and partake of his strength in your life - then be constant in your habit of prayer to him. If you never want to forsake the Lord - then keep praying to him. Long prayer. Sincere prayer. Self-denying prayer. Who can leave the Lord, who's heart is constantly laid before his throne?
If we're forgetting to pray, then we have to ask ourselves - "Where's my heart? Why don't I have a strong need to talk to God?" or "Why am I hesitant to talk to him?"
"Could it be that I'm trusting too much in myself and my own resources and strength to need to ask God for anything?"
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your anxiety upon him; for he cares for you.
"Have I forgotten how very much I needed God when I first obeyed the Gospel, and how much I was delighted to talk to him and commune with him, and rest in his strength, and expect him to work in my life? Is there sin in my life that keeps me from coming face to face with God?"
"What's the problem? Have I stopped praying because I don't think it works, that God doesn't answer my prayers anyway? Is my faith that weak?"
In all of Paul's letters he gives these exhortations.
"Pray without ceasing" "...in everything by prayer let your requests be made known unto God" "...pray always, pray and not faint" "...men should pray everywhere" "...praying always with all prayer and supplication and with thanksgiving."
But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle [you]. To him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
The Christian who's constant in prayer is one who knows his weakness and need of God; one who knows the strength that God can give. He is one who is devoted to God and the primary activity of his life is to seek God and commune with him out of a clean heart and be pleasing to God in everything. If you're praying less and less, then you need to find out what's wrong and make it right with God.
2.) Are we studying our Bibles less and less?
Our love for God runs extremely close to our love of his word.
Listen to David:
Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart stands in awe of your word.
I rejoice at your word, as one that finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor lying: [but] your law do I love.
Seven times a day do I praise you because of your righteous judgments.
Great peace have they which love your law: and nothing shall offend them.
Jehovah, I have hoped for your salvation, and done your commandments.
My soul has kept your testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.
I have kept your precepts and your testimonies: for all my ways [are] before you.
David loved God intensely - and it was manifested in his love for God's word.
Remember when you first obeyed the Gospel? How much you loved and were made excited by the scriptures? Remember how when you found some new truth you devoured it and rejoiced over it like a precious treasure? Remember how you could sit for hours and just read your Bible? Remember how you trembled at his word?
*** Is it still that way?
When a person strays from God - the last thing they want to do is open up his word and find it condemns them. Their love for the truth, their thirst for the knowledge of Christ doesn't drive them to the word anymore. And most of all, when our faith gets weak, we just can't understand it like we used to.
If we're studying our Bibles less, then we need to find the problem and correct it. We need to get our heart right.
Still love his word. Still be enthralled by his holy precepts. Remember how valuable his word really is to you. Seek out his truth like rubies and get excited again. The seeker of costly pearls, when he had found a pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought that pearl.
If we want to grow and not backslide into the world again - then we must feed on his word and strengthen our faith. (Rom.10:17)
3.) Are we talking about God less and less?
Christ said that out of the abundance of our heart our mouth speaks.
A praying heart, a studying heart, will overflow with the riches and goodness and excellencies of our heart's chief concern - God and the truth and his kingdom. If we don't talk about God or spiritual things anymore, maybe they just aren't important. We'll talk about what's most important to us. Listen to yourself. Be aware of what you're saying. Be aware of what's in your heart.
Do you ever bring up the subject of religion to your friends or new acquaintances to see if they might be interested in hearing about your favorite subject? Or do you even have a reluctance and actually avoid the subject?
If that's how it is with you then find out what the problem is and correct it. Remember when we first became Christians? Most of us were on fire for the Lord. People were afraid to get close to the subject of religion because once they got us started they couldn't shut us up.
Paul said in (Col.3:16) "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." Let it take up it's abode in your heart and live there. The Christian who is right with his Lord will be constantly thinking about and meditating in God's word. Everything he does and says, he does as a child of God and says as a child of God. That is his whole identity and personality. As soon as he opens his mouth, you can tell he's different, you can tell what's in his heart.
"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech [be] always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man."
If we find we talk about God less and less, we should be alarmed, because something's not right.
4.) Is there a decline in our commitments?
Do we not want to do as much for the Lord as we used to? Looking at it from a practical viewpoint, as we get older in the faith you'd think we could do more and more for God, and it would be easier and easier as we gained more experience.
Remember when we first became Christians, we were begging for something to do in the kingdom. We could do the work of 3 Christians and never get tired or let up. Every time the building's doors were opened, there we were, ready, willing, and able.
Our eyes were open.
We had eternity before our eyes and the purpose of our lives, our spiritual work and responsibilities stood out in high relief. Is there anything more important than preaching and teaching the Gospel? God wants the people that we know to be saved - what are we doing about it?
When we start straying from God we forget our goal. Our weak faith won't allow us to see the goal. And our commitments to the Lord and the work of the church will be directly proportionate to our appreciation of the goal, the purpose of our lives, the race God has set for us to run.
If we've stopped working, then something is not right in our lives.
But what do I do if I find these things are true of me? What's the solution?
We've said it already in every point. Remember! Remember when you first obeyed the Gospel. This is the remedy Jesus gave in
Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent.
Remember how it was when you first became a Christian. Remember your zeal, your untiring and earnest work, your love of God's word, your intense and devoted prayer life.
Repent and do the first works. God wants to see that change in us. Pick up and begin again. And have a determination to never give up. That you will try do it again and if need be again and again and again. Solomon said, " The righteous man falls SEVEN times... and rises up again." Whatever it takes to get myself right, I will strive to be pleasing to God.
God help us all to remain totally committed, always growing, always looking for that blessed hope of our goal, always praying, and never forsaking our Lord.
If you are not a Christian today, you can start that relationship to God by faith in Jesus Christ, that he died for you. Then repenting of your former life of serving sin, and being immersed for the remission of your sins.
If you find yourself straying from your Lord, then you can make that right by confessing and forsaking your sins.
"He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness." (1Jno.1:9)
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR. January 13, 1985)