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Ruben Dario Sanchez I'd like us to think together about a word that is never used in the NT. It is used 17 times in the OT 13 of these in the prophecy of Jeremiah. To the best of my knowledge, the only two OT writers to use this word are Jeremiah and Hosea. It's the word ''backsliding." We do find it once in the book of Proverbs But we'll never find the word "backslider" anywhere in the NT. Now the truth is there. When Jesus said to that church of Laodicea, " I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarmneither hot nor coldI am about to spit you out of my mouth." Rev. 3:15-16 He was talking about backsliding. When He said to the church at Ephesus, "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place," Rev 2:4-5 He was talking about backsliding. When Jesus said to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren," He was talking about an experience subsequent to backsliding. 1

Now this exercises my heart. Here is a world desperately in need of Christ, desperately in need of Christ. Backsliding. If I'm backslidden I can't do much about winning anybody else. I wonder if a part of our problem is a need to understand this basic Bible truth about backsliding. Now we don't even like the word. We avoid the word. It's something like "death." We don't use that word. We talk about decease or sleeping or called into the light But no matter what you call it, it's still death. And backsliding is this way. Call it what you want to, it's there. The text I'd like us to focus on is Jeremiah 3:22, where the prophet Jeremiah is speaking to the people of his day, and I think he's speaking to us today. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Jeremiah 3:22 Now Jeremiah is a good preacher. He makes the truth easy to understand. A) THE FIRST THING JEREMIAH DOES IS TO PAINT A PICTURE He paints a picture. Notice the verb he uses. "I will heal your backslidings." In other words, Jeremiah is saying to us, "Backsliding is to the spiritual man what sickness is to the physical man." I imagine everyone listening right now at one time or another has been sick. And Jeremiah is saying in that little word heals, "What sickness is to your body, backsliding is to the spiritual man." 2

That makes it easy to understand. I.- YOU SEE, SICKNESS BEGIN SECRETLY. Very few people wake up in the morning and say, "Today I am going to get sick. I see a few lonely germs roaming around, and they need some place to settle." No, no. Sickness begins secretly. Whether it's the London flu or the Hong Kong flu, or whatever it is, it always starts secretly. You see There's just a little secret invasion from the outside. A person is going along and he picks up some kind of a germ. Now maybe it's from uncleanness The person didn't wash his hands Wasn't careful about what he did. When I go hospital calling, after I'm through with my visits, I always wash my hands because it's a wise thing to do. There's that little invasion from the outside secretly. Now this is what happens to me when I start to backslide. Some kind of uncleanness gets into the life secretly. Oftentimes the germ can find a place of rest because we are not in the best of condition. Oftentimes sickness is preceded by the wrong kind of nourishment Or by lack of exercise Or by lack of sleep. In fact, just this morning I was talking to a person on the telephone who mentioned a physical illness. I said, "Have you been getting enough sleep?" Now this happens spiritually. It's good for us to be busy in the Lord's work. It's also good for us to remember that Jesus said, "Come ye apart, and rest a while." 3

It's good for us to feed on the Word of God Because feeding on the Word of God builds the right kind of spiritual antibodies that fight against the germs that get in. Backsliding like sickness begins secretly. The germ gets in We aren't feeding on the Word as we should We aren't resting in the Lord as we should We're not exercising for the Lord as we should And it gets in there. II.- NOW, AFTER IT BEGINS SECRETLY, THERE IS A GRADUAL DECLINE. Parents usually can tell when their children are getting sick because they get irritable. Did you ever notice that? School teachers can always tell when a student is about to break out with something or the class is about to have an epidemic, because the kids get a little bit irritable. Christians are this way. Whenever we're starting to decline into this thing called backsliding We get irritable. We get restless. We lose our appetite for the things we ought to have. We get a little bit tired .and discouraged and despondent. I can recall when I was just a lad, I'd be acting certain ways and my mother would say, "You're going to be sick." And you know, she was right. She could always tell. When I see a Christian walking aroundcritical, bitter, nothing's going right 4

Hes like the fellow who had the Limburger cheese on his moustache and he walked from room to room in the house and said, "This room smells." Finally, he walked out the front door and sniffed and said, "The whole world smells." This is the way many Christians get. And while I'm on this Church, let me warn against criticism that is an indication of backsliding. It is so easy to get critical and bitter and irritable. It's not because the Church isn't what it's supposed to be, but because we're not what we're supposed to be. Sobacksliding, like sickness, begins secretly and then there's a gradual decline. III.-BY THE WAY, IT'S RATHER INTERESTING THAT IN MANY CASES WHEN A PERSON IS ABOUT TO GET SICK, HE DOESN'T TALK VERY MUCH. There may be some exceptions to this. Some exceptions happen, but for the most part, a person doesn't want to talk. I'll be very frank with you, when I'm not feeling good; I don't want to see anybody. I don't want to see my wife or the children. I go into my room, close the door, crawl in bed and get well. This is what I have to do. So often when a Christian doesn't talk No testimony No word of encouragement No word of praise It might be an indication that gradual decline is setting in. IV.- THEN THERE'S A SUDDEN FAILURE. What begins secretly and gradually declines, becomes sudden failure. 5

Lets remember very few people dive into sin. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, it was the climax of a gradual decline. He came home from the battle and he took off his armor. Beware when you take off your armor. When his soldiers were out there fighting, David was on his patio relaxing and enjoying life. Then his eyes began to wander. When David committed sin, it wasn't a sudden fall; it was the result of a gradual decline. We've watched this perhaps in ourselves or in others. We're starting to get sick and the germs are at work in our bloodstream. Then all of a suddenpowthat's it. We start to drag out of bed some morning. We can't get out we faint. This is what happens spiritually. Someone says, "We can't figure out about so-andso. He's been such a good Christian, such a good student, such a wonderful person. Now look at himhow quickly it happened." No, it didn't happen quickly. Usually when a person suddenly falls into sin, it's the result of a gradual decline. V.WELL, THEN THERE'S THE DISCOMFORT AND THE PAIN. I've never found sickness to be comfortable. This used to bother me. I used to wonder about my sanctification until I heard Dr. Tozer admit that he had a harder time being a good Christian when he was sick that when he was well. Now many people say, "Oh, pastor, now that I'm sick, I feel so close to God." 6

If that's your experience, God bless you. My experience often has been that when I'm sick I have a hard time reading my Bible, I have a difficult time praying. I do it because I know I need it, and God always uses it. But physically speaking, sickness is not comfortable unless you enjoy poor health. I don't like sickness. It's uncomfortable. Now backsliding is this way. I've yet to find a Christian who is backslidden who is really comfortable. He's not happy. He may say, "Oh, I'm enjoying life," but he's really not, because Proverbs 14:14 says, "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways." Proverbs 14:14 I was chatting with a fellow the other evening, trying to share with him how Christ could change his life. He looked at me and said, "You know, pastor, I can't believe that a God of love would let things happen to people like they happen." I said, "Well, there are some problems that we don't always understand, but I'll tell you this much, God doesn't hurt people who sin, sin hurts them." God doesn't have to spank the backslider yet, the backsliding spanks him. The last time you or I were sliding away from fellowship with God, there came that sudden decline, that sudden failure, and there we were. Did we enjoy ourselves? We certainly didn't. There is discomfort and there's pain. Backsliding begins secretly Theres a gradual decline Theres a sudden failure Theres discomfort and pain. 7

VI.- THEN THERE IS THE ABILITY TO INFECT OTHERS. Some years ago, a friend of mine was preaching over in Chicago Right in the front row of this meeting was a lady with a little baby. The baby was coughing and slobbering and coughing and slobbering the whole time he was preaching. After the meeting was over, the mother felt she should go and apologize and she said to him, "I'm awfully sorry about my child. He's not been feeling well." He said, "Well, that's all right." It wasn't all right, because the kid gave him whooping cough. He went home and in about a week or ten days he began to cough. To climax it, he gave it to his brother, and to his daughter. You see, when we've got something, we infect other people. Here's a Christian who gets backslidden, and it's just like disease. You get one backslidden person in a church, and I guarantee he's going to infect other people. That's the way it works. Abraham got backslidden and took Lot down to Egypt. That's all Lot needed. Before long Lot moved into Sodom because Sodom was like Egypt. Before long Lot was in trouble and that's the last you hear of him. You see, we start infecting others. All it takes on a school is somebody in a class to get infected with something. 8

Before long it infects somebody else and somebody elseit spreads. VII.- NEXT I NOTICE THAT UNLESS IT'S HEALED, IT CAN KILL US. It's rather amazing how a small germ can get into a big man and lay him low. And unless our backslidings are healed, they can kill us. I'm not talking about leaving the church. Backsliding kills our joy. David cried out, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." Backsliding will kill our power for witnessing. It'll kill a burden for souls. It'll kill the muscle that reaches into our purse or wallet to get money to support the Lord's work. Unless something is done about it, it will kill or it will cripple. I don't want to sound like a judge because God knows my own heart. I'm preaching to myself. Sometimes we Christians think we can fool around with the disease of sin, then come and claim I John 1:9, and God kisses us and everything is well. I want you to know that some people are going to carry the crippling effects of sin until they see Jesus. Samson could claim I John 1:9 all he wanted to, but it wouldn't put eyes back into his head. Unless something is done about the disease of sin, it cripples and it kills. As much as we don't like to notice it, there is a sin unto death. Backsliding can be healed, that's the beautiful part. It can be healed. Aren't we glad that backsliding can be healed? 9

IX.- BUT YOU KNOW, EVEN AFTER THE GERMS ARE KILLED PHYSICALLY. THERE IS A PERIOD OF RECOVERY Now I want you to get that. People come to me and say, "Pastor, there's something wrong with my Christian life." I say, "Are you reading your Bible?" "Yes, I read my Bible every day. I pray every day, and I'm attending church." And I say, "Wait a minute, are you recovering from something?" "Uh, who told you?" "Well, nobody told me, but are you." "Yeah, for months and months and months I was living for the world, I was out in sin, but I've straightened it out with the Lord!" I'm glad for this, but I want you to know something. **When my mind has been filled with carnality and worldliness for months and months, it's not going to become a spiritual mind overnight"! **When my will has been cutting grooves of disobedience **When I've been feeding into the computer of my will the wrong kind of stuff, it's not going to change overnight. We have the crazy idea that we can take our bodies and our minds and our wills and our hearts and can devote them to sin and the infection of sin can get in, and then all of a sudden we say, "0h Lord, forgive me," and expect to be back where we were. I don't believe that. I believe God forgives us and I'm thankful for it. Time after time I've cried out to God, and time after time God has been faithful and just to forgive. But my God who told me to confess my sins, also said, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also-reap." 10

God in His grace forgives And God in His government permits the principle of sowing and reaping to go on in our lives. There is a period of recovery. The last time I was really, really sick, I was out of circulation for a couple of weeks with some kind of an infection. Even after the germs were killed and I started feeling better, the doctor said, "Now you watch out for a relapse. If you run out too soon, there's going to be a problem." So I didn't run out too soon, and thank God, there wasn't a problem. There's a period of recovery. I've discovered that during this period of recovery nourishment is so important Being in the house of God Reading the Word of God Meditating on the things of God. As the Word of God gets into our hearts minds, it begins to refresh and renew and cleanse. This is so important. There's a period of recovery. X.- THE FINAL THING I WOULD SAY IS THAT THERE IS NO NATURAL IMMUNITY. Now there are some diseases that once we have them, weve had them. We'll never get them again. That's not true of sin. In fact, one of the devil's chief tricks is to wait until we recover from some bout with sin and we say to ourselves, "Boy, that'll never happen to me again. Boy, I'll never do that again." Satan says, "Oh, won't you?" 11

He just waits until we're feeling very strong and we've forgotten that Paul said, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Then Satan gets one of his little fiery darts tipped with some kind of infection and he lets us have it. And the man, the woman, the student who said, "I'll never do that again," does it again. May I remind you that Abraham lied about his wife and 20 years later did the same thing again? I suppose everyone listening to me now has said, "I don't know how I got into that, but I'll never do it again." There is no natural immunity. This is why we must constantly watch and pray and be nourished on the Word of God and exercise in the clean, fresh air of the wind of the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah paints a picture. He compares backsliding to sickness. B) THE SECOND THING JEREMIAH DOES IN THIS VERSE IS TO GIVE A GRACIOUS PROMISE, I WILL HEAL. I'm glad for that. They tell me that Adolf Hitler could' not stand to see anyone who was sick or deformed. He was concerned about perfection, probably not wanting to be reminded of his own imperfections. Whenever someone was sick or deformed, he didn't want a thing to do with them. I'm glad God isn't this way. In the OT book of Esther, Mordecai was at the gate of the king's palace dressed in sackcloth. The law said that no one was ever to- come to the palace of the king dressed in sackcloth. The king was never supposed to know about trouble. I'm glad my King isn't that way. 12

I'm glad I can come to the throne of grace and say, "Dear God, here I am. I've been infected by sins. There's been a gradual decline in my life and now I've fallen into sin and, 0 God, I need to be healed." God gives us a gracious promise, "I will heal their backslidings." Of course, I'm not talking to nonbelievers now because an unbelievers can't backslide; they are dead. Sin is not a matter of sickness with them, it's a matter of death. When it comes to this matter of the healing of a backslidden life, there are three kinds of Christians. A) THERE ARE THOSE WHO DON'T WANT TO BE HEALED. They say, "Don't bother me, pastor, don't talk to me about it." Some of the heartaches of the ministry are found here. You sit face to face with someone whose life has been infected with sin, The germs are spreading in their body Theyre going to infect their friends and their family. With all the tenderness you can muster you say, "Oh, please, turn away from this thing. Before it's too late, turn away from this thing." I recall one Christian saying to me, "Pastor, I don't care what you say and I don't care what the Bible says, I'm gonna do it." Well, Hebrews 12 talks about the discipline of God. God's discipline is not punishment of a criminal. God's discipline is the chastening of a son. I recall many years ago when our oldest son was just a little tyke. We were living in Chicago, Illinois, and 13

he got a real serious hand injury and so we rushed boy to the hospital and he cried the whole time. He cried before he got in the car he cried when he was in the car he cried when he got to the doctor's office. He didn't want anybody to touch him. I spoke sternly but lovingly to him and said, "Look, we're going to do this. Whether you like it or not, we're going to do it." He didn't understand. Sometimes God has had to reach down into my life and take me by the nape of the neck and say, "Now look, you think you're walking in the right direction. I want to tell you something. You keep that up and I'll clobber you. I'll do it not because I hate you but because I love you." There are some people who don't want to be healed. They just want to go on in their own stubborn, selfish way. Hebrews 12:9 says, "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live." Hebrews 12:9 Those last words are rather interesting. "Give reverence to the Father of spirits, and live." The suggestion is if we don't give reverence to the Father up above, we may not live. A lady came to her pastor one day and said, "You're always talking about sin. Don't you know that sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the life of other people?" And the pastor said, "Yes, it's worse." So some folks don't want to be healed. 14

B) NOW SOME PEOPLE WANT TO HAVE A FALSE HEALING. Jeremiah talked about these people in chapter 6:14! 'They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace," and in 8:11: "For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." Jeremiah knew and you and I know that there's a false healing. There are Christians who backslide and get into sin and instead of really coming to the great Physician, Jesus Christ, and saying to their great Physician, "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me. x-ray me, Lord, and read the x-ray and tell me what it says," They go to some quack. I want you to know if you look long enough, you'll find plenty of religious quacks who say, "Oh, you don't have to worry about that because it's not GO bad." Here comes somebody with an awful cancerous growth on his hand, and the doctor says, "Oh, don't worry about that. You don't need any surgery. We'll just put a band-aid on it and that'll take care of it."\ That's murder. Jesus said, "If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off." That's surgery. "If your right eye causes you to stumble, cut it off." Get rid of it. Our problem today in our churches is we want easy healing. We have everything else instant... We have instant potatoes And instant orange juice And instant headaches. 15

And we want instant recovery. I tell you sometimes the disease of sin gets so settled in the life of a believer who is careless that nothing is going to solve the problem short of surgery. God says to that fellow, "Get rid of that girl and do it now." God says to that girl, "Cut off that fellow and do it now." God says to that person, "Get rid of those books in your library and do it now." God says, "Go back to that person and apologize and do it now." Some folks don't want deep healing, they just want surface healing. Surface healing is worse than anything because it covers the sin and gives a false sense of security that kills. C) THE THIRD KIND OF PERSON WANTS COMPLETE, LASTING, DEEP HEALING. This almost sounds like an organ recital, but several years ago I had a cyst in my back and the doctor said, "It's not dangerous but you'd better get it taken care of. Just go in as an outpatient." So I went in as an outpatient. As I lay there on the table and the doctor got his scalpel out and his nurse stood there, all the while he operated on me he told me about some surgery the week before when he operated on a cancer patient. This was a great experience, to lie there on the table, having my back operated on while he talked to me about a cancer patient. And I thought to myself, "No, the doctor's right. If there is something wrong back there, I want to get rid of it. If it means getting cut and hurt, I want it done." Well, praise the Lord, it wasn't anything serious. But when he finished the job, it was finished; it was done. 16

The promise is, "I will heal." Do you want healing? Do you want cheap healing, surface healing, or deep, abiding, lasting healing? He's painted a picture, He's given a promise. C) FINALLY, HE MAKES A PLEA. Jeremiah 3:22, "Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your back- slidings." Jeremiah 3:22 "Return," is a precious word. Jeremiah the prophet speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit says to these people, "Just come back. The farther down you slide, the worse it's going to get, so return. Return because of what you're doing to yourself. I plead with you, because of what you're doing to yourself, return. Because of what you're doing to others, return. Because of what you're doing to your God, return. And because of what you're missing, return." This is an elite gathering of God's people. But it's possible that someone in this gathering or listening in our internet congregation has begun to slide down. You say, "Oh, nobody knows about it." They will, they will. You can't hide sickness. It eventually shows up. And even if no one else knows about it, the great Physician knows about it. **Jeremiah paints a picture, backsliding is like a disease and it leads to death. **He gives a promise, "I will heal you." **He makes a plea, "Return." And He means what He says. I trust that none of us is going to miss the full blessing of this message if we're going in the wrong direction. 17

May God help us to return.