Many years ago, when I was still a small child, I heard preachers talk about backsliding. I understood it to mean that a person was backslidden when they turned away from God even though they had once professed to be a born-
I grew up in a Christian home, so I was introduced to Christianity at an early age and became a Christian when I was only five years old at Daily Vacation Bible School. I remember the young and kind teachers from Bible School holding up a cloth heart with three sides — one was black with sin, the other was red with Jesus blood, and the other was white. I wanted the white heart, so I asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins and make my heart clean and white. When I went home that day, I thought about heaven and all the toys Jesus would have for me there some day. Under my parents care I attended church regularly until I became a teenager. Our home was filled with Bibles, and my dad read us Scripture regularly at meal times. I learned to play hymns and choruses on the piano. I was encouraged to really know my Bible, so through Child Evangelism I won contests and prizes for memorizing Scripture. I took part in plays in Sunday school, participated in other church functions and sang duets and trios with my two older sisters in church. I went to Bible camps every summer until I left home, and was also a part of various youth groups in the town.
Yet, all of this wasn’t enough to keep me from backsliding and turning away from the God of my childhood. It’s interesting that even though I grew up knowing the Bible, most of the truths in it were not real to me. Plus, I had an insatiable curiosity, which is normal and natural, but rather than channel it towards good things, I seemed to be drawn to what was evil and potentially harmful for me. Since I felt that Christianity posed a lot of restrictions, I found it a challenge to seek out trouble and not get caught. For example, we were taught that going to movies, dancing and drinking were all evils to be shunned and avoided at all costs. So of course I wanted to experiment with these things, curious to see what was so evil about them.
One of the things I tried at a young age was recreational drugs. Drug abuse wasn’t a subject taught in school or even a subject openly discussed by parents. Drugs were something everyone seemed to be trying, so there was a definite peer pressure to try and fit in. Along with the drugs came the unsaved friends and then several years of living the party life. Add to this my interest in the hippy culture, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to trying to live the Christian life. Some people may not know much about the hippy culture, but I was profoundly affected by the hippy movement. It had been going on for some time when I was awakened to it. Janis Joplin and Jimmi Hendrix were already dead from drug overdoses, with Jim Morrison from the Doors and many others to follow. I came onto the scene as an impressionable adolescent. The early 70s saw bell-
The hippies tried to teach us about love and freedom — freedom from responsibility, sexual freedom, freedom to live a communal life (socialist-
Truly, the ‘freedom’ the hippies and gurus offered, was a beautiful looking path strewn with flowers, music, and love (conditional at best — as long as you stayed with the movement), but many discovered, like myself, it was really a slippery path of broken promises that led to loneliness, bad trips and a short-
But I received a major wake-
I woke up and me and my girlfriend were sitting in the midst of the car wreck. Our heads had hit the windshield at a speed of 120 miles per hour. The motor of the car sat between us. The front hood was mangled so badly, to see it, you wouldn’t have believed anyone could have lived to tell the story. When we awoke, we screamed and I lunged for the door to try to get out, but someone had to open the door. I was the only one able to give the details of the accident to the police and the hospital staff. Everyone who saw the car wreck said it was a miracle that me and my girlfriend came out alive. Even though I was faced with my own mortality and the possibility of spending eternity without God, still it wasn’t enough to change my heart and my life. For many years I’ve had to live with the after-
After the accident I tried to live a better life, but without a change of heart, this amounted to circumstantial change only. My spiritual life was at a stand-
Make no mistake about it, there is no such thing as dabbling in just a little bit of sin. Sin demands a price and it was starting to knock at my door demanding I pay the wages. THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH and I was quickly coming to the end of myself. I moved again for the fourth time that year and by the spring I was so burned out and so fearful from all that had happened, that I experienced a nervous breakdown. Everything had caught up with me and I couldn’t even finish my first year of college. It was then that I began to really seek answers because I just couldn’t go on the way that I was. I started watching TV, lots of it, and Oral Roberts was on. In the depths of my deep depression, I was drawn to Oral Roberts because he was so positive and talked about seed-
I came home to my parents for the summer and had no idea where to go or what to do. I was too burned out to return to school or even get a job. My parents suggested I go to Bible School in Eston, Saskatchewan. My uncle paid my tuition and off I went. But I was one of those stubborn converts — even though I was a mess, I felt an incredible resistance to turn myself over to what I thought was “religion.” But, the students and staff were nothing but kind, forgiving and compassionate people. This intrigued me! I also had serious health problems — borderline diabetes and an ulcer. I was sure I’d have to go back home for medical reasons, but instead, God healed me.
I used to go for walks down a deserted gravel road (there were no trees in Eston. It was during these little walks that the Holy Spirit pursued me. I was so mesmerized by Him, that at first I just listened. During these walks He explained things to me in the most deeply compassionate & understanding way. Later, I would go back to the dorm and open up His Word, hungry to know more about Him. He would verify everything to me in His Word — everything that He was teaching me on these walks. I was also receiving a full menu of correct Bible teaching in classes every day. Eston offered some powerful foundational Biblical truths that even I couldn’t argue with. More than anything, they seemed to stress the great grace and love of God — not that we loved Him, but that He loved us. And they stressed RELATIONSHIP — He wants to have relationship with us!! This was incomprehensible to me. How could God love a sinner like me?? But through the teaching and then seeing how loving the students and staff were, I was becoming convinced that God and the Bible were true and living. And I discovered that God really cared about me and wanted to be my new best Friend.
One Sunday morning I woke up with this indescribable revelation that God loved me personally. It wasn’t just that someone had told me or that I had read it in the Bible. It was as if He had made a special effort to let me know how much He loves me. This has been a turning point in my life — this is where my life and heart started to change after this revelation! One night I responded to an altar call at the church where I believe Jesus met me and forgave my sinful life. Not only did I experience forgiveness, but I felt a depth of love from Him that I had never known. I stood there shaking and witnessed new life as I literally felt Him wipe my slate clean. The heaviness in my heart lifted and I floated out of the church, never the same again. This was my rite of passage into eternity, the most significant and important occurrence in my whole life. Nothing would ever top this experience.
My life changed completely from the inside and out. My thoughts changed, my desires changed. I was a new creature in Christ. ALL THE OLD passed away according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. I saw people differently — no longer a threat, but people to love, that Jesus loved. One morning I woke up and realized I hadn’t done drugs for some time, and had no desire for them. In fact, my life became a testimony to all the students, my family and my friends who had known me all of my backslidden life. For they could see how the love and power of God was able to change a mixed up teenage hippy like I was.
What does it mean to backslide? For me, it meant a deliberate turning away from the God of my childhood and turning to other gods (like drugs). I substituted a cheap imitation of power for the real thing — the power God gives to enable us to live a free and joyful life under His protective love and care. I looked for love in all the wrong places and found instead, a hollow loneliness from promises that no one or no thing could ever deliver. Instead of a paradise, I found myself in a wilderness with no hope of escape except by the loving arms of divine providence reaching down and picking me up and letting me start all over again. Backsliding for me began in my teen years, begun by deep needs to feel loved, accepted and needed. But it can begin at any stage in someone’s life. There are many causes, not the least being a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be a confessing and Bible-
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