1. Coldness in prayer.
2. Indifference under the Word.
3. Growing inner corruptions.
4. The love of the world.
5. Declining love for believers.
6. Man-centered hopes.
If so, you might be a backslider.
In his convicting little book, Getting Back in the Race, The Cure for Backsliding, author and pastor Joel Beeke helps identify and cure the dangerous disease that many Christians know as backsliding. Beeke elaborates on each of the symptoms listed above, but the third symptom, "growing inner corruptions," is what has particularly been weighing on my own heart. Consider the following descriptions - make your own check-list if you must - and ask the Lord to reveal any sin and return your heart to Himself.
- You fail to heed Christ's word to "cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also," and instead become more like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but inwardly full of uncleanness (Matthew 23:26- 27).
- Zeal for God's cause and honor burns low, while what man thinks of you glows white-hot.
- You begin to try convincing others that you are living for God rather than trying to live with God.
- A double life, in turn, leads to the multiplication of secret sins. Sins you thought long gone in grace are resurrected with even more power than before. And what is worse, you hardly tremble before sin's power.
- You may not run after sin as you did before regeneration, but now sin runs after you. And as your resistance against sin grows weaker, you welcome its approach.
- Offending God does not remain the overriding burden of sin; instead, the punishment of sin, or perhaps its offense to men, becomes your primary motive for resisting temptation.
- You may still confess sin as sin and make vows to change, but you do both acts as an empty show of piety.
- Your confession comes without repentance, and you do not follow your vows with change.
- You speak against sin but accommodate it in practice and, on occasion, even fuel sin, in spite of your conscience (Romans I3:14).
- It may be that you comfort yourself with your outward morality and form of religion, claiming that you are "not as other men are" (Luke 18:11).
But God sees the heart. His warning pierces deeper than behavior: "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways" (Proverbs 14:14, emphasis added). We reap what we sow in this life. The backslider shall "be filled with sin, either in this world or the next, when he feels its painful consequences, and finds that God has marked all his steps, and will not acquit him from any of his iniquities [absent his repentance]. "
The danger is that your self-examination becomes less frequent, less thorough, and less prayerful.
Consequently, hand-in-hand with an evaporating spiritual life, the Pharisee who is within us all comes to the forefront. Gradually, you become an in inflated ("puffed up") saint with a much smaller Savior whose work, in your eyes, steadily diminishes in importance. Presumption follows hard on the heels of decreasing self-examination. In spite of God's silence and your own failure to withstand trials, temptations, and weaknesses in your own strength, you continue to presume that all is well. Even the chastising and warning hand of God's providence passes by unheeded (Micah 6:9, Luke 13: 1-5).
(Joel Beeke, Getting Back in the Race, The Cure for Backsliding, CruciformPress, Pages 28-29)