Life is full of small decisions which add up to big consequences. I’m diabetic, and every day I have to make choices about what I eat and how much insulin to take with my food. One cookie in itself is not that big a deal, but over time they add up—literally around my waist and elsewhere.
I’m not advocating that you become a paranoid legalist, but we need to be mindful of this prospect. Take the issue of marriage: Most failed marriages are not like a tire blowing out suddenly while you’re on the road. Most of them are like slow leaks which weren't dealt with when we first notice the problem.
Take today’s reading, which is just one verse. Notice first of all that the Lord is warning his unfaithful people that their own sins would punish them. Their own behavior, that of “backsliding” would come back to bite them on the rear. Forget about what the Lord himself would do: Sin itself brings its own judgment and punishment.
What is backsliding? Can a true believer do it? I think he can. This isn't dealing with the issue of eternal security, which I thoroughly believe in. But I also thoroughly believe that it’s entirely possible for a believer to fall away in his commitment to the Lord. Maybe you don’t read your Bible as faithfully as you once did. Your prayers are just rote, and you might as well be talking to the wall for all the good it does you. If you're still attending church, it’s nothing more than something you do on Sunday mornings.
I repeat—It is possible for a believer to fall into this trap! Your love for your Savior has gone lukewarm, and I want to tell you that your Savior finds it disgusting.
But where does it all start? Once again, I don’t think it’s a blowout so often as it’s a slow leak. And I think the clue is found in the last part of the God’s indictment in the verse:
You have no awe of me. The fear of me within you is gone.
The God who saved you. The God who sent his Son to die in your place, who took your sins upon his back. The One who has showered you with you grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. Who’s provided for all your needs.
It didn’t start with open rebellion. It rarely does. It starts with losing sight of who he is. Then it leads to forsaking him, turning away from following him like you used to. Then it leads to other, more flagrant sins.
If you have true awe of him, you won’t sin. The proper fear of the Lord will keep you from it.
Yes, I believe in the eternal security of the believer. I don’t think you can lose your salvation. You don’t do anything to lose salvation any more than you did anything to gain it. But you can lose your awe of him, which leads to forsaking your relationship with him, at least for a short time. And if this continues, he'll make you regret it. He doesn’t let his children stray for too long before he makes life really difficult for them. The ones he loves, he disciplines.
I’m pointing the finger at me as much as at any of you. Do I revere my Father? Do I show proper awe of him?
Father God, I am so very sorry for the times I lose sight of who you are and who I am. Please, through your Spirit, fill me with a proper fear of you, a respectful awe of who you are.