PROCESS OF SPIRITUAL DECLINE
By Ivan Ho 13 Jan 2024
When a person backslides, it’s seldom an overnight thing but happens over a period of time. Here’s what I believe is the process of spiritual decline:
1. Disregard of the Word
One is no longer spending time studying and engaging with the Word of God. When that happens, less and less of the Word of God is abiding in his heart. The person is a believer and may be attending church, but the living Word doesn’t have much impact on his life. He feels dry when reading the Word, if he spends any time reading the bible at all.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
John 15:6-7 KJV
2. Deceptions from distorted word
The first temptation of the devil to Eve was by distorting the word of God. He used the word given by God to Adam and Eve but distorted its original contents thereby alter the original meaning of God’s words.
The word of God are full of absolutes in that there are no grey areas. God tells us what is right and what is wrong, what to do and what not to do. If one follows the righteous paths of God, it will lead to life. On the other hand, if one pursues alternative paths outside of God, it will eventually lead to death.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 KJV
If the devil can convince you that the wrong choice of actions you are taking would not lead to death, you will carry on doing what the word of God forbids instead of repentance and change.
God said to Adam: “The day you eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die”, but the devil said to Eve: “You will not surely die”.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.
Genesis 3:1-4 KJV
Today what the devil s trying to do is gradually chips away the standards set by God. His tactics is to target people at the top on the governmental or religious level so that some church leaders are compromising God’s words and their followers, especially those who don’t spend time studying the word, would inevitably be misled, ultimately leading to death unless they repent.
3. Decline from obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit
When a person is in the process of spiritual decline, one of the symptoms is that he becomes insensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In fact, he begins to become torn between voices of different sources in such a way that he can’t discern who is behind the voice: Is it the inner voice of the Holy Spirit or is it the voices of demons?
When the Holy Spirit is speaking to him and warning him that he is on the wrong path, he declines to listen to His voice and carries on his journey of deception and spiritual decline.
4. Deep in love of the world
Once someone begins to depart from the Word of God, there is no more absolute standards to govern his life. He is now open to demonic doctrines as well as influences from humanistic secularism. He has the tendency to divert his focus from Christ to the things of the world and the pride of life, just as Eve did at the garden of Eden.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Genesis 3:4-6 KJV
When a person becomes attracted to the temporal things of what the world offers, he would become distracted from his focus on the things of God and begins to pursue worldly pleasures, success and riches. He doesn’t think there is anything wrong about it because he’s been talked out of obeying the word of God.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
1 John 2:15-16 KJV
There was a man called Demas who used to work with Paul but sadly, because of his love of the world, deserted Paul and departed from the ministry.
for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
2 Timothy 4:10 KJV
5. Detachment from the church
Some people leave the church because of unresolved offences but I believe more people are leaving or no longer attending churches because they don’t see any need of doing so, or dont have the time at all. The believer who loves the world would prioritise his time in pursuing the things of the world over church gatherings. Not only do they stop attending church gatherings as a habit but moreso, they become detached from the body of Christ.
In not attending church on a regular basis, any spiritual inputs from hearing the word of God and connecting with God during worship is no longer possible. Even if the person may still worship God at home, he doesn’t enjoy any fellowship with the body of Christ as God intends it. No bodily part who is detached from the body can function let alone survive on its own. Sooner or later, the detached body part will become a prime attack from the enemy.
6. Derailment from the will of God
When someone is engaged with the world and detached from the body of Christ, he can no longer understand what the will of God is for his life let alone follow it.
There is a deceptive thinking nowadays that God is here to help us fulfill whatever dreams we are pursuing individually. There is no scripture at all for that notion. If our individual dreams do not align with the will of God and purpose for His kingdom, God won’t be committed to help us fulfill them. It’s like if you are working for another company that is not part of our company and contrary to our company’s vision, why would my boss help you achieve your dreams?
When someone left God’s company of people to pursue his own dreams, he has departed from the will of God for his life.
7. Depart from God
The final inevitable step of spiritual decline is for the backsliding person to disconnect himself from God altogether.
You might say: “How can any born again believer depart from God? Isn’t his relationship with God secured for life?” While it’s true that God will never abandon us, it is possible that a believer can choose to walk away from God, as warned by God’s word:
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
The author of Hebrews whom many believe was Paul, said: “Take heed, brethren (brothers), lest there be in any of you (fellow believers in Christ) an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God“.
It makes no sense to warn a fellow believer of the danger of falling away if there was absolutely no possibility of that happening. Furthermore, one cannot depart from a relationship he has never had before.
God may not have departed from him but by his own choice, like the prodigal son who left the father’s house, he now feels totally alienated from God. It wasn’t some moral failures which made the prodigal son depart from his father. Rather, he made his decision to walk away from God’s presence to pursue his dreams in the world.
And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Luke 15:11-13 KJV
Thank God, the story of the prodigal son did not end there. No matter how far one is away from God and His will, God is always ready to bring him back and restore him.