The Sin of Backsliding

Bible Book: Luke  22 : 31-34
Subject: Backsliding; Easter; Palm Sunday

Several years ago at a Men’s Conference at FBC Woodstock Pastor Johnny Hunt preached a message a heart stirring message about sin and its devastating consequences. At one point it was like he looked straight at Mike Galli and me and said, “IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!” Mike and I about jumped out of our skin.

We don’t hear much about sin anymore these days. We’d rather hear positive, feel good messages instead of messages that challenge us to live outside our comfort zone. We’d rather hear sermons that focus on the sins of others rather than our own sins. We’d rather hear what our neighbors are doing wrong over what we are doing wrong! That’s just a sign of the times. Preachers tickle the ears of their congregation rather than preaching the Word – When convicted of sin members often get offended, angry, bitter – instead of turning to God with a heart of repentance.

Backsliding is a common sin in the Body of Christ – imagine what God can do if pastor and people turned to the Lord for mercy and a change of heart!

Our text this morning focuses on Peter and his denial of the Lord. Perhaps none of the disciples loved the Lord more than Peter. Many of us can identify with Peter because he had many ups and downs in his walk with the Lord.

One day when Jesus asked his disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who spoke up boldly and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In the next moment, Jesus begins to share with His disciples that He was going to suffer, be killed, and be raised on the third day. Guess who spoke up? Peter! He said, “No, Lord, this shall never happen to you.” Jesus sternly rebuked him saying, “Get behind me Satan! You don’t have the things of God on your mind, but the things of men.”

Remember it was Peter who was the only disciple who was courageous enough to get out of the boat and walk on the water when he saw Jesus miraculously strolling along top of the sea. He said, “Jesus, if that’s really you out there, tell me to come!” Jesus says, “It’s me!” Peter steps out on faith (leaving his comfort zone) - begins to walk on water – but he got his eyes on the wind, waves, water and begins to drown! He cries out, “Lord save me.” The Lord lifted him up and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Today, Peter says, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Sure enough by the end of the day, Peter has denied the Lord three times! Instead of sticking out his chest and boldly declaring his faith – all he can do is sit outside with his hands over his face – tears streaming down his cheeks – guilt and disgrace filling his soul like he’s never experienced before in his life. At this moment, Peter is the picture of a backslidden believer. Have you ever felt like Peter? You’ve had some powerful times with the Lord and also had some times where you felt lousy because you disappointed the Lord you love? You’ve had some fire in your walk with the Lord – but there have been cold times, too.

Perhaps I’m speaking to some this morning who feel there is a great distance between where they are now and where they want to be with the Lord. That’s not a very fun place to be and I’ve been there before. Peter has been there before - in fact all the disciples fled from the presence of Jesus during a time He desired their company them most. The saddest person on the face of the earth is not an unbeliever – but the believer who no longer has the Lord first place in His life. The unbeliever doesn’t know the joy of His presence – the encouragement of the Scriptures – the strength of the Holy Spirit – the wonder of answered prayer. It’s only the believer in Jesus Christ who knows this.

What a tragedy when a believer cools off in his worship and service to Jesus Christ! When he allows the things of this world to diminish his love for the things of God! If you find yourself in this backslidden condition this morning – be very serious about getting your spiritual condition straight before the Lord. Don’t compare yourself with others and say, “I’ll get right with the Lord if they get right.” Out of love for Jesus, love for self and others return to the Lord. Also, be assured that although you may have left Jesus side – He hasn’t left your side! He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother!

Look with me at…

I. The Desire of Satan

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”

I wonder if Satan has asked the Father of grace and glory that very same question about your life. Nothing would please Satan more today than to destroy your walk and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5.8, “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Lions are very beautiful creatures but you can never trust them, they are wild animals as we are told: Any lion trainer will tell you that there is no such thing as a tame lion…he may eat from your hand, or permit you to put your head in his mouth, but tomorrow he may tear you limb from limb if a sudden furry arises within his wild heart. - Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, 133

Are you one of the 150 million Americans who have gotten a bit too sophisticated to believe in a literal devil?Over 60% of Americans say the devil is just a figment of imagination or just a symbol of an evil force. Study the Bible. Let the Word of God be your source. Scripturally, the Bible teaches that Satan is the number one enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ and the people of God. He is an “angel of light,” “the tempter,” “the father of lies,” “the accuser of the brethren,” a “roaring lion” looking for someone to devour.

Do you think you’d recognize Satan if he were before you? Cartoons have been made up of Satan picturing him with a red tail and pitchfork in his hands. If this is what Satan looked like, we would immediately know it was him. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:14, “…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

Think over your last defeat or temptation. What Satan offers you may look so wonderful – so pleasing to you at the moment – He will tell you all the wonderful benefits you will receive if you accept his bidding. The one thing he will not tell you is of the deadly results that will soon follow.

He will tell the thief that he should have more – but will not tell him about jail

He will tell the drug addict of the thrilling high – but will not tell him he will end up dead in the streets

He will tell the student it is okay to cheat – but will not tell him about having to repeat another year in school

He will tell the church member he doesn’t need prayer and Bible study to stay close to Jesus – but will not tell him of his moral fall at the end of the day.

There was a church that started out with love for God, each other and the lost. They grew so much they built a new sanctuary and put a sign out in front that said, “JESUS ONLY.” Over the years, the people got comfortable in church and focused mainly on themselves. Attendance declined, the church landscape was shoddy and ivy began to grow over the sign which covered the “JES" up and now the sign read, “US ONLY.” The church now has no vital mission.

Understand we do face a real enemy. Satan desires to destroy lives, families, churches. He was there in the garden desiring Adam and Eve’s fall. He’s around today trying to wreak havoc in our lives. He may try to and convince you that you are worthless to God and everyone else. Don’t listen to Him. Invite God to help you overcome.

II. The Downfall of Simon

Read Luke 22:33-34, 54-60

One thing I love about the Bible is that it shows us the good, bad, and the ugly and certainly this is one moment I’m sure Peter would love to have back. It’s almost inconceivable that someone who loved and followed Jesus like Peter would turn his back on Him under pressure.

Why did Peter do it? Perhaps it was pride, prayerlessness, or peer pressure.

A. Pride Pride

Matthew 26.33, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

Luke 22:33, “Lord I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

Pride is really an “I,” problem! Do you ever struggle with pride? Do you ever say, “Lord, I will never fall into that temptation.” “Lord, I will always obey and follow You.” “Lord, they are in bad shape – I’ll never be like them.”

It seems that we start out the Christian life with the right attitude, “Lord, I’m a sinner in need of your saving grace – help me – lead me – walk with me.” We are hungry for the Bible, hungry for worship, hungry to give God the praise He deserves. Yet overtime – we think we’ve got somewhere on our own – and think we can do it without Jesus.

B. Prayerlessness Prayerlessness

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had called his disciples to be with Him in prayer. Jesus had such an intense prayer time with His Father in heaven that His sweat become “like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” When He checked in with His disciples, they were sleeping. Jesus said, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter temptation.” He knew what they were about to face – He knew they needed extra strength not to run away or deny Him – they would need extra power and peace as they watched their Savior and Friend die on the cross.

Has anything come before your prayer time with God? Do you value that time you have all alone with God – telling Him your burdens – giving Him your sorrows – confessing your sins and failures – getting to know His heart – relying on Him for strength to rise and find victory over temptation – seeking Him. Have you ever felt the need to pray – but just unwilling because you were so tired. Have you ever risen to pray very tired – but found you had more strength for the day than you ever imagined because you met with your Heavenly Father? That’s because you had HIS help and it made all the difference.

Preacher Dwight L. Moody once said, “The only way to keep a broken vessel full is to keep it always under the tap.” We get broken by the pains and strains of life – but through prayer we can become full of His Spirit once again.

C. Peer Pressure Peer Pressure

Luke 22:55, “Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sate down together, Peter sat among them.”

Peter got in with the enemy crowd. If you get in with the wrong crowd, they are going to bring you down. Do you see people falling hard these days? Who are they hanging with? Where is their hope?

It’s so important to stay in church – stay close to Jesus – stay close to friends who love the Lord and encourage your walk in Him! Pride, prayerlessness, peer pressure – those are battles we all face. We think it’s more important to have the praise of men over the praise of God. Left to ourselves there is no hope – the only hope is found in Jesus Christ.

Roger Staubach who led the Dallas Cowboys to the World Championship in 1971 admitted as quarterback – it was a difficult trial for him because Coach Tom Landry called every play. Coach Landry called in when to pass – when to run. Roger considered Landry as a genius – but when it came to running the football game on the field, pride said that he should be able to run his own team. Roger later said, "I faced up to the issue of obedience. Once I learned to obey there was harmony, fulfillment, and victory."

III. The Determination of the Savior

​“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Lk. 22:32

Aren’t you thankful we have such a gracious Lord and Savior who looks beyond our faults and meets our deepest needs? The determination of the Savior is not to focus on our failures and falls – but One who desires to restore us and renew us in His purpose.

Maybe you feel this morning that temptation is too difficult for you to overcome – take heart – Jesus is praying for you.

Perhaps recently there was a time recently when you knew it was God’s will for you to speak up – but you kept your mouth closed or changed the subject quickly out of fear of man – Take Heart – Jesus is praying for you.

There could be someone here this morning who has had moments like Peter of weeping bitterly – they want to come back to God – yet they are ashamed and embarrassed of decisions they have made – take heart – Jesus is praying for you.

Jesus knew exactly what Peter was going to do and He knows exactly what you are going to do – or have already done. The good news is that God loves you no matter what you’ve done.

If you have taken the wrong turn – He is ready to give you new direction!

If you are broken by pride, prayerlessness, peers – He is able to make you complete again.

If you have failed in your service – just remember Peter – Satan desires you – You may be in the downfall – but the Lord is determined to make you useful again.

Humble yourself - cast your cates upon Him - the Lord is going to restore you - come to Jesus.