Backsliding is easy.
Going with the flow only requires letting go.
Our old nature seems to be our default nature.
Knee-jerk reactions seem to be our only reactions at times.
Should we expect it to be any different? I was having a conversation with a friend during a discipleship time when he asked the question, “Why does backsliding seem so natural?” The is seems so easy and normal to fall back into sin while living for Christ is one of constant effort. My friend was asking if it ever gets easy or normal feeling to follow Christ.
I think there are many ways we can go about explaining this. One is that actions are really habits, ingrained from patterns of behavior. Therefore sinful habits need to be replaced with godly habits and patterns of behavior. This is a good explanation and it can lead to helpful practices. Another way of explaining this experience could be that as we grow in godliness, we uncover more and more sin, sin looks and feels worse, and so growth creates greater battles with sin. This helps us with our expectations.
But one explanation really caught my attention – it is the way we expect the Christian life to be. It always amazes me how so many of my brothers and sisters (and me on occasion) think that spirituality requires no effort. Somehow, when it comes to following God, it is more of the “let go and let God” mentality that undergirds so much of our thinking.
This might be an overreaction against legalism or works based theology. In an effort to protect the truth that God is the one who saves by grace through faith, we have somehow lost the truthfulness that living faith results in one doing good deeds for the glory of God. We might preach and emphasize that "God is the one who saves" to the point that when we preach "Respond with your life," it is an afterthought or downplayed so we don’t sound like moralists. Whatever the reason, I believe if we recapture the truth that following God requires pursuit, effort, and work, we are benefited and our churches are served. All empowered by God, but we still work.
If you take a journey through the Bible and the New Testament especially, you see command after command telling us to get to work. We are called to continue in the ways of God, to pursue godliness, to add to godliness other virtues, to work out our salvation, to run the race, to fix our eyes, to put off and put on, to change our attitudes, to serve, love, and act. We are called to train ourselves in godliness. We should be sweating in our pursuit of our Lord, that our walk should be one of practicing the ways of God.
When we have this view in mind, we realize that the Christian life is one of continual effort empowered by the Spirit, fueled by the Word, and directed toward our Savior for the glory of our Father. That means while it might feel easy to backslide, it is to be expected. Just as it is easy not to wake up in the morning and work out physically, it is easy to not wake up in the morning and spend time in the Word and prayer. Anything in life worthwhile takes effort. And this is the most worthwhile pursuit we can ever have.