Believers must constantly evaluate their choices in light of the eternal purpose of God.
Proverbs 5:21-23 – For a man’s ways are before the eyes of Yahweh, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.
Believers cannot become complacent within their walk with God. Every day we are challenged by the world: the desires of the eyes, the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Yahweh sees and knows our ways and desires us to remain faithful and productive for him. However, he also warns us that if we lack discipline in the things of God, we can easily be led astray.
Proverbs 14:14 – The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways…
This is the only Bible verse where the term “backslider” is used. The underlying word itself means “to turn back” or “to turn aside.” To retreat from the ways of God is to fall back on practices that one may have become comfortable with in life previous to becoming new creations in Messiah. In this proverb, Solomon warns that there does not have to be some divine judgment from turning aside, but that the very wicked practices themselves will come back to the wayward individual. They will be filled with the fruit of their own (wicked) ways.
The apostle Peter uses similar language in warning the early believers of the false prophets and false teachers who had infiltrated the ranks of believers.
2 Peter 2:15 – Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing…
Peter here says these false teachers were not just evil individuals, but they were people who had forsaken the right way, having gone astray. This means that at one point they were believers in the truth and yet had somehow turned away from it, lured by the profits of wicked practices.
Yeshua taught that believers must remain unwaveringly vigilant in the ways of righteousness. He metaphorically referred to this commitment to right practices as the equivalent of removing the members of the physical body which would be involved in wicked practices.
Matthew 5:29-30 – If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into Gehenna.
This is the level of discipline needed by believers to remain on the narrow path of life and to avoid the judgment of wicked practices. By contrast, much of our modern spirituality is based on the careless attitude that “Jesus paid it all” and somehow we are no longer responsible for maintaining our own sanctification and righteous actions; however, nothing could be further from the truth.
Walking in faith as a disciple of Yeshua takes daily resolve and discipline to ensure that we are not being seduced by the world and our own desires. In fact, even the literary derivation of the English word “disciple” comes from “one who practices a certain discipline.” We should not become distracted or disillusioned by our one-off slips and failures, but, relying on the ongoing forgiveness God offers for the truly repentant, these should harden our resolve to always behave in ways that honor God. After all, when we step back and take the long view of an eternal perspective, we can be comforted in knowing that these struggles will ultimately pass away.
1 John 2:15-17- Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
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