September 9, 2018

In this issue: Why Do People Turn Back? by Irvin Himmel

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Irvin Himmel

Paul asked the Galatians, "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" (Galatians 4:9, NASB.) It is absurd for men who have breathed freedom through the gospel to fall back to a system which enslaves the soul, whether Judaism, heathenism, denominationalism, or worldliness.

Why do people who have known the Lord in the forgiveness of sins allow themselves to slip back into their old way of life? Some turn back not long after they are baptized; others serve God for years before drifting away from the truth. What are the reasons?

Truth Is Narrow

In John 6, Jesus spoke of himself as the bread of life. He said, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." This means that men must partake of Christ to have eternal life. But many of his disciples reacted by saying, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" Consequently, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (John 6:66). Today, many turn away from Jesus because their friends call them "narrow-minded" and they do not want to be so classified. Divine truth is narrow since it is both fixed and demanding. Truth will always be narrow.

No Depth Of Conviction

In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of seed falling upon stony places, springing up, but dying for lack of root. This illustrates the person who hears the word and with joy receives it, "Yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended." (Matthew 13:20, 21). If there is not a real depth of conviction when one is baptized, he is likely to wither and die in a short time. He cannot endure the scorching sun of tribulation that puts him to the test.

Love Of The World

After people have devoted themselves to their own selfish interests for years, it is hard to make a clean break and give full dedication to the Lord. It is easy to slip back into old worldly ways. Paul wrote concerning a former co-worker, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." (II Timothy 4:10). Whether the word "world" as used here applies to physical life or material possessions makes little difference. Demas turned back because of his attachment to the present realm of things. He did not love the Lord with all his heart, strength, and mind.


At the risk of being somewhat blunt, I must say that some turn away from the Lord because they are too lazy to serve him. They had rather sleep late on Sunday morning than get up and attend services. They prefer an easy chair in front of the TV on Sunday evening because that takes less effort than going to the meeting place. They are too lazy to visit the sick, to comfort the bereaved, or to help someone in distress. The following language is appropriate for all such: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 4:14-16). Just as some live in poverty because they are too lazy to work, many will miss heaven due to their indolence.


In the parable of the sower, some seed fell among thorns. The thorns choked out the plant that was produced. Jesus said, "He that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." (Matthew 13:22). Riches are not the only means by which men are deceived. Some are deceived by false doctrines. Some are misled by the pleasures of this life. Some are beguiled by their own doubts. Others are deluded into thinking that somehow God will excuse them even if they disobey the Bible. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6:7,8).

Unwillingness To Sacrifice

A lot of people who become Christians turn back to the world because they are not willing to pay the price that is required in serving Jesus. That which is demanded of us is not unreasonable. Remember that our Lord loved us and gave his life for us. He explained the cost of discipleship in these words: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24).


Some are baptized and try to go it alone. They find the battle of life too big a task against the forces of evil. They turn back. We cannot serve God acceptably without a feeling of dependence. First, we need His help. Paul wrote, "1 can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13). Second, we need the help of each other. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. . ." (Hebrews 10:25). Some are too independent to succeed in righteous living. They think they can personally whip the devil and all his servants! They resent others who try to lend a helping hand. They want to be left alone. In the end they are defeated and alone — without God and without the fellowship of the saints — lost, hopelessly and eternally doomed.

These are seven of the cardinal reasons why people turn back after having served the Lord for a period of time. What a tragedy that men who have walked in the light turn back to darkness. How sad that anyone would quit serving Christ. What a pity that one deserts the kingdom of God.

"But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." (II Peter 2:22). ~

Gospel Guardian, June 10, 1971

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