I'm sure you are all familiar with the phrase we use to remember how to set our clocks for Daylight Savings time:  Spring ahead, fall back.  In another month we will be setting our clocks back an hour.  By doing so, we will actually gain an extra hour of sleep that night.  But when we 'backslide' in the Christian sense of the word, we gain absolutely nothing.  In fact, we lose eternal rewards, and earthly blessings as well.  Notice, I did not say we lose our salvation.  I have said it before, and I will keep on saying it, so no one here ever fears they can be 'saved one minute, and lost the next'.  No matter wht you do, if you genuinely accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, truly repenting of your sins and trusting in Jesus' death and resurrection alone for your salvation, even if you later backslide, you will not lose your salvation.  But that is not to say there will not be consequences.  And that is what we are going to examine this morning.

     First off, let me clarify exactly what is meant by the word 'backsliding'.  Webster's first definition is "to lapse morally or in the practice of religion".  Basically, if a Christian backslides they either sin willfully or doubt God and His Word.  There are many instances in the Bible of well-known pillars of the faith that backslid.  Even King David, favored by our Lord for having a heart for God, and from whom the human ancestry of Jesus descended, committed a terrible offense when he was tempted by Bathsheba and deliberately had her husband killed in battle so he could have her as his own.  Did God still love him?  Yes, of course He did.  And because David was truly a child of God, he later felt extreme remorse over what he had done.  Did God forgive him?  Yes he did.  However - and this is what I want to stress in today's message - even though God forgave him, his actions were not without consequences.  As I read to you in today's Old Testament reading (2 Samuel 12:1-14), God pronounced a severe earthly punishment on David because of what he had done.  If you continue reading in 2 Samuel 12, you will learn that after God told David that his child would die, he fasted and prayed, wearing sackcloth and lying in the dirt, begging God to reverse his proclamation.  But God did not - and after 7 days David's son went to be with the Lord.

     When we ask Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, and repent of our sins, we are making a commitment to God to follow Him and honor Him with our lives.  He knows we will never be perfect as long as we remain in our human bodies, but He does expect us to continually move forward in our sanctification, becoming more and more like Christ each day.  If we start to revert, or move backwards, He will at first give us a gentle nudge to get us moving in the right direction again.  It might just be the voice of the Holy Spirit within us, urging us to abandon our travels down the wrong road.  But if we continue to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:20), He will give us a stronger push to get us back on track.  And we as Christians have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ if we see them acting in a way that is not how God would want them to.  Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 18, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."  (Matthew 18:15-17).  But remember, we are to do this out of love, wanting to spare our brother or sister chastisement from God.  We are NOT to go to them with a judgmental attitude, always keeping in mind that we are just as capable of being tempted and falling into sin ourselves.  Paul said to the Galatians (6:1), "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you wil live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted."  Gently.  Not with a brick to the head.  Not thinking you would never do such a thing.  Gently!

     Now, if after all that, a professing Christian still refuses to give up deliberate sin and follow God's Word and His will for their life, and yet does not receive stronger and stronger discipline from the Lord, there is a very good chance that he or she was never really born again as a child of God to begin with (Hebrews 12:5-10).  In such a case, we should pray that they do come to a saving knowledge of the truth and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior with their heart, and not just their mouth.

     In a few minutes, we will be celebrating Holy Communion.  Before we do I always request a moment of silence be taken in which we should examine ourselves and confess our sins before God as we are instructed in 1 Corinthians 11:26-30.  I would like to read those verses to you now:  "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.  Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.  But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world."  So if you think that in New Testament times God turns a blind eye to sin, or that just because the world today calls good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20) God has developed an "anything goes" attitude, maybe we need to truly examine our lives, and make sure there is nothing in them that could be causing us to endure discipline.  Let us do that now...