Getting Back in the Race: The Cure for Backsliding, by Joel R. Beeke
Endorsed by Derek Thomas, Michael Haykin, Maurice Roberts, and more.
The Christian life is a race, a marathon. Through the gospel, God summons us to sustained and persevering effort. But realistically speaking, Christians are not always pressing forward. Sometimes we wander off the narrow path, slip, and injure ourselves. To the confused and injured runner, this book says, “God can help you. You can finish this race—and finish it well.” Drawing from the wisdom of the Scriptures and aided by the insights of godly Bible teachers through the centuries, Getting Back in the Race addresses the age-old problem of backsliding.
Even though our backsliding insults God, dishonors him, grieves him, and pushes away his love, still he calls us to return to him. When we grasp hold of God’s methods by faith, we discover that Christ has grasped hold of us. Our spiritual Physician has potent medicines to heal his people from their injuries and get them back on track to finish the race. This book is a wake-up call to careless Christians and an encouragement to all believers to keep running to the Lord.
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Faith is a living, athletic grace. God’s mercy motivates Christians and energizes them to press on and overcome great obstacles. Christ blazed the trail before us. He now calls us to follow him to the end (Hebrews 12:1–2).
Looking unto Jesus—that is how we persevere. In him is everything we need. But realistically speaking, Christians are not always pressing forward. Sometimes they wander off the narrow path, slip, and injure themselves. To the confused and injured runner, this book says, “God can help you. You can finish this race—and finish it well.” Drawing from the wisdom of the Scriptures and aided by the insights of godly Bible teachers through the centuries, Getting Back in the Race addresses the age-old problem of backsliding.
Backsliding is a season in the life of a professing Christian when his sin grows stronger and his obedience to God declines. The beginning of the book uncovers signs of sliding into a spiritual rut, for this is often more subtle than falling into scandalous sins. The rest of the book shows that there is hope for the backslider. God is so amazing! Even though our backsliding insults him, dishonors him, grieves him, and pushes away his love, still he calls us to return to him.
When you grasp hold of God’s methods by faith, you discover that Christ has grasped hold of you. Our spiritual Physician has potent medicines to heal his people from their injuries and get them back on track to finish the race. This book is a wake-up call to careless Christians and an encouragement to all believers to keep running to the Lord.
Dr. Joel R. Beeke serves as President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Church History, and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been in the ministry since 1978 and has served as a pastor of his current church since 1986. He is also editor of the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, president of Inheritance Publishers, and vice-president of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society. He has written, co-authored, or edited fifty books and contributed over fifteen hundred articles to Reformed books, journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. His Ph.D. (1988) from Westminster Theological Seminary is in Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology. He is frequently called upon to lecture at Reformed seminaries and to speak at conferences around the world. He and his wife, Mary, have three children: Calvin, Esther, and Lydia.
“This book is a masterpiece, and I do not say that lightly.”
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“This book is a masterpiece, and I do not say that lightly. Since Octavius Winslow wrote his magnificent book Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in The Soul in 1841, not much has seen the light of day on the vital subject of backsliding to which every believer is prone and from which every child of God needs deliverance. This excellent work, so helpfully spiced with quotations from the Puritans, needs to be read over and over again. I heartily commend it.”
—Martin Holdt is the Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also the editor of Reformation Africa South.
“Solidly written in the vein of older classics on this subject by authors like Richard Sibbes and Andrew Fulller, this new work by Dr. Beeke provides a helpful approach to what is a perennial problem for the church. For inevitably there are wounded in the spiritual war in which we are engaged, and this work outlines the best means of bringing balm and healing to their souls. Highly recommended.”
—Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality; Director, The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival, The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality, and Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church.
“The strength and beauty of Getting Back in the Race is that Joel Beeke’s characteristic clarity, biblical fidelity, and unflinching care as to detail and pastoral wisdom is obvious on every page. This book is an honest and sometimes chilling exposition of the seriousness of backsliding; at the same time, it unfailingly breathes the air of grace and hope. Timely and judicious, a book to read, re-read.”
—Derek W. H. Thomas, Minister of Preaching and Teaching, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC; Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Editorial Director, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
“`Don’t settle for being a spiritual shrimp,’ argues Dr. Beeke. The pity is that too many modern Christians are opting for shrimpishly small degrees of grace. Indwelling sin drags the careless believer down into guilty backsliding. This book is a prescription for the believer who feels his guilt. Here is medicine from the Bible ornamented with choice quotations from the great Puritans. These are healing fountains for backslidden saints.”
—Maurice Roberts, Minister of Greyfriars Congregation, Inverness, Scotland; author of numerous books, and former editor of Banner of Truth magazine.
“Getting Back in the Race is a thorough treatment of the difficult subject of backsliding. It bears all the classic hallmarks of Joel Beeke’s writings: it is thoroughly scriptural, warmly pastoral, saturated with the best of Puritan wisdom and relevant for all Christians. Any of us may drop out of the race; Joel Beeke will help us prevent that happening by showing why it does happen and how it can be overcome. May this book help us to stay the course all the way to the finishing line!”
—Iain D. Campbell, Free Church of Scotland
“Once again Christian believers, young and old, are indebted to Joel Beeke. Dr. Beeke writes on a subject we hear much too little about, backsliding, and does so with biblical clarity, theological insight, yet always with a pastor’s heart. Only too easily can even well-taught Christians find their hearts growing cold and their zeal for Christ’s honor flagging. Dr. Beeke, like the spiritual physician he is, exposes to us the reasons why backsliding happens and how God in his grace maps out for us the way back to spiritual health. This is a book for all Christians, certainly not only for those who are in the sad state of backsliding. Prevention is always better than cure. Relevant biblical passages abound and choice quotes from the history of the church illuminate the text. This is a book every Christian should read and every pastor commend.”
—Rev. Ian Hamilton
“In this book, Joel R. Beeke deals with an issue that has plagued the people of God throughout church history until now. He answers questions such as: what is spiritual backsliding, what is the difference between a backsliding Christian and a hypocrite who was never a Christian, what are the causes of spiritual backsliding, what are the symptoms of spiritual decline, why is backsliding so serious, what is the cure for spiritual backsliding, how can we prevent spiritual backsliding, and how can a vital relationship with Christ prevent spiritual backsliding? Included in the book are many practical illustrations and suggestions for personal application. Read this book and apply its teachings. You’ll be grateful you did.”
Blog Review –
“I found this short book very full of meat and I am sure you will, too.”
This is another book I received for free from the great folks at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and it is just as good as Friends And Lovers also by Beeke available from Cruciform. Then again everything I read by Beeke and everything I have read published by Cruciform has been of high quality and contained depth.
The first thing that really struck me from this book was Beeke’s definition of backsliding. He says not every sin is an instance of backsliding. Rather a season of habitual unrepentant sin is a mark of a backslidden believer. He goes on to declare that our life as believers will be a life of sin, repent, believe, grow, sin, repent, believe more deeply, grow and points out that this is what the Beloved Apostle John says in his first letter. I think this is key because to really know how to deal with a backslidden person we have to know what constitutes one.
As for the way back for one that is backslidden, it is really the Gospel. It is pressing in deeper and deeper into Christ. It is confessing your sin/s into your community of believers and letting them help the Gospel work deeper and deeper into you. The thoughts Beeke proposes are not groundbreaking and new, but they are wise and solid. We do need to heed them, and deal with our sin in the manner he lays out, whether we are completely in a backslidden state or not.
I found this short book very full of meat and I am sure you will too, so head on over to the Cruciform Press website and order this book today.
Todd Gragg, PastorTodd78
“Christians of all ages and denominations should digest this material carefully.”
Backsliding is a great curse upon the individual soul as well as upon the church. The tragedy of back-sliding is that few people identify until it is too late. In this short book, Joel Beeke helps us identify the nature, causes and remedies of spiritual backsliding. He defines backsliding as, “a season of increasing sin and decreasing obedience in those who profess to be Christians” (p. 16). Not every sin indicates a backslidden state. However, chapter one masterfully pierces into the depths of our souls showing us how far we often have fallen from true spiritual vitality without realizing it.
Dr Beeke has cited a wide range of authors in a short space in order to introduce his readers to a wealth of valuable materials on the subject of backsliding and spiritual vitality. Each chapter of the work begins with an illustration taken from runners in a race and the chapter headings reflect this accordingly. The material is drawn from an extended exposition of Hosea 14, thus rooting his teaching soundly in Scripture. Readers who are familiar with other works by Dr Beeke will justifiably expect from him high quality and soul-nourishing material. This book does not disappoint in this regard. While delving into the dark recesses of our souls and forcing us to come to terms with the sins of our hearts in a way that will make most of us uncomfortable, the author wonderfully magnifies the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ.
May the Triune God use this little book to awaken His people to their current spiritual weakness and its cure in the covenant of grace. If the church continues to remain insensible to its backslidden condition, then we will face apostasy on an even wider scale in the not too distant future. Christians of all ages and denominations should digest this material carefully.
Ryan M. McGraw, review in The Banner of Truth, Issue 591, December 2012, p 32.
Christian Hanna –
“The purpose of this book is to awaken Christians to the reality of backsliding, to help us recognize it when it starts, to show where it may lead, and to empower believers…to get back in the race by the grace of God.” – Joel R. Beeke
Using Scripture as a scalpel, Beeke cuts through the smiling façade of backsliders, bringing to light what is on the inside. What he reveals is both appalling and accurate, as he diagnoses the predicament of one who has grown cold spiritually. While quoting philosophers and writers from centuries past, Beeke supports his analysis of a backslider with Hosea (particularly chapter 14), Jeremiah, and other writers in Scripture.
The truth that runs throughout his book is superbly summed up his statement that “God alone can reverse the damage done by backsliding”. The truth of backsliding is that it is ugly; it is a direct rebellion and rejection of God, and it is something that one cannot fight alone.
Using the title of “Great Physician” and the analogy of Christians as runners in a race, Beeke points out not only our need for healing, but that it can only come from God. As he continues his dissection of the backsliding Christian, he arrives at the heart of the issue.
“The essence of backsliding is a descent into the whirlpool of idolatry.”
Idolatry is the base of all sins, if we really take a moment to consider it, as Beeke argues. Pride, lust, lying, and so on—all of these emanate from idolatry. Whether we have set ourselves up as the idols or our stomachs or our sensuality, the heart of our sinning and consequential backsliding is idolatry.
Finally, Beeke implores the backsliding Christian, “Do not play with sin like a toy; cast it away like a deadly rattlesnake.”
In conclusion, though Beeke was repetitive at times over his 114-page challenge to backsliders, he peels back the disguise of the wandering and challenges them to press onward, returning to Christ with repentant hearts. So to the wandering, the backsliding, and the spiritually dormant—Beeke’s words are a wake-up call, a call to arms, and a torrent of cleansing and refreshing water.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review. Many thanks to Cruciform Press and Joel R. Beeke for a good read.