I JOHN 5:16-17: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he should ask, and God will give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death—I am not saying you should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not leading to death.” TLV

OBSERVATION: What is the sin not leading to death? This question could open up a myriad of responses. I think the best way to answer this question is not to create a list, but to eliminate what it is not. It is not the sin unto death. John makes it clear that we are not to pray for that. What is the sin unto death?

Jesus said that all sin will be forgiven man, except the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This is the sin unto death. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is attributing the works of God to Satan. In other words, it is completely hardening one’s heart to the Holy Spirit so that the heart is no longer reachable. It is was Paul refers to in Romans 1 as the reprobate heart. (Note: If you have ever worried that you have committed the sin unto death, don’t worry! The fact that you are even concerned and asking the question is proof that you have not!)

So what is the practical application for our lives? It speaks to how we view and deal with a brother or a sister who falls into sin. We call this backsliding. We all have backslidden from walking with the Lord in sincere faith. It is not whether one will backslide. The question is how do we deal with the backslider?

Since backsliding is not the sin unto death, we are to pray for them. John writes that as we intercede for this person, God will give life to those who commit the sin not leading to death. What is that life? It is the precious Holy Spirit wooing them back to the Father. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the same Holy Spirit that led them to embrace Christ as their Savior and Lord. This is a promise of God.

How do we usually deal with the backslider, especially if they are a family member? We are naturally hurt and disappointed when someone backslides, when they not only leave the Lord, but when they also leave their responsibilities in life unattended. The human response is to pull away from that person. It is hard for us to be with them because we are so hurt and disappointed. But, is this the way we should respond?

What would happen if we took all of this hurt and disappointment and directed it to intercessory prayer for this individual? What would happen if we began to deal with them, not based on what they deserve, but based on the same mercy that God has shown to us in our times of backsliding? What if we asked God to give them life?

I believe the Lord always answers the prayer for life. This does not guarantee that an individual will respond to this life. However, they will be given every opportunity to respond. As we pray, the Lord will pour out the Holy Spirit upon their life to check them in their sin, to call them back to repentance, and to lead them into the pathway of restoration. And, if we have been praying this way, when they do return, we will be positioned to receive them with joy.

To ask God for life, we first must ask God to give us His grace. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, lay down our hurt and disappointment, and refuse to pick it up again. We need to begin to pray for life and blessing upon the backslider, for it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. And when they return, as the father did with the prodigal son, we need to run to them, embrace them, and restore them. Our brother or sister who was lost, has now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls!

Lord, this morning as I type these thoughts, I ask you to give LIFE to one very special person on my heart. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon them. Draw them back to You. Renew their heart. Give them victory over the sin that so easily besets. Restore in them the joy of Your salvation. And as you do, guard my heart from a judgmental and critical spirit. Help me to be positioned to love and restore. Help me to see them as you see them!

In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy-to-follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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