JAMES 5:19-20: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Have you ever had a close friend who wandered from the truth? When this happened what did you do? Did you simply pray and hope that they would return to the Lord? Or, did you get involved and do something?
I think we need to be reminded about the enemy’s end game for all of our lives.
- “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 NKJV
Note the contrast between God’s objective and Satan’s. Jesus has come that we might experience life and life abundantly. The enemy of our souls is determined to kill, steal, and destroy everything that God has created. There is a battle waging for every soul on this earth.
For the born again child of God, the enemy has already lost the battle for their spirit. One who has truly been born again by the Spirit is secure in their salvation. Yet, they are not secure in their fruitfulness in this life. If the enemy cannot steal them away from God, he will try to destroy all the potential that God has placed in their life.
James is not addressing unbelievers when he says – “If anyone among you wanders away from the truth…”. He is addressing believers. James is fully aware that the enemy of our souls is always at work to dissuade a believer in Christ from a life of faith and obedience. A once vibrant faith can be clouded by doubt and disobedience and end up in unfruitfulness. This is what Paul is alluding to when he writes,
- “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” I Corinthians 3:11-15 NKJV
Note these sobering words – “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” What does fire do? Fire destroys. The picture here is of a believer who allowed their life to be misdirected from God’s will. They wandered from the truth. Their God-given potential was never realized. At the end of their life, they escaped death, but they entered into eternal life as one who escapes a fire with nothing more than the shirt on their back.
This is a sad picture and should make us all mad. We should rise up with righteous indignation against the wiles and deceitful plans of the enemy. And, when we see someone we love, someone we call friend, wander from the truth – WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING!
- “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1 NKJV
Why don’t we do this? Why do we keep silent? Why do we simply stand by while our friend rushes toward the cliff? We live in a world of bystanders. We have become like the priest and the rabbi who passed by the man who had been mugged by robbers. When there is a call for a Good Samaritan there are few who answer.
Some may object – “If I say something, then I will lose my friend.” Are we more concerned about our feelings and what someone thinks about us – than their own eternal reward? Are our comfort, our position, and our personal peace more precious than the soul of a dear friend? And, by our lack of candor, are we not actually encouraging them to continue down the pathway where all they will meet is sorrow and disappointment?
James is very clear – “…Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” So many times it is not the words of a father, mother, or family member that turns someone from their backsliding. Rather – IT IS THE TRUTH, SPOKEN IN LOVE, BY A CLOSE AND DEAR FRIEND.
I have learned in life that an expert is someone who lives 10 minutes from home. We can speak into the lives of our family members, and we should, but many times these words fall on deaf ears. However, when a friend, a Christian brother or sister that is not part of the immediate situation, has the courage to speak into someone’s life – it is received in a completely different way.
There is a price to speaking the truth in love. We may temporarily lose a friend. They may reject our words in an explosion of anger and accuse us of not caring. Yet, the Holy Spirit will work through our words and our prayers. I would rather try to turn someone from the error of their ways than see them continue down a destructive path, simply because I was afraid to speak up.
In the midst of a world that is rife with terrorism, one of the ways we are encouraged to keep people safe is – “If you see something, say something!” This is what James is exhorting us to do in the closing words of his epistle. What will happen if we don’t heed this exhortation? The odds are that nothing will change and our friend will continue down a pathway of destruction. What will happen if we do? There are no guarantees – but there is a great chance that God will use our love and our exhortation to turn them from the error of their ways.
I don’t know about you, but I am willing to take the chance to see a dear friend restored?
Lord, speak to each one of our hearts today. Give us grace and courage to speak the truth in love. Let us be true ambassadors of Your love, reconciliation, and life.
In Jesus Name!