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Lost Sheep Saved

James 5:19-20
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (NIVUK)

As we have read through James' letter, we have seen many ways in which we might stray away from following Jesus, and what we need to do to come back. Perhaps the pivot point of the whole book is James 4:7-8, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded". A radical change is intended, without which God is not pleased nor glorified, neither is there any blessing.

But what will you do, if you see a Christian brother or sister moving away from God's truth? Just using those family words reminds us that all who have received Jesus Christ by faith (John 1:12) have become children of God. They are spiritual siblings. Do we care that they may have had little inclination to read the Bible or to pray or to seek counsel; does it bother us if they become entangled in sin; are we concerned if they are confused and hopeless? If we are truly in Christ then we should want to help our brothers and sisters. James says that it is a wonderful thing to help a sinner to turn around to face Jesus again. The issue is never primarily about people's circumstances or emotions, although they will be involved, but about how they have responded to truth as revealed by God in the Bible.

Wandering from the truth leaves us exposed to the worst the world, flesh and devil can do to us. God's mission has always been to bring us back to the truth of His covenant. That was the work of the prophets like Elijah (James 5:17-18), and supremely it is the work of Jesus (Ezekiel 34:11-12). Jesus is the Shepherd who searches out the lost sheep and brings them home again (Luke 15:4-7). True repentance and conversion will literally save their life for eternity (Jude 1:23). And if a Christian brother or sister has forgotten their first love of Christ, then gently leading them to repentance will lead to God's gracious forgiveness and the path back to serving the Lord (Revelation 2:4-5).

So, gently and humbly, recognising your own tendency to sin, bring people back to God's Word (Galatians 6:1-5). Encourage them to see God's kindness as well as His sternness (Romans 11:22). Our responsibility is not primarily to help people to feel good about themselves, but to help them to get right with God. We are called to work alongside the Shepherd. Let us not ignore His call. James, like the other half-brothers of Jesus, initially did not believe in Him (John 7:3-5), but when he believed that Jesus is the Truth, he was glad to obey. He started his letter saying that he was a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). He ends the letter exhorting all believers to bring other brothers and sisters back to Jesus so that they may receive forgiveness and be fit to serve Him; that is why he wrote this letter; and that is why BeaconLight has sent you Word@Work!

Gracious Lord. Thank You for saving me, seeking me out even when I did not want to be found. Forgive me for being careless about the spiritual welfare of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please help me to work with You to help You bring back those who have fallen into sin and strayed away from Your authority. Help me to be alert to the people who You are wanting to bring back home into Your love and care. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams