"Ministry of Reconciliation"
One area of ministry that often gets overlooked is that of helping a brother or sister whose faith is weak or who has fallen into a sinful life pattern. It is tough to come alongside a fellow Christian who has failed.
Ministry of Reconciliation
A. I like to learn but I hate tests. I am sure that our Bible class attendance would be low if we tested kids and adults periodically in our classes. Why? Because we generally feel like test set us up to fail. But is that really the point of a test? Teachers would say that tests are there to see if we are comprehending the material that is taught. To just sit in a class doesn’t mean you understand. But if you can pass a test, it proves that you can. In fact, employers want to know that you really do understand the subject. They don’t hire people simply because they sat in a class.
B. When James opens his letter to Christians who have been dispersed because of the persecution they faced, James opens with these words (James 1:3-4). But here is my question, what if you don’t pass the test? What if, as a Christian, you face these trials and instead of being steadfast you fall-fast?
C. James closes his letter by giving us the answer that was just read to you. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth…” So we come to our text today to find out what happens to a Christian who has wandered from the truth.
I. The problem
A. The Bible has some strong passages of warning about Christians wandering from the truth. Paul, Peter and the writer of Hebrews all give us the facts that not everyone who comes to Christ says in spiritual pathway of Christ.
- 1 Tim. 4:1-3
- 2 Pet. 2:20-22
- Heb. 10:26-31
B. There is a word that was used when I was a child to talk about these type of people: apostate. It is not a word that used very much today. It is found in scripture only twice, once where Paul is accused of apostasy from the Jewish traditions and once by Paul to the Thessalonians when he talks about the man of lawlessness. It means the “state of fallen” or to “forsake” your spiritual teaching.
C. A Christians can turn away from the very truth they once held and can die in darkness instead of walking in the light. Without the grace of Jesus covering our sinfulness, we will stand before him condemned to hell. I don’t know if that bothers you, but it should. If you know anyone who has walked away from the truth of God and returned to the cares of the world, then listen. This lesson is for you.
D. Let’s make this personal. There isn’t a person here who has not struggled with some type of sin. I know that we are people who strive to do that which is right, but the truth remains, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The truth remains, that each person here, when fighting against the schemes of the devil sometimes loses. Paul gave a warning to the Corinthians, “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” James tells us that that sometimes we struggle with inaction, weak faith, favoritism, our tongue and humility. This idea of wandering from the truth is real, and it’s scary.
E. Can a Christian wander from the truth? Jesus told a parable about 100 sheep, and one of them wandered away. Remember, this was a sheep, it belonged to the fold, it was not a stranger, but a part of the fold. Do you know what the shepherd in that parable did? He went after the one. The conclusion of that parable Jesus said, “I tell you that in same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over nine-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Heaven rejoiced when that sheep was brought home, but don’t think for a minute that sheep came home on his own. (Luke 15)
II. The Solution
A. The ending of verse 19 of our text says, “and someone brings him back.” There is a problem. Too many Christians have wandered from the truth. But there is also a solution. You can go after them.
B. When Peter met Jesus on the shore after a fish breakfast, Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter said he did. Each time Jesus told him to “feed or tend my sheep.” Sometimes the best person to go after a sinner, is the sinner that someone else got. Jesus sent a forgiven sinner named Peter to go after other sinners that needed forgiveness. (John 21:15-17)
C. You may have walked down some dark roads in life yourself. You may have hurt God deeply by your sins, but you have also experienced grace, forgiveness and love. You have tasted the goodness of God and are feasting at his banquet table. But there is room for more to come to the table. Someone has to go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come. That person may be you.
D. I hear people say, “I’m not perfect!” “I am not like the elders or you.” I would challenge you to take up the mantel and go after the brother or sister that has gotten lost along the journey. It is their own sin that took them away, not yours. I am saying, “go after them.”
E. You want to know why? (James 5:20) “Remember this, whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” That’s way. Because that brother or sister could die in their sins. Because those multitude of sins can be covered over by the grace of God. Because the nails that were driven into the hands and feet of Jesus were driven there because of those sins, and the empty tomb’s power is victory over them. That’s way.
A. I started this sermon by talking about taking a test. Sometimes we fail the test. Sometimes we live in that failure and want to quit. Sometimes the world just looks so good we want to experience it, but that experience only takes us to the “pigpen” of life and leaves us hungry to eat the slop that pigs eat. I would like to close by telling you a story that Max Lucado wrote in his book “No Wonder They Call Him Savior”
“Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother’s heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.
“Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture – taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note.
“It wasn’t too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth, but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” She did.”
Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, pp. 158-159
B. No matter what you have done, no matter what you have become, it doesn’t matter. Come home. Won’t you come as we stand and sing?