Wandering from the truth is extremely dangerous:
- It damages and even destroys the soul
- It increases sin and destroys the church’s witness
Let’s take a closer look at wandering from the truth and how we can prevent it and even reverse it. In James 5:19-20, the Apostle James wrote to prevent and reverse wandering from the truth. It was a special danger in these times because they were times of suffering for the faith.
WANDERING FROM THE TRUTH IS POSSIBLE
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth” (19a)
- Christians can wander from the truth: James addresses “brothers,” therefore he’s speaking to Christians.
- Wandering from the truth looks like this: It can be walking away from doctrinal truth or ethical truth. Our hearts, minds, and lives move slowly but increasingly away from theological and practical truths.
That’s scary. I want to help wanderers. Is there any hope for their return?
WANDERING FROM THE TRUTH IS REVERSIBLE
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back” (19b).
- Christian wandering can be reversed: James is envisaging other brothers or sisters pursuing the wanderer.
- Pursuit of wanderers looks like this: It involves knowing the person, watching out for a person, taking action early, having the courage to ask hard questions, persuading them of their error and danger, appealing to them to return to God’s truth in its entirety.
That’s comforting. What motives can I use to persuade them?
RETURNING TO THE TRUTH IS DESIRABLE
“Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (20).
- Returning saves the soul: It saves the soul from a lot of trouble, but even from death, physical death and eternal death.
- Returning prevents lots of sin: When someone starts wandering from biblical doctrine or ethics, it’s usually evidenced in increasing sin in their lives. So when someone returns to the truth, multiple sins are prevented and therefore “covered.”
These are powerful motives aren’t they, both to stop and reverse our own and others’ wandering from the truth.
LIVING THE BIBLE
Pursue wanderers because of the spiritual benefits to the wanderer and church.
PRAYING THE BIBLE
Faithful God, we confess our unfaithfulness. We admit that suffering, especially suffering for the faith, tests our faith and sometimes we fail. We give up truth – both doctrinal and ethical truth – way too easily. Our hearts move away, then our minds, then our consciences, then our words, then our actions. Graciously forgive our wanderings and keep us from moving away from you in any way.
If we’ve wandered, send others to help us reverse course. If others have wandered, use us to help them reverse course. Give us the right spirit and words to pursue and bring them back
In so doing, save many souls and prevent lots of sin. Give living faith in testing times, because our great Savior had living faith in testing times and never wandered from the truth in the slightest. Accept his faithfulness when we have none to give. Amen.