Summary: The human heart is deceitful and will lead us astray. From the Hymn writer who said, "Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to Leave the God I love. HERE'S MY HEART Lord, take and seal it."

How to Do Life

Prone To Wander - #23 of 24

Jerry Watts

James 5:19-20

* I begin by reminding you that James is writing to ‘believers in the faith.’

* The last verse of the hymn “Come Thou Fount” is very revealing. It reveals something about us which we don’t really care to embrace or come to terms with. Here are the words:

O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be

Let Thy grace Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

* We do have wandering hearts and when we wander the natural, normal course is away from God’s fellowship. When we do, we find ourselves in a mess. To be sure we never intended for this to happen, but the truth is, wander away from God is toward sin.

* Obviously James had been a witness to this type of accidental, subtle behavior because as he was inspired by God to pen this, he ends with instruction about how we are to help one another.

* Keep this in mind because this is one of the ways the church has become so weak. Much in written in God’s word about us helping each other to keep from sin and today, many people think this is taboo. “It’s none of our business” they say, God says differently.

1. The Affection – He begins with the word “Brothers”. This is not an unusual word for Him. It’s kind of like ‘honey’ in the south, it give a feeling of intimate connection. He’s not fussing or condemning, he is trying to speak the language of love to his brother. The word ‘brother’ in this context, literally means, ‘one who shares with another a mutual life.’ How can you be more connected that to live a shared life. Remember the words of Jesus, “love one another as I have loved you and in this way, the word will know that you are mine.” This is the shared life of brothers.

* Some of us remember (and I have some preacher friends who still do it) calling people in the church ‘brethren and sister-in’. This was to speak of the family connection and the shared life. James is about to deal with an issue which can only be dealt with by people in the family of God.

* Candidly, just like parents, siblings, and more, we need each other to ‘help’ not ‘harm’ when we trip and fall.

2. The Affliction – Our verse says “IF” which is a conditional term that says, ‘just in case.’ The affliction of a broken fellowship with God by sin is one that slips up on us, it is rarely intentional, but it happens. And the ‘if’ is like a flashing yellow light which says, “Caution.”

* The word is wander from the truth (KJV says, err)…it’s like walking down a path and losing your way. The word actually speaks of a planet ‘wandering’ across the sky. But notice that also that James speaks of wandering from the truth. So the average person believes this speaks of someone who drops off in church attendance. Yet, Proverbs 5:14 tells us “I was on the verge of ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation.” You see you don’t have to leave church to leave the truth. Actually, this is the “prone” part of prone to wander.

* To stray is to fail to live out the truth God has revealed to you. This means we live like we want regardless of what we know as truth.

* The word ‘wander’ also hints that this can be a habitual type of sin. When sin is habitual, it can indicate that the person is not saved. Because of the passive tense of the word – it also can indicate that something or someone is leading you to stray.

* Sin is serious business in the life of a believer. It harms his spirit, cripples his walk with God, and it hinders the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. It needs some attention.

3. The Assignment – Look at the words, ‘turns him back’ which we know is the definition of repentance. Other translation say “bring him back” because we are responsible to help each other like this.

* James is clearly telling us to be involved in help each other live a godly life. The hint is that this type of Holy Life is difficult if not impossible without help. We need each other to do so. And if we are not going to be involved in one another’s life – then success for the Lord may be impossible.

* Notice that the verse says, “Someone” turns him back. That someone can be anyone which is to say any believer. Everyone is precious and valuable in the family of God. We are saved to become like Him and we become like Him by embracing the real truth which is God’s word. Not only are we to LOVE one another but we are to LEARN from one another because we HELP one another. Can it be that the church is so weak because so many have wandered from the truth and no one is helping them to return?

* What would have happened if Jesus had given up on Peter after he denied the Lord? The message at the Empty tomb would have been “Go and tell the disciples” not “Go tell the disciples and PETER.” The church is in need of godly, spiritual people to help those who have wandered away. Not to bring back to ‘church’ but to bring back to ‘Christ’ – truthfully, this is our assignment.

4. The Affirmations – First, James is publicly affirming that person who is brave and courageous enough to help a brother who has fallen into sin be restored into fellowship with the Father and the body. (the SOMEONE) He is saying, “The brother who seeks to reclaim a fallen brother is deserving of recognition, although he’ll seldom receive it.” Let’s not get confused with a spiritual task of restoring a wandering soul and telling people how bad they’ve been. (You catching what I’m tossing?)

* A lot of people, in the name of God, have decided that they are God’s answer to righteousness, so they spend their lives telling others just how bad ‘they’ve’ been. This is not what James is saying at all, this is not an “in your face sinner” license. While we should never minimize the deep spiritual need to help someone who has wandered away from God and into sin, we should take our hint as to how it should be done, from God’s word.

* Paul gives us some instructions in his letter to Galatia. (Many will say, “It’s none of our business how people live their lives.” To those who might believe this-my response is, “You cannot make that case from the Bible.

* Believers have been, are, and will be interconnected and scripture is sprinkled with expectations to ‘bear one another’s burdens.’) Galatians 6:1-3 is our starting point. (READ) The person who attempts to restore is a ‘target’ for the enemy because this person is doing eternal business and Satan doesn’t like that.

* The second affirmation is for the ‘sinner’. We need to hang on to one truth, “If a believer lives a life of sin and dies with unconfessed sin in their lives, there will be a price to pay at the Judgment Seat of Christ.” Of all the things that we, as believers, should be doing, ‘turning sinners from the error of their way’ should head the list. Where did this concept go? It has seemingly passed by us in generations past.

* The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things” and we know that the “human heart is an idol factory” – doesn’t it stand to reason that, without taking thoughts captive, our heart is ‘prone to wander.” Let’s end with those words which we started:

O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be

Let Thy grace Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and shield it, shield it for thy courts above.