Summary: Consider how James ends. James is writing to a severely persecuted and battered people. He is on a rescue mission and there is no time for pleasantries!
“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.” (James 5:19-20)
There are many famous last words in the annals of history. Lou Gehrig told a packed Yankee Stadium, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Richard Nixon told reporters in California, “Just think how much you’re gonna be missing. You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”
The Apostle Paul often ended his books with grand closing statements filled with love and sentiment for his brothers and sisters in Christ. He wrote: “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:11-14).
Now consider how James ends. James is writing to a severely persecuted and battered people. He is on a rescue mission and there is no time for pleasantries!
I. Recognize the Reality (v.19a)
A. The Truth is God’s Word
There is a reality we must come to grips with. Christians do at times wander from the truth. That truth is God’s Word.
The world is looking for truth and much that passes for truth is not. Time has proven that the experts’ truth is not always truth. A Western Union memo in 1876 read, “"This ’telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria said in 1874, "The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon". Charles H. Duell, who was commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, wrote in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
While the experts are often wrong about truth, God’s Word never is because it is truth. It is that truth that unifies us. God gave his truth to be written by tax collectors, lawyers, fishermen and slaves. They were all unified by the marvelous truth God gave them in His Word (see 2 Peter 1:16-21; 1 John 1:1-3).
Because God’s Word is truth we must be careful how we handle it. God’s Word sets us free. John 8:32 says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” We don’t have to spend our life wondering about what is true and what is not. God’s Word sets us free as it becomes the foundation of our lives. The wise man builds his life on the truth of God’s Word and obedience to it (see Matthew 7:24-27).
B. Christians Do At Times Wander
God’s Word is truth but sadly, believers do at times wander from it. The word wander comes from the Greek word we translate as planet. Planets were called wandering stars because they are constantly changing position in the heavens. The terrible reality is that many believers do at times wander from the firm foundation of God’s truth (see Acts 20:29-31; Hebrews 3:12-13).
Why do Christians at times wander from the truth?
Because of life’s pressures - John Mark wandered from the truth and ran away from the mission field. He let the pressure get to him.
Because of the fear of people – Peter played the hypocrite in Galatians because he feared what the Jews would think of him.
Because of sin – Ananias and Saphira were believers who had greed and pride in their hearts.
Because of the sins of others – they see the failings of other believers and feel that undermines the truth of God.
Do you know someone who has wandered from the truth. Have you been tempted to let your life’s orbit move from the truth to something else?
II. Rescue the Wanderer(vv.19b-20)
A. Our Mandate
Because Christians do at times wander from the truth we have been given a mandate to seek to rescue those wanderers. James doesn’t command us to rescue these people, He expects us to. He doesn’t say: think about those people; feel sorry for those people; talk about those people; forget about those people. No – he says to rescue them! We are to seek to turn them back.
God is a rescuing God and we are to be a rescuing people. The shepherd left the ninety-nine to find the one lost sheep. The father anxiously longed for the return of His prodigal son. God is a seeking God and we are to be a seeking people.