During my recent prayer, the Lord gave me a revelation about His body, His church, through James 5:19-20 which I now share with you. By His grace, the Lord revealed to me His deep sadness over those who previously were a part of the body of Christ, but have sinned against Him and have turned away from the Truth. Our lost brothers or sisters, also referred to as backsliders, are still very much in the heart of God.
In the conclusion to his epistle, the Apostle James wrote to us: “Dear brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 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”.
The verses reminded me of God’s calling to us, His church, to live faith in obedience and action, by showing loving kindness, compassion and mercy for and ministering in truth and gentleness; especially to those who were once a part of the body of Christ and now have departed from the Lord. This is confirmed in Galatians 6:1 which reads “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted”.
As our response to God, let us now put our heavenly gifts to use for His Kingdom. Let us faithfully pray for the lost sheep with love and without prejudice or judgement, trusting Him to hear our prayer and to grant us breakthrough.
The Apostle James calls us to help backsliders return to God for His forgiveness. He reminds us to not accuse them, but meet them where they are. We need to act in love, to re-establish them in the Truth. We need to help them change their attitudes; reclaim them from the enemy; and help them recognise their errors of judgement and the multitudes of sin into which they have been led. Let us remember Romans 6:14 says: “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the source of salvation. If our endeavours lead us nowhere, we need to exercise caution, for we are by no means empowered to accuse, persecute, condemn and destroy them. Instead, let us trust in the Lord and the power of prayer which can move mountains and break down strongholds. The Lord has empowered us as covenant partakers to be overcomers, to press on with perseverance as witnesses to His glory and kingdom. Proverbs 10:12 says: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses”.
A backslider who departs from God, follows his own mind and flesh that is filled with fear of suffering and hope of gain and pleasure. A man following God walks in His grace and seeks Him for His way and wisdom, in faith and confidence. Proverbs 14:14 tells us “the backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways”.
Our covenant relationship with the Lord is established in His overflowing divine mercy and His free grace which has resulted in His pardoning and forgiving saved souls over thousands of years. Our Father in Heaven has not grown weary or tired and is waiting for the return of all His lost sheep, all His prodigal sons and daughters.
We are, however, cautioned in First John 5:16 which reads: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray that God would give him life. This applies to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not telling you to pray about that”. It is not clear here to which death the Apostle John is referring; whether physical or spiritual. Paul wrote in First Corinthians 11 that some Christians had died because they took Communion unworthily while in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead when they lied to God. Mark 3:29 warns that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit results in spiritual death while Hebrews 6 describes the spiritual death of the person who turns against Christ. Perhaps, John was referring to those who left Christ to join the antichrists. By rejecting the only way of salvation, these people put themselves out of reach of prayer. Indeed the author of Hebrews 6:4-6 gives us this salutary warning “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, and who have fallen away; it is impossible, I say, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify the Son of God afresh to themselves and put Him to an open shame.” Again, we are not to judge.
Especially for us, Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 “now the Spirit says clearly that in the last times some people will abandon the faith by following deceitful spirits, the teachings of demons, and the hypocrisy of liars, whose consciences have been burned by a hot iron. They will try to stop people from marrying and from eating certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer”. Ignorance and a lack of training can lead us to this position but Second Chronicles 30:9 encourages us that “if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you, if you return to Him.” The divine mercy of God is our source of encouragement to repent and seek His saving grace.
Let us also remember the teachings of the Lord Himself to His disciples in Matthew 18:15-14 when He asked: ”What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish”.
May we be strengthened in keeping His commands as we surrender ourselves completely to the Lord; knowing that the Holy Spirit will help us to resist temptation and avoid wrong choices. Let us heed the Word of the Lord, our God and endeavour to help our backslidden brother or sister in love and prayer. His grace is and will always be, more than enough!
Amen and Amen!