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Care For Your Brothers and Sisters

James: True Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Good Morning!
It is good to worship with you guys this morning.
Last week we covered James 5:13-18 and discussed James’s call to prayer.
We began by talking about how important authenticity and integrity are to the ministry of the church.
That is no surprise to anyone, but as we all know, those characteristics aren’t always shown by the church.
As we close out this study today, we are going to see just how important those characteristics are in the lives of everyone, not just believers.
James identifies three prayers in those verses.
Praying for ourselves, the prayer of the elders, and praying for others.
What we saw is that all three of these are on equal footing.
One is not greater than another, and all play a role in our communication with God.
As we have covered so many times and in many ways, God’s desire is for us to know Him.
Prayer is the way that happens.
I had some conversations regarding prayer after last week's message, and I thought it would be helpful to remind all of us that prayer is simply a conversation with God.
If you find it a struggle to pray, I want to remind you that you are not alone.
I have the NKJV version here because that is what most of us grew up learning.
Read this with me.
Luke 11:1–4 NKJV
1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
Look at it again in the NLT, which is closer to how we speak today.
Luke 11:1–4 NLT
1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. 3 Give us each day the food we need, 4 and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
This simple prayer is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
Pray doesn’t need to be extravagant or long.
It is simply a conversation with God.
Jesus covers just a few things when teaching the disciples to pray.
That God’s name would be kept holy.
That God’s kingdom would come soon.
Asking for the food required for the day.
Forgiveness for ourselves and for others.
Keep us from temptation.
I’ll tell you, there are times that I pray that is formal in this way, but there are probably more where I am speaking directly to God about whatever is going on in the moment.
Think about how you talk with a best friend.
There are times when you are formal; you say hello, shake hands/hug, and then begin speaking, but there are other times when you forgo all that and jump right into the conversation.
Prayer is just a relay of communication between you and God, and there is no “wrong” way.
You say what you are thinking or feeling.
I wanted to take the time this morning to walk through that because as James closes out this sermon or letter, he makes a plea to the church.
This plea is heartfelt, but it requires that we work in the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task.
We cannot do that if we are unclear on what it means to pray.
This task requires that we are praying for one another because, without prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we cannot accomplish what we are being asked to do.
Look at these verses with me.
James 5:19–20 CSB
19 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
As the church is learning what it means to be a follower of Christ, and as they are hashing out what they believe, there were undoubtedly some that were swayed in the wrong direction.
James ends his letter by urging the church to not give up on those brothers and sisters.
Jesus didn’t give up on us and we shouldn’t give up on others.
I had a friend call me last week.
He and his wife have had a bit of tough time recently and I asked him how it was going.
I loved his response.
He said, “Have you ever thought you understood something and no matter how many times someone tried to tell you differently you just couldn’t see it?”
I told him yes.
He didn’t say what, but he said that he understood something differently now and as a result his marriage is going great.
I explained to him that what he was describing is called learning.
He said, yeah, but I’m nearly thirty, I thought I was done with all that.
He couldn’t see it, but I rolled my eyes.
What my friend experienced is not all that different from what the church that James was writing to was going through.
There were some in the church who thought they understood something, but James is saying to the other church members that they had misunderstood.
Look at vs 19 again.
James 5:19 CSB
19 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back,
Some had strayed from the truth.
James doesn’t say that it was a deliberate stray or accidental, but either way, he tells the church to turn them back.

We are asked to bring brothers and sisters back into the fold.

James does not spell out for us what this “truth” is that he is describing, but we do know that, broadly speaking, he is referring to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
Something they had chosen to believe was incorrect, and that was significant enough for James to include it in his letter.
It is critical that the church has a proper understanding of the gospel.

What the mind thinks, and the mouth confesses, the body must do—anything less is worldly, sinful “double-mindedness” (1:8; 4:8).

We see twice in his letter that James addresses the idea of being double-minded.
James 1:8 CSB
8 being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.
James 4:8 CSB
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James has been saying all through his letter that you cannot be double-minded, meaning you either believe the truth or you don’t.
You can’t pick and choose which parts of the gospel you want to be true and which parts you don’t.
1 John 1:6 CSB
6 If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.
If our theology isn’t correct and we are sharing it with others, we are walking in darkness because we are not practicing the truth.
We see this happening around us in the world.
There is a particular denomination right now that is splitting because of this very thing.
Many in leadership have chosen to believe and are teaching things that are contrary to scripture.
The result of that decision people are being led astray and others are walking away from the church. This is what James would call going astray.
It’s easy to look at “those” people and point fingers, but we are all guilty of making mistakes.
The ones I’m talking about have garnered more attention recently.
The SBC is not without its missteps either and those decisions affect the ministry of all churches.
It is easy to obey the law when it fits into our morality or cultural expectations, but what about those things that live in the grey area?
Things that are technically sins but we as a society have silently agreed are okay.
When we start giving in to sin and temptation, it is a slippery slope.
James has already warned the church about how dangerous and easy it is to give into temptation.
James 1:14–15 CSB
14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
There is not a person alive today who does not face temptation.
The difference is whether or not we give in to that temptation.
The point that the commentator was making is that what we choose to believe determines our actions.
If you or I do fall into temptation and decide to turn our backs on Jesus and the church, it is God’s plan for our brothers and sisters to call us back.
But what does it look like to turn someone back, and how does one go about it?
Look at this example from the book of Luke.
Luke 22:31–32 CSB
31 “Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
And, of course, we know how this story ends.
Peter does deny Christ, but Christ then restores him.
The result is the beginning of the church.
All of us are going to make mistakes, but God can redeem us if we turn back.
There is an important part of this process that we must not forget.

We move as the Holy Spirit leads.

I’ll be the first to admit that it is a bit daring to go to someone and tell them they have strayed away.
Whether they know it to be true or not, it is a bold statement.
It feels real judge-y.
So when, how, and who should respond when someone has strayed away?
In my experience, that duty is shifted to the pastor.
As we discussed last week, though, that is not historically how it is done.
Look at what Charles Spurgeon said about this.
The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XIX To Sabbath-School Teachers and Other Soul-Winners (No. 1,137)

The text gives us clear indications as to the persons who are to aim at the conversion of erring brethren. It says, “If any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him.” One what? One minister? No, any one among the brethren. If the minister shall be the means of the restoration of a backslider, he is a happy man, and a good deed has been done; but there is nothing said here concerning preachers or pastors, not even a hint is given—it is left open to any one member of the church; and the plain inference, I think, is this—that every church member seeing his brother err from the truth, or err in practice, should set himself, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to this business of converting this special sinner from the error of his way.

This is the job of any member, not just the pastor.
This is much easier for us at TGP because we do community well.
We know one another and have the depth of our relationship to be able to speak truthfully to one another.
Or at least we should.
It is our duty to look after one another.
Should someone come to you in love, and correct you, receive that loving correction.
Another commentary made this comment, and it is so true and fitting for our discussion.
James 4. The Ministry of Restoration (5:19–20)

The goal of faith in the Lord is maturity; but, as James indicated earlier, everyone stumbles in many ways (“we all stumble,” 3:2).

James 3:2 CSB
2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body.
We all stumble, but our goal is maturity.
Maturity only happens as we grow.
We only grow as we learn.
We only learn as our knowledge is expanded.
I’ll give you an example from my own life.
About a year ago, and I made a joke during the sermon, I think about myself, but maybe not, but it was about weight.
It got some laughs and I felt good about it.
That is until Michelle pulled me aside after the service and informed me that what I said was fat shaming.
My stomach just sank.
That was certainly not my intention, but regardless, it is what I had done.
Rather than not saying anything and letting me flounder in my ignorance, Michelle lovingly spoke up.
I am so thankful to have people like Michelle in my life that love me enough to tell me when I’m wrong.
I did not understand when I made the joke that it would hurt others.
But because of a friend that loves me, I now know better.
This is the kind of loving action that James and Spurgeon are talking about.
We are called to love one another to the degree that we are willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of someone else.
God has called us to take care of one another, and sometimes that means having hard conversations.
James James 5:20

The command to “remember” with which the NIV begins this verse translates the Greek word ginōsketō, which is a third person imperative of the verb ginōskō, “know,” and means “let him know.”51 As James reminded his readers of the purpose of trials at the beginning of his letter (cf. “you know” in 1:3), so here in the conclusion he reminded them of the significance of a restoration ministry.

At the beginning of today, I began by talking about prayer.
This is why.
When we feel compelled to say something, we should pray.
Make sure we are correct in what we are seeing and then ask God to give us the words so that it comes across in love.
The reality is that none of us communicate exactly the same way.
I’ll tell you, it is terrifying to stand up here sometimes because I’m afraid that what I’m trying to say may not come out the way you need to hear it.
The last thing I want to do is to misrepresent God.
So I have to rely on the Holy Spirit to do what he does.
The same is true for all of us.
Pointing out someone’s sin is never going to feel good.
It is never going to be easy, but if God is asking, you do it.
We need to realize the significance of what God is asking us to do.
James 5:20 CSB
20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
James is speaking of both unbelievers and believers here.
What we are being called to do could literally save someone’s life.
This is no trivial matter.
If we see a toddler heading toward a power outlet with a fork, we dive into action.
We should have the same sense of urgency when we see others straying or living in sin.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we are all walking around with pass to point out everyone’s sin.
I would be willing to bet that there were some specific people and sins that James was talking about in this passage.
There are going to be moments when we see someone do or say something, and God will tell us to stay quiet.
Other times he will tell us to speak up.
That’s why I’m saying that we should pray about it.
It is not up to us, nor is it our role to be the judge.
But it is our role to be a friend, a brother, or sister in Christ.
James James 5:20

Like Elijah, the brother who restores another lays down his own life for the sake of the other’s life. The motive here is the rescue of the sinner from death, not one’s own self.54

Our loving words are not for ourselves.
If you are tasked by God to speak to another about their wandering, do it in love and tell them what God is speaking.
If someone comes to you and brings you into correction, know that it is not coming from a place of pride but of love.
They are not doing it for honor but for your sake.
All of us should desire to have brothers and sisters like this.
The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XIX To Sabbath-School Teachers and Other Soul-Winners (No. 1,137)

God must use us; but, oh, let us long to be used, pray to be used, and pine to be used. Dear brethren and sisters, let us purge ourselves of everything that would prevent our being employed by the Lord. If there is anything we are doing, or leaving undone, any evil we are harbouring, or any grace we are neglecting; which may make us unfit to be used of God, let us pray the Lord to cleanse, and mend, and scour us till we are vessels fit for the Master’s use. Then let us be on the watch for opportunities of usefulness; let us go about the world with our ears and our eyes open, ready to avail ourselves of every occasion for doing good; let us not be content till we are useful, but make this the main design and ambition of our lives.

Let us long to be useful!
We have the opportunity every day for God to develop in us, True Faith.
That happens as we grow in our understanding of God.
We grow and mature in that understanding through prayer, reading the word, and through the loving actions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This Christian life is not about living easily.
Being a follower of Christ means that we follow Christ to the hard places.
We live in a broken world, and Jesus goes to the broken places and brings healing, joy, and life.
If we are going to call ourselves followers, we must follow Him into those broken places.
Through us, Christ will work in the lives of others.
We cannot do this on our own, motivated by ourselves.
We can only accomplish this God-sized task through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Learning by experience is how we develop True Faith.
True Faith can change the world.
Let us pray that we long to be made useful as we grow.
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