James 5:19-20,16 ESV
“My 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.”
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Agreeing with God or Not
Now, the context of verse sixteen is that of physical healing, but then the passage goes on to talk about those who have wandered from the truth and who need to be brought back to a sincere faith. And healing isn’t just physical, but it can be emotional, mental and spiritual, too. And true confession of sin goes hand-in-hand with both physical and spiritual healing. So, this is why I put these verses in this order.
Now the Lord is wanting me here to talk about what it means to confess our sins, for confession is not merely a verbal admission of sin, although that is part of it. This word “confess” means to fully agree with God about our sin. It means to say the same thing about our sin as God says and to have the same mind as him about our sin. So to agree fully with God involves not just admitting sin, but it involves turning away from that sin and to now walk in obedience to the Lord. It means to have a change of mind and heart.
Yet, there are many people within the gatherings of the church professing faith in Jesus Christ who have not turned away from their sins. Some have wandered from the truth and they have not come back to a sincere walk of faith in Jesus Christ, although they may give the appearance that they have. Or they never had genuine faith in Jesus Christ to begin with because they never died with Christ to sin so they were not raised to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24).
Now, these are people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, so they profess that they have come to Christ to be forgiven of their sins, but for many of them, they came before the Lord wearing their filthy garments and the filthy garments remained on them. In other words, they never died with Christ to sin. They never forsook their lives of living in adultery, sexual immorality, moral filth, lewdness, addiction to pornography, living in wickedness, lying, being reckless, careless, thoughtless and merciless. They remained the same as they were before they admitted their sins saying, “I fell.”
Healing for the Soul
So, for someone to be genuinely saved from their sins and on their way to heaven, they have to shed those filthy garments and put on the garments of righteousness and holiness. They have to change in heart and mind and forsake their lives of living in sin and for self and follow Jesus in obedience. And then this needs to continue daily – daily putting sin to death by the Spirit and daily walking in righteousness and holiness in obedience to our Lord, for our salvation is progressive sanctification, not a one-time deal.
This is what it means to bring a wanderer back to the truth (or to the truth for the first time); to bring a sinner back to God from his wandering. It isn’t just about praying a prayer or making a verbal confession of sin and/or of faith in Jesus as Lord. You can admit sin as much as you want and still not be saved from your sins and still not be on your way to heaven. For if you do not shed those filthy garments and you continue on in your sin, then your faith is not genuine faith (1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10).
Many people today are following after a false gospel which is an altered version of the true gospel, so it is a half-truth (false) gospel. And so rather than genuinely repenting of sin and continuing with Christ in putting to death the deeds of the flesh, daily dying to sin and to self and walking in obedience to the Lord, they have inserted lies into the gospel which are still leading them into sin, and which are stimulating them toward sin, and so their sins are not being truly “flushed away.”
And so the Lord Jesus is letting them know, through the teachings of his word, and through his gospel messengers, that this insert of this false gospel into the true gospel is what is leading them astray, plus what is in their hearts. And so it must be removed, for it is a stumbling block to them. For they who are following this altered “cheap grace” gospel are being led to continue in their sin without guilt, for it makes no requirements for true repentance, for obedience, and for submission to Christ as Lord.
So, if we are going to bring those who have wandered from the truth back to the truth and to genuine walks of faith in Jesus Christ, we need to be telling them the truth and not these watered down diluted feel-good messages which are tickling their itching ears. We need to be telling them that Jesus died on that cross, not just to forgive us our sins, and not just to promise us the hope of heaven when we die. But he died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness (1 Pet 2:24).
Jesus died on that cross so that we would be crucified with him in death to sin and raised with him to walk in newness of life in him and that our old self would be crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved (addicted) to sin, but to God and to his righteousness.
So we are to no longer allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies, to make us obey its passions, for sin shall no longer have dominion over the lives of the genuine saved. For we are slaves of the one we obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness and to sanctification and which ends in eternal life (Rom 6:1-23).
And we need to let them know that if they continue in deliberate and habitual sin that they will not inherit eternal life, and that we are all going to be judged by what we do (by our deeds). For, if we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction, but if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life. For Jesus said that not everyone who says to him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven but only the one DOING the will of God the Father who is in heaven (Gal 6:7-8; Matt 7:21-23).
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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