You may have a family member or friend who has left the church and you may have a longing that they return. They may ask, why is a return necessary?
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.James5:19-20
Why do people fall away to begin with? It is primarily one of three things: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, or the pride of life.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world.1 John2:15-16
Let’s take a look at four individuals who needed to come back to God and
David. In 2 Samuel 11 and 12 the man after God’s own heart had done many great things and yet he fell to commit adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband, Uriah. The prophet Nathan came to David to tell him of the sad story of a rich man who stole and cooked a poor man’s pet lamb instead of preparing one of his own (2 Samuel 12:1-4). David was very angry at this and declared the guilty party should pay for his atrocity (vs 5-6). The story had its intended effect. Nathan replies in verse 7, “you are the man.”
Nathan was not confrontational. He spoke man to man, but without disrespect. He needed that personal contact to bring the problem to light and get David to listen. Sometimes we have to sit down with someone, because we care about them, and lay out the situation. Clearly there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. In Psalm 51 we see that it worked, and David repented.
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
Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). God told Solomon he could have whatever he wanted and he chose wisdom so he could be a good ruler instead of asking for riches. He used it well for a while but then went into a life of self indulgence. He had all the wine he wanted, all the houses he could desire, real estate, servants, entertainment, women, and riches that are hard to imagine. He did not withhold from himself any pleasure that he wanted to try. If he wanted it, he took it. But after living that kind of life he was left empty (Ecc 2:9-11).
Physical pleasures of life can’t fill that emptiness that we try to fill it with. Solomon learned the lesson after observing that all those pleasures end, the body breaks down, and we eventually face our mortality (Ecc 12:6-8). What we have is a drop in the bucket compared to what Solomon had. We tend to go after a little more to make our life more comfortable and more pleasurable. Solomon has much, much more and still found it useless. Sometimes we need to make do with a little less so we can be a title more filled spiritually.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes12:13-14
When everything is gone and burned up our souls will still exist. The lesson is to come to the point in life where that realization happens.
Jonah. In Jonah 1-2 God called for Jonah to preach to the wicked city of Nineveh so that they could have the opportunity to repent. Jonah wasn’t interested. He jumped on a ship and went to see, thinking he could escape God’s plan for his life. Once he was cast overboard and swallowed by a great sea creature he finally faced the consequences of his decisions and turned back to God.
Sometimes we bring about bad things on ourselves. Sometimes we suffer because of the actions of others, and sometimes it is due only to chance because we live in a world of sin. This is where Jonah was. Sometimes we have to get down in the valley to look up to the mountaintops.
The Prodigal Son. This young man took his inheritance and blew it on filth living (Luke 15:11-13). When his money ran out he cane to his senses and knew that even his father’s servants lived better than he was. He took action, went back to his father to repent, and his father welcomed him with open arms.
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:22-24
The prodigal needs to know that they have a warm welcome waiting for them if they would return. Sometimes we have to be broken before we will repent. We should always be ready and willing to encourage those who have fallen away so that when they show signs of tiring of their empty lives they have an easy route back through your welcome.
We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Take those opportunities to encourage when you can. Pray constantly.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7
Based on a lesson from Robert Moss