19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 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, NKJV)
This Bible passage enjoins upon faithful Christians the task of rescuing a struggling, sinning Christian from spiritual death. It forever exposes and opposes the false teaching of “once saved, always saved.” Here, the soul that needs saving is a Christian who: (1) Has wandered from the truth. We must walk in the truth to be secure in our salvation (Jno. 10:27); (2) Needs turning back. The person is headed in the wrong, spiritual direction; His present way is “error.” You see, there really is only one way that leads to life (Jno. 14:6); (3) Has sinned. The person is “a sinner,” “in error” and in “death.” He/she is lost. You see, doctrine (teaching) affects salvation. False doctrine is error; a wandering from the truth. Wandering from the truth into error is a real danger. When it happens, the spiritually strong must become first responders, trying to save a soul from death (Gal. 6:1). In what more worthy endeavor can you participate? “He who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14–15, NKJV)
The apostle John had just described the children of God as those who “practice righteousness,” making an application that loving one’s brother is the epitome of this righteous conduct (1 Jno. 3:10). The brethren of whom he speaks are fellow Christians. One’s passage from spiritual death into spiritual life is assured by practicing love toward fellow Christians. As Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, the Christian who hates a fellow Christian is a murderer. A heart filled with hate has death abiding in it; not eternal life. To detest and disregard our brethren assures that we “abide in death” and will not pass into eternal life. (Oh yes, a Christian can sin and lose his soul!) This is a powerful motive to love each other as He has love us, and by obeying the Lord, abide in His love (Jno. 13:34-35; 15:10).
4 The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. (Psalm 18:4–6, NKJV)
Songwriters Frank E. Graeff and J. Lincoln Hall wrote, “Does Jesus Care?”, which begins, “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth or song, as the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long? Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.” Death enveloped David like a noose around his neck. His only relief was the Lord, to whom he cried. God heard him, and saved him from his enemies (Psa. 18:3, 16-19). Each of us will face death at some point. Perhaps you (or a loved one) are facing it now. Christians are confident that death does not defeat our faith, because our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! Yes, He cares when that robber of life comes with its sorrow and pain. But, Jesus gives us joyous hope beyond this land of parting and weeping – of the land of endless day and of His eternal love. Oh yes, He cares!
10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10–12, NKJV)
The brevity and uncertainty of life persuades us to measure our conduct by the will of God. Eternity is ahead. Our bodies and our brains are wearing out; We will die. We exercise, we regulate our diet, we rest, we see our doctors, and so it goes. Still, we grow old, and die. What will you have to show for your life at the end of your days? Only “labor and sorrow” if you have not lived with reverence for God and His will in your life. After death comes judgment, and God’s wrath against your sin (Heb. 9:27). But, you do not have to face wrath after life on earth. Salvation in Christ will free you from the fear of death (1 Cor. 15:56-57). Learn from God’s word, and live your days according to divine wisdom. Then, whether your days are many or few, instead of divine wrath after death, you will be carried away to the eternal rest, peace and glory of the righteous (Lk. 16:22). The choice is yours. Your days are short. Today is the day of salvation.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25–27, NKJV)
Resurrection. To be raised from death to life again. What an astounding power to do such a thing! A dead, decaying body, animated with life once more. Jesus would soon raise Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead, showing His power over death (Jno. 11:38-44). Jesus is the “resurrection and the life” who will one day give life to every dead body of flesh. At the last day, all who have died “shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Jesus also has power over spiritual death. He is the “resurrection and the life” for “whoever lives and believes in” Him. These “shall never die” spiritually (Jno. 11:26). Resurrection from the spiritual death caused by sin occurs by the power of God every time a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Every sinner who “lives and believes” in Christ is resurrected out of the death of sin unto spiritual life. Live and believe in Jesus Christ for victory over sin and death, now and forevermore.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15, NKJV)
Two prevailing realities of life compel us to depend upon God and to respect His will. First, life is uncertain. To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The uncertainty of life shows the wisdom of remembering God and His will in all we do. Without Him we are left rudderless on the restless, stormy sea of life. Second, life is brief. We are here a very brief time, then like the vapor rising from the tea kettle, our life on earth is done. The brevity of life forces us to come face to face with our own mortality, and our need for guidance to a better shore. The Lord’s will, spoken in His Scriptures, assures us of spiritual life in Christ, and of eternal life when this life fades away (Jno. 10:27-28; 11:25-26; 1 Jno. 5:11-13). Put the Lord’s will first in your life. Then, come what may, life in the Son will be certain and never-ending.
2 Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:2–4, NKJV)
The Bible says there is “a time to mourn” (Eccl. 3:4). Today, September 11, 2016, is such a time. Fifteen years after that dreadful day in America, we remember the thousands of lives lost, pay tribute to their memory and honor the untold sacrifices of family, of friends and of our nation. May we never forget. May we never forget. Life is not simply one big party. Death crashes the party – often unexpectedly, yet eventually and inevitably – for us all. The value of sorrow in this life is found in its ability to motivate us to greater good, to live godly and so prepare for our own departure from this earth. The time is coming when our soul will be required of us; we will die. Be wise then, and “set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1). The house of mourning helps you do that.