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Atlanta, 24 February 2016

Good morning from Marietta, Georgia, the town where we've resided for 10 years now (hard to believe). Wherever you are -- whether rooted there all your life or only recently moved -- we trust that you are rooted where it counts: in Christ (Col 2:7).

This ministry continues to produce fresh material. Check the website every week for new articles and Q&As. My recent sermon in Kingston, Jamaica, is now online: Stay on Track, Don't Turn Back. Next week I teach in Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, and Trinidad. My brother and colleague of 20+ years, Joey Harris (Augusta, Georgia) will join me in Port of Spain for the Caribbean School of Ministry (East). Please keep us in your prayers.

Wandering Away: A More Biblical Term

Last week we challenged thinking and terminology that fail to respect the biblical meaning of "falling away." Falling away means rejecting Christ so thoroughly that a point of no return has been reached.

For this reason, we urge leaders everywhere to stop calling ex-church members "fallaways," as the terminology is both confusing and unbiblical -- not to mention the point that sometimes people leave one congregation not in order to give up their faith, but to preserve it (especially when leadership may have been heavy-handed). Further, when someone leaves one church family for another, be sure to check before you label. There's a world of difference between someone quitting one fellowship for another and someone joining a group that has abandoned the gospel. Your church isn't the only one that teaches biblical discipleship and conversion. In short, "fallaway" easily becomes an unfair and unbiblical label.

After all, it is the Lord who weighs hearts and motives and who determines whose names are in the Book of Life. That's not our call. So what term should we embrace for those who drift away from the Lord and the fellowship? James answers that question:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
I hope that many of those who leave the fellowship are only wandering, not hopeless cases ("fallaways"). Whether they are right with the Lord or not is his to decide. Of course this is not to say we should bank on his grace as a license to wander and sin. At any rate, why not call them "wanderers"?

An equally appropriate term would be "lost sheep" (as in Luke 15:3-7). Not all lost sheep are lost causes. True, they're in a dangerous place, far more vulnerable to the wiles of the enemy. They need to be sought and brought back. And that is exactly what the Lord urges us to do (James 5:20).

  • Whereas the Bible offers no hope for the person who has fallen away, God's word radiates hope for the one who has wandered away.
  • Like the Great Shepherd, we too ought to be in the business of seeking lost sheep.
  • Since terminology steers theology, we should resist unbiblical terms, and vigorously so when these terms promote unbiblical beliefs or practices.
Next week we will address the topic of restoration. As we shall see, restoration isn't so much for lapsed Christians as for church members in good standing! For the full explanation, read next week's article.
A new audio series has been published by IPI. The full title is Escape: Exploring the psychology of pain, escape, and addiction and how to overcome the corruption of the world.

My co-teacher, Steve Brand, is a friend, fellow member of North River, and licensed counselor with over 25,000 therapy hours with his clients. 

Lessons address alcohol, marijuana, pain meds, gaming, internet porn, computer games, and other areas of potential addiction. Click image to order ($8).

Thank you

Vicki and I greatly appreciate your support. Your feedback, notes of thanks, and donations are what keep this ministry going. We could not do this without you.

Yours in Him,
Douglas Jacoby
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