Western Trail Cowboy Church
Gathering The Strays
  • Riding Line

    In the 1800’s and early 1900’s men on ranches would spend a lot of time riding line. What they did doing this was to go out every day and ride the boundary line of the ranch.
    While doing this they were looking for cattle that either drifted onto their side and push them off, and look for their cattle that were drifting onto other ranchers properties.
    This was done every day and all day long. These men rode many miles and moved many cattle back and forth. But even with their diligence many cattle still drifted. So when the Spring and Fall works began each ranch would send a man from their outfit to other outfits works.
    These men were called “reps.” Their job was to be there and help work but also to watch for their bosses cattle. They would help spot them and sort them and bring them back home to their home range.
    These men played a vital role in the profit of the ranch they worked for. If these men got lazy, cattle would drift. If these men were not for the brand, many cattle would get missed in the sorting. These men were always on point and watching out for their ranches interest above their own.
    Many of them would have rather been doing other work other than riding line. Many would have rather been at their home ranch getting to drag calves, and other aspects of being a good hand. But each man was doing what the boss said to do. They went to it because they were supposed to do that job.
    They worked hard at it. They committed to it. They knew this was just as important as any other job for the ranch.
    That is what this last section of James is telling us. He is saying that we all have a job and that job is important.
    He has spent many words telling us how to live a faithful life, how to have wisdom, how to get along with one another, how to be a joyous, faithful, committed Christian who glorifies God in all things and realizes that all situations are a chance to glorify God and impact others.
    That has all culminated into these last two verses.
    James 5:19–20 ESV
    19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 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.
    In this text we see that anyone can drift from the truth, anyone can gather that person back, and that we can all help save someone.
    It is a privilege and honor to be a representative for the Lord. Just like those men who were sent to Rep for their ranch we are here to Rep for the Lord. Because...

    Anyone Can Drift

    No one is perfect.
    No is above drifting.
    We all sin and we all fail.
    No one can stand the power and influence of the world alone.
    We need each other.
    That is the “My Brothers” aspect of this section. James is saying “we are to help each other because we are one unit, we are the body, we are people of the Lord and as such we must be here for one another.”
    Just like cows that drift and wander when they are not kept gathered. Like the trail drives. They had to set men at night all night long to make sure the cows did not drift.
    These men were the night guard. They circled the herd all night and did not stop until shift change or daylight. They kept them together because if not, they would have drifted.
    That is what we can do too. We can drift. We can falter and fail easily. This world wants us to falter. It wants us to fall.
    It wants us to die. Just like the cows that drifted during the great blizzard of 1886-87. In this blizzard tens of thousands of cattle if not more died. They all drifted and drifted during this storm and many drifted into what looked like safety.
    These cows all piled up on one another and died. They were trapped into what was a false sense of safety and died. They felt secure in their drifting until it was too late.
    That is what the world will do to us. It will lure us in and we will feel comfortable and good and then BAM we are dead or dying. It traps us and we need help.
    David failed and committed adultery and murder with Bathsheba and Uriah. He kept it covered until Nathan was sent to him to expose his sin. He repented and turned back from his evil ways.
    Moses faltered in many areas. He doubted the Lord and argued with him. This was after he murdered a man.
    Peter denied Jesus. He spent years with Him and said he would never leave his side. Yet, Peter failed and not only abandoned Jesus but he denied Him not once but three times.
    We can all fail and drift. We need one another to help stop this. We need each other to stay faithful. We need one another to make it through this thing called life.
    Because if we do not have one another, then we will drift like those cows did in that blizzard. We will drift into sin ad it will look so good, but then that good turns to death and we are lost.
    That is what will happen when we drift from the truth, we will pile up and die unless someone comes along and helps us.
    That is what James says next...

    Anyone Can Gather

    The two phrases in verses 19 and 20 say, “and someone brings him back…whoever brings back a sinner,” demonstrate that we can all do this.
    I am assuming that since you are a person you are someone. I am also assuming that since you are a person you fit in the whoever category. We all fit in there.
    We all are capable of reaching a sinner who wandered.
    I would venture to say that many of you would be better at reaching one than I am.
    I say this because as a pastor there is a stigma that comes with that title. People instantly get defensive and want to cover up and act better than they are around us.
    You know them. You have relationships with them. Maybe you have commonalities. Whatever it is you are a person who is a Christian but you are not a pastor.
    They may feel more open to you than me.
    I know this from experience.
    It is difficult for me to go anywhere that there may be drinking. It is not because of a temptation for me but that when I go and people know I am a pastor, it gets awkward and they tend to be a bit nervous drinking around me.
    Some will be drinking along and talking like they normally do and then learn that I am a pastor, and immediately try to hide their drinks and start apologizing for their language.
    It is uncomfortable and they are not really open to conversation. But with you, “a normal person not a pastor,” you have an in with them.
    Also, it is our duty to do this.
    Just as i spoke of the Rep’s the ranches would send out, we are Christ’s representatives here.
    In 2 Cor. 5:20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
    He has sent us to reach those who drift and those who are outside the herd. It is our job. We are called to do this.
    Matt. 28:18-20 tells us to make disciples. Acts 1:8 says to be His witnesses. 1 Cor. 11:1 Paul tells us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Paul went to all people and did not stop until he was dead.
    So it is to us to go and dig them out of that gnarly thicket of brush. It is to us to go into the steep and rocky dirty rank canyon and get them out.
    It is to us to go and ford those flooded rivers and gather them back.
    We can do all this when we put to practice all that James has been teaching in this letter.
    Are we going to be doers of the word or are we going to be hearers only?
    We have a job to do and just like any other job we have ever had, we must do it to the best of our abilities because it is so very important.
    It is more important than any other job there is.
    The apostle Paul thought it so important that he said he wished everyone could be single like he was so they could commit all their time and life to the service of the Lord.
    It is that important because people are dying daily because of sin and all are dying spiritually because of it unless they are in the grace of the Lord.
    Even in the grace of the Lord one can become so hardened and bitter that they seem dead or dying.
    And this is what James tells us at the end. When we go and work with those who have strayed...

    You Can Save Someone

    Save his soul from death. This is not about eternal damnation but about physical death and/or spiritual separation from God.
    There is precedence of people dying because of their sins in Scripture.
    In 1 Cor. 11:30 Paul stated, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
    John wrote in 1 John 5:16 “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.”
    People can drift and die because of that sin.
    Earlier in this letter James said that when sin is full grown it brings forth death. Sinning brings death to all even the believer. We can drift and be in sin and die because of this.
    God may look down at you and say enough and call you home. He may allow you to suffer worse because of sin.
    Sin is not something to scoff at.
    Sin is not something to snicker at.
    Sin is not a joke but a serious and terrible disregard for God and a rejection of Him for something the world offers.
    Why is it that we so easily leave the Lord for stuff that is temporary?
    I say it is because we are easily lured out like a fish and a shiny lure. We see it and go “man that looks great,” then before we know it we are caught and being drug into places we don’t want to go.
    That is why we need each other and we need to be riding line for the Lord always.
    By always I mean every day and every night. We need to be committed to knowing what the Lord says. We need to be talking to Him regularly and asking for His wisdom and guidance.
    We need to be together more.
    This means not just one hour one day a week but maybe two hours two days a week or maybe three hours three days a week. Maybe more.
    One thing is certain, when we spend more time with the Lord and more time together with the Lord, that drifting and twisting off is less and less likely to happen.
    We have 168 hours a week. Think about what you do with most of it. Most of our time is spent working, sleeping, and killing time. I bet most get around 7 hours of sleep. That leaves 119 hours a week. I bet most work around we’ll say 60 hours a week. That leaves 59 hours. We have 59 hours outside of sleep and work. That is a lot of time. When divided up that is 8.4 hours a day we are not working or sleeping.
    Yes, some of that is in driving, some in eating, some in getting ready to go to work, and much in wasted time.
    If we took just 2 of those hours a day to be with the Lord and with others talking about the Lord, just think what we could do for Him and other people.
    It is by doing these things that we can see if someone has drifted. We can be around them and know if there is something wrong.
    It is by this that we can have the discernment to Know if someone is drifting. It is by this that we grow and grow and grow and maybe will not drift.
    When we desire to become good at something we devote hours and hours to it.
    Roping takes hours and years to get great at.
    Leather work takes tremendous time to get good at.
    Welding and any other thing we do takes time. No one is excellent at anything when they first start. Yet, we will commit hours and hours of a day to honing that skill, but give God maybe 15 minutes a day.
    We cannot save a soul by that. We will barely know enough ourselves to be able to keep ourselves out of sin. We need one another and time in the word and prayer and time in the word and prayer together to know what sin is and how to help others who have drifted.
    When we do we can be a lifesaver. We can be a person who draws those back from the cliff.
    We can be the one who carries in the doggie calf.
    We can be the one who stops the crime.
    We can be the one who leads that prodigal son of a friend back to their family.
    We can be used mightily of the Lord if we will just do it.
    We will prevent a multitude of sins, which is what James ends with.
    When we guide a drifting one back, we prevent them from doing more and more sins. We may very well prevent them from committing that last sin that would bring about death.
    But we must be together and be with the Lord to do this because we need to know what to do to lead them back and know when they are drifting.

    Taking the Challenge

    So today i challenge you to take the challenge.
    Take the challenge of sacrificing some of the things that you enjoy doing for others.
    Sacrifice the comfort of your life and go into that dirty rank brushy canyon to get those who have drifted.
    Don’t just be comfortable with life and leave people out there to die in the world. Get up and do hard things for the Lord.
    Become a doer of the word and reach those that are drifting.
    Know this, we can have joy and exaltation if we serve the Lord. If we do we can see when others wander and then we will be capable of bringing them back.
    How much do you care for others?
    How much are you honoring the royal law the law of Christ and loving others as you love yourselves?
    Or do we just have our comfort and do not want to get out of that comfort zone and impact the world by standing firm for the Lord?
    I used to say when I was younger that I wanted to go out in a glorious horse wreck that people would talk about for years after I died.
    Now, I say let me go out in the service of the Lord and regardless what comes let me stand firm and serve you and if no one ever knows that is fine because you know Lord.
    Will you take that challenge today and do hard things for the Lord?
      • James 5:19–20ESV