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Restoring Fallen Leaders and Other Backsliders

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First the bad news. Israel’s King David fell into adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband killed, then took her as his wife (2 Samuel, chapter 11). The apostle Peter denied Jesus, even to the point of calling curses upon himself and swearing, “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:74) John Mark, on a ministry trip with the apostles Paul and Barnabas, abandoned the ministry and his fellow ministers (Acts 13:5,13).

Now the good news. King David repented and acknowledged his sin and continued to serve in God’s favor as Israel’s king. To this day, David is considered by many to be Israel’s greatest king. Peter repented, changed his ways, and served for years as a bold apostolic leader in the early church. John Mark came under the caring, restoring oversight of Barnabas and returned to effective ministry. And the Lord granted him the privilege of writing the Gospel of Mark.

Now the very good news. Three fallen leaders — an adulterous and violent King David, a Christ-denying apostle Peter, and a ministry-abandoning John Mark — were all restored to places of fruitful ministry. If you are a fallen leader and desire to get back to the Lord and to His service, consider a three-step process drawn from the recovery and restoration of the fallen leaders David, Peter, and John Mark.

1) Repentance.  King David came to a place of godly sorrow and cried out to the Lord in sincere repentance for his sins: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ — and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). If Jesus is touching your heart, pour out your sins to Him. He already knows all of them. But He wants you to ask Him for forgiveness — which He will be delighted to give you.

2) Turn back to Jesus.  The Lord predicted in advance that Peter would deny Him (Luke 22:34). He also foretold Peter’s recovery from that terrible fall — “When you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up the faith of your brothers” (Luke 22:32, Living Bible). Peter did get his eyes and focus back on Jesus. He “turned to [Jesus] again,” and the Lord restored Peter to an outstanding ministry.

3) Find a “Barnabas.”  In Acts 15:36-40 we read that the apostles Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over unfaithful John Mark. Because Mark had deserted them in earlier ministry, Paul no longer wanted Mark to accompany him in ministry. Barnabas, though, was of a different persuasion, and he took Mark under his watchful and caring oversight (vs. 39). In the process of time, Mark was restored to effective ministry. Even the previously offended apostle Paul later said, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Are you a fallen Christian leader? a fallen Christian? a backslider of any sort? There is great hope of restoration and recovery for you! Jesus Christ still has a great future for you. The process is simple. (1) Let godly sorrow bring you to a place of sincere repentance for your sins. Jesus will forgive! (2) Turn back to Jesus with all your heart. He will receive you! And (3) find a “Barnabas” to help you. Ask a godly pastor or elder or mature Christian to help you through your time of recovery. The process will take time, commitment, and a willingness to be teachable and to be corrected. But God will use this biblical process to bring you back to a place of fruitful service to Him.

Don’t wait another day! Let your heart be stirred by the Holy Spirit with a godly sorrow for sin. Turn your life back to Jesus — or to Him for the first time — and resolve to keep your eyes on Him every day. And find a God-fearing “Barnabas” to mentor you and to walk with you through this exciting turning point in your life.

Additional Scriptural insights related to this sermon include Addiction Recovery — We All Need It! ... and Backsliders, Jesus Loves You!.

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©2005, James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.