Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
There is a fascinating true story about the Apostle John narrated by the early church "Father", Eusebius, well worth reading.
The account goes that the elderly John took an affection and interest in a young man from Ephesus and subsequently entrusted him to the care of a bishop in the vicinity, and that, after a season, this young man became entangled with a band of criminals, and was corrupted by them, finally becoming their leader. When John returned after some time to search for the young man, expecting to find him spiritually well and maturing, the bishop despondently informed John of his fate.
Eusebius wrote, "The apostle tore his clothing, beat his head, and groaned, 'A fine guardian I left for our brother's soul! But get me a horse and someone show me the way.' He rode off from the church, just as he was. When he arrived at the hideout and was seized by the outlaws' sentries, he shouted, 'This is what I have come for, take me to your leader!'"
"When John approached and the young leader recognized him, he turned and fled in shame. But John ran after him as hard as he could, forgetting his age, and calling out, 'Why are you running away from me, child – from your own father, unarmed and old? Pity me, child, don't fear me! I will give account to Christ for you, and if necessary, gladly suffer death and give my life for yours as the Lord suffered death for us. Stop! Believe! Christ sent me.'"
"The young man stopped, stared at the ground, threw down his weapons and wept bitterly. Flinging his arms around the old man, he begged forgiveness, baptized a second time with his own tears…[John] led him back and did not leave him until – through prayer, fasting, and instruction – he restored him to the church."
What an awesome story! I've used this story many times when talking to the despondent backslider who believes he can no longer be forgiven.
Be an example of His love! No matter how far someone believes he has strayed from or even deserted the Lord – he can always be restored! Perhaps, while reading this message, the Lord is reminding you of a person with whom you can share this story. Just possibly, you are the one that God wants to use to bring about his/her restoration. If so, I trust that reading of the Apostle John's loving example, you've been inspired by the compassion and grace the Lord Himself feels toward His "prodigals" and moved by His Spirit to go out in faith...and rescue the lost sheep!