Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
March 12, 2017 :: Luke 15:1-10
This is our third message in our ongoing “Gospel Roots” sermon series where we revisit and recommit to some of our foundational values that have shaped and defined us as a church family through the years.
The first message was the gospel itself: Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. The Person and Work of Christ is what saves us, draws us together, and provides our very purpose for existence as a church.
The second message was about something we’ve done every week together for the last 125 years–we’ve sung together. We sing the gospel. We don’t just say it, we sing it, to God in thanksgiving and to each other to remind ourselves of Jesus of Christ and His Crucified.
In today’s message, I want to talk about sharing that gospel.
Not just savoring it or singing about it, but actually sharing the gospel with other people, lost people.
Our church has a long and rich history of evangelism.
I like to point out that it’s our middle name!
Because...“It’s Our Middle Name!”
Lanse EVANGELICAL Free Church.
Can you spell evangelical?
That word “evangelical” is such a tongue-twister for people isn’t it?
Someone asks, “What church do you go to?”
And you say, “Lanse Free Church.” What do you leave off? The “Evangelical” part. Sometimes, I just say “the one with the playground!”
I love it when people call on the phone, and they don’t know that E-word.
“Uh, hello. Is this the Lanse Evangelistic, Evangelellel, uhm Free Church?”
Yes, it is.
Evangelical originally means “Gospel-oriented.” “Gospel-centered.”
It means that we believe in and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It comes from the word “Evangel” which is the Greek word for “Good News” in the New Testament.
So “gospel” is our “Middle Name.”
Or, at least, it should be.
And historically, it has been.
It’s in our purpose statement, right? “Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship (SING!), instruction, fellowship, EVANGELISM, and service.”
We care about lost people and we strive to share the gospel with them.
Let me show you how this has played out in the past.
Anybody remember these?
In the 1970's this little fleet of blue buses went up and down these hills and hollers picking up folks, especially children to bring them here to hear the gospel.
That was before my time, but I love that we had them.
This was one during my time. Anybody remember this guy?
This was the mascot for Wild West Day. July 28, 2001
These were the hats we bought.
Here’s a little craft they made in our Kids’ Ministry. It has a refrigerator magnet, and it says, “I will pray for Wild West Day. I will ask God to do things I could never do. I will ask God to do miracles.”
And the Lord gave us over 1,200 people to visit our campus that day.
And hear the gospel.
Nobody came on our campus that day and left without hearing the good news about Jesus Christ.
And it’s not just about getting people onto our campus.
Anybody remember this one?
In 2002, we participated heavily in the JESUS video project. We were part of a coalition of churches that mailed a VHS copy of the Jesus video to every single home in our county. Over 30,000 videos went into the mail.
This is artifact. I’m going to ask Lita if she would put this in the display case out there. With the old song books and the old communion ware. The VHS tape! Whatever that is.
Nowadays, you can stream that sort of thing over your phone.
But back then, it was a major undertaking to get this into everybody’s hands.
And we threw ourselves into that.
Because we loved lost people and wanted them to have what we have, the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.
When we built the Ark Park out here, we called it, “An Evangelistic Playground.” Because we didn’t build it just for us. We built it for our community. Because we love them and because we wanted a place where folks would come, and we could talk to them about Jesus.
That’s supposed to be a gospel playground out there.
Do you get the picture?
I love how this church has historically thrown itself into evangelism.
We are not just focused inward on ourselves. On our worship, on our fellowship, on our own stuff.
This church has always had a heart for lost people and a commitment to do whatever it takes to reach them.
And in that, this church has reflected the very heart of God.
Luke chapter 15 is about the heart of God.
What God cares about. And how strongly God cares about the lost.
Luke 15 is one of the most famous and familiar chapters in the whole Bible because it contains 3 of Jesus’ most famous parables. I wish I had time to give you all three, but we’re only going to look at the first two today. The third one is the one that you know the best, so you can read this afternoon.
All three stories are very similar, and they are all trying to make the same point.
There’s a pattern:
Something becomes lost.
Someone conducts a desperate search for the lost item.
And when it’s found, there is a party. There is a celebration.
“Lost and found.”
Something becomes lost.
Then there is a celebration.
And all of this is to show us how the Lord cares about the lost.
The lost sheep, the lost coin, and (if you read on) the lost son.
Awesome parables from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, the biggest mistake that people make when they are interpreting these parables is to miss verses 1 and 2.
Verses and 1 and 2 tell us who was present when Jesus told these stories.
And it’s easy to overlook them. I have just skimmed past them many times on my way to good stuff–the stories.
But verses 1 and 2 tell us not just who was present when Jesus told these stories, gave this teaching, but they tell us WHY Jesus told these parables.
Verses and 1 and 2 are very important. They set the stage for the whole chapter.
Let’s look at them again.
“Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
Now, who was present at this moment? There were two groups of people.
In the eyes of the culture of that day, there were the bad people and the good people. The bad people and good people. The black hats and the white hats.
Do you see that? Who were the black hats?
The tax collectors and the sinners. These were bad guys.
The tax collectors were basically the legalized thieves of the Roman world. They were turncoat Jews who were empowered by the Romans to not only take the legal taxes for the government, but to take as much more as they could get away with from every taxpayer.
This was not the IRS. This was like the mob being deputized by the IRS to collect your taxes and look the other way while they took your money.
Nobody liked tax collectors. They were despised.
And the rest of the black hats were just called the “sinners.” How would you like that name to describe you in public? “There go the sinners!”
These folks were notorious for not following the Law. Either Jewish law or Roman law. They were unclean, they were rebellious, they were outsiders. They were considered scum.
But catch this–they were the ones attracted to Jesus.
They were all (v.1) “gathering around the hear him.” And more than that, Jesus was attracted to them.
He ate with them. He had table fellowship with them.
Jesus seems to like them!
And that bothers the other group that’s here. Who are they?
They are the guys with white hats.
The Pharisees–who separated themselves from everything that was unholy.
And the teachers of the Law. That is the Bible professors.
These are supposed to be the good guys. These are straight-laced guys who keep their noses clean. They are on the right side of the law.
Law abiding citizens. The white hats.
And they are scandalized by how Jesus is acting. V.2
“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
They can’t even say, “sinners” without spitting, and Jesus is eating with them? Yuck! Eww! With the scum of the Earth!
Now, remember that. Remember who is listening as Jesus tells His three stories.
The first story is the story of the lost sheep. V.3
“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'” Stop there for a second.
Notice the pattern?
Something becomes lost. What is it? It’s a sheep.
Is that valuable? To this shepherd it is. Valuable enough to go searching.
Someone conducts a search. Who is that? The shepherd. He leaves the 99 where they should be safe in the open country and then goes to find the lost one.
What a great picture. Can you see him hunting that lost sheep in your mind’s eye?
Going all of the places where that sheep could possibly be.
Risky, sacrificing, searching to rescue that sheep.
And, then, he finds it. And he (v.5), “joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”
That’s quite an image, too, isn’t it? A happy shepherd with a found sheep over his shoulders.
What’s next? Partay! Right? V.6
“Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'”
Let’s have a party! Let’s celebrate.
“Rejoice with me! I’ve found my lost sheep.”
And then, Jesus gives us the point. V.7
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Remember to whom Jesus is talking.
Who is the shepherd like? He’s like the Lord.
“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (one lost sheep) “than over ninety-nine (unlost sheep, so-called) “righteous persons” who do not need to “repent.”
Who is He talking about?
Who are these sinner-sheep? They are the bad guys who are attracted to Jesus.
There will be a party in heaven if a bad guys repents. If a black hat guy turns himself in. Celebration!
More rejoicing than if a so-called white hat guy doesn’t ever go anywhere.
Jesus doesn’t mean that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law didn’t really need repentance or were really righteous. That’s just how they saw themselves.
And there is no rejoicing in heaven over self-righteousness. Even when its cleaned up pretty good!
Jesus says, “So, you want to know why I eat with sinners and welcome them?”
It’s because that’s the priority of heaven.
That’s the passion of God’s heart.
The Lord loves the lost.
But, just in case they didn’t get it, Jesus tells another story. A very similar one.
The story of the lost coin. V.8
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”
Here’s the pattern again:
Something is lost. What is it? A coin.
In Greek, it’s a drachma, about a day’s wages.
How many did this woman own? She only owns 10. She loses 10% of her wealth.
So someone conducts a desperate search!
She turns the house upside down.
Have you ever lost anything like that?
A couple of weeks ago, Heather lost something at home, and we turned the house upside down looking for it.
What if it were 10% of all of your possessions?
I remember once, one of my little nephews lost a tiny little toy he had just bought with his own money at a playground.
It was a playground like ours out there except that it was full of little rocks, you know, like a beach of rocks, and he had buried his toy under the rocks for safe keeping! And then forgotten where he’d put it.
Could we have found that toy if we tried hard enough?
Yeah, we could have. We would have had to turn over a lot of rocks, though. It was lost.
But if we had been desperate enough, like this woman, if we had really cared about it, we could have searched until it was found. She goes to great lengths to find it.
And what happens when the item is found? Party time! V.9
“She calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’”
And then Jesus makes sure we get the point. V.10
“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I love that phrase, “in the presence of the angels of God.”
Does that mean that the angels are rejoicing over the repentant sinner?
The lost coin found?
I’m sure they are. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying.
Who is in the presence of the angels of God?
I think this is a way around way of saying that God rejoices over one sinner who repents.
There is a party in heaven over one sinner who repents.
If the kingdom of God is a party (and that’s one of the things Jesus says it is!), then the theme of that party is joy in repentant sinners.
That’s why Jesus welcomes them.
Because that’s the heart of God!
Now you can see that pattern repeated again in the parable of the lost son (or lost sons) read it this afternoon and track how it’s like these other two parables and how it has a few more twists that really bring it home.
But we’re going stop with just these 2 stories today and apply them to our church and our lives today.
Here’s how we’re going to do it.
We’re going to put ourselves into these stories.
Where are you and I in these stories?
Three points of application.
Where are you in this story?
Well, we all start out as something that is lost.
We are the black-hats in this story.
We are the lost sheep. We are the lost coin.
Because the Bible says that we are all sinners.
“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
And God, in His mercy, has been searching for us.
He sent His own Son to seek and to save that which was lost.
And if we want to be found, we need to do what v.7 and v.10 says.
We need to repent.
To repent means to turn.
To turn in our hearts and with our lives away from sin and to the Savior.
To turn to Jesus and put our trust in Him.
Notice that sinners and the tax-collectors still needed to repent.
It’s not enough that they were attracted to Jesus and listening to Him.
They had to respond.
In our home, when each of our children made their first profession of faith in Jesus, we began to call them, “Found Sheep.” And each one of them was given a little stuffed lamb to mark that response of their hearts to the gospel.
Jesus died for lost sheep. And lost sheep are found when they repent.
Are you still a lost sheep?
Turn from your sin and put your trust in the Savior. Repent.
It might be hard for you to identify yourself with the scum in this story.
You might see yourself as a pretty good guy or a pretty good gal.
But every one of us is a sinner and needs the Savior.
There will only be rejoicing in heaven for you if you repent.
I invite you to do it right now.
In your heart, pray to the Lord. Tell Him that you need Him and that you are turning from your sin, asking for His forgiveness, and trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
The Lord promises for all who come to Him, all who call upon the name of the Lord, they will be saved.
Maybe that happened for you because of a bus ministry or a Wild West Day or a Jesus Video Project or some other ministry of this church:
A Good News Cruise
A Family Bible Week
A Kids for Christ
A Wild Game Dinner
Or maybe it was far away from here and unrelated.
But if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s past time.
That’s where it starts.
And by this, I mean, join the search party for lost people.
Put yourself in the shoes of the white-hats for a second.
Did they care about those who were lost?
No, they only cared about themselves and their good works and their clean reputations.
Jesus told this story to both convict them and to change them.
He wants us to join the search party for lost people.
Do you and I care about lost people?
And I mean do we care about lost people?!
Not do we say we care about lost people, but do we do it?
Do we do anything about it?
This shepherd left the 99 and went after the lost sheep.
This woman lit the lamp and swept the house clean to find the lost coin.
God is recovering lost people.
Are we a part of that search or are we just standing on the sidelines?
Who are you helping to recover?
What lost people are you praying for?
What lost people are you talking to about Jesus?
Let me give you three steps here.
Care, Prayer, and Share.
First we have to care. We have to cultivate a love for those people whom God loves.
This church has been really good at that for 125 years.
And I am so proud of our church family when I see it.
I love to tell the story about my first Summer here as your pastor. I was writing the sermons on Saturday nights (which I still often do!), and there were gangs of young people out here on the parking lot on Saturday nights.
Before we had a nice paved parking lot.
This was the meeting spot. They’d be out here doing donuts in the field. Smoking, talking, hanging out.
And I told the elder board about that. It was Wally and George and Blair and Bruce and Charlie and those guys. And I told them about what was going on in our parking lot, and asked if we needed to have the police drop.
And they said to me, “We’re glad they are here on our land, I wonder what we can do to reach out to them and tell them that Jesus loves them.”
I knew then that this church was a keeper.
Who have you cared enough about to invite to the Wild Game Dinner?
I promise you that Zeke Pipher will make the gospel clear to them.
But people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
Does somebody know that you care about them and are going to bring them to hear Zeke on Saturday?
Our Louisiana Team is down South this week serving in the name of Jesus Christ, showing those folks down there that we care.
Thank you for sending them.
I’m proud of you for sending them.
I’m proud of them for going.
It shows that we care.
We’ve got to keep the gospel as our middle name.
The second step is prayer.
We have to continue to pray for the lost to be found.
Remember this artifact from our history?
Back in 2007, we filled up this fishbowl with the names of people for whom we are praying to come to know Jesus. And we fasted and prayed over those names.
And some of those names are names of people who are today trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior, in part because we prayed!
Who are you praying for right now to get found?
Who are you praying for to come to the Wild Game Dinner?
Or to come to church next Sunday and hear Zeke preach here?
Or come on Resurrection Sunday and hear the gospel?
That’s what our Harvest Prayer Time is all about.
Who is on your prayer list?
And the third step is to share.
It’s not enough to just want them to know Jesus, we have to introduce them to Jesus.
It takes words. It takes the gospel.
If we truly care, we will dare to share.
The Holy Spirit will give us the power.
Our friend Matt Modzel just recently shared with a group of teenagers at the FCA Badminton Tournament last Friday night.
He didn’t know I was taking his picture.
And he doesn’t know that I’m going to put it here today.
But I’m proud of him. Because he overcame his nervousness and got up on his hind legs and shared his testimony and the good news about how God so loved the world.
When Matt’s nervous his face goes all red. It was as red as those mats against the wall there. But that didn’t stop him for sharing.
We need to join the search and rescue recovery team.
And that requires faith and boldness.
Are we talking to the lost people about Jesus?
Or are we just content to mutter, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Do we eat with sinners?
I don’t want to be like the so-called “white hat” people in this story.
If I have to choose sides, then put me with the black hats.
Because that’s where Jesus is.
Let me say something about our culture right now and what Christians need to be doing in it.
I hear a lot of talk about the two M’s–Muslims and Mexicans.
Those two kinds of people are in the news a lot.
And I hear a lot of people being very negative about both of them.
Very against Muslims and Mexicans.
It’s like they are the black hats or something.
And I understand that there are legitimate questions for our leaders to sort out in terms of immigration and national security. We need good people to come up with good policies and practices on those.
But I what I am concerned about is how much muttering I hear, even among Christians. I hear hate and fear and anger.
And I don’t hear enough about this question:
How can we reach Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Those that are coming here, and how can we go to them?
How can we reach immigrants (with or without the proper documents!) with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ?
Because they are lost without Him.
And he cares. He desperately cares. He’s turning the house upside down to find them.
Jesus says what God cares about the most is not our national security or our economy or jobs for Americans or even the rule of law.
What God cares about most is finding lost people. He’s after the black hats.
Are we a part of God’s desperate search party?
Or are we just standing around muttering?
Let’s get personal for a second.
Who do you and I need to talk to this week?
Who do we need to pray for the next 7 days and then to bring up Jesus in conversation?
Who is the one sheep out of the 100 in our life that is lost that we need to care about?
Who is the one drachma that is lost in the house that we need to sweep for with the Lord?
Let’s go searching, friends. Let’s go searching.
That’s what this church is all about.
You knew that would be point #3, didn’t you?
Let’s pretend that we’re the friends in these two stories.
We’re the neighbors.
What does the shepherd say, “Rejoice with me!”
What does the woman say, “Rejoice with me!”
What does God say? “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents!”
Every time a sinner comes in, we should rejoice.
Every time a sinner gets baptized, we should rejoice.
Every time a decision is made for Christ, we should rejoice.
And we should rejoice for ourselves that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life!
There is a party in heaven.
There should be one here, too.
My prayer is that we, as a church, will see a greater harvest and have a greater party in the next few months and years than we ever have before.
But the gospel has to stay our middle name.
We can’t lose sight of this driving value of our church to reach out to the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Previous Messages in This Series:
01. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified