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Sunday, September 05, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and the Lost: Part One"

“Jesus and the Lost: Part One”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
September 5, 2010
Luke 15:1-10


Luke 15 is one of the greatest chapters in the whole Bible.  It’s one of the most famous, and for very good reasons.  So, we’re going to take at least 2 weeks to study Luke 15 together.

Today, we’re going to study the first 10 verses.  Jesus tells 3 stories in Luke 15, and today we’re going to study the first two.

All three stories are very similar, and they are all trying to make the same point.

We’ll notice 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.

Something becomes lost.
Someone searches.
Then there is a celebration.

And all of this is to show us how the Lord feels about the lost.

We’re going to call today’s message, “Jesus and the Lost: Part One.”
           
The lost sheep, the lost coin, and (next week) 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 over look 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 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 tax payer.

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 attracted to Jesus.

These tax collectors and “sinners” were 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 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.

Got it?

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 is 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.”

Ding!

Remember whom Jesus is talking to.

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!

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.  Here’s a picture of one with Tiberius Caesar on the front of it.

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?

I lost a piece of paper this week that I was working on, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.

I was beginning to think that I’d lost my mind!  Where is that?

What if it were 10% of all of your possessions?

When we were on vacation, we went to a playground with some of my kids cousins and one their cousins lost a little toy that he’d just bought with his own money the day before.

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, 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?

God Himself.

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.

Remember that we’ve said that chapters 14 and 15 are the party chapters of Luke?

The Kingdom is a party!

Well, the theme of that party is joy in repentant sinners.

That’s why Jesus welcomes them.

Because that’s the heart of God.

Now, we’re going to see this pattern again next week with the parable of the lost son (or is it sons?), but we’re going stop with these 2 stories today and apply them to our lives.

Here’s how we’re going to do it.

We’re going to put ourselves in these stories.

Where are you and I in these stories?

Three points of application.

#1.  REPENT.

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.

That’s us.

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 pretty good guy or a pretty 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.

#2.  RECOVER.

And by this, I mean, help in the search 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?

Wally Kephart reminded me just a few weeks ago about what a great place the Ark Park is here to meet people–people who need Jesus.

Wally has recently met some folks right out here in the course of doing things around the church and talked with them about the Lord.

Maybe we should all take turns coming out here in the evening and just striking up conversations.

If you’ve taken the “How to Share Your Faith” class the last month, have you got up your courage and asked, “Can I show it to you?” to a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, a relative?

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 was saying a couple of weeks ago that I hear a lot of talk against Muslims and Mexicans in America.

Should Muslims be allowed to build a mosque near Ground Zero?

Should Mexicans who came here without the right documents be given a path to citizenship?

Those are fine questions to ask, and we need people to come up with good answers.

But I hear hate and fear in people’s voices when they talk about them.

I hear “muttering.”  And I don’t hear enough about this question:

How can we reach individual Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

How can we reach immigrants with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ?

Because they are lost without Him.

And what God cares about the most is not mosques or jobs for Americans or even the rule of law.

What God cares about most is finding lost people.

Are we a part of the God’s recovering 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 coversation?

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.

#3.  REJOICE!

You knew that would be point #3, didn’t you?

Let’s pretend that we’re the friends in this story.
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!”

Rejoice!

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.


Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom

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