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Things Needed for Reaching the Lost

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Things Needed for Reaching the Lost

Luke 15:1-10

I’ve heard about a little six-year old boy who restlessly struggled to listen to a rather lengthy sermon. After the service, the little boy asked the question that sooner or later most "church kids" ask. "Dad" he said, "what does the preacher do the rest of the week?" The dad replied, "Son, he’s a very busy man. He takes care of church business, visits the sick, studies the Bible. . . and he has to take time to rest up. You see, preaching in public is not an easy job." The little boy thought about that and said, "Well, listening ain’t so easy either!"

The truth is that listening really is not always easy, especially when the messages are challenging. Last message from the end of Chapter 14 is challenging because it shares with you the total commitment necessary to follow Jesus. This message may be just as challenging because I will be sharing with you on the subject of the Christians responsibility in reaching the lost. I know I was troubled in my heart as I studied this text because the more I studied this passage, the more I realized how I and the church have not been responding to the lost the way Jesus taught that we should. The message may be challenging to you today, but it is the message of the Bible, as such it is not meant to condemn us but it is meant to change and even challenge us, and sometimes that requires that we be made uncomfortable.

I will go over this passage verse by verse shortly, but first I will give you an overview of what these parables are about in general;

In two of parables something of value is lost. In the stories the thing lost, whether a sheep or a coin, have monetary a value. Nobody, including the religious leaders who valued material things, would ignore such a loss; rather they would put every effort into finding it and then would rejoice when they did.

If this is true about things that are lost, shouldn’t it also be for people who are spiritually lost? The term “lost” refers to those who are not Christians, to those who are outside of the household of God but whom God desires to come home. You can see this in the story of the Prodigal Son where the father says about the son who has repented and returned home “he was lost and is found (verse 31).” Clearly it is those who are spiritually lost that are represented by the lost things in these illustrate stories.

Shouldn’t we respond to people who are lost in the same way or even in a greater way than we would to lost things?

Shouldn’t we exhibit the same efforts, and perseverance in searching for them?

Shouldn’t we be filled with joy at there being found? I believe that the point of this passage is primarily to remind Christians of how they should respond to the lost. You could also interpret these parables as primarily illustrating how God responds and searches for the lost. Even if that is the case, the message remains essentially the same because if God responds a certain way to those who are lost then it is obvious that we Christians should follow his example.

Now that we have an overview of these 10 verses, I want to go over them verse by verse and I will share with you three things needed in order for us to reach lost.

The first thing needed is found in the setting that the parables were given in and the other two things that are needed to reach the lost are found in the parables themselves.

Read Luke 15:1-2

1. The first thing needed for reaching the lost is compassion.

Jesus had the "tax collectors and sinners" gathering around him. These are lost people who were not running from Jesus but rather running to him. They were not avoiding him, ignoring him, or even hostile towards him. Verse 1 says that they were "gathering around to hear him." Why were sinners so willing and even eager to listen to Jesus? It certainly wasn’t because Jesus had an easy message that tickled people’s ears. It wasn’t because Jesus compromised on sin and said that everything they were doing was acceptable. They weren’t gathering around Jesus because he was putting on some sensationalistic show of signs and wonders. At this point in Luke’s narrative the emphasis is on Jesus’ teaching, and miracles are hardly even mentioned.

Why did the "lost" seek out Jesus rather than run from him? I believe the answer is his compassion. Jesus loved them and showed that love with a compassionate instead of condemning attitude.

The Bible says in verse 2 that Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them." One of the definitions for the Greek word translated as "welcomes" in this verse is to "receive as a friend." This was Jesus attitude toward those who were lost in sin. Jesus welcomed them; he was compassionate and accepting of them despite their sins and faults. He was a friend and not a foe. Jesus had an attitude that lost people were attracted to, I ask, do we? For us as individuals and as a church to reach people we are going to have to show and have that same love and acceptance as Jesus.

1. So the first thing needed for reaching the lost is compassion.

Illustration: When I was a police officer, I responded to several traffic accidents, some of them with very severe injuries. At the scene of these accidents there are three groups of people, each with a different response toward those involved in the accident. The first group is the bystanders and onlookers. They are curious and watch to see what happens but have little active involvement. The second group is the police officers, of whom I was one. My response was to investigate the cause of the accident, assign blame, and give out appropriate warnings and punishments. The third group is the paramedics. They are the people usually most welcomed by those involved in the accident. They could care less whose fault the accident was and they did not engage in lecturing about bad driving habits. Their response was to help those who were hurt. They bandaged wounds, freed trapped people, and gave words of encouragement. Three groups - one is uninvolved, one is assigning blame and assessing punishment, and one is helping the hurting. Which group are you in?

When it comes to reaching the lost and hurting, we’re going to be in one of these three groups. We will be uninvolved and let others do the work. Or we will condemn people for their foolish behavior saying things like, "It’s your own fault that you’re in this mess. If you had been going to church and doing like you should this never would have happened!" Or we will be concentrating on helping those who are lost and hurting. I hope we will be those who are showing compassion like those in the last group!

-> But much of the church is responding to the lost like the police officer instead of the paramedics. This is what the Pharisees and teachers of the law did. They were more interested in condemning and criticizing sinners than in showing compassion. The same attitude is sometimes seen in the modern conservative church, of which we are a part. We’re rightfully upset about the current state of moral values, abortion, the homosexual agenda, and the immoral entertainment in society today, among other things. It is fine and appropriate to be concerned about these issues, but we must be careful that our concern about these issues does not turn into condemnation toward the lost. The lost have never flocked to hear those who were condemning and they never will listen to us if we have that same attitude.

1. The first thing needed for reaching the lost is compassion.

There are several lessons in the next two parables. Along with an illustration of the joyous attitude the Pharisees should have had to the lost coming to Jesus, we are also instructed about two more things needed to reach the lost.

2. The second thing needed for reaching the lost is effort.

Luke 15:3-5

Illustration: Many years ago, when my oldest daughter Anne was much younger, a scary incident happened to our family. One morning, after I got up, we noticed that Anne was not in her bed. At first I was calm because I thought she must have gotten up in the middle of the night and gone into another bed. Soon I realized that she was not in any of the other beds and we began to grow frantic. My heart began to accelerate and I yelled Anne’s name at the top of my voice, but there was no response. At that point my love for her compelled me to make every effort to find her, including running from room to room and tearing them apart in our search. I never said, "Well I’ve lost one child but we have one other child." No, one child mattered! She mattered enough to give everything I had toward finding her. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, but in reality was only a few minutes I did find Anne. She was under her own bed sound asleep, oblivious to my searching.

Here’s the point - it took effort to find Anne and it will take that same kind of diligent seeking for us to reach the lost. In these two parables, Jesus emphasizes the effort that went into finding the lost. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus said that the shepherd would "leave the ninety-nine sheep in the open country and go after the lost sheep. . ." In the parable of the lost coin, the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the whole house, and searches carefully for the lost coin according to verse 8.

In both cases the thing that was lost had to be sought after with great effort. The shepherd did not wait for the lost sheep to wander home and the woman did not wait for the lost coin to turn up. In our Christian lives and in the church it sometimes seems that we do the opposite. We tend to wait for the lost to come to us. We’re passive rather than active. We’re waiting for people to come to Christ instead of putting effort into bringing them to Christ! I know that I have been guilty of doing this. I want people to be saved but haven’t gone out searching for the lost with great effort. This has to change if we’re to reach the lost like Jesus did.

2. The second thing needed for reaching the lost is effort.

How do we practically practice this principle? What do you and I need to do in order to be following Jesus instructions about giving effort to reaching the lost? There are several things we can do.

  1. First, a significant part of our prayers should be for the lost.
  2. Second, making every effort means that a significant part of the ministries of our Churches should be directed toward reaching the lost. I know that we must also be careful to dedicate a significant part of the ministries toward discipling those who are already Christians. Nevertheless, this is no excuse for not seeking the lost as Jesus instructed us to.
  3. Third, making every effort to reach the lost means we must be willing to make outreach a significant part of our personal and church spending. This is one area where I have been improving. In the last year-and-a-half much more of the church funds have been directed toward missions and outreach than in previous years. These are all practical things we can do to apply this principle that Jesus has shared on reaching the lost. While it is important that the church corporately make every effort to reach the lost, the most important thing you and I need to do in reaching the lost is to do our best to share Jesus with all those we come into contact with.

So far I’ve shared two things necessary to reach the lost like Jesus did.

1. The first thing needed for reaching the lost is compassion.

2. The second thing needed for reaching the lost is effort.

There is also a third thing necessary for reaching the lost found in these parables.

3. The third thing needed to reach the lost its persistence.  Luke 15:4, 8

In both these cases Jesus notes specifically that the person continued seeking after the lost item until he or she found it. In other words, Jesus seems to be pointing out that persistence was a needed quality for success. After all, lost sheep among spacious fields and hills, and lost coins in the dirt floor of the Jewish home would not have been easily or quickly found.

It’s the same way with reaching the lost. It is not easy to reach people’s hearts so that they receive Jesus. It is not usually the case there our first efforts meet with success. Sometimes it takes years and years of persistence, but we should not be discouraged or give up. If a sheep or coin was valuable enough to persistently search for, then people who are spiritually lost are too valuable to give up on.

Illustration: Following an exhilarating performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, celebrated classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma went home, slept, and awoke the next day exhausted and rushed. He called for a cab to take him to a hotel on the other side of Manhattan and placed his cello—hand-crafted in Vienna in 1733 and valued at $2.5 million—in the trunk of the taxi. When he reached his destination, he paid the driver, but forgot to take his cello.

After the cab had disappeared, Ma realized what he had done. He began a desperate search for the missing instrument. Fortunately he had the receipt with the cabby’s ID number. After searching all day the taxi was located in a garage in Queens with the priceless cello still in the trunk. Ma’s smile could not be contained as he spoke to reporters.

Citation: Greg Asimakoupoulos, writer and speaker, based on story in Chicago Tribune (10-17-99)

Here’s the point, Yo Yo Ma did not quit but persisted because what was lost was too valuable to give up on. The spiritually lost are too valuable for us to quit trying to reach even though our efforts do not pay off quickly.

So, the third thing needed to reach the lost its persistence.

Luke 15: 5-7, 9-10

Conclusion: The religious leaders of the day had been indifferent toward the lost and even antagonistic toward them coming to Jesus. Jesus uses these two parables to illustrate how wrong their response was, especially when compared to how they would have responded toward recovering something of far less value. Jesus pointed out how joyful they would have been at the recovery of a lost sheep or lost coin, certainly then they should of been joyous instead of angered at the lost coming to Jesus.

Jesus then pointed out that the one thing that matters most to God is the lost. They matter so much to God that when the lost are found, even one of them, all heaven rejoices and throws a party! There is more joy over one sinner coming to Jesus that over ninety-nine people being right where they’re supposed to be with God. If lost people matter this much to God, shouldn’t they matter this much to us? Shouldn’t we be willing to give everything needed in order to reach the lost? My answer is "yes" and I hope yours is also. What is needed to reach the lost? From this passage we discovered at least three things.

1. The first thing needed for reaching the lost is compassion.


2. The second thing needed for reaching the lost is effort.


3. The third thing needed to reach the lost its persistence.

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