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Relating One To One Manuscript

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“Relating One-to-One” Manuscript

Luke 15

Bridging the Chasm series

Jeff Jones, Associate Pastor

August 1/3, 2003

I’ve not always been the romantic genius I am today when it comes to my relationship with Christy. I’ve made just about every romantic mistake in the book. After we had been dating for some time, long enough to have begun talking about marriage, my parents invited Christy to come with our family to go skiing over Christmas in Colorado. We would celebrate Christmas with my family and we would be together—which we were both looking forward to. I bought her a gift for Christmas, which I was excited about, but was totally insensitive. I bought her a gold bracelet, and one night on a date, I decided to give her some hints about what I’d gotten her. Now, keep in mind that we were of marriageable age, we’d discussed marriage, and were very serious. Christy’s friends were all telling her that if she was coming with me to Colorado for Christmas, this had to be it—when I’d ask her to marry me. All that didn’t really enter my mind. I was just excited about my bracelet. So, I give her some hints. It’s gold. It’s round. It’s jewelry. So, what is she thinking? I’m clueless. So, we are opening gifts on Christmas Eve with my whole family around. I hand her the gift, which is in a little box, and she says, “Are you sure you want to do this here?” “Yeah, why not?! Sure!” I say with a smile on my face. She opens the package, pulls open the box, and voilla! Not a ring. I’m excited to see her expression of delight with my bracelet, and she is not. She was hoping for one thing that would thrill her heart above others, and I totally missed it.

Today in Luke 15 we are going to see the thing that thrills God’s heart more than anything else. Have you ever wondered what you could give to God that would cause him to rejoice? If you want know how to cause a party in heaven, this passage will tell us how. God appreciates every sacrifice we make, everything we do, but only one thing causes a party up there. When we understand God’s heart, then we understand what to get him that pleases him more than anything.

What God cares about most is people, including the people right around your life and mine. All around my life are individuals who are precious to God. In fact, when Jesus Christ came in the incarnation of the Almighty God, he proved one thing to us, that God's first probing, primary, passionate agenda is people. That's it, just people. That's why Christ came, that's what he lived for, that's what he died for, and all around my life are these people who are precious to God.

A lot of them are in phenomenal danger, the danger of an eternity apart God, facing God's fair, just judgment, hurtling their lives down the interstate of their brief time on this planet. God says, 'They're precious to me.' God can say, 'I came and I gave everything I had to rescue them.' I wonder if he looks at you and he looks at me and our lives reflect 'Who cares? Who cares?'

Turn with me to Luke 15, where Jesus tells 3 short little stories to let us know his heart—what thrills him the most. And as you are turning there, let’s set the context for the passage. Jesus has been teaching a crowd, including all kinds of people. In that crowd were tax collectors, Pharisees, prostitutes, quite a mixed bag. And one group was not so happy about it—the Pharisees. They clearly didn’t understand the heart of God.

So in Luke 15:1-2, it says, Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around near him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

The Pharisees were people who desperately wanted to please God, and they were doing the best they could. They were serving God and trying to be holy with all their legalistic do’s and don’ts. They believed that the best way to make God happy was to stay pure, and the only way to stay pure was to stay away from those who are impure. The only way to keep from getting stained is to stay away from the dirt, so they did. If you don’t want fleas, don’t hang around dogs. They were separatists—people who decided that the best way to be holy was to isolate themselves from the sinful world of people and keep a safe distance. They hung around each other, where it was safe, where they wouldn’t be tempted by the sinners around them. These were respectable people who were trying to live God-pleasing lives.

We have well-meaning separatists today, too. People who feel that the best way to please God is to keep a distance from those who are doing things that obviously are displeasing to God. We Christians have become pretty good about building our own little subculture in the bigger culture, so that we never really have to significantly relate to the wider culture if we don’t want to.

Others have us have tendencies to be separatistic just by virtue of the fact that we are so busy with Christians. We get so busy with each other that we become isolated from the world around us. We may not mean to, and it is not a theological issue as with the Pharisees, but we are separatistic nonetheless.

The Pharisees were very confident that such an approach was exactly the way to thrill the heart of God the most—stay away from the sinner, from those who don’t have a relationship with God. They assumed such people were objects of God’s contempt, not compassion. So, when they saw Jesus hanging around people they would never hang around, they

They didn’t realize that Jesus can hear mutterings. I am a mumbler, from a long line of mumblers, and Christy cannot understand the language of mumble very well. But Jesus can hear our thoughts as well as our mutterings, and so he responds to their mumbles by telling three stories, each of which illustrate the heart of God…the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son.

1) The Lost Sheep

The first story is the lost sheep: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 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.’ I tell you in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.’

A great little story, of a shepherd who goes out to look for the lost sheep in danger and brings it to safety. And Jesus makes the application very clear. When someone comes into relationship with God, when a so called “sinner” repents—there is more rejoicing in heaven than over 99 legalists like the Pharisees who think they don’t need to repent.

It is important to note that the Greek word behind the English translation “rejoice” is a word that referred to formal celebrations, not just a little informal “yeah!” Jesus is saying that there is a party in heaven whenever somebody who doesn’t know God comes into relationship with him.

2) The Lost Coin

Then he tells a story of a lost coin, of a woman who loses one of ten silver coins, a drachma, which was worth a day’s wage. Her husband would have worked all day for the coin, and she lost it. Some people think that Jesus was referring to a custom where women would put a string of coins on a headdress which was part of their dowry coming into the marriage…and that she lost one of these coins. So, it would be like losing a wedding ring. That makes for a better sermon, but it is at best unclear that this is what Jesus has in mind. The custom seems to be later than the New Testament era. Regardless, she goes into a panic, and begins to search the whole house for the coin. She lights a lamp to look in every crevice. She gets out her broom, to sweep under every possible space she can. She searches and searches, and her anxiety builds. What is she going to do if she can’t find this coin? But then she does find it. And her response is similar. She throws a party to celebrate that she has found what she has lost. And Jesus says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


God throws a party when someone comes to know him. You can imagine the world as one big game of hide and seek, where we tend to hide from God…and he is it. He is looking. You can also see the world of humanity as individuals deeply loved by God, and he is searching—hoping that people will respond when he calls their name and says “come home.”

To help us care, he tells us these two quick stories about losing things, because most of us can relate to that. At least I know I can. Some of you are like me. I am fairly absent-minded, and lose things all the time. I kind of have this theory that there is a zone in our atmosphere that is just above the ozone that is called the “lost-zone,” where all the car keys, cell phones, combs, socks, and guitar picks go. That’s why you can’t ever find them. But sometimes the things we lose are really valuable, like a wedding ring or a bunch of cash…then we panic.

I haven’t told a sailing story in a long time, so I’ll throw one in. This is a story that Paul Harvey tells. A number of years ago during an America’s Cup campaign in Australia, the teams had a couple of days off. One of the boat crews from the Italian team decided they would take one day as a break from sailing and rent a car to drive into the Outback. Their team was sponsored by Gucci, which meant that all of them were wearing Gucci everything—shoes, clothes, jacket, belts—they were like a big Gucci billboard. So, they drive out deep into the outback to see Koala bears, dingos, and kangaroos—and they turn a corner and bam! They hit a kangaroo. It is lying there in front of the jeep.

They all jump out. 'Wow, man, we killed this kangaroo. What do we do?' The driver said, 'Look, before we leave, let's have some fun. I'll take my jacket off,' so he took his Gucci jacket off and put it on the kangaroo. He said, 'Let's put it on the kangaroo, take a picture of the kangaroo, and then we can send it back to the Gucci Company. It would be kind of a fun thing to do.'

So he takes his jacket off, and they prop up the kangaroo, and they put the Gucci jacket on the kangaroo. At that point, the kangaroo revives and goes jumping off into the outback. Wouldn't you just love to see him get back to the herd or whatever it is they have?

They'd say, 'Wow, where'd you get a jacket like that, man?' But the rub of it all, as Paul Harvey went on to tell the story, was that the driver's wallet and keys to the car were in the jacket! You thought you had a bad day today?

Imagine being that team—would feel pretty desperate. None of us like losing things—especially those things that are valuable. But then Jesus takes it up another notch to show how much he cares for those who don’t know him yet. He tells us a story not of a lost animal or lost thing—but a lost son. Most of us know it as the story of the prodigal son, but it is really the story of a father and two sons. And is one of the most challenging stories in all the Bible to me.

3) The Lost Son

Let’s look with fresh eyes at this familiar story.

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.”


That was not a normal request. Normally, the estate would be divided after the father’s death—not before. It would be like one of your kids coming to you and saying, “I know you’ll die one day, and I’m tired of living here and really don’t want a relationship with you. So, go ahead and give me my share of the estate now so I can leave—and you’ll never see me again.” That would be a little hard to stomach, wouldn’t it? But this father does the unusual and gives him the freedom that he wants.

So, he divided up his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.


This guy moves to another country and starts going through the money quickly, on wild living—you know like eating Oreos and Diet Coke for breakfast…that kind of thing. He had a party of his own, but the money ran out—and then something happened outside of his control that really sunk his ship: After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. Now, for a Jewish person listening to the story, they would wrinkle their noses and cringe. Pigs were considered unclean, and there were few jobs lower than being a pig-feeder. This guy was at the bottom. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods (probably carob beans) that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

So, he comes up with a plan. The Greek word used would describe a day laborer, which was the lowest rung of worker in the Greek culture—even lower than a slave. The master had to care for slaves, but day laborers just got paid a small wage if there was work. The son doesn’t want to be a bother. I’m sure as he was walking to what was once his home, he was practicing what he would say to his dad. How would his dad respond? What he didn’t realize is that his dad was looking for him.

Every day, the father would scan the horizon, hoping to see his son return. One day, he was looking and off in the distance, he could see someone coming. Could it be? Could it be his son? As he got closer, the figure seemed more familiar, and his hopes began to skyrocket. Sure enough—it was his son! The dad doesn’t wait. He runs, throws his arms around his son, kisses him and welcomes him home.

The son wasn’t expecting that, but the boy goes into his little well-rehearsed spiel: The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”


The dad doesn’t let him finish. He interrupts right away and calls for his servants: Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. The robe, ring, and sandals were a clear sign that he was no servant—he was a son. Justice may have been for him to be disowned as a son—but not for this dad. This father loved his son and was glad to have him back. He gives him the nicest robe and sandals, which were signs of wealth. And a ring probably was a seal ring, which gave him the right to conduct family business. He got a platinum card. But the dad goes further than that: Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. So they began to celebrate. First century residents of Palestine wouldn’t have eaten meat very often, so killing the fattened cow was a big deal. If done today, the father was getting the Mansion to cater this party. But remember there is another brother, the brother who stayed. He’s been away, and he comes back to all this commotion.

When [the older son] came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. Now, you might think he would join in the celebration—but not so. The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, {note all the times you see the first person pronoun—showing how self-proccupied he is being} ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. Goats were cheap. He was saying, “You throw a party at III Forks for him, and you’ve never even taken my friends for Happy Meals at McDonalds.” But his complaint continues. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’


He’s hot. From his perspective it is just not fair. He’s been the faithful son, and he’s played by the rules. Then his brother comes back, and everybody is happy and throws a party. If they throw a party for anyone it should be him—not this younger one who was so unfaithful. Then the father replies, and in the reply we see God’s heart for people just like the younger son: My son, the father said, ‘you are always with me and everything I have is your’s. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

The older son didn’t understand grace, his response to a penitent son who wanted to come back home. The older son didn’t undertand the heart of the father. He didn’t love either of his sons based on their performance or service—but because they were his sons.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t finish the story. He doesn’t tell us how the older son responds. He leaves it up to the crowd and to the Pharisees to answer the question themselves—as they are looking on at those they consider “sinners.”


So what is Jesus’ point? If you really want to thrill God, then you will respond to his heart for those who are lost…meaning people who don’t have a relationship with God and don’t know the way. That’s why Jesus came to earth in the first place, to make a way. God today is urgently seeking those who are lost who want to come home—and he has given that mission, that job, to you and me who have already been found.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I fully understand or appreciate how urgent God the father feels is about that. I can understand a little bit though when I think of my own sons. There have been short times that they have been lost. I can vividly remember a couple of times when Caleb was lost for instance—he was always so little but so fearless and so fast. I remember the panic I felt.

I have also been lost. I’ve shared once before how when I was 12 years old in New York, we were walking to Grand Central Station. The streets through Times Square were very crowded, and I crossed the street ahead of my mom and cousin without realizing that they had to stop for traffic. All it took was a few seconds, and I was separated from them. I didn’t really know where we were going, nor did I have any idea how dangerous the Times Square area was back then. Its been cleaned up now—but it wasn’t so clean then—believe me. I got quite an education in those hours I was lost.

My mom was frantic, looking for me everywhere. She went to the police at the station and they put out an all-points bulliten. She traveled with a squad car through Times Square. After multiple hours, the policemen were ready to give up. One asked her, “Is he a trusting child?” Which I was. And then had added, “Look, lady, around here for a kid like that to be walking around lost, it’s pretty hopeless. By now somebody has him and has probably already started brainwashing him for prostitution.” Can you imagine?

They were ready to give up, but she wasn’t. To them, I was just another lost kid. To her, I was her son. And she wasn’t going to quit until she found her son. She made sure they kept looking. And late that evening, I did find a policeman who did know about the situation. He left a wreck and took me to the police station where my mom was waiting. That was a great reunion for her. I was much more calm…kind of like the lost sheep who is unaware of the dangers that are out there.

Looking back, I’m glad that someone was that urgent. I’m glad that there was somebody who wasn’t going to give up until she found me. She could have said, “Oh well, I’ve got other things to do.” She could have decided just to adopt another son, and leave me to figure the rest of my life on my own. She could have assumed that somebody else would find me. But she didn’t, because she had the heart of a parent.

That’s why God is so urgent about lost people. They are people. They are not numbers or statistics. They are people. Like a parent who has lost a son, they hope like anything that they can get other people to feel just as urgent as they do about getting them back. Imagine for a minute if you had a child that was lost. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child for more than a few minutes, or hours, or days, or years. You’d do anything to find him or her. And nothing would be as frustrating for you with that kind of urgency as people who didn’t share it…as people who responded to your urgency with apathy. Or maybe they are just preoccupied with other things.

That’s how urgent our heavenly father feels about those who are lost and who need to come home. That’s why there are parties thrown in heaven for every single person who comes to God on God’s terms—with repentant faith.

Here’s the thought that haunts me from this passage. Do I even come close to living with God’s sense of urgency for those who don’t know him yet? If Jesus were here in the flesh, would he shake me and say, “Don’t you realize what’s going on here? How can you be so preoccupied with less urgent things? How can you just move past all these people that I love?”

On the screens are faces of people, every one of them people that God loves and that Jesus came to die for. He sacrificed everything so that they could have relationship with him. And he asks you and me to be the ones to give them the map—let them know how they can come home.

When he sees those faces, it is not trivial to him. Every face would fill him with passion—passion to reach him or her. If he was sitting next to me in church, he might ask, “How much do you care? Will you go after them with my message of grace and truth? Will you let them know how they can come home? Will you?”

I think most of us who know Jesus Christ do care—yet probably most of us would agree that we are not as urgently or effectively reaching out to people as we know we must. So, let’s answer some challenging questions to apply this message. We are not going just to learn a little more. We are going to apply this. If you and I care about what God cares about at all, then let’s ask ourselves the following questions:

Am I willing for God to change my heart? I’ve got to confess that as urgent as I may feel about those who are lost—I’m not nearly as urgent as  I need to be. I need God to give me several more doses of urgency about those people right around me that God loves and wants me to reach out to.

Am I willing to change my priorities? Many of us want to reach out to people, but that takes time. I like many of us can get so busy with other priorities that the priority of building relationships with those who don’t know God yet gets squeezed out. I need God to help me live differently. When this church first started, we had a very simple ministry model. Sunday services with childrens and youth ministries and minichurches. That’s it. And that was for a reason. The reason we didn’t have Sunday night services, Wednesday night services, and millions of other things is not that we didn’t think good things would happen there…but because we didn’t want to be so busy with each other that we had no time to be out there, to build relationships with those who are unchurched. We still have a streamlined ministry, but it is certainly more complex than back then. Let’s make sure we don’t get so busy doing church stuff that we don’t have any meaningful relationships we are building with those who aren’t here. Ask yourself the question—and answer it.

Am I willing to leave my comfortable place? Each person in the stories was searching—and they went out from where they were to find what was lost. If we are going to be used by God to lead people to relationship with him, we have to be willing to get out of our safe little cocoons and be where people are. We can’t just hang around each other—even though it is safe and comfortable and easy.

Am I willing to search and find? In the stories, they didn’t give up easily. The shepherd didn’t make a little foray into the wilderness. He searched until he found the sheep. What we are talking about is building relationships that are long-term and don’t have strings attached. We are talking about loving the people that God loves—which takes time. We aren’t talking about a foray. We are talking about a new lifestyle for many of us.

Am I ready to celebrate? Hey, I can’t wait to get to heaven and see the people that God has allowed me to help come to know him. I just wish the number could be multiplied by 10,000. My prayer is that as a result of Fellowship Bible Church North in this community, as we display the love of God and build relationships where we help people come to know him—that heaven would be in constant party mode. That’s the way it was in the first church in Jerusalem. Acts 2 says that the Lord added to their number daily those who were being rescued—who were found. At least once a day there were parties in heaven because of that little church in Jerusalem that started with 120 people. We have thousands of people in this church. Let’s seriously pray that God will use us to the point that we make heaven a constant party for those who are coming to know him.

Am I ready to take a first step? With a message like this, it is important to identify a first step. That may be to serve someone in your neighborhood. It may be to prioritize a particular person or group. You come up by prayer with a first step—a way to get going right away.

And for some of you that first step may well be to step into the arms of God for the first  time. He is waiting for you. As I talk about having a relationship with God, if you don’t fully know what I’m talking about—then let me encourage you to take a step today. Come down front and talk to one of our Stephen ministers. I’d be happy to talk with you as well. Jesus died on that cross to pay for your sins and mine—to clear the way for us to come back home, to be forgiven, and to have a forever relationship with him. Like the lost son, we don’t have to do anything to earn it. God is just wanting us to come back home. He is waiting to receive you as his son, as his daughter. You can also do that in your heart right now…just say, “God, I want to come home. I want relationship with you. Thank you for dying for my sins, and thankyou for forgiving me. I want to live for you. Amen.”

Let’s pray and consider that first step as we close.


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