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Heaven's Most Wanted

The Gospel of Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God delights when lost things are found

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Sermon Introduction: In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait.
Now the police and the owner of the Volkswagen Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car. Often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape His punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding His rescue. (http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/the-poisoned-crackers)
Scripture Introduction: The three parables in Luke 15 are a result of criticism Jesus receives regarding his time spent with “tax collectors and sinners” (see Luke 15:1-2). In Matthew 11:19 we learn that Jesus is called a “friend of sinners.” Although this term was meant to be a criticism it was actually a compliment. Jesus can be the best friend a wayward sinner can ever have. Jesus is on a “Search and Rescue Mission” for Heaven’s Most Wanted!
Jesus shares three parables in Luke 15 as a response to the criticism. Each of these parables reveal similar stories and each of them teach important lessons. I believe each one of them give insight and reveal WHY Jesus is a “friend of sinners.” That should bring all of us joy and comfort today, because that means no matter how sinful we have been He desires to be our friend as well!
The first reason I find in the text is because Jesus knows...

Sinners Without Him are LOST!

Notice the first parable in Luke 15:3-7
Luke 15:3–7 ESV
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Explanation:

As Jesus responds to the complaining about Him receiving sinners and eating with them, He poses a question to the Pharisees and Scribes. What shepherd, if he lost one sheep out of the fold of 100, would not go looking for the sheep that was lost? As a matter of fact he would go to great lengths to find the LOST sheep and when he finds the sheep he will return with rejoicing at the success of his mission and the fact that the LOST sheep had been found. He would celebrate with his friends and would be glad that all the sheep were safely in the fold. William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, gives us some insight on the shepherd’s mindset:
The shepherd was personally responsible for the sheep. If a sheep was lost the shepherd must at least bring home the fleece to show how it had died. These shepherds were experts at tracking and could follow the straying sheep’s footprints for miles across the hills. There was not a shepherd for whom it was not all in the day’s work to risk his life for his sheep.
Many of the flocks were communal flocks, belonging, not to individuals, but to villages. There would be two or three shepherds in charge. Those whose flocks were safe would arrive home on time and bring news that one shepherd was still out on the mountainside searching for a sheep which was lost. The whole village would be upon the watch, and when, in the distance, they saw the shepherd striding home with the lost sheep across his shoulders there would rise from the whole community a shout of joy and of thanksgiving.
Jesus goes on to indicate this is similar to what happens when “sinners” repent and are no longer considered “LOST.” Jesus wants them to know that the sinners they are now despising are cared about by God and there is great JOY in Heaven when ONE sinner repents! As a matter of fact there is no joy in Heaven over the self-righteous people who think they do not need to repent, but there is JOY in Heaven over the sinner who does repent!
The idea of repentance is two fold. It is a feeling of remorse, but it is more than that. It is a feeling of remorse that leads to a change of mind and ultimately a change of action! Sinners do not just need to be sorry for their sin, but they need to have a change of mind about their sin and about the Savior, Jesus Christ and turn to Him and allow Him to forgive them. Their repentance and faith mixed with the life changing power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit will ultimately change their heart and life.

Illustration:

Once again we turn to William Barclay to gain some insight on why Jesus may have used the shepherd illustration. He says about the shepherd:
That is the picture Jesus drew of God; that, said Jesus, is what God is like. God is as glad when a lost sinner is found as a shepherd is when a strayed sheep is brought home. As a great saint said, ‘God, too, knows the joy of finding things that have gone lost.’
There is a wondrous thought here. It is the truly tremendous truth that God is kinder than men and women. The orthodox would write off the tax-collectors and the sinners as beyond the pale and as deserving of nothing but destruction; not so God. We may give up hope of a sinner; not so God. God loves those who never stray away; but in his heart there is the joy of joys when a lost one is found and comes home.

Application:

The word that Jesus uses to describe the sheep is “lost.” It literally means: “destroy, die, lose, mar, perish (Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)” In other words this sheep was not just lost, wondering around, but this sheep was in imminent danger. It was on the brink of death. Without the shepherd’s intervention, it was as good as dead.
The same is true of us without Christ. Without Christ we stand already under the condemnation of God. John 3:18 says:
John 3:18 ESV
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Ephesians 2:1-2 illustrate this as well:
Ephesians 2:1–2 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
It is imperative for us to understand that individuals without Jesus are LOST. They are spiritually dead and separated from the abundant and eternal life of God. But just like the shepherd went looking for the lost sheep...

Jesus is on a Search and Rescue Mission (Luke 15:8-10)

Explanation:

The next parable is another illustration used by Christ to answer the criticism weighed against Him regarding His relationship with the “sinners.” The first parable focused on a man who had 100 sheep and LOST one. The second illustration is about a woman who had 10 silver coins and now one of these precious coins is lost.
Once again we turn to William Barclay for insight:
THE coin in question in this parable was a silver drachma. It would not be difficult to lose a coin in a Palestinian peasant’s house and it might take a long search to find it. The houses were very dark, for they were lit by one little circular window not much more than about eighteen inches across. The floor was beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes; and to look for a coin on a floor like that was very much like looking for a needle in a haystack. The woman swept the floor in the hope that she might see the coin glint or hear it tinkle as it moved.
Many have speculated through the years about the importance of this silver coin. It was worth about a day’s wage and many in this region were very, very poor. So it could have been just a monetary issue. It is quite possible she needed this coin to survive and provide for her family. Another potential lies in the fact that married women would have a headdress, that would be very similar in importance to a wedding ring today. Within that headdress were 10 silver coins, so losing one of them would be very devastating to a bride and she would want to recover it and place it back in its proper place.
Regardless of the reason, this coin was important and precious to her. She wanted and desired to find it. She went on a “Search and Rescue Mission.” She lights the lamps, she sweeps the house and she SEARCHES DILIGENTLY until she finds it!
When she finds it she celebrates! She runs outside and calls out to her friends and neighbors and they celebrate together for the lost coin that has been found.

Illustration & Application:

Did YOU know Jesus is on a search and rescue mission? He is searching out EVERY soul that is lost. He is searching for YOU. The very reason some of YOU are here today is because Jesus has been searching for YOU. He has been speaking to YOU. He has been inviting YOU. He has brought YOU here and allowed YOU to be here so the LIGHT of the Gospel could shine down on YOU and so the convicting power of the HOLY SPIRIT and HIS WORD could sweep over YOUR soul today and remind YOU that He is on a search and rescue mission for YOUR SOUL!
Just listen to the words of the following Scriptures:
Mark 6:34 ESV
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
Matthew 9:36 ESV
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Luke 19:10 ESV
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
In the last parable we see that...

He Wants Them to Know They Have a Place at the Table (Luke 15:11-32)

Explanation:

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most well known parables that Jesus ever told. It’s a parable that so many of us can relate to either because we have prodigal children, or because we, at one time were a prodigal child. However, it is so much more. It demonstrates to us that God is not only like a Shepherd who goes after lost lambs, God is not only like a woman searching for a lost coin, but God is like a Father whose heart is broken over his lost son and longs for his son’s return.
The parable begins with the son asking for his inheritance and soon after receiving it he leaves home and begins to waste what his father had given him. Scripture says he squandered what he had by “reckless living.” In other words he wasted everything he had been given.
Luke 15:14 reveals that he had “spent everything.” At the end of this journey he had absolutely NOTHING to show for what he had been given! Isn’t that what sin does? It promises to GIVE, but in the end it just TAKES and TAKES and TAKES until NOTHING is left. On top of that, the region he was living in was going through a severe famine. So he has no money and he has no food. The young boy who only recently had plenty, now has nothing. He is in need.
This Jewish boy was so desperate that he allowed himself to be hired by a pig farmer. Pigs were unclean animals to the Jews and were not to be touched, but now this young man was living with them, feeding them and possibly even eating with them. He had sunk just about as low as a person could go.
He went from being rich to poor. To having a home to living in a pig sty. I’m sure he had plenty of “friends” when the money was on the table, but now “no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16). What a sad, pitiful picture of what sin and addiction does to a person. It strips them of so much and leaves them empty . . . physically empty and empty on the inside. It promises freedom, but delivers slavery. It promises fun, but delivers misery. It promises peace, but delivers torment.
However we see a turning point in Luke 15:17. The Bible says “he came to himself.” One of the things that sin and temptation hinders you from doing is to think clearly and rationally. He had not been thinking clearly and acting rationally. He had been spending his money on who knows what, but he had no income. A person who is thinking rationally will say, “Wait a minute…If my outgo exceeds my income, my upkeep will be my downfall.” I can’t keep spending, and spending and spending…but he didn’t think about that in the “moment.” But now he has nothing left. Now he had hit the bottom of the barrel and he has only two choices…he can stay there and wallow in self-pity or he can go home and beg for his father to hire him. After all the lowest servants in his father’s house are treated better, eat better, live better than he is right now.
So he rehearses his plan in Luke 15:18-19. He will admit his sin against his father. He will admit his sin against heaven. He will admit his unworthiness. He will no longer say, “Give me, give me, give me” but he will plead with his father and simply say, “Make me one of your hired servants.”
So he swallowed what little bit of pride he may have had left and began the long journey home. As he approached the old home place I wonder what ran through his mind. I wonder if he thought his dad would turn his back on him and slam the door in his face. As he began to make his journey up the final stretch that would lead home the Bible says that his father “saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Notice what the “Teach the Text Commentary” says about the fact that the father saw him while he was still a long way off:
This suggests that the father is on the lookout. Like the shepherd and the woman he is searching. His undignified run down the road risks social humiliation, and his public embrace of the disgraced son declares to a potentially hostile village that the son is restored to the family. The son's rehearsed speech is interrupted before he can make his proposition of employment...Grace has ruled out the need for earning his way back to favor.
Yes the son’s speech is interrupted with an answer of GRACE! It’s as if the father knew his heart and didn’t need to hear what he had to say. In place of the smelly farm clothes the son returned home with he is given “the best robe.” A ring is placed on his finger and shoes are placed on his weary feet. The fattened calf is killed and it’s time for a celebration! The son, who was as good as dead, is alive and is back home in the father’s house!

Illustration:

When I think about this story I am reminded of the OT story of Mephibosheth. When Saul was killed and David took over as king, Mephibosheth was just a small child. Saul’s descendents were frightened that the new king would have them killed and in the process of trying to escape the lady taking care Mephibosheth dropped him and he was injured and afterwards was never able to walk. The baby grows up to become a young man, still unable to walk, living in hiding in a land called “Lodebar” (the house of no bread) because he is afraid of what King David might do.
Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson. Mephibosheth was the son of David’s best friend, Jonathan. Jonathan of course had died and one day while David is thinking about Jonathan he asks the question in 2 Samuel 9:1:
2 Samuel 9:1 ESV
And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
So get this picture in your mind . . . Mephibosheth is living in a place called “the land of no bread” hiding from the very person who desires to do him good and bless him. He is hiding from the very person that wants to set him free from his fear and isolation. He is hiding from the very best friend he has on earth and he doesn’t even know it!
Can you imagine how he feels the day the king’s chariots pull up in his driveway. He is probably expecting to be executed, but instead King David offers to show him kindness for the sake of his father Jonathan. He lets him know he is going to restore the land to him that had belonged to his grandfather, King Saul. He lets him know that he is going to bring Mephibosheth home to his house, and he will be allowed to sit and eat at the King’s table from now on.

Application:

Dear friend I want you to know today that Jesus is a friend of sinners! There is a place for YOU at God’s table! Some of you are like Mephibosheth. You are trying to hide from the very best friend you have in this universe! You have been convinced that He wants to do you harm when in reality He wants to do you good. You are convinced that He wants to see you perish, when in reality He wants YOU to have life and have it more abundantly. He loved YOU so much that not only did He bring YOU here today to hear this message, but 2,000 years ago He allowed His Son to suffer all the wrath and punishment that YOUR sin deserved so YOU could be set free and be forgiven and reconciled to Him! Today He wants YOU to know that YOU have a place at His table.
Would YOU quit running from your best Friend today? The hounds of Heaven have been on your trail and God has been speaking to you and drawing you to himself . . . Come have a seat at His table TODAY!
If you are a believer then you have a responsibility to join this Search and Rescue Mission. What are you doing to love on and reach out to the lost? We’ve a message to share and a story to tell! We are special agents sent to look for Heaven’s Most Wanted!
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