(A Message on Evangelism)
Westgate Chapel 7-9-06 Luke 15:1-32
Proposition: Jesus' priority, while He ministered on the earth, was to save the lost...those who were lost in their weakness like sheep gone astray; those lost in their worthlessness like the frontlet missing a coin; and those lost in their wretchedness like the prodigal son.
- JESUS' first priority, while He was on earth, was His Father......
* He spoke only what He heard the Father say.
* He did only what HE saw the Father do.
* His goal in his earthly life was to do the will of the Father.
* He and the Father were one.
- JESUS’ second priority was His disciples.
* He spent the next largest block of His time with them….three uninterrupted years.
* He poured His life into them.
* He taught them and cared for them.
- THEN, the next largest block of time that Jesus spent was with the lost of His day.
- ACTUALLY, it seemed mutual.....the lost seemed to like being around Him too.
- IN fact, this priority was so obvious to everyone who knew Jesus that it got Him into trouble with the religious leaders of His day.
- LUKE 15:1&2 says;
“Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” (Luke 15:1-2)
- THEY had become so absorbed in their religion and its activities....that they had come to believe that God existed for them and their rituals, comforts and blessings.
- THEY were so "holy" that it seemed counter-productive to them to have anything to do with publicans and sinners and profane people.
- THE spiritually lost were seen by them to be an unnecessary and unwanted distraction from their religious activities....especially lost people whose life-styles were obnoxious.
- THE religious leaders of Jesus’ day had fallen into the trap of what Peter Drucker, in his book on management principles, calls "Inward Eyes."
- THIS is the condition of a company that forgets that it exists for the people it was designed to serve, and becomes absorbed instead with its own systems and processes.
- SO the Pharisees came to despise Jesus for taking time with the lost.
- IT was something He couldn’t help but do…because the love of God and the Holy Spirit within Him was overflowing for others.
- AND, in Luke 15, Jesus answers the Pharisees with three stories that describe what it is like to be lost.....and the heart of God as He reaches out to them in saving power.
II.THE LOST SHEEP
- THE first story Jesus told is about one lost sheep. It is found in Luke 15:3-7;
- A SHEEP is just about the dumbest of all animals.
* A dog can find its way home.
* A cat knows where the Tender Vittles are kept.
* A pigeon will wing its way back to it roost......
- BUT when a sheep is after food, it will graze further and further away from the shepherd and safety....and will not pay any attention to its surroundings until it is too late and it cannot find its way home.
- THEY are oblivious to danger around them...too preoccupied on feeding themselves to see the lion approaching or the eagle soaring above...until it is too late.
- A SHEEP will stay lost until someone comes after it, finds it and brings it home.
- IF someone doesn’t search for the lost sheep and retrieve it, it will never come back home.
- THEY cannot take care of themselves...and have no defenses to protect themselves against predators.
- THEY require constant care and watchfulness.
- DO you see why, in the face of His critics, Jesus used the story of the lost sheep to explain His involvement in the lives of the lost?
- THEY were precisely why He had come…
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
- THE only thing that could ever save a lost sheep from the cliffs, the lion or the eagle or death by starvation, would be a shepherd.
- AND Jesus was willing to leave out there in the wilderness….the 99 sheep who had no need for a shepherd (the religionists of His day) in order to save the one that was lost.
III.THE LOST COIN
- THE next story that Jesus used to describe the lost, in Luke 15, was the story of the lost coin.
- MARRIED women, in Jesus' day, wore the equivalent of a wedding band...only it was a frontlet, worn on her forehead, made up of ten coins.
- EACH coin had the name of her husband on it.....and the number ten signified that she was married to him completely and faithfully.
- HOWEVER, if a wife was ever caught in adultery, one of the coins was taken off the frontlet by the authorities......and it became a shame to her whenever she was seen in public with only 9 coins.
- SO, the woman in this story Jesus told was understandably afraid about losing one of her coins on the floor of the house somewhere.
- SHE had been careless....and lost her coin.
- THAT frontlet was as good as worthless without all ten coins.
- IT had lost the purpose for which it was created.
- AND somewhere in the dirt and dust and darkness of the floor....was the lost coin.
- IF someone would only bring the poor lady some light and a broom....she would be able to see where the coin had been lost....and retrieve it and put it back on the frontlet so that her shame would be taken away.
IV.THE LOST SON
- WITHOUT seeming to take a breath, Jesus went right on with His stories about the predicament of the lost in Luke 15….from sheep to coins to a son.
- YOU are familiar with this story…about the prodigal son.
- THIS is the story of a young man who wanted the family benefits that the Father had to offer, but he didn't want the Father.
- SO he asked for his inheritance right away. He didn't want to have to wait for his joy, his riches, his fame....so he left home to have it all right away.
- THE sheep had gotten lost out of stupidity.
- THE coin had been lost out of carelessness.
- BUT the prodigal was making a willful decision to leave the Father.
- IT did not take young man long, however, to discover that the pleasures of sin are real, but they only last for a season.
- THE devil will take you further than you ever wanted to go.....keep you longer than you wanted to stay.....charge you more than you were willing to pay.
- WHEN his money was gone, so were the good times and the friends.....and he found himself lying in the slop, feeding the pigs, hungry enough to eat their food.
- WHAT a sad situation!
- IF it were not for God's grace...that would be you and me this morning.
- IT costs you dearly to serve Satan.
- BUT, just like in the other two stories, there is a turning point.
- SITTING there in the pig slop, the prodigal son comes to his senses.
- HE says
"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. "
- AND the picture that the next few verses call forth...is one of the warmest in all scripture.
- VERSE 20-24 says;
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 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 is found.'"
V.THE SHEPHERD, THE LIGHT, THE FATHER
- LET me wrap up this brief sermon.
- YOU will find the full commitment of the triune God to saving the lost in these three stories that Jesus told in Luke 15.
* The lost sheep is found by the shepherd....Jesus.
* The lost coin is found by the light....the Holy Spirit, illuminating the way.
* The lost son is found by the Father.....Father God.
- THIS is more than just of passing or academic interest.
- JESUS is telling us through story that the priority of the godhead is to reach, find and save the lost before it is too late for them.
- IF it is God’s priority, should it not be ours as well?
- LOOK at the rejoicing in every parable;
* The shepherd calls his friends and neighbors in to celebrate the one lost sheep returned home.
* The wife calls her neighbors when the coin is found and invites them to celebrate with her...the coin restored to its place.
* The Father calls a kingdom-wide celebration...for his son who has come home.
- WESTGATE Chapel….we have been blessed with too much of God’s love, His mercies new every morning, His presence and His bountiful provision…for us not to have God splashing out around us every day into the lives of those who….
* Have strayed from the shepherd and are lost.
* Have been careless and lost the sign that they are in covenant relationship with God and promised to Jesus Christ.
* Have willfully walked away from the Father and squandered their inheritance.
- FAITH for 500, is a call of the Holy Spirit for us, under His guidance, to seek, retrieve, sweep, apply the light and watch….until the lost are found.
- IF you and I are full of the Spirit and recipients of God’s love….it should be as normal as breathing to us every day.
- WE shouldn’t need a Faith for 500 campaign.
- BUT the reality is that we, like the religious people of Jesus’ day, are too easily preoccupied with our own maintenance.
- BUT it is not going to be that hard for us to get back on track.
1. Remember that the lost have God’s undivided attention and love….and that is where I want to be.
2. Rejoice in all the goodness of the Lord that He has showered into your life….and again I say, rejoice!
3. Ask God to show you this afternoon or tomorrow who it is that He wants to be the recipient of the overflow from your life.
4. When He shows you who it is….using the same determination of the shepherd in Jesus’ story, engage yourself in that person’s life.
- FAITH for 500…one life at a time.
- IT is the heart of God.