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The One

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What is God like?

My earliest memory of going to church as a kid, which I did maybe three times with my Mum, was to a Catholic church up the street from where we lived. And to tell the truth it was exactly as I expected.
Formal, quiet, somewhat of an impressive building yet mostly empty, and a Priest dressed in elaborate robes saying something about God but nothing that connected with me. But at the same time seemed important. Which, basically, made true everything I’d seen in movies and on TV about church & religion.
Anybody else have that kind of experience with church?
Here, in this parable, Jesus, once again reveals the nature of God in himself, as the very Son of God, and through his teaching, having the very words of God.
And what he reveals is that,
“God is not like we expect, BUT, God is everything that we want”.

1. God is not like we expect.

Come with me to Luke 15.

Read vv. 1-2

English Standard Version Chapter 15

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Now, let me give some colour to the stage that’s being set here. We’ve got three types of people:
tax collectors and sinners — who are they?
tax collectors — well let’s remember when and where we are
In reading the Gospels, we’re being drawn into the region of the middle east, which in the 1st century, was under Roman rule. And the reason why tax-collectors were despised is because they were considered traitors.
They were Jews, collecting tax from Jews, to give to Rome — and most were greedy and took more than they needed. #stealing which lumped them in with other ‘sinners’, who were people deemed ‘unclean’ by Jewish law, for not living in obedience to God.
pharisees and the scribes
these were the men who were experts in the Jewish law, the religious leaders of the day. The type of person I thought I would see teaching the Bible when I went to church. Formal dress. Somber. Not spending time which anyone who wasn’t deemed ‘clean’, because the didn’t want to stain their perceived purity.
‘this man’
This man, is Jesus — a normal looking guy—no expensive robes, no elaborate hat, nothing to mark him out as special, except who he was and what he said and did.
Like the prophet Isaiah said of Him...
English Standard Version Chapter 53

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

Let me tell you another story of the first time I remember going to a Protestant church. It was about 16 or 17 years after entering that Catholic church and the major difference was not just that I was older, but that I had become a Christian.
And I walked into this church, massively nervous because I had a shaved head, still smoked cigarettes, and looked—as my wife likes to tell me—like 'some type of criminal'. So, I was fearing the judgement that would come my way by all the religious people and the priest, but I went in anyway and found a seat near the back and just watched.
I looked around and saw people who were normal. Dressed casually rather than formally. They were even talking to one another. I couldn’t believe it. People were either really good actors hatching an elaborate plan to make me feel so comfortable that I would give all my money to the church, or, they genuinely liked to be there, together, and wanted me to know why.
Now, the thing that struck me the most, and that did something to me that I didn’t expect, was when the Priest guy stood up to talk—and I knew everyone respected him as one of the leaders and teachers because everyone was quiet and listened—what shocked me was that he looked less formal and religious than everyone else in the room.
I mean he was wearing thongs, boardies, and a tee-shirt (I was at a church by the beach). He smiled like he was enjoying what he did rather than brood. He taught about Jesus from the Bible, and I knew this because I had just read the whole New Testament in a few days like it was a new Harry Potter novel… and. I. was. confused!
Who was this bogan? And how dare he stand up in the church and look like that and smile like that. Isn’t he supposed to be in robes and boring me to death with religious rules? Isn’t that what church is about?
What I discovered, is that it wasn’t me who was the one being openly judged by the people in the church. It was me—because of my misunderstood expectations on what the church, God’s people, and what church leaders should be like.
I was the one judging everyone, especially the teacher.
I had become so rigid and so sure in my own understanding—you might say, so ‘religious’ about it, that I didn’t have a category for what I was seeing in this beach bum guy teaching God’s word.

This is exactly what is happening in our text today!

We see is the ultra religious guys—the Pharisees and the Scribes—looking at a situation that they can’t comprehend.

Becauase Jesus—a known teacher of God’s word—not only looks common, he is receiving and eating with sinners too.

Jesus is binding himself in community with sinners.

Something that every other Rabbi would never do.

Jesus is not who we expect.

He would just as likely to be at Banjo’s, the Bowlo, or one of the local Breweries, having beers and a burger, as he would a church building.
And the Pharisees and the scribes, they just can’t comprehend the scenario.
So they embark on the one thing humans have been doing for the course of time: they grumbled. “This man recieves sinners and eats with them!”
So Jesus told them this parable to remind them that God may not be like we expect him to be, but he is evreything that we want.

2. God is everything that we want.

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.

God is everything that we could want.

Have you ever felt lost?
Have you ever felt abandoned or left out?
Scared and uncertain in life?
God is the one who has made it his mission:
to find you.
to include you.
to host a party for you.
and rejoice over you.
And he has been at this for a long time!
I want to show you how the character and nature of God hasn’t changed from back then to now. From the Old Testament to the New.
I want to show you how God is someone you can trust to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow—a God who keeps his promises to his people.
If you come back with me roughly 600 years before the time of Jesus, God’s people—Israel—had been neglected by their leaders, and exiled into the hands of the powerful foreign nation, Babylon.
And God used this time to speak to the Israelite leaders who werent looking after his people.
God says to them:
Ezekiel 34:4 ESV
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
The Israelite leaders then were much like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. More concerned with their own power and influence than showing mercy and care.
So, God makes this promise:
Ezekiel 34:11–12 ESV
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
Ezekiel 34:15–16 ESV
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
And the parable Jesus tells in our passage today reveals that God hasn’t changed, and in Jesus he has indeed come to be our shepherd who seeks and saves the lost.
This parable teaches us that we have a God who will do whatever it takes to bring home his lost sons and daughters. And not reluctantly either as if he’s just doing his duty. God rejoices in our homecoming!

Come home.

Repent and trust.
Starts in the mind recognizing you’re far from God—not because of what he’s done or who he is, but because of what we’ve done and who we are.
Then this knowledge moves to the heart, the very centre of who you are, and you admit that you don’t want to continue in the direction that you’re heading.
You turn from your old way of life, to God, and receive Jesus as Lord, trusting in him as the shepherd of your soul. Knowing that it was he, the good shepherd, who laid down his life for you.
“Repentance is not the cause of God’s love, but the result of God’s love.”
And you will no longer be lost, left out, or undervalued because you have come to receive eternal life, with God, life to the full.
Come home.
Ezekiel 18:23 ESV
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
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