This started out to be a journey in prayer. But, it seems God has turned the focus of my mind just a bit… and, He has put upon my heart that we really need to get a better understanding of many of those for whom we have been praying. In one of my sermons years ago, I spoke of the three big questions in life that everyone – Christian or not – needs to have answered; Where did I come from? … Where am I going? … And, why am I here?
Where did I come from is found in the first Book of Genesis…Where am I going is found in the last Book of Revelation… where it talks about both eternal heaven and hell. It’s the third question most of us are still trying to understand; why we are here? The answer to that one is found in all the rest of the Books in between Genesis and Revelation.
Jesus is our great intercessor and High Priest before God…. And, He does not want us to leave even one behind on the battlefield. “It is God’s will that not one should perish.” (Matthew 18:14) What we need is for God to give us a view and a better understanding of those whom we are trying to reach…. A better understanding of where they are at…Why they do and say what they do…and so on. If we have a better handle on where they are coming from, it helps us to know how to approach them and help them from where they are in their life. In order to gain that perspective, let’s look at some parables of Jesus concerning “That Which Was Lost” from the Book of Luke;
When it comes to seeking the lost, I am reminded of something Lowell Lundstrom, an evangelist from South Dakota, once said; “Jesus comes with a full guarantee”… “Try him out for 60 days, and if you’re not satisfied, you get all your sins back!”
In chapter 15 of the Book of Luke, the entire chapter speaks of “lost” things; a lost sheep; a lost coin; a lost rebellious son; and a lost older son and brother who stayed at home. This older brother personifies the attitude of the Pharisees and religious leaders toward sinners…they were jealous, critical, unforgiving, and had a lack of compassion. The very beginning two verses reveal – not only the attitude of the religious leaders, but that of Jesus at the same time! “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus tells three great stories, straight from the heart of God, by which he pleads “guilty” to their charge. Jesus didn’t worry about their accusations nor his reputation, and in Luke 19:10 he states why… “For the Son of Man came to SEEK and to SAVE that which was lost!”
I want you to notice that Jesus gives two things that have not changed as far as the mandate to the church; SEEK and SAVE. He didn’t say “I have come that they might have padded pews!” …or “that they might have the right worship style… or belong to the right denomination… But, that they may have life! The truth is that the great love God has for all people, that he has for you and I, SEEKS and SAVES no matter why we are lost or how we got there!
In these parables, one thing that stands out to me is that all three things that were lost had great value…the sheep, the coin, and of course, the son.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but I can remember a time when our son Mark was about four years old; we were at the local carnival and there were hundreds of people there, and somehow – in a split second – Mark wandered off and we lost him. I know of nothing that strikes greater terror in the heart of a parent than a missing child. Well, believe me, we quickly began to SEEK and to SAVE that which was lost!
Now, if God is our Father, and we are his children, do you suppose he says, “O well, I have lots of other children…I have lots of sheep, that one will just have to stay lost? – I don’t think so!
Here is another view of the church that I can see in the attitude of Jesus toward tax collectors and sinners…(it’s just the way my mind works) I want you to consider this question as to why people gathered around Jesus…What was it that attracted them to him?
When there is a crisis situation; an accident, there are usually three groups on the scene; the first group is the bystanders and onlookers. They are curious and watch to see what happens but have little, if any, active involvement. The second group is the police officers, whose response is to investigate the cause of the accident, assign blame, and give out the appropriate warnings and punishments. The third group is the paramedics. They are the people usually most welcomed by those involved in the accident or crisis. They could care less about whose fault the accident was, and they do not engage in lecturing about bad driving habits, their response is to help those who were hurt! They bandage wounds, free trapped people, and give words of encouragement to those who are in pain. Three groups – one is uninvolved, one is assigning blame and assessing punishment, and one is helping the hurting. Which group are we 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 bystanders, and let others do the work; or we will condemn people for their foolish behavior and bad habits, saying things like, “It’s your own fault that you’re in this mess. If you had been going to church and living like you should this never would have happened!” Or we will have compassion and be concentrating on helping those who are trapped, lost, and hurting. I hope we will be found in the last group! No wonder they followed Jesus.