Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World
GOD CARES MOST ABOUT FINDING THE LOST
Sermon - March 1, 1998
Steve Simala Grant
Think of the one thing that is the absolute most precious thing to you. Decide what it is. Now hold that thought in your mind, or jot it down on the sermon notes page, and we’ll come back to it later.
Jesus doesn’t usually need three stories to make His point, so when we find three parables back to back, making exactly the same point, we had better sit up and take notice. The point is this: God cares most about finding the lost.
Look in Luke 15.
Verses 1-2 set the scene: Jesus is teaching, and the crowd that has gathered to hear him is a rough crowd. Full of outcasts. The detestable. "Sinners." The people that no self-respecting person would be seen associating with. And so the "nice" people - the "religious" people start to complain. verse 2 says they started to "mutter". they start to wonder what on earth this great teacher - this Jesus who is so famous - is doing with that kind of crowd.
Jesus picks up on what is going on, and so he begins to teach, and he tells 3 parables back to back, each making exactly the same point: God cares most about finding the lost.
Just before getting into the three parables, who are the "lost"? The Bible teaches that anyone who does not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior is lost. Jesus summed up his entire ministry with these words in Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” And before we get too excited about not being one of the lost, lets remember that, not so very long ago, each of us was lost and we needed Jesus to come to seek us out too.
I want to walk quickly through each of the three parables, then draw some points from the three together.
Turn to Luke 15:3-7
Luke 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Don’t you think this shepherd is just a little crazy? I mean, he still has 99 sheep left... Its only one sheep that has wandered off... All he has to do is wait till spring and I’m sure he’ll have a few new sheep and be back up over the 100 mark...
But that is not what happens. The shepherd leaves the 99 and goes searching for the one. Why? Becuase that one is precious to the shepherd. It wouldn’t matter if the shepherd had 1000 sheep, or 10 000; if one went missing he would hunt for it. Not because he wants to have the most sheep, but because each individual sheep is precious to the shepherd.
Did you notice what the shepherd does with the other 99? This is shocking! Look at verse 4: He leaves the other 99 alone, in the open country. Now that is dangerous! There are wolves! There are theives! There are all sorts of dangers that a shepherd is supposed to protect his sheep from! How dare he abandon the 99 so that he can find one! Doesn’t he know that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?
Why would he risk the 99 to find the one? Because God cares most about finding the lost.
Lets look at the second parable:
Luke 15:8-10 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
How hard would you look if you had a dollar and lost a dime? Or if you had a hundred and lost a ten? Oh, I think we might hunt around a bit - retrace our steps, check out a few possible places. But look at this woman - she turns her house upside down! She lights the lamp, gets out the broom, gets down on her hands and knees and searches every corner until she finds it. She does not stop until she finds what was lost. Though it is a short description, we can feel some of the intensity in her search - in her determination.
Again, its not a matter of money to the woman. If she really needed the money, she could take her 9 coins and deposit them in some high-yield mutual fund and make back even more than the original 10. And if she really needed the money, would she have thrown a party to celebrate finding the coin? - that has to have costed something, even if just a bit of food and beverage. But I don’t think the money is the issue: God cares most about finding the lost, because the lost are extremelly precious to him.
Now the third parable: Its a little longer, but well worth reading:
Luke 15:11-31 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided 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. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods 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! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’ ”
In the first parable it was a sheep, the second it was some money, but now it is a son that is lost. Now suddenly it gets personal. The son has left, broken his father’s heart, destroyed his life in the search for pleasure instead of meaning, hit rock bottom, and returned to find his father welcoming him back into his arms. Forgiving him. Throwing a party for him. "We had to celebrate," says the father, "this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
In this third parable we begin to see more clearly how personal the loss is. I mean, I’m sure the shepherd loved his sheep, and the woman loved her money, but none of those compare to the love of a parent for their child. And when Jesus tells this final parable, he knows he is going to grab some heart strings and tug on them. He knows that his hearers can identify with the love of a parent for their child. And he knows that this will really help them understand the love and loss God feels for those who don’t yet know him. God cares most about finding the lost.
POINTS FROM THE PARABLES:
I want to point out a few things that we can see from all three parables.
First, the main point of each is that God cares most about finding the lost. The shepherd leaves the 99. The woman leaves the rest of the cash on the table while she turns her world upside down to find the lost coin. And the father welcomes the son back without even so much as an "I told you so...", to the great dismay of the son who had been good.
Why would God care most about finding the lost? Because they have the most to lose. There is the most at stake for them - nothing less than eternity. Jesus defined himself as one who came to seek and save the lost. Jesus died for the lost. In fact, if you study the life of Jesus carefully, the single most amazing thing is that he really did come for sinners - that is who he spent his time with and shared his life with.
Second, note the progression in the parables. First it is 1/100. Then it is 1/10. Finally it is 1/2. There is an urgency here - he only has two sons and one of them is lost. There is a growing conception of the value of that which is lost - it moves from a sheep to a coin -- to a son. And we get a growing conception of how much God cares about those who don’t yet know him.
Notice what drives the actions of the people in the parables - what determines their agenda. It is the lost - that is the consuming, urgent need, to which all of their efforts are addressed. Does that same need drive our agendas? Do we share that urgency? Or are we so consumed with caring for the 99 sheep, polishing the 9 coins, or talking with the 1 son still at home that we forget about the lost?
And finally, notice what happens in each of the parables when the lost is found: its party time! They each call their friends and loved ones and say "Rejoice with me! That which was lost is now found!" They throw a party, and they celebrate. If none of the other points convince you of the importance of finding the lost, the reaction of God, and indeed all of heaven itself, certainly should: it erupts with joy! The lost has been found! Rejoice with me! This is fantastic! Kill the fattened calf! Call the neighbours! Pump up the stereo! Break out the popcorn and the pretzels! Celebrate! That which was lost has been found.
I know many of you fairly well. And I know that you desire, above all else, to live your life in such a way that it pleases God. Do you want to please God? Look at what makes him the happiest: its is not our worship. it is not our Bible reading or our prayer or our fasting. it is not our devotion to our families. it is not even the power of the Holy Spirit filling us and flowing in us in amazing ways. Now don’t misunderstand me - all of those things definately DO please God! But look again at the last line of the first parable, in verse 7. Jesus says: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (repeat...)
What makes God the happiest is this: those who are lost getting found. Why is it that the thing which makes God happiest is the thing we emphasize the least in our Chirstian lives?
I asked you at the beginning to think about what is most precious to you. Now what if you lost that? What if it was suddenly gone? I know that for some of you that has happened, and you know the pain and the agony and the sorrow that comes with losing something incredibly precious, and you also know that there is virtually nothing you wouldn’t do to get it back.
And there is nothing God wouldn’t do to get back those who are lost. He sent His only son to die so that the lost could be found.
And then do you know what He did? He left us in charge of finding the lost. He gave us the privilege of going into our lost world and letting everyone know that we were lost too, but have found our way home and if they will let us we will gladly show them the way home also. If you’ve ever lost something precious you know how God feels about every single person on this planet who does not yet know him.
I almost lost the that which is most precious to me almost 3 years ago. I was here doing some interviews for Day Camp Staff when the phone rang. It was a friend of my wife, Joanne, who called to say that Joanne had just been loaded into an ambulance and was being taken to the U of A hospital. She had had a severe allergic reaction - she had gone into anaphylactic shock - was covered in hives, passed out, and had her blood pressure drop to 50/30. The paramedics arrived, shot her full of adrenaline, and rushed her to emergency. She got the adrenaline in time, and so by the time I reached the hospital she had revived and was doing ok. I can tell you that that night I held her tighter. I realized in a new way how incredibly precious she is to me. And the fact that I came close to losing her gave me a brand new appreciation for what I have in her.
I can’t really describe to you now how I felt as I drove to the emergency room - its a bit of a blur in my memory. But I do know that that is exactly how God feels towards every non-Christian in the world: as something incredibly precious that could be lost. The love is the same, the urgency is the same, the intense desire to change the situation is the same. His heart breaks over each sinner that has not yet found his way into relationship with God.
I think that sometimes we picture God as the judge in an innaccurate way. We see him high up on his bench, a stern look on his face, maliciously punishing sinners - who deserve it and must pay their debt. But that is not an accurate picture. God is the judge; yes. And he does punish sin; absolutely. But he does it, I believe, with tears streaming down his cheeks. With a heart heavy with sadness, and loss. Because the reality is that the punishment for sin has already been paid - by God himself. Each person that comes before that judgement seat does so needlessly - why? because forgiveness has been offered! Grace has been available! The punishment has been taken care of! And it is only those people who do not take hold of Jesus’ hand, accept what he has done for them, and live in relationship with him, that must be punished.
God cares most about finding the lost.
Do you want to know what is most precious to God? The sheep on the ledge. The coin between the floorboards. The son in the distant land.
How about the secretary down the hall. The neighbor across the street. The student in the next desk. The waitress at your favorite restaurant. The member of your family.
Will you share what God cares about most? And will you share the faith that you have in Him with those around you? There certainly are some techniques that you can use to make finding the lost easier and more likely to succeed. You’ll find an introduction to these in your Lent brochure - the ideas of cultivating, planting, and reaping: and in a few weeks Dave is going to preach on these. In addition, we are hoping to offer an ACE course called "Becoming a Contagious Christian" in the near future. As a church we believe that sharing our faith with our world is critically important: the last line of our mission statement is "Out with the Good News", and so we are commited to equipping you to do that. But don’t wait until you feel fully equipped to begin. Sharing your faith is exactly that: sharing YOUR faith. If you have a relationship with Jesus then you have something to offer. You have your life to share.
We’ve adopted that last line of our mission statement as part of our Lent campaign slogan: "Out with the Good News", and have given you a whole bunch of ideas to get you started. Let me give you one more: Over the next 40 days of lent, invite one non-Christian friend to come to our Easter Sunday service. People are pretty open to going to church at Easter, especially if they have had any Christian background at all. We are going to put that service together with those people in mind, and present the gospel in a clear and relevant way. Then take that friend out for lunch, and ask them what they thought. That’s pretty simple! That’s pretty do-able! I challenge you to do that.
Can you remeber a time when you shared your faith with someone? How did it feel? If you are at all like me, you felt a quickening in your spirit. Your heart started to beat a bit faster. And next to that twinge of insecurity and fear, there was this sense of joy and of being right smack in the middle of the will of God - that this is exactly what life is about.
A few weeks ago we had a junior high event where we broke into small groups for discussion after our devotional time. My group included a bunch of non-Christian junior high kids who had been invited by their Christian friends (and by the way, our teens are awesome at doing that - we have a great group of potential evangelists in the making...), and I just set them free to ask any questions they might have about Christianity or religion. And boy did they let loose! They fired question after question after question - two of them were fighting with each other to get to ask the next question! We covered everything from evolution to personally meeting God in faith to challenging the exclusiveness of Jesus’ claim to be the only path to God. We went from pre-creation to the garden of Eden to the cross to the present and back again. And as I shared my faith with them, and as Jenny Hodges and James Marshall did too, there was this wonderful sense of being in perfect obedience to the most central command of the New Testament: to go and make disciples.
Can you recall a time like that? When you felt the joy of sharing your faith? Or when you joined the party in heaven as you saw someone commit their life to Christ? That experience awaits each one of us as we share and act on God’s desire to find the lost.
Let me close with the lyrics to the chorus of a song called "In Heaven’s Eyes", because they remind us of how God sees the world around us:
"In heaven’s eyes, there are no losers.
In heavens eyes, there is no hopeless cause.
There’s only people like you,
with feelings like me.
And we’re amazed by the grace we can find
In heaven’s eyes"
God cares most about finding the lost. Will you start searching with him?