Summary: This is message 32 in our exposition of James. This message continue the theme of restoring the wayward. I share how God feels about the wayward by looking to the parables of Jesus in Luke 15.
Chico Alliance Church
Pastor David Welch
Last week we explored the attitude toward the wayward, lost, sinners, stumbling, straying James prescribes for every follower of Jesus.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
He wants us to know that the effort to turn anyone back to a healthy walk with the Lord is worth it. In my effort to discover the proper attitude we should have, I wondered what the Bible reveals about God’s feelings toward the lost. The Bible makes it very clear how God feels about the spiritually lost.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
How does God feel about the wayward or the ones who wander off the path? Jesus taught a set of parables dealing with those who stray away from the path. James made it clear that EVERYONE strays or stumbles or deviates from the path.
We ALL stumble in MANY ways. James 3:2
The whole letter addressed areas in which we fail to live by genuine faith. The whole Bible serves as a tool to keep us on the path.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Teaching lays out the path.
Reproof tells when we have strayed from the path.
Correction show the way back to the path.
Training in righteousness tells us how to stay on the path; all so we can become mature and equipped to best serve God.
Satan would have us believe that God hovers over us ready to club us every time we step out of line. He wants us to think that God stands with arms crossed and face scowled. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but you missed it. You have been disqualified. You are no longer loved. I believe that Jesus taught otherwise in His use of three parables round in Luke 15.
How does God really feel about those who have ignored the internal homing beacon? The answer can be found in three stories or parables the Jesus told to make a specific point. Jesus generally used parables to address a specific situation. Most parables have a trigger event. Discern the event and you will understand the point of the parable.
I. The situation
Jesus interacted with two groups of people. Jesus related these stories to emphasize how God really feels about lost people.
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:1-2
A. Tax collectors and sinners
Tax collectors collected money for the Roman government. The money they collected was more like a customs or tariff on goods. They could be Romans, but the office was also filled by native Jews. They were not always honest. They often collected more than required. Their countrymen considered them collaborators, turncoats, extortionists, thieves. Matthew was a tax collector. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. They were hated and ranked with harlots on the popularity scale. Sinners were anyone else not considered part of the spiritual elite.
These were people to be avoided and rejected. They were certainly not worthy of inclusion in the community of God. These tax collectors and sinners however, seemed to have a heart to learn. They came to listen to what Jesus had to say.
B. The Pharisees and Scribes
Pharisees considered themselves above everyone else. They fancied themselves as the holy gatekeepers commissioned to protect the kingdom from all undesirables and sinners. The response of these people was not what we might expect from godly people. When they noticed Jesus receiving and connecting to the very people they were sworn to despise, they boldly verbalized their disapproval. They “grumbled”. It means to mutter complain, murmur stemming from a strong personal negative attitude. Their negative attitude is obvious by their reference to Jesus: “this man.” Jesus not only welcomed tax collectors and sinners, He ate with them like they were His friends. This rotted the socks off the spiritual elite. Their prejudice was palpable. Prejudice groups people together according to some external criteria, slaps on a label and then always views them according to their classification rather than individual characteristics.
Jesus – Yahweh saves. The Good Shepherd. Son of God. Jesus responded much differently than anyone expected. Here is a highly respected teacher, a devout Jew with royal blood associating with low life. He received them, welcomed them, accepted them and even sought to connect with them. To receive someone is to draw them into your circle, cherish, accept, or anxiously wait. Jesus not only received them but went even further by eating with them. Eating a meal together in that culture was a sign of acceptance, hospitality and close fellowship.