Summary: In these stories we see four ways of getting lost, four consequences of being lost, and a fourfold quest for the lost.
The Four Who Were Lost
One of my most cherished chapters in the Bible is Luke 15. I like the way it begins: “They dear near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.”
Much is said about Christ in those words. They mean that those who failed realized that in Christ they would find help instead of condemnation. The publicans and sinners found that he was “a friend of sinners,” that he liked to eat with them, and that he gave most of his time to them.
He had hard words for self righteous people, but he always spoke kindly to those who had missed the way. In fact, the word “sinner” was seldom on his lips. He thought of them as “lost.” On one occasion when the people “murmured” because he received sinners, Jesus told them four stories.
In these stories we see four ways of getting lost, four consequences of being lost, and a fourfold quest for the lost.
READ TEXT (vv. 1-3)
I. Four ways of getting lost.
a. Lost through heedlessness – the sheep (v. 4)
i. The one sheep that was lost was not a bad sheep.
1. He was perhaps no worse than the rest of the flock.
2. His love for the shepherd was just as great as any other member of the fold.
ii. He just kept drifting away from the flock in quest of better grass and greener pastures.
1. Then when darknes fell, he realized he was all alone.
2. Through failing to give heed to the shepherd’s call, this sheep got lost.
iii. And this is the way so many get lost.
1. Busy with the pressing affairs of like, they gradually drift from God, his church, and his people.
2. Then in the darkness of some tragic hour, they discover they are all alone – all because of heedlessness!
b. Lost through idleness – the coin (v. 8)
i. The coin was the same coin after it was lost that it was before.
1. That which was silver did not now turn to brass.
2. And being lost does not mean a person has no value or character.
ii. The coin was out of circulation and thus “lost.”
1. The coin represents service, and when we remove our lives from service to God, we are out of circulation and thus lost.
c. Lost through willfulness – the prodigal (vv. 12-13)
i. This younger son was lost because he willed to be lost.
1. He was basically a good son, but he chafed under the rules and expectations of home.
2. So he thought only of the moment, ignored his duty to family and society, and deliberately took off on his own.
ii. In an effort to prove and exercise his “freedom,” he became a slave to sin and a slave to a strange man in a distant land.
1. He was lost though his own willfulness.
d. Lost through haughtiness – the elder brother (vv. 25-26)
i. This conscientious and honest young man stayed at home and still got lost.
1. he was lost through pride and haughtiness.
2. Being satisfied with himself, he became intolerant toward others and lost to the purpose of his father.
ii. It has been said that if the prodigal had seen his brother before he saw his father, he might have returned to the pig pen!
1. I wonder how your lifestyle and attitude affect others.
2. Do they attract people to Christ or drive them away?
II. The consequences of being lost
a. The consequence of helpless distress – the sheep (v. 4)
i. The sheep was lost not because it had been destroyed, for it was much alive.
1. It was lost because it had wandered away from the shepherd and the flock and now found itself in a state of helpless distress.
ii. The aimless multitudes with no sense of real purpose in life, no laws to follow, no God to worship, suffer the same consequences of helpless distress.
b. The consequence of uselessness – the coin (v. 8)
i. The lost coing still had its value and it still had the image of the emperor stamped on it.
1. But being lost, it was useless.
2. Although still the property of its owner, it was of no value.
ii. If you have lost touch with God, you have not lost your value, but you are useless to him and his service.
c. The consequence of degradation – the prodigal son (v. 16)
i. The clean cut well dressed young man was now living in filth and poverty and was clothed in rags.
1. Friends, wealth, self-respect, and virtue were now all gone.
2. but his is the consequence of willfully choosing to leave the Father.