Summary: What Jesus taught about how people get lost, how they are restored, and the joy that comes from restoration.
A Heart for the Lost
Rev. Sean Lester
December 7, 2003 morning service
Text: Luke 15:1-24
A. There was an attitude of disdain among the religious faithful toward those who were crowding around Jesus in the city of Jerusalem. An attitude not unlike how people who have been faithful to the Lord for many years tend to feel about those who have walked away from the faith.
1. The tax collectors who were crowding around Jesus were Jews who were working for the occupation government. They were viewed as traitors, worldly, and to be shunned by holy people.
2. The sinners were those who were raised as Jews, but for whatever reason were not committed to the practice of the faith. They were backsliders. They were people who knew better. They were not to be welcomed or justified by people who were of the faith.
3. I experienced something like this when I was in college. I had transferred to a small religious liberal arts college where I was urged by the choir director to try out for the choir. I was loaded up with classes, but thought I would give it a try. I didn’t enjoy the experience, and I found out that the choir planned to take a trip to California on a promotional trip. Because of commitments I had planned for the time away, and because I wasn’t willing to raise money for a trip to California, I informed the director that I wouldn’t be able to go. Then, he informed me that this was the purpose for inviting me to join the choir. Obviously, I was humiliated to think that this educator had made me feel valuable as a musician for no other reason than to promote his choir on the west coast. I dropped the choir from my schedule. However, I was further humiliated when the members of the choir shunned me around campus. When I greeted the director or choir members around campus, they wouldn’t return my hello. It was behavior unbefitting an evangelical college. I was the sinner. I was the one who wasn’t loyal to their society.
4. The sinners were held in the same kind of contempt by the Pharisees and the scribes. The sinners broke the rules. They diminished the religious society. Can you imagine how the “sinners” and the tax collectors felt? Would you be inclined to return to this kind of church?
B. But Jesus doesn’t share the same attitude toward people who have left the practice of the faith.
1. Jesus didn’t call them “sinners.” He referred to them as lost people. They were lost because they had been raised in the faith, but now were apart from it. But he didn’t justify their behavior. They were under the law, and their disobedience to the faith was sin. But Jesus doesn’t shun people, he loves people.
2. Also, Jesus didn’t use the occasion to criticize the Pharisees and the Scribes.
They were indeed faithful to God’s law. And they were indeed worthy of praise for it.
3. Rather, Jesus told three stories intended to change how these religious leaders regarded the lost people.
Proposition: The Lord takes joy in restoring people who have become lost to the faith, and we as believers should take joy in restoring lost people, too.
Interrogative: Is it even possible for a believer to have the same heart for the lost as Jesus has?
Transition: Of course it is possible! It begins when we stop judging the spiritual fitness of lost people so that we can understand why they became lost in the first place.
I. Three Reasons why people become lost from the faith.
A. Some people get lost in their faith when they try to do better for themselves, but in so doing they wander off from the spiritual protection of the church.
1. Adam and Eve didn’t have a bit of sin in them. But, when it was pointed out to them that the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make their lives much easier, they took the fruit. In so doing, they disobeyed God. They introduced sin into the human race. And, what’s worse, they became separated from God.
2. It is understandable that people would want their lives to be just a little easier. But in so pursuing, they take short cuts from God. In order to get just a little bit ahead, they cut out a bit of the ministry to have time for more work. Or, perhaps, for more relaxation. But it is the same sin Adam and Eve committed. Life apart from the flock is not easier. In fact, it is wrought with peril. The family of God provides protection from the attacks of the devil. Apart from the family of God, you are vulnerable to the whims of the world. The Lord may not always lead the church to the greenest pasture, because he knows what danger lurks in the tall grass. And, when some people head for the sweet pasture on their own, they are in danger of being ambushed by the god of this world.