Your Life Matters to God!
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 26, 2017
*In 1905, a box was shipped from South Africa to England. There was nothing special looking about this box. It was just an ordinary shipping box. And inside the box was a rock, but it was no ordinary rock. The rock was a diamond, "The Cullinan Diamond," the world's largest diamond, weighing 3,106 carats! It was a present for King Edward VII on his 66th birthday. (1)
*Well, we may look ordinary on the outside, and you may feel very ordinary today. But your life is incredibly valuable to the King of Kings! Your life is more valuable to God than a diamond as big as the sun! And in today's Scripture, Jesus reminds us that all of our lives matter to God.
1. We know this first of all, because Jesus came for us.
*Jesus Christ came to seek and to save all of us. He came "to seek and to save that which was lost.'' That's what the Lord said in Luke 19:10 on the day Zacchaeus got saved. And that's what the Lord illustrated in today's Scripture
*Little Zacchaeus was a hated, and corrupt tax collector. He seemed to be a hopeless case. Everybody who knew him would have said so. But Zacchaeus got saved when he met Jesus Christ!
*He seemed like a hopeless case, but the Lord didn't give up on Zacchaeus. And Christians: The Lord didn't give up on us! Jesus cared enough to seek for us when we were lost, and He didn't give up! He kept seeking for us until He found us. This is the message of hope and joy we hear in the parable of the lost sheep.
*In vs. 1-4, God's Word says:
1. Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.
2. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them.''
3. So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
4. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?"
*That one lost sheep in vs. 4 represents every person who has ever lived, except Jesus Christ. That lost sheep represents us, for Isaiah 53:6 says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way . . ."
*By our sinful ways, we wandered away from God. We were cut-off from God's flock. And we were in the greatest danger. But Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who came looking for us. He made a passionate, sacrificial search for you!
*Jesus was absolutely determined to find us. He cared so much that He went the distance for you. How far was Jesus willing to go? How far did He go? -- Even into this world, and that's a long way down from Heaven! Jesus went the distance, even to the suffering of the cross, and even into death for us.
*Anthony Fortosis described Jesus' all-out effort with these words:
-"Jesus is the King of kings,
-Lord of the infinite universe,
-Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent,
-Dwelling in light, unapproachable, changeless.
-And yet He condescended to become enclosed in lowly human flesh,
-To be born a despised Jew in a filthy stable, without fanfare or pomp.
-The richest became the poorest that the poor might become rich.
-He starved for 40 days in the wilderness that we might feast on the Bread of Life.
-He emptied Himself that we might be filled.
-His heart was broken that He might bind up the broken-hearted.
-His body was crushed that we might be made whole.
-He was rejected that we might be accepted.
-He was condemned that we might be justified.
-He was judged that we would not be judged.
-He was deserted for a time by the Father that we might find access to the Father.
-He died as the innocent One that the guilty might be declared innocent." (2)
*That's the determination of the Good Shepherd who went the distance for you! Charles Lowery told the story of a young boy from south Florida. His house was on a lake. One day after school, he hit the water and began to swim.
*When the boy was about halfway out into the lake, he looked up and realized that he was almost nose to nose with an alligator! The boy made a U-turn and swam as hard and fast as he could, yelling the whole time. His mom saw him, and dove into the lake.
*The alligator and his mom got to the boy about the same time. And there was a tug-of-war, but Mom won. When the boy got out of the hospital, the reporters were there, and they asked to see the scars from the alligator. So he showed them the alligator scars. Then the boy told them he wanted them to see his other scars. He pulled up his sleeve, and there on his arm were the scars where his mother would not let him go. (3)
*That's the kind of commitment Jesus has for you. He came for you, and He will never let you go. The difference is that Jesus has our scars, because He went to the cross for us.
*Have you let Jesus find you? -- Or are you still running away?
2. Our lives matter to God! We know this because He came for us, and because He carries us.
*In vs. 5, Jesus said this about the shepherd and his sheep: "When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing." That's the way the Lord treats His sheep. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, and you can be carried by Him! You can be carried all the way to the perfection of His heavenly home.
*What a privilege to be carried on the shoulders of the Lord God Almighty! That means we are carried safely wherever He takes us. It also means we are carried close to His heart.
*Listen to what Ryan Johnson said about us being sheep: "For one reason or another most of us identify with the sheep in this story. Some of us have felt like the black sheep in our families. Some of us have been the black sheep in our families!
*Most of us have wandered off too far. Maybe you feel like you have to be carried back to safety. You have tried to find your own way back, but you end up on dead-end roads.
*Then God the Good Shepherd finds you. He wants to lift you up, gently place you on His shoulders, and carry you safely home. Isaiah 40:11 tells us that the Lord "will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."
*In Isaiah 46:3-4, God says:
3. "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb:
4. even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
*What a joy to be found and carried close to the heart of Almighty God!" (4)
*Jesus will carry you. That's what He wants to do. And when you really see Jesus, then like the sinners in vs. 1, you will want to be near to Him too! The only thing that can keep you away is stubborn pride. Don't be like the proud men in vs. 2: "And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'''
*Thank God Jesus receives sinners, and eats with them! Turn to Him. Let Him carry you. He wants to take you home. And if you have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, that's what He is doing. Jesus Christ is right in the middle of carrying you home, home forever with His Father in Heaven!
*This means we can always trust Jesus to take us to the right place at the right time. There are many examples in the Bible. Take Joseph, for example in the Book of Genesis.
*It took a long, hard road of betrayal by his own brothers, being sold into slavery, being falsely accused by his owner's wife, and being forgotten in prison by a man who promised to help Joseph.
*Joseph went through terrible hardship and betrayal. But in Genesis 41, the Lord had Joseph at the right place at the right time when Pharaoh had a bad dream. God gave Joseph the meaning of that dream. It was about a terrible famine coming in a few years. And on the day Joseph interpreted the dream, Pharaoh made him Prime Minister of Egypt. Joseph's leadership saved untold thousands from starvation, including his own family, because God had him at the right place at the right time.
*In 1 Samuel 17, the Lord also had young David at the right place at the right time. David's father asked him to take some bread and cheese to the soldiers fighting the Philistine army. On that day, David killed the dreadful giant, Goliath, with a sling, a stone, and the giant's own sword. And it happened, because God had him at the right place at the right time.
*There are many other examples in the Bible, and in our own lives, if we will see them. So let the Lord carry you along in life. Looking back, you will surely see His hand at work. And there will be some hard times along the way, but you can always trust Jesus to carry you through!
*James Doyle said: "As a 5-year-old I would pretend to fall asleep during the evening worship service! If I did, I knew my dad would carry me home. I would do this because we walked to and from church. It was about a mile each way.
*Being little wasn't my problem. The distance wasn't my problem. I enjoyed the walk with my family. However, my older brothers liked to tease me sometimes. And they told me there was a 'boogey man' in one of the fields who would 'get me'. Now that scared me!
*One night I really did fall asleep. Dad picked me up. I woke up right away but continued to pretend to be asleep as he carried me. That night we went right through that frightening field and I was not one bit afraid. I felt the warmth, the strength, and the protection of my dad's arms.
*To this day, some 50 plus years later, I can still 'feel' his arms and 'hear' his breathing as I remember his ultimate protection. So, it wasn't long until I would constantly pretend to fall asleep on the pew, knowing I could go through that frightening experience safe in my daddy's arms!" (5)
*Christians, we are safe in the arms of our Good Shepherd. He will carry us through the hard times of life! And when it comes to death, He will safely carry us home to Heaven.
3. Our lives matter to God! We know this because He carries us, and because He celebrates over us.
*Our salvation brings great happiness to Heaven! We can see the heavenly joy in vs. 4-7, where Jesus said:
4. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
5. And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'
7. I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
*Jesus is talking about the celebration of your salvation. Christians: We celebrate when we get saved. We also celebrate when someone else gets saved. And Jesus does too! Verse 5 tells us that Jesus rejoices when He finds us. And vs. 6-7 show us that the greatest celebration of our salvation takes place in Heaven.
*Now Heaven must be a very busy place. But when someone gets saved, it's like everything stops so they can celebrate the victory! That's how important you are to God! Your salvation brings great happiness to heaven.
*Jesus stressed this truth in the other two parables He told in Luke 15. Please listen to the Lord in vs. 8-10. -- Jesus said:
8. . . "What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it?
9. And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!'
10. Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.''
*Then Jesus told the story of a rebellious son who left home, and lived in a terrible way. Listen to vs. 11-24 today from the New Living Translation:
11. To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: "A man had two sons.
12. The younger son told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.' So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living.
14. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs.
16. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger!
18. I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19. and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man."'
20. So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21. His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.'
22. But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet.
23. And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast,
24. for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began."
*"My son was dead, and is alive again! He was lost, and is found!" Think of the celebration they had that day. It's only a taste of the celebration going on in Heaven! And if you've trusted in Jesus Christ, it's for you!
4. Our lives matter to God! We know this because He celebrates over us, and because He calls us to help search.
*You see, the search for the lost sheep isn't over. God wants Heaven's joy in vs, 7 to be multiplied even more. Jesus the Good Shepherd is still searching for the lost sheep.
*The Good Shepherd was even willing to die for His sheep, and that is what Jesus did on the cross for us. Jesus died a horrible death, because our sins deserved a horrible punishment. And through the cross, Jesus took all of the punishment for all of our sins.
*Now, our Risen Savior is still searching for the lost sheep. And Christians: He calls us to help. Jesus calls us to help other lost people get saved.
*And there are many ways we can help:
-Pray for the lost.
-Pray for mission work.
-Give to mission work.
-Tell them how you got saved.
-Tell them other great things God has done in your life.
-Explain the good news of Jesus Christ to someone else.
-Invite people to church.
*There are many ways to help search for the lost sheep. And since Jesus went the distance for us. -- He wants us to go the distance for Him.
*Our lives matter to God! Do you know that today? Put your total trust in Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd who came and died on the cross for you. He is the living Lord who rose again from the dead!
*Let the Lord save you. Then trust Him to carry you, even through the hard times of life. Also join in the celebration of God's salvation. And answer God's call to help with the search.
*Commit to do what God wants you to do, as we go back to the Lord in prayer.
(1) Cullinan Diamond - wikipedia.org/wiki/Cullinan_Diamond
(2) Adapted from Dr. Anthony Fortosis, quoted in "Prokope", November/December, 1992, Page 4 - Source: SermonCentral sermon "Jesus Is" by Mike Hays - Colossians 1:15
(3) Adapted from "The Prize" - by Charles Lowery - SBC LIFE - April 2004 Issue
(4) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "When We Wander Too Far" by Ryan Johnson - Luke 15:3-7
(5) SermonCentral illustration contributed by James Doyle