There is a quote attributed to the Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, in which he was asked by a student the following question:
“Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?”
To this, the theologian responded:
“No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.”
-attributed to Karl Barth
It has seemed to me and to many others that of all the “gods” that are on the “Menu World Religions,” only the God who actively pursues man is the One revealed through Jesus, the Messiah.
Of all teachings about God in the world, the Bible’s teaching portrays God as the “Seeker of the Lost” or “THE LOST-SEEKER.”
I know, it is just not politically correct to refer to people as lost, but does that political correctness save one from being lost?
God cares about each an every one of the people who are living on our planet today.
As well, he cares about each person who used to live on the earth, and who WILL live on the earth.
According to the Bible, God is the One who
- warns and then
- searches for Adam.
After Adam and Eve sinned the first words attributed to God are,
But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
From Genesis – Revelation, God is seeking man…and in Revelation 21, we read the beautiful declaration of a time in the future when we will hear these words:
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:3, 4
We know that the Scriptures teach that God made man in His image, and we realize that since God is Spirit, man doesn’t look like God, but by “image,” we understand that man was created to be like God and have fellowship with God.
So, just as God pursues man, man pursues something.
We instinctively seek things, too.
Why do we have so many religions?
I think because people have a God-given desire to seek God.
Yet, we are not only seekers of God, but we have a “sin-given” desire to seek our own PLEASURES and PLANS.
We seek our own pleasure…our own way…we, in fact, are experts at going our own way, rather than following God’s way.
In this sense, the Bible describes mankind as sheep:
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
Today, we will read two parables from Luke 15:1-10 and look at how God is the “LOST-SEEKER” or the seeker of the Lost, and how He is the head cheerleader when the lost are found!
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he 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.
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she 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.”
When we consider Jesus, there are many pictures that we may have in our minds, thanks to the contribution of numerous artists over the many centuries.
Here is an illustration of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd.”
This photo speaks something more than just the obvious story that it reveals.
This reminds me of what it was like growing up as a child in the American church.
We used to sit in old seats…they were like benches and we called them “pews.”
And there was no Air conditioning in the church at that time…my home had central air, and it was the only home in our neighborhood with Central Air conditioning, so everyone thought we were rich.
But in church, how did we cope with the heat back then?…we could fan ourselves with little fans. They had handles that were like the flat sticks that doctors place on your tongue just before he tells you to say “ah.”
And there would be a nice picture like this one of Jesus the good shepherd on one side of the fan.
Here are two I found on the internet: One has photograph of a typical American church building in the Fall and the other is Jesus knocking at the door of our hearts.
So, imagine me, a very thin, small boy, or five or six, laying on the cushion of the old church pew, fanning myself, yet trying to stay awake… listening to a “boring” sermon… stopping to look at the fan… remember the one side had a picture of Jesus, ….but on the other side of the fan and was an advertisement…Does anyone know what would be advertised on the other side of those fans?
An advertisement for a funeral home!
And I must say, I felt welcome!
I. God Doesn’t Only Welcome Sinners
OK, I know that throws you a bit, since the Bible states:
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
But there are those
who don’t realize that they need God.
And God welcomes them, too!
There are those who don’t realize that they need a savior.
There are those who don’t realize that they are sinners.
And these are the ones who don’t realize that the funeral home is not all that awaits them when they die.
Remember the fans.
But remember the other side of the fans, too!
Jesus knocking at the Door.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
“Letter to the Church in Laodicea” Rev 3:20
Sometimes the hardest people to reach are the people who don’t realize how blind they are.
I can remember several times here in Almaty
when I have prayed with people to receive Jesus,
and it was very obvious that they really understood their need for God.
Before, they hadn’t understood,
but once the Holy Spirit of God connected with them, they understood.
And not only are there non-believers who seem to think they are without sin,
but there are believers who stand in judgment upon other believers…
causing them to be uncomfortable and even to leave the church.
God is the “Seeker” not the “Scatterer.”
We should be seeking the lost rather than scattering them and other Christians along with them.
A. God Welcomes All
In Luke 14, Jesus tells the parable of the Great Banquet,
in which, through a servant, a rich man invited many to come to a banquet, but not all choose to come.
So the rich man, through his servant, invited those who would not normally be invited…
sinners are not mentioned here, but the:
…the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame
Even though we see in that parable that there were those who were invited, but didn’t go…
we must realize that all were/are invited…
the rich and the poor are invited!
God welcomes all to be with Him
Not only those who know that they are sinners, but those who don’t know this!
As we are shown in Scripture, God loved the whole world!
God gave His Son for all
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
B. God Loves All
Truly, it is not that the Pharisees were unwelcoming of Sinners,
but their laws kept them from welcoming some people.
I find that even today we are a bit Pharisaic relating to Homosexuals.
We judge Homosexuals extremely without realizing that there are those who GENUINELY struggle with this sin…just as there are those who GENUINELY struggle with other sins.
But, often, believers follow some extremes regarding this MORAL issue, which has even become a POLITICAL issue in some of our home countries.
One extreme is to KEEP THEM SCATTERED
While another extreme is to welcome them and even BLESS THEIR SIN
Some are OK with a open and unrepentant Homosexuals serving as a Bishops.
Now, that is over the top, wouldn’t you say.
The ultimate in pluralism
The ultimate in political correctness
But is it right?
We are not to be like this
But another extreme,
There is a group of people who call themselves a ”CHURCH” in America that HAVE demonstrations (pickets) a
at the funerals of military men and even churches (like my home church) because of Homosexuality
People seem to be tired of the statement that we
“Hate the sin, but not the sinner.”
Yet, are we not Hating the Sinner when we claim that something is no longer a sin, when it really IS?
We are not to hate the sinner
Claiming something is no longer a sin is Hating the sinner.
And are we not hating the “LOST-SEEKER” when we SCATTER the Lost and the Found
II. God Pursues Man
- Yes, the same God who doesn’t always seem present when there is a tragedy…people ask, “where is God?”
- The same God who seems impersonal with His laws
- The same God who seems so old fashion with His brand of Morals
- The same God who was declared “dead” by so-called experts, who have since died.
He pursues Man
In the parables, we see God as a shepherd
And this is not an uncommon idea, since God already described man as sheep who have gone astray.
But, as well, a Woman is used as an illustration of God in a parabolic way.
I remember when William Young’s book, The Shack came out a few years ago.
I read it and loved it.
I found it to be an extended parable, really.
Yet, so many people were up in arms because God the Father was portrayed as a black mother.
People said, “the author is advocating ‘goddess worship.’”
But, even Jesus, used a woman as an example relating to God.
Remember that a parable is to illustrate a main point, and we must not assign a meaning to every point.
- Shepherd’s Pursuit
- The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep alone while he pursued the 1
- He has lost 1 out of 100…
1%, but even the 1 % is important to God…If I were God, I would have just thought, “hey, I’ve got 99, I can forget about the lost one.” Aren’t you glad I’m not God 🙂
DO WE AGREE?
C. Does God really leave us?
D. No, never!
E. But to the one who is found, he realizes that he has God’s attention
F. When he finds the lost sheep, he puts it on his shoulders (certainly it had to be a young one, otherwise he would not be able to carry it on his shoulders).
But in the reality that this parable illustrates, no one is too heavy for God’s shoulders.
G. I used to love to put my kids on my shoulders (I still remember being on my father’s shoulders)…whereas they had some fear in this, at the same time, it makes the child feel so great!
H. What a very nice place to be when you are reuniting with your master.
2. The Woman’s Pursuit
A. She loses a coin…1 out of 10. While this may not seem that much (only 10%)…but as a whole, it has been speculated, that these 9 coins were not worth as much, as only 9, but when the 10th was included, the other 9 were worth more.
LET US NOT FORGET THAT EACH OF US IS PRECIOUS TO GOD…AND WE SHOULD BE PRECIOUS TO EACH OTHER
B. It could be that this coin was part of a headdress, and to be missing one would mean she would look odd, with only 9 coins…perhaps it would reflect on her character.
C. She lights a lamp and sweeps the floor, and looks for the coin…and she most likely bends down and kneels looking for the lost coin
D. This is a picture of humility, as this woman, who represents God in this story, does the work of a servant—lighting a lamp—sweeping the floor—searching…perhaps on her hands and knees…in search of the lost Coin.
E. Elsewhere, the Scriptures describe the humility of God reaching out to man
In Psalm 18, David called out to God while he was in a moment of distress, and then described God in his power coming down from heaven to help…
it is a very poetic statement of God and in the first verses declares His incredible and awesome power, but then it simply says, …
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
God is the one who reaches down to find us.
As well, we see the humility of Jesus described in Philippians.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
As well, the Apostle Peter while describing the incredible nature of the Gospel described how angels are even surprised at God’s attention toward man:
Even angels long to look into these things
1 Peter 1:12
This woman, illustrates how God is not only the Lost-Seeker,
but the self-effacing Lost-Finder!
III. The Joy of Finding the Lost
Aren’t you happy when you find something that you have lost?
Clover and I had a yard sale this week, and we found so many things that we had lost…
we didn’t even know that we had lost them 🙂
But when you are looking for something that is dear and precious, and cannot find it, it is really amazing and wonderful when you do find it.
I still remember as a child I we were visiting another city, and I went for a walk.
And while I was walking, I got lost. I didn’t know what to do, but I looked and looked and eventually, I found my way back…I remember once when my father had gotten in his car to look for me. I felt so glad when I saw my father.
I assume my father was glad, too.
In these two stories, the shepherd and the woman are both so excited.
Look in this painting by Kazakhstani artist, Nelly Bube…she shows the reflective joy over the finding of the lost sheep and lost coin.
‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep
Said the Shepherd
, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’
Said the woman
Are we willing to rejoice,
or are we wanting to stand in judgment.
In the parable that follows, we have a story of two sons, and one gets lost…yet when he returns, the one who was not lost is unwilling to celebrate.
Sadly, the son who had been with the father all along, was the one who looks bad in the end, and he refuses to
Rejoice with me…
Rejoice with the father
As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 14:4
4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
I wonder, how do we feel when someone repents and becomes a believer?
If we admire the person before they repent, then we are often excited
But if we held a grudge against that person,
and then see them experiencing Eternal Life, now,
I fear that some of us would rather judge that person away form us.
Are we excited when someone becomes a Christian, because we are happy for that person?
Are we happy WITH this person?
For the fact that they have received salvation?
Or are we excited when someone repents because WE FEEL justified and validated?
We need to get those feelings out of our lives…
they are not godly.
Example from Today
It used to be that when we heard of someone who was “homosexual” then they might has well have had leprosy…people avoided them.
Yet, in the short span of my lifetime, society has changed.
But back when such things were still very hidden,
I remember the first time I heard a testimony of a homosexual man who had repented from homosexuality and returned to church.
He was very open and vocal, and many rejoiced (from a distance),
but still shied away from him. I happened to see him, and yet, I didn’t know what to say…so I said, “praise the Lord!”
This caused us to enter into a long conversation…
I wasn’t ready for it, but am so glad that it happened,
as he shared with me how important it is that he not only repented of this sin, but that he had returned to Jesus.
He said that the feelings were still there, but he had entered into a relationship with Jesus, and would follow Him.
I thought how true that is, that when we repent of our sins, the feelings that sins gave us or control, excitement, power, companionship, etc are often still with us, and so we must stay close to our rescuer in order to not fall back into the sin.
We are not a dumb coin on a string
or a dumb lamb that wandered from the flock.
Note the fact that the rescuers in these stories kept the “dumb” objects close to them…
the coin would have been part of jewelry that would have been worn on the body (you can’t get much closer than that)
and the sheep on the shoulders of the shepherd for a period of time, until the sheep learned obedience.
Yet, we have a part in this and can stick close to our rescuer, as well.
It would be a complete waste of the grace that God has extended toward us
to just ignore the voice of God after we have repented, and to say,
“I’ve already heard you, Lord…don’t bother me anymore.”
Heaven rejoices whenever someone repents! These angels who don’t quite understand why God would be so interested in us, are never-the-less joining with God in celebrating our repentance.
The Shepherd and the Woman called their friends, neighbors and family together and said,
Rejoice with me!
When we come together as a church, it is our way of declaring publicly, “rejoice with me!”
Let us remember that God revealed Himself I Jesus and is the LOST-SEEKER who
1. Welcomes All
2. Pursues Man
3. Enjoys finding man!
Let us learn to welcome, even those with whom we disagree…Let us partner with God in pursuing the lost…let us take joy when people repent!
Let us keep God revealed before the world!