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.” So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The Lost Coin
“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus was a master story teller and many people believe that the story of the lost son in Luke 15 is the greatest story Jesus told. Actually Jesus tells three stories in Luke 15 and all are about things or persons that are lost. We will say more about the motivation of Jesus to tell these particular stores later but for now I want to address the subject of “Lostness”. What does it mean to be lost? I was cold door knocking in East New Orleans back in my seminary days and I came across two couples sharing the same house. When I asked them if they had been saved, they said, “From what?” They may have been pulling my leg but I don’t so. There are people in New Orleans that have never heard the gospel. They invited me in and gave me an audience, they had never heard the terms “Saved” and “Lost” used in a spiritual sense. None of the four had ever entered an evangelical church or heard the gospel presented.
What does it mean to be lost? Mr. Webster says that being lost is being unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts: Unable to be found. I read a story last week of a man whose three year old daughter just disappeared. When he went to wake her for breakfast, she was not in bed. He went from room to room hollowing for his daughter but no daughter. By this time, Mom and big sister are a part of the search and they look through the house, in the closets even the back yard and no baby girls. They are about to call 911 when the dad thinks: maybe I should look under her bed and sure enough, there she was, curled up in a fetal position with her blanket and sound of sleep.
The word lost here in Luke 15 is a bit stronger in definition: it means to be in a position of peril. The sheep was lost but it was also alienated from the shepherd and the flock. The sheep had no protection and was in real danger. It is a perilous and dangerous thing to be lost in the spiritual sense. To be lost in the spiritual sense is to be separated from God as the sheep was from the shepherd. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are lost. He is the good Shepherd.
I. THE KEY TO SALVATION IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ARE LOST
It is hard to find a person these days that will confess that they are lost. We have people stop at the church on a regular basis wanting money, gas or sometimes groceries. I hate to give them material things without trying to help them spiritually but it is frustrating. We don’t have a lost beggar in Morgan County, they not only declare that they are saved, some have told me they were called to preach and some have quoted scripture. Once I was quoting scripture and this man corrected me and then he quoted it right…I was both embarrassed and stunned but I quickly retorted, “That’s King James, I’m quoting the New American Standard.” The biggest problem with MY HOPE is that no one has any lost friends, that is friends who acknowledge that they are lost. As the old preacher use to say, “You can’t get them saved until you get them lost.”
In these first two stories, we have a lost sheep and a lost coin. It does not matter how they got lost or whose fault it is that they got lost. In the case of the sheep, it most likely wandered. It got lost by being careless, by not keeping its eyes on the shepherd or some may even blame the shepherd, who should have been watching. Jesus does not talk about this because it is not important. It does not matter how you got lost or whose fault it is. The coin could not have lost itself. Someone lost the coin. What good is money if you do not know where it is? It is possible likely the woman misplaced but she does not waste time assigning blame, she searches the house.
I’ve been preaching the gospel for 44 years and I have person after person fix the blame on someone else for their spiritual condition. Don’t be concerned about who is to blame. Maybe one of both parents were horrible role model; perhaps some professing Christian lied to you are defrauded you in some way. Don’t worry about who is at fault, your concern is to correct the problem. You cannot make progress and excuses at the same time.
II. THE KEY TO EVANGELISM IS TO VALUE THE LOST
There is quite a bit of difference between a sheep and a coin; one is animate and one is not but both are of value. Jesus is addressing this story to the Jewish religious leaders who loved money. He knew that if they lost something of value they would drop everything and look for what ever it was. So the sheep is lost and the coin is lost and the key is that they are both is they have value.
We all have what we call CORE VALUES. Core Values are the guiding principles that we live by, it is the things we value most. This church has CORE VALUES. All churches have core values and in a Southern Baptist Church the number one core value, almost without exception is FELLOWSHIP. It is why SB build bigger sanctuaries instead of having two services, we all want to meet and greet each other. This is important to us. Where do you think the LOST rank in our core values. We would put them under the heading of EVANGELISM. Is Evangelism our highest core value.
It is sad but true, that most churches care more about padding the pews or getting new carpet than they do the lost. The primary focus of Jesus mission was to seek and save the lost. Jesus loved lost people. He valued lost people. Look back at verse 1…Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Did you notice, Jesus was drawing them, they were coming near Him.
Why is it that Jesus drew them and we don’t, unless of course you know of a church that does. I do admit that Jesus has a huge advantage, He had no insecurities and no one freaked Him out. If we had a bunch of prostitutes and drug users walk in here this morning dressed in their normal attire, it would freak us out. It would disrupt the service. We fear those who are different and we despise those who do not live up to our standards and Jesus did neither and they sensed it. Jesus loved them and that is what they crave the most. He didn’t make them feel condemned, He made them feel accepted. I don’t know about you, but I fail miserably at this point. Furthermore, let me tell you that this is the crux of Luke 15…God’s love for sinners. Jesus loved lost people. Do we love them?
III. THE KEY TO JOY [ABUNDANT LIFE] IS TO FIND THE LOST
In verse 4, Jesus says the owner of the sheep will go out and search until he finds. In verse 8, He says the woman will light a lamp and sweep the entire house searching for the coin until she finds it. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost [Luke 19:10] and His mission is now our mission. They are not going to come to us; we have to go to them. The sheep could not find itself nor could the coin; someone had to go seeking and searching. This is our primary call and we will never experience the abundant life until we do as we are commanded.
You will note in all three stories that there is rejoicing when the sheep is found, coin is found and son is found.
- Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep [v.6]
- Rejoice with me, I have found my coin [v.9]
- We must Celebrate [v.23]
I heard Dr. Landrum Levell say this many years ago and it does sound like an over simplification but I believe it to be true. He said, “Your church does not have a single problem that evangelism will not cure.” Churches that swap sheep have lots of problems but churches that go after the lost are in a constant state of celebration. Let me tell you a great way for every service to end, with someone coming to Christ.
Max Lucado tells the story of the two friends that took their sons on a fishing trip. They drove up into the mountains, unpacked the jeep, got the camp set up and it started raining. No problem, the four went into the tent and started paying cards. Went to bed, got up and it was still raining. They played more cards but before the day was over, the boys were irratible. They went to bed the second night only to get up with more rain. Four guys in a tent, things were not working out: finally the fathers had words and they loaded up and went home without speaking. The moral of the story is when fishermen don’t fish, they fight. If you aint fishing, you aint following.
Not only is there joy in finding the lost, there is joy in our obedience in seeking the lost. Back in the 90’s we had a young lady on one of our faith teams and it was her night to share. She had never shared the gospel before. They actually go invited in to a mobile home and were be treated very nicely by the man. Two guys, and Nancy on the team and the man that Nancy was sharing with. He allowed her to start the presentation and about half way through, a mad angry woman came storming out of the bedroom and ran them off, she didn’t stop till she had showed them the door. The entire team was stunned and Nancy was speechless. When we got back to the church and the team leader told me what happened, I got worried. My first thought was “This is bad and Nancy will be discouraged.” When the report time came and Nancy shared her experience, she wrapped it up with tears of joy. She was just thrilled that the Holy Spirit had given her the boldness to share, before it was over we had the best celebration of 10 years of doing FAITH. I’ve never seen anything like it. When I got alone with the LORD, He explained what had happened, “The joy is not in your success, it is in your obedience.” I have never forgotten what He said.
- Joy can only be found in obedience