Fri, Mar 14th - 10:05PM
STUDY IN LUKE
Time sure has flown by the past two weeks! Last week was two days in Charlottesville, VA at a work conference where I was a panelist. Last Friday and Saturday was a spiritual transformation retreat just north of Harrisonburg, VA. Then I caught an intestinal bug that put me down for a couple of days with a couple more of slow recovery back to normal. But here I am! Let's get back to the book of Luke shall we?
"Then all of the publicans and sinners drew near in order to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmurred, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them. And Jesus spoke this parable to them, saying, Which one of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lost one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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. I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (15:1-7)."
Here we find publicans and sinners drawing close to Jesus so that they can hear what He has to say. Of course, the Pharisees and scribes can't resist pointing out that Jesus associates with sinners and is even eating meals with them. Horrors! How unthinkable! But what we must see here is that ALL are drawn to Jesus. All people are hungry for His message. They were coming now out of spiritual hunger and need, out of a need to receive His message of salvation from their sins. Publicans, or tax collectors, worked for the Roman government, the Empire which had conquered Israel. They were considered traitors to both Israel and God. Thus they were despised by the people and were cut off and shut out by the religionists. Sinners were the rank immoral and unjust who did not keep the Law, such as harlots, liars, thieves, murderers. All these were sinners, traitors to both God and man, and they knew it. So, when Christ came along preaching deliverance from sin and hope of the Kingdom of God, they flocked to Him.
The religionists' attitude was tragic. They criticized Him because He associated and ate with such "terrible sinners." They felt it was beneath the dignity of any respectable person to associate with such vile sinners. We need to recognize what was going on here. Jesus was not of this world, but He was out in this world trying to reach people for God. The "respectable people" were of this world, but they were not out in this world trying to reach anyone for God. Both liberals and separatists overlook this fact too often. The true believer is to come out from among the unbelievers and be separate unto God and do not touch that which is unclean for then God will receive them and be a Father to them, and they will be sons and daughters to God (II Corinthians 6:17-18). The true believer is not to be out in the world with sinners doing sinful things (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6). The true believer is to go out into all of the world and preach the Gospel to every sinner (Mark 16:15). Hear that believer? Go out, do not sit back and wait on sinners to come to you and the church. You go out to where the sinners are and bring the Gospel with you. Think about this: If the whole Gospel was preached today in power and authority, how many people would be flocking to hear the gospel of salvation from sin and death? How many would be flocking to hear about the gospel of the hope for the Kingdom of God?
Jesus answered the religionists by sharing with them three great parables. Here first is perhaps the most loved one, the parable of the lost sheep.
A man who owns a flock of sheep has one wander off and get lost. The sheep here represents the unbeliever, the sinner who wanders out in the wilderness of the "world." It is the person who has gone astray and is separated from God. We need to understand the meaning of the word "lost" as it is used here. The Greek apullumi, means to perish, to destroy, to lose, to lose eternal life, to be spiritually destitute, to be cut off. It does not mean that God does not know where they are, but that they are in the position of losing eternal life, to perish for all eternity.
In the parable the sheep was lost because of self. A sheep loses itself in one of five ways. 1) The sheep is attracted by something out in the wilderness away from the flock protected by its shepherd. What the sheep sees obviously is more attractive and appealing. It tempts and seduces the sheep, and the sheep lusts after it. 2) The sheep is aimless, not paying attention to what is going on around it. It aimlessly wanders off, and while it is getting lost, the sheep does not even realize that it is indeed lost. When it finally discovers it is lost it has already been lost for quite some time. 3) The sheep refuses to listen to the warnings of the shepherd or to the other sheep of the flock. 4) The sheep is not attached enough to either the shepherd or the flock. There is not the bond or union there should be. So, the sheep stays off by itself, eating and resting and working alone until eventually it wanders off without the others noticing it, including itself. 5) The sheep does not trust the shepherd. It does not think that the shepherd will take care and see that there is satisfying food for it to feast upon. It goes afield in search of greener pastures and more satisfying food.
So we find the one sheep lost out in the wilderness. For people the world is our "wilderness." It has an excitement about it. The unknown and the risk arouse the emotions, but once a person ventures out into the wilderness, they find its terrain to be rugged, full narrow ridges and deep ravines and crevices. It is rough going, heavy with thick underbrush, prickling thorns, dangerous footing; and, if the way out was never found, it would suck the person's strength and age from them rapidly. Eventually the world will take a person's life. The world has much to offer. It gives a person occupation and purpose, position and image, plenty and wealth, lifestyle and acceptance, ego and self-esteem, opportunity and satisfaction, recognition and privilege, authority and power, and simply more and more honor. The world stimulates and arouses a person, causing their blood to rush, their heart to beat faster, to have goosebumps, butterflies, desires, cravings, offering escape and relaxation. All of these things Satan uses to distract us, to influence us, to enslave us, to trap us. Satan is the Prince of this world, and it is he who works ceaselessly to prevent people from hearing and believing God's Word, from hearing and believing God's Gospel. Satan tirelessly works to blind people to the truth through counterfeit religions that have seeds of truth embedded in them but are meant to mislead. Satan blinds people to seeing the truth by flooding them with parascientific speculation that questions the existence of God. Satan encourages the elevation of scientific knowledge onto a pedestal in order for it to be worshiped like an idol. All of this is simply vanity, as the Preacher in Ecclesiastes accurately identified it so many centuries ago.
In the seeking for the lost sheep we clearly see ministry in action. The lost sheep was sought until it was found. The ninety and nine other sheep were left behind for they were safe, they were in the shepherd's fold. It was the one which needed to be sought and found. This sheep needed the attention of the shepherd and thus occupied time, energy, and effort. As long as it remained lost, seeking it remained the primary purpose of the shepherd. What about it Church? Do you have ears to hear this message? What about it Christian? Do you have ears to hear this message?
The search was urgent. The shepherd went after that which was lost, gripped with concern. He went after the sheep as if it were his only one. He was dedicated and committed to searching and finding. He did not seek lackadaisically or complacently or slowly, as if there were plenty of time to find it. He did not give up, despite the difficulties that lay along the terrain confronting him. Fatigue did not stop him nor did the tediousness of the task. He never gave up.
When the shepherd found the sheep, he embraced the sheep and threw it up over his shoulders. He received it with arms wide open, embracing it, rejoicing in his heart, supporting and carrying it to his home. Once found, the sheep brought great joy. The shepherd called all of his friends together. He wanted everyone to know that the lost sheep had been found! Perhaps they all had been praying, hoping, waiting for the good word that the sheep had been found. They wanted to join with him in the rejoicing. A celebration was in order for the shepherd's efforts were not in vain. Notice that the shepherd called the sheep, "my sheep." "My sheep that was lost." No matter how far it had wandered off, it was still his sheep. No matter how dirty it had become, it was still his sheep. Here we find a picture of Jesus Christ coming as the Great Shepherd, seeking that which was lost, desiring to bring it back into His fold. For each lost person found today there is great joyousness breaking out in heaven among the heavenly host found there. Singing and giving of honor and glory to God burst forth at the moment of a person's redemption through Christ.
The sheep in the parable represents a repentant sinner as well. A sinner must repent, as revealed to us in Acts 2:38. Even from in the Old Testament we can find reference in Isaiah 55:7 of the urgent call of God for wicked people to repent, and return to the Lord to receive an abundant pardon. Even in Ezekiel 18:21 the Lord spoke through the prophet for the wicked to turn away from their sins and keep all of God's statutes, doing that which is lawful and right, and receive eternal life.
That is all for today, beloved. It is easy to see God as the shepherd, going out and seeking believers from among the lost tribes of Israel. It is more difficult to place ourselves in the role of shepherd, going out and seeking lost people to return to the body of Christ. Do we value others? Enough to realize that they have wandered off on their own path, away from God, and have become utterly lost.? Do we unconditionally love the lost so that we are willing to go out and find them? We do not have to worry about our congregation getting lost while we are not among them while we search for that which is lost. They remain safe in Christ Jesus' fold. Yes, the going is rough and tough. But determination brings finding, and finding brings joyousness and celebration! It can be very tiring searching for that which is lost, but the results are well worth it. Next time I will write about the next parable Jesus gave, that of the lost coin. I hope that you continue to follow along in the book of Luke. Grace and peace be yours this day!
Sat, Mar 1st - 11:21PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And there went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said to them, 'If any person come to Me, and does not hate their father, and mother, and wife, and husband, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and their own life as well, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever does not bear his/her cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first, and count the cost, to see whether you have sufficient resources to finish it? Otherwise, after you have laid the foundation, and are not able to finish it, all that observe it begin to mock you, saying, 'This man began to build, and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to wage war against another king, does not sit down first, and consult whether he will be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great distance away, he sends an ambassador, and desires conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever of you that does not forsake all that they have, they cannot be My disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt loses its savor, from where will it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. That person that has ears to hear, let them hear (14:25-35)."
Here we find the four basic conditions of discipleship:
1) Renunciation (verse 26)
2) Self-denial (verse 27)
3) Thoughtfulness, counting the cost (verse 28-32)
4) Forsaking all (verse 33-35)
Unlike the growing majority of churches today, Christ Jesus is not interested in cheap invitations and discipleship. Too often the call to discipleship is only to receive the great benefits and advantages offered by God. What has happened to the more blessed to give aspect of discipleship? Yes, there are eternal benefits and advantages, but salvation and discipleship involve so much more. They involve an unbelievable cost, the supreme sacrifice. A person must pay the ultimate price, all that one is and has to follow Christ. Stop to think about what was asked of the fishermen called to "Come, follow Me." Are we there? Do you easily picture yourself quitting your job, leaving family, and joining up with Christ? Just what does it cost to follow Christ?
We can see that huge crowds of people were following Christ as He went about teaching and preaching the Gospel. As His mind was set towards Jerusalem the cross and the desperate needs of the world were pressing in upon Him. The enormous sacrifice and cost it was going to require to reach the world consumed His thoughts and His actions. He must have followers who would sacrifice themselves totally if the message of salvation was to be carried to the whole world. He could not have second best. God would not accept any place other than first place in a person's life. A person must put Christ first, even before family and themselves. We can stumble over the words "does not hate" (ou misei) for they are strong. They mean not showing preference, indifference, aversion, disregard. Christ was not saying that one's family and one's self were to be literally hated. Not when Christ's over-arching message is one of loving all people, even one's enemies. Very simply, He meant He is to be first in a person's life. He is to be put before family, companionship, comfort, pleasure, business, sports, leisure, and the pursuit of money. Nothing is to have a higher priority in a person's life than Christ.
We can see that a person must bear the cross of death to self. This is the ultimate sacrifice of life in service to God. But we then see that Christ moved quickly on to an illustration to make us think and give thought to discipleship, we must count the cost and the consequences. The first parable is about a person who wants to erect a tower. They first sit down and think things through on such a project to determine what will be involved material-wise, manpower-wise, and financially. They must be able to answer the question of will they be able to start and finish such a project? If they begin the project but can only partially complete it, they will become laughingstocks, ridiculed by others who have watched the project fail. The point is clear: before any person begins to follow Christ, Christ wants that person to think about it. He wants them to be sure, absolutely sure. Can they afford to follow through, and do they have what it takes to build a Christian life? This is necessary because false profession damages the Kingdom of God and reduces the effect of other Christian's witnessing power. A false profession causes people to mock and charge true believers with being hypocritical; causes prospective believers to turn away; causes believers to be restricted and slowed in their ministry; and causes some believers to become discouraged.
The second parable concerned two kings at war with one another. The king being attacked had fewer soldiers in his army than the other king. The defending king had to sit down and think long and hard about his troops, his resources, his defenses, and the consequences of resisting the attacking king. He must consider the loss of life and property even if he did manage to defeat his enemy. This king had to make a choice. He was being invaded and had to choose to either fight or to surrender. He must consider the consequences of surrender as well. The point of both parables is that a person must pay the ultimate price. They must forsake all, renounce and give up all that they are and have, or else they can't be Christ's disciples.
When you or I counts the cost of following Christ, we must think about two basic things:
1) It will cost me all that I am. I must be willing to center my life around Christ and His mission to reach a world lost and full of desperate needs. It will cost me my heart, requiring total devotion and commitment. It will cost me my mind, being permeated and controlled by Christ's Spirit. It will cost me eyes, watching what I look at. It will cost me my ears, monitoring what I listen to. It will cost me my hands, watching what I touch and pick up. It will cost me my feet, watching where I go. It will cost me my mouth, watching what I say, eat, and drink. It will cost me my desires, watching , controlling, and changing my urges and desires. It will cost me my energy, committing my strength, initiative, and will to Christ. It will cost me my effort and work, dedicating and centering all in Christ, using my efforts and work in the cause of Christ.
2) It will cost me all that I have. I must be willing to give everything I have to Christ, without watering down the cost. It is this point that causes many to be lost and doomed. To really follow Christ costs me family, being put after Christ. It costs me friends, being put after Christ and centered around Christ. It costs me my home, all the comforts and extravagances. it costs me my job, being centered around Christ and being used to earn enough to give to those who do not have. It costs me cars and investments, for in not being extravagant I am able to have more to give to a needful world. I am to take care of personal necessities and use the rest for God's cause of the kingdom. i must surrender it all to Christ, I must be wiling to use it in the Lord's mission of helping a lost world and meeting the needs of people.
Finally, we reach the need to not be a half-hearted follower of Christ Jesus. A person must have the salt of discipleship which is self-denial, renunciation, the sacrifice and giving of all one is and has. Here is what Christ said: A half-hearted choice is worthless. It can't season or penetrate; it can't help anything or anyone. A half-hearted choice is to be thrown away. Salt that is worthless and useless is always thrown away, for it is good for nothing.
Christ ends this passage with the advice that if any person hears they need to heed what they hear. To hear the invitation from God to come to Him is a spiritual truth and is also a choice which a person must make. A person chooses whether to hear or not to hear the truth. Christ is advising any reader of God's Word to listen and heed the message spoken to them. Truth is not to be ignored.
Next time I will be looking at the parable of the lost sheep that Christ spoke to the Pharisees, publicans, and sinners who drew close in order to hear Him. Until then, grace and peace be with you all! Rejoice in your God, He who heals the brokenhearted, He who restores that which is lost, and He who loves that which is not yet worthy of His love.
Back to Blog Main Page