What God has in store for us when we come home to Him is enough to make you cry happy tears. Let the celebration begin!
Lost and Found
So I’m in the grocery store the other day searching for something pre-packaged or frozen to make for dinner. Don’t judge! While I’m in deep thought pondering pizza or taquitos, I vaguely recognize someone saying something over the intercom. I hear the sound but ignore the words. It floats in one ear and out the other like the teacher’s voice on a Peanuts cartoon. I think this is what Jesus must have been talking about when he said, “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Matthew 11:14). We can listen without really hearing. We probably do it more than we think. One of these days instead of clean up on aisle five it’s going to be a real fire drill. I probably should start paying closer attention.
Well right after the indistinguishable announcement occurred, something happened that did actually catch my attention. Every worker in the store erupted into spontaneous applause and cheers. It was so heart felt that it was impossible to ignore. What was that all about? Did I miss some healthy organic dinner giveaway? Somehow I knew it was more than that. This was something really special and I was determined to find out what it was.
By the time I made my way to the checkout line, the employees were still smiling and talking about whatever happened. A woman walked past saying good-bye to the other workers wiping tears from her eyes. Everyone was congratulating her and telling her how happy they were for her. I asked the cashier (inquiring minds want to know) what that was all about. He told me that the woman leaving was recently engaged and lost the diamond in her ring while she was at work. Every worker has been looking high and low for that diamond for over two weeks. It was finally found in the produce department partially wedged under one of the floor matts. What a moment to happen upon. I don’t even know that woman and my eyes welled up with happy tears…
For what was once lost is now found.
Is your mind wandering with mine to the gospel of Luke? Let’s go there! Luke 15 to be exact. Jesus reveals His heart for the lost by sharing three parables, the parable of the lost sheep that inadvertently wandered off into the wilderness, the parable of the lost coin that didn’t even know it was lost, and the parable of the lost son who willfully lived a wasteful life. All three parables describe something precious that was lost. They go on to reveal someone that is relentless and won’t stop until they’re found. And just like my trip to the grocery store, each parable culminates into a spontaneous happy tear celebration as we get front row seats to witness God’s heart for the lost.
Rejoice, for what was once lost is found.
We’re told at the beginning of Luke chapter 15 that the audience is comprised of two very different sets of people – sinners and self-proclaimed saints.
“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him” (Luke 15:1).
Why the word “then”? What happened in the last chapter that made all the sinners and tax collectors (a.k.a. outcasts, failures, bottom dwellers of society) draw near to Jesus without shame and without fear? What was it about Him that drew all those people in? It had to be something big.
Maybe it was His message. Christ’s message was so very different than what was preached in religious circles of the day. See for yourself. Turn one page back to Luke chapter 14 where Jesus told his audience to put the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind at the top of their social guest lists (Luke 14:14, 23). It’s not a religious club. It’s not about who looks like us, acts like us, thinks like us. It’s about who has hurts and needs. It’s about who isn’t perfect. It’s about humility. It’s about wounded life travelers who have made mistakes, who have fallen short, who need second chances times infinity.
Maybe it was something that they saw in Him. Maybe it was the love they saw in His eyes. Maybe it was the truth they heard in His voice. Maybe it was the hope that exuded from His presence. Maybe, just maybe, they beheld and recognized the very glory of God. And with that, their hearts were stirred. They were in the presence of God in the flesh. They got a close up and personal glimpse of God’s heart, His goodness, and His love. And they wanted more. What person in his right mind wouldn’t? Keep reading.
Just Don’t Think You’re Just
We discover in Luke 15:2 that a second group was there in the crowd– the Pharisees and the Scribes. They were the religious leaders of the day.
“And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).
The two groups could not be more diametrically opposed. Instead of drawing near they were just there. Instead of listening they were complaining. Instead of identifying themselves as being in desperate need of a Savior they were pointing fingers. Instead of recognizing God’s glory they were blinded by their own press.
“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” (Luke 15:7).
Who am I in this story? Who are you? If the truth be told I more often identify myself a just person rather than a sinner needing a Savior. The Greek word for just is dikaios. “Those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves in their virtues, whether real or imagined” (Strongs).
In other words, we’re okay because after all, we’re good God fearing Americans. We go to Church. We listen to K-Love. We have potlucks and eat dessert with other churchgoers. We’re busy, really busy. We try to avoid the big and obvious sins, you know, the ones that people frown upon but love to talk about behind closed doors, the ones that would get you “uninvited” from the club. Real or imagined, I’d like to think that I’m living a just life, but am I?
The more I spend time with Jesus, the more I realize how often I need to come boldly to the throne room of grace to obtain mercy (Hebrews 4:16).
Mercy for when I compare myself to others and think that I’m doing just fine.
Mercy for hanging out in religious circles complaining.
Mercy for not drawing near as often as I should.
Mercy for having ears to hear without really hearing.
Mercy for my lack of urgency.
Mercy for my lack of love.
Mercy for my pride and perceived self-sufficiency.
Mercy for lacking compassion for the lost.
Mercy for half-hearted prayers.
Mercy for my room temperature heart.
Mercy for thinking the world revolves around me.
Mercy for not seeing myself as I really am…
A lost sinner that needs a Savior.
It’s never easy when God reveals something in my heart that needs attention. But the thought of Him being relentless in pulling me back to His heart is simply overwhelming. He’ll never let me go. He’ll never let me stay out of His care. And when that thought penetrates my understanding I can feel my eyes well up with happy tears. I can see Jesus. I can feel His presence. I can experience His love. He is cheering me on.
Do you hear that sound over Heaven’s intercom? That’s the Holy Spirit letting us know we’ve got a heart cleanup on aisle five. Someone just realized she’s a sinner. Someone course corrected. Someone just saw her sin in the exact same way God sees it. Someone draws near to Christ for the very first time. Another reads her bible or hears a sermon and the Holy Spirit taps her on the shoulder and says, “Would you give that up for me?” Another steps up a prayer request in her growth group and brings a secret sin into the light.
Someone repented. Someone is mouthing the two most liberating words known to man – sinner, repent. They’re not ugly words filled with hate, finger pointing, or ridicule. They’re beautiful healing words that lead us into relationship, fellowship, and joy. Soft hearts willing to draw near, to hear, and to get right with God triggers a heavenly celebration of epic proportion.
Another son, another daughter has come home. That’s where the joy is.
I can’t help but wonder what the world would do with Christ if they saw more Christ followers identifying themselves as sinners saved by grace rather than the just needing no repentance.
Let it start with me.
Want to go deeper on today’s study? Don’t forget to download the study guide. And…