Friday, August 5, 2016

Luke 15:1-10 - "Lost and found"

Luke 15:1-10 – Lost and Found

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds 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 his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

40 years ago, Muynak was a thriving fishing port on the Aral Sea.  But today Muynak sits on the edge of a bitter, salty desert.  Sand dunes are strewn with the rusted, hollow hulls of a fishing fleet that once sailed high above on the surface of what was once called Central Asia's “fountain of life.”
Once the world's fourth-largest inland sea spanning an area of over 26,000 square miles, things began changing in the 60’s when the Soviet Union launched a plan to divert the Aral's water source to irrigate the world's largest cotton belt.  

No one, however, envisioned the environmental disaster that would result.
The sea is now one tenth its former size - Weather has become more extreme, the growing season has been shortened by 2 months, and 80 percent of the region's farmland has been ruined by salt storms that sweep in off the dry seabed.
The drinking water is contaminated – and those living in the region have lost all means of earning a living.  The water that remains in the sea is so polluted it cannot sustain life.
So, what began as a plan to stimulate growth, actually brought death.

Decisions can be like that.  Sometimes, a decision we THINK will bring blessing, turns out to be a curse.  

Any of us who have lived very long have made our fair share of bad decisions… where we’ve acted on what we thought was a “good idea”at the time, but turned out to bring many regrets.

  • Maybe it was a business investment that seemed like a sure thing

  • a relationship decision where we went against better judgment

  • a job move that didn’t produce the desired results.

  • Even when it comes to our relationship with God, we OFTEN forfeit God’s best to satisfy short-term desire.
Decisions ⇒  can bring blessing or cursing.

BUT - as far as GOD is concerned, BAD DECISIONS don’t have to be final!

That’s why I love this story and the pictures from everyday life Jesus uses to speak to us.
Seated around Him and hanging on His every word that day, were people on the fringe of society who had made MANY bad decisions.  Verse 1 tells us how “tax collectors and sinners” were drawn to Him.  

And --- He RECEIVED --- them according to verse 2.

Oh YES, there were those who didn’t approve of His choice in followers.  But Jesus didn’t care – for as He explained in chapter 19 and verse 10 – His whole purpose for coming was “to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Jesus was well aware of the fact that His reputation would take a hit in the religious community by reaching out to outcasts – but He was more than willing to risk His reputation with the self righteousness in order to give hope to the hopeless.
To address their darkened hearts, Jesus told the religious leaders a story. Three stories actually – the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Silver, and the Lost Son.  Though the cast is different in each story, the message is essentially the same:

  • something of great value was lost AND

  • someone went to great lengths in order to find and restore that which was lost.

In the parable of the Lost Sheep, you see something lost through its own willful choices – a sheep finds a hole in the fence and out it goes.  It had everything to gain by staying NEAR its Shepherd, and everything to lose by wandering away. But in the end, its appetite overpowered its sensibilities and it slipped through the fence. Now it is unable to find its way back to the Shepherd and the protection of the fold.
The story of the Lost Coin is different, in that, while the sheep wandered away by choice, the coin became suddenly lost through no fault of its own.
But in either case, regardless HOW it happened - the object was lost.
From these stories come 3 helpful “THOUGHTS” for us today.  I want you notice:
1.  First, a Pleasant Thought – two actually:

  • First, when a person drifts away from God, the Lord is not satisfied to leave them in that condition.  

However it happened, whether by choice or by accident, makes no difference - He is concerned and actively pursues us.  Our fall doesn’t have to be FINAL.  

Though the religious leaders had washed their hands of these sinners and were convinced in their minds that there was no hope of their restoration, Jesus came to show us that the love of God is not so easily frustrated.
The same is true in your life.  Whether your fall was on purpose or by accident, God is not willing to leave you in that condition.  He loves you and BECAUSE He loves you He searches for you.  If you are not so far gone that you can still hear His voice, He calls out to you, hoping that the call of the Shepherd will arouse a desire within you to come back to His safety and rest.  Though Satan wants you to believe “God no longer cares,” the Lord is actively seeking for you.
THAT is a pleasant thought – unlike many of our human relationships where people throw up their hands and quit – the Lord continues to reach out, desiring to restore that which has fallen.
The SECOND pleasant thought is
  • restoration really is possible and it results in Joy.  BOTH lost objects were FOUND.  And notice what Jesus says in verses 7 : “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  

In the third parable, that of the Lost Son, Jesus tells us of a great feast that was held in celebration of the return of the prodigal.
These 3 tragic stories -------> END with triumph.  It really IS possible for something so sad, so hopeless, to end in celebration!
A pleasant thought.
2.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t also share a Painful Thought.  Amid the celebrations of being found and restored, I can’t help but be reminded of the fact that falling away ⇒ has its consequences.
In the movie, “The Natural,” fictional baseball player, Roy Hobbs - played by Robert Redford, makes this profound statement: Some mistakes - you never stop paying for.”
Our choices have consequences – as Paul said in Galatians chapter 6, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, THAT will he also reap.
Sin makes attractive promises – that’s why we sometimes struggle doing the right things.  But soon after being deceived, we realize that sin is NEVER as fulfilling as we thought it would be.  

There are literally hundreds of consequences for sin – like:
  • Guilt
If we are children of God, guilt is a gift – That inner turmoil is brought by the Holy Spirit to keep us from going further down the path of destruction.  The inevitable destination of sin is death – and God’s Spirit often strives with us in order to keep us from doing things that will destroy the people we love, our character, and our testimony as Children of God.
Sin is a contradiction for those who have been “born of God.”  We have been cleansed, renewed, and filled by God Himself – re-MADE for holiness and fellowship with Him.  Guilt comes to us whenever we make choices that are outside of God’s will.
  • There will also be damaged relationships caused by broken promises or violated trust.  

Trust is something that takes years to establish, but can be lost in an instant.

  • There is nothing quite like the horror in your child’s eyes after you have destroyed their trust.

  • There is nothing like the disappointment in the eyes of friends when you tell them you have forsaken everything that is important to you.

  • There’s nothing quite like living with the knowledge that your momentary “indiscretion” has caused another person to turn away from God.
And though there are many other consequences of sin than guilt and damaged relationships that I could  mention;
  • think about the unrealized potential that is sacrificed on the altar of selfish choices.  

God has a plan for your life.  A plan of blessing, honor, and usefulness. And though we enjoy the thought that God forgives and restores us when we fall, sometimes we cut our own potential service short when we do wrong things.  It is tragic, when, a person with great potential and obvious ability, forfeits those things for a moment of pleasure.  Like Esau - who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew and couldn’t get it back though he sought for it with tears – often our fleshly decisions cut our God-given potential short.
A Painful thought.
3.  But after considering a Pleasant thought – that God comes looking for us when we fall away and restores us with Joy – and a Painful thought – that there truly ARE consequences to our choices, THEN comes a Probing ThoughtWHY do we tend to drift and WHAT can be done to combat it?
Let’s consider the first question: “Why do we tend to drift?”  Inside the heart of every believer there is a war taking place.  A war between the flesh (the fallen nature) and the Spirit.  The flesh is a relentless enemy of the Christian.  It longs to do things that are deemed “off-limits” by God. In short, that’s why you drift… inside you there are two natures: one that wants to do right, and the other to do wrong – and SOMETIMES wrong wins.
Though we all struggle with sinful desires, and though we will NEVER be perfect, you are NOT a victim here - there ARE things you can do that will make you less APT to fall, or will minimize the destruction caused if we DO fall.  Two things you can do:
  1. First, we need to remind ourselves BEFORE HAND that it is far better to avoid sin than to face its consequences.  How does one ‘avoid sin?’  There are several things we need to do to avoid it:
  • Know your weaknesses.  Stop putting yourself in situations where you KNOW you will be tempted.  For instance, when a person goes on a diet, they don’t go to the store and buy all kinds of junk food in order to prove how strong they are – NO, they get all that stuff out of their house because they know they are weak and that stuff will SABOTAGE their success.
You aren’t serious about fighting sin until you quit putting yourself in compromising situations.  Identify your weaknesses and avoid those things.
  • THEN, we need to keep a short-list with God.  I’ve shared this several times but it fits nicely here.  When a person gives their heart to the Lord, it’s like someone who has lived in filth all their lives having a professional housekeeper and organizer come in and clean their house.  Before, there was laundry all over the place, dirty dishes piled up, filth in every nook and cranny – BUT, the housekeeper comes in and cleans it up and puts everything in its place.
Before, you didn’t even notice if there were dirty socks on the floor because there were so many other things on the floor.  But now that the house is clean, even one sock on the floor catches your eye.  Suddenly you realize the blessing of cleanliness and order.  You realize it’s much better to pick up that one sock, than it is to let the house get all cluttered again.
When Jesus comes into a life, the amount of sin and disorder you were accustomed too is suddenly cleaned up.  You didn’t know how bad it was until He came into your heart and turned the lights on.  There once was a time when you could sin without conscience – it was like one more sock on an already cluttered floor.  But now that everything is clean and in its proper place, you notice even ONE sin.  Instead of letting your heart become a mess again, when you sin, confess it and forsake it quickly to keep your heart house clean!
2.  But after coming to terms with the fact that it is better to avoid sin than to struggle with its consequences, you’re going to need accountability if you want to keep from drifting.  If the little sheep had stayed near its shepherd, it would never have known the horror of being lost.  

If you will stay near the Shepherd, you won’t know the pain that comes from drifting.
  • Surround yourself with godly friends who will hold you accountable to do what is right.  Share your struggles with them; and invite them to check on you often about how you are doing.  Be faithful to church services and bible studies.
James 5 says, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power.

So, how about you?  Have you made a decision to disobey the Lord or drift away from fellowship with Him?  Stop and remember:

  • this pleasant thought – God is looking for you and wants to restore you
  • this painful thought – drifting has its consequences… AND
  • this probing thought – it is better to avoid sin than to experience the fallout of failure.

Today, that which was lost CAN BE found.  You don’t have to be a casualty to sin.

Come back to Jesus.