Luke 15:1-10 (GW)
All the tax collectors and sinners came to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and the scribes complained, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus spoke to them using this illustration: “Suppose a man has 100 sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 sheep grazing in the pasture and look for the lost sheep until he finds it? When he finds it, he is happy. He puts that sheep on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says to them, ‘Let us celebrate! I have found my lost sheep!’ I can guarantee that there will be more happiness in heaven over one person who turns to God and changes the way he thinks and acts than over 99 people who already have turned to God and have His approval.”
“Suppose a woman has ten coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and look for the coin carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Let us celebrate! I have found the coin that I lost.’ So I can guarantee that God’s angels are happy about one person who turns to God and changes the way he thinks and acts.”
We have all lost something at some point in our lives. We have misplaced keys. We have forgotten our watches and wallets. We may even have lost a pet once. What did we do when we noticed those things were missing? Did we search for them? Often it depends on the need or the urgency at the time. If it is something we need, we start searching right away.
What about people who are lost? What do we do when a person turns up missing? What if our son, daughter, husband or wife mysteriously disappeared? Would we search for them? Of course we would! Our family is near and dear to our hearts and minds. They are not something that can be replaced. They are important parts of our lives. I believe we would spend as much time and money necessary to find our loved ones and return them to their homes.
We have seen posters in stores, post offices and on windows of restaurants explaining that a child and loved one is lost and needs to be found. We have made it a part of our culture by bringing the news of missing persons to the front of our television programs. We have determined that searching for people is so important that we have forced our government agencies to set up police forces, fire departments, and even special search and rescue teams to find, protect, and save lives. Today, we even have a system known as the Amber Alert to assist with finding children. People are important to us and we dedicate our money, time, and talents to search for those who are lost. There is no time to hesitate. We must respond immediately to do our best so that the person can be saved.
There should be no difference in our spiritual battles on Earth. We do not know when Judgment Day will be upon us. How often we fail to talk to those around us to share the love of Christ with those we have contact with every day. How many times we see things that are contrary to God’s will and yet we do nothing and we say nothing. How many times do we fail to search for those whom we believe are lost? Do we know if everyone around us has been found and saved? Too often we call off the search before the lost have been looked for.
Jesus once said, (Matthew 15:24) “I was sent only to the lost sheep …” He was not here for those who were already saved, but for those who were lost. But, on whom did Jesus focus His attention? Did He spend all His time in the temples to convert the Jews? No, He spent His time talking to tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, and other people considered to be the bottom of society. He spoke to sinners and to those who had lost their way. And He spoke to those who lacked moral and ethical values. The Gospel writer Luke tells us that Jesus talked to Zacchaeus, a tax collector, and rejoiced when Zacchaeus found the way. Jesus spent most of His life searching for the lost and rejoicing when He found them.
Jesus searched for those who were considered faithful as well. In the Epistle Reading Paul wrote about the grace that God bestowed on him. Saul had been a great oppressor of the Christians and very active in the Temple. He was considered by many to be doing the will of God. He spoke out against the followers of Jesus. He hunted them and had them killed. But God called Saul and molded him into the great missionary we know as Paul. Saul was lost, but Paul was found. We today rely heavily on what Paul wrote for our own guidance and direction today. God took a sinner such as Saul and turned him into the great tool of missionary work, Paul.
Yet our society today is not that much different from those of previous ages. Paul contended with idol worship in nearly every city, corruption of government and politics, and the persecution of the masses. Our society is complacent. It has discovered the love of money and placed it on a high level of achievement. Business rules have replaced the Ten Commandments and the rule of law has replaced justice for the victims of crimes. We have lost love for our fellow man and replaced it with the attitude of “what’s in it for me.”
Paul preached the Gospel in a world that was allowed to kill those who followed what they considered unacceptable religions. We have the rule of law limiting our religious freedom. We have a lot of lost souls to search for, yet we often choose to look the other way. We abandon the search before even starting.
The problem lies with our own lack of desire to start the search. Sometimes it is a lack of confidence in our speaking ability. Sometimes it is a fear of embarrassment. Rarely, is it a lack of opportunity. We have chosen not to act and failed to place our trust in God. In essence, we have given up on the lost before they have been given a chance at survival.
The Holy Spirit touches those who hear the Word of God. It is through the Spirit that all are saved and come to the glory of the Lord. Our own actions will be led by the Holy Spirit if we allow Him the opportunity to speak through us. There are souls in this world who do not know that they are lost. They have not heard of Christ and do not know the love of God. Worse yet, they do not know the love of men either. They have learned that this is a dog-eat-dog world and that only through their own efforts can they hope for a constructive life. They lack the understanding of a caring and loving God. These people are lost and are not even aware of it. But who are those lost people?
Christ made it clear in the book of Revelation that many would be condemned; many who thought they were good enough. Yet they failed to feed the hungry. They failed to give clothing and shelter to those who were in need. They failed to reach out to people who needed a helping hand.
There are some who consider themselves to be good people who will be among the condemned. There will be those among the condemned who to us appear to have caring hearts, who give to charity and donate their time to help those in need. But outward appearances do not necessarily mean they have heard of the love of Christ. Outward actions do not necessarily mean a pure heart. We must talk to those around us to discover if they know why Christ died for their sins. Once we find someone who has not heard of Christ, it is our duty to share this message with them. We must seek for those who have not accepted the message of Christ, so they are given the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
There is a motto used by the Lutheran Hour Radio Broadcast that says: “Bringing Christ to the nations, and the nations to the Church.” It is a motto with great intentions. But, how often have we brought Christ to those who have not heard it? Is it something we take seriously? It is something we should do more often, but we do not always act on it.
Just as the shepherd chose to leave 99 sheep behind and search out that one sheep in the wilderness, it is up to us to do the same. The 99 left behind will congregate and form their own bond. They will be safe for a time while the lost is searched for. In the same way, we are all missionaries who must leave this building, this church, and enter the mission field of the real world. It is up to us to actively engage in the search for the lost and find those who truly need our help. Then it is up to us to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work instead of us avoiding the Gospel message.
How do we respond when someone who was lost is saved? When a little child is found after being lost in the wilderness, television stations around the country let us know the outcome of the event. We bask in the joy of a family reunited. Yet we do not look at evangelism in the same manner. When someone dedicates their life to Christ we should grab the moment and thank God for the joy of a new member to our Christian family. It is the joy of that found child that Heaven experiences when a lost soul becomes a Christian.
There is more to rejoice about than just the new converts. We have the joy of knowing that our own sins are forgiven and our place in Heaven is guaranteed. We are called to repent and have faith in Jesus. It is the love of Christ who sacrificed so much for us with no thought of Himself that is the Gospel message. We have reason to bask in the glory and mercy of God and the joy that it brings. Just as the shepherd of a lost sheep celebrates when he reunites his flock, so too, we should look for opportunities to reunite the lost to God’s kingdom and celebrate.
God has given us a mission to share the Gospel with the lost. It is our duty to seek out those unfamiliar with the Message and give them the opportunity to be saved by it. Through the Gospel and Baptism, salvation is assured. Jesus did exactly this during His short life on Earth. It is our duty to follow in His footsteps. It is our job to be like Paul and speak to the lost.
When we achieve the goal of a newly saved soul, the angels will rejoice in Heaven. Why? Because they too will experience the joy when Judgment Day finally comes. God will grant us the strength to do all this. It is up to us to follow His command, in Jesus’ name.