From the Pastor's Desk
Lost and Found
we have finally come to the end of our 30-day church challenge. This morning during our worship service and
then again tonight in our Bible study, we will be studying the fifth and last
purpose of the church that is found for us in Acts chapter 2. As we have said numerous times, when all is
said and done my hope and prayer is that we will all begin to view the church
not just as a place to come, but that we will actually become the church.
church should be more than just an option for something to do on Sunday
morning. The church is a life-changing
organization that God uses to help us become more like His Son. This is the place where we gather to worship
Almighty God simply for who He is. This
is the place where we can experience the love, joy, peace and fulfillment that
comes from doing God's will in our lives.
first purpose of the church that we looked at is community. It is vitally important that we are all part
of an authentic community of faith where we can personally experience love,
encouragement and support. The challenge
that we made concerning community was that we commit to joining a small group
or class, if you haven't already done so, where you can experience authentic
second purpose we dealt with is worship.
We learned that we are wired for worship. According to Romans 12:1, worship is a verb
that should touch all aspects of our lives throughout the week as well as on
Sundays. Our challenge concerning
worship was for us to commit to coming to the worship service every week. We were also challenged to give all of our
lives; our everyday, ordinary, sleeping, eating, going to work and walking
around lives; and give it all to God as an act of worship.
number three is spiritual growth. We
discussed that life is about growth and growth is about transformation. As we walk with the Lord the Holy Spirit
works in us to make us more like Jesus Christ.
The challenge we made was for us to spend time with God every day for
the next 21 days. That's how long they
say it takes to develop a habit. We
encouraged you to start reading Scripture if you're not already. Read one chapter a day starting in John. We also encouraged everyone to spend at least
a few minutes in prayer each day.
Praying involves worshiping God, expressing thanks, confessing sins and
lifting up other requests. If you're already
doing those things, we challenged you to do more; to go further; to go deeper.
week we looked at purpose number four.
That purpose is stewardship. We
are commanded by God in Scripture to be good stewards, or good managers of all
that we have in life. That would include
our time, our talents and our treasures.
The challenge was for us to commit to increasing our stewardship through
giving and serving. If you're not
giving, start giving like God wants you to.
If you're not serving, start serving in some capacity. If you're already giving, try to give more;
if you're already serving, seek ways to serve a little bit more.
morning, we are going to look at the fifth and the last purpose of the church,
which is outreach. Open your Bibles now
and please turn with me to Acts, chapter 2.
All five of the purposes we find for the church are found in the
description in this chapter of the first church. Let's all read together now verses
see in that last sentence of this passage the remarkable result of what the
very first church was doing on a daily basis.
Or should we more accurately say we see in that last sentence of this
passage the remarkable result of what God was doing on a daily basis in and
through the early church. God was daily
adding to their numbers. Notice that it
wasn't transfer growth they were experiencing; it also wasn't shallow,
superficial involvement in that church.
The Lord was adding daily those who were being saved. People were miraculously being saved and
forgiven through God's sovereign work of salvation and forgiveness in their
know that God always has been and always will be in the soul saving
business. That will never stop. But for our purposes here today we need to
ask: what was happening during this time
from a human standpoint? What were the
people of this first church doing in order to be able to join God in the work
He was doing?
certainly would have been some fun exciting, life-changing worship services
taking place. People would have been
drawn to this church because of their devotion, their unity and their
generosity. But there was also probably
something else going on. I think we can
reasonably guess that the people of this church were talking to their friends
and family who were outside the church about the exciting things going on
through their congregation. This church
was no doubt engaging in outreach.
I even need to connect the dots for us this morning? It is imperative that we as a congregation do
our part in bringing lost people to Jesus Christ. We are not the Holy Spirit; we don't convict
people; we don't save people; we don't change hearts and forgive sins. But God does use us as His vessels to
communicate the truth about the gospel message.
Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of
God. People need to hear the truth of
the Word of God. That is our
responsibility; that is our role; that is what God wants us to do.
help us better understand how God feels about lost people, we're going to look
at a couple of parables that Jesus told that are found for us in Luke 15. Jesus' audience as He told these stories was
the Jewish religious leaders. They were
proud and arrogant and didn't think that it was right that Jesus spent time
with tax collectors and other so-called sinful people. So Jesus set out to share with them and with
others who might have been listening and us today, how God really feels about
people separated from God because of their un-confessed, unrepentant,
can sum up God's reaction towards the salvation of sinners in one word: joy.
Joy is an often over-looked character trait of God's. Thinking of a joyful God isn't easy for us to
comprehend. We kind of get stuck with
this idea that God is some sort of wrathful, vengeful God who is ready and
willing to strike us down at any moment.
Although reality should help us understand that is not true. If God was the type of God who struck down
folks who disobeyed Him, we would all be struck down dead. But we see in Scripture that there is
rejoicing in heaven when a sinner is saved.
That rejoicing would include God.
see that joy of God's revealed to us in this chapter. The first parable we find here is the parable
of the lost sheep. That is found for us
in Luke 15:3-7. In the first two
parables, Jesus begins by asking a rhetorical question. Here, He asks, "What man among you..." This first story involves poor peasants in a
man caring for the 100 sheep probably did not own all of them. At that time, villages would have often
consolidated their sheep into large flocks and hire shepherds from the lower end
of the village's social structure to take care of them. Caring for sheep was the lowest of the
legitimate occupations. Shepherds were
uneducated and unskilled and were viewed as dishonest, unreliable and
unsavory. Sheep had to be cared for
seven days a week so the shepherds were unable to fully comply with the
Pharisees' man-made Sabbath regulations.
That meant they were ceremonially unclean.
Jesus to ask the scribes and Pharisees to imagine themselves in the role of a
shepherd was insulting. No Pharisee
would demean himself by becoming a shepherd, not even hypothetically in an
imaginary story. As Jesus begins this
parable, He once again attacks the religious leaders overwhelming pride.
the story opens, the shepherds had lost one of the sheep. This was a dangerous and potentially
life-threatening situation. Sheep are
defenseless and unable to take care of themselves. Losing one of the sheep was therefore a
serious situation which called for immediate action. It was the shepherd's duty to leave the 99 in
the open pasture under the care of the other shepherds helping him and go after
the one that was lost until he found it.
Having found the lost sheep, the shepherd laid it on his shoulders and
started on the long, difficult journey home carrying the heavy animal.
sheep's safe return was celebrated. The
scribes and Pharisees would have loathed being a shepherd, but they would have
understood the monetary value of the sheep and would have grasped the joyous
celebration that would have ensued when the lost sheep was found. They would have agreed ethically that the
shepherd's pursuit of the lost sheep was his obligation.
the Lord delivered His application and He does that by contrasting the
religious leaders with God. God is
compassionate, caring and loving. He
rejoices at the recovery of lost sinners.
The scribes and Pharisees on the other hand, were none of those
things. They were indifferent to the
plight of the lost. They claimed to
officially represent God yet they did not understand His mission or share His
joy at the recovery of lost sinners.
These religious leaders lived within the narrow confines of
superficiality and triviality while all around them souls were perishing. They were hypocrites and false shepherds.
need to make sure that our hearts are not hard like the scribes and
Pharisees. We need to share God's love
and compassion for those who are lost and dying and going to hell without
Jesus. It's easy in today's culture to
get caught up in superficiality and triviality.
It's easy to be apathetic and indifferent towards lost souls. We tend to be that way because we are selfish
are only thinking of ourselves. If we're
like that we also are hypocrites and false apostles who do not know or
understand God's heart.
second parable that Jesus tells here is the parable of the lost coin. That is found for us in Luke 15:8-10. There are some similarities between this
parable and the first one. They both
take place in a village setting. In both
there is a poor person of low social standing facing a major crisis. In this case, it is a woman who lost a coin
of great value.
parable also begins with Jesus asking a question. "Or what woman..." If the scribes and Pharisees were insulted
that Jesus asked them to think like a shepherd, it would have been even more
insulting to them to imagine themselves in the place of a woman. Society at that time was male-dominated and women
were deemed insignificant and not worthy of respect.
parable describes a woman who had lost one of her ten silver coins. It was probably a coin worth a day's wages
for a common laborer. That may not seem
like much to us, but it would have been a lot back then. They lived in a bartering society, where
money was not used as frequently as in most modern societies, so a relatively
small coin would have been a significant loss.
money may have been some sort of emergency fund that the woman had set aside in
case she needed it for something. It's
also highly likely that the ten coins represented the woman's dowry, given to
her as a wedding gift by her father and providing security for the future.
it was that she came to lose the coin, she went to whatever lengths she needed
in order to find it. Finally, to her
great joy, she found the missing coin.
To celebrate, she called together her female friends and neighbors. People in a small, tight-knit village would
share each other's sufferings and joys, so a party celebrating the woman's joy
at recovering what she had lost would have been appropriate.
Pharisees would have agreed that what she had done was necessary under the
circumstances. All would agree that
having lost a significant sum of money, there was nothing else to do but
diligently search for it until it was found.
Again, the Pharisees failed to make the connection between their
contemptuous disdain for lost souls and God's passionate concern for them.
Lord's criticism of the scribes and Pharisees was clear and it was
inescapable. How could they affirm that
it was the right thing for the shepherd to search for a lost sheep and a woman
to search for a lost coin, but condemn Jesus for seeking to recover lost
souls? How could they understand the
joys of the humble men and women in a village over temporal recovery and
utterly fail to comprehend the joy of God in heaven over eternal salvation?
think the theological and spiritual applications are pretty clear. The woman represents God in Christ seeking
lost sinners in the cracks, dust and debris of a dirty world of sin. He initiated the search for those sinners who
belong to Him through His sovereign choice of them, since they can do nothing
on their own. Jesus came all the way
from heaven to earth to search for His lost ones, pursuing sinners into every
dark corner and then shining the light of the glorious gospel on them. Having found the lost sinner, God in Christ
restores him or her to His heavenly treasury, and then expresses joy in which
the holy inhabitants of heaven share.
the lost requires costly grace. The
sinless Son of God became a man, lived with sinners, bore God's wrath for sin
on the cross and rose in triumph from the grave. None of the false gods of the world's
religions are like the true and living God, who seeks and saves unworthy
sinners because He values them as His own; who makes His enemies His friends
for the sheer joy that He receives in saving them.
you willing to spend costly grace on your part in order to be used of God to
help recover the lost? Do you share God's
love of people enough to share the gospel?
Do you value life to the point where you will do what you need to in
order to see people enter a right relationship with God through faith in
Christ? Or are you so proud and arrogant
that you don't care about others as long as you're OK spiritually?
brings us to our fifth and final challenge of this 30-day church
challenge. The challenge is this: to care about what Jesus cares about and do
something to find the missing and invite them home.
are a number of things that we can all do to help fulfill this week's
challenge. One thing that would be good
for all of us to do would be to make sure that we're praying for the lost. Pray for their salvation and their forgiveness. Pray that God would work in their lives and
draw them to Himself.
addition, pray for yourself. Pray that you
will be effective witnesses. Pray that
you will take advantage of the opportunities that you have to touch someone's
life spiritually. Here is one sample
prayer that you could pray. "God
give me your heart for the lost."
That isn't hard to memorize; it wouldn't take long to pray, but it is
the kind of heart attitude that we all need to develop if we're going to be
effective at helping God reach this world for Jesus.
second step that we could all take is to invite someone to church next
week. When is the last time that you
invited someone to attend church with you?
What is it in your life that is keeping you from doing that? Are you afraid of rejection? We all are, aren't we? Are you ashamed of the church? That's easily fixed. Those aren't valid excuses for not extending
an invitation to someone.
say that a high percentage of un-churched are open to going to church with
someone if they are invited. Wouldn't it
be awesome if we doubled our attendance next week because we all invited
someone to come with us? Why couldn't
that happen? Is God not big enough? Is He not working in people's lives? Do we doubt Him and not believe that He even
wants to do something like that?
third step that we could take is the hardest one and the very thing that most
Christians do not want to do. Share the
gospel with somebody this week. Talk to
someone about their relationship with Jesus Christ. Tell them what you know; share with them what
He did for you in your life when you were saved. Obviously inviting them to church can be and
should be a part of that gospel presentation.
But only inviting to church may not be enough.
know that most of us would prefer to not to witness and even not to invite
someone to come with us. But whether we
like it or not and whether we want to do it or not, we have been given the task
of outreach. God wants to use us to help
reach the world for Jesus Christ. If we
share His love and His compassion for lost sinners, we will do the best we can
to fulfill our role in saving souls.
as our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to respond to Gods'
working in your life. Maybe you need to
join the church; or be baptized; or re-dedicate your life; maybe it's just
praying at the altar. Maybe someone here
this morning needs to publicly commit to accepting the challenge that we issued
today, or one of the other challenges that we have issued this past month. Whatever it is, we invite you to respond to
God's leading as we stand and as we sing.
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