Thursday, December 16, 2010

Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)

The Context

When reading parables, it is good to know with whom Jesus is speaking in order to understand the message. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus was speaking to Pharisees. Pharisees believed that they were righteous in and of themselves. Not only did they become prideful about their righteous appearances, they turned their noses up at anyone who did not display the same traits. So when Jesus spent time with the "real sinners," they grumbled. Jesus then told three parables that relayed the same truth: Jesus loves and pursues sinners.

A Double-Layered Truth

Read the parable carefully. Jesus pursues sinners with a love that is unmatched. He loves to restore their lives. He loves to redeem them. Verse 7 states, "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." A double-layered truth is revealed in this verse. 

The first truth is that there is a celebration in Heaven when a sinner turns to Christ. Amen!

The second truth is that there is no celebration for those who "need no repentance." Jesus wasn't describing people who were already saved; He was speaking about the Pharisees. Jesus was alluding to the fact that there is no one who is righteous by their own works. There will be no celebration in Heaven for the self-righteous because they aren't known there.

Death = Life

When we begin to realize our own sinfulness, we will quit looking down our noses at this lost world and will realize that, in and of ourselves, we are just as bad. There is only one pedestal for a Christian, and Jesus is on it. One of the essential truths of Christianity is that we are nothing and Christ is everything. When we realize our nothingness and exalt Him, instead of ourselves, His righteousness will shine through us (Gal. 2:18-20). This is a supernatural act. Even our desire to glorify God is a gift from God (Phil. 2:13). 

Do you feel like nothing you do is good enough for God? If so, then rejoice in that because it's true (Isa. 64:6)! Christ will do all the work if you realize your own sinful position and place all of your trust in Him; and a huge weight will be lifted from you. He will give you rivers of living water that will pour out of your heart (Jn. 7:38). All work will be done from the overflow of that rushing current. You will rejoice in it and all of your guilt and shame will be swept away!

In your heart, do you consider yourself to be more worthy of Christ's love than others? If so, then you are not exalting Him; you are exalting yourself. This reveals areas of unbelief in your life. The cross is a call to die, so that you may truly live (Lk. 9:24). Don't look within yourself to find righteousness; look to Christ. When you start living out of His heartbeat, instead of your own, arrogance toward sinners will be replaced with a broken-hearted love for them and your faith will grow exponentially. 

We are nothing. He is everything. To God be the glory!

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