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15th July 2001


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Sermon

GOD'S PERSISTENT SEARCH FOR YOU.

Scripture Reference

LUKE 15:1-7


As a child I was taught the dangers of being lost. When our family went on a picnic, a walk in the moun-tains, or in the crowds on the summer beaches, we children were taught to stay close at hand, lest we get lost. At school we were taught of the three Duff chil-dren on Spring Hill Station, near Horsham in Western Victoria in 1864. They went to pick wild-flowers for their farm house. But as they searched the bush, they became disorientated. Their hearts were full of fear when they realized they were lost. Isaac was nine, Jane seven and Frank was four.

The children were fearful of a night in the bush alone. They called for their father and mother but no-one heard them. They wandered on. Their parents were beside themselves with every parent's worst nightmare: their children were lost. The night was cold. Dawn saw the children push on in what they thought was the right direction. They walked miles. They were tired, hungry and thirsty. Their parents searched, then asked neighbours to help. Another day and night. Then another. More men came to the search party, but no sighting of the children was made. The children had been lost on a Saturday. On the following Wednesday a backtracker arrived and started back at the home searching for a trace of the children on grass already walked over by a hundred searchers. King Richard, found some discarded wild-flowers, and by careful tracking followed them. A bro-ken twig here, and some picked wild flowers there led him on through the bush. Wednesday turned to Thursday and Friday. 

All hope of finding the children alive faded. King Richard told the search party that there were now only two sets of footprints. The searchers spread out looking for the body of little Frank. Then King Richard said the little one was now being carried by his brother and sister. They were not traveling very far now. They found some places where the children had slept. King Richard told everyone that the children were now very weak and stumbling. He then an-nounced they had been at one spot only the previous night, picking bracken and fern to make a bed. King Richard ran at a trot, but then stopped and pointed ahead. Mr Duff ran on expecting the three to be dead. But they were alive, weak but alive. Jane had covered little Frank with her dress every night and Isaac had carried him during the day. The children were saved! The whole group of searchers rejoiced. King Richard took little Frank and riding a horse returned to the farm and to Mrs Duff. The news spread across Austra-lia and people everywhere rejoiced that the lost chil-dren had been found. School-children around Austra-lia brought gifts of money which was given as a scholarship for the education of Jane who had pro-tected her two brothers. Today, in the Stawell ceme-tery, stands a monument to Jane Duff who saved her brothers when they were lost. 

1. THE LOST IN OUR CITY.
Who are the lost people in Sydney today? In our streets I can quickly point to the old bag lady drag-ging her accumulated wealth in old plastic shopping bags, walking in old shoes too big for her. Or the derelict scrounging the bins outside McDonald's.

Or the homeless, his trousers dirty and hair mat-ted. Or the wild street kids with skateboards, back to front baseball caps and a willingness to steal any-thing. Surely, these are the lost of our city. But Jesus would point to others who are lost: to the stockbroker putting his golf clubs into the back of his BMW; to the young Asian dot.com computer expert with his cell phone to his ear; to the twenties something business woman, with her beautiful clothes gazing into a de-signer wear clothing shop; to the member of the legal political community making his way into an expensive restaurant; these too are lost only they never recog-nize it. Everyone far from God and His care is lost! 

Jesus is concerned for the lost. Matt 9:36 "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, be-cause they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." He taught us to have compas-sion for the lost. Not one-minute pity, but an abiding concern that flowed into commitment to do some-thing. We are to go and minister to the lost of the city. Jesus taught his disciples to recognise human need, then go to them in ministry today. One sinner found and brought back to God sets off party time in heaven! When people turn back to God there is rejoic-ing in heaven. Jesus described heaven as a banquet for the poor, the crippled, the lame and the lost. Those people found His teaching attractive. The wealthy, the powerful, the religious did not! They were concerned Jesus met and ate with such. But Jesus included them among the lost for they were far from God. Every person away from God is lost.

LK 15:1 "Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man wel-comes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joy-fully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, `Re-joice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

This simple parable was dynamite in its context. Jesus includes His listeners in it: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" We may not real-ize it, but Jesus speaking to the Pharisees, the lawyers and the respectable people of his day was likening them to a shepherd at a time when shepherds were re-garded by Rabbis as among the worst people in the community: shepherds, gamblers, tax collectors, camel drivers, prostitutes and sailors. These were the lost. But Jesus lumps respectable people in with them! No wonder they muttered and sought to kill Him. Je-sus says heaven is safe for the ninety and nine sheep, but God is concerned for the lost sheep and will search persistently until it is found, then rejoices greatly. He is saying: realize you are lost and God is searching for you. Be found! Heaven will rejoice!

These chapters dramatically show Jesus' concern for the social outcasts of His day. Here Jesus indi-cates that a person can be lost like a sheep through his or her stupidity. Or a person can be lost like a coin from a lady's small collection of ten by accident. Or a person can be lost like a willful son who leaves his family home and his father's love for the bright lights and wicked ways of a city. It does not matter how you are lost - what matters is that you become found! In the beautiful countryside, in your own home, or on the streets of the big city you can be lost!

2. GOD'S PERSISTENT SEARCH FOR YOU.
The rejoicing that God shows in the sinners return should be the response of the Pharisees, the lawyers and the respectable people also. They should rejoice whenever anyone repents and returns to God. Instead they despised the disrepectable and avoided them. It was unthinkable in those days that God's people would "welcome sinners and eat" with them. But Je-sus says God rejoices in their return, and He in God's place welcomes and meets with them. The parables show that the return of "sinners" to God should be a cause for joy to the religious leaders, as it was to God. For Jesus to make the claim for Himself that He is act-ing in God's stead, that He is God's representative, was absolutely shocking. King David might say, "The Lord is my shepherd. " Ps 23:1 But Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me, and I lay down my life for my sheep." John 10:14 This was a shocking claim for any man to make. Three themes are striking. 

First, the use of the word "lost" to describe our condition away from God. That is not how respectable people describe themselves. Second is the persis-tence God shows in searching for us. Does not God "go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" In the obvi-ous analogy to the search for the sheep, Jesus takes the initiative in seeking out lost people. He says that He had "come to seek and save the lost" Luke 19:10 Third, the climax of the story is the triumphant rejoicing over the return of the lost. The lost sheep has been saved. The lost coin has been found. The lost son has been restored to his loving father. All heaven breaks into party time when the lost is restored. Jesus stresses His seeking and receiving sinners, even the most dis-respectable, pleases God and Heaven rejoices.

That is why Rev John Wesley gave himself to a ministry to these very people, the miners, milk maids, coal pit hands, servants and farm workers of his day. He had been brought up in a well-educated and well behaved family. He liked clean linen, good meals, was an Oxford University fellow, and knew how to behave in the homes of the wealthy. He did not like being pelted with eggs, rotten fruit and horse manure. But if that was the price of reaching the poor and disres-pectable, he paid it. So Wesley Mission is open to all, especially those who are far from God. Everyone is welcome: the unemployed, the homeless, the drug ad-dicted, the alcohol abuser. We prefer people be clean and not smell, but we take all who come. We prefer people to be honest and do not steal ladies' purses. But we are an open door into God's Kingdom and anyone in any condition may enter here. 

Lost sheep that have been in the mire, lost coins that have been in the dirt, and lost sons who have been eating in the pigs pen, are rarely in good condi-tion. Any one of us can be lost. Getting lost is normal for human beings, because human beings suffer the consequences of living in a fallen world, where hu-man greed, selfishness and immorality impact upon the whole of society. If people just live in this envi-ronment heedless of the call of God to come back to Him and live, as He wants, then we remain lost no matter how much wealth, education or social stand-ing we have. Getting lost is easy. Getting back to God requires we be found or come to ourselves and make an effort to return. But it brings great rejoicing. We proclaim the good news that God loves each person to each person. God in His loves seeks you out and calls you to Himself. If you reject His call, or have not yet heard His call to you to return to Him, then you are lost. You can be lost in a crowd; lost when you are wealthy; lost alone. But without God, you are lost!

Jesus Christ came seeking you. He died upon the Cross for your sins. Respond in believing faith. Admit that you are a sinner. Believe that God sent His only Son Jesus into the world to die for your sins so that the penalty could be lifted from you and nailed to His cross. Respond to God's grace in seeking and saving you by believing that Jesus is both your Saviour who has redeemed you from your sins, and your Lord, who will from now on, lead your life. Your faith to Je-sus Christ means that, in you, the lost is found and all Heaven rejoices! God's persistent searching has found you, and returned you home rejoicing!

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

 



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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