God is Looking for Repentant Sinners
Luke 15 SCC 6/2/16
The three parables all have the same basic application: God is seeking the lost, and the lost are the ones who realize they are lost so they repent and return to God. This was in contrast to the Pharisees who did not see the value of repentant sinners. Interpretation revolves around the meaning of Ďlostí v 4, 8, 24 and 32. Many have an exegetical knee jerk reaction that this is about evangelism. But this is not about the unsaved. Notice: (1) The shepherd owns all the sheep before one strayís v 4; the widow owns all the coinís before one is lost v 8; and the son is already a son of his father before he leaves. This provides a clue that this is about the pastoral care of Godís people. God wills that not one of his children is lost by straying away from him. (2) When a straying believer comes to his or her spiritual senses and repents, shepherds and heaven rejoice v 5 and 7, angels rejoice, and godís family should rejoice v 32. In other words, God is concerned for and rejoices over the restoration of a straying believer and so should we in the household of God. These three stories illustrate Gods desire:
SHEPHERDING GODS PEOPLE IS A MINISTRY OF RESTORING BELIEVERS
In v 1-2 The tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Reprobates drawing near to Jesus v 1 want to enjoy a conversation and a meal with him. These were the kinds of people who were coming to him in his ministry. They know something about the low end of life. Tax collectors have a shady reputation. Sinners broadens it to any kind of person who leads a sinful life. So they all have a sense of lostness. We often refer to a lost soul as one who has lost his way. Here it means to be lost or wayward from god disoriented in terms of life and experience. †Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble v 2 and what they grumbled about was, this man receives sinners and eats with them. He is sitting down at dinner with the riff raff. They would never eat with and converse with this low life. Jesus teaching is not directed to them but the tax gatherers and sinners with whom he is about to eat. These are the ones who will benefit from the following instruction.
(1) The shepherd leaves 99 of his 100 sheep to go after the one that is lost v 3-4. All 100 sheep belong to him. He pursues the one lost sheep with intent until he finds it and can bring it safely back to the other 99. This would be the natural thing for a shepherd to do. Thatís why he is in the field tending the flock. Eventually he finds the lost sheep, places it on his shoulders rejoicing in the discovery v 5.
(2) There is more joy over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Notice all of the rejoicing v 6-7. First amongst friends and neighbors and then in heaven too. †This is not evangelizing but about one who has been in the flock and has been lost. It is about restoration. In v 7 we have rejoicing in heaven over this restoration of one repenting rather than for a righteous group who does not need repentance.
NB: So a disciple can stray and Christ looks for him. If a follower drifts spiritually the lord is concerned and so should we be. Discipleship includes shepherding and restoring lost believers. The reason there is joy in heaven over this is because repenting believers no longer jeopardize their lives. There is no need to rejoice over righteous believers since their lives are not in jeopardy due to sin. Instead we should all be rejoicing in Godís household when this happens. James says so in James 5:19-20. All the sheep already belong to the shepherd. There is no call to faith here only repentance. Otherwise salvation is a call for repentance of sin rather than faith in Christ for eternal life. †
RESTORING BELIEVERS REQUIRES DILIGENT EFFORT TO BRING THEM BACK
The ten coins belong to woman and one is lost v 8. She knows it is somewhere in the house but she must find it. After lighting a candle, sweeping the house, and carefully searching to find it she calls her friends and neighbors to rejoice over its discovery v 9. The coin was lost but now has been found! So in v 10 there is joy in presence of angels while in v 7 in heaven. Angels seem to delight in the repentance of the believer. Angels are very aware of what is going on just as they were at the tomb of Jesus. When a believer sins he is a sinner. This is a slam on the Pharisees of v 1-2. They were grumbling that Jesus had anything to do with people like this. Yet even after people come to Jesus and drift away and return they are still welcomed back. So when a believer gets separated from fellowship there should be great rejoicing when he or she returns. The concern of the body is looking diligently for straying believers to repent and return. The publicans and sinners at this meal need to know that Jesus is concerned if they stray and will seek their restoration not reject them. It is his personal property he has lost and he is glad to have it back.
NB: We should never write off sinning believers as if they are irrelevant to us or God. They place themselves in jeopardy of Godís discipline for sure. That discipline can be painful and costly. But the point here is that the church must take diligent action and deliberate initiative to restore wayward believers as a central consideration of her ministry. Its easier to not get ourselves dirty here with time, effort, prayer, conversation or concern. But look at the priority heaven places on this.
BELIEVERS WHO RETURN MUST ALWAYS BE AN OCCASION FOR REJOICING †
Verse 11-13: There is a sense in which God allows his son to squander his inheritance if that is what he wants. Prodigal means wasteful. God permits that wasting if desired. God does not make us perform, stay on the farm or coerce our obedience. The younger son gets out there on his own and soon finds out it is not better. God can move the prodigal back by bringing privation upon him. There is a spiritual sense that we can learn from our sin. It should not be that way of course. But if that is what one wants God permits it. The young sonís life collapses soon after his departure.
Verse 14-19: Then a famine exacerbates his plight in addition to squandering his money 14. Desperate he seeks employment clearly taking whatever he can get 15. He still suffers with the pigs better off than he is with no one willing to help him 16. Realizing how far he has plunged he reasons that his father may treat him better 17. He decides to go back to father and repent. He develops a plan of action to cast himself on his fatherís mercy 18. He decides to place himself under the discretion of his father with no excuses only confession 19. Straying sinner can find the world takes and god gives. He is still aware that it is still his father. No reason for straying believer to lose assurance that father is father. The younger son is not saying ĎI wonder if I am really his soní. When he comes back he discovers the father was looking for him all of the time.
Verse 20-24: A great way off his father saw him and had compassion not anger. A relationship is being restored. With repentance comes reconciliation. The father is so responsive to him embracing him as if he had always been there not as a hired servant 20-21. Father fully equips him dresses him nourishes him. This far exceeded anything he thot his father would do 22-24. God is going to be more generous to the returning believer than one thinks. It is much better to come back as quickly as possible. His son was dead in that all communication had been broken off. The relationship was totally broken in terms of interaction. I had lost all contact with him but now I have it back again like a resurrection.
PT: Even if I hit bottom in my walk with god there is something much better for me when I return to him. Better to have never gone, believe me. Not better off if I do either. Not stronger if I do either. Baggage and consequences yes.† He has not restored the inheritance he had wasted. Itís not fair to cut into older sonís property rights. Straying from God is not without its cost but the focus of the story is on what God does for the one who does come back. God rejoices!
Verse 25-31: The elder brother hears the celebration and investigates 25. The father celebrates because the younger brother has returned healthy 26-27. The elder brother is angered by these events and cannot bring himself to go in and celebrate while the father repeatedly asks to join in but elder focuses on justice 28-30. Where is justice? The elderís son feelings are hurt. There should be no disdain about repentance. Repentance yields Godís kindness. The father affirms elder faithfulness accepting that his son always at his side always with access to benefits of such 31. The elder never had anything in jeopardy. The father affirms the necessity of celebrationóit is morally right to rejoice on this occasion.
1. The spiritual life of believers can become disrupted by fleshly desires and worldly appeals. With temptations all around us, our desires can be aroused that motivate us to stray from God.
2. Straying believers should never just be viewed as just collateral damage of the spiritual warfare against us. It is not alright with God for any of his sons or daughters to lose fellowship with him.
3. Discipleship requires many services among which is the restoration of wayward believers who jeopardize their personal lives, spiritual growth, and their service to Christ, all of which only takes place here, on earth, in the flesh.†