Luke 15:31-32 “And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
The story of the prodigal son is one of the most widely known in Christian churches. It struck me that the whole chapter of Luke 15 is about receiving what was lost.
In verse 4, Jesus likens receiving a lost sheep to God receiving a lost sinner.
In verse 8, it is a woman who has lost ten pieces of silver.
But knowing the heart of God is to save lost souls, means we must calibrate our hearts to see things the way our Heavenly Father sees.
Luke 15:7 “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
The fact that we can bring joy into the presence of Heaven by leading a soul to Christ is impressive. All of Heaven clearly sees the price that was paid for our sins and awaits us to tell the most wondrous story to those who need to hear.
Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
If there is such celebration in Heaven over a soul coming to be saved, our celebration here on earth should be of equal magnitude, don’t you think?
Yet, I have heard more skepticism and doubt from God’s children because we hold to the minority cases that proved untrue than those who truly meant it. You and I can no more assure anyone they are saved than I can see into a lead-lined room. Our job is to give the gospel plain and simple.
Some self-appointed fruit inspectors believe they must check the sincerity of those coming to salvation and let others know of their findings. I have found that this is where false doctrine is born.
True, there have been those who look good on the outside and later are unsaved. But, I have found that if we preach the truth, live consecrated, holy lives, and invite others to do the same, God will sort it all out in time.
We who lead must be in tune with the Holy Spirit when we put someone in a position of authority or leadership. We must prayerfully consider those we place in ministry because too many have been chosen only to wash out. After all, we did not pray for guidance and ask for God’s leading.
I received a beautiful truth from a message not long ago. The preacher said that the job of the church is threefold.
Outreach is the evangelistic arm of the church. It should be infused into every aspect of every ministry. Whether you are cleaning the church, ministering to children, or aiding the elderly, we must look for every opportunity to give the gospel to every creature.
In-reach is the maintaining of the body. It is discipleship, teaching, and preaching to grow those attending. It is giving attention to the basic needs as well as expanding the knowledge of those present.
Re-reach is one of the most neglected aspects because there is no glamour in seeking someone who has gone off into the world and into sin. We often say they are ‘backslidden’ because they have slid back into the old ways they used to know before becoming a child of God.
Jude tells us:
Jude 22-23 “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
Sin is never pretty once it has taken hold in a person’s life. Sometimes, it doesn’t smell very nice either. Yet, we are called to reach or re-reach those who have wandered or strayed away from the church.
These sheep who have wandered from the fold are just as important to God as the one who newly trusted Christ as Savior. Should they come back, our celebration should be the same as the new Christian. Yet, the skeptic will say, “It’s only a matter of time before they fail and leave again.”
Must we be so negative? Such a pessimistic view is lazy, selfish, and prideful. Why? Because it takes work to come alongside the one who has repeatedly failed to assure them that they will not be kicked to the curb at their next misstep.
It is easy to celebrate the life of the newborn babe in Christ. But to celebrate the one who succeeds who has a history of failure, not so much.
Why is that?
We set ourselves as judge of a person’s life based on their performance that we see. We may not see the inner turmoil of a life that has suffered abuse, or never had anyone to encourage them.
Jesus reclaimed so many lost to sin and found them amidst the ruin of their choices. He found tax collectors, fishermen, prostitutes, and well-known sinners. He sat with them, ate with them, and fellowshipped with them. The religious crowd derided Him for it.
Mark 2:16 “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”
I think we all have more “Pharisee” in us than we are willing to admit. There are some in our churches we would rather not talk to, fellowship with, or include in our get-togethers. But, Jesus reveals His heart to us.
Mark 2:17 “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
We are to go about doing the work of the Great Physician. Healing and helping when and where we can.
If we ever found ourselves away from God, we would greatly appreciate anyone who would reach out to rescue us from the bondage of sin we would find ourselves.
Mark 12:29-31 “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
I genuinely believe that if we celebrated the reclaiming of a life from the clutches of sin and death as much as we celebrate one coming to be saved, more would come back. They are already hearing the enemy whisper that they are forgotten, unloved. They are full of shame, guilt, and regret.
They need the healing balm of acceptance, love, and forgiveness from God and from the church. We are God’s hands that need to embrace the prodigal when they return. We are the voice of God to reassure them that they are welcome and commit ourselves to their restoration.
I have personally witnessed the reclaiming of drunkard husbands back to their wives and family. I have seen addicts restored who left a wake of ruined relationships in their path.
We must attune our hearts to God’s in this matter, or we run the risk of becoming a social club whose membership does not include the very ones God called to help.
Next time you gather in your church, look around. See all of the faces, not just the familiar ones. Ask God to lead you to the one who might need a friend, an encourager. Seek out those who live on the fringe.
You will begin to see how Christ would have us to live by touching those whom He would reach if He were in our shoes.