Luke 15:4-7 – What man of you, having an hundred sheep if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 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.
Two questions for your consideration.
1) What does it mean to be lost? Being lost means being out of place, unhappy, useless and in danger.
The sheep belonged in the flock, under the shepherd’s loving care. It was useless wandering in the wilderness. Any hungry predator could have killed it!
God did not create us to be out of place, in danger, useless and unhappy!
2) What does it mean to be found? It means to be back in the place of safety, service, enrichment and enjoyment, being and doing what God ordained for us to be and do! It means we are no longer in danger. Instead of wasting our lives and our resources, we are investing ourselves in others and producing good to the glory of God.
But pay special attention to the new element that is introduced when the lost are found – rejoicing!
The shepherd rejoiced at finding the sheep. He put it on his shoulders, took it home and invited his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him.
Jesus said that when the lost are found and experience a new beginning, there is even joy in heaven!
Why would the angels in heaven rejoice when people repent, trust Jesus and experience a new beginning(Lk15:10)? Because they know what we are saved for in the wonderful plan of God – to serve Him on earth and then one day to share in His glorious home in heaven!
They also know what we are saved from – the terrible judgment of “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”(Mt25:41).
Now the angels have never experienced God’s saving grace personally of course. But as they have watched God’s plan unfolding on earth, they see in the life of every believer what it means to be a new creature in Jesus Christ and to share the very life of God.
Christians are brand new people on the inside. We are not reformed. We are not rehabilitated. We are not reeducated. We are new creations!, living in vital union with Jesus Christ. We do not merely turn over a new leaf. We begin a new life under a new Master!
Jesus Christ left heaven and came to earth to provide our salvation. And anyone who accepts Him becomes a new creature. We enjoy a new beginning!
1 Corinthians 15:20 – But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Jesus Christ is alive! That is what Easter Sunday is all about. God’s people, saved by His marvelous grace, know the truth!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very heart beat of our faith! The resurrection proves that Jesus Christ is God. It proves that His atoning work on the cross has been completed.
The empty cross and the empty tomb are God’s ‘receipts’ telling us that the sin debt has been paid in full. We can live in fellowship with Almighty God, for Jesus Christ lives as Savior and Lord.
From the beginning, the enemies of Jesus tried to deny this historic fact of His resurrection. The Jewish religious leaders claimed that Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb by His followers.
That statement is virtually impossible. If the body was stolen by Jesus’ follower, how did they do it?
The Roman soldiers guarded the tomb. The stone covering the entrance to the tomb was sealed by an official Roman seal.
Something else, the disciples did not believe that Jesus would rise from the dead. It was Jesus’ enemies who remembered His words! And they certainly would not have taken the body! The last thing they wanted was anyone believing that Jesus had risen from the dead.
If Jesus’ friends could not steal His body and His enemies would not, then who took it?!
The only logical answer to the question “Who took Jesus’ body?” is that Jesus kept His promise and arose from the dead!!
It is vital that we base our faith on solid evidence. But then the evidence should lead us to God’s Word. And God’s Word should lead us to our Savior.
It is one thing to accept a doctrine and defend it. It is something else to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Peter and John were the first disciples to believe that Jesus is alive. But it was not until Sunday evening after His resurrection that morning that they met the risen Lord in person along with the other disciples.
Evidence that does not lead to experience is nothing but a dead principle. The key is faith in God’s Word.
Historical faith says, “Jesus lives!” Saving faith says, “Jesus lives in me!”
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!!
Zechariah 7:9-10 – Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
What practical expressions of holiness! These are God’s requirements to express our new life in Jesus Christ.
1) Be honest. To “execute true judgment” is simply to deal honestly with all people. The New Testament statement is given in Romans 12:17: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”
That is a practical requirement we can all live by! Be honest!!
2) Be merciful. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man”(Pr3:3-4).
Mercy and compassion involve actions and attitudes. A merciful person not only feels love. He also acts responsibly and faithfully. A compassionate person not only cares for others in his heart. He also helps them.
Thoughts and words are not enough! Our lives reveal whether we are truly merciful and compassionate.
People have tried all kinds of ways to please God. But God has made His wishes clear: God wants His people to be merciful and compassionate.
3) Be benevolent. God has a special sympathy toward those in need. He exercises a special watch-care over widows and children.
The good thing God commands us to do is stated in Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Those who need help find special assistance in God. And they ought to also find it in the people of God!
4) Be pure. Remember the words of James: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”(Jm1:27).
To be “unspotted from the world” means to be unstained, to be uncontaminated. Be pure!
It literally means to be free from the smut of the present evil world. This is the lifestyle expected of a Christian!
All of this is possible if we will faithfully obey the principles given in God’s Word.
Ephesians 5:8-10 – For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
As we conclude our study of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, let me offer three statements that declare and describe how we are to fulfill our role as servants.
1) We are different! Probably the greatest tragedy of Christianity throughout history has been our tendency to become like the world rather than different from the world!
Servants are to be different. As different as salt is from rotten meat. And as different as light is from the darkest night. Not a manmade difference, but a God-made difference.
2) We are responsible! If I read Jesus’ words correctly, I see more than being salt and light. I am responsible for my salt not losing its taste or its bite. And I am responsible for my light not becoming hidden.
True servants do more than talk. For salt to be tasted and for light to be seen, we must make contact. We touch our personal world every day. Are we will answer to God for whether or not we have been salty and bright!!
3) We are influential! The very fact that we belong to Jesus Christ through personal saving faith, that we do not adopt this world system all around us, that we march to the beat of a divine Drummer!, gives us influence in our world.
We are influencing others, even though we are not trying to act ‘religious’ or preaching from a soapbox. Our lives have an impact on other people.
There is a price to pay for being authentic servants of our Master. Jesus stated that the world is not a friend of God’s grace, nor of His children.
But, nevertheless, without our influence this old world would soon begin to realize our absence. Even though it may not admit it, society needs both salt and light.
Will we commit ourselves to God as true servants and provide it?!
1 Peter 4:19 – Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Every Christian who seeks to live a God-honoring life will experience some persecution. On the job, at school, in our neighborhoods, maybe even within our own families, there are people who resist the truth and oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus explained to His disciples that they should expect opposition and persecution from the world. But He also gave them an encouraging promise: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”(Jn16:33).
In spite of the inevitable struggles they would face, the disciples were not alone. And neither are we! The ultimate victory has already been won. It was through His death on the cross of Calvary, plus His resurrection, that Jesus overcame sin and the world.
And so, when we are suffering in the will of God, we can commit ourselves to the care of God. Everything else that we do as Christians depends on this. This commitment is not a single act but rather a constant attitude. “Be constantly committing” is the real meaning.
How? By means of “well-doing.” As we return good for evil and do good even though we suffer for it, we are committing ourselves to God so He can care for us. This involves every area of our lives every day!
If we really have hope, and believe that Jesus is coming again, then we will obey God’s Word and start laying up treasures and glory in heaven. Unsaved people have a present that is controlled by their past. But we have a present that is controlled by our future! In our very serving, we are committing ourselves to God and making investments for the future.
Why did Peter refer to God as “a faithful Creator” instead of a faithful Judge or even a faithful Savior? Because God the Creator meets the needs of His people. It is the Creator who provides food and clothing, and who protects us in time of danger.
God created the world. And He has faithfully ordered it and kept it since the creation. Because we know God is faithful, we can count on Him to fulfill His promises to us. If God can oversee the forces of nature, (and He does, by the way!!) surely He can see us through the trials that we face.
Our heavenly Father is “Lord of heaven and earth”(Lk10:21). With that kind of Father, we have no need to worry! He is the faithful Creator. And His faithfulness will not fail.
There is nothing to fear if we are suffering in the will of God. Our Father/Creator has promised to victoriously see us through!
Numbers 6:24-26 – The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord life up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
God commanded Aaron and his sons to offer this benediction of blessing upon the children of Israel. This ancient blessing conveys the hope that God would (1) bless and protect, (2) be gracious, and (3) give peace.
When we ask God to bless others, or you and me for that matter!, we are asking God to do these things. Included in the list is peace.
Peace – real, lasting peace – comes from God alone. Period! And it comes from God through personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ!
The ministry of Jesus Christ is summed up in Peter’s statement: “The work which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all)”(Ac10:36).
True peace is directly related to Jesus Christ. Jesus promised us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”(Jn14:27).
What was the legacy of peace that Jesus promised? First, this is a spiritual peace. The peace that Jesus enjoyed with God the Father is the peace that He makes available to us.
When we believe and are saved, permanent, everlasting peace with God is established. Such peace is found only through saving faith in Jesus Christ!
The second feature of the peace that Jesus promised is an inward contentment. This peace is the result of being rightly related to God through Jesus.
This peace is not based on favorable conditions or good and happy circumstances. Jesus promised ‘trouble’ in the world but ‘peace’ with Him.
You see, and please get this!, Jesus offers peace not based on the changing circumstances of our lives but on our unchanging relationship with God through personal, saving faith in Him. And so, one result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is deep and lasting peace.
Unlike worldly peace, that is usually defined as the absence of conflict, this peace is confident assurance regardless of any circumstances. With God’s peace, we have no need to fear the present or the future.
Sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt, and a multitude of other forces are at war within us. The peace of God moves into our hearts and lives to restrain these hostile forces and offer comfort in place of this conflict.
The peace that the world offers is temporary and partial. And it can never bring satisfaction. Jesus gives a peace that will be sufficient all the way into eternity!
Leviticus 11:45 – For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
God’s purpose for Israel was that the nation be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation”(Ex19:6).
Everything in the life of the Old Testament Israelite was either “holy” and thus set apart for God’s exclusive use, or “common.” And the “common” things were either “clean,” meaning that the people could use them, or they were “unclean” and forbidden to be used.
The Israelites had to be careful to avoid what was unclean. Otherwise, they would find themselves “cut off from the people” until they had gone through the proper ceremony to be made clean again. Because they were God’s chosen people, the Israelites had to learn to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean”(Lv10:10).
God’s true churches today are supposed to be “a holy nation” in their present world, to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”(1Pt2:9). To “shew forth” means ‘to tell out, to advertise.’
Israel revealed to the pagan nations around her the glories and excellencies of Jehovah, the true and living God. Churches today have the same privilege and responsibility. When Israel started to live like the pagans, they robbed God of His glory. And the Lord had to chasten them!
When churches get the false idea that we must become like the world around us to reach the world, we have missed our calling and command from God!
Paul severely rebuked the church at Corinth for this practice. And then he gave them God’s command:
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”(2Co6:17-18).
God desires absolute obedience in motives as well as in practice. Though we do not observe all of the worship practices of Israel, we are to have the same spirit of preparation and devotion.
On Sunday morning, January 24, 1861, Charles Hadden Spurgeon closed his sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle with these pointed words:
“An unholy church! It is of no use to the world, and of no esteem among men. Oh, it is an abomination!…The worst evils which have ever come upon the world, have been brought upon her by an unholy church!”
Heed God’s call to purity!
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”(1Pt1:15-16).
Lamentations 3:22-23 – It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The book of Lamentations is a dirge, a funeral song! This book contains Jeremiah’s last words after judgment had fallen on Judah and Jerusalem. The people of the land had been taken into captivity by Babylon.
God draws no satisfaction from the chastisement of His own people. But God is a holy, just God. He cannot and will not tolerate sin! Without repentance, judgment is inevitable.
And yet, in the heart of Lamentations, dealing mostly with the outcome of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem, we find that God is portrayed as a God of compassion and of mercy. God keeps loving. And God keeps offering mercy, withholding what we actually deserve!
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”(2Pt3:9).
You see, Jeremiah knew that! Although God’s actions were devastating to Jerusalem, they were ultimately for the good of His people. God does what He does out of love! And mercy!!
God is a Judge yes! But He is also a ready Savior!!
But sadly, many will never heed, never respond to God’s grace and love. And as a result they will face His judgment.
Judgment, when it comes, will prove merciless, and far reaching.
But even in judgment we realize that God’s mercies have been and are new every morning. Every day is a new day, a new opportunity to do right, to walk with the Lord, and to serve Him.
Our God is true to His Word, absolutely faithful, and completely trustworthy.
Whatever happens to us for good or ill, God’s love is unchanging. We are loved with an everlasting love. And God’s mercies and compassion endure day by day by day.
Circumstances change. Feelings change. Good days go. And bad days come. But Jesus?! He is always the same!!
Always right. Always true. Always loving. Always Sovereign. Always eternal. No matter what!
Thank you Lord, for Your presence, Your compassion, Your mercy. “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Philippians 3:8-9 – Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
When Paul met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, he trusted Him and became a child of God. A wonderful transaction took place that day. Paul lost some things. But he gained much more than he lost!
Righteousness was a great goal of Paul’s life as a Pharisee. But it was a self-righteousness, a works righteousness, that would never last. When Paul trusted Jesus, he lost his own self-righteousness and gained “the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
When Paul trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, God put His righteousness to Paul’s account. And God promised Paul that he would never write his sins against him any more. What a fantastic experience of God’s grace!
Paul gave up everything – family, friendship, and political freedom – in order to know Christ. His experience with Christ transformed his life.
It was a personal experience as Paul walked with Christ, prayed, obeyed God’s will, and sought to glorify His name.
It was a powerful experience as the resurrection power of Jesus Christ went to work in Paul’s life.
It was a painful experience. Paul knew what a privilege it was to suffer for Christ. In fact, suffering had been a part of his experience from the very beginning. Paul had been a persecutor at one time. But he learned what it means to be persecuted!
Paul found it to be worth it all, for walking with Christ was also a practical experience. Paul lived for Christ because he died to self. He took up his cross daily and followed Him.
Yes, Paul gained far more than he lost. In fact, the gains were so thrilling that Paul considered all other “things” nothing but garbage in comparison! No wonder Paul knew joy! His life did not depend on the cheap things of the world, but on the eternal values of righteousness found in Jesus Christ.
Credentials, accomplishments, or reputation cannot earn salvation! Like Paul, we must realize that salvation comes only through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
If we will admit our sin and place saving faith in Jesus Christ, He will save us! And He will add His righteousness to our lives!!