Monday, September 26, 2016

Sermon on Luke 16:19-31, for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, "The one whom God helps"




·         Jesus the greatest teacher and master storyteller
·         Stories convey deep spiritual truth; designed to get our attention
·         Unique among His stories, character of Lazarus has a name; significant to meaning of the story: “The one whom God helps”
·         Looking at his life—the rich man feasts lavishly, and living in luxury, while poor Lazarus suffers quietly in misery, licked by dogs outside his gate, until he dies—you might think it a cruel joke that his name means “the one whom God helps.” Ironic? Doesn’t his suffering show evidence that God had abandoned him?
·         Natural way of thinking: life is prosperous and well; God must be showing favor—but if life is filled with suffering and evil things, that God must be showing secret displeasure or open punishment. Many of Jesus’ teachings explode that myth, but it’s a widely held idea. We think good times = everything is right between us and God, but bad times = God must have it out for us. Not true, but hard idea to give up.
·          But in the end, this parable shows God has uniquely helped Lazarus, despite appearances.
·         One level of meaning--change thoughts and treatment of the poor. Teaches use of possessions—not selfishly, but generously for the good of others as well.
·          On another level—eternal life, and the way of salvation. Last of a series of three stories about “wasting possessions.” Prodigal or Lost Son”:  son wastes his father’s possessions. Parable of the dishonest manager:  manager wastes the possessions of his master. Today, a rich man wastes his own possessions. At the deeper level, these are each stories about eternal life and salvation.
·         Lazarus is helpless; “laid” at the gate of the rich man—abandoned? best hope for help? Unable to move. “Desired” to be fed…not “cried out daily” etc…
·         Denied even table scraps for the dogs, and only the dogs comfort him, licking his wounds. Appalling; indignation. Does that stir of indignation return to our own lack of action? Do we feel the same sense of passion for the homeless and the outcasts among us? Who are they?
·         Notice no explicit judgment of the rich man is given, even by Abraham. Not even a statement of what he should have done, or was expected to do. It’s self-evident why he is condemned. His lack of compassion, and His acknowledged failure to repent and believe God’s Word.
·         Extremely low threshold for compassion and action—one person, who only wanted table scraps. Did not even meet this. What level of compassion is required of us? Wrong question. Should we be content with throwing our table scraps to the poor, like dogs? Rather, reframe our thinking. Elevate our compassion and service…no upper limits to our compassion
·         Famous quote by the poet John Donne: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Quality utterly missing rich man’s life: No sense of common humanity, or involvement in Lazarus’ death or suffering.
·         Common bond of humanity and the dignity of life that crosses ethnic, cultural, religious, social, national, and all other barriers. Part of my humanity dies if callous to the suffering or death of another. Devaluing their life devalues my own. Danger of “compassion fatigue” or apathy by the size of the problem and the constant exposure to sufferings of others. Truth of common humanity—how would have changed the care and help offered?
·         Our duty? Have a heart that is shaped after God’s own heart. To have compassionate eyes and hands to see and do what we are able in our time and place. Society and politics are filled with bitter arguments about policies, solutions, ideas, who’s responsible or not. None of that matters nearly so much as actually doing something. “Whatever you do for the least of these…” “remember the poor; the very thing I was eager to do”. Lazarus means “the one whom God has helped”—we have an opportunity to be the hands that do that helping
·         So far, looked at the significance for this life—but the main thrust of the story is about eternal life. How does one get there? Rich in life = ticket to hell? Poor in life = ticket to heaven? No. But ?’s between rich man and Abraham agree upon the fact that repentance and hearing God’s Word are key to avoiding the torment of hell, and going to heaven.
·         Rich man realizes that hearing the Word of God hasn’t or won’t change the hearts of his brothers (as it didn’t for him). But hopes that someone rising from the dead will. Abraham says no, not even this will.
·         Another man named Lazarus is actually raised from the dead, by Jesus. Brother of Mary and Martha—dead 4 days. Astonishing miracle witnessed by many. Those who didn’t believe in Jesus before, didn’t change after Lazarus was raised, but began plotting against both Jesus and Lazarus to kill them!! Our sinful nature is deeply resistant to God’s Word—and can be stubborn even against overwhelming evidence. But even more importantly, Jesus Himself died on the cross for our sins, our selfishness, stubbornness, lack of compassion and love, and He rose from His grave. Yet even when He was raised from the dead, many were not convinced.
·         Rich man longed to be “the one whom God helped”, but too late. Lazarus’ life and name was no cruel joke, but rather God helped in a far more important way. Carried by angels to the heavenly feast with Abraham, he experienced true joy and comfort.
·         Jesus calls us to both be receptive hearers of God’s Word, to believe the promises of a Savior, Christ Jesus—and also to believe on account of the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead. A life of repentance and faith in Him will be “self-evident” in a life that is marked by merciful and compassionate actions. These are the outward signs that living faith in Jesus is “ticking” in our hearts.
·         Last written words of Martin Luther, at his death: “We are beggars all, this is true.” We are all like Lazarus, covered with the sores and suffering of our sins, helpless, and cast at the gate. But we, as beggars, are invited to the feast of God’s grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. We are not left outside, nor are we fed table scraps, but are carried into God’s house, and invited to the goodness of His generosity, forgiveness, and grace. God is not meager with His grace, but feeds us generously and richly. As beggars, we come with no illusions about our standing, like the rich man—no illusions about what we think we “deserve” or are privileged to—but we  come humbly to accept and receive His grace in Christ Jesus. And we can and should always point others to where the banquet is also! Come! Because in Christ Jesus we find the One who pours out God’s gifts full and free. And receiving these gifts, we will find that we also have become “the one whom God helps.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Luke 16:19-31 is not identified as a parable, but fits the same format of Jesus’ many parables. It is, however, the only one of Jesus’ stories where a character has a name: “Lazarus”—so the name must be significant. The name comes from Aramaic (the common language of Jesus’ day, and “cousin” to Hebrew), and the name means: “the one who God helps”. Why would it appear that his name was a “cruel joke” or ironic? How does the parable then reveal how God indeed helps Lazarus?
  2. What kind of feelings (or “unfeeling”) does the rich man display toward Lazarus? In what ways do his attitudes remain unchanged, even after death? Where has his “concern” always been directed? What attitude or concern does Jesus desire to inspire in us instead? Philippians 2:3-8
  3. What do those in heaven and in hell experience? Luke 13:27-30. Is the message of the story that being rich is the ticket to hell, and being poor the ticket to heaven? Is it hard to enter the kingdom of God? How is it possible? Matthew 19:23-26
  4. When Abraham describes the “great chasm” fixed between heaven and hell, and the fact that they cannot move to and from there, what implication does that have for superstitions like hauntings or ghosts? What does the Bible say happens upon our death? Hebrews 9:27
  5. The rich man’s questions in Luke 16:27-31 imply that neither he nor his brothers would listen to Moses and the Prophets. What does he correctly identify that they need to do, in order to avoid coming to this torment? Luke 16:28, 30.
  6. A man named Lazarus was actually raised from the dead (before or after Jesus taught this parable, we do not know). Did the Pharisees and high priests believe after this? John 11:38-53; 12:9-11.
  7. Jesus Himself rose from the dead. How did this affect the unbelief of those who never believed Him during His ministry? Matthew 28:1-15. How is believing in Jesus’ resurrection the ultimate help that God gives?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sermon on Luke 16:1-16, for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, "Stewarding for our True Master"



In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The parable of the dishonest manager is one that puzzles many, because the guy who gets fired is praised by his master after making one final dishonest move. If it throws us off that Jesus’ story praises a dishonest  man, a careful reading shows that it’s not actually his dishonesty but his shrewdness or skillfulness that is praised. The manager maneuvered the situation so as to both enhance the master’s generous reputation and “pad his landing” after he got fired, so he would be welcome in people’s homes. But even if the interpretation of this parable raises some difficult questions, ask this one: “What lesson are we to get out of it?” Jesus is pretty clear about the objectives and goals that He’s teaching, which we will unpack. But the overarching point is that we would serve One True Master, our Lord God, and that we demonstrate this service by faithfully stewarding what He has given to us.
Managers or stewards, by definition, take care of what is not their own. The whole concept of being a steward (whether a good one or a bad one), is that you manage something that belongs to someone else. There are many things that are temporarily given for our management, use, care, and supervision. Our body and life, to begin with, and all our physical and mental abilities, limitations, or talents. Our money and all our possessions. Our family, our occupation or roles in life. All “belong” to us in various ways—and yet none of them truly “belong” to us at all. Not in any permanent or irrevocable sense. Anything and everything up to and including our life is given by God’s gracious hand, and He alone has the authority to give and take away.
This is a major lesson of the parable, that worldly wealth is not permanent, and we do not know when we may lose it. So how are we going to handle it before we lose it? The dishonest manager has his job and management taken away from him because he did his job poorly. But he made a smart move before he lost it. Jesus admonishes us in the parable, that we should be faithful stewards—not dishonest as he was—but also that “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” In other words, take the lesson in shrewdness,  but avoid the dishonesty, learning true faithfulness instead.
Even if we steward what we are given well, it will always eventually fail us in this life. Jesus states, “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” When it fails-…and it will. Solomon reflected on how money and riches can be kept to our own hurt, or lost in a bad venture, or simply go on to somebody else upon our death. In any case they aren’t ours to keep. Jesus shows that since these things are bound to fail anyways, we should at least use them wisely and for a good purpose while we can. The purpose He names is making friends.
How do we make friends by means of unrighteous wealth? Whether we have a lot or a little, we can be either generous or stingy. Do we use our money to show kindness and to care for others? Is our reputation one of open-handedness and big-heartedness, or of close-fisted and small-heartedness? So if we have been generous, open-handed, and charitable, it is likely that we will have gained friends for ourselves. Jesus says: “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Wealth can’t go to heaven with us. Toys, cars, boats and houses can’t go with us. But relationships formed in this life can transcend the grave, by faith in Jesus. Friendship certainly has value in this life, and if our friends share faith in Jesus, that friendship has eternal value.
And you can see how all of this reflects what we truly love. Jesus aimed this parable at the Pharisees, once again, who “were lovers of money.” He tells them that “no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” In blunt terms, Jesus is telling us that love of money will make us hate God. The love of money enslaves us, so that unrighteous wealth becomes our master. This is what Solomon lamented when he observed that “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? (Ecclesiastes 5:10–11). If we love money, we can fall into many snares. We can be overcome or undone by dishonesty, greed, selfishness, theft, losing our job, losing the trust of others, or even losing our friendships. Or we can simply watch in despair as all wealth inevitably fails, as Jesus warns. All of these spring as bad fruit from the same source, of having the wrong “god” and master, if we serve money.
On the other hand, if God is our master, we can lean on His generous provision for us, not doubting or worrying that He will provide. We can enjoy and manage what we are given, for as long as we have it, and use it wisely and for good purposes while it lasts. We can lean on His wisdom and guidance to navigate the perils of “unrighteous wealth”, and be stewards of our True Master. And having God as our True Master, the fruits of generosity, charity, good stewardship, and faithful friendship will come forth.
Like friendship, faithfulness in stewardship has value both for this life, and the next. When Jesus explains the parable, He says that “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10–12). Here Jesus shows us several positive goals or aspirations we can have toward the things God entrusts to us. We are to aspire to manage money well. We should aspire to be faithful in little things so we will be entrusted with much; faithful with unrighteous wealth so that we can be trusted with true riches; and faithful with other people’s things so that we can be trusted with things of our own.
The lesser point here is that success in work and in life comes by faithfulness, honesty, and good management. If we want promotions, or want to gain responsibility over much, we need to show that we can be faithful over little. But the greater point is that there are better things in store for us than the possessions and wealth that we steward in this life. By managing them well, we look forward to being entrusted with “true riches”, or to be given “that which is your own”. There are “treasures in heaven” to be gained, if we focus on Christ and His kingdom, rather than earthly gain. The things that we are to aspire to, and should eagerly desire to gain, are of far greater worth than gold, silver, or precious jewels. And more than anything we could hope to see and receive in heaven—God Himself is the greatest and highest treasure. God’s greatest gift that He gives to us is Himself. And good stewardship is a little reflection of knowing that—it recognizes first that God is the Giver and true possessor of all things, that He generously entrusts to us for a time. And good stewardship also recognizes therefore that all of these things are far beneath the importance of knowing Him.
Perhaps you have had successes or failures in stewardship. Maybe you can feel proud of what you’ve done. Or on the other hand, maybe you have even lost a job, just like the dishonest manager, because you were lazy or did not steward faithfully. In any case, we must always guard against the temptation of the Pharisees—which was to justify themselves before men. They had a knack for trying to look better than they really were—as most of us do. But Jesus said, “God knows your hearts”. It strikes a bit of terror in us all, doesn’t it? That God sees all the uncleanness in our thoughts, words, and deeds? But justification before men is really quite useless. What we truly need is to be justified before God.
And if the parable today portrays a dishonest manager who made a clever move on behalf of his master’s generosity—we have a far better helper. Jesus is the One who is the truly faithful manager of God’s house—but much more than a manager, He is God’s own Son (Heb. 3:6). When Jesus acts to forgive debts—He does so not without His Father’s knowledge, but at the insistence and by the will of our merciful True Master. God wants Jesus not only to dispense with His heavenly treasures, to the benefit of all people, but to give them generously and freely. Jesus is not in the business of “debt-reductions” and “partial loan forgiveness”—He is in the business of the total payment and erasure of our debt. When you are forgiven by Christ Jesus, it is full and free, by His own blood shed on the cross. This is how we are justified before God—by faith in Jesus—a holy trust that God alone can free you from your sins and selfishness. No amount of conning others into believing our righteousness will do—only laying claim to the pure, holy, and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. His heavenly treasure, freely bestowed on you. What kind of joy is it to know that you are truly debt free before God? And with that knowledge, what a joy and freedom to forgive and release others of their debts to us? In this divine act of forgiveness, through God’s love, we get to participate in His debt-cancellation! What a joyful way to make friends—in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Sometimes Jesus uses a negative example to show a contrast or teach a positive point about something. In Luke 16:1-15, sort out what aspect of the manager’s behavior we are told to imitate, and what we are not to.
  2. The dishonest manager is fired for wasting his master’s possessions. The word manager and “steward” are interchangeable. What is the positive way that a good steward out to carry out their duties? Luke 12:41-48
  3. What determines whether we or someone else will be entrusted with more or less? How does responsibility change in relation to how much we are given? Luke 16:1-13; 12:48.
  4. The dishonest manager takes a gamble in his final move before being fired. What does he do, and what did he have to count on that the master would not do, in order for his gamble to work? How did the master benefit from this last dishonest move? How did the manager? What does this show about the character of the master?
  5. How does God deal with debtors (i.e. sinners)? Matthew 18:21-35.
  6. What are positive ways we can use money or wealth to good purposes, and even for the kingdom of God? Luke 16:9-13. Does this parable show that we should aspire to greater things? What quality is expected of those who will be entrusted with “true things?”
  7. Read verse 13. Why does having “divided loyalties” never actually work? To whom does our sole loyalty and devotion belong? What is “mammon” and why is it such a poor substitute for God?
  8. In Luke 16:15 Jesus addresses the way the Pharisees “justify themselves before men”. Why does this kind of justification always fail before God? What is the true justification before God, and how do we receive it?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sermon on Luke 15:1-10, for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, "God's Joy for Finding the Lost"



In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today our Gospel reading in Luke 15 contains some of the most beloved parables that Jesus taught. The parable of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, and of the lost son (or sons). Our reading is the first two, but as a set, they convey the love and heart of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus, to seek after the lost. They also speak of the joy God experiences when He finds the lost. Before we dive into the two parables, note a couple of things about the set of three as a whole. First, there is a progression in the joy. First there is joy in heaven. In the second parable there is joy before the angels of God. In the parable of the lost son, the joy is of the Father himself, and by extension, the joy of the whole household. Secondly, there is a progression in how much of what is lost. In the first, one of 100 sheep is lost. In the second, one of ten coins is lost. Finally, the last parable seems to be about one of two sons is lost—but on further examination, we find that both sons were lost in different ways. This gives the listeners to the parable the growing awareness that we are all lost apart from Jesus. Jesus was teaching Pharisees and scribes, who grumbled and criticized Jesus for eating and associating with the tax collectors and sinners. By the end of the parable they would learn that they carried their own unique “lost-ness” with them as well.
Being “lost” typically makes us think of location and directions—like a person lost in their car, or hiking in the woods off trail, or like that. Once you get to the correct place or location, you’re not lost any more. But this definition of being lost doesn’t capture the full sense of the Scripture. The “lost-ness” of these parables is much more a matter of our heart than our location. The parables are particularly pointed at the Pharisees and scribes who were so critical of Jesus’ association with sinners. They didn’t even see or perceive their “lost-ness”. Crucial to our understanding of what it means to be “lost”—is to know that this is a condition of our human hearts and our sinful nature. In other words, our “lost-ness” is part and parcel of our sin. We are all lost because of sin. Ever since Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden, humanity has been lost, and we carry this lost-ness with us. Our lost-ness is not a matter of our location, but of our orientation away from God, because of sin. Paul said it in trustworthy words for us all: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.”
The original complaint of the Pharisees and scribes about Jesus was, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Jesus teaches us through these parables, that the orientation of their heart was away from God’s. In order to share in the joy of the Father, we not only need to acquire His heart and compassion for the lost, but also to rejoice over every lost sinner that comes to repentance, just as God, the angels, and all heaven does. Jesus’ first question is, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” Then He asks, “What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep diligently until she finds it?” The point of both questions, is that God does go looking. Whether we would or wouldn’t go looking for the lost—Jesus did go. He looks for us everywhere. It shows the orientation of God’s heart is to searching after what is lost—every last, precious one. There’s not a sheep in His fold or a coin in the purse, or a child in His family that is not precious to Him, and that is not worth Him dropping everything, and hunting in the wilderness for His lost sheep, or brushing through the dirt floor to reclaim that one lost coin, nor is there a lost child whom He’d turn away. It’s you that God is after, and that are so precious for Him to recover. Until he finds it….He’s not giving up, getting bitter, resentful, or discouraged. He is determined! Until he finds it!
Now Jesus’ parable is a winsome picture of Jesus’ love, not only for the Pharisees—whom Jesus was teaching to have a heart after His own—but also to the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the known sinners in the community, that Jesus was so notorious for associating with. They needed to know that God’s love for the lost included and embraced them. This gives us insight into what it means to have a heart after God’s own heart—to learn His love for the lost. A book I recently read on gospel-focused parenting reflected deeply on what it means to be lost, and how we reach the lost. In the bulletin quote, Paul Tripp describes lost-ness as something we carry around with us inside of us—our sinful orientation away from God’s good care and protection, and it makes us think we can live more independently than we were ever designed to live. The sheep that wander from the fold go away from the care and protection that was meant for their goodness and well-being. This is what sin does to us. And this condition of being lost, doesn’t particularly depend on whether we realize it or not. Even if we don’t know it or realize it, our lost-ness is hurtful to both ourselves and others.
That’s what I mean that it’s part of our heart condition. Something that we all carry around inside us. Tax collectors and sinners were “lost” from the way of God, because they chose greed, dishonesty, and corrupt gain, instead of trusting in God’s providence and performing their jobs faithfully and honestly. They hurt others through their sinful actions. But the Pharisees were lost too—but lost from the way of God because their hearts were not attuned to His grace. They were striking the chords of legalism, of self-righteousness, of judgment and grumbling. They hurt others through their sinful attitudes. They would have kept Jesus away from “those sinners.” They just didn’t see their own sin and “lost-ness”. Their growing discomfort with Jesus’ parables increased until the third parable exposed to them their own lost-ness too. Whether we are more like the Pharisees or the tax collectors, or like the older son or the younger son in Jesus’ last parable—our “lost-ness” is not defined by our location, but it’s a matter of our hearts and deeds being out of alignment with God’s. In other words, being lost or found is not a matter of whether you are in this building on Sundays or not—or whether a person knows the Bible backward and forward, like the Pharisees. It’s not even a matter of having gone so far in the opposite direction from God that we can’t get back. It is a matter of where our heart is toward God.
So what does the parable teach us about how God deals with sinners, and what does it mean for us? Continuing Paul Tripp’s explanation of being lost, he says that Jesus’ stories teach us powerfully that what the lost need most is not criticism, judgment, condemnation, or punishment. That was probably what the Pharisees wanted Jesus to deliver to those sinners. But instead, what every lost person needs is deliverance. Tax collector or Pharisee, outward sinner or inward hypocrite, Jesus is after every lost one of us, to deliver us. But what do the lost need? They need compassion, understanding, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and grace. (Tripp, Parenting, p. 105). Jesus’ compassion, patience and forgiveness enabled Him to reach a whole category of people the Pharisees had summarily written off. Today we have the same opportunity to approach others with the compassion and forgiveness of Christ.
The parable of the sheep ends with Jesus saying that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Now this goes right to the heart of what we are talking about. Is Jesus saying that the Pharisees and scribes, or that those of us who are here and church and call ourselves Christians, are the “ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance?” Are we here, not in need of repentance? Many later teachings of Jesus, including the Pharisee and the tax collector, show us that really everyone is in need of repentance. Thinking that you are righteous, and don’t need to repent, doesn’t actually make us righteous in God’s eyes. Nor does it mean that we don’t need to repent. Instead, as we recite the Biblical words each week: “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So we—first of all—need to recognize our own lost-ness that we carry around in our heart. Secondly, this should open our hearts with compassion to others who are also lost—in whatever circumstances we may find them.
Sometimes people are happy and carefree in their lost condition—like the sheep exploring the newfound freedom of leaving the flock—not aware of what dangers lie ahead. Other times people may be so beaten down and hopeless in their lost condition, that they are utterly helpless, like a trapped sheep, or a lost coin. We have no ability on our own to get back to God. But this is why Jesus comes on His rescue mission. So that we can join in the joy of His rescue mission. So we don’t miss out on the heavenly party, the great celebration that all heaven throws, when a single sinner repents, and is found by the Lord!
What more enduring picture of compassion, love, and rescue, is there than the image Jesus gives of finding the sheep, laying it on His shoulders, rejoicing, and carrying it home? Calling His friends and neighbors, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost!” We were dead and lost in our trespasses and sins. Jesus came and searched and found each one of us. He carries us home to heaven on His strong and able shoulders—rejoicing! Jesus rejoices for you! He rejoices for the lost! Every precious one of them—every precious rescue mission that brings the gospel, the good news, to any lost sinner. Whether that be the homeless veteran lost in a world of loneliness and disillusionment, or the young woman lost in a moment of crisis over an unplanned pregnancy, or a hard-hearted Christian who’s forgotten God’s first love and grace toward them, and sees only the faults of others, or a devout follower of some false god, who doesn’t even know the grace of God. Whoever and however they are lost, God is after them—He’s after us! Until he finds [us]! God isn’t giving up—He’s searching for us everywhere! And when He finds us, it’s not to bring us condemnation, but the forgiveness of ours sins, the welcome embrace into His loving arms, and to usher us into the celebration of the community of His people. Most of all He wants us back home with Him. All of us lost and redeemed sinners! Here at Emmanuel, and everywhere that people gather to His name. We are found—not by our location, but because God has found us, and He joyfully gives us a new heart—His heart. God desires to make each and every one of us, a child, a brother, a sister, a man or woman after God’s own heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Jesus’ fellowship and eating with sinners offends the Pharisees. But how is it emblematic of His whole purpose and ministry? Luke 5:30-32. How should that shape and direct our ministry and attitudes as Christians?
  2. Why is grumbling a sin? What is at the root of grumbling? What are the positive counterparts to grumbling? Luke 15:7, 10; Philippians 4:11
  3. Luke 15 is a series of three related parables, that have a progression and unity of thought. Today we hear the first two. But to better understand each, notice a few progressions: what percentage of things are lost in the parable of the sheep? Coins? Sons? How does the focus of the joy at finding the lost progress in each? Luke 15:7, 10, 24, 32  (hint: who is feeling the joy in each instance?)
  4. Based on the 3rd parable, who excludes themselves from the rejoicing and celebration? Luke 15:28-30. Who does he represent in Jesus’ audience? In our audience? How do we “get in” on this heavenly joy?
  5. How would you define what it means to be “lost”? Does our lost-ness depend on our awareness of our situation? Our ability to get ourselves out of the situation? Our present happiness or misery in the situation?
  6. Who, among the human race, are lost? Do those who are righteous and “need to repentance” (v. 10), really exist? Or is it just a matter of their self-reflecting perspective? Romans 3:10-23. How does the recognition that everyone carries this “lost-ness” within them, in their human nature, increase and change our sympathy toward others? What does it mean to have the heart of Jesus toward the lost?
  7. Describe the tender love and joy with which Jesus rescues the lost sheep, or the passionate search He undertakes for the lost coin. What does this show about the nature and sacrifice of His love for us? What comfort does it speak to us? How should we know our Lord? Psalm 23; John 10.
  8. Why are sheep (and us!!) made to be in the Shepherd’s care and fold? How is life improved by being with our Shepherd?