What Do We Do with Sinners? (June 16, 2019)

Sermon Text: Luke 15:1-10

Seminarian Jacob Schlomer 

 

How many Christians do you think there are in the world? It is estimated that there are 2.3 billion Christians living in the world. That seems like a pretty huge number. But there are 7.3 billion people living on earth. That means that there are 5 billion people who do not know their Savior. If the world ended today, it would mean that all of these people would be in hell. How do you react to the millions of people—or to your one friend—who are living their lives without Christ?

We don’t have to look at these huge numbers to see that there are lost people in this world. We can see this issue on a very personal level. Do you have a lost friend or relative? Do you know someone who doesn’t know about Jesus, or someone who has left the church? I’m guessing that most of us have someone that comes to mind. In the Gospel for today, Jesus tells two parables to explain just how much he values these lost sinners. These parables make us think about what our attitude towards sinners is. Do we reach out to these people? Do we make every effort to reach them?

Jesus told these parables to the Pharisees. These religious leaders of the Jewish nation had an issue with how Jesus was carrying out his ministry. The issue had to do with sinners, Jesus had intense feelings about sinners. He was on a mission to change the lives of sinners. He was ready to bleed and die so they could be free from sin and have life with God. The Pharisees couldn’t have cared less about sinners. They despised them and ignored them and certainly weren’t concerned if sinners spent their lives with God. Reaching out to the lost wasn’t even on their radar.

Not reaching out to the lost is not just a problem that the pharisees had. We don’t always prioritize seeking out people who are lost in sin either. The issue between Jesus and the pharisees boiled down to this one question: What do we do with sinners?

Through these two parables Jesus answers the question what do we do with sinners?Jesus tells us search for them, Rejoice over them.

Jesus is preaching three parables that have to do with God’s attitude toward sinners. The Pharisees were complaining because Jesus was hanging out with sinners. Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son in order to explain what the Pharisees attitude toward sinners should have been. 

Part 1: We seek them

 Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders[1]

Can you picture this scene? It’s the end of a long hot day of work. The shepherd is getting ready to head home. He counts his sheep like he always does, but he notices there is one missing. Without hesitation, this shepherd immediately leaves his other sheep and sets out in search of the lost one. He knows that this sheep is in danger. There are plenty of wolves, lions, and bears out that would love to have a sheep for supper. The shepherd looks everywhere. He crosses freezing cold streams. He struggles over rocky paths and through thorny bushes. The shepherd doesn’t worry about his own health or wellbeing. His only focus is finding his lost sheep. He cares this much for his sheep. He makes finding his lost sheep his only priority. He does not want any harm to come to it. Finally, after hours of searching, he hears a familiar sound the bleating of his lost sheep. When he finally finds his sheep, He isn’t angry. He finds it and joyfully carries his sheep back to safety.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

This woman does everything she can to find this lost coin. You can just picture her sweeping the entire house. Moving furniture, looking under the rug, checking every corner of the house trying to find this coin. When it becomes too dark to see, she lights her lamp so that she can search through the night. She not only makes it her priority to find the coin, but she also does everything she can to find it.

Just like the shepherd went out to look for his sheep and the woman searched for her coin, Jesus came to earth to seek us out. Because of our sin, we were lost sheep. We were just as lost as that coin. Our sinful nature made it impossible for us to do anything to save ourselves. That is why Christ came and paid the price for our sins. He suffered the punishment for our sin on the cross. We were sinners who were spiritually lost. Jesus made saving us and the rest of the world his priority.

God makes seeking out sinners his priority. The story of the lost sheep shows that God cares about every sinner individually. The parable of the lost coin shows that he does everything he can to make sure that sinners come to him in repentance. God wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He seeks out sinners, and he wants us to seek them out too.

We don’t always seek out the lost. We are often content with keeping our faith to ourselves. There are dozens of people in our lives who don’t know their Savior, yet at times we are content to let it remain that way. We prioritize other things in our lives. We come up with excuses. We don’t have the time. Sharing God’s word is the pastor’s job. They won’t want to talk about religion with me.

Jesus understood sinners. He loved them. He came down to earth to save sinners. He did not look down on them. He was concerned about their salvation. We see Jesus throughout his ministry demonstrating his love for sinners. We see Jesus having compassion for the woman at Jacob’s well. This woman was a social outcast and a known sinner, but Jesus talked with her and shared the gospel with her.

Think about family members or coworkers that don’t know their savior. Think of how hard their life must be without their Savior. They may not necessarily show it or tell you, but they are lost. They don’t have the assurances that we live with. They don’t know the peace that we live with. They have questions that they simply cannot answer. Why does bad stuff happen in the world? What happens when I die?

We have the answer to their questions. We can seek out the lost. God gives us so many opportunities to share the love that we have in Christ. When we see someone struggling, we can share the peace that only the gospel can bring. We can support the work of spreading the gospel with our time talents and our offerings. What will you do when a friend comes to you who is struggling with guilt? Would you tell them that Jesus doesn’t hold our past sins against us? God uses us to reach out to the lost. It is God’s priority to seek out the lost how could it not be our priority too?

Imagine that you had a relative that never had anything to do with religion. He worked hard is whole life was a good guy, but anytime you tried to bring up Jesus he would ignore it and have no time for it. Recently, he just got the news that he has cancer. He doesn’t have much longer to live. You go to the hospital to visit him. You take the opportunity to talk to him about Jesus. This time he listens to you. He confesses his faith in his savior. How would you feel? 

Part 2: We rejoice over them

Jesus describes what the shepherd’s reaction was to finding his sheep and the woman’s reaction when she found her coin. The shepherdcalls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. The shepherd doesn’t scold his sheep when he finds it. He simply rejoices that his lost sheep has been found. When she finds her coin the woman is so happy that she invites others to rejoice with her. They both gather their friends to celebrate. This is genuine happiness that they want to share with others.

Jesus explains to his listeners that this is the kind of excitement that there is in Heaven when a sinner repents and comes to faith. He says: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. There is rejoicing over all believers who have repented. However, Jesus describes the rejoicing that takes place over the long-time sinner that has finally turned to him. It is like a mother who has several children, but one is sick. She loves all her children, but she especially rejoices when the sick child has become healthy again.

Jesus shows us what the Christian attitude toward sinners who have come to faith truly is. We don’t look down on people when they have come to faith in Jesus and repented of their sin. When they repent, their sins are forgiven. God looks at them and only sees Christ and his righteousness. We shouldn’t look at them and only think of their sins. When someone comes to faith, they become our brothers or sisters in Christ. We can rejoice!

But what does it mean to rejoice? We have an eagerness to reach out to the lost. This means that there is genuine happiness when someone comes to faith. Just think of the joy there is when a baby is baptized. We get to see the miracle that takes place when God makes that baby part of his family. Think of how incredible it is when a new member is confirmed and they confess their faith in Christ as their Savior. We get to see the gospel at work first hand. The same gospel that the Holy Spirit used to create faith in our hearts. We can rejoice in our God who seeks out the loss. We rejoice because he has found us. we rejoice because he seeks out other sinners who need his grace.

So, what do we do with sinners? There is a world that is filled with people who need to hear about Jesus. There are billions of people living in sin. God wants these people to repent and put their faith in Christ. Jesus shows us the attitude that he has towards sinners. He loves sinners just like he loves you and me who are also sinners.  God seeks out sinners, and he uses us to seek them out. And when these people do come to faith, we can rejoice. We rejoice here on earth with our fellow believers. And one day we will all be in heaven where we will rejoice with all the angels because our God loves sinners. Our God seeks out the lost. Amen.

[1]The New International Version. (2011). (Lk 15:3–5). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.