Sermon title:  GOD’S LOVE FOR LOST SINNERS

 

Luke 15:11-24    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, March 31, 2019

 

 

 

 

When the Bible repeats something

it’s not by mistake.

 

God knew what he was doing

when he inspired the men who wrote the Bible,

and gave them the words to say.

 

And when Jesus repeated something

in his preaching and teaching,

we can be sure that he did so intentionally.

 

As our Lord went from town to town and village to village,

he repeated his message to different audiences

in these different locations.

 

Sometimes, it seems,

he gave the same sermon,

using essentially the same words,

to these different audiences.

 

But he would also emphasize a point

by repeating it multiple times to the same audience.

 

And when he did that,

it was to emphasize the importance

of that point that he repeated,

or to confirm that it was true,

by stating it more than once.

 

And that’s what we find Jesus doing now in Luke Chapter 15.

 

He gives us three parables here,

but they all make the same point—

a point so important that Jesus repeated it

three times in a row.

 

And the point is that God loves lost sinners.

 

. . . that God loves lost sinners.

 

Jesus teaches us that lesson in these three different parables

to make sure that we get the point.

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Luke 15:1 sets the stage for this message,

because it tells us that Jesus was speaking on this occasion

to an audience of “tax collectors and "sinners,"

but an audience that also included

Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

 

It says,

 

1 Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him.

 

2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered,

"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

 

It sounds strange to our modern ear in America

to hear “tax collectorslumped together with "sinners,"

as if there were something wrong

with being a tax collector.

 

But the Jews there in Roman-occupied Israel

hated the tax collectors,

because they collected tax imposed by the Roman Empire.

 

It was “taxation without representation”—

collected for a hostile foreign power

whose Gentile troops were occupying Jewish land by force.

 

The Jewish tax collectors who worked for the Romans.

 

So, they were viewed as traitors and turncoats,

collaborators with the enemy,

who betrayed their own people and their own country.

 

On top of that, it was common practice

for the tax collectors to charge people more

than the tax that was actually due,

and then the tax collector would pocket the difference.

 

So, the dishonest tax collectors got rich off their dishonesty.

 

As far as the rest of the Jews were concerned,

the tax collectors were lumped in with other “sinners”:

robbers, thieves, drunkards, prostitutes,

and Jews who failed to follow a Kosher diet,

or who broke the Laws of Moses in other ways.

 

So, the “Pharisees and the teachers of the law

were disgusted to see Jesus

spending his time with people like that,

preaching to them and even eating meals with them.

 

But those were precisely the people Jesus came to save:

people with messed-up lives—

people like we were,

before Jesus rescued us

from our sinful course of life.

 

The Pharisees fancied themselves

to be clean and holy,

and to be the only people God really loved.

 

They avoided the company of sinners,

afraid of being contaminated

if they rubbed shoulders with them.

 

So, Jesus was about to set them straight.

 

And he was going to use 3 parables—each with the same lesson—

to make his point

that God reaches out to lost sinners,

to bring them to salvation.

 

Luke 15:3 says,

 

3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

 

4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep

and loses one of them.

 

Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep

until he finds it?

 

5 And when he finds it,

he joyfully puts it on his shoulders

6 and goes home.

 

Then he calls his friends and neighbors together

and says,

'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'

 

7 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.

 

When we were lost sinners,

wandering away from God

and following the evil ways of this world,

we were like that lost sheep.

 

The Pharisees turned their nose up at lost sinners.

 

But God is like that shepherd

who leaves the 99

to go look for the lost sheep.

 

And when that lost sinner listens to God’s voice

and repents of his sins,

Jesus tells us there is

more rejoicing in heaven

over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous persons

who do not need to repent.

 

When we give up a life of sin

to follow Jesus

God rejoices.

 

It makes his heart glad.

 

He rejoices more

than over 99 people who were already following Jesus.

 

So, if we’re living in sin now,

there’s no need to fear turning to God,

as if he would scold you and reject you.

 

Rather, he will welcome you with open arms and rejoicing.

---------------------------------------

 

But, to make sure everyone gets the point,

Jesus goes on to give another parable

that tells the same story

through a different analogy.

 

This parable is about a woman who “has ten silver coins.

 

Some of us remember when our dime, or 10-cent piece,

used to be a silver coin.

 

But a dime is no longer made of silver today.

 

I remember when a dime could buy you two ice cream cones

—each with good-sized scoops of ice cream.

 

But, with inflation, a dime isn’t worth that much today.

 

However, we know from examples in the Bible,

that back in Jesus’ day a silver coin like a Denarius

was worth a full day’s wages

for an average farm worker.

 

So, keep in mind that a silver coin

was worth close to $200.00 in today’s purchasing power,

when Jesus gave this parable

beginning in Luke 15:8.

 

Our Lord said,

 

8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins

and loses one.

 

Does she not light a lamp,

sweep the house and search carefully

until she finds it?

 

9 And when she finds it,

she calls her friends and neighbors together

and says, 'Rejoice with me;

I have found my lost coin.'

 

10 In the same way, I tell you,

there is rejoicing

in the presence of the angels of God

over one sinner who repents."

 

So, our repenting of our sins and turning to Christ

causes a heaven-wide celebration.

 

We can’t see them,

but the Bible tells us there are myriads of myriads of angels,

and that means hundreds of millions of them.

 

We can’t see them,

but they can see when a sinner repents and turns to God,

and Jesus tells us,

there is rejoicing

in the presence of the angels of God

over one sinner who repents."

 

-------------------------------------

 

The Pharisees should have felt that way

about Jesus meeting with sinners

and preaching to them,

to lead them to repentance and salvation.

 

But the Pharisees were hard-hearted, self-righteous men

who cared only about themselves.

 

So, Jesus gave a third illustrative story on the same subject.

 

And this Parable of the Prodigal Son

concludes by holding up a mirror to the Pharisees

to show them how mean-spirited they were.

 

But, first, it illustrates in more detail

what it’s like to live a sinful life and then repent,

and how God welcomes the repentant sinner

with open arms.

 

In Verse 11,

 

11 Jesus continued:

"There was a man who had two sons.

 

12 The younger one said to his father,

'Father, give me my share of the estate.'

 

So he divided his property between them.

 

13 "Not long after that,

the younger son got together all he had,

set off for a distant country

and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

 

14 After he had spent everything,

there was a severe famine in that whole country,

and he began to be in need.

 

15 So he went and hired himself out

to a citizen of that country,

who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

 

16 He longed to fill his stomach

with the pods that the pigs were eating,

but no one gave him anything.

 

17 "When he came to his senses, he said,

'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

 

18 I will set out and go back to my father

and say to him:

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

 

19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son;

make me like one of your hired men.'

 

20 So he got up and went to his father.

 

But while he was still a long way off,

his father saw him

and was filled with compassion for him;

he ran to his son,

threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 

21 "The son said to him,

'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

 

22 "But the father said to his servants,

'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.

Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

 

23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it.

Let's have a feast and celebrate.

 

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'

 

So they began to celebrate.

 

We can’t see what happens

in the invisible heavens among God and his angels,

when we hit rock bottom,

repent of our sins,

and desperately turn to God.

 

But this parable paints a picture of it for us.

 

God doesn’t sit aloof on his throne,

waiting for us to crawl all the way back to him.

 

Jesus tells us that our heavenly Father

behaves like this father in the parable.

 

While the broken young man

“was still a long way off,

his father saw him

and was filled with compassion for him;

he ran to his son,

threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 

Our God is like that.

 

He runs to us and embraces us,

to give us a hug,

and to help us come home to him.

 

He throws a party in heaven

to celebrate our salvation.

 

And he cleans us up

and puts on us “the best robe and ‘a ring on our finger’

to show that we are now his children.

 

But this Parable of the Prodigal Son doesn’t end here.

 

The “tax collectors and sinners” in Jesus’ audience,

must have been thrilled

to hear how God welcomes their repentance.

 

But the Pharisees were standing there, too, listening

and still looking down their noses at the “sinners.”

 

So, Jesus went on to describe them

as the “older son” in his parable—

the son who didn’t leave home

for a wild lifestyle.

 

Continuing in Luke 15:25, he says,

 

25 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field.

When he came near the house,

he heard music and dancing.

 

26 So he called one of the servants

and asked him what was going on.

 

27 'Your brother has come,' he replied,

'and your father has killed the fattened calf

because he has him back safe and sound.'

 

28 "The older brother became angry

and refused to go in.

 

So his father went out and pleaded with him.

 

29 But he answered his father,

 

'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you

and never disobeyed your orders.

Yet you never gave me even a young goat

so I could celebrate with my friends.

 

30 But when this son of yours

who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home,

you kill the fattened calf for him!'

 

31 "'My son,' the father said,

'you are always with me,

and everything I have is yours.

 

32 But we had to celebrate and be glad,

because this brother of yours was dead

and is alive again;

he was lost and is found.'"

 

The lesson for us is that we should never turn our nose up

at sinners who need to hear the Gospel.

 

Whether they’re corrupt government officials

like the “tax collectors” in Jesus’ illustration,

or drug addicts,

or homosexuals, or prostitutes,

or in any other broken, fallen condition,

we should be like

the father in this parable.

 

We should welcome them to repentance

and to a new life in Christ.

 

And, if we ourselves are in that broken condition—

if we have lived a wild life apart from God—

we should be assured

that Jesus will welcome us

when we turn to him with a repentant heart.

 

At John 6:37, Jesus said,

 

“I will never turn away

anyone who comes to me.”

 

“I will never turn away

anyone who comes to me.”

 

Rather, he will welcome the repentant sinner with open arms,

like the father who ran to meet

his returning prodigal son.

 

Jesus tells us,

 

“there will be more rejoicing in heaven

over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous persons

who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)