Peninsula Community Church
Lost and Found – Lessons Learned From Luke 15
August 23, 2015
Last week we began a series entitled “Lost and Found.” As we continue this series we will look today at how each of these parables teach us something about the ways we stray from God and how God is always ready to draw us back. In each parable, we are taught something about ourselves and how we can be so easily led astray.
The lost sheep in the first parable speaks to us about the distractions of life that cause us to wander from the presence of God. The fact is, we wander from God because we are distracted and oblivious to what is going on around us. To understand why this occurs we must understand a bit about sheep. To begin with, sheep are basically dumb animals. They tend to get lost because they simply wander away from the flock while they are grazing. This was so common that it was not an uncommon event for sheep to fall headlong over cliffs and die, or they would fall into ditches along the roadway. The shepherd was constantly rescuing the lost sheep and helping them to get back to the fold where they would be secure and be safely returned to the shepherd’s care.
Another thing about sheep is that they become restless very easily. They have a short attention span and they are constantly looking for food to satisfy them. For this reason, sheep can simply nibble their way to lostness. Their lostness is a series of small steps. In their restless, they are always looking for things to satisfy their hunger. The same applies to followers of Christ as we too get restless and we look to others things to satisfy our spiritual hunger (Isaiah 53:6). You see the role of the shepherd is to find good gazing ground (Psalms 78:52), but the restlessness of the sheep forces the sheep to ignore the shepherd’s leading as they look elsewhere for food.
In our restlessness, we feed on things that do not provide spiritual nourishment but rather draw us away from the Great Shepherd and the food he has planned for us. These things may include working harder, experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a means to deal with life’s issues. It might be sexual adventures. It might the world’s philosophies that draw us away from God. We wander and nibble on a little bit of this and a little bit of that but we are never satisfied. We keep nibbling and we keep moving further from the place God desires for us to be.
The fact of the matter is we are all prone to wander from the presence of God. One of my favorite hymns speaks to this issue. In the hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which was written in 1757 by 22-year-old Robert Robinson, there is a line that always captures my attention and forces me to self-evaluation. The line says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I feel that way sometimes. Don’t you! Rather than having my heart and mind focused on the Savior who loves me and gave Himself for me, I find myself distracted and drifting away from God’s purpose. We don’t intend to drift, but we do. We are enticed by things that look so good but leave us hungry and empty.
But the grand miracle is that our tendency to wander is matched only by God’s willingness to pursue us at all cost. How grateful we can be for a patient, compassionate heavenly Father whose grace is always sufficient; even when we are prone to wander! How grateful we can be for a Heavenly Father who desires to pursue us when we are lost.
How does He pursue us? He does so by way of the Holy Spirit who speaks deep into our hearts and draws us back to Him. The Holy Spirit illuminates the hunger and dissatisfaction of our heart. In fact, I would say that if you are dissatisfied in your personal spiritual experience, it could be the Holy Spirt drawing you into a deeper relationship with Him.
Secondly, in the parable of the coin, the coin was lost by an act of carelessness. The issue here is that the woman did not protect what was given her. Some believe that she most likely had been entrusted with the coins by her husband as it was not normal in those days for women to have their own money. Regardless of the reason for her to have this money, she had lost the coin and was not even aware that it was lost until sometime later.
The thing about carelessness is that we never intend to lose that which is valuable to us. It often happens through neglect. For us spiritually, we forget to pray. We rush through our devotional time. We fail to join with others in worship and fellowship. We fail to keep the boundaries that keep us pure and holy. And then, we wake up only to find that we have become distant from God and that our fellowship with Him is strained. The result is that it feels that God is far away from us! We lose our intimacy with Him inadvertently through carelessness and neglect.
The problem with the lost coin is that as long as the coin was lost or out of circulation, it was useless. The coin could not be used for what it was intended. But with that said, we must be aware that no matter how lost the coin was, it was still marked with image of the emperor of the day. Now think about that for a moment, no matter how lost we might be we are still emblazoned with the image of God upon our lives (Genesis 1:26-27). Though damaged and lost we are still God’s possession and He so desires to seek after us and find us so as to restore us to right standing and usability!
Thirdly, the prodigal son was lost as a result of choices he made. In the first two parables, there does not appear to be a conscious decision to be lost but in the case of the prodigal son he made a conscious deliberate decision to wander from his father’s home. No one persuaded him, he made a choice. He began to dream and imagine what life would be on his own. He began to believe that the grass was greener on the other side. In some ways, he acted like the sheep by dreaming of something else in his life. He allowed complacency to draw his attention away from what he already possessed as his father’s son. We too can become complacent and forget what we already possess. We can begin to think that sinners have more fun than we do. We begin to think that God is holding out on us so we want what we want so as to feel we have value which we already have in Christ.
Here is a truth we must understand. Our free will which is a blessing, and at the same time a curse, gives us the opportunity to make choices. It is unfortunate that these decisions are not always the best of decisions. The problem with free will and free choice is that there are consequences to our decisions and we have to settle ourselves to those consequences, personally, whether the decisions are good or bad.
So what do we learn from this today? Let me give you a couple of things. First of all, God cares about us when we go off track. He seeks after us and desires to draw us back to the place we need to be. No matter the reason, the Father is always searching for us when we have wandered from the faith. The father heart of God is always searching for us. Remember what I said earlier: the miracle of this is that our tendency to wander is matched by God’s willingness to pursue.
Second, He will willingly allow us to go our way so that we understand and comprehend what we miss when we fail to follow God wholeheartedly. Throughout the Bible we find stories of people and even strong men of God who made poor choices and yet God allowed them to do so because by their actions they learned more about themselves and who they were. Remember the story of David who sinned greatly against God and his kingdom. What about Abraham who lied about Sarah being his wife and yet he was a friend of God and became the father of many nations. How awesome is that?
Thirdly, even when we are lost and separated, we are still marked by the Father. For the sheep, it was the ear tag or a brand that identified who they belonged to. It didn’t matter what happened to them, they were still marked by their owner. We need to know that no matter what we may have done as a believer in Christ, He has marked us and He searches after us.
Fourth, He welcomes us with a heart of forgiveness and reconciliation when we return to him. We see this in the parable of the prodigal son. The father is pacing the floor awaiting the arrival of his son. The father’s arms were outstretched and open for the son. He embraced him, loved him, and restored him to full sonship. So matter how far we run or how far we stray, he is waiting for us.
I ask that you listen to the great hymn of the faith I mentioned before. Use this song a means to ficus your attention on who you are and if you are prone to wander from God. Here is a link to the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRVNZPyMOcM
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