If you want to know what God is like, you need look no further than the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Today we are going to look at three parables in which Jesus reveals God’s heart: the parables of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7), the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), and the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). These parables give us unusual insight into the heart of God: they illustrate what brings him pain and what brings him joy. In fact, they reveal his agenda in the world: God actively seeks to restore lost men and women to himself.
In these parables, God is represented by the shepherd searching for his lost sheep, the woman searching for the lost coin, and the father looking down that long dusty road, hoping for the return of his lost son. The story of the prodigal is really a story of the history of humanity. It begins with the intimacy of a father-son relationship. The son spurns his father’s love; he rejects the rules of the household and goes off, independent of his father, in search of the good life. But he soon discovers that life outside his father’s house isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Finally, the son comes to his senses and begins the long trek back to his father’s house. At the sight of his son, the father can’t contain himself: he runs and embraces him.
Church, behold the love of God! We were that prodigal. That is our story! Now we are back in our Father’s household, enjoying fellowship with one another. But sometimes we forget that there are still many prodigals out there. God is still looking down the road; he is still seeking for that lost sheep, still searching for that lost coin. As long as there is one lost, God will seek. That raises a question: How does God carry out his mission to seek and save the lost in the world? He carries out his mission through the church. We are God’s instruments of reconciliation in the world!
Ephesians 3:10 says that it is through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known. It is no coincidence that the church is called the body of Christ. We are his hands and feet. We are his mouthpiece. All around us are people who are facing a Christ-less eternity. They are still prodigals. God wants them to return to his household, but they don’t know the way. Church, we have the privilege and responsibility of pointing men and women back to God! God seeks out lost men and women through us. He has no other plan. If we are reflect the heart of God, we must act as agents of reconciliation.
God’s people must aggressively seek out modern-day prodigals. But as the church grows and numbers are added, it requires more and more energy to organize the blessing. Instruction, fellowship, and worship begin to assume paramount importance, and if we are not careful, outreach will be neglected. It is tempting to retreat into a holy huddle, isolating ourselves from the very people God has called us to reach.
That was the error of first-century scribes and Pharisees. They were great at fellowship, but negligent in outreach. They didn’t understand God’s heart. They saw those outside the religious community as people to be shunned rather than as wayward sons who needed to be sought out (Luke 15:1-3). Jesus told these three parables to correct the separatist attitudes held by the scribes and Pharisees toward the unchurched of their day.
They complained that Jesus hung out with unchurched people. Jesus built redemptive relationships with those outside the church. And that is what he wants us to do! The question is, are we doing it? Are you doing it? We must not abandon that God-given mission. So let’s rub shoulders with our unchurched neighbors.
Let’s build redemptive relationships with them. Tell them about how God has rescued you and given you purpose and meaning.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Think of one or two people with whom you could build a redemptive relationship…
- Build a relationship with them by focusing on areas of common ground…
- Pray for opportunities to discuss spiritual issues with them…
- Invite them to church with you—then take them out to lunch and talk about what they experienced and what they heard. Love them as God loves them.