To seek and save the lost Luke 15:1-7

If there is one job I would not have wanted to do in the Middle East in New Testament times, it would have been job of a shepherd. It was DANGEROUS. In the heat of the sun, or the rain and the wind. In the cold nights, out in wild without shelter. Then there were the wolves, and the lions and other fierce animals. As well as the robbers and bandits. Think of Wild West cowboys rather than shepherds today.
And all the time a shepherd was working with sheep – not the brightest of animals – sheep which will get themselves trapped on a cliff side, or fall into a gully or get trapped in a stream or in a thicket of gorse – or just wander off and get themselves lost!
That is the background of the parable Jesus told about a shepherd who sets out to rescue his lost sheep.
Luke 15 4 ‘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?
We are the lost sheep, Jesus is the Good Shepherd
Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd – just how much it cost Christ to die for us
John 10:11 11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … 14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
In describing himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus was making a great claim! Because every Jew knew that there was only one Shepherd for the nation of Israel – God Himself. Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. But there was another less well-known passage in the OT which portrayed God even more clearly as a shepherd who sets out to search for his lost sheep.
Ezekiel 34 11 ‘ “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 … 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, … There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture. … 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,
The Good Shepherd not only looks after the 99 in the fold but also goes out to search day and night for the one lost sheep. “I myself will search for my sheep.” “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.”
This was Jesus’s mission. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. To seek and save the lost!
And let’s remember that every one of us is are only here today because Jesus came to find us when we were lost. When we were hiding away from God, God came and found us!
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found! Was blind but now I see.
I was lost but Jesus found me! There is no hope of being saved until a person realises that he or she is lost. Until we accept we are sinners. God did not send His Son Jesus Christ into the world to save those who think they are righteous. Jesus says Himself that He “came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Even today, the Good Shepherd is still looking for those who are lost, longing to bring them home.
Luke 15 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours 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 people who do not need to repent.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
All the people around us are still lost sheep
More lost than ever! So many problems in families, in relationships, with finance. Difficulties in employment. Injustice as the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” gets bigger everyday. Inequalities in opportunity, in prospects, in health and life expectancy.
We usually don’t realise just how lost people are today
Put your hand up if
• You grew up in a Christian home
• Went to church when you were growing up
• Had some other links to church when you were growing up (BB, GB, YP etc)
• Always believed in God even though you never went to church
Is anybody left without a hand up?
Most of our neighbours and friends would be – because most people in Chelmsford don’t have meaningful contact with any church!!
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
And God commands us to reach out with his love and his saving truth to these lost people! A few weeks ago we thought about the parable which Jesus told just before this parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the Wedding Feast. Remember all the silly excuses people made why they couldn’t come to the banquet. But the host was determined that as many people as possible should be there to enjoy the celebration.
Luke 14 21 … Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
22 ‘ “Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”
23 ‘Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.
Our God is a God who is determined that his house should be full! So he sends his servants out to seek and save the lost – even in the streets and alleys, even in the roads and country lanes. And he sends US out! At the beginning of the year we thought about the Great Commission and the promise that Jesus is with us always.
Matthew 28 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
That command is for EVERY follower of Jesus, in every place in every age. Make disciples. GO!
WE must seek and save the lost!
Luke 15 4 ‘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?
The Good Shepherd LOOKS until he finds !! He searches high and low, up and down, everywhere. That was what Jesus spent three years doing.
Matthew 9:35 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’
God cares just as much about people who are lost in sin today. The harvest is plentiful – but the workers are few. God still needs ALL OF US to be his workers to bring in the harvest of souls. God needs US to seek and save the lost.
Too many churches have drifted into the Little Bo Peep strategy.
“Little Bo Peep, she lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them.
Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.”
But we can’t sit back and wait for the lost to come to find us! The heart of the problem of people who are lost is that they don’t know they are lost. Many of them don’t want to be found! People who are lost without God don’t find him for the same reason that the burglar didn’t find the policeman. He wasn’t looking to find the policeman. He was too busy running in the opposite direction hiding from the policeman!
We can’t just sit back and expect the lost to come back to God by themselves! Here’s a very short poem by Gordon Bailey, called “How far?”
How far would world communism have progressed?
If all they had done is stick “You need Lenin” posters up outside the Kremlin?
The shepherd goes OUT and LOOKS for the sheep! God has NOT commanded us just to sit around and wait until those who are lost knock on our doors and ask how they can be saved.
Matthew 28:19 As you GO, make disciples of all nations, baptising them … 20 and teaching them …
John 20:21 Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We are SENT. We must GO. Whatever dangers the shepherd faced, however uncomfortable the journey, his mission was to find his lost sheep. And he wouldn’t give up until he found it! Go – seek and save the lost!
Since the first lockdown last March most of our old ways of reaching out have closed down. Toddlers. Café. Drop In. Even our contact with young people on Sundays has fizzled out. It will be months before any of these activities can start again, and then it will take a long time to build them up. We did manage to continue our Christmas card deliveries, and we did have visitors to our Christmas Zoom events.
But we will need to find new ways to reach out into the postmodern post-truth society of the 21st century. We have already started to explore some of these new ways using the internet, video and social media.
Our Services on Zoom are also posted on Facebook and YouTube, as are our prayer reflections. We know that many visitors are watching them, including some from around the world. An old school friend who now lives in the midlands got in touch the other day because he had found our services on Facebook.
Our new little book “More of The Difference Jesus Makes” has been great to share our stories with neighbours and friends. And we are going to put some of those stories on to video so they can go out on Facebook and YouTube as well.
My book Prepared To Give An Answer has helped many of you to feel more confident in talking about Jesus with your friends and neighbours. It tackled some of the most common questions inquirers ask about the Christian faith. I am going to turn parts of that book into some videos in the next few months as well.
We need God’s guidance for HIS ways to reach today’s lost sheep. There is a true story of a missionary overseas who arrived in a city and hadn’t a clue how to reach so many these unfamiliar people with the gospel. He prayed for a way to make a few contacts who he could begin to talk about Jesus with, and he was led to put a tiny advert in the classified section of a newspaper offering mail-order Bible studies. He received literally THOUSANDS of requests – so he had to start actually writing some Bible studies and posting them out! That’s one way to plant a church! What new ways of sharing our faith will God lead US to do in the months ahead?
The Good Shepherd went out to find his lost sheep. Have you ever lost anything and had to search for it? Mercifully we never mislaid any of our children for more than a minute or so. We did once lose a dog. In the New Forest our first Golden Retriever Tara ran off chasing a deer. We called and whistled but she didn’t come back, so we began to search for her. It was a very distressing time. We would have stayed in the Forest searching all night if she had not eventually reappeared after about half an hour. But our desperate concern to find our lost dog was only a faint shadow of the concern which Jesus the Good Shepherd has for his Lost Sheep.
North Springfield needs Jesus. God the loving shepherd who searched for us and found us and saved us sends us out to continue His mission to proclaim Jesus to the world.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save what was lost. (NIV/NRSV)

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