John Bradshaw - The Lost Sheep
I'm glad you're able to join me today. I'm glad I'm able to join you. Before we get in the Word, let's pray and expect God's blessing. Let's do that now.
Father in heaven, we're grateful that we can gather around the Bible. Lead us by Your Spirit, we pray, and we thank You. We expect You to do so; we ask it of You in Jesus' name, amen.
When I wore a younger man's clothes, I was living in London, England, working in an ice cream store in Leicester Square. It was the Häagen-Dazs ice cream restaurant. There are worse places to work. There are probably also healthier places to work. But I worked there for 13 days before getting another job. No calamity, I wasn't fired, simply got a better opportunity. The Häagen-Dazs ice cream restaurant at which I worked in London, England, was on Leicester Square. And if you know anything about the geography of the West End in London, then you will know that Leicester Square is just a stone throw, uh, you gotta have a pretty good arm, I suppose, but a stone throw from Trafalgar Square. And when you go down to Trafalgar Square, one of the most important and outstanding objects there, in addition to Nelson's Column in the middle or thereabouts of the square, is the national art gallery, or the National Gallery.
This place is a wonder. In the National Gallery there were, there is always fabulous paintings and pictures. They're almost beyond value, you know. You don't even have to like art or highbrow art to like what's there at that gallery on Trafalgar Square in London, England. The place is a, an international treasure. And so I was working in Leicester Square. I would trundle down to Trafalgar Square and wander around the art museum. And I knew that once I went back to my home country of New Zealand, there'd be nothing remotely like it there, so I should take the opportunity to soak in some of the artworks and see if I could develop an appreciation for this sort of thing.
So while I was there, it, they happened to be holding an exhibition of impressionist art. And so there were paintings by Monet and Van Gogh and, and, and Cézanne, whom I actually just love, and others. And I appreciated that art, and if you've ever wondered about fine art, I mean good art, I mean expensive art, you may have wondered what it would take to own one of those pictures. So let's look at some numbers together. How much do you think is the, is, is the greatest price ever paid for an artwork? And by an artwork, I mean a painting. Well, let's start with painting number 5. I'll check my little list. It's a painting by the American artist Jackson Pollock, fifth-highest price paid for a painting, at least at the time this list was published.
You know, these things change on an ongoing basis. But at the time of checking, fifth-most-expensive work of art, painting, that is, in the history of the world, $200 million and it's a painting by Jackson Pollock. By the way, if you look at the top 10 or the top 20, you know, there's some interesting works of art. One of them is, in fact, "No. 6," by the American painter Mark Rothko, it's just colors. Sort of a shape, maybe it's a rectangle or sort of a frame, and just some colors. It's beautiful. It's impressive. A cynic would say it looks like something a high schooler might bring home, but a high schooler who could do that has a pretty bright future.
Point is, it's simple. One of the most expensive paintings ever is a Picasso, one of his abstract things with bits and pieces of bodies and, I don't know, bicycles or vases or, I don't know. You can never really tell when you're looking at a Picasso, one of his abstracts. Number 5, Jackson Pollock, $200 million. Number 4, a painting by Paul Gauguin, it's, it's nice. I mean, here I am, the art critic. $210 million. Now, what I really like, anything by Cézanne is gonna be fantastic. Uh, painting number 3, that is, third-most-expensive painting ever, Cézanne, $250 million. So if you have some spare change, or if you're saving for something, you might be able to pick it up for a little more than that. Second-most-expensive painting... And I don't know if I want to admit this, so I'll phrase it differently. I don't know if you've ever heard of Willem de Kooning.
Of course there are some particularly well-educated and some art mavens and so forth, you're all over de Kooning, not some of us. Willem de Kooning's painting, $300 million for a painting by a seriously good artist, but somebody many of us, many of you, some people have never heard of. Now, if I were to ask you which artist painted the most expensive painting ever, you probably could guess this, if you thought about this. Had a conversation with somebody once and asked the question, and they said, "Was it, was it Michelangelo"? But, wait, he was really more of a sculptor really, wasn't he? No, it was Leonardo da Vinci. And the painting is entitled "Salvator Mundi". "Savior of the World". And it sold, not that long ago, to somebody who must have had an awful big piggy bank, paid 450 millions of dollars for a single painting. Just one.
Oh, and by the way, was it really by Leonardo da Vinci? Maybe. The painting is reportedly by, or reputed to be by. With some of these old paintings there's not really any real way of telling for sure. But the buyer figured it was a da Vinci, thought he was on to a good thing, wrote a check with a big, long number including lots of zeroes: $450 million. So, what makes a painting worth $450 million? Or let me ask the same question from another angle. Is it really worth $450 million? It's a painting! Is it worth that much? Think about it, because, of course, you might say, "Oh, no, no painting is worth $450 million". No football quarterback should earn 30, 40 million dollars a year. No house in our neighborhood should sell for $600,000. Uh, no vintage car should sell for $3 million.
I understand, I understand the thinking. But why should it not? Oh, that's a reckless amount of money, perhaps we might say. But is it really? Is it really? I mean, you wouldn't pay $3 million for that old car or $700,000 or 2 million or 10 million or whatever it might be for that house, and you wouldn't pay that much for whatever it might be. And what is it that gives these things their value? $450 million for a painting, that's a gargantuan sum of money. What gives it its value? Well, quite simply, someone was willing to pay that much. Why should a quarterback earn 30 or 40 million dollars a year? Because someone is willing to pay that much, that's why. Why should that house on that street sell for that much money? Because someone was willing to pay that much.
Now, in all seriousness, "Salvator Mundi," the painting by Leonardo da Vinci, might one day sell for fifty bucks. That is, if suddenly everybody decided the thing was worthless, not worth having, not worth paying the money for. You and I both know that there are certain things that lose their value owing to whatever factors. But all that means is that there came a time that nobody was willing to pay that much for that thing. If somebody values it, price goes up. If somebody doesn't value it, the price, on the other hand, goes down. Think for a moment with me, if you would, of the most valuable thing ever purchased, and what would that be? We are going to look at a parable together. It's a very short parable.
I want to look at it with you. It's in the Gospel of Luke. It's in chapter 15. It's one of a series of parables that actually flows together, and we will look at Luke 15 and verse 1, where the Bible says, "Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him". I spoke to a lady the other day. She told me that, um, she and her family left the church many years ago. She finally came back after about 40 years, after about 40 years. I said to her, "Why did you leave the church"? And she said, "My dad was never a church member, but my mother would take us children with her to a certain church".
It's still in existence. I could tell you the name of it. But I won't, and it's immaterial, because this happened, well, about 41 years ago. She said, "Something happened at that church one day". "Ooh, what"? I asked her. Where are we going with this? She said, "We were in the church one day when a, a family came into the church, obviously not well-to-do. They were scruffy, and they clearly were fish out of water in our church, at least going by looks. Everybody saw them come in, and everybody saw one of the deacons approach them and escort them out because they weren't appropriately attired for our church". She said, "My mother was so disgusted she said, 'If that's how our church treats people, I don't wanna have anything to do with it,' and she left".
Now, granted, she was right to be disgusted, wrong to leave. You've lowered your buying price if you can let the devil get you that easy. Have you heard stories like that? Oh, I have. Where some young people come to church and they get to the door dressed in black, gothic-looking, you know, black fingernail polish and black lipstick and black everything, and...not looking too jolly. And the kindly greeter says, "Ooh, you can't come into the church dressed like that, dear. You'd better go home and get changed and then come back". Oh, wait, what?! No, I don't think so. You notice the Bible says to us in Luke chapter 15 and verse 1 that, "Then drew near [to Jesus] all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him". When Jesus came to town, He attracted the riffraff. He attracted the hopeless. He attracted the downcast. Frequently, the offscouring of society was drawn to Jesus. Isn't it interesting?
If Jesus is there, then your house of worship will attract people who are down on their luck, if you'll let me put it that way. If Jesus is there, your church will attract some people who are desperate and are looking for a better way. There ought to be someone in your church who doesn't look like everybody else. You ought to be happy if there's someone in your church who doesn't smell just as clean as everybody else. You ought to be happy, in a way, but you know the way I'm talking about, so I'll remove the qualifier now. You ought to be happy if someone comes to your church smelling of alcohol. You ought to be happy, because what it demonstrates 9 times out of 10, that is, is that the church is doing its job. Why does the church exist? To save the lost, to reach the lost. And lost people frequently look lost, act lost, eat lost, smell lost, talk lost. Sure, it can be a little bit like blending oil and water. But here was Jesus, and all the publicans and all the sinners, the immoral, the wretched, the impure, they were drawn to Jesus.
Now, don't stretch this too far and say, oh, Jesus went and, I've heard people say, "Jesus went to hang out with the sinners". No, Jesus ministered to the sinners. It's not that Jesus said, "Where's the bad, seedy part of town? I've got to go and sit in a dive bar and, and, and hang out with my friends". No, it wasn't like that. Jesus was on a mission to seek and save the lost, so when the lost people came around Him, that was a good thing. Ladies and gentlemen, my hope is that where you worship, Jesus is so pronounced, so prominent, so visible, so obvious, so presented that lost people make their way to Him. It's not a good thing when our churches all look buttoned down and squeaky clean. It's evidence that we're not doing our job of reaching the lost. Some lost person ought to be there.
Now, granted, you and I both know that when they come to the feet of Jesus, they ain't gonna stay that way. They'll change. They'll grow. They'll develop. They'll become more and more like Jesus. I could tell you about a fella who used to go to church, and when the sermon got a little boring, he'd go into the restroom, and he'd line up a little line of cocaine somewhere on the, on the, on the sink, and he'd sniff it up his nose, and he'd shake his head, and he'd go back to the church and was always surprised at how much better the sermon had got in a very short period of time.
I'm not telling you it's a good thing that he took his cocaine to church or into the restroom at all. Don't do that. But what's interesting is that one day he took his cocaine into the restroom, lined it up on the sink, said to himself, "What am I doing"? Pushed it into the sink, ran it down the, the, the plug hole. That was the end. He never used it again. He gave his life to Christ. Thank God he was in the house of the Lord at all so he could hear the good news and be impacted by it and changed by it. Became a completely new man. It was good that he was in church that day. Jesus attracted the publicans and the sinners.
Now, it was the Pharisees, and sometimes we have a Pharisee on the front door who says, "Oh, you can't come into church like that, dear". Sometimes we have a Pharisee who's one of the deacons who leads the, that visiting family out. Now, by the way, let me, let me take a time out here. I know that in the vast majority of cases, Christians are welcoming. In the vast majority of cases, Christians are happy to see all kinds of folks come to church. In the vast majority of cases, people will greet somebody or speak to somebody or make somebody feel welcome. I know that. But we ought to be able to say, in every case, and there are some churches where we need to do a little re-education process and explain to people that we just wanna see 'em in church.
Yes, I hear what you're saying. "Well, doesn't God have standards"? Yes, He has standards, and you know them. And when somebody doesn't know them, we extend grace to that person, and we extend Christianity to that person. We wanna be able to say, "Anyone welcome, however you are, all the time, at all costs". Remember the hymn we sing? "Just as I am without one plea, but that Your blood was shed for me". We come to Jesus just like we are. When someone lives across the street from you, comes to church just like they are, comes to Jesus just like they are, we celebrate and we sing and we pray, and we be the hands and feet of Jesus in that person's experience. But we must push on, because the Bible says in Luke 15 in verse 2, "The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, 'This man [receives] sinners, and [eats] with them.'"
Jesus heard what they said. Oh, we could learn from Jesus, because He didn't engage in argument, and He didn't try to defend Himself. He didn't get down into the weeds of what they were talking about. He didn't want to soil His hands with their, their petty arguments and objections. "This man receives sinners". As though there was something wrong with that. Jesus said, this is a teaching moment. This is an opportunity for me to communicate something special, something that they'll be blessed and benefited by. And so, the Bible says in verse 3: "And He spoke [a] parable [unto] them, saying", and here we go, this is verse 4. It's a very, very well-known parable. And it's a very short parable. But this is what Jesus says in Luke 15 and verse 4: "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it"?
Here you are criticizing me about receiving sinners, but let me ask you a question. Many of you all are agriculturally minded. Uh, depending on the village where Jesus was or the city where Jesus was speaking, they all had herds and flocks, flocks for the most part, no question. Jesus said, you can relate to this. He said, which person here, if you have a hundred sheep and you lost one, which person wouldn't go to find it? Hmm? Which person wouldn't go to find it? There's something I find interesting about this passage, and that's this. Jesus did not talk about someone who had a hundred alpacas. He didn't talk about someone who had a hundred cows. He didn't talk about someone who had a hundred breeding stallions or a hundred broodmares. Didn't do that.
Do you know how much an alpaca costs? Neither do I, but I know they're not cheap. Do you know how much a cow costs? Or a steer? You know, you go to the 4-H thing, you know, where the kids are parading their animals, and then sometimes they'll auction them and sell them, and, you know, the, the cow or the, the bull, man, that'll go for some money, especially if there's some kind patron in the crowd wanting to help out the child. So, a cow, a steer, a bull, that could sell for a king's ransom. Well, okay, I mean, a small-time king. But a lot of money. But a sheep? I remember as a kid growing up in a country where there was lots and lots of sheep. There were times when the sheep prices were so low it was almost not worth the sheep farmers' time sending the sheep to the meat works because the cost of their time and the cost of shipping was more than they might get for the sheep itself.
You know how markets ebb and flow, and they're up, and they're down, and they dip occasionally. It was those times. Sheep are sheep. This is not a, a farmer who had horses or, or elephants or camels. They're sheep. They're not worth a whole lot, if you understand what I mean. Now, if, if you were a little land owner or some subsistence farmer, and you were taking care of your family, and all you had was a hundred sheep, okay, that's one percent of your worth, and that might be a little sum of money, but even think about that. Who couldn't afford to see one percent go, and live on the 99? One percent of your assets. It may be a calamity. It may be, "Ah, we're not even going to miss it". This man lost one sheep out of a hundred. One sheep out of a hundred.
And by the way, you lose your dog? Did you ever see an advertisement, uh, taped to a lamp post that said, "Lost sheep. I've lost my lamb"? I mean, you may have, but I doubt it very much. Did you ever see one of those? "Sheep lost. Description: white and woolly". Uh, "Please call this number". Did you ever see that? You never saw that. But what did you see? You saw a "Lost kitten," a "Lost cat," and usually they're signs for lost what? Dogs, because the dog can become part of your family. I mean, there are people who let 'em up on the bed... uh, dog sleep in the garage or ride in the car or come in the house or get under the table or plop down in the living room or outside in the kennel. But you know what I'm saying. People and their dogs.
So you could understand that. This is a sheep. You don't hug a sheep. A sheep doesn't lay down next to you and put its head in your lap. It's a sheep. It's not a family pet 99 times out of a hundred. It's just a sheep. So, it's not expensive. It doesn't have great value. This isn't a parable about someone who lost a diamond, misplaced the crown jewels. It's a sheep. It's not a person who lost his brother, because you never stop searching for your lost brother. Dad went wandering off, ooh, I heard a, an unfortunate story, somebody I know from my childhood. The dad dealing with dementia, wandered off. Couldn't find dad. They moved, I mean, heaven and earth to find dad. Search parties, perfect strangers. It's a member of the family. When a member of the family goes missing, you leave no stone unturned. You do everything you gotta do. This was a sheep. And, by the way no offense here, but sheep can be pretty dumb. They can be pretty stubborn. They can act kind of strange. Uh, you know what I mean.
Now, I know there's gonna be an animal scientist who says, "Oh, no, wait a minute, the research actually demonstrates", but the rest of us think sheep are pretty stupid. So this wasn't an expensive animal. It wasn't a member of the family. It wasn't even anything especially smart. And here's someone, Jesus saying, if you lose a sheep, you are going to do everything you can to go and find the sheep. True or not? And they all had to admit, "Uh, you know, that, that's true, yeah, yeah, all right. We agree with that. Sure, sure". But Jesus went even further, and He said in verse 5, "And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he [comes] home, he [calls] together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, 'Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.'" Right?
Now, clearly these individuals would have said, "Oh, you know, he has a point. That's, that's exactly how we act about our sheep. 'Tis true". And then Jesus brought it home. He brought it home. He said in verse 7 of Luke chapter 15, "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance". Imagine this. Jesus is saying that He feels about the lost like one of these farmers would feel about a lost sheep. Now, we might look around the world and say, you know, people... what is this? We're getting close to 8 billion of 'em. They're everywhere. Uh, they're not worth a whole lot. I mean, dollar value? I don't know how you place a dollar value, I suppose. Some of them can be, I mean... less than wise in their thinking. We are prone to make mistakes. We're faulty. We were created to live forever. Sin has come and ravaged us. We get sick; we die. Everyone who dies dies young. We were supposed to live forever. We make trouble for God. We wander off like the sheep in the parable. Wander off.
Now, this is interesting, because sheep, if you know anything about them, they're great followers. It's not often that a sheep, one sheep, a lone sheep, will wander off, because sheep love to follow. They'll follow the flock. So this is a sheep that stepped out of line, that was stubborn. This was a sheep that wandered off for whatever reason. You might even have said, maybe the farmer would be better off without that sheep. Maybe. But the farmer saw something in the sheep that he valued. Jesus sees something in human beings which have wandered off, which have made mistakes, in fact, human beings whose sin held Jesus on an old rugged cross. And yet, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son". He came to this world, and like a loving, kind shepherd, pursued the lost sheep so that He might carry the lost sheep home.
It's a pretty tender picture, really, isn't it? There will be joy in heaven over one lost person who repents. Joy in heaven, more joy than over the 99 that don't need to repent. What does this tell you about God? Well, it tells you a lot, doesn't it? Tells you about the love of God and the patience of God and the longsuffering of God, and the willingness of God to go to any length, to do whatever He had to do, to the extent that Jesus would die on the cross... so that we can come home to heaven one day soon. Let's shift gears here. I don't want to minimize this. This is a picture of the tender love of God, the paternal love of the Father, one of Jesus', um, most treasured themes. It speaks to us about a Jesus who would, who would go searching for a sheep. Again, you know, not a, not a stallion, these things can sell for tens of millions of dollars. He didn't go searching for his lost Gauguin or Cézanne or da Vinci painting. This wasn't a work of art. Instead, this was one of the, one of God's own children, and Jesus said, "He might have wandered off, but I want to go find him. Wanna bring him back, I want to bring her back".
Let me just pause here for a second. Where are you in relation to God? Let me ask you. Oh, you might be just fine. You might be in a good spot. If you're honest, you'll concede that at the very least there are some glaring defects in your experience. You might even know that you're a long way from God. What's tragic is if you're a long way from God and you don't know. But you might be a long way from God; you might have wandered off. And what does this story tell us about God's love for you? The Bible tells us that even when you wander off, it was the sheep's fault, I think, even when it's your fault, even when the guilt is yours, even when you've made mistakes, Jesus is willing to come after you and bring you home.
It's a beautiful story. Let's shift this direction now. I met a fellow who was raised in the church but then wandered off. I think, I think he was a teenager, and he just wandered off. He told me he lived a rough life. From time to time he would come back to church. He'd come back, he'd go off, and, he had family members still in the church, you know. Rough life, off he went, and he would come back, and he'd fall away, and he would come back, and he'd visit, go again. He admitted to me that he'd had some vices in his life. And he was right about that. He said they were some fairly significant vices, and he was right about that, too. What he told me...was something a little bit alarming. He said, "I've been attending church again, off and on", frankly, I think, more off than on, "for about three years". He said, "And I've never yet made any real connections in that church. We don't know anyone".
His wife, who has no background in church, has gone to church with him once or twice. And after three years of walking in and out of those doors, he's not able to say that he's made any kind of meaningful connection with anybody inside that church. I want you to think about that. I wonder if there's somebody like that where you go to church. I wonder if that's you. At the same time, I met a... I'll come back to the guy, I met a young woman who told me that she came back to church after, ooh, I could do the math actually, after about 21 years of being gone. Now she's, you know, she's older. If someone called her young, she'd probably be pleased if we did, but she's a whole lot older than she was. And she came to church and reached out to the church, emailed, texted. Nothing. No reply, no response.
I know you would say, "Oh, that'd never happen in my church". But if you went to that church, you would probably say the same thing. It is a wonder that she has hung in there, I mean, a miracle that she's hung in there. She came back to God. You know how difficult it is to come back to church after being gone for more than two decades and then be ignored? She talked to me about this with tears running down her face. Ignored! But she hung in there. My friend, most people don't hang in there. They come to church, and they get ignored, and they get the message. The message is, "You are unloved. You are unwanted".
Now, you might say, "Ah, but they might smell". By the way, neither of these people did. Ah, they might not look like us. They might not talk like us. They might not have been my same culture. They might not, might not, might not... wait a minute! They're children of God. You might be waiting for somebody else to make the first move. But what's necessary is that somebody steps forward, shakes that person by the hand. Come and sit with me. What are you doing for lunch? By the way, Wednesday night, would you come back? Or Monday? I'd love to meet you at Taco Bell or take a walk or ride a bike or see you at the gym or...whatever it might be. So the one young lady, she managed to hang in there. The other man, a little older, well, he's kinda hanging in there, but he's kinda hanging out. "Not one person has made any kind of real contact with me".
You know how easy it is to fix that sort of thing? A handshake, a hug, if that's appropriate, a conversation, a visit. I am guaranteeing you, as far as my limited powers enable me to guarantee, that if someone had reached out, if someone had said, "We're gonna be here at lunch on Sunday. Why don't you join us"? If somebody had said, "We're going to the, to the park," or the national park, or the, I don't care what, "Why don't you join us"? I'm almost willing to guarantee that this fellow would be in the church, boots and all, and, more than likely, his wife, because often all people need is love, is care, is somebody saying, "I'm really actually interested in you". And often it means stepping across a boundary.
Different race, does that matter? Different color, does that matter? Different age, does that matter? I can tell you about my friend who, when he was a young man, joined the church, was baptized; he figured out pretty quickly, "There's no one like me in this church". He was young, and he was basically a hippie. He had no one "who looks like me in this church, no one who speaks my language, you know, my culture, no one really my age". Some elderly people spoke to him that first week he was in church: "I don't know if you have plans for lunch, but if you'd like to come and join us, then we would, we'd sure love it if you would". And he said, Wow, they're old. But I'm hungry. And hunger trumps everything, even an age difference. "Sure". Don't know these people from anybody. I'll go to their home and eat their food, sure. And he had a happy time.
Oh, there's a big age difference, but does that matter when you're extending friendship to somebody? No. So the next week he comes to church, and, psshew! they zoom right up to him, and they say, "You know, we had such a good time last week, and we would love it if you'd if you'd come and have lunch with us again. Would you do that? I mean, if you don't have any other plans". And he didn't, and so he said to himself, Well, that food was pretty good, and I'm a young man, and I don't have to go home and take care of myself. "Absolutely". Third week he came to church, they come to him and they say, "Hello, good to see you. How you doing? We've got the table set already, and we've got a place set for you, so we'll see you for lunch later". They just assumed it.
You know, there might have been a great age disparity between the older couple and the young hippie. There might have been a great cultural disparity between the older, clean-cut, straight-laced folks and this guy who'd just come out of the world and was recently baptized and didn't look like everybody else at church looked. But none of that mattered. What mattered was love. What mattered was, was care. And somebody loved him. And somebody cared for him, and that's what made the difference. You see, if Jesus is willing to demonstrate to us... that God was willing to go beyond the extra mile and do whatever needed to be done to reach a lost world, to reach a hopeless world, to reach a sinful and rebellious world, can't we step out of our comfort zone once or twice to extend to others that same love and care and concern? Wherever you go to church, there's a roll of the church members on it.
Half the people on that roll don't come. And half of them don't know anybody in church or haven't been in church in forever, and no one's reached out to them. No one stopped by their house one afternoon after church and said, "Hey, we missed ya today. Love for you to go next week. Here's a bulletin and here's a, here's a copy of the pastor's sermon, and, hey, if you're not doing anything Wednesday..." You think it would make a difference? True, in some people's cases it would make no difference at all. But in others, it'd make a difference all right. Might make an eternal difference. There are people in our midst; these are the low-hanging fruit. Someone comes to church, shows their face, walks off. No, no, no. If they're coming to church, they're coming to you; there's a reason they're there.
Check it out; ask questions; be a friend. You don't want to be all on them like a rash. You don't want to be a trouble, but, I would certainly err on the side of friendliness rather than on the side of diffidence. Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost. When Jesus showed up, sinners showed up. And some of them didn't look good, and some of them didn't smell good and some of them didn't talk appropriately, and some of them didn't act like pillars of society. But they were attracted to Jesus. I wonder if we can work on attracting people to us. Attracting people to the church first is, is what I'm saying, by being welcoming and kind and presenting a Jesus that people will be drawn to. But then, outside of the corporate attraction, I wonder if we can work individually on attracting people to Jesus, on going after the lost, on issuing an invitation, on showing love.
Can we work on just being concerned? Can we work on being nice? Nice? Jesus was nice, and there's a certain power in genuine lovingkindness, as Jesus demonstrated in His life. Are there people near you that you can reach? Is there somebody who's gonna stumble into the, in through the doors of your church sometime soon that you can make a difference in that person's life? Is there someone who used to come to church, someone you know who will engage in spiritual conversations, that you could just engage with and pray, "Lord, lead this process. Lead me in that person's life"?
I'm sure there are people like that. And when we become welcoming, and when we become accepting, and when we become loving and lovable, then God's going to trust us with more people that He sends our way. Right attitude is followed by the moving of the Spirit of God. You prepare yourself; God will say, "There's a, a person, there's a body of believers that I can trust with some of my precious children who are looking to find their way home". Jesus is coming back soon. I know you believe that. I believe that. We look today in Luke chapter 15 at a Man who, according to the passage, "receives sinners". Oh yes, He does. A Man who goes to the extent that when one lost sheep has wandered off, He leaves everything behind to go after that lost sheep. You see, the lost sheep are precious to Jesus. How precious are they to you? Let me pray with you now.
Our Father in heaven, all around us there are hurting, dying, suffering, longing, wandering, waiting, willing individuals. I wonder, Lord, if You'd open our eyes to them. Sometimes they walk into our midst. Sometimes they are there sitting in the pews. Sometimes we see them at work, or we see them when we're out walking, or we see them. Lord, give us a burden for souls. Grant that we would value the lost sheep in the same way Jesus did. What are they worth? If a painting, a painting can be valued by someone at $450 million, if Jesus can value a sinner to the extent that He would die for that person, making a sinner the most expensive purchase in all of history, then we, Lord, can enter into that work of representing You and reaching out to someone. Lord, prepare our hearts; bring them to us, or bring us to them, that we might represent Jesus and attract people to Jesus and the cross. We ask You, in Jesus' name, please say with me, amen.