Robert Jeffress - The Value Of Lost Things
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Imagine if your wallet, your keys, or your phone go missing, you wouldn't stop looking until you found them. And in much the same way, God is relentlessly searching for those who are lost in their sin. Today, we're going to look at three powerful parables that Jesus used to demonstrate God's tireless compassion for those who have lost their way. My message is titled, "The Value of Loss Things," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
There was 1978, Dr. Criswell had just hired me to be the youth minister here and he said, "Now son, your first job is to go with that chapel choir in a couple of weeks to Russia". Well, 1978 was a time when tensions between the us and the Soviet Union were at a zenith. And we felt that the time we were in Russia. There was an oppressive atmosphere during the days we were there. And we were really relieved when the time came for us to leave the Soviet Union and go to our next stop in Italy. We were scheduled on a midnight flight from Moscow to Rome. And so we arrived at the airport. The kids went through the passport control and the soviet soldiers were there with their machine guns. And then the sponsors went through and I was the last one to go through the passport control. So when it was my time, I reached into my pocket for my passport and it wasn't there. And so I searched in my other pocket and it wasn't there. And frantically, I searched my pants pocket, no passport.
And so there were the kids and the sponsors on the other side, getting ready to get on that plane to Rome. And so I went to the soldiers, explain my plight. They were unmoved by my pleading, trust me. All of a sudden, there was a sponsor on the other side who began to laugh and he reached into his pocket and pulled out my passport. By the time I was reunited with my passport, what did I do with that passport? Did I throw it down in anger, disgust, and say, "If you want to separate from me, so be it. I don't ever want to have anything to do with you again". No, there was a great sense of relief that came over me when I was reunited with my passport. I held onto that thing. I clung to that passport and I vowed never to let it out of my sight again. You see, when we lose something of value, we don't hate it, instead, we search for it and we're overjoyed when we find it. Lost things have great value to us. Lost things have great value to God as well. And that's the theme of the parables we're going to look at today.
If you have your Bibles turn to Luke chapter 15, as we discovered the value of lost things, Luke 15 contains perhaps the most famous of all of the parables that Jesus told. It was the parable of the lost son, the prodigal son. But really this story of the prodigal son is just the third of three parables that Jesus told, all of which had the very same theme. In all three of these parables, Jesus reminds us that God does not hate lost people, God does not hate sinners, instead, God loves sinners. He searches for them and he is overjoyed when he finds them. Let's look at Luke chapter 15, beginning with verse one. By the way, the setting, the context of this parable is not incidental, it's essential to understanding what Jesus is saying. Verse one, "Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near to Jesus to listen to him".
The pharisees, the Jews have rejected these people. The pharisees said, "God hates you. He wants to keep you out of heaven," but it was Jesus who said, "God loves you. He wants you to come and be a part of his kingdom". And by the way, people today are still attracted to that message. Look at verse 2, "But both the pharisees and the scribes began to grumble". By the way, God hates grumbling and he hates grumblers. And God, they begin to grumble and they said, "This man receives sinners and he eats with them". But what the pharisees meant as a criticism, Jesus took as the supreme compliment because that was his mission in Luke 19:10. He said that's why I came. The Son of Man came to seek and to save those who are lost. And Jesus was simply reflecting the heart of God the Father. God, the Father does not hate sinners. He loves them, he searches for them and he is overjoyed when he finds them.
And to drive that truth home beginning in verse three, he tells three parables. Look at verse 4, one is about a shepherd. "What man among you, if he has 100 sheep and has lost one of them does not leave the 99 in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it"? If a shepherd loses a sheep, does he say, "Sheep, if you want to wander away so be it I hope you get eaten by a wolf". Is that his attitude? No, he leaves 99 sheep to go search for that one whole sheep. And when he finds it, does he seek to punish it? Does he seek revenge? No, he loves that lost sheep and he rejoices when he finds it. Verse 7, Jesus said, "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance".
I ran across a statement by somebody who said, "What sets off the fireworks in heaven, not 99, legalists grimly checking off their to-do lists to please God, no, it's one prostitute weeping at the feet of Jesus. It's one criminal on the cross saying, Lord, remember me. That's what lights up the skies and heaven". And he goes on and he says in verse 8, "What about a woman if she has 10 silver coins," verse 8, "And loses one coin does not lie to lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it"? She does not say to the coin, "If you want to escape from me so be it. I'll just keep the other nine". No, she searches for that which is lost. And in the same way, he says what, man, if he has two sons, if he loses a son, doesn't go and search for that lost son? God does not hate those who are lost. He loves them. He searches for them and he's overjoyed when he finds them.
And all three of these parables I find two common themes in all three. I want you to jot them down on your outline. The first is the most obvious in all three parables, Jesus is teaching us about the value of lost things. Lost things have value. And ladies and gentlemen never forget this, even though we are infected with sin, the moment we are born, we are still of great value to God. You are valuable to God. In fact, you are of such value to God that God was willing to pay the ultimate price, to redeem you and sending his own son Christ to die for you. The value of lost things. The second theme in these parables is the activity of a loving God, the activity of a loving God. Notice that it is the one who has lost something that takes the initiative in all three of these passages in searching for that, which was lost. And it's the same way with us. We don't wake up one day and say, you know what, I'm lost, I think I want to be saved. It doesn't work that way. We are not the ones who take the initiative in our salvation, it is God who always takes the first step.
Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrated his love toward us and that while we were yet sinners, far away from God, Christ died for us". We didn't go searching for Jesus. God came running after us. First, John 4:10 said, "And here in his love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and gave himself as the propitiation, the satisfaction for our sins". This idea that God loves sinners, that he searches for them, that he rejoices when he finds them. Those ideas were completely lost on the pharisees. You see the pharisees were constantly teaching that God hates sinners, that he's trying to keep as many people as possible out of heaven. Jesus said, no, God loves those who are lost, he searches for them, and he rejoices when he finds them. And to drive that truth home, Jesus tells this third climactic parable.
Look at verse 11 with me where you it's the story of a lost son. Notice how it starts. We have a lost sheep, we have a lost coin, and now the story of a lost son. And the story is told in four acts. Act one deals with the rebellion against the father, verse 11. And Jesus said a certain man had two sons. By the way, this story is not just about the son who leaves this story is just as much about the son who stays and about the father's response to the son. Look at it with me, verse 11. "And he said, 'a certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father give me the share of the estate that falls to me"'".
Now in the Middle Eastern culture, it was completely forbidden for a son to ever talk to his father about his inheritance. But this son violates that. And basically what he says to his dad. He comes to him one day and says, dad, I wish you were dead, but since you're not going to die anytime soon, I want you to go ahead and give me my share of the estate so I can get out of here. That request must've come like a knife into the father's heart. The inference is the father pleads with him perhaps for several days. But finally, verse 12, he relents and the father divided his wealth between his two sons. According to Jewish custom, the older son would get two-thirds of the estate. The younger son would get one-third of the estate. So the younger son gets that third of the estate, he liquidates it verse 13 "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and he went on a journey into a distant country and there he squandered his estate with loose living".
Later, we find he spent it on prostitutes and not only with prostitutes, with the alcohol and other kind of loose living. Verse 14, "Now, when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in the country and he began to be in need". He lost it all. And as soon as his money evaporated, his friends evaporated as well. And so verse 15, "He went and he attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into the fields to feed the swine". One can imagine a more humiliating job for a young Jewish man than feeding the pigs. But that's what he was reduced to. You know what's ironic the son left father in search for freedom, but he became another person's slave. In verse 16, it says, "And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating and no one was giving him anything".
And these events led to the second act in this story, the return of the son. Look at verse 17. "But when he came to his senses, he said, how many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread? But I'm dying here with hunger. My father's slaves have more than I have". And then he came up with a plan. Verse 18, "This is what I'll do. I'll get up and I will go to my father and I will say to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, I'm no longer worthy to be called your son and I'm going to make you a deal you can't refuse. Just make me as one of your hired men". He thought to himself, "Surely my father will respond to this deal".
So I imagine for the next few days, he rehearsed that speech to his father as he fed the pigs, the pigs were the audience. He rehearsed that speech over and over and over again. And finally, when he thought he had it down perfectly, he decided it was time to go home. Verse 20 and he got up and he came to his father. Remember what I said, this story is not so much about the rebellion of the son or even the return of the sun as it is about the response of the father. Look at verse 20. "But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and he felt compassion for him, and he ran and embraced him and kissed him". The son was walking, but when the father saw him against all culture, a man of dignity would never run. But this man didn't care about dignity. His boy was coming home. So he lifted up his robe and he ran as fast as he could to meet his son. The Bible says he embraced him and he kissed him.
Verse 21, and now the son was ready to begin his big speech he had rehearsed. The boy he said, "Father, I have sinned and I," and the father cut him off. He didn't want to hear any speeches. He didn't want to hear any deals. All he needed to hear were the words I'm sorry. That's all it took. And the father yelled to his servants' verse 22, "Quickly bring out the best robe, the festival robe the one for occasions like this and put it on him and put the signet ring the ring of authority on his hand and sandals on his feet and bring the fattened calf and kill it for this son of mine was dead and he's come to life again. He was lost, and he's been found". And they began to be merry. Son who was lost, had come home.
Was the father angry? No, he had been searching, waiting for his return. This would have been a great place to end the story. But had Jesus ended the story here we would have missed the point of the story. This story is not only about the response of the loving father, but also the reaction of the older brother. The fourth and final act begins in verse 25. "Now his older son was in the field and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing and he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring about what these things might be. And he said to him, your brother has come and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound. But he became angry and was unwilling to go in".
Remember Jesus told this story to silence the criticism of the pharisees who criticized Jesus for receiving sinners. If the younger son represents sinners and gentiles who were being saved, the father represented God. This older brother is representative of the pharisees. The pharisees who criticized Jesus for loving sinners. And what I want you to notice here is instead of coming in and be in a co-host with his father as was his obligation instead, this older son was unwilling to go into his father's house and enjoy the celebration. Now here's the point, this older son, because of his self-righteousness was just as much outside his father's house as that younger son had been, when he was living in the distant country. Both were outside the father's house.
And notice his complaint. Verse 28, "His father came out and began in treating him, begging him saying come in". But look, verse 29, the older son's complaint. "But he answered and he said to his father, 'look for so many years, I have been serving you and I've never neglected the command of yours and yet you have never given me a kid that I might be merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth and harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him'". That doesn't seem fair. We sympathize with the older brother because quite frankly, we identify with the older brother. We see ourselves not as the prodigal, not as the one living in a botched lifestyle, we see ourselves as pretty good people, faithful, serving God. And sometimes we find it a little bit difficult to stomach that somebody who's lived their life in immorality and living for themselves could suddenly at the last minute trust in Jesus as their Savior and occupy the same heaven that we do, that just doesn't seem right.
But notice what God is saying to us, he's saying whether it is because of blatant sin or because of subtle, self-righteousness both people are outside the father's house. Notice how the father responds. He says in verse 31, "And he said to him, my child, you have always been with me and all that is mine is yours. I haven't done you any wrong. I gave you two-thirds of the estate, it's yours". Verse 32, "But we had to be merry and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, he was lost and now he's been found".
You know, what's interesting to me about this story is Jesus never tells us how it ends. The story ends without an ending. We don't know if the older brother ever came in to join the party or whether he remained outside. And the reason is it was still an open question when Jesus told this story. Will the pharisee stay outside of God's household, would they hold onto their self-righteousness and refuse to acknowledge that they were sinners in need of a Savior, or what would their choice be? As I look at this parable of the lost son, I really find that it has two specific appeals, two invitations. First of all, there is an invitation Jesus extends to those of you who like the younger son are living apart from God. Listen to what Jesus is saying. If you find yourself in that place, remember God doesn't hate you. He loves you. He loves you so much that he set into motion, the ultimate rescue plan and sending Christ his son to die on the cross for you.
But there's a second appeal in this invitation. It's for those of us who might be more like the older brother. Perhaps you're someone who would say, "Well, I'm not perfect. I've got my faults, but thank God I don't do drugs and I'm not involved in immorality. I'm a pretty good person. I'm not like these other people". Listen to what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying, "Unless you realize you are just as guilty as the worst sinner of all time until you come to that point in your life, you can never be in a position to receive the gift of forgiveness that God wants to give you". You see this parable is an invitation to anyone who is outside the father's house, either because of blatant sin in your life or because of subtle self-righteousness. The invitation is the same. Come home, come home to the father who loves you.