Do you feel graceful these days? Do u feel joyful? Do u feel God's love frequently in your heart? These days as you may have heard, there are so many tragic news around the world. How can we change this world where sin seems to dominate and people feels anxious for their own security. Many people who joined IS the terrorist group have deep hatred in their heart because they are oppressed in the world. Their hatred is used by the IS. How can we change people's heart? Then I realized again the importance of spreading the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, sharing God's love is the only way to change the world.
The problem is whether we who have already received God's love understand God's love for us. Paul truly understood God's love and he devoted His life to spreading the love of God in Jesus Christ. We can say in retrospect that he did bring great change to the world he was living in. Now there are many more Christians compared to Jesus' time but the world seems to become worse and worse. If there is one person who understands God's love and devotes his life to spreading God's love as Paul did, the person can change the world. I hope that this kind of person can be raised in our church.
Therefore I would like to meditate with you on God's love again through the famous parable about the lost sheep.
The parable is in gospel of Luke 15:1-7.
Let us read them together.
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 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? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors 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 persons who do not need to repent.
This is a very simple parable but also deep. It reveals our God's deep love for us sinners. It also reveals to us the close relationship we have with God. In this parable Jesus also teaches us the root of all our problems in life. Our relationship to God is like the close relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. Sheep is famous for her momo, which means "do not leave me, do not leave me!" The sheep needs her shepherd absolutely. She is afraid of being left alone by the shepherd. We know that sheep does not have a good sense of direction, she needs the guidance of her shepherd otherwise she may easily go astray from the shepherd. Sheep is very weak and she needs the shepherd's protection. There are wolves looking forward to devouring the sheep. In the same way we human need God absolutely. We are created by God and we need God in an absolute sense. We need God to provide us the spiritual food, his word. We also need God's guidance to live our life in the world which is created by God with laws. God has a purpose and a plan for us when he created us. We need God's guidance to find out the plan God has for us and we need God's guidance to live our life according to his purpose for us. Otherwise we will end up wasting our precious time and living an empty and meaningless and unfulfilling life in the eyes of God our creator. Having seen how close the sheep is to the shepherd, we know the root of the lost sheep's misery is that she is lost, she has lost the shepherd in her life. For us sinners, the root of all our misery, sufferings and tragedies in life is that we have lost our creator God.
Have we opened our eyes to our need of God? When we have a good life, we normally can not see how much we need God. It seems that we do not need God and we can still live a good life. Nothing can be further from the truth. We need God just like the sunflowers need the sun. Without the sun, the sunflowers cannot live well and blossom. The good news is that just like the shepherd who does not leave the lost sheep alone, so God will not leave us alone. he will allow us to come across troubles, difficulties and sufferings and misery in life so that we may come to the realization that we need God. Let us read 2 Cor. 1:8-10 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, you know we are so stubborn that unless we come to the dead end of our life we will not bow down before God. If we can handle a problem, normally we will not choose to rely on God. To awake us to the truth, sufferings are good for us.
Do you have troubles in your life now? Are you in sufferings now? Do u find many difficulties in your life now? Do you know that the root of all your problems is that you have lost GOD? Or you think you need other things such as more money, ability, a wife or a husband or a better job? Through Romans 1, we have learned how sins develop and how misery increases in our life. It starts from being ungodly, not giving God the respect and worship and gratitude he deserves. In other words we do not want to put God in our heart. We do not want to come to know this God through the Bible, through bible studies. Let us read Romans 1:28 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
Through the close relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, we have to come to know that we definitely need God and when we lose God or the desire for God, we will encounter problems and troubles in life.
Then let us look at the condition of the lost sheep. Think about why the sheep gets lost! Think about how the lost sheep may feel if you were the lost sheep! I guess that the sheep does not know the shepherd's love for her. She may also feel not accepted by the other 99 sheep. Or She feels out of place when she is with them. She would rather be alone. But it is dangerous to be alone. Gradually she gets lost. How may she feel when being alone, away from the shepherd and other sheep? I think she will feel lonely and unsafe. She will worry about the future and feel uncertain about what lies ahead of her.
At this moment her greatest need is for love and protection in love. This is a crucial moment for the lost sheep. If the lost sheep does not realize this need for the shepherd and his love the shepherd cannot bring her back when he finds her.
Can u understand this lost sheep? If you have similar experience, you will understand her. Have you felt being rejected and lonely? Do you have good friends? Do you still feel lonely in spite of your many friends? What do you desire at the moment? You are looking for someone to love you, aren't you? You wonder who can love you for who you are. Who will accept me completely when he sees my problems and weaknesses? The greatest need we have I believe is the desire for love. For we are created in the image of God, the image of love. All of us have the strong desire to be loved, accepted and valued. We are thirsty for love above all things. You can have all the wealth and power in the world, without love in your life, I am sure that you will not be satisfied. A sister told me that the wealthy are so poor that they only have money left and they always drink alcohol to deal with their sorrows and loneliness in their heart. Actually this world is not short of love. We see people talk about love in music, movies, books, almost everywhere. Why we still cannot feel being loved in the world? Because we want the kind of love that loves us unconditionally, that will not change and that will last. In this world love is very conditional and therefore it changes quickly. As a result we do not feel satisfied and joyful in this kind of love in the world, but we feel hurt and we receive harm instead. You know the story about the samaritan woman. She has had five husbands and she still has one with her but none of them is her real husband. None of them loves her unconditionally. Until Jesus came to her, she finally found her real husband. Are you still searching for love? Have you found anyone in the world in your search for real love who can satisfy your desire for unconditional love? Only God loves you so much and only Jesus' love for you can truly meet your need for love.
At last we want to look at the shepherd. He lost one sheep out of 100 but the shepherd does not say it is ok. I still have 99 with me. The loss of one sheep does not matter to me. What did he do? Look at the second part of verse 4. He left the 99 in the open country and went to find the lost sheep as if the one lost sheep were worth more than the 99 sheep to him. For the shepherd he loves every sheep and he knows all of them by their names. Each and everyone of the sheep is so precious to him that he cannot tolerate losing any one of them. How can we understand the shepherd's heart? The parents who have children understand the shepherd. For the parents, each child is precious to them. There are so touching real stories in life about some parents whose child were stolen when they were young and who did not give upon looking for the lost child until they eventually found the child after 10 years' effort. You may feel that you are nobody to God since there are so many people on the planet. You may feel that you are not precious because when you compare yourself to others, you see that you have nothing to boast about. But you are God's child. God loves you and you are very precious to Him just because you are God's child. However many of us do not know our priceless value and God's love for us until God found us.
Though the shepherd loves the lost sheep and values her dearly, she still feels she is nothing and nobody loves her and cares for her. The shepherd knows the sheep and knows how she may think. He goes to look for her. The shepherd wants the lost sheep to know how much he loves and cherishes her. The shepherd will not go home until he finds the lost sheep. That says how much he loves her. God loves us and he wants us to know it. God's effort in history is to reveal to us the truth about his love for us. In order to show us His love God gave us His word and sent us His prophets and eventually His one and only Son Jesus. Jesus came to this sinful world and was born in a manger for this world did not welcome Him. Jesus taught us God's love for us in this parable we learn today. He also showed us God's love by healing people of their illnesses and diseases and choosing to suffer with them. Eventually we know that God's people did not accept Jesus and Gods' love for them but crucified Him. However Jesus asked for forgiveness at the cross for people and offered his blood to atone for our sins. That is God's unconditional love for us. Though we need God's love, God comes to us first. Though we deserve to die for our sins, God sacrificed His son at the cross for us. God wants us to know that he loves us and we are very precious to Him. I did not know my value personally and even wanted to commit suicide in the past. Until God's love came to my heart and touched me deeply did I accept myself. Have you opened your eyes to God's love? Only in God's love can we find our true value.
How can we receive this love of God and come back to Him?
The answer is in verse 7. We need to repent of our sins. God loves us so much but we do not trust Him. God deserves our praise and honor but we do not care about Him. We should live our life to glorify God but our aim is to glorify ourselves. We need to obey God's laws but we follow our own way. Do you remember a sinful woman came to Jesus and wept over her sins when he was invited to pharisee Simon's home? That depicts for us a true picture of repentance. Don't you want to cry over your sins which break the holy God's heart our loving Father's heart when you begin to realize His deep love for you?
When we repent, our Father is so joyful that he wants to celebrate in heaven. The joy is like a parent found back his lost son. The joy is beyond words to express.
To sum it up, we see our greatest need is the need for unconditional love and God wants us to know he did love us unconditionally. How much God wants us to go back to Him!
This message is not new to you. However have you truly understood God's love for you? I pray to God that He can open our eyes to see God's love through this simple parable.