Sunday, June 03, 2007

Care for the lost as Jesus did (1)

God put us a burden to reach the lost in a country other than our own. He put a burden in our hearts to go to the unreached people here and tell the people here that they are lost if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. My wife and I attended a short mission training course and every time we will pray for Buddhist people in Indochina, we could not help but become so emotional. We would cry praying for them. We know for sure that we have been called to go overseas mission four years before we actually left. Why did it take four years?

For one thing, we could not muster enough support for the trip and for our living expenses as we minister here. The Southern Baptist denomination in the Philippines just doesn’t have the structure and the capacity to send overseas missionary. It doesn’t even have any program or platform that we can utilize as we come here. Nevertheless, we trust God that if he wants us to go, we will follow. And now we are here and the rest is history.

Now I believe the challenge for us is how are we going to do mission without an organization that can provide us a good ministry platform? How can we reach lost people and eventually make them believe that they need to believe in Jesus Christ because he alone can save them?
The answer: We only have to look at lost people just like Jesus did. In Luke chapter 15 verses 1-15, Jesus told a series of stories about the lost.

1Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I 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. 8"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The first story is about a sheep farmer. Being a shepherd in Jesus’ day was a little different. It wasn’t an easy job. Good pasture was not plenty so that shepherd would take his flock where it could be found. There weren’t fences to contain sheep so they would wander and get lost or fall over a cliff and hurt themselves. Sheep are not smart, so it wasn’t unusual that they get lost. It was not unusual for a shepherd to find a lost sheep for some distance even risks his own life to bring the sheep back to the fold. He would not stop until he would bring the sheep back to the village which at that time collectively owned the flock. The return of the shepherd with the lost sheep in his shoulder would bring joy and celebration to the whole village. Jesus was saying, that it is what God is like. God is like a shepherd who wonders the hills searching for lost and injured strays.

In the second story Jesus talks about a woman who loses a silver coin. Today it would not be hard to look for a lost coin inside our house. But during those time houses were dark inside, the only light would come from a small window. The floor was probably beaten earth covered with dry reeds. The woman would have lit a lamp for extra light and then swept the floor in the hope that she might see light reflects off it, or it might make a noise as she moved it.

There are two reasons why a silver coin would have been worth the search. First, it represented a lot of money for a poor woman. To lose it meant hunger. Secondly, it may have sentimental value. One of the marks of a married woman in those days was a headdress made of 10 silver coins linked together by a chain, like my wedding ring it declares a commitment in marriage. Maybe the chain had broken and she could only find nine coins.

The picture Jesus painted was of someone desperate and determined to find it. This was a coin of huge importance; she would turn the house upside down until she found it. Jesus was saying, that is what God is like towards those who are lost. He values lost people like a woman searching for her coin.

So what are the lessons Jesus wanted us to learn from these two stories? Several come to mind. The first is that lost people matter to God. The gospel of the message is that God goes to unbelievable lengths to find lost people.

This was a radical new thought to the religious teachers of Jesus day, who criticized him for eating and socializing with people who were sinners. To their way of thinking, people who don’t live by God’s rules are ignored. God only cares for those who stay close to him. Those who are lost are beyond the scope of his love and mercy.

But according to Jesus, the reverse is true. God’s love and care for lost sinners is immense. He pursues them until he finds them, and when he brings them home all of heaven celebrate.

This is adapted from Dr. Brian Winslade's message at the 7th Asian Baptist Congress

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