God smiles when Christians strive to be holy and Christlike. The Holy Spirit is overjoyed. However, the true celebration in Heaven begins each time a person who is distant from God draws close to Him. Do Christians today still have a passion to share Jesus’ love with others who do not yet know Him?
In his latest message, ‘Lost Sheep’, Pastor Jeff Vines looks at the Parable from Luke:15. He reminds us that we should never lose our desire to seek those who are lost and far from God. If you’re feeling like a lost sheep yourself right now, this message will bring you great comfort and strength.
Jeff grew up in a church that strongly believed in the doctrine of hell. But he says they had zero passion for the lost, and it was a place of no joy because it was salvation by works. You can’t have any joy when you think that you’re accepted before God on the basis of how good you were last week.
Jesus is Relevant
‘I believed that Jesus was relevant, but the church wasn’t,’ says Jeff. ‘There’s no such thing as a half-hearted Christian. When I was young, God challenged me to share the Gospel with my basketball team. They thought my life was boring and didn’t understand that if you live between the parameters that God gives you, you will have an abundant life.’
In Luke:15 Jesus Himself welcomed the sinners. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law started talking to each other, muttering about this man who ate with ‘those people.’ But Jesus knew their hearts. And He tells them the story of the lost sheep.
‘Suppose one of you has 100 sheep and loses one of them,’ says Jeff. ‘Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country to find the one? Jesus always has a plan. He’s strategic. He’s not giving up until he brings that sheep home. And the Bible says when He finds it, He joyfully puts it on His shoulders and rejoices.’
The shepherd then calls his friends and neighbours together and says, rejoice with me. I found the lost sheep. In the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Celebration in Heaven
‘There’s a great intentionality on Jesus’ part,’ Jeff explains. ‘He doesn’t wait for the lost sheep to come home. He goes and gets it. He’s not waiting for it to come to him. He’s taking great risks to find the one who’s away from God. Then He introduces the idea of celebration. When the one is found, everybody stops and celebrates.’
Many of us have experienced churches that have no passion for people far from God. Their number one priority is to consume. Their lives are busy, and they spend no time with God during the week. When they come to church, they want everything to be just the way they want it.
Jeff believes that’s what happens when we turn inward. ‘Unless we have a passion for the people out there, we’re not going to discover every good and perfect gift that comes from God in Christ Jesus. The church can quickly become irrelevant, and just keep preaching to the choir week after week.’
God accepts us on the basis of what Jesus did on the cross, not on how good we are. When you give your life to Christ the Spirit of God comes in and He starts to transform you. But some churches have it backward. They expect people to behave and be like Jesus before they allow them in.
Proclaiming the Good News
‘It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to come inside you and begin to conform you to the image of a son,’ says Jeff. ‘It’s not our job to make others live right. We are to deliver the good news of the Gospel so the Spirit of God will come in and start His work.’
We should never stop proclaiming the good news, leaving the 99 and being willing to go where Jesus leads us. Jesus takes us into the wilderness and He leads us to the cross where we learn to die to self to live for something else.
‘If we are all in together, then we can reach the world for Christ,’ says Jeff. ‘We never have to say no to an opportunity God sends our way because we’re overflowing with resources. The question is how far you and I are willing to go to rescue people?’
‘Jesus was willing to momentarily leave those He relentlessly loves to relentlessly pursue those who risk forever being separated from Him. What are you and I willing to do?’
When things go wrong in life, what do you do? How do you respond when times get tough? Join Ps Jeff Vines at Church in this 4 part preaching series ‘Don’t Panic, God Has It‘ available from the Vision Store.
Listen to Jeff’s full message below, and for more resources visit our Vision Store.