- ABOUT US
- Calendar and News
- READING PLAN
- The Chosen
Parables to Live By
A Heavenly Party: “The Parable of Lost Things”
You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI54z3N0B2g&t=1s
How many of you have lost something that was precious or important to you? For myself, this seems to be the norm. I’ve lost just about everything, from my wallet, credit cards, driver license, clothes, watches, rings, and glasses. In fact, if you name it, I’ve lost it. I’ve lost my place in a song and in a line, but out of all the things I’ve lost, the one thing that I miss the most is my mind.
And I don’t think I’m alone on this. I was reading about one pastor who continually lost his car keys. It got so bad that his family got him a clapper that you put on a key ring. All you had to do is clap your hands and it beeps and tells you where it is. Now, most of you think I’m going to say he forgot how to clap, but no, he just lost the clapper.
Now, with that question out of the way, how about another; “What is it in life that really gets you excited? I mean, what is it that really gets your heart pumping? What gives you the greatest joy in life, where you just want to smile, jump, dance, and shout, ‘Yee hah?’” If such a thing naturally comes out of our mouths?
When I think about that, I wonder if anything really gets the church excited. We’ve become so puckered up in our religiosity that even a stick of dynamite couldn’t move us.
But think about it? What gets us fired up? Would it be winning Publisher Clearing House Sweepstakes, making a hole-in-one when everyone is looking, or how about the Golden Knights winning another championship? Maybe it’s hearing the words, “cancer free,” or that a loved one will be all right. And it’s different for everyone. What gets us excited isn’t always what gets someone else excited.
But for those of us who are Christians, who claim to love Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, let me submit that we should get excited about what God and all of heaven gets excited about.
What Causes Heaven to Have a Party?
Now, when it comes to celebration, when it comes to having a party, Lorna Wing, the British counterpart to Martha Stewart said, “People are made to party.” Now, I’m not advocating this stance, but it’s true that everyone loves a good party, especially in America. Weren’t we the ones who coined the phrase, “TGIF,” or “Thank God It’s Friday!”
People live for the weekend and having a good time, which should speak volumes to those who approach church on Sunday with all the enthusiasm of a snail on a hot summer’s day.
Now, what makes a good party isn’t necessary the food, although lots of chocolate works, nor is it the decorations, or the music. What really makes a party are the people, the relationships we have, it’s the host and hostess, and it’s all the other guests.
Nothing is worse than being at a party and feeling like an outsider, feeling like you don’t fit in or don’t belong. Others are having a good time, connecting, and enjoying the company of others, but you seem to be the odd person out. These are the type of parties we would rather forget and get out of.
It is for this reason that my deepest desire that all who come through these doors at Living Waters Fellowship develop real and lasting relationships, a connection with the host, Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church, and then a connection with the other guests to His celebration, that is other believers.
It is my deepest desire that no one feels like they’re an outsider, because the truth is that all people matter to God, and therefore, everyone should matter to all of us who say we believe in Jesus Christ, who have been invited to the greatest celebrations of all times, the marriage supper of the Lamb, Jesus, in heaven.
Now, that’s going to be a party. And it is the height of hypocrisy if we say that we can’t wait to get to this heavenly party with all of God’s people, and not have this same sort of celebration here with His people, people of all sizes, shapes, colors, and walks of life.
Now, for some in here today, you may be having a problem with the idea that God loves a good party. We’ve always thought of God as being somber with little if any of these types of emotions. But that’s not the case! God loves to have heavenly celebrations.
In King David’s shepherd’s song, Psalm 23, where it starts off saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Well in that Psalm he tells how the Lord has prepared a banquet table in the midst of our enemies, and of how God anoints or heads with the oil of blessing and showers us with goodness, so much so that our cup overflows.
Solomon talks about how God brought him to His banqueting table and that God’s banner covering him is love (Songs 2:14).
The prophet Isaiah writes that God rejoices over us in the same way that a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (Isaiah 62:5), and Zephaniah tells us that the Lord is in our midst and is rejoicing over us with gladness, and that He will renew us in His love, and will shout over us with singing as on a festival day (Zephaniah 3:17).
And in our parable of lost things, we are going to see this very thing, and that which causes heaven itself to rejoice with gladness and with singing. In other words, what causes there to be a party in heaven, when the lost are found and saved.
However, before we get into this parable, it’s important that we see what was happening around Jesus which prompted Him to tell these stories.
“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’” So He spoke this parable to them, saying.” (Luke 15:1-3 NKJV)
It was considered outrageous behavior for Jesus to be hanging with these kinds of people. Tax collectors were the dregs of society. They were sellouts to the Roman Government, collecting those monies which helped continue the Roman’s ruthless occupation, and worse, they collected more than what was due to further their own interest and wealth.
And then there were just those who were sinners, which was basically a broad stroke covering all those that the righteous, or can I say, the religious right, considered inferior and less than upstanding citizens. These were the irreligious and immoral of that day, the ones that decent folk didn’t associate with.
Now, before we go off on some religious crusade against the Pharisees and scribes, which isn’t a good idea seeing that a lot of us act just like them; what must be understood is that in the Jewish society, these were considered the “good guys.” They were the champions of God’s word, they were interested in holiness and were, in their own misguided way, desirous to please God.
Their only problem, which is our problem, is that they forgot what mattered most to God. In their search for the Messiah to conquer their enemies, they forgot that the Messiah first had to conquer lost hearts.
And so, their misguided remarks can be seen for what they were. It isn’t that Jesus didn’t know who these people were who were gathered around Him, He knew them well. But it wasn’t the sinner God hates, rather it’s the sin. And so, Jesus needed to get the record straight as to what God cares about the most, and that is finding those who are lost.
It is these outcasts of society that Jesus treated with dignity and valued as He told these three stories. And to these religious folk, these Pharisees, Jesus said, “Hey guys, it’s far worse than you think. I don’t just eat with sinners, but in accordance with the Father’s command, I go out of my way looking for them to bring them to the party God’s got planned for them in heaven.”
Now, before we go further, there is something in the language of Jesus that needs to be looked at before we can properly interpret these stories, and that is, these are not three separate stories, but three stories told for one purpose, and these are not three, but one.
This is seen in verse three where it says that Jesus spoke a “parable” to them. Singular! So, all three are one parable telling us how much God cares for the lost, and if God cares so much that Jesus spoke these three stories to illustrate the point, then we should listen.
The first is of a shepherd who values the one just as much as the many, maybe even more so. So, this first story is that of The Lost Sheep
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7 NKJV)
This was not a half-hearted search; you know the kind where we look in all the convenient places, but instead, it was the type of search that took the shepherd into hard to reach and dangerous places. Further, the intensity of the search is seen in that he leaves behind the 99 to find the one. That’s not only dangerous, but shocking. Leaving 99 healthy sheep to go and find one careless and stupid lamb.
Aren’t we to go by the values of Dr. Spock of Star Trek who said that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or of the one? But that’s not how God sees and values people. Rather it shows just how much God cares for the lost.
And when the shepherd finds the lost lamb, he doesn’t punish, nor scolds it. Instead, it’s an occasion to have a party; it’s a cause for great joy and celebration.
And Jesus crossed this story with our present situation, and that is, there are similar celebrations in heaven when a sinner repents. You see, God parties over those who bring sacrifices from the heart. King David describes such sacrifices.
“You (God) do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17 NKJV)
Now, the next story in the parable Jesus tells is of a woman’s search for The Lost Coin
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10 NKJV)
Now, the value of this coin is what is in question. The coin was thought to be a day’s wage, which is why such a diligent search was made. Now, many believe that this woman was poor, but let me poise something else.
If the coin was so valuable in its buying power, then why waste it throwing a party? I am sure that such a party would have cost quite a bit, maybe even more than the value of the coin. And so, if she really needed the money to survive, then she would have never thrown such a party.?
Instead let me propose a different scenario. Using a custom of that day, the coin itself was valued, not for its amount, but for what it represented. It may have been part of what is known as the “semedi,” that is, a chain which coins hung from and was worn by women who were betrothed. It was worn on a woman’s forehead showing everyone her engagement. So, the value of the coin had little to do with its monetary value but was priceless in what it represented to that woman.
This would then account for the woman’s diligent search and the party that ensued. Likewise, this one coin represents one who is lost that was a part of Jesus’s bride, thus joy in heaven.
I find it interesting that so far, Jesus is talking to His church, where believers are considered the sheep of His pasture, and He is the Shepherd, and now these coins are what the church, the bride of Christ, wears, as they wait for Him, their bridegroom.
And finally, there’s the story of The Prodigal Son
Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore, his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32 NKJV)
The youngest son’s request was the furthest thing from polite. It was kind of like, “Hey dad, can’t wait till you’re dead.” It was a thoughtless and disrespectful demand, but one that was in his power to make. It’s found in the law which states that the first born receives a double portion of the father’s inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). So, one-third of the estate belonged to the younger of the two bothers.
So, the father had to liquidate what he could and gave the younger son his portion. Now, when the younger son got his possessions, he set off for a distant country. This meant he had no plans on ever returning. He was done with his family and wasn’t even looking back. Further, it’s not unusual for younger siblings to move away, but the language would seem to indicate that he went as far away as he could. What he was doing was running away from all the restraints of home to a distant land where he could be anonymous and do whatever he wanted.
There is another biblical character who tried this, and it didn’t work out for him either. His name was Jonah, who was running from God and in the process had a whale of a testimony. That is so often a description of us when we don’t like the words God tells us. We split, we run away not so much from the church, but rather we run away from God so that we can live as we want.
Further, it indicates that he squandered his wealth, that is, he spent it wastefully. Unrestrained might be a better word for it. He indulged himself in every way possible. He lived extravagantly and recklessly giving no thought for the next day, or that it was his father’s inheritance.
When the famine came, this young man became not only financially devastated, but emotionally and spiritually bankrupt as well. The one-time playboy was now pig-boy. I cannot begin to tell you how humiliating this was, and how much shame this young man must have felt. Pigs were considered unclean animals to the Jews, and they were not only not to eat them, but also not to sit down and have lunch with them either. So, this young man who once had been dining on caviar now found himself eating what was left over from the pig slop.
It was here, eating the left-over garbage that the world offers as fine cuisine that this young man came to himself, that is, he saw his actions and life as it truly was – sin.
There needs to come a point in our lives when we come to our senses and quit trying to be what we’re not, and honestly admit who we are, and that is sinners. Sinners whom the Lord loves so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to come and die for our sins so that we can come home to Him.
And so, as this young man was going home, but still some distance away, the father saw him and ran to him. Now, again as we go back to the culture of that day, traditional clothing doesn’t allow for running in public. It’s deeply humiliating and awkward. But you see, that is what Jesus is trying to get across, just how much God loves and cares for those who are lost.
Further, he doesn’t even let his son repeat his carefully prepared speech, but rather hugs and kisses him, and offers forgiveness by putting on him the best robe, which in spiritual terms represents the robe of righteousness given to those who repent. He also places on his son’s finger a ring symbolic of their union and that he was a member of the family, and then places on his son’s feet, sandals. You see, a son wore shoes, a slave didn’t.
And the father called for celebration, a BBQ with the fatted calf as its main course. It’s interesting to note that the servant knew just the animal, which tells me that the father knew all along that his son would return and was preparing this calf for just this occasion.
A Sunday school teacher told this story and asked who wasn’t happy about this party, thinking they’d say the older brother, but one young lad said, “The fatted calf.”
Well, I’m sure the calf wasn’t happy, but the one who was upset was the older brother, which we’ll look at in a moment. But first, let’s answer the question that comes directly from these stories.
What Pleases God the Most? When the Lost Get Found!
What these three stories tell us is that God loves and cares for the lost. And if we truly care for what God cares for, then we need to be a whole lot more concerned about the lost as well.
Now, this is not an indictment, because I know that most of us desire to live our life in such a way that pleases God. Therefore, what pleases God the most is not our worship, our reading or listening to the teaching of His word, nor is it our prayers and devotional time. These definitely important and please God, but look again at what Jesus said.
“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7 NKJV)
Now look at what the father said to the eldest son.
It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32 NKJV)
What makes God the happiest is the lost being found. And there isn’t anything that God wouldn’t do to seek and save and lost. Didn’t He send Jesus to die so that the lost could come home? Now, here’s the kicker. He left us in charge of the finding. He gave us the privilege of going into the hard and difficult places to let them know wewere once as lost as they are, and that when we came to or senses, like the prodigal son, we found our way home, and they can find in the same way, home as well.
God cares about finding the lost, and He tells us how much. He cares for the one sheep, coin, and son, in the same way He cares for that secretary, student, waitress, executive, housekeeper, and addict, as well as that member of our own family. Therefore, if that is what God cares about the most, then that is what we should be caring about as well.
How do we get lost?
1. We Get Lost by our Nature
The prophet Isaiah said that all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us turning to our own way (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep are like that. They don’t turn their back on the shepherd. Instead, they just keep their head down and walk, oblivious to where they are going. The Bible says that we are all sinners by nature, and that we all fall short of God’s holy and righteous standards for life.
2. We Get Lost by Accident
That’s what happened to the coin. It somehow got disconnected from the chain and fell on the floor in some out of the way place. In the same way we get lost by accident. We live in a dark sin filled world where stuff happens. Unexpected storms of life hammer and pound upon us where circumstances beyond our control lead us off the path and we lose our way.
3. We Get Lost by Choice
This is what the prodigal son demonstrated as he turned his back on his father and his family, his heritage, and his home. Sometimes we do the same trying to get away from our heavenly Father. We head in the complete opposite direction trying not to think or feel any longer.
But there is something more that is brought out in our passage. And that is, many are lost at home. Consider the older son. He was lost even while he lived in his father’s house. Jesus says that the religious were also lost, but in the one place that a person would never expect, and that is in the House of God.
In the parable of the 10 virgins, the bride and her maids knew about when the bridegroom was going to come. The invitations had gone out, the banquet had been set, but not all of them were ready. Some had to go to Wal-Mart and buy some more oil. They weren’t prepared, and the bridegroom came and took those who were ready, and the rest missed the joy that was prepared for them. They missed the celebration.
Today, if you haven’t said yes to God’s invitation, then do so. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. And if you once said yes but have allowed a love for other things to move you away from His place of pre-eminence, then now is the time to make Him once again your first love. And then you can look forward with the rest of heaven and celebrate, because once we were lost, but now we’ve been found.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study