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About this series
The Prodigal and the Perfectionist
Why We All Need Grace
How often has something seemed confusing until you saw a picture of it and then you thought, "Oh, now I get it!"? Grace is like that -- confusing, until we get a picture of what it is. Scripture tells us that God's grace is available to all who will receive it. But how can we receive it, if we don't really know what it is, or even why we need it? In this series, Chip Ingram explains the meaning of grace that Jesus so clearly revealed, in the parable of Luke 15. Jesus' intention was to help people, then and now, understand God's generous heart and why He is so ready to pour out His abundant grace on all who will receive it.More from this series
What is the biggest challenge that you’re facing, personally, right now? Just the number one biggest challenge. Physical, relational, family, crisis, health, I don’t know. Do you have it?
Now, let me read a promise given to a man who had prayed very hard, who had lots of faith, but God said, “I’m not going to answer it the way that you want it answered.”
It’s the apostle Paul, it’s 2 Corinthians chapter 12 and the Lord says to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul would then say, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rejoice in my weakness that the power of Christ might be manifested,” or, “be made known through me.”
So I want you to think about, as you hear what we are going to talk about, so what is God’s grace and how does it work and how is it operational? I want you to think about that challenge and that promise that God would say to you, like He did to him and says to me, it doesn’t say He is always going to take you out of it, it doesn’t say a check is going to come in the mail, it doesn’t mean necessarily a supernatural healing. He can and has done all those kind of things in our church. But His grace will be sufficient.
If you have some notes, go ahead and pull them out because you’re going to need them. And as you pull those out, I want to make three observations about grace. Number one, I would argue that the single most important, in all of the New Testament, in fact, in all of the Bible, is the word: grace.
Secondly, I would argue that grace and the concept of grace separates the God of the Bible from every and all religions or religious systems in all the world. Over here you have grace and the God of the Bible and over here you have every religious system.
Third, I would argue your understanding, or lack of understanding, of grace will determine the quality of your life on earth and, more importantly, will determine the destiny and the destination of your life after you die.
When you open the Bible, it says, “By grace we are saved,” it must be pretty important. The apostle Paul would say, of his entire life, “I am what I am by the grace of God. And His grace didn’t prove vain toward me, but I labored more than all of them. Yet not I but the grace of God in me.”
Peter would say, “Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter would say, “Set your hope fully on the grace that is to be revealed.” You come to know God through grace. You grow through grace. You are sustained through grace. You are called into relationship by grace.
Whatever grace is, it’s really, really important. But here is my observation. And I have been doing this for about thirty-some years. New Christians, not so new Christians, really old Christians, when you sit down with someone and look them right in the eye and you say, “Could you explain grace to me and how it works?” You get kind of an, “Uhhhh, well, it’s, uh, sort of, and it kinda, and it’s free, and it’s unmerited and it’s…” And it’s foggy.
And so what I want to do, as we get started, I want to define grace. Then I want to show you where it comes from. And then we are going to talk about: how do you experience this goodness, this generosity of God, this unmerited, free love that God wants to give us?
So are you ready? So let’s define it. The dictionary, if you just open up the dictionary it will say, “It is a simple elegance; a refinement of movement.” We are thinking to ourselves, That may not be the definition we are looking for.
But it has this idea of grace, of movement, like a dancer or a ballerina. And then it gives us, “The free, unmerited favor of God.” A theological definition is, this is right out of a theology book, it’s, “The free and unmerited favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings.” So theologically, that’s what it is.
Or the Sunday School definition, many of you grew up in Sunday school and the acronym: G-R-A-C-E: God’s riches at Christ’s expense. That’s accurate; that is true. The riches of God, the abundance of God given to us freely by what Christ did.
Here is the problem. The problem is that it is still nebulous. In fact, I looked up the word nebulous and see if this doesn’t reflect a little bit on your view of Grace. “It’s a concept or idea that is indistinct, unclear, vague, hazy, cloudy, fuzzy, misty, blurry, ill-defined, confusing, and ambiguous.”
We have learned: Grace is the most important word in the Bible. You come to know God by grace. You grow by grace. You’re sustained by grace. You’re given gifts by grace. The Greek word for grace is: charis. The word for joy is a root word: chara. The word for gift is: charismata. It’s all about grace and giving and yet, the average Christian really has a hard time getting their arms around, What is it exactly? How does it work? And how do you experience it?
So are you ready to roll? Open your Bibles to Exodus chapter 33 and we are going to take a look at this man named Moses and one of the most interesting passages in all of Scripture.
Moses has led the people out of Egypt. They have seen the Red Sea part. They are going out in the mornings and there is manna to pick up. They have seen miracles. Actually, by this time, he has already gotten the Ten Commandments and he has come down and when he was gone for a while, they decided that they would find a golden calf and they would worship it and the people were involved in blatant immorality.
And Moses, out of his frustration, breaks the commandments and goes back up and talks to God. And he goes through this dialogue and we pick up the dialogue in chapter 33, where Moses says, “If You’re not going to go with us, I can’t go. And, by the way, these are Your people, these aren’t my people.”
And as they began to talk, Moses does something that few people do in Scripture. He is very, very bold. And what he says is, “I want to know, Who is this really? Not just Your presence. If Your favor is going to go with me, I want to know what You are really like.”
“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me Your glory.’ And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name, the Lord, in your presence.’”
And so here is one time where someone says, “I want to know who You are. Pull back the veil! I want to see You just as You are.” And God says, “No man can see My face and live,” but here is what I am going to do. I am going to cause My goodness to pass in front of you.
And then He gives Moses instructions. He goes, “Look, I am going to put you, you stand over here and I am going to pass by. I will put My hand here and you can see the flares of My glory. And then I am going to proclaim My name.”
And so He instructs him to chisel out two more stones, he gets them, he brings them back up, he is alone with the Lord. And then as you skip down, look at chapter 34, verse 5. “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and He proclaimed His name, the Lord. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord,’” literally, “Yahweh, Yahweh. I Am that I Am, I Am that I Am.” It is His covenant name. “I am the Ever Existent One. I have no beginning; I have no end. I Am. I am the Author of the universe, I am the Author of all history. I have no needs. I am self-sufficient.”
Well, what is this “I Am” God like? The God who is the Alpha and the Omega, has no beginning, has no end, who is the Creator of all that there is, who spoke and the galaxies came into existence, who created life itself. What is He like? What is His goodness like?
And then He fills in the gaps. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving the wickedness and rebellion and sin.” It is this amazing picture of God’s goodness.
The first two words, some of your translations, if you’re in another one will say, “The God, merciful and loving,” or, “gracious.” The first word is checed. Two hundred and thirty-five times this word is used in the Old Testament. It is His loyal, steadfast love. It’s a commitment love. It’s, “I am for you,” love.
Every time it is from a superior to an inferior or God to man. It’s always the equivalent of grace. “I am for you, I love you.”
And then the next word: gracious? It’s a little word named channuwn. And it’s the idea, one hundred percent of the time it is a free, unmerited, non-coerced, non-legal, unilateral, “I want to bless and give and make you all that you can be. I want to help you and love you and care for you and protect you.”
And grace is a very interesting concept in Scripture because when people are proud and say, “I don’t need God,” He is opposed to the proud but He gives grace to the – who? To the humble. To people who recognize their need.
Imagine, if you will, for a word picture. Grace always flows downhill. It’s like this huge lake of unlimited supply. But think of this. God could have described Himself in any way possible and He says, “I am going to let My goodness pass before you.”
A quote from J.I. Packer in his classic book writes this. He says, “Within the cluster of God’s moral perfections there is one in particular to which the term ‘goodness’ points – the quality which God specially singled out from the whole when proclaiming ‘all of His goodness’ to Moses.” And then when He speaks of Himself, He speaks of being, “abundant,” or, “overflowing in goodness and truth.”
“This is the quality of generosity.” Packer goes on to say, “Generosity means a disposition to give to others in a way which has no mercenary motive. It is not limited to the recipients anything that they deserve.” God gives generously because He longs for the joy and the happiness of His people. They are the object of His affection.
Now here is all I want you to get. You have a picture in your mind and I have a picture in my little psyche of when you close your eyes to pray or look up to pray or when you think about what is going on in your life and you have a snapshot of God – and I am going to suggest that whatever snapshot you have is probably pretty marred. He is not like your dad. He is not like a pastor you met. He is not like a bad experience you have had.
He is not a God whose arms are crossed and this sense of, You need to get with the program. He is not a God who is down on you. He is a God who is abundant in grace and goodness.
In other words, He wants to protect you, He wants to love you. And take this in the right way. He wants you to be happy.
It’s the picture of when a mom hears a baby crying and she rushes in, where does she get that? That is the goodness of her heart wanting to comfort her child. When you hurt, that is how God feels about you.
If you’re a dad and someone picks on one of your kids or wants to hurt them or take them or kidnap them, there is something in a dad that steps up and goes, “You mess with my son,” that’s how God feels when danger and darkness and difficulty and pain comes into your life.
He is good. He is gracious. His predisposition is not merited based on how you happen to be behaving or not behaving. His predisposition – He is good because of what He is like.
And the big error when you look at all the systems of all religion, down in our psyche, ever since sin entered the world, is we have this, and you go to ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt, when you look at the tombs, they have a picture of a scale. And the whole mindset of the world, then and now largely, is there is this scale of good and bad.
And if your good outweighs your bad, you go into some eternal bliss by every system. And the God of the Bible says, “Your good could never be perfect and holy and righteous enough. And the basis for relationship with Me will be grace. It will be not what you deserve, not what you can earn, not what you can merit, and that grace is most clearly and most powerfully pictured in My Son.”
Turn, if you will, to John chapter 1. “In the beginning was the Word.” John, it’s the last gospel. The other gospels have been written. The Church has been going for roughly about sixty, maybe seventy years. This was about A.D. 90, between A.D. 90 and A.D. 100. He is the last of the apostles. All the others have been martyred.
He is on an island and he is speaking now and all the Church has grown and there are some factions and he wants to pull everything together and remind people: This is why Jesus came and this is who He really is.
And he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And all things that came into being are from God. And nothing has ever been created or come into being that isn’t from the Word.”
And then he talks about John the Baptist and his role and he came to be a witness to the Light. And then skip down to verse 14.
It says, “The Word became flesh,” the Logos, the Word, the Truth, the Second Person of the Trinity became flesh, “and lived among us for a while. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, ‘This is the One of whom I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.”’) For from the fullness of His grace we have all received blessing after blessing. No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.”
Literally, the text is, He has explained Him. If you want to know what God is really like, if you want to know the snapshot or the picture, it’s why almost without exception, no matter where I’m reading in the Bible, I read in the gospels. I want to read about Jesus. I want to watch Jesus. I want to listen to Jesus. How does Jesus respond to these people? How does Jesus respond to this? How does Jesus respond when you’re in a storm? I want to always be reading and thinking about Jesus because He is what the Father is like.
Jesus said to – what? “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father!” And how is He? He is full of both grace and truth, in perfect balance. To understand grace, we need to just keep looking and studying and marveling at the person of Jesus. Finally, we have an amazing opportunity where Jesus explains who God the Father is. I think it is probably, if not His most famous parable or teaching, the Good Samaritan is probably up there neck and neck.
But in Luke chapter 15, Jesus is going to actually explain, This is what the Father is like. Luke chapter 15 and as you turn there, I had a very, very interesting experience.
I teach at Mount Hermon almost every summer and Roger Williams has been the CEO and the director of Mount Hermon, it has grown, it has flourished.
And some of you who are close to the situation understand he died. He battled cancer for about three or three and a half years and this summer, I was teaching at Mount Hermon and normally I teach in the evenings and then I have an opportunity, I go in the morning and if my family is there it’s even better.
And I hear someone else teach and I just, it’s great. I just soak it up. Then they have a little break and then they have all these seminars. Well, if you do what I do for a living, I want to hear one message and then I want to go goof off a little bit. Okay? I don’t want to go to another seminar.
And so I’m deciding what I am going to do with my time and then I hear that Roger is going to do a seminar on Luke 15. And I just passed him and I looked at him and I had that little prompting from God and one of the staff members said, “Roger couldn’t teach last week. Chemotherapy is really bad. They have done all they can do.”
And what I became acutely aware of is: this man is going to die very soon. And I remember, I thought, Well, I need a little break. I’ll just sit in the back so I can get out and not disturb him. And it was in the main…
And he begins to talk and I don’t know if you have ever been around a person who knows they are going to die and die very soon, but they speak with a clarity and a conviction that very few of us ever have. There are no distractions. There are no little issues. There are no little things.
They only talk and think and live and breathe and relate in ways that really matter, because their time is so limited. And he started off and he said, “I have been studying this passage for over ten years.”
And then he said, he talked about, I’ll refer to it later, a Dr. Ken Bailey, who spent sixty years, six decades in rural, peasant villages in the Middle East, Arab world.
And he said, “I have learned, I have been studying this passage for ten years and my view of God has been so transformed, I could never fathom or believe how deeply God loves me, totally apart from my performance or my behavior. What grace is really all about. And it’s a grace that doesn’t set you free to do whatever you want, it’s a grace that compels you to love others and live a holy life.”
And as he began to talk and I could tell he was getting emotional and I went down a couple more rows thinking, I want to get closer to this guy. The long and the short of it, I spent all three days at his seminar. And it was just like, pop, pop, pop! And all of a sudden, I went to school, I have been a pastor thirty-some years, I have a little understanding of grace. But after three days I realized my understanding was like that.
And I got to be in the presence of a man who, not only opened God’s Word, but opened his heart in a way that I thought, Oh, God, I have a thimble understanding of the ocean of Your amazing love for me and if I could just digest that, it would so change how I think about me and how I think about others and how I relate to life.
And so at the third day I went down and he got weaker and weaker and weaker and I stood in line and I said, “Hey, Roger, I’d like to ask you a favor.” And we had known each other for probably fifteen, twenty years.
And I said, “God has really spoken into my life and rather than steal it, I would rather ask permission because I would really like to take some things I have learned and pass it on.”
And he smiled. Probably like a guy who is exhausted and has a baton in one of those relay races. And it was like he took, he looked at me and he took the baton in my hands. He said, “You share that with as many people as you can. It has transformed my life.”
“Now the tax collectors and the sinners were gathered around to hear Him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable,” notice – singular. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and comes home. Then he calls his friends and his neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” They would all get that. Wow, yeah!
“I tell you,” application, “in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Singular parable, story number two. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’” It would be like a woman losing her wedding ring or actually, the diamond on her wedding ring. It was worth about a day’s wage. Very, very precious to her.
“In the same way, I tell you, there is more rejoicing in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus continues, third story, singular parable. “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided the property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all that he had, and he set off for a distant country and there he squandered his wealth in wild living.
“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country,” a Gentile, “who sent him to the fields to feed pigs.” It’s the lowest job a young Jewish boy could ever have.
“He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” Moment of truth.
“When he came to his senses, he said ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out, go back to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.”
He is repenting. He has come to his senses. My way, my stuff, this direction is not right. I am going to turn and go back to my father and I’ve got a speech with three points, right? What happens?
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.” Now the son is going to start his speech.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But…”
In his three point repentance speech he makes point one, point two, he doesn’t get to point three. He gets interrupted. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe,” which was his, “put it on him. Put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is now alive; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” A party is going to begin.
When they heard this story, they were flabbergasted. The disciples were flabbergasted but the Pharisees were steaming. The camera lens zooms from the younger to the older.
And now we get the second son. Verse 25. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.” This is a real party. “So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What is going on?’ ‘Your brother has come home,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has come back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I have been slaving for you and I never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But this son of yours,’” not my brother, “but this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitution comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
The father’s response, again, completely culturally unacceptable. “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because the brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is now found.’”
Jesus is explaining to two different groups: If you ever wanted to know what God the Father is like, this is the clearest, most powerful picture you’ll ever get. And it’s one parable with three stories.
Let’s walk through, I’ll walk through fairly quickly, just some observations to give you an overview and then I will make some points here toward the end. This is an incredible and in Jesus’ time, culturally flabbergasting chapter of Scripture. And you will see this more and more.
If you read the context, which I always love to do, some of you, go ahead and read Luke 14, because it comes right before Luke 15. Luke 15 is really addressed to the Pharisees. But in Luke 14, they have come to know who Jesus really is. And then He makes this outrageous [statement], “Unless you take up your cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciples.”
And if you look at the end of Luke 14, He actually goes on to say, “Unless you give up everything, you cannot be My disciple.” And then He follows that with, “Salt is good, but if salt loses its taste, it’s not good for anything.”
And so if you’re Peter or James or John or one of the Twelve and you’re following Him and you’re thinking, Look, we have left our house, we have left our homes, we have left our business, left our finances. We are not exactly very popular hanging around with You. We have been kicked out of the synagogues. What do You mean, “Give up everything?”
And what Jesus is going to teach is about the goodness of God. And what He is going to tell them, Instead of you guys looking at all these things you think you need to give up, if you could grasp the grace of God, if you could understand what My Father is like, it would be like a multi, multi-billionaire coming to you and saying, “I want you to give me the keys to your car and the deed of your house and your bank account, and I’ll take care of it for you, okay? And I will either parcel out whatever you have, whatever you need. And, by the way, I might just add a million or two or five or ten here, just because I love you. Would you be willing to entrust [that to] Me?”
See, that’s the God that Jesus, commitment, right? Commitment, this radical call of discipleship is entrusting who we are and all that we have because surrender or commitment is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.
It is the channel though which that grace [flows], so, as He tells this story, the disciples are getting an, “Oh!” They are as shocked as the Pharisees. Culturally unacceptable.
Second, this is the only time in Scripture where Jesus tells three stories in one parable. He wants to dramatically emphasize something essential and, to His audience, a revolutionary truth about God.
There are not superlatives in the Hebrew language. In other words, we use: good, better, best. That’s not in the Hebrew language. When you want to make a point, you would say, “Good, good, good.” Or you’ll notice in Scripture when Jesus is making a point He will say, “Truly, truly,” or some translations, “Verily, verily.”
It’s the underline. Get with it! When the angels are acclaiming God, what is it? “Holy, holy, holy.” So the fact that that He tells them a parable and there are one, two, three things. He is saying, “Guys! There is nothing more important that you will ever hear than what I am saying right now.”
Notice He goes on. Jesus wants us to know what God is like. That’s what this is all about. He wants them to know what God is like. They have a marred view of God, both the disciples and the Pharisees.
Second, Jesus wants them to understand the heart of the Father. See, if you think that God’s arms are crossed and, “Get with the program,” and, “You don’t quite measure up,” and, “Here are the rules you need to keep and have you done this and what about that?” – you’ll never trust God.
And that’s not the God of the Bible. It’s the god of performance.
Jesus ministered in a Middle Eastern peasant culture. Some of you who do a little extra Bible study, the book is called, The Cross and the Prodigal, or just Google, I put it on the back of the notes: Dr. Ken Bailey.
He lived in the peasant cultures of the Middle East for sixty years, taught at Hebrew University. It is one of the most fascinating little books I have ever read that will go far deeper than I can in our time together. It will give you a new lens of looking at what the world was like when Jesus was teaching.
Even the urban and the educated have their roots in the peasantry. So everyone understood what He was talking about. It’s kind of like today. You could be in the city, you could grow up in the country, but if I invited you, let’s just say I said, “I want you, next Thanksgiving, to come to my house.” What do you assume will be the diet?
What are we going to eat? Go ahead; tell me. Turkey and what else? Stuffing. What else? How do you know that? You guys are geniuses! How would you ever know that? My wife hasn’t even prepared it yet!
In American culture, what do we know about Thanksgiving? Everybody knows! Rich people know that, poor people know that, white people know that, black people know that, Asian people know that, Indian people know that, right? At Thanksgiving, in America, turkey!
What you need to understand is even to this day, if you go to rural areas of the Middle East, the cultural mandates and the way that Jesus is talking is still true today.
How villages operate, the role of the oldest son, the role of the elders, the role of who gives what, when, where, why, and how. And Jesus is cutting across some things that go very, very deep.
The peasant culture, customs, and traditions were known by everyone in the culture. Everyone is on the same page here. He is saying some things that their minds are going, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing! And we miss a lot of it.
Verses 1 and 2, he says, Jesus welcomes sinners. He welcomes sinners! What flabbergasted and angered the scribes and the Pharisees was that Jesus, who claimed to be God and to be one with the Father, received sinners as friends.
I’ll tell you why in just a minute. Jesus was shaming and defiling God’s reputation. To the Pharisees, God is high and holy and other, which is true. But then anybody who didn’t live up to their little box of righteousness, Jesus said, “I am God; I am one with the Father,” if you are one with God and you’re hanging out with these kind of people, you were desecrating God’s reputation.
It would be like someone going in and putting swastikas in a church or a synagogue. They are angry! They are so angry they want to kill Him.
How can You welcome sinners? Notice, it goes on. He even eats with them. Eating a meal in the Middle East had the significance of a sacramental act, signifying total acceptance and conferring a blessing.
In the Middle East, if you were negotiating a contract or a treaty, you would never sit down and eat first, because if you invite someone into your home, in the Middle East, and you eat with them, you’re saying: We’re family. Therefore, if we are family, you have been in my home, we have shared a meal together, therefore, I will protect you.
And they are thinking, This man claims to be God and He is eating with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners? Their lights are going, Schhhhhkkkkk!
And Jesus was saying, “Yes, that’s what the Father is like.” This act defiled Jesus, according to the Pharisees. And in their mind, that’s why they were justified in wanting to kill Him.
The word used here, muttered, is only used twice in the New Testament: here and in Luke 19:7. It has a special prefix, as you’ll notice in the notes, and the murmuring was through the crowd, they were stirring up public undercurrent of discontent and disapproval. In other words, they are so upset, so angry, Hey, do you hear this? As He’s talking. Hear this? We’ve got to take Him out. This is unholy. This is the most…
And so the Pharisees are angry, angry, angry at Jesus’ action. And this story, this parable with the three parts is to address their misconception, to address their view of God, and why, though they are very religious, they are completely missing God.
Notice the progression of this chapter. In the first story, one in a hundred, right? In the second story, it’s one in ten. In the third story, it’s one in two. This is a master storyteller.
Sheep, we all get, right? And they rejoice. You didn’t have to persuade people to come, Oh, yeah. One in ten. The masses, general. One out of two. Super, super precious. Really, really important.
Notice then, the first one is out in the wilderness. Something is happening out there. It’s lost way out there. The second is lost inside of the house. And the third is lost inside of a home. And so as you can see from the chart that it’s the picture. God. The shepherd, the woman, the father, the sinners, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the younger son, and what will see is the religious sinners, the ninety-nine sheep, the nine coins, and the older son.
In every story, something very valuable is lost. Something very, very valuable is found. And in each one, there is celebration, celebration, celebration. And please don’t miss the point.
There is an excitement, there is a joy, I got the sheep! I found the coin! She is on the phone, “You’ve got to come over! It’s unbelievable! It’s amazing. I have found it, where it was, it was stuck in a crack in the door and you’ve got to find it!”
And there was a party and there was dancing and Hebrews know how to celebrate. And He is taking the story and He is bringing it now to the sons and the first son, as we will learn next time, is found and how the father responds will be the absolute opposite of what every elder or Jewish boy or disciple could ever even fathom or imagine that will give them a snapshot of God the Father and the grace of God like never before.
And then He is going to turn the tables and He is actually going to speak to these Pharisees in ways and offer grace, even though they are trying to kill Him.
Jesus is teaching that sinners matter to God. Religious sinners, and people who are far, far away from God who think there is no hope. And that when one sinner, one person recognizes their need and says, “I am far from God,” and I might be far from God and reading my Bible every day and going to church three times a week. Or, “I am far from God because I know my living situation and my finances are a mess and the addictions that I have.”
This message is: There is a Father who is pursuing you and loves you. In fact, here is what this is – it goes from one hundred, to ten, to one out of two. And then, actually, it comes right in this room. God says, “You matter. You matter more than a sheep, you matter more than money, you matter more than…I love you. I am seeking you.”
The Holy Spirit, every single person who has personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has trusted His work on the cross, the Spirit of God has been seeking and pursuing you and going to amazing lengths and bringing people into your life and circumstances and doing all kinds of things that got you to the point where, Ah! – you saw that you had a need. And you repented of your self-sufficiency and, I don’t need God and I’ve got it together and my way is better than…
That is how much you matter.
But it doesn’t stop there. The great majority of Christians I meet, they kind of get, I’m saved by grace, and then it’s really subtle but there is this click and, I am going to now live my life out on the basis of some works mentality. God loves me when I’m good; He doesn’t love me when I’m bad. God loves me when I read my Bible; God doesn’t love me when I don’t.
Now, is there blessing to obedience? Of course. But who would want to talk to someone who you believe has created you and died for you, whose arms are crossed, whose toe is tapping and basically His number one thing is to point out how messed up you are?
What if you woke up every day and said, “God is for me. He is for me in my marriage, He is for me with my kids, He is for me in my singleness. I am going to go to work and God is for me. He is for me on the freeway. He cares about me. He wants to give power, He wants to give strength.”
Now, we are going to learn, there are ways that you need to be humble and open to receive it.
I did something this week as I was learning, because I am really excited because God is really speaking to me in some ways that are really fresh. And so I think it was Thursday morning and I was just, because part of this, doesn’t it happen in snapshots and you go, Wow! I get it! And then I sort of don’t get it. I get caught up in myself and my old beliefs.
And so Thursday morning, in my journal, I just was jotting down what I was learning. And if it helps, I hope it does, because I want to get it from this concept and Moses and His goodness passing and this picture to me and Monday morning and under pressure and when I am tempted to be negative and when I am resentful and when, as wonderful as my wife is, she has a day that doesn’t make me all that happy. Right?
Thank You very much for Your grace, Lord. Your disposition, Your mood is one of joy and delight to see me. You want to help me. You enjoy my presence. In human terms, You are always in a good mood when we meet. Have you ever thought about God like that? You want to talk in the car? He’s in a good mood! You get up in the morning, He’s in a good mood! He wants to see you! He says, “Hey! Great to see you, Chip! Love to talk.”
Your countenance is a smile – a warm, inviting smile of approval and welcome. This is not a frown. It’s not, when I bring the awareness of the living God, He is smiling at you. He is welcoming you.
Your arms are open wide, inviting me to come near and to draw close, be embraced, be protected, be encouraged, be close. Like when your kids are little and you do this and they run towards you, that’s God! In fact, He’s not even standing. He is actually pursuing you! It didn’t stop just because you’re His son or daughter.
Your hands are open, they are not closed. Your hand is open and You point to what is available, what is planned for me today. It’s an invitation to partake of grace. Every day I meet with God and when you start your day or in the middle of the day, in a hard part of the day, here are His hands, “Here’s what I’ve got for you. See this? See her? See that? See him? See this? See the sunset?” It’s this.
And you know where His other hand is? His other hand is like this. “That person, that circumstance, that fear, that anxiety? I’ll protect you.” God’s hands are always like this. Here and here.
Your eyes are filled with compassion and mercy. My sin, mistakes, and failure are met with Your longings to forgive and remove any and all shame. I don’t know about you, but when I mess up, I don’t want to be around God, because I think He is down on me. And what He just wants me to be is honest.
When I sin, or just for some of us, we just make mistakes. We think it’s like we’re not human. You make a mistake, you forget something, you say something you didn’t mean to say, you told Him you would do it and you just didn’t do it. You promised God you wouldn’t, and you did. He meets my mistakes with compassion and longing to forgive and to restore.
And then, finally, You desire great things for me and expect great things from me. But Your expectations are reasonable. You are mindful that I am but dust. Magnificent dust made in Your image, but dust. And so You are patient and You are understanding with my struggles.
Is that an awesome God? “For by grace you are saved through faith. That is not of yourselves. It’s the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” You are what you are, by the grace of God.