I preached this sermon on Sunday and wanted to share it with you.
Do you ever feel lost? I suppose there are lots of ways to get lost.
You can get geographically lost. Like whenever you go to a new mall, or a big store, and are trying to find your way around. I get lost all the time in the car because I’m what you call “directionally challenged”. I’m sure you know how that feels.
You can get personally lost. A person can lose their way in life by making a series of choices that has them wind up somewhere they don’t want to be. They feel pressured to do something, then that choices has consequences, and they make other choices that have consequences, and before long they look around and say to themselves, “how did I get here?”. I’m sure many of you know how that feels.
Maybe it’s not about being lost, but actually having lost something. We have all felt the sting of loss as we lost family members and friends to death. We feel regret for making foolish decisions that result in us losing – or giving away – something that is dear to us. We think back into our past and remember something that was important to us – a stuffed bear, a car, a picture, a hockey card, an instrument – and we think, “Where did that ever go? How could I lose something so special?”. And it makes us feel sad that we don’t have it.
We’ve all played games where we’ve lost. We try hard, and it’s not enough because the other person is better. Or we play a game of chance and the dice doesn’t roll high enough, or the spinner doesn’t go to the right place, and we lose the game. We have been cheated against and even though we should have won, we still lost. Or we were part of a contest with judges, and we lost the contest based on a judge’s opinion. When we lose in that way we feel a sting in our hearts.
I think there’s another category of loss. We can feel spiritually lost. We can know where we are going, what we are doing, have important things surrounding us, be winning in life, successful in our career, have a bright future, and know we are secure… and yet we still feel as though our souls have been cast upon the winds and the bearings of our life are not set. There is a spiritual lostness that we feel even when everything else is going well. And when things are not going well – our relationships are stressed, our work is uncertain, our friends are distant, our future is unclear, our knowledge isn’t enough – that spiritual lostness is amplified exponentially.
I found a quote by Walter Truett Anderson (who I learned from Wikipedia is a famous author who writes about postmodernism) who says, “I belong to the Blank Generation. I have no beliefs. I belong to no community, tradition, or anything like that. I’m lost in this vast, vast world. I belong nowhere. I have absolutely no identity.” That is spiritual lostness.
Have you ever met someone who is spiritually grounded – they are not spiritually lost – but have a firm spiritual foundation that they have built their lives on? It’s an amazing thing to see – and an amazing thing to experience. It is my belief – and the belief of the Christian church, the testimony of scripture, and I believe the most important thing we can share with one another in this world – that a spiritually lost person will never feel security and peace… and that a person who is spiritually found, and eternally secure, can face and walk through any form of pain and uncertainty in this life. It is when we are spiritually found – spiritually secure – that we have true strength, not because of what we have, but because of the firm foundation we stand on and are rooted in.
3 Stories of Lostness
In Luke chapter 15 Jesus gives three different parables that explain the Kingdom of God, the salvation of our souls, and our relationship with Him, by relating what it means to go from lost to found. Turn to Luke 15.
“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.””
This is the context of these stories. Jesus uses these parables to show why lost people. – hurt people, sinful people, broken people, are those who will inhabit the kingdom – not those who believe they have it all put together and can make it on their own, but those who know they are spiritually lost, and want to be found.
These three parables show three different spiritual journeys. I had a conversation this week with someone who asked me “What does it mean when people say they’ve ‘found God’? It’s not like He’s lost? I’ve known God since I was little and I know He’s always around.”
I told this person that that was how their spiritual journey went. They had grown up in a Christian family and knew about God from the beginning. I explained that not everyone has the same spiritual journey, and that people meet God in different ways. That’s what these three parables teach us.
The Lost Sheep
The first parable is the story of the lost sheep, which we covered last week. The big idea of which is that God doesn’t want us to be lost and will come and find us, even in dark, difficult, frustrating, sinful places that we’ve gotten ourselves into… He will come and save us, rescue us, bring us back to His flock on His shoulders, and then rejoice that we are there.
That’s one aspect that we need to understand about spiritual lostness. God doesn’t want us to be lost, and God shows His grace to some people by going into the mess they are in and then dragging them out of it. I’m sure you’ve heard this testimony before. Someone who doesn’t know Jesus, doesn’t want Jesus, isn’t religious, has no spiritual background… all of a sudden meets Jesus in a miraculous way and their life is turned completely around. That’s this story: the God who comes into our mess and gets us and then rejoices at our being found.
The Lost Coin
The second story in Luke 15 is about the lost coin.
“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? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.””
This is another way that we come out of our spiritual lostness – we desperately search for an answer. In the parable of the lost sheep we have someone who wanders off and is lost, has no way of getting home, but God searches the dark places to find.
In this we have someone who knows what they want – the coin – and does everything they possibly can to find it. This is how other people come out of their spiritual lostness – they go on a journey. They try this, and that, and anything else to try to fill the spiritual void, to find some kind of spiritual anchor for their lives – it is a pursuit. Like the woman that turns her house upside down to find the one coin out of nine, this person feels like they have a lot – they have 9 coins, but something is missing. Their life is uneven. Their treasure is incomplete.
This silver coin, called a drachma, was about the equivalent of a days wages for a labourer. Imagine working a twelve hour day, getting your pay, putting the cheque in your wallet, and then when you get to the bank to deposit it, it’s not there. That’s a big deal.
This is the story of the man or woman who feels their spiritual lostness and is taking matters into their own hands. For them, God does not come searching, but makes Himself able to be found. And when they find it, if you’ve heard them speak, it’s an amazing story! They really do call their friends and neighbours and tell them. “I looked everywhere. I was spiritually lost. I tried different religions, different pleasures, different lifestyles, different jobs, and was never satisfied. I always felt something was missing… until I found Jesus. And when I found Jesus I became satisfied. I feel grounded. I was lost, but now am found.”
Maybe that’s your story. The story not so much of what you did, but the story of the God who let Himself be found even when you were looking everywhere else, tried everything else, profaned and denied Him in multiple ways, and tried to replace Him with sin, and yet He still made Himself known to you by letting you feel like you found Him. He was there all along. He was moving your heart. But He was doing it in a way that would bring you to Him in a unique and special way.
The Lost Son The Welcoming Father
The third story is perhaps the most known of the parables Jesus taught. It’s often called the story of the Prodigal Son, or the Lost Son, but it could also be called the Parable of the Welcoming Father. It is not the story of the person who doesn’t know what they have and wanders off like a fool, but is found by God in the dark place and brought back – like the lost sheep. It is not the story of the person who is desperately searching for God and God makes Himself able to be found – like the parable of the lost coin. This is the story of the person who knows God, knows what they have, is surrounded by blessing, is living in their father’s house, has a relationship with their father, is among the fold, has all ten coins – and walks away from God. This is the story of the one who has been found, the one who has gotten the answer, and leaves anyway. This is the story of all of us.
“”There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”
Just to be clear, this was a big deal. This was him saying that he wishes his father was dead so he could finally get his money and run. He said to his dad, “I wish you were dead.”
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “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! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31″‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'””
It’s been said many times, and I’ll say it again, the whole point of this story is not the actions of the Prodigal Son, or of the Older Brother. This is the story of the Father. Both sons have the same problem; their hearts are far from their father. They both want to use the father to get riches, but don’t want to obey. Both wishes their father was dead and that they could finally have everything they’ve always wanted – it’s just that one brother is more patient. Neither brother knows what’s going on in the father’s heart. The brothers are one in the same – the only differences are their location and the types of sin they commit.
We Were All Lost Once
The big idea today that I want you to know is this: You are going to wander away, get lost, and tell God to get lost. You are going to want to try something, and take off and get lost and in over your head – like the lost sheep. You are going to slip from the hand and feel desperate to be found. Like the prodigal son, you are going to look into the eyes of your heavenly Father and say, “I don’t care what you say, or what you want, I’m going to do this my way because I want to”, and then run away from home. Like the Older Brother you are going to refuse to sit and eat with your heavenly Father when He asks for your company. You will whine to Him that you don’t have enough, that you are hard-done-by, and that you deserve more.
Like the Prodigal Son, you will make choices that get you enslaved — wallowing in the muck – making you unclean and impure – and you will show over and over that you trust yourself, or some other being or thing more than you trust God.
You will be like the Older brother and take God for granted. Take the gospel for granted. Lose your passion for Him, His Kingdom, His people, His worship, His discipline, His word, and His mission in your life. You will be apathetic to His voice, preferring entertainment and distraction to the King of Glory and the Great Treasure of the Universe.
We will all look into the face of God and say, “I wish you were dead.” That’s what it means to sin.
Whenever we sin we are saying “In this instance, at this time, I wish I was God. I wish I was in the place of my Father. I wish God wasn’t around so I could do whatever I want. I know His wishes, I can feel His Spirit convicting me, and yet I don’t care. I want to be in charge. I want what I’m due. I can do a better job of ruling my life. I wish there was no God so I could do whatever I want, without consequence.”
Does that sound too harsh? It’s not. That is the testimony of scripture.
God is the good shepherd who comes and gets us when we are in the dark place. God is the one who makes Himself found when we are desperately seeking answers to our deepest questions. God is the one who reminds us, when we are in the muck of sin, wallowing with the pigs, that there is a better home and a better place to be. God is the one who comes running towards us when we come back to Him. God is the one who takes you from being naked and filthy to having the best robe in the house. From being a slave to sin, to having His signet ring on your finger to show you are an honoured member of His family with rights and position. He is the one who puts sandals on your feet… the feet who walked away from Him when He had been nothing but good to you… to show you are not one of many, but are one of the few… one of His sons, one of His daughters. He is the one who kills the fattened calf, throws a party, calls His friends, writes music for the angels to sing over you!
Did you know that God sings over you? We hear about angels singing, but did you know that when you are saved, and when you repent and turn from your sin, that God Himself sings over you? Listen to Zephaniah 3:15-17,
“15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
The Lord sings over you!
Why? Because He wants to forgive you. He loves to forgive you. He has done everything possible, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, so that you could be forgiven, clean, blessed, made holy, bought back from Hell and be with Him forever. He did it all. You did nothing. You deserve none of it. He wanted to do it because He loves you!
That is the essence of the gospel, and the most foundational point in this whole study of Resolving Everyday Conflict. You are the offender in a thousand ways – and you have been forgiven.
You were lost. You had a deep spiritual lostness and you were found.
When you look at lost people… When you look at brothers and sisters who are getting lost, walking away, moving into spiritual losteness… When it comes to looking at other’s sins against you… When it comes to how you view the sins of others… When it comes to that bitterness in your heart about what happened… When it comes to that person you can’t forgive, won’t forgive…. When it comes to hard-hearted decisions, the resentment, the anger, the hostility that you have for another person…
WHAT RIGHT DO YOU HAVE TO IT?
You who have been forgiven so much. You who has been brought back from the brink. You who have experienced peace with God because of the blood that was spilt from the blood of the perfect Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, upon the shameful, excruciating cross. You who has done nothing to save yourself, but have been ransomed from hell by the one who died for you. You who has been given such immeasurable grace.
What right do you have to not forgive others? What right do you have not to share that grace with others? How could you possibly not forgive if you can comprehend the amount you have been forgiven? How can you hold yourself in such high esteem when you have come face to face with your own depravity? How can the same mind understand the need to ask God to forgive your sins, but then not grant forgiveness to others? How can the same person, who knows how profoundly lost they were, look at someone else who is lost, and not show mercy?