Sermon delivered March 23, 1996

Pastor Don Gettys, McDonald SDA Church, McDonald, TN

Hardly a week goes by without some heartbroken mother or father speaking to me about the needs of one of their children. Their daughter is not attending church or their son has lost his job. Their heart goes out for their children. Perhaps the marriage of their son is about to end or a grand- child is in grave physical danger. Most often the request is for prayer because their child has lost their hold on God. They have drifted away and the parents don't know what to do to get them back.

Even worse is when they were driven away from the church. Fordyce Detamore was teaching one day when I was in the seminary at Andrews University. He told of how one day a heart broken man asked him to perform a funeral for his brother. It seems that the drunken brother had been killed on a Saturday night in a head on collision. He was killed instantly. His heart was cut in two.

The poor brother went on: Years ago my brother and I attended the Adventist Church in . Then he went on to tell how on a certain Sabbath they were seated in church and a deacon jumped them for being noisy and talking during the service. The man told them that if they could not keep quiet to get out and don't you come back until you can behave and be reverent. At that the brother got up and left. That was 30 years ago and he never attended church again.

Detamore said that he did conduct that funeral but the words about the man's heart being cut in half kept haunting him. When was his heart cut in two? Back there 30 years before in the balcony of the church an unkind legalistic deacon had cut the boy's heart in two.

I hope that Today's sermon can help us to be more like Jesus. Jesus came to save the lost and seek the dying. Today I want to uncork some of the pain we all sense for our lost loved ones by looking at one of the finest parables that Jesus ever told.

This gem is in the book of Luke LUKE 15:3-7 (5 verses) - THE LOST SHEEP

A) RESCUE! Luke 15:4 The search operation. Our God is committed to finding the lost. The warm loving heart of God drives Him to pursue the lost. Your lost children & your lost relatives will never be given up by God. Jesus is not SHEEPISH about going all out to find the lost. If there is something to learn here it is that in God's sight, all sheep are VALUABLE...worth risking your life to save.

Here is a picture of a loving shepherd counting his sheep. Why does a shepherd COUNT sheep? Not to help him sleep! NO! He can't sleep until He knows that all his sheep are safely in the protection of the fold.

Sheep are dumb. They must have a shepherd or they will be lost. Even today ranchers use dogs to tend sheep. You could never use a sheep to herd a pack of dogs around. But one dog can control a whole flock of sheep. I wish Jesus would compare us to some smarter animal than a sheep. But He knows our heart....we stray away from Jesus so easy.

Sheep are only safe when they are in the presence of a loving shepherd. And-We are only safe in the hands of Jesus. John 10:28 "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

The shepherd of the east was a symbol of bravery and love. Many of the OT leaders were shepherds. Shepherds have hearts more in tune with God. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was first announced to shepherds. Not the fishermen of Gallilee. Not the carpenters of Nazareth.

The heavenly shepherd seeks His wayward sheep. Notice here--Jesus says it was a sheep that was lost and not a lamb. A grown up sheep. If a sheep goes astray there is a risk that they will lead the young lambs astray. If the sheep go wrong it will not be long till the lambs are lost. And if the lambs are lost, what a terrible cost some sheep may have to pay.

Francis Thompson an English poet wrote a poem called the HOUND OF HEAVEN. In it he talks about his life of sin and how that through all of his life there was God following Him, like a hound dog. God continued to pursue him. Not to devour him, but to bless him. How different that poets life might have been had he stopped running from God earlier.

If you have been fleeing God in fear, ask your self why? You can have full confidence in God's motives as He comes seeking you. He comes to bless your life and to help you to be successful. The seeking Saviour comes after you like a dog on the trail that he may save you from sin and help you avoid its wages and troubles.

God seeks you because you belong to Him. The lost sheep belongs to God even when he is lost. That lost sheep is the property of God! Your son or your daughter may choose another master, they may choose a life apart from God, but they still belong to God and He longs to recover His property. (COL 187) EZEKIEL 34:12 I WILL SEEK OUT "MY" SHEEP.

B)-- RECOVERY Luke 15:4 seeks until he finds it. God is successful! Not even one straying sheep will be overlooked. None will be left UNSUCCORED. God is out there on the trail of your wayward lost child. The moment they are lost the rescue operation begins. And God is successful! Here we have no picture of a sad shepherd returning without the sheep. He comes back with the object of His search. It may take a long time, but God does not give up on your backslidden child or your lost relative.

Any-- who will cry out and submit to be rescued will be saved from the briers of sin. Rescued from the pit of corruption. Salvation does not come from our seeking after God (Ro 3:11-12) but through God's seeking after us. He makes the first move. We do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent.

No wonder that LUKE 15 is perhaps the most famous chapter of the entire Bible. We gain hope here. Hope that we desperately need. Almost every Sabbath you are asked to raise your hand if you have an unspoken prayer request. I would guess that 95% of those hands represent our family or our children. Their salvation, job, marriage etc. Please know that these are also a burden on the Heart of God.

Luke 15:5 And when he finds it.... Not IF he finds it. NO! Our Saviour is the GOOD Shepherd and always finds the lost sheep. When He finds the lost sheep, He does not condemn it. "There you are you scoundrel. Because of your stupid lust for sinning I have had to be out here all night looking for you. Now I am going to give you what you deserve for running away. I am going to give you a spanking you will never forget...! You will never run from me again!" When Jesus finds the lost sheep He does not condemn it. No, Jesus loves it. Jesus does not scold that cold wet bleeding sheep. He does not drive it back toward the fold with a whip. He does not even try to lead it home. With Joy, He takes it into His strong arms and presses it close to His bosom that the warmth of his own heart may give it life. Then in Joy Jesus takes the trembling creature upon his shoulders and bears it back to the safety of the fold.

C)--- RESTORATION The good shepherd brings the sheep back to the fold. LUKE 15:5-6A High up on the strong shoulders of Jesus the found sheep is carried "HOME". Restored once again to the security of the fold.

Notice how the sheep got saved. A lost sheep CANNOT find its way back to the fold-COL 187. What did the sheep do to save itself? The lost sheep contributed absolutely nothing to his salvation except to cry for help! How much can you contribute to your salvation? No WORKS of any kind. But let me ask you what that sheep will do once it gets back. That restored sheep will appreciate the heroic effort of the brave shepherd and will love and serve Him all the more. He is restored by GRACE.

D)-- REJOICING LUKE 15:6-7 The neighbors and friends are called in for a celebration. A big PARTY! Cake and Ice Cream. Happiness beyond imagination. Now there are 100 sheep once more. God can't rest or sleep until the lost is found.

How do we react when suddenly out of the blue a "Lost" young person shows up for church? Perhaps he has his new wife with him. Do we accept them just as they are? Can we express real joy and put our arms around them and welcome them? When God leads them in the door of the church we should be quick to speak words of love and affirmation. We should jump at the chance to invite them to our table for a Sabbath meal. If they find love they will be back. And there will be real joy in Heaven.

In Jesus day the RABBIS taught that there is rejoicing in heaven when one lost person who has sinned against God is destroyed-(COL 190). But Jesus showed that just the opposite is true. Oh what deep joy when a lost sheep is recovered.

Lost sheep, take courage! God is looking for you. Never think that PERHAPS God might pardon your transgressions and save you. It is God Who makes the first step. If you do not resist God will find you and encircle you with His arms of love and restore you to the fold of safety. Jesus would have died for just one lost soul.

Love never gives up. God doesn't give up on us. He will supply strength so you can keep on praying for your children. Keep on hoping and believing. We are told that in the last days "Many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd" -- 6T401. I believe that many of these will be our children. The ones we have been praying for all these years. By your prayers you parents make a Hedge around your children--7T42-43.

HOSEA 11:4 I drew them with cords of love.

Safe were the ninety and nine in the fold, Safe though the night was stormy and cold; But said the shepherd, when counting them o'er, One sheep is missing: there should be one more!

Although His feet were weary and worn, And though His hands were rent and torn; Even tho the road was rugged and steep, Still the good shepherd sought long for his sheep.

There in the night He heard a faint cry, From the lost sheep just ready to die; Then in His arms, to shield from the cold, He brought the lost one safe back to the fold.

The shepherd went out to search for his sheep, And all thro' the night on the rocky steep, He sought till he found him, with love-bands he bound him, And I was that one lost sheep. (written by two SDA ministers)


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