Tag Archive | lost

 Loving the Lost

David Wilkerson

There is much talk right now about the fearful situation our world is in. Nation after nation is troubled, on the brink of economic disaster. Yet amid all the fear and turmoil gripping the world, God is still loving and saving lost souls.

His marvelous work of salvation never changes. It isn’t affected by the economy. His wooing, convicting Holy Spirit isn’t hindered by conditions on Wall Street or by teetering global finances. God’s saving power has never been limited by shrinking bank accounts.

The fact is, our Lord never amends his promises. They are always “yea and amen,” at all times and in every circumstance. God didn’t promise to provide all our needs except when we’re unemployed. He didn’t promise to be Jehovah Jireh, our provider, except when economic times get scary.

Our Lord’s promises never change. And that includes his promise about saving the lost.

When God commanded us to go into all the world to win the lost, he didn’t include an exemption clause. He didn’t say, “Preach the gospel of my Son Jesus Christ to all nations – except in hard times.” He never said, “Believe for the salvation of many – except when there is a great shaking in the world.”

Thank God, he has never said the world is too wicked, too hardhearted, too given over to lust to be reached by his Good News. At no time in history did the Lord ever limit his tender mercies – and he never will. Right now, America and the rest of the world could still be spared judgment – if there is true repentance. Of course, such repentance would require a great humbling and a mass return to the Lord. But our God has never rescinded his amazing offer of mercy.

Indeed, the Lord has made provision that no one need perish. Scripture tells us God does not take delight in the death of the wicked. On the contrary, he gave his own Son so that none should perish and all would have everlasting life.

In Spite of Gods great gift, the world hates the Christ who loves them.

Jesus declared that he came to seek and to save the lost. He who had power to subdue the winds and waves, who could send fire down from heaven to destroy the wicked, who embodied righteousness – this same Jesus came as a humble servant.

And he brought healing to the people. Christ listened patiently as broken, suffering multitudes pleaded for deliverance from their afflictions. He opened blind eyes. He caused cripples to walk. He made the sick whole. He loosed tied tongues and unstopped deaf ears. Jesus even raised the dead. Simply put, Christ set captives free just as he claimed he would. He faithfully broke every form of bondage he encountered.

Jesus was hated by the world because he came as a light to deliver the world from darkness.

The truth is no human being ever loved the lost more than Jesus did. He grieved over them as scattered, confused sheep in need of a shepherd. He wept over their spiritual blindness. And he poured out his very life for them at the cross. No person in history should have been more loved or respected. Christ should have been honored and esteemed by all. Yet despite all his outpourings of sacrificial love, the world hated him without a cause.

There were thousands upon thousands of reasons to love Jesus, and not a single reason to hate him. What did he do that he should be so hated and despised? The gospels speak of Christ as kind, patient, longsuffering, forgiving, full of tenderness and mercy, willing that no one should perish. He is called a shepherd, a teacher, a brother, a light in darkness, a physician, an advocate, a reconciler. He went about doing only good. No one ever had cause to hate him. So why the deep, vicious hatred toward Christ? Why the violence done to him and his name?

Jesus was hated by the world because he came as a light to deliver the world from darkness. John writes, “This is the condemnation [their reason for hating him], that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved [discovered]”
(John 3:19-20).

Jesus declared of himself, “I am the light of the world: he that follow-eth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (8:12). This explains the one reason Jesus was so hated. His gospel is a call to the world to “cast off the works of darkness, and…put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12).

Here’s is the world’s reason for hating Christ, both then and now.

Jesus promised to deliver sinners from the chains of darkness, to set them free from all satanic power. But they didn’t want that. Why? What a Christian sees as freedom, the world sees as bondage.

“Freedom? What freedom?” they ask when offered freedom in Christ. “I’m already free. I’ve been freed from all restrictions, all sexual taboos. And I’m freed from the bondage of the Bible. I am free to worship a god of and my own choosing, and in my case that is no god at all.”

The simple fact is the world loves the things of this world. And they love the pleasures of sin. As Jesus put it, they prefer the darkness. Therefore, as Christ warned his disciples, “Because I have chosen you out of the world, the world is going to hate you just as they have hated me.”

“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Why is this so? Why the hatred toward us, simply for loving the Lord? Jesus explains, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (15:18).

This is why society has unleashed massive efforts to stamp out all that pertains to Jesus …why there is such disdain for his followers …why courts try to outlaw the very mention of his name…why there is such abhorrence, even outrage, toward those who claim the Bible as their moral compass. It all has to do with our mission as the bearers of his light.

Think of it: As Christ’s witnesses, we are called to a seemingly impossible task. We are asking the world to lay down the things that are most dear to them: their sins. In their eyes, the Christian walk – a life of purity and holiness – looks like a form of slavery. Our idea of heaven seems to them more like hell. When they hear us talk about the gospel, it is an offence to their lifestyle. Christ’s gospel calls them to repent of the sins they love, to repent of rejecting the God who died for them on a cross. It calls for a life of holiness, when for years they’ve tried to silence their conscience, to kill any notion there might be a coming day of reckoning.

Christ’s gospel also tells them their own personal goodness can’t merit eternal life. It asks the self-made man to die to himself and his selfish ambitions, and to give his life for others. It declares that his own sense of integrity is nothing in God’s sight. Such a gospel is a threat to his pearl of great price: his personal achievements, the things he has worked long and hard to obtain. If you tell him his righteousness does not merit salvation, he’ll despise you.

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you” (John 13:34).

During his final time with the disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus warned, “Some of you will be rejected, some will be imprisoned, some will be killed. All of you will be persecuted” (see John 16:2). What a send-off message. The disciples were going to be hated, seen as the off-scouring of the earth!

Yet Jesus gave them a word of direction at this same time. What was his final instruction? It was about how to reach their generation after he was gone. This word of direction had nothing to do with methods for evangelism. Jesus had already told the disciples they were to go into all the world preaching the gospel, and that they would need the power of the Holy Ghost to do that. These two things were already clear to them.

Now, he said, “I give you a new commandment.” Jesus told them plainly: “If you obey this new commandment, all men will know who you are. And they’ll know exactly where you stand. They may hate you. They may call you fanatics and turn you out of their synagogues. But they will know you are mine.”

Here was Jesus’ commandment to the disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (13:34, my italics). Note this is not an option; it is Jesus’ commandment. And it is where every evangelistic effort must begin.

You see, Scripture makes clear we are to feed the poor, and the church will always do so faithfully. We are to do many good works, through which we preach Christ boldly. But to penetrate the “gross darkness,” we need to lay hold of this new commandment from Jesus. Why is our obedience to this command necessary to break through darkness? Christ explains: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35, my italics).

According to Jesus, only this particular love – a love for fellow believers – will gain the attention of a lost generation. It is the same kind of self-denying, sacrificial love that Jesus shows to each of us. And such love for our kin in Christ cannot be accomplished in word alone, but must be in deed.

This commandment accomplishes two things. First, it is the only way to respond to the hatred that comes from the world: “As I have loved you…love one another” (13:34). Our love for each other is a refuge and safe haven for all in the body of Christ.

Second, through this commandment the Holy Spirit reveals to our generation their great sense of need. Why have so many young people turned to mindless binge drinking? Why have multitudes turned to drugs as never before? Why is the rate of suicide on the rise? The explanation is simple: People everywhere are hurting. There is sin-sickness among the masses, with multitudes plagued by emptiness.

People today have so little to trust in. Long-trusted institutions are crumbling. Economic and moral structures have disintegrated. There is no security, financial or personal. To whom can people turn? Where can they find examples of real, enduring love in such a shaky, perilous time?

The world needs illustrated sermons – personal examples – of, God’s love.

In John 17:21, Jesus made this prayer: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (my italics).

Think of it: Even in his final hours, Jesus was still yearning over lost humanity. And he was giving his church specific direction on how to win those lost multitudes. Consider his final words on the subject: “Be as one! Put aside all strife and division that the world may believe in me.”

You may think, “This sounds so simplistic. Is that really how the church is going to reach hardened hearts? Is it how we’re supposed to battle gross darkness? Does simply loving each other truly provide supernatural power to combat hatred?”

The answer is yes, yes and yes, absolutely! According to Jesus, the powerful love of God is revealed most clearly to the world by the unconditional love between his people.

Right now, one of Satan’s primary strategies against the church is to plant division and strife. Everywhere I look in the body of Christ worldwide, I am convinced hordes of demons have been sent on assignment within church walls. And their aim is to destroy the love of Christians for one another.

The devil’s strategy is subtle: He pits race against race and rich against poor in the body of Christ. The racial strife, specifically, is being fed worldwide through television and other media. I have not seen such racial hatred spewed forth in years, and now it is infiltrating the walls of God’s house.

I thank God that Times Square Church was raised up with no color lines and no distinction between rich or poor. All who come through our doors are treated with the same respect and welcoming love. We have enjoyed God’s blessing for twenty-two years now, and I believe this is partly because we have obeyed Christ’s command to love one another as he has loved us.

Of course, every Christian claims not to have prejudice. But if we don’t obey God on this matter – if we do not cry out to him to remove from our hearts the slightest seed of division – our witness to the world will lose its power. We’ll have nothing to impact the gross darkness. And the testimony God has entrusted to us will be lost.

Tragically the religious world has divided for centuries.

Down through the generations, terrible divisions have pitted Christians against each other. Brother has come against brother, sister against sister, and entire denominations have been ruined.

The truth is, I truly love my brother only when I can stand side by side with him in worship of Jesus. I know I truly love my brother when I can stand confidently before Christ’s throne knowing I have nothing in my heart against him. I know I truly love my brother when I have the same love for him that Jesus has shown to me.

How do we truly love one another as Christ loves us?

It happens when we forgive those who have hurt us, just as Christ has forgiven us.

It happens when we reach out to the backslidden, doing all in our power to restore them.

It happens when we esteem others better than ourselves.

Dear saint, I plead with you today: Lay down all bitterness, strife and disrespect. Do not hinder the blessing of God in your life and home. Obey his new commandment to you and remember his Word: “By this shall all men know you are mine – when you love one another!” Then the lost will see and know God’s love, through his obedient, joyful, sacrificing people – the church. Amen!

The above article, “Loving the Lost” was written by David Wilkerson. The article was excerpted from the World Challenge Pulpit Series. August 2009.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

Posted in AIS File Library, BS - Bible Studies, BSMS - Miscellaneous Bible Studies0 Comments

The Lost Sheep

THE LOST SHEEP:
BY GARY B. SWANSON

Whatever happened to the sheep after he came back to the fold?

The old storyteller woke with a start at the persistent knocking on his door. Half asleep, he gazed for a long moment at the coals in the fireplace. Then the thumping on the door brought him fully awake.

“Just a moment,” he grumbled. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” He pulled himself painfully out of his chair to a standing position, tottering slightly in his slippers. Then, shuffling over to the solid, oak door, he threw back the bolt and cautiously opened it.

“Who’s there?” he asked the darkness. The slightest hint of a smile played across his lips. “It’s you,” he said, stepping aside.. “Come in quickly. It’s cold out there.”

A boy entered the cottage and moved directly to the hearth. He was a slight child-thin, a bit gangly, with large, questioning eyes. He stooped over, took an armload of wood from the wood bin, and threw it piece by piece on the fire. “Make yourself at home!” the old man said with an air of resignation. “What brings you out on a miserable night like this, as if I didn’t know?”

“I want you to finish another story for me,” the boy said.

The old man closed the door behind him. “Why is it you cannot leave a story alone?” he asked. “Why can you never be satisfied with happily ever after?”

The boy shrugged. “Can’t help it, I guess. Whether they are happy or not, I just don’t like stories to end.”

“Indeed,” the old man mused. “The end of a story for you is only a beginning. All right, all right. Tell me the story that has brought you to my door on a night like this. Let’s get after it so I can go to bed.”

“It’s the story in the Bible of the lost sheep. What happened after the shepherd brought the lost sheep back to the fold?” The boy hunkered down on a low stool before the fire.

The old man nodded and lowered himself carefully into his chair. “That is indeed a story worth exploring,” he said. He stroked his wispy beard and looked beyond the boy and the newly crackling fire in the fireplace.

“You would have thought,” he began, “that the ninety-nine sheep in the fold would have been excited about the lost sheep that had been rescued. You would have thought they’d have given him the choicest grass to eat and made him feel right at home.

“After all, the shepherd had followed the lost sheep out into the wilderness where fierce storms and wild animals had threatened his very life. But that isn’t at all the way things turned out.”

“I thought as much,” the boy said, hugging his knees to his chest.

“To be sure,” the old man continued, “there was quite a flurry of activity when the shepherd returned carrying the lost sheep on his tired shoulders. The flock gathered around the shepherd, bleating their happiness that he had rescued one of their kind. They misunderstood the shepherd’s weary smile as a sign only that he was glad to see them, which he certainly was. But as much as he loved his flock, the greater reason for the smile on his face this day was the return of the one lost sheep.

“But problems started when the shepherd had to leave the fold for a while. The sheep immediately broke up into their little groups again, some to the far end of the meadow, where the trees offered shade. Others gathered around the calm pool in the nearby stream and resumed their discussions. Yet others simply dozed contentedly in the sunshine, unaware of anything that was going on around them. Only a few took any personal interest in the returned sheep.”What was the problem?” the boy asked.

“Well, some objected to the smell of the returned sheep-the wild, alarming odor of the great wilderness from which he had come. To animals with such sensitive noses, there was something sinister about it. In fact, some even chased their lambs away from him when, in their innocent curiosity, they ventured too close. It wouldn’t do to have that awful odor rub off on their young.”

The storyteller sniffed and turned up his nose in a way that made the boy giggle.

“When the weather turned bitter and cold-as it is tonight-and driving rain soaked them to the bone, they huddled pitifully together in small groups, but not a one offered warmth to the lost sheep. He thought it odd that cold weather didn’t cause the sheep to draw together for warmth into one large group, but they seemed to prefer smaller groups.

“A few of the sheep were quite concerned about his appearance, too. His wool bristled with foxtails and cockleburrs. Matted and dingy, it crawled with lice. And everyone knows that these things cause
disease.”

“Couldn’t they see that it takes a while for someone to fit in?” the
boy asked.

“To give them credit,” the storyteller said, “the sheep in the fold were not trying to be cruel. If the truth were told, they were deathly afraid of being lost themselves. At one time or another they had all
wandered off, and they were doing whatever they thought necessary to avoid getting lost again.

“Because of this, they were concerned about the influence of the lost sheep. He did have some rather peculiar ideas, and they felt safest just to leave him to himself. After all, what if he strayed again?
This time he could take several others with him.

Some pointed out that the sheep had actually brought his troubles on himself. He had got himself lost. He had made the choice to stray from the fold; no one had forced him to do it.

“All the sheep were well versed in the rules of the fold, as told to them by the aged ram with the great twisted horns and the bell hanging from his neck. Rule number one was to be as much as possible like everyone else. And straying off was certainly no way to go about that.

“One morning one of them looked up from his grazing and peered from one end of the meadow to the other. The sheep was gone-again. And no one could tell for sure how long he had been missing.

“There was a grave shaking of heads and the exchange of I-told-you-so looks. Surely he would kill himself this time, all because of his own willfulness and stupidity.

“But they didn’t know that this time the sheep had found the shepherd in a quiet, out-of-the-way area of the fold that many of them had forgotten existed. At that very moment he was happily resting in the shepherd’s lap. He was not lost at all.”

The boy yawned and stretched and rose to his feet. “There now,” he said. “That’s a proper ending to a story.”

The old storyteller smiled knowingly. “For tonight, at least.”

Posted in IN - Inspirational Stories and Illustrations0 Comments


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