Trust is the basis for any relationship. It also is required by God, as the author of Hebrews wrote: “…he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ( Hebrews 11:6)
It truly is impossible to trust someone you don’t know- even if he loves and values you. We often think that the emphasis of the Gospel is on how we are to love God. However, the real message of the Gospel is about how God loves us and, in fact, loved us first. Loving God is not a criterion to be saved, however, believing God loves you isnecessary. Our false perceptions of God and the Gospel have caused the world to run from, instead of running into, the arms of the loving God.
In Luke chapter 15 Jesus told three stories as a response to the criticism He was receiving from the Pharisees and teachers of the religious law. The passage begins with:
“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying.” (Luke 15:1-2)
You see, unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus portrayed the true God who was good, loving, kind and accessible. The Pharisees portrayed a false god who was harsh, demanding, and easily offended. The sinners and tax collectors drew near to Jesus because He made them feel loved. Because He loved them, they followed Him, and because they followed Him, He changed them!
Story 1: The Lost Sheep
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:4-7 New Living Translation)
It’s interesting to note that in this story Jesus was rebuking the religious leaders for their lack of love and compassion and lack of desire to go after the lost. He was in essence saying, “you lost your father’s sheep, and I’m going to find them.” The fact that Jesus would be willing to leave the 99 to go in search for the one shows the value God puts upon each individual person. The fact that He cares so much about one lost person gives security and assurance to the 99 that He would do the same for them. Notice that He searches until He finds the sheep, and then after finding it, He puts it upon His shoulders and starts the difficult journey home. That is a perfect picture of Grace. Jesus not only searches for us until He finds us in order to save us, but then He lifts us up onto His shoulders and carries us safely home.
It also should be noticed that Jesus’ definition of repentance is radically different than ours. In the mind of God repentance is the acceptance of being found. It is not any action that we can do that earns our rescue but rather accepting the fact of the good Shepherd finding us, lifting us up, and carrying us home.
Story 2: The Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10 New Living Translation)
This second story is like the first, except that this time it’s about a woman who loses 10 silver coins. Women in the villages of the Middle East would often carry their wealth on a chain around their neck. The 10 silver coins could possibly have also represented the covenant of marriage, in which case the coins would have been kept in a leather pouch around her neck. Either way, what she carried around her neck was something prized and vaed- so much so that she carried it near her heart. Jesus was wanting to illustrate the point in a way that the listeners could understand. God carries you close to His heart; you are valuable. When anyone is lost or falls through the cracks it breaks His heart and He goes to search for him. He searches for you until He finds you and then when found, He calls for a celebration.
The third and final story should be familiar to every Christian. However, many of us fail to grasp the significance of the story and the heart of the Father. In part 2 we will deal with this final story Jesus told in to demonstrate the heart of the Father.