to seek and save those who are lost

Conviction central as I tie up the loose ends for a project in my Hermeneutics class. This week I've been delving into Luke 15:1-7, working with parables. The last part of the exegetical process is called synthesis. Basically, it is like getting your car fixed. First, the mechanic has to tear it apart, but then he has to put it back together. Here is a snip of the 12 page synthesis:

There is joy and rejoicing over the repentance of one who was lost.

The bad news: Christians are to have the same attitude towards the lost as the shepherd. If Christians only base their evangelism and discipleship efforts on those who appear to already be clean, they do not have the same heart as the Shepherd. The cross is level ground, allowing all to come.

The good news: The shepherd is the one seeking after the lost. He, too, is the one carrying the the lost back. Yet, the true significance of this passage is that there is rejoicing involved, both by the shepherd and in all of heaven, there is acceptance and joy. (In my Greek studies I am translating Philippians, which is kicking me hard too!)

Principlization: There is rejoicing when a sinner is moved towards repentance.

Identification: Within American culture there is an idea that a person has to already be cleaned up before they can come to Christ. According to Barna, Christians are viewed as those who are self-righteous, judgmental and living inside the Christian bubble of their churches. Though they most likely would not comment in public about it, most people who have grown up in the church feel an air of superiority towards those who have had to deal with the hard knocks of life. Instead of this, Christians should adopt the mission of Christ—to seek and save those who are lost. Rather than viewing their present status in Christ within a hierarchy, believers should recognize it is only by the grace of God that they have been found by the Shepherd. This recognition motivates the believer to be an extension of God’s grace to whomever and wherever the Holy Spirit leads them to communicate the gospel.

Implementation: Believers are given the opportunity to reach out of the confines of the church building where the Lord has called them. Believers should be more concerned with the eternal destiny of those around them than the possible stain on their reputation. Whether it is getting involved in a crisis pregnancy center, working with drug addicts, or simply having conversations with neighbors over dinner each believer is given an opportunity to fulfill the mission of Christ as they depend upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance for sovereign circumstance and the salty, grace for the moment words.

Personal Response: Going through this passage and the context of the book of Luke is humbling and convicting. It is humbling in recognizing that there are none who are righteous, even though the Pharisees and scribes thought they were righteous. The only salvation is through the shepherd, the kindness of God leading us to repentance.

There are certain standards today, not congruent with the message of Christ, which are in direct opposition to this passage and the mission of Jesus. Daily I have the choice to be motivated by my reputation within ministry circles or to be motivated by the mission of Christ. In the inbetween stage of life, where I don’t have a job and am waiting for the Lord’s shepherding direction, this passage serves as a enabling reminder.

In addition to the various reasons why the passage is humbling, the passage is convicting as well. My wife gets this part of Christ, while I struggle to reach out to those around me who are in sin. Throughout the day, I rub shoulders with countless lost people when I get coffee, workout, or while studying in the park. Yet, are they drawn to me as the sinners were drawn to Christ? What was it in Him that drew these people to him? My wife and I have had some sanctifying conversations concerning this topic over the past few months as she is reaching out to our neighbors and several individuals who are outcasts. The Lord has changed me through watching her be an extension of Christ’s compassion.

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