John Newton said it right: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; /How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.” This grace, undeserved mercy of God, came in the person of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. By the work of the Holy Spirit our eyes were opened to see Christ and His cross, and we knew then that by grace we were saved, that we had received a wonderful gift of God (Ephesians 2:7–9).
Grace teaches our hearts to fear God because we are transgressors of His Law. Grace relieves our fears with the gift of faith, “whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel” (Shorter Catechism # 86). The gospel calls men to turn from sin to Christ: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
To repent means to turn away from something with regret or sorrow. Repentance comes with a change of heart and mind toward an unrighteous act. To be converted emphasizes the need to turn to something. This word is used in Luke 1:16, “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.” The Shorter Catechism, # 87, defines Repentance as that saving grace “whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,” does with grief and hatred of sin, turn to God with a new obedience.
We acknowledge, therefore, that the repenting sinner is not one who only repents at the time he or she comes to believe in Christ as their only Savior, but that the sinner saved by grace is continually repenting, turning from sin to God (1 John 1:9). Daily we witness to the saving grace of our Father in heaven, saying, “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
Publicans and sinners gathered around Jesus to hear what He had to say. The Pharisees and the Scribes came to hear Jesus but not to listen to Him. They “murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
There is that familiar story of the short man who climbed a tree to see Jesus (Luke 19:1–10). His name was Zacchaeus (which means pure), and he was a chief tax-collector of Jericho. This rich man, a publican, was looked down upon because he was a sinner. He was a sinner who chose to serve Rome and rob his neighbors. However, Jesus came to that sycamore tree and called this man by name. Zacchaeus, said Jesus, come down for today I must abide at your house.
It is a wonderful thing to be known by the Lord. Christ Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. Zacchaeus was one of His lost sheep. However, there were those who would rather choose who should or should not come into the presence of God. When Jesus was received with joy by Zacchaeus, there were those who said that Jesus was going to be a guest of a sinner. Their voices revealed the jealousy and hatred of their hearts. When we point to another and declare him unfit for fellowship with the Lord, we may just be saying that they are not just good enough for us.
Jesus brought salvation into the home of Zacchaeus. The heart of Zacchaeus was changed and he repented. Salvation came because “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). When we are sent into a home, or a street, or to a neighbor or friend, Jesus goes ahead of us, for He is the one who is seeking and saving His lost sheep. It is a joyous thing to see Jesus, the risen and present Lord, receiving sinners.
Read through the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin (15:4–10).
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their murmuring. They were right when they said that Jesus was receiving sinners and having dinner with them; but they said this to condemn Jesus. Jesus rebuked them because they should have been the first of His people to reach out to the sinners and tell them of the salvation of the Lord. They were supposed to be the leaders who knew and taught the Word of God. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes by speaking to them by a parable. If they had ears to hear, they would hear.
Jesus tells us about a man who has one hundred sheep. One of these sheep is lost. The question is whether this man will leave the “ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it.” The second parable tells us about the woman who has ten pieces of silver. She loses one of these silver coins. The question is whether this woman will light a candle, “and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it.”
The parable speaks of the intensity of both the shepherd and the woman to find that which was lost. As a teenager, I heard of a young man who went to the street corners of Brooklyn to preach to the Jews. Why did he do this? There was also the time when, with a group of young people, we went to a mission in the New York. I don’t remember what part we had in the service, but I still remember that a young man gave up his drink and came to know Christ. Why do we go to anyone with the gospel?
The intensity of the cross, which alone belongs to Christ, is seen in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed to His Father, earnestly, “and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He took the cup of His salvation and redeemed His people from their sins. For the joy that was set before Him, our Savior “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Therefore, let us not be weary in the preaching of the gospel. For Christ is still seeking out the lost sheep and gathering them into His arms.
These parables of our Lord also teach us about the great joy of the good news of Jesus Christ. The shepherd found his lost sheep and carried it home upon his shoulders. When he returned home, he called all of his friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” The woman who had lost her coin found it. She too called her friends together, saying, “Rejoice with me’ for I have found the piece which I had lost.”
When a lost sinner is found by the Savior, He calls both the church and the angels in His heaven to rejoice. Christ said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He is the shepherd who knows His sheep, calls them by name, and seeks them as lost sheep. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).
Why is it so difficult for many Christians to honestly rejoice over the sinner who repents, over the one who is so wonderfully redeemed with the precious blood of the Good Shepherd? Could it be that we have not really rejoiced over our own salvation? Could it be that we really do not believe that God’s angels are told of our salvation, and so they rejoice? Yet, there are many Christians who do rejoice. There are churches that not only place their name in the bulletin, but give them a chance to express their praise for their new found life in Christ.
Jesus said, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” He put it this way at the end of the parable of the coin: “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” The soul that is redeemed by the blood of Christ turns from sin to the God who has forgiven him. The joy expressed here seems to be that of God. In the presence of the angels there is much joy in heaven. For it is from heaven that our salvation has come. Christ came to seek and save the lost, and He has done so. He has found the sheep for which He shed His blood. Does not the one who saved a man from drowning do the most rejoicing because he has saved him from death? For the joy set before Him Christ endured the cross.
Comments are closed for this Article !