What attracted sinners to Jesus? It was who He was, and who He wasn't. He was someone who loved people unconditionally. He wasn't someone who had a "holier-than-thou" attitude. He was someone who reached out to everyone. He wasn't someone who kept to Himself with a small crowd of like-minded people. He was someone who cared deeply about people's lives. But He wasn't someone who judged and condemned people. He loved them, ministered to them, He met their needs, He cared about them. He didn't come to judge them, but to save them. As He told Nicodemus,
John 3:17 "...God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him."
Jesus Christ's primary purpose was not to condemn people's sin, but to save them from their sin. So the sinners of the world were attracted to Jesus.
This morning, I wonder: are sinners attracted to us? If not, why not? Because if we're being like Jesus as we're called to be, wouldn't they be attracted to us too? Can we put our own names in that description of what Jesus was and wasn't? Can we say, "I am someone who loves people unconditionally. I am not someone who has a "holier-than-thou" attitude. I am someone who reaches out to everyone. I am not someone who keep to myself with a small crowd of like-minded people. I am someone who cares deeply about people's lives. But I'm not someone who judges and condemns people. He love them, minister to them, I meet their needs, I care about them. I don't judge them, but I do want to save them."
Most of us would have great difficulty passing that test. As a result, sinners aren't attracted to us, and consequently, we don't get a chance to eat with, and share with, them. Often we do the opposite of Jesus, walking in small circles of like-minded people, repelling and rejecting those in the world who need to hear the gospel of salvation from us. Instead of loving them, we're judging them. Instead of ministering to them, we're despising them.
Oh, if only we would show grace, love, and mercy to sinners, we would be given the chance to minister to and share with them just like Jesus did!
Associating with sinners doesn't make you act like them. Remember that Jesus never sinned when He fellowshipped with sinners. We should never engage in sin to attract sinners - But we do need to associate with them. Paul the apostle told the Corinthians,
1Cor. 5:9-11 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one.
So, if a Christian is living an immoral life, don't associate with him - as the Bible says,
1Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'
But someone who doesn't know the Lord is exactly the person that needs your association. Jesus said in Luke 5,
Luke 5:32 "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
We must repent of our judgmental, or isolationist attitudes. What if Jesus had done this? What if He had only related to the people who were just like Him? He wouldn't have associated with anybody! How important it is for us to recognize that we have not been put on this earth to live in a cave, but to
Mark 16:15 ..."Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
When Jesus prayed for us, He didn't pray that we would be taken out of the world. He prayed for us in John 17,
John 17:15-16 "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
And Paul told us,
Rom. 12:2 ...Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...
We are not to be of the world, but we are to be in the world. We are not to be conforming to the world, but we are to be associating with the world. The most effective people in the kingdom of God have always been accused by religious people,
Luke 15:2 ..."This man receives sinners and eats with them."
I hope that someday soon we will be corporately accused of this as well.
Now although we might think of these as three separate parables, Luke says clearly in verse 3,
Luke 15:3 And He told them this parable...
This parable. "The old Fathers declared emphatically that this is not three parables, but one parable in three movements." (Morgan)
So what is the message of this three-movement parable? Just this: whether you've strayed away, gotten lost, or rebelled against God, He earnestly desires you back. He will search for you, He will go after you, He will run to you. And when He finds you and you repent and return, there will be much rejoicing in heaven.
When the flesh gets the better of us, and we leave that place of intimacy with God, the resulting reaction is always in one of these three categories:
1) The Lost Sheep - One instinct of ours is to leave the other sheep, the children of God. We stop going to church, stop hanging out with our Christian friends. Going off into our own place, doing our own thing. "Out of sight, out of mind".
2) The Lost Coin - Another instinct of ours is to stay in the house, but to hide in a dark corner, where no one can see us. We'll come to church late, leave early, and if anyone asks us how we're doing, we say, "Great, fine." We hide ourselves right in the house.
3) The Prodigal Son - The third instinct of our flesh is to just totally backslide. Going and "living it up" in the world. "Wine, women, and song." Totally reverting back to the person we were and the life we lived. Completely forsaking the Father. And as verse 15 says,
Luke 15:15 And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country...
Often, when you've forsaken the Father, you will go attach yourself to someone in the world. You end up moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or finding someone that loves to party. But when you attach yourself with someone in the world, ultimately, they will send you
Luke 15:15 ...into his fields to feed swine.
Whichever one of these reactions you may be acting out right now, whether you've left the other sheep, or like the coin, stayed in the house, but hidden in some dark corner. Or like the prodigal son, rebelled, having gone out and "lived it up" in the world. Whatever the case, God wants you back. Not to punish you, to smoke you or smite you, or to make you pay for the time you've been away, but just to love you and welcome you back. Isn't it time that you returned? As you turn back to Him, He'll run to you.
If you're like the lost sheep, the Lord is searching for you. He has gone out after you, and when He finds you, He'll lay you on His shoulders and rejoice. And all of heaven will celebrate. Isn't it time you let Him find you?
If you're like the lost coin, the Lord is lighting a lamp here in His house. He's checking out every nook and cranny and dark corner to find you. And when He finds you, all of heaven will celebrate. Isn't it time you let Him find you?
If you're like the prodigal son, the Lord is grieving and saddened, waiting for the day that you will come to your senses and decide to come back. And when you do, He will feel compassion for you. He'll run to you, He'll embrace you and kiss you. And He'll welcome you back like one of the family. And all of heaven will rejoice when you come back.
And though there may be grumblers like the prodigal son's older brother, who say, "Look at this backslider! He can't be trusted! Why are you welcoming him back so readily, Lord?" The Lord in your defense is saying,
Luke 15:32 "But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found!"
Some of us have forsaken the fellowship of the sheep. Many of us have put on false fronts, being in the house, but hiding in the corner. Some have even forsaken the Father, having gone out into the world to pursue pleasures of the flesh. Wherever you're at this morning, God earnestly desires you back. We're now going to have a time of worship and communion. A time when you can be restored to rightness with Jesus Christ. A time to come out from hiding, a time to come back to intimate fellowship with the Father. Come alone to the table of the Lord as you feel drawn to Him. Partake of the bread, His broken body. Drink of the cup, His blood which was shed for your sins. Come alone, and meet the Lord at His table this morning. He's not angry with you - He just wants you back.