-------- Original message -------- From: Lutheran Hour Ministries <email@example.com> Date: 09/14/2013 9:15 PM (GMT-06:00) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: The Lutheran Hour: September 15, 2013
Sermon Text for September 15, 2013
"Finders Keepers" #81-02 Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 15, 2013 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (Come To Faith On Our Own?) Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. And in Him, even the lost are found! Amen.
Remember how exciting it was as a kid to happen upon a dropped coin on some street? Finding such a treasure was great, especially if your parents let you keep it. But, finding a lost coin like that could be a little bittersweet. For you to find it, meant that someone else lost it. In fact, the children's rhyme is a bit harsh: finders keepers, losers weepers. Is that Jesus' point in the text today? Not at all.
In fact, the point of Jesus talking about things that are lost, things that are found, is to talk about the joy of finders keepers all around. In the ancient world there were things that got lost, got abandoned, suddenly they were found to be on their own with no protection, no value, no stability, and that included a lot of people too. Finders keepers, especially when the seeking person was one of means, one of love, one of concern, that was good news indeed for things and people who are lost!
There's joy in this text, joy for you and for me. There's joy in knowing that Jesus is ultimately the One seeking us all, and He can't wait to find us, to rejoice with us as we are found in Him. When Jesus is seeking you out, be found! There is great rejoicing in there for you and for your Savior.
So, that's His point, He doesn't want any of you listening at this very moment to miss it. So, Jesus tells us a story that we can all relate to. You see, finding a lost coin, lost money, is something most of us have experienced, right? I just found a bunch of clean money in a pair of jeans. Clean money? Laundered? Yes! Because I literally washed them! You see, Yvette always checks my pockets, but, when I do a quick load of laundry, I sometimes forget. But, nonetheless, it was great to find that lost cash, cleaned, still good to spend. You know that joy, don't you?
But, let me ask you a bit different question than how do you feel when you find some lost cash. Ready? How do you think the coin feels? Notice the passive nature of the lost coin. Lost coins don't find themselves! They need to be found, preferably by their owner. I'm sure, if they could share their coin feelings, they'd tell you that it's better to be in circulation that lost between the seat cushions. But, there they are waiting anxiously to be found! In a similar way we, as poor lost sinners, don't find ourselves. We need to be found by our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. So, I think that in a way, we can all relate a bit to that lost coin. But, you might be saying, "Come on Pastor, coins don't feel anything." To that I say, "Good point." So Jesus tells another story. Ready?
Jesus ramps up the discussion. Coins are inanimate objects. So, He gets even more personal. He starts talking about lost sheep, lost precious animals. He even, later, talks about lost children, lost sons who are found, but that's another sermon! All the stories have one thing in common, Jesus is the Seeker, we are the lost ones and there is joy for all when He finds us by grace!
So today, we focus on Jesus telling the story of the lost sheep, the found sheep, and the joy of finders keepers when Jesus is the Seeker.
'Rejoice with me,' He says. 'I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Now, if you're reading the lesson closely, you know that you've got to admit your lostness to experience the joy of being found. That bit of truth really bugged the Pharisees and the religious folks of Jesus' day who were listening in as He told these stories. In their minds, they weren't lost, the really bad people were. In fact, they were the ones who claimed that they could help you lost people find your way!
Jesus gets them all mad when He claims that He is the only Way home to God, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gets us so-called modern people mad too, because He claims that we all are lost, that we all need to be found and that He has indeed come for each of us.
Did you know that there are many people today who don't want anything to do with Jesus just because they hate that He says they are lost without Him? In fact, there's a kind of modern-day smugness that jeers at Jesus when He says this. In our culture in the United States, there was a whole movement that typified this. Do you remember the phrase? Yes, it happened in those rebellious 1960s. People would often talk about their need to find themselves! But such a discussion often involved people leaving their commitments, their families, their children to selfishly find themselves. Amazingly, when such acting and thinking multiplied social pathologies in our personal lives and even in our communities, people still won't admit to God that they are lost. Yes, incredibly, a person can find themselves and still be lost!
I think it was kind of ingenious, then, for Jesus to use the "Shepherd and the Sheep" metaphor. It's a nicer way of talking about being lost and found! He's the Shepherd, we're the sheep. And sheep are the kind of animals that always get lost. They don't know how to get back home. They don't have that innate sense of what it means to be home. They get caught up in the eating, the grazing, the day to day and they get lost in the process. When you're a sheep, even passionate searches to find oneself can only compound one's problems of lostness. When the Bible says that we are lost, it literally means we're "perishing, being destroyed" not just wandering around aimlessly. The Bible says that "we, dangerously, like sheep have gone astray, each one turned to his own way," and sinners who don't come to grips with what our sins have done to our relationship with God; we will never find our way back to Him.
Like sheep we are much better at getting lost than finding our way back to the shepherd. Like sheep, we may find ourselves, content with where we are and still be lost. Like sheep, we can't find our way back to the shepherd on our terms alone. Likewise, sinful people can't find their way back to God. He has to come looking for us.
I like to kid people today that as Lutheran Hour Speaker, I'm your spiritual GPS device. (Now I say that because my name, Gregory Paul Seltz; well, those are my initials, G.P.S.). But, the point, GPS devices can tell you where you are at a certain moment. They are "Global Positioning Systems" after all! But, if you are just wandering around, the GPS can tell you where you are, but not where you need to go. They don't do that unless you tell them where home is. Well, Jesus is challenging all of our self-made paths as aimless points on a GPS device with no idea as to how to get home. And so, let God's Word be your GPS system guide back home to Him. God's Word speaks clearly about our lostness because of sin; but that's because He desires you to be home with Him by grace; that's Christmas, that's Good Friday, that's Easter, and that's what I get to preach as the Lutheran Hour Speaker. We don't get home by ourselves; sheep never do. We don't even realize that we're lost, until it's too late; that's just the way sheep are.
Jesus is calling lost ones home to Himself today by bringing His grace all the way to where you are. Finders keepers. Can you admit your lostness, to be found in God's grace in Jesus? Finders keepers, when it's Jesus doing the looking and we sinners being found, brought home, there's no better news for lost sheep like you and me. In fact, it's worth rejoicing about! That's the joy of the statement "Finders keepers."
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, finds us lost sheep and keeps us found and safe in the sheepfold of His Church. Listen to Jesus explain this finders keepers theme in John 10: 27-29. He says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand." Not only do we see here a tender relationship between the Good Shepherd, Jesus, and His sheep, but we also can enjoy a profound sense of security in our found relationship with him. As Jesus said, no one can snatch us out of His shepherding hand. When it comes to Jesus and His sheep we really can say finder's keepers. No wonder all the angels in heaven are rejoicing!
There are two movies that are very powerful, that portray a finders keepers joy about them, but they are very hard for me to watch to this day because they tended to coincide with things happening in my life. One was the movie "Ransom," Mel Gibson was the star. In that movie, his son was kidnapped in Central Park and held for ransom, thus the movie's title. Gibson's character does everything in his power to bring his son home. Now, I wasn't all that enthused to see the movie at the time of its first release, why? Because I had just moved to Manhattan with my family and my daughter was a 2nd grader and yes, we loved to spend our leisure time in Central Park. You know the kind of thoughts that go through a parent's mind, don't you?
But the timing of another lost and found movie was even worse than that. It was the movie "Taken." Do you remember that movie? It was about a father (Liam Neesen) who seeks his daughter out when she is kidnapped on a trip to Paris, France. Now, when did I watch this movie? A week before my daughter was sent to Paris, France to live on her own and to go to an urban business school 14 subway stops from her apartment! In fact, my daughter wanted me to see it with her, why? Because she thought the dad in the movie was really cool. Now, I agree with her assessment of the strength of Liam Neesen's character. I just wish we had watched that movie together after her return from school, back home safe and sound.
Both movies spoke about tenacious characters who sought out their children to find them when they were lost and to bring them back home; safe and sound, alive and well. Each movie ended, in spite of all the pain, with a joy of being reunited again with the ones they loved.
Finders keepers! And, oh boy, is there joy of finders keepers when Jesus is the Seeker! Jesus get's right to the point in our text. He says, "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"
That's why the Bible's message is so unique, my friends. Lot's of religious books, even secular books talk about lostness. But the Bible says that in our most profound lostness, in our most degrading hopelessness, the good news is that there is a Good Shepherd that can and does find us. And, the word for 'find' in our text is not some accidental finding; no, it is an intentional searching for something which is lost. Dear friend, Jesus left His heavenly throne to come looking for you and me with His grace, His mercy, and His peace. That's the God of the Bible, that's the message of His salvation. Not religion, not politics, not self help, but finders keepers. A Savior who intentionally initiates and intentionally finds that which is lost, namely us.
In fact, the text says that "He goes after the lost sheep." The root word for 'go after' can also mean to transfer. Ironically Jesus finds us in our lostness by transferring that lostness to Himself. He takes our lostness and He grants us His foundness. Christ took upon Himself our lostness (our sin and death) and transfers to us His finding nature (His righteousness, His life). We are found sheep through the lost life of the Shepherd who died on the cross and rose again so that we might live in Him.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, didn't just feel for the sheep, His effort to find we lost ones entailed His becoming a sheep in our place. That's Christmas, but not merely to identify with us; no, He also went so far as to be sacrificed for us in our place. Isaiah, prophesying about Jesus as the Lamb of God writes, "He was oppressed, he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." We can't help but hear the ghastly silence of this fulfilled prophecy on Golgotha; Good Friday, the Shepherd finds all the lost sheep. The loud rejoicing of the angels happens only because of the stark silence of what it took for the Shepherd, as the Lamb on the cross, to find us.
But, in our text the angels are not silent. They are rejoicing. They are rejoicing because the Shepherd, who would pay for the lostness of the world, intentionally seeks individual sheep. They are rejoicing over each and every sinner who repents.
So, my friend, don't be silent today either. Let your heart be full of repentance and faith. For repentance is a spirit-empowered helpless plea for mercy and faith. It's trust in the mercy that God Himself delivers in Jesus to you by the power of that same spirit! Actually, it is mercy itself which moves us to repent.
Even in repentance, we can see the action of the Shepherd searching for us and finding us which moves us to acknowledge and regret our lost condition, our sin. But such regret is soon replaced by the incredible, joyful awe and appreciation of being found in forgiveness that God brings to us by grace! Know the joy and the peace of finders keepers in Christ, today.
Someone once asked the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great, how he was able to sleep so soundly surrounded by constant danger, how could he joyfully be at peace in the midst of such turmoil? He replied, "I can because my faithful guard, Parmenio, is always watching."
Well, our guard is not only faithfully watching, He is acting. And He is rejoicing in the fact that you are safe and found in Him. To be found by Jesus is to receive His grace and mercy, to trust in Him by faith. He has set His guards at the door of your heart and mind too. To be baptized is to be guarded by His Name, to read and hear His word is to be empowered by His Spirit, to receive His Supper, is to be enlivened by the very gifts of Christ's body and blood shed for you. And to be a member of Christ's people, a church of forgiven sinners by grace, in His Name, is to be part of a flock that lives and breathes this grace in lives of faith towards God and fervent love toward one another. Jesus told the people this story of lost and found so that they could know the joy of finders keepers in Him, by grace. He's offering you that same finders keepers' grace today, too.
Put your faith in Him, so the very angels in heaven can rejoice. And so all God's people on earth can say 'Amen!' and Amen!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for September 15, 2013 Topic: Come To Faith On Our Own?
ANNOUNCER: Why can't we come to faith on our own? That'll be our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, don't we have the capacity within our will and reason to believe in God?
SELTZ: Mark, now it's true that God has indeed equipped humans with a will and reason. But we need to understand that from the Bible's point of view, this is not a generic question; we do need to deal with specifics!
ANNOUNCER: Like what?
SELTZ: Simply, when all is said and done, we've got to come to grips with Jesus. But, back to the human reason and will question. Human reason can help us realize that we need to live orderly and productive lives. With reason and will, a person can even come to some sort of conclusion that there is a God.
ANNOUNCER: How so?
SELTZ: Well, some people look at the universe; they conclude there must be a creator behind all this order. Others look at the moral code or compass which guides most human beings and they conclude that there must be an author to this code. Others, using their reason and logic, conclude that there must be something greater than all of this. And that would be God. These are all natural arguments for the existence of God.
ANNOUNCER: When the Bible says Jesus is the Author, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, is this the kind of faith they're talking about?
SELTZ: Not exactly. The faith that Hebrews 12 is talking about certainly includes a level of natural knowledge, but it goes quite a bit further. If all we've got is a natural knowledge of God's existence, then all we can be sure of is that there is a God, and He seems distant and abstract, maybe even demanding and angry.
ANNOUNCER: Not a very comforting thought.
ANNOUNCER: How then do we know that God is loving and compassionate?
SELTZ: Well, our Bible verse, again, suggests that we can only know a loving and compassionate God by looking to Jesus, God revealing Himself to us on His terms alone. Luther even said it more pointedly, saying, "Outside of Christ, no God for me please!" So, that's where we start for our certainty with God, by looking at Jesus.
ANNOUNCER: And where do we find Him?
SELTZ: Jesus says in John 5:29, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; well, it's they that bear witness about me." So, start looking at the Bible, the Scriptures. There you'll find the incarnate Word in the enscripted Word. Jesus is called the Word made flesh and that's a more certain, clear word than what we can learn on our own just by looking around at what we see and what we hear.
ANNOUNCER: When we look at Jesus, we then can't help but see a loving and compassionate God in action for us.
SELTZ: Right; by what He says and by what He does. So, the faith in Him is a lot more than just some general idea that God exists.
ANNOUNCER: This all means, then, that we don't have to come up with this idea of this loving God on our own. Actually, we couldn't even do that because sin obscures our knowledge of God.
SELTZ: Right, and God's grace trumps our sin. So, God's revelation of Himself in Christ trumps our confused notion of who He is. Faith comes by hearing, the Bible says in Romans 10, and that message is something that God makes known through His Word, His church. Who Jesus is and what Jesus did go hand in hand for our salvation.
ANNOUNCER: The Bible reveals Jesus as God's beloved Son, but what is it that He did that is so special that He then becomes the object of our faith?
SELTZ: Hebrews 12 again says this about what Jesus did. Look to "Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith," and then it says, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated, now, at the right hand of the throne of God." So Jesus shouldered all the shame of mankind's sin when He shouldered the cross. Now as Jesus said on the cross: "It is finished." The payment for our sins is finished. Our relationship with Jesus' Father is complete. We are now co-heirs with Christ of the glory that is to come.
ANNOUNCER: And we see a loving and compassionate God because we have a compassionate Savior.
SELTZ: That's right. And not only does Christ bring us to faith in who He is and what He did, but He keeps us there throughout our lives until we finish the race of grace. So, if you believe in Jesus, it should be the greatest news of all that He, with His Spirit, He empowered your faith and He sustains your faith.
ANNOUNCER: And that news should motivate us to hear His Word, the Word that keeps us in that faith unto life everlasting. Thank you Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Chief of Sinners Though I Be" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
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