Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 6, 2009

Let me ask you several questions.

How many of you have ever been lost? Do you remember how that felt?

How many of you enjoy getting lost?

How many of you like to ask for directions?

Do you realize that not wanting to get lost and not wanting to stop to ask for directions are incompatible ends?

That probably explains the dramatic increase in the sale of GPS systems. They provide drivers with the security of knowing they will never get lost and never have to ask for directions! What a country!

Beginning this morning and throughout the month, I am going to lead us in a study of Luke 15 because in it Jesus has a lot to say about God’s purpose for His Church. In short, God calls the Church to be the GPS – God Positioning System for a world full of lost people.

How does that thought strike you? It is undeniably true.

So, why are there still so many lost people if we are called to direct lost people to God? Could it be that the very people who are called to be God’s GPS has lost its bearings?

I have read and studied this portion of Scripture many times over the years, and I know that it is one of the most powerful statements about how much God cares for lost people. But this week I saw a whole new perspective on this Scripture that I hadn’t noticed before.

Not only did Jesus tell these parables ABOUT lost people He is also telling them TO lost people! The very people who God had called to be His GPS had lost their bearings and had lost their way. So He tries to get them back on track with a GPS – GOD’S PARABLE SESSION.

How about if we eavesdrop on this session and see what we can learn?

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them….”

I don’t know about you, but I have had a lot worse things that this said about me! I would be thrilled if I could go through the end of my life and have this as the worst thing said about me – that I “welcome sinners and eat with them.”

Saying this to Jesus is the equivalent of criticizing a plumber for fixing pipes or demeaning a mechanic for repairing cars.

“Hello! That who they are! That’s what they do! It is their purpose!”

Like wise, this was Jesus’ purpose! He came to “seek and to save that which is lost”.

This statement is an indictment against them not Jesus. It shows that they did not understand their purpose or Jesus’ purpose.

Win Arn, a leading church consultant conducted a survey: He surveyed members of nearly a thousand churches asking the question, “Why does the church exit?? The results? Of the church members surveyed, 89 percent said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs.? For many, the role of the pastor is simply to keep the sheep who are already in the “pen? happy and not lose too many of them. Only 11 percent said, “The purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.

His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is brilliant, kind of esoteric, and very, very bright. He became a Christian while attending college. Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students but are not sure how to go about it. One day Bill decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started and so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now, people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Bill gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just sits down right on the carpet. By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick. About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill. Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. He is a godly man, very elegant, very dignified, and very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor? It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing. The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do. And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he won’t be alone. Everyone chokes up with emotion. When the minister gains control, he says, "What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget. "Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some people will ever read"...

There are few things more powerful than a church that is clear about its purpose and united around that purpose. And there are few things more pitiful than a church that has forgotten its purpose.

Several years ago the city of Pittsburgh constructed a large, new post office at the cost of several million dollars. On the day of it’s opening, the Governor made a speech, the bands played and the people cheered. It was quite a celebration. But when the first man entered to mail a letter, to the embarrassment of the engineers, it was discovered that in the rush to meet the deadline, they had omitted the usual letter drop. Here was a costly new post office, but no place to mail a letter!
Let me be crystal clear about this – we are here to reach lost people for Christ. Nothing more and nothing less than that is acceptable.

THE LOST PRIORITY, 15:13; 28-30
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, and set out for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out to him and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him!”

Here is a truism, we are wired to live for a purpose. If we do not find the right purpose we will pursue the wrong purpose. That truth is illustrated by the two sons in this parable Jesus told.

A corresponding truth is that our priorities are shaped by our purpose.

In these two sons we see two common errors that happen when lose sight of the purpose for which we live.

The Prosperity And Pleasure Priority
Like the lost son, we wander away from God's plan and purpose to seek some mystical sign or supernatural experience. Or, we turn God into some sort celestial Santa who is bound to bless us with wealth and health.

The Performance Priority
Others fall into the performance trap believing that they have to impress God with their goodness and earn His favor through their godly living. And when that doesn't happen, they become resentful and lose the joy of fellowship with God.

Someone once called a preacher to say he wanted to become a church member. But, he went on to explain that he did not want to: worship every week, study the Bible, visit the sick, or serve as a leader or teacher. The minister commended him for his desire to be a church member, but told him the church he was looking for was located in another part of town. The man wrote down the address and hung up. When he arrived at that address, the man came face to face with the result of his own attitude of not wanting to be involved.... There stood an abandoned church building boarded up and ready for demolition.

When you lose touch with your purpose you lose sight of your priorities. When you lose track of your priorities you do what serves your interests not God’s. That is deadly for you and for the Church.

"'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

In an interview with Randy Pope of Atlanta’s Perimeter Church, he recalled a "man who called me and said, ’I’m shopping for churches. I live in another state and I want to live near my church when I go to Atlanta.’ He said, ’Tell me a little bit about your church. I understand your church is very committed to reaching lost people.’ I said: I’m thrilled to hear that is our reputation. We are. We’re very committed to that. "He said, ’I’m very glad to hear that but’ -- I knew that word was coming -- ’but will any of my needs or my family’s needs perhaps be neglected in the effort to reach lost people?’ Which was saying: I’m more concerned about me than I am about the lost. That is the nature of sinful man and, outside a spiritual reorientation, they’re not going to have that concern for the lost. Randy Pope commented, "So one thing I do is stress that this is the passion of the church, and if you’re not willing to get on board with that passion, then this is not a good place for you. As much as you like what we’re offering, it really isn’t a good place for you because you won’t like it at all. It will make you feel uncomfortable, Lord willing, that you would be sitting here for yourself instead of for others."

The one common point of all three of these parables that Jesus told is that God and Heaven are passionate about reaching lost people. We need to be also.

But, like the religious leaders, when we lose sight of our purpose and our priorities get scrambled, we lose our passion for God and for spiritual things.

How is your passion for lost people? When was the last time it bothered you that someone you know might die and go to Hell? When was the last time you prayed for the salvation of a lost friend or relative?

THE LOST POWER, 15:22-24
“But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.”

Can I vent for a few moments? One of the things that really gets under my skin is when I hear people complain, “Our church just isn’t on fire” or “God isn’t moving in our church”.

Usually when I ask them what that looks like or what they want to happen, they don’t really know.

Jesus shows us here how He wants to move in a church and what it looks like to be on fire.

How did the father move in this parable? When he saw his lost son he ran to him. When we start running toward lost people, God will run to us!

When he got to his lost son he put a robe on him. That symbolizes righteousness restored. It stands for dignity that and acceptance that has been given. That's how God wants to move in our church. He wants to restored righteousness and dignity and identity as His children.
Then he placed a ring on his finger. The ring is a symbol of authority. It authorizes the son to do business in the father's name. It was a signet ring. On it was the family seal that allowed this son to "seal the deal" in his father's name. This is the same son who just blew one-third of his father's fortune. God will move in our church when we understand the authority He has given us and we use it to reach lost people!

And, finally, he placed sandals on his feet. The sandal is a symbol of freedom. This son who was in bondage is now free to serve his father and do the father's will. God will move in our church when we freely choose to use the righteousness and the authority that we have a His children to reach the lost sons and daughters of this world!

God will move in our church and God's fire will come to our church WHEN WE RECEIVE THAT GRACE FROM GOD AND BESTOW IT ON LOST PEOPLE! He does not exist just to bless us. We exist to bless and serve Him. And if we want His blessing we will be involved in what He blesses - His purpose. And when we commit to His purpose our priorities will fall in line and his passion will return and we will see His transforming power at work through us!
What needs to happen in your heart to position you into God's purpose? Are you willing to run to the Father today for some help?