Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 8, 2016

"Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

Do you find it intriguing that irreligious people (AKA - tax collectors and sinners) were running away from the "Pharisees and experts in the law" and running to hear Jesus?

They ("Pharisees and experts in the law") seemed to be clueless about it was happening but it sure bothered them.

I would love FredWes to be a place where irreligious people feel drawn to come investigate faith! That would be a dream come true!

So, what's the key?

The answer is found in each of the parables Jesus told as recorded in Luke 15. Each of these parables place a high value on relationships.

The shepherd had a relationship with the owner of his sheep and didn't want to lose one. The woman had a marriage relationship she wanted to honor so she couldn't lose the coin. And the father had a beloved son he didn't want to lose.

Let me ask you a question, "When you go to church are you going there to get religious or are you going to enjoy relationships?"

I think you get my point.

Jesus came to introduce people into a relationship with God not to promote or preserve a religion. He was relational in His teaching style and in His ministry among the people. He would later pay the ultimate price to make that relationship possible and these religious leaders would do their part to help it happen.

The Pharisees and religious leaders call people to a system of rules (632 of them) and rituals and regulations. Their approach to religion was designed to make themselves feel justified and self-righteous and everyone else feel unworthy and unwanted.

Mission accomplished!

People fled from that approach to God by the scores. It was like a frenzied stampede away from what they were offering.

On the contrary, Jesus offered relationship with Himself and with God! He moved among the people healing some, counseling some and helping others with overwhelming needs they had.

His only rule was "Love God with all your heart and love others as yourself!" When your relationship with Jesus is right good things happen!

It was that love which drew people to Jesus and it is that love of Jesus that will draw lost people to FredWes. Loving Jesus will also send us searching for those lost people He loves.

Relationship is the key and the key relationship is your relationship with Jesus!

Reach Lost People

"Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

Jesus is telling a story or a "parable" as He often did. The word "parable" derives from the Greek word "parabole"  and means "to put beside for comparison".

So, a parable was a story with a moral. A parable set a spiritual truth alongside a commonly understood situation. Parables didn't focus on details but broad principles. The parables Jesus told were designed with an emotional tug that would move the listener and stick in his mind.

You must be careful about straining parables out too far in terms of the setting of the story while also being careful not to miss the big truth.

The point of these parables is to communicate to His disciples and the religious leaders how God feels toward sinners who are lost. So he puts this truth alongside three common situations they were very familiar with and emotionally connected to.

Everyone hearing this parable immediately related to the image of a shepherd tending his sheep and then realizing one is missing. They understood the sense of panic that would bring a shepherd. It was clear to them that in such a situation the shepherd would immediately secure the ninety-nine sheep in the fold and urgently search for the lost sheep hoping to find him before a wolf did.

The hearers understood that most shepherds didn't own the sheep they tended. Anyone wealthy enough to own 100 sheep would be wealthy enough to hire someone to watch them. So, the shepherd had the responsibility of caring for the sheep of his employer. To lose a sheep would result in losing his job. So, while his concern was truly for the sheep it was also for his job.

In addition to the responsibility of being a shepherd the was the matter of his reputation. If he lost his job because he lost a sheep how would he ever be trusted to care for sheep again?

Also, don't rule out the factor of relationship. You can imagine if you spent hour upon hour and day after day caring for that flock you would get attached to the sheep. You would know their names and their unique personalities since they were lambs. So, when one went missing it was personal.

No wonder there was rejoicing when the lost sheep was finally found unharmed! Everyone hearing this story would understand the joy and relief and the celebration.

That's why He took advantage of the moment and made the point that the angels in heaven rejoice in the same way over every lost sinner who repents!

Does reaching lost people mean that much to you?

How do you calculate the value of a soul?

The lost coin is powerful because it wasn't like losing a penny or a dime or a nickel or even a quarter. This coin she lost was one of ten coins on her wedding necklace presented to her when she was married to her husband. This would be similar to losing your wedding ring or maybe the setting off of your ring. If you lost the diamond setting from your wedding ring I have a feeling you would become anxious over that! Right?

So, Jesus said, "Heaven rejoiced over repentant sinners in the same way you would rejoice if you found your lost wedding ring setting!"

Does reaching lost people mean that much to you?

How do you calculate the value of a soul?

Thank God it meant that much to Pastor Gerald and Brenda when they came to Fredericksburg 22 years ago to start FredWes for the purpose of reaching lost people.

When they were in the hotel for several weeks they reached lost people. When they moved to the Regal Theaters they reached lost people. Later, when they moved to the Jazzercize building on Lafayette Boulevard they reached lost people. When they bought the current building on Mosby Street they reached lost people.

A little over eight years ago, God called us here to continue the mission of reaching lost people and loving them to life. To make room so we can keep reaching people we went to two services several years ago. That worked well enough we are now faced with adjusting service times again so we can have space to continue reaching people. 

How do you calculate the value of a soul?

If there is even one more lost person that we can by adjusting our schedule, shouldn't we adjust it?