In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories to explain God’s hope to find those that are lost and bring them back into His presence. In each of the three stories—a shepherd who lost a sheep, a woman who lost a valuable coin, and a father whose immoral son left him—the person who lost each valuable thing searches desperately for it, and when it is found brings their friends and neighbors to celebrate. Pastor Jeff reminded us that the church needs to be the place where we celebrate for those who were lost and have been found, and that we need to be out finding lost people and bringing them to this great party.
The desire to promote God’s party and go out to find lost people does not come naturally to us. When the immoral son returns, his father celebrates and gives him a place of honor. Rather than being glad at the redemption of his younger brother, the older brother bitterly complains about how unfair it is that his brother has received this warm welcome, in the same way one of us might complain about one of “those people” coming to church.
As Jesus intended, I often feel shortcomings in myself when I hear one of His stories, and identify with some of the flawed characters He presents. However, I didn’t identify with the grouchy brother when I read these stories—I am genuinely glad to see the redemption of Christ in any person’s life. Rather, I felt like one of the barely-mentioned friends and neighbors who show up to party after the hard work has been done. In each of these stories, God is searching alone for what is lost—why aren’t the friends and neighbors there to help look for the lost thing? Why aren’t they helping to throw the party?
I have loved growing up in the great community and constant celebration that is Christ’s church. God’s forgiveness and Christ’s salvation lift a great weight off of me, God’s word and the wisdom of other believers help me find direction and purpose, and many of my best friends have come from my church community. Why wouldn’t I want to go out and find other people to bring to this party? Why haven’t I done more to make the party even better?
It’s easy to say why we are reluctant to help God reach the lost—it is difficult and it is scary. But we often make it more difficult in our minds than it actually is. The best way to help God find the lost and to celebrate with them is to mirror this in the way we do everything else—find ways to help the lost and party with them. The times where I have been successful in bringing people to church and discussing Christianity are the times when I have a good friendship with the person. The more that they enjoy spending time with me, appreciate our relationship, and trust my character, the more weight they give to my invitations to church and the things I have to say about Christ. If you are doing things right then it will come naturally—seek friendship with others and love God, and then your friends will want to know more about why you love God! Go out and love your family, work, and hobbies and treat them all like a celebration that you want others to be a part of—each of these is an opportunity to reach others in ways that no other Christian can, and shows you ways to help to meet others’ needs.
Of course, don’t just find people to join the party, find ways to help throw a great party too! For a few years before coming to Skyline, I would move from town to town and roll in and out of big churches without making much effort to contribute or get to know people. My wife and I decided that we would like to get more involved at Skyline, and not much later we were asked to lead the Guest Services area. Church really is a much more rewarding experience now—not only do I get to go to God’s party, I get to make the coffee for God’s party and welcome new party goers! If you think of church involvement as a chance to make God’s party even better and bring more lost people in, then church becomes an exciting place where you hope and strive to bring more and more people to the party, so you can celebrate with them each week.
Hope to see you at the party!
David is a member of Skyline and serves in Guest Services. He and his wife Joy live in Gaithersburg, MD and will gladly ford the mighty Potomac River to come and see you. He loves history and science fiction equally, and enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling. He hopes to further develop his relationship with God and better grow a spirit of service.
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.