"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn't wander away! Matthew 18:12-13
It is crazy to think that there is a party up in heaven every time a person who is far from God repents. At Sagebrush, we often imagine it like it is a huge birthday party with a cake each time a person has been born again. It never gets old for God and the angels around His throne. Each person is precious to Him no matter what socio-economic background they came from or what they look like on the outside. God, along with everyone in heaven, celebrates when sinners repent.
This celebration is a part of God's relentless pursuit of humanity. God seeks us out and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, draws people to repentance. Like a loving shepherd that leaves the 99 sheep behind to find the one that went missing, our God comes after us. He uses circumstances and often empowers another person at just the right time to have a conversation with a lost person that changes everything. It could have been a person at school who had the guts to share their faith. It might have been a coworker who invited you to church. It may have even been a neighbor who took an interest in you and your family and challenged the way you were living. It also might have been possible that you were convicted of the way you were living, came to church where it felt like God was speaking right to you through the pastor, and you knew things had to change. God works through the Holy Spirit, but He often does this through our relationships with other people.
What if you were that person that God used to reach another person? What if you were that caring friend, neighbor, coworker, or team member who shared Jesus with others? If you do this and take on God's challenge, you get to be a part of His rescue strategy. Even better, you get to see the Holy Spirit at work as you begin to share with other people. We hope that there will be even more parties in heaven as we understand the difference one life can make.
Over this series, we are asking that you take time to pray for five people within your sphere of influence who are far from God. These should be people that you are committing to building an intentional relationship with so that you can eventually share the hope of Jesus Christ. If you have already come up with your list, please write their names out, acknowledging your commitment to make a difference. If you haven't done this exercise, take some time to identify five people who are far from God. If you struggle coming up with your list, that is the first sign that you need to start reaching out and getting to know new people. When you're done with your list, pray that God will use you to make a difference.
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.