Who is going after the lost sheep? Vol. 52
Sometimes the theological “what if?” questions are interesting to banter about (even though they are usually unproductive) like this one…”if you (an obvious sinner) were the only person in the universe…would Jesus still come and die on a cross for you?” The missing logic, (and logistics) in that question should be obvious, but you get the point. Given that…I’d still say the answer would be “YES!” …that is… if Jesus really meant that he was not willing that any should perish…but that all would come to repentance. He’d still set his glory aside for a while… and with great love and sacrifice provide a way for his child to be with him…forever.
OK. so let’s deal with reality for a bit. I would bet that there is at least one person in our lives that we know well, maybe even love…who is far from the Lord. Maybe they were close once…maybe not…it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s your child. Maybe one or both of your parents. Maybe your sister or brother. What is it worth to you to know that you will see them in heaven one day? Or does it depend on just how lost they are?
What Jesus did on the cross, he did once, forever. What he asks us to do takes a renewal of hope, of love and of sacrifice…daily. Our words and actions are temporary. Our words and actions are often muted by the way we REALLY live. Our longing for those far from God to come close, into relationship with Him again, or for the first time, is tempered by time, distance and desire. Until one day we look around and we see ourselves as unfruitful servants…wishing we knew how to be better communicators of the gospel. Wishing we were as bold as Paul or as sensitive as Timothy. Wishing our loved ones and friends and people we don’t even know would get to know our Jesus in a personal, saving way.
I am asking myself this question right now at 4:30 AM on a Sunday morning…Does my life reflect Christ in such a way that people around me would want that kind of relationship. Is my life authentic? Do I live life with true conviction or have I just learned the lines? Will I leave the tough job of going after the lost sheep to someone else who is “called” like my pastor…or will I believe that God was serious about “going into all the world to preach the gospel” no matter what that looks like….no matter who it is.
We have four kids who I love very much. We have taken them to church since they could fit into a baby seat. They have heard the gospel more times than they can count. And while I hope and pray that the prayers they prayed at bedside or camp to invite Jesus into their hearts were real…it’s their choice as “sheep” to listen for their master’s voice and follow him. I have had a sheep or two try to escape…sometimes they have succeeded… and it has broken my heart. It has made me look at my life and realize that I can’t just tell them spiritual things…my life has to resemble or emulate my words in no small way for them to see that I not only say I believe it…I prove it to them by the way I live it. They have to see Jesus in me.
I had a “sheep break” the other day. It wasn’t a random break. This sheep tested the fence…it held for quite a while but after a while…it broke. I watched as the lone sheep took off through the fence…across the meadow and headed towards a big cliff.
I took off. As I was looking for that little sheep I started getting all my spiritual platitudes in order so that I could fling them (with great earnest) at this naughty sheep. As if that would have made a difference…Nope…my sad realization was that I had taught my sheep to want other things more than God by the way I lived my life on Monday through Saturday in spite of my “spiritual speak.” Even the best behaved sheep will test the fences now and then. But it’s a dangerous place for the sheep to be when they no longer recognize the shepherd’s voice.
I’m thankful for the army of believers who trusts God enough to go. To look far and wide. To search all the places they don’t want to be and in love, rescue sheep.
Are you up to that challenge? Am I? God help us to have a shepherd’s heart.
II Peter 3: 8-10
Matthew 18:12–14 and Luke (15:3–7)