To be a Jesus-Follower means we need to do the things Jesus did. That means loving people the way He did.
We have been discovering over the past months that we were created to be image bearers of God.
John 14:7–9 || 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 “Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? [CSB]
As Jesus-Followers, we need to learn to reflect God the way Jesus did. Last week we talked about the way that God loves us. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. THAT is some amazing love.
So how do we, in a practical way, learn to love people the way God does; the way Jesus did?
Let’s examine a passage that I believe will help us get some practical insights by asking 3 questions. It will show us the difference between the way WE think and act and the way GOD thinks and acts. If we are honest with ourselves and allow God to speak to us this morning, this will be both excruciating and exciting.
Open your Bible’s and get you’re your pen so you can take some notes.
Luke 15:1–7 || 1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! 3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “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? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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! [NLT]
Who we associate with will tell us if we have the heart of God.
Let’s go back to verses 1 & 2. There is a statement here. There are two groups of people associated with Jesus – and it was not the religious leaders.
We tend to categorize people. We rate them on a scale of good or bad. Some are “gooder” than others and some are “badder” than others. These two groups are the worst.
Which is worse: stealing the dessert from your brother/sister’s plate and eating it, or stealing $10,000 from a bank? While one might be a greater “crime” in societies eyes, both are the same in God’s economy – both are sin, or rebellion against His law.
Exodus 20:15 || Do not steal. [CSB]
It is one of the top 10. It does not have a limit, like “don’t steal anything bigger than a cookie” or “don’t steal anything that costs more than $10”. It simply states “don’t steal” or “do not take something that does not belong to you.
ADULTS, just so that you know I am not just talking to the kids: were you truthful on your tax return when you listed your income? When you fudge the numbers so you pay less not only are you stealing but you are also lying.
Leviticus 19:11 || 11 “Do not steal. Do not act deceptively or lie to one another. [CSB]
I think that verse should be on every tax form, and I really do not like paying taxes.
Of course there are 10 commandments, and stealing a cookie hardly seems comparable to the rest of the commands, right? And even if I took the cookie, that is still only 1 of the 10.
Which is worse: breaking 1 of the 10 commandments or breaking ALL 10 of them?
James 2:8–10 || 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. [NLT]
God says that if you break one law you are guilty of breaking them all in his eyes. That means that when I lie on my tax return I am as guilty as if I murdered someone in God’s economy.
In God’s economy, the number of sins you commit is not significant. In God’s economy there is a not a hierarchy of small sins and big sins.
The problem with believing that some people are worse sinners than others, that some people are “badder” than others, is that we will then believe that some people are beyond redemption.
Is there someone you have believed is too bad of a person for God to be able to reach/change?
This is a faulty theology. This says that Jesus’ work on the cross was only powerful enough to save the “good” or the “not so bad”; that His death on the cross was only able to pay for some sins and not others.
Though we would not outright say this, I find that sometimes my actions and thoughts reveal the false theologies I might have. That is, sometimes my words and actions reveal the wrong things I believe about God. If you have believed this about someone you need to repent.
Jesus associated with “notorious sinners” – or “really bad people”. That is how we see people; that is how the “religious people” of Jesus day saw some people.
That is NOT God’s perspective.
Man puts labels on other men/women. These people were “notorious sinners”. Jesus lumps them all together – they are all sheep, some are just lost, they all matter to God.
If we are going to have the heart of God, we must view people the way He does: every one is made in his image and has value. Everyone is important enough that Jesus was sacrificed for them. Everyone matters and no one is worse than the others.
I love my kids. I love my wife. I love my church family… most of the time. There are some people that I struggle loving:
We like to love people who are like us. I am not just talking about personality, but also convictions, priorities, hobbies and motivation.
I want a good reputation and I want others to like me. I want to be successful and stay on mission, on track. That means I have to be careful who I associate with, right? After all, the Bible says:
1 Corinthians 15:33 || 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” [CSB]
We use that verse as a reason to put up a barrier between us and people who are “not like us”.
Jesus was the most focused person who ever walked on this earth. He had a mission and lived by it. He had an agenda and stuck to it. He lived a life that was above reproach.
Have you ever thought about the people he hung out with?
Jesus had a different crowd he hung out with. If Jesus was here today, I am embarrassed to say that I probably would not have the same friend group as him. ☹
The “religious people” complained that he associated and even ate with people who were wicked. Jesus understood that love and relationship is what God has desired with all the people he created.
God shows us his heart by wanting and choosing to do life with, to love, people like you and me. Sinners.
Romans 5:8 || 8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [CSB]
Man creates barriers/divides between people. Man looks to avoid others that are not “living right” or that are “different”. We try to protect ourselves and our kids from the “bad people”, but is that the way Jesus sees them?
I have many people that I talk to in public, but there are many people I have not had into my home. Why? I don’t know them well enough. I can talk with someone on my porch and we can be associates. But as soon as I eat a meal with them I become familiar with them.
Jesus was EATING with them. He was not putting up walls to protect himself from them, he was building bridges with them to share life, and the Father, with them.
Luke 7:34 || 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ [CSB]
If we are to have the heart of God, we have to follow the example of Jesus. We need to not only associate with people who are not like us, we need to be willing to share a meal, share our lives with them.
Christian, we are NOT mandated to isolate but to engage. If we are not willing to eat with them, we cannot say we love them.
If we spend all our time with people who are in church, how on earth will we be reflecting God to those that need to see Him?
Googling. We understand searching more today than probably any generation before us. What does it mean to google something? It means to search for information, search for answers.
I am much more adept at finding things online than in my fridge!
Physically seeking for something can be much more involved and even frustrating:
I would venture to say that many of the things we seek after are good, but they are not the most important. If the entire law, if the entire Bible can be summed up in two commands: love God and love others, then I would suggest that you and I should spend time seeking God and others.
1 Chronicles 16:11 || Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. [CSB]
1 Chronicles 22:19a || Now determine in your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. [CSB]
Psalm 105:4 || 4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. [CSB]
This makes sense. We need to seek God. I think this is a whole separate study for us to do together! Most churches are very good at this. We have Bible studies and reading plans. We encourage prayer and time to talk with God. We listen to music and podcasts about God and read books about Him.
The parable of the lost sheep is in our passage this morning.
Luke 15:3–7 || So Jesus told them this story: 4 “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? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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! [NLT]
What if we allowed God to interrupt the program of our lives to use us to reach the one that is lost? What if we valued that lost person and saw them as a valuable, necessary piece in God’s big picture?
Luke 19:10 || 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” [NLT]
This passage does not say that Jesus came and created a building and anyone who wanted to find him could set up a meeting or show up during the appointed service times. That is what WE DO in our churches today.
If we are to have the heart of Jesus then we must:
We get the privilege of being partners with God, of being his hands and feet while we are on this earth. When we allow ourselves to have God’s heart, God’s vision, God’s priorities and God’s mission then God can use us. As God transforms who we are it shapes what we do.
Some of you will be seeking others in a distant land, like North Africa. Others will be seeking in the tent out in the field or on deployment. Others may be seeking in your workplace, school district, sports field, neighborhood or backyard.
LET ME BE CLEAR: WE DO NOT SAVE PEOPLE…
We do not save people, but do we seek them? DO we search out those that are not yet followers of Jesus and share with them the good news that they can be forgiven and accepted by God because of what Jesus did for them?
In our passage in Luke, when that one is found, the Shepherd rejoices, he calls his friends to celebrate and we are told that all of heaven celebrates. You and I have the opportunity to create a party in heaven!
The Bible says that God’s heart is so big, that he has delayed the return of Jesus, he has delayed the coming judgement of all mankind because he wants more people to have a chance to know Him and be with him:
2 Peter 3:9 || 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. [NLT]
I referred to this verse last Sunday. Jesus has not returned yet, not because he has forgotten, but because God wants to give everyone to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
That means that the #1 business you and I should be concerned with is making sure every man, woman and child has the opportunity to hear that Jesus died for their sins so they can believe in Him and accept Him.
WE get to be God’s partners in taking His love to others so THEY can experience the grace and forgiveness of God.
Folks, to NOT share our faith is to ignore our calling. Disciples of Jesus do what Jesus did. We are saved not so we can wallow in the glory of being set free, but so that we can be God’s partners in taking His love to others so THEY can experience the grace and forgiveness of God.
God has called you and me to reflect him to the world around us. Perhaps the “world” sounds like too big or a target for us. It is too impersonal. So let me ask you this morning, “Who is your one?” Who is the one that you know that does not know Jesus yet?
Throw away the excuses and false theology and ask yourself this question, “Who is one person that God wants me to share my faith with?”