Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- Luke 15:1-10
In Luke 15, the entire chapter is devoted to parables about the lost. We first have a shepherd who lost a sheep. Then we have a lost coin. Then we have a prodigal son, but I like Tim Keller’s concept of a prodigal God. It is God, or the father in the story, who is lavishly living in His boundless Love for a son who is lost.
I was thinking of a quiz about football, since football season is finally over. One question might be: Let’s assume that the lost coin was a quarter. When the woman in Luke 15 lost her coin, she did everything she could to get her _____ ______. Of course, she did everything that she could to get her “Quarter back.” For those who are not football fans, the person calling the plays on offense is the quarterback and almost always handles the ball on each play.
Sorry, I felt a pun come upon me.
But in each of the parables, who or what was lost? The sheep, the coin, the son.
But have you noticed this? Many testimonies say something along the lines of “I was looking for something. I knew I needed something. And then I found God.”
Who is lost? God did not need to be found. God knows where He is all the time.
My wife and I went into a strange part of the Pittsburgh area. There are a lot of those, but this one is one we had never been in before. Then we came to a detour. As usual, the teen-age prank was in effect – steal the detour signs or turn the arrows in the wrong direction. After coming to about four or five dead ends in a row, my wife said, “Okay, Mr. Never-gets-lost, what now?!?!?” My reply was, “I am not lost. I just have no idea where I am. As for what to do? I am going to keep driving until I find a bigger road. Then I will check where the sun is in the sky and turn south on the bigger road. Then I will drive until I see something that looks familiar or we reach the river.” If we had been south of the Monongahela/Ohio rivers, I would have gone north, knowing that I would reach a river at some point. And for folks in Pittsburgh, that would be Carson Street, the street by the river on the south bank.
The point is that we are the ones that are lost.
The program director of the local Christian television station appears in a public service announcement on the station by saying that God is pursuing you, and to “find” God, all you have to do is turn around and fall into His arms.
I think that is such a beautiful way of expressing it. When we say that we found God, we ignore the fact that we were lost and totally helpless when it comes to getting found. We ignore that God did the heavy lifting, and we place the focus on something that is not true – that we found God – we did something to get us saved. He found us. John Newton may have written that he was lost but now he’s found, but the dear reverend does not say who did the finding. As the program director suggests, and A. W. Tozer spends a book explaining, God’s Pursuit of Man, God is in pursuit of us. If we “do” anything, it is to stop running away. It is to turn around – like by repenting of our sins. But the salvation is nothing that we have done. The getting found is nothing that we have done. We do not find a bigger road and head south. God finds us.
And that is even a poor choice of words. God knows “where” we are all the time, but until He “finds” us, we have kept the door shut to our heart. When the door is finally open, Jesus comes in and starts cleaning house.
If Laozi had only found God when he did his “non-action”, he might have found God himself instead of the unknowable “dao.” But he had the right idea. We can do nothing. We are lost, until we quit trying to “do” our way there and we let God wrap His arms around us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.