“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.” (Luke 15:4-5)
Would this picture of the shepherd from Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep be an accurate description of your heart for lost people?
For many Christians, lost people are primarily a nuisance. The attitude is that they get in the way …. or they’re the ones who mess up life …. or they use language that religious people shouldn’t have to tolerate …. or they don’t follow the same rules …. or they’re the reason the world is in the bad shape it’s in …. or they’re just too smelly, dirty, or unsavory to deal with…..
Yet, at a time when “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him” and the religious elites were off to the side, grumbling, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2), Jesus told a story intended to change the way we view and respond to people who are lost without Him:
1.) We should feel a personal responsibility for them. The shepherd in Jesus’ parable was already flush with ninety-nine of his hundred sheep. Only one was missing. Just one. And based on what we know from school and the business world, 99 percent is a passing grade or dominant market share in anybody’s book. But as long as even one lost person is missing, we’ve still got a job to do. It may be dark and cold out there, wherever we need to go looking for them. We may already be tucked in and comfortable with our own personal situation. But the believer who loves lost people thinks of the one in need of rescue, and says, “If not me — then who”?
2.) We should feel a sense of urgency about and for them. This is not a responsibility to put off until next week, until we’re feeling more up to it, or until there’s a break in our busy schedule. The shepherd dropped what he was doing and headed out in search of his lost lamb — Immediately. The lost people within our field of vision; in our family, at work, in our various places of recreation; are all in need of our interest, prayer, and attention this very minute. Today. That’s why the believer who really loves them is the kind of person who asks himself, “If not now, when?”
3.) We should feel a heart of compassion for them. Those who labored as shepherds in Jesus’ day weren’t just naturally soft-hearted teddy bears. Theirs was a rugged, weather-beaten, outdoorsy occupation. They braved bad weather, storms, even great personal pop persecution to reach the most vile and wretched; all precious lambs to the Shepherd. The shepherd He described in His parable was one who demonstrated through his actions that he genuinely cared about the condition of his flock, enough to not just notice the one that was missing, but to actually do something about it ….
“If not me, who?”
“If not now, when?”
That’s the heart of responsibility, urgency, and compassion that defines the difference between two kinds of Christians: religious christians who seek to insulate themselves from what they perceive as the “problem people” of the world, and Shepherd-minded Christians who live with a prayerful, passionate, persistent burden for seeing lost people found ….
Which type of Christian are you? Would your plans for the next few days look different if you were highly motivated to seek the lost ones? What lengths are you willing to go to in order to reach that one lost lamb?
In summary, think about that, and this: what are you currently using as a joy substitute for the far superior joy of loving lost people into eternal life?
Let’s pray ~
Father, thank You for seeking me when I was lost, when I was dirty, smelly, and wretched. Thank You for seeking me when I wasn’t seeking You or even aware of You; and for those people that You placed in my path who felt responsible for introducing You to me. Your salvation makes all the difference in my life. Please forgive me Lord for the many times that I do not carry that same burden for others. I know the many people that You are calling to Yourself are sure to come to You; but I also know that You have called me to be active and do my part in caring for them and not ceasing to do all that I can to reach them. Please help me and strengthen me for this joyful purpose this day to reach out to sinners and outcasts. Here I am Lord, Send me! Use me, I pray, to reach out to all the lonely, desperately lost souls in the world today. It’s in the precious Name of Jesus that I pray, Amen ….