Luke 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the bible. It’s what I preached from Sunday. I spent most of the time in the story of the prodigal son but ended with the story of the lost sheep. Here, Jesus asks an important question of his audience full of sinners and religious professionals:
Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country, and go find the one that is lost until he finds it?
The answer to this question is one that might surprise us: NONE OF US! We are quite content with the 99, aren’t we? If one foolish sheep goes and gets itself lost we are not going to jeopardize losing 99% of our profits for one dumb sheep, right? That would be bad business. 99% is not a bad return in our economy. Besides, the one lost might count as a write-off.
But this story isn’t about us. It’s about our Heavenly Father. Jesus is trying to show us that unlike us, this Hound of Heaven will not rest until He finds and brings home every one of His own. When we wander off the path and get stuck in a thicket, we can count on our Good Shepherd hunting us down till found.
At least two applications come to mind, the first being more obvious than the second.
First, God is not content with just 99%. He is a jealous God and wants all of His children, or sheep, home. He is not interested in preserving the flock that is at the expense of the flock that should or could be. This means He will move out from our little church pastures where we have grown comfortable with ourselves and the 99 we have in attendance to go hunting the dark corners of our communities in search of the one that is missing. He will not rest till every lost soul is found. And therefore neither should we. We are to be like our Father in Heaven, discontent with the number we have and always seeking to find the one hung up in the bushes out back.
Second, yet every bit as important, I sensed the Lord saying to me that I am all-too-often content with giving Jesus 99% of my heart when he wants it all. Far too often I think it’s a good return on my investment if I can give God most of myself while holding back parts here and there. I assume that God is like me, content with the 99 and willing to write-off the part I’ve withheld. But God is not like me. He is a jealous God and wants, and deserves, everything I have.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Back when I was addicted to pornography I got good at minimizing this sin by focusing on all the other good things I was doing (pastoring a church, going to seminary, adopting children, etc). I convinced myself that God would be satisfied with the good I was doing and overlook this “one little black spot” in my life.
Perhaps porn is not your “one thing” but something else. Maybe gossip is your thing, and you know it’s wrong and you shouldn’t do it, but believe 99% of your heart is good, what’s the big deal about this one thing? Maybe it’s an addiction to any number of things or people. Maybe it’s anger, or fear, or envy, or lustful thoughts, or bitterness, or lying, or crude speech (Eph. 4:25-32). It is so easy to comfort ourselves in the pasture made up of the 99%, where we go to church, attend Sunday school, pay our tithes, and give a dollar now and then to the beggar on the street and think God doesn’t care about the one dark corner of our heart hung up in the brambles.
The good news is that God does care. I know that may not sound like good news at the moment. It may sound like judgment. And it is. God’s word judges our hearts and minds, but never for the purpose of condemning us but to free us. He is a holy God who “yearns jealously over the Spirit which he has made to dwell within us” (James 4:5). If there is part of you which is lost, which is inconsistent with the will of the Holy Spirit, God wants to correct it, heal it, and free it. He wants us enslaved by nothing in this world (1 Cor. 6:12).
So God is not like us. He wants ALL of our heart, ALL of our SOUL, ALL of our STRENGTH , and ALL of our MIND (Luke 10:27). If God wants this, then He will impart to us the grace by which we can accomplish living fully unto him rather than partly, or even mostly. We can trust all of our heart and mind to Jesus because he is a GOOD shepherd and knows exactly and completely what is best for us (John 10).
What is your 1%? Pray with me…
Dear Jesus, I thank you that you care enough about me to want everything. Forgive me for being content with giving you what I thought was most of me when you want all of me. I give you permission to seek out and find and bring home the parts of my life that are lost and in darkness. Expose them for what they are and help me to see my sin in the way you see it. I don’t want to be enslaved by anything, and ask you to take complete control of my heart, my thoughts, my desires, my words, my body, my will. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to save every bit of me. Thank you for forgiving me. Amen.
The story of the lost sheep ends this way:
I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
Heaven is rejoicing over you!