First let me say thank you. Wiley and I, we were kind of laughing about how ridiculous this all is. It’s like y’all put the kids in charge of church today! And it is; it is funny! But I really did, in two ways, before anything I wanted to say thank you, and first on a personal level. I love this church. It’s amazing to look out and see so many faces that have loved me and my family well. I can remember many a Sunday, I don’t think I ever heard a Call to Worship because I always made my family late to church. And we’d always sit over there. And I fell asleep many a Morning Prayers that I felt like were long and Derek’s voice was so soothing. And yet this congregation, the older I get the more I appreciate that the church, you, really is the body of Christ and I realized this is the place that I really believed that Jesus loved me and He was kind and He was gentle. I think even while I was falling asleep God created a real hunger for good preaching. So thank y’all.
And secondly, as an RUF campus minister, I really wanted to say thank you. I don’t know if you know this, this isn’t exaggeration, there is no church, I don’t think in the country, that supports and loves and encourages RUF like y’all do. The number of faces that I see that supports us, it’s overwhelming. It’s all by God’s grace and providence but it is not an overstatement to say that RUF probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for First Pres. So thank you; it means more than you know.
Okay we’re going to look at Luke 15 together. And the gospel of Luke, I think it opens in an astonishing way because what the writer, Luke, says is he claims he has put together such an orderly account of Jesus and His life that you can actually have certainty regarding all the things of Jesus that they are actually true. I think that’s beautiful because I struggle with that. And I think in Luke 15 what Luke is asking you to see is, you can have certainty about how the Lord of this universe, how He actually feels about you and what His posture is towards you. And if you’re like me, I need to keep hearing that. I think most of the time I assume that Jesus is just kind of disappointed in me and frustrated, but Luke says you can actually know for certain that that might not be the case. And it makes me think of this great book, God’s Way of Peace, Horatius Bonar. He has this great line where he says, “So often we believe in Satan’s willingness to tempt and to injure but we do not believe in God’s willingness to save. We will not give God the credit for speaking truly when He speaks in tender mercy and when He utters over the sinner the yearnings of unfathomable pity. We listen as if Jesus’ words were hollow, as if He did not mean what He says, as if His message of grace, instead of being sincere, are hollow.” Now I’ve just found that to be true. The many times I’m painfully aware that when Satan points out my shortcomings and how much I struggle, I give that weight. But that Jesus says He delights to forgive and that He loves struggling sinners, I just treat that as hollow. And so wouldn’t it be something if the Spirit showed up and convinced us with absolute certainty that you could know how the Lord of this universe feels about you. Let me pray.
Father, as we read Your Word we acknowledge that we need Your help. Many of us here are probably tired, many of us are confused, probably a lot of us have doubts, many of us are really excited, and Lord, You are a God that doesn’t ask us to check those things at the door. So we bring our confusion, we bring our weariness, we bring our failures, our sin, we bring our joy, and we believe You’ll meet us in that. You love to be with Your people so would You, by Your Spirit, open our eyes to Your Word and help us to see that You really are better than we think. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
Alright, here is God’s Word starting in Luke 15 verse 1:
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ;This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, 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.
Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
And he said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’’”
The grass withers, the flowers fade, the Word of our God stands forever.
Okay, so these stories – I didn’t realize this until I studied – they are actually one parable. That’s what Jesus says in verse 3, He told them one parable. And so it’s three stories kind of crunched together to give us the same big point and so there are a few big themes that I think we can pull out and kind of examine as we take the big picture. So let’s just ask three questions of Luke 15 – Who are we? Who is God? And what’s our response? Who are we? Who is God? What’s our response?
First – who are we? In each story, right, something is lost – a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two, yes too, lost sons or brothers. And in each one of the stories the thing that is lost is an illustration of who we are, of who man is. You see, I don’t think Jesus told the same story exactly the same way to just say the same point. I think He was giving us a different kind of facet on what it means to be man, what it means to be us. And first He says we are lost like a sheep without a shepherd. And I am not a shepherd so I’m just going off what I have read. That is actually not a complimentary thing, right? Sheep, they’re not smart, they’re not warm and fuzzy towards people, they are constantly wandering off. They need constant supervision; they need to be constantly guided and watched over. And Jesus says that’s what we’re like. We are like sheep that have gone astray, each one of us. We don’t want to be found.
And secondly, He connects man’s condition with an inanimate object – a lost coin. Think about that. It’s a dark room, this small coin has been lost – what can the coin do to be found? Ah, nothing! It’s only hope is if someone finds it. And Jesus uses that to show us a picture of who we are. Ephesians 2 – that we really are dead in our transgressions and sins, that our only hope is that someone else is going to do something.
And thirdly, you have these two sons that are lost. They’re both lost. The whole driving point of these stories is that everything is lost but is being found. And so you have this younger and this older brother that are lost. Now they look different but how do you know they’re both lost? Because they both don’t like their dad. They both think that life is away from their father. They are both alienated from their father. Now with the younger brother it’s easier to see; it’s more outwardly apparent. When he asks for the inheritance, in those days that would be like looking at your dad and saying, “I wish you were dead.” And then he goes and lives that outwardly wild life. But the older brother is lost. The older brother’s heart is just the same as the younger brother. He’s angry, he won’t come into the party, he’s separated from his father’s heart; he doesn’t really believe his father is good in his life and he won’t come in. Because the essence of sin is that you want to be away from your Father.
And so here’s the summation – the sheep, the coin, the two brothers, it’s this – being lost, what it means to be human, is that we are people who wander away from God, we are helpless to do anything about our condition, and we’re cut off from the Father. Or you could quote the apostle Paul in Romans 3 where he says, here’s how he describes humanity, “None is righteous, no, not one. No one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside.” And so Jesus begins these stories by giving us a pretty bleak picture, I would suggest, of who we are, of who mankind is. Now why would He do that? Why would He start with such a stark picture of who we are?
Well my wife loves, she used to love watching the reality TV series, The Biggest Loser, if you’re familiar with this. Many times I’d come in and she’d be weeping over, I thought some great drama, and it was this reality TV. And it would be these contestants on the show, right, who had severely unhealthy lives and so were overweight and this was a way that they were going to try to be healthy again. And there was always this running theme between about two or three contestants on the show because the only reason they were on the show is because basically their spouse or their family made them go and they really didn’t think they had a problem. And it was really interesting – those two or three people the same thing would happen because week three or four they would be forced to go to this doctor, and what the doctor would do is he would be very gentle but he would be very frank. And he would simply outline the facts about their lifestyle, about how their lifestyle was literally shortening their life. And at that moment, it was really interesting, you could see the transformation on their faces and all of a sudden the gravity of their situation became clear and they realized, “Unless I change, I’m going to die.”
I think that’s what Jesus is doing here. Jesus is being a loving surgeon and He is saying, “Unless we realize the gravity of our situation, unless you realize how lost you really are, you’ll never want to change. You’ll never want to be found.” And so I really am asking you this morning – I hope this isn’t too depressing – but whether you are a believer or not, I’m asking you to have a more radical view of sin, actually a more realistic view of sin. That even as Christians there is this sinful residue hanging on that we run from God and we think life is away from Him. Why? Why does Jesus want us to see that? So we’ll see who God is because God wants to be known as the Friend of sinners and that’s only how He’ll be known. And see, if we deny the reality of sin, even as Christians, if we deny how much we still struggle with sin you will miss the reality of who God is. You will miss how He wants to be known, that He is a great Savior of sinners. That’s who we are according to this.
So who is God? I’ve given kind of hints at it but if the objects being found are a picture of humanity then the person finding the objects becomes this great picture of the nature of who God is. All three of the stories that are one big parable, there are a few similarities that pop up about who God is and I just want to point to a few. First of all, what you see is that God is not passive. None of them, the shepherd, the woman, nor the father are passive. Instead, they are all actively looking for what’s lost. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine that are safe and he goes after the sheep that’s wandering. The woman lights a lamp; starts sweeping everything. It seems that she will stop at nothing until she finds this coin. And the father, the father’s not passive. He is anxiously watching and when he sees his son he runs to meet him and he even goes out to the elder brother who’s lost and begs him to come in. Look at who God is! He’s not passive. He pursues lost people. He pursues Christians who are pursuing sin. He pursues us.
C.S. Lewis in this great letter that he had where he was responding to someone who asked him a question about how he reached God, he said this, “About reaching God I’m far less a reliable god. That’s because I’ve never really had the experience of looking for God. It was the other way around. God was the hunter, or so it seemed to me, and I was the deer. He stalked me, He took unerring aim, and He fired. And I’m very thankful that’s how the first conscience meeting occurred. It guards one against subsequent fears that the whole thing was only wish fulfillment. Something someone didn’t wish for can hardly be that.” I love that. Lewis found this tremendous beauty in the fact that the reason that he was a believer is not because he was smarter than everybody else, because he probably was, not because of his good senses, not because he was better than other people, but because God searched him and found him out.
And see, why does Jesus tell this parable? I forget this. It’s for a reason. He didn’t just pull it out of the air and just kind of, “It’s time to tell a story.” It’s in response to something. If you look at verse 1 and 2, all these tax collectors and all these sinners, all these big, outward, messy people are drawing near to Jesus and the Pharisees, the religious leaders, the people who knew their Bible and doctrine, they’re grumbling. They’re saying, “I don’t understand this. Why does Jesus keep eating with,” which means friendship, “Why does He keep being friends with those people?” – with kind of the scum of the earth as they would have thought. And so Jesus gives this parable to say, “You don’t know who I am and I don’t think you know who God is because God pursues and chases after and relentlessly hunts down sinners and even people who, after they are a Christian, want to keep being away from Him.” That’s why the reformers called Him the “Hound of Heaven.” And so that’s who God is. He comes after people even who think He’s boring.
And secondly, this parable doesn’t just show us He’s a pursuing God, this is what’s amazing, it shows you that God has something that He finds extremely valuable. Why do you search for anything if you do? The only time I search for something is if it has value. Your willingness to search for something is always connected to the degree that that thing is valuable for you. I lose things all the time. I lose change and pens and hats and phone calls and emails and all kinds of stuff and that usually doesn’t bother me. But there was this time, probably about two years ago, my family was coming out of Sea World – we’d just seen some orca show and thousands of people and we had this overpriced ice cream and everybody’s happy. And we’re kind of gathering up and Liza, my wife says, “Hey, where’s Shelby?” And I looked around and Shelby, our oldest, she was probably four; she was nowhere to be found. It is hard to describe the feeling that welled up in me and the panic as their became this single-mindedness of nothing was going to stop me from finding Shelby as I started wading back through. Why? Because she’s of an inestimable value to me. And what’s funny is that Liza and I looked at each other and said, “Surely she’s not old enough to remember this, right?” And she brings it up all the time to heap the shame on!
But don’t miss what this parable is telling us. Yes, we’re a lot more messed up than we think. We’re a lot worse than we think. We’re a lot more rebellious than we know. But this parable means you’re a lot more valuable than you think. Absolutely! This parable is saying you are the treasure of God. You are the one He left everything for. What other explanation do we have for the fact that God came to this earth and lived and died than He had something of extreme value that He wanted? I just think we all need to hear this. I need to hear this. But some of you, and I say this gently, some of you in this room – I just know the statistics and I’ve sat with enough college students – some of you in here, you’ve been abused physically or verbally or in other ways, and the lie that that creates is that you feel worthless because of what’s been done to you. And you just need to know what this parable is saying is your value is not dictated by what’s been done to you. Others of us, we try to draw our value from kind of our circumstances around us. Maybe you’re in junior high and you’re extremely lonely and you have no friends and life feels crummy and therefore that’s just the functioning reality – “I guess I’m crummy.” Or I’m very sympathetic, maybe you’ve wanted a child for a long time and you can’t have one and that hurts and it makes you feel like you have no value. And this parable is saying your value is not dictated by your circumstances. Sometimes we try to draw our value from how we feel. And if you struggle with depression, depression makes you feel worthless. And your value is not by how you feel.
And, man I need to hear this, your value is not dictated by what you have or have not done, this week or in your life. That’s what the two sons struggled to believe. Both sons believed the lie that their value comes out of what they have done or not done in their family, right? The younger son, did you hear the reasoning behind his apology? He says, “Well I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Just make me like one of your hired hands.” It sounds good, but what he’s saying is, “I’m not valuable anymore because I’ve messed it all up.” He’s assigning his value according to his performance and his father stops him and says, “You can’t say that! That’s not who you are. That’s not your value.” The same thing happens with the older son. The older son says, “I’m valuable because I obey, because I’m so good; that’s why I’m valuable.” And in verse 29 the father won’t let him say that. He says, “All that I have is yours; it’s always been yours. It’s not because you’re good.” And what this parable is saying and beginning me to see and you, is that your value comes not from what you’ve done or haven’t done, not from what’s been done to you, not from how you feel, and not from your circumstances. Your value comes from whose you are. And the Lord says, “You are mine,” and that’s your value!
Value is always measured by what you’re willing to sacrifice to get it. How much does the Lord value you? He sacrificed the most precious gift He could possibly have which is the blood of His own eternal Son. I don’t know a better explanation of why in the world Jesus took on flesh than that He deeply treasures something, and it’s you! He thought you so valuable He delights to win you back which means He delights to forgive and He delights to save and He loves to embrace messy people. That’s who He is. Do you see that?
And lastly, what kind of response does that bring? Again, the context in verse 1 and 2, Jesus didn’t just teach this out of thin air. He’s responding to wrong attitudes from the religious leaders about who God is, about His character. They’re confused. They can’t figure out why this community of people that keep following Jesus is so messy, is so sinful, and they just can’t make sense of it. And so Jesus tells these three stories to help them make sense of who Jesus is and who God the Father is. Notice the rhythm of the parables. There’s a lost sheep and it’s found, there’s a lost coin and it’s found, there’s a lost younger brother and found, and there’s a lost older brother – and was he found? I don’t know. He’s still outside the party. Why is the elder brother still lost? Because he can’t own the fact that he’s lost; that’s why he’s lost. He can’t own the fact that he just needs grace; he needs his father’s free love. The elder son is all about his performance and Jesus is pushing forward this fact that the only way into the party is to admit our unworthiness.
It reminds me of this great old, Welsh preacher – and I wish I had David Strain’s accent for this – but he said, “Why do you shirk being a sinner? It’s a wonderful thing to be a sinner. All the promises of God are for sinners and sinners only.” And that’s what he’s pushed away from. And so the parable really is saying it’s bad to be lost; it’s worse to be lost and not know it. That’s when you’re in danger. And so our first response really does, hear me, whether you’re bored with Jesus today, whether you’re skeptical of Christianity, whether you’ve been a Christian for as long as you can remember, our response has to be to identify our self again as a sinner. For the first time or the thousandth time we say, “I really am a big sinner.” And here’s what’s amazing – when you identify yourself as a struggling sinner, by definition, read this parable, it means Jesus wants to be with you. You identify yourself as sexually immoral, Jesus wants to be with you if you come to Him with that. the only people who miss Jesus are those who hide from Him, those who refuse to be honest.
It reminds me of this great, old RUF story that’s kind of passed down. I actually think it’s from Mississippi State and the Brian Habig days. And there was this girl who, her freshman, sophomore, junior year was dating this guy. She was involved in RUF, he wasn’t that much, and he just wasn’t a good guy; not because he wasn’t involved in RUF! He just wasn’t and everybody knew that. And people tried to talk to her and her response kept being, “You don’t know him like I do.” Which by the way, this is free, that’s always bad. If that’s your response, “You don’t know him like I do,” it’s probably bad. And anyway, towards the beginning of her senior year, she ends up pregnant. And at that point, the watershed moment happened where she realized, “I don’t think this guy loves me. I think he’s actually using me; I don’t think he cares for me.” And she broke up with him. And so it’s her senior year, little did she know that actually one of her best friends, this great guy within RUF had actually been friends with her and had liked her since her freshman year. And so he finds out that she broke up with this guy and he, if you didn’t know this, he waits the obligatory two weeks so he doesn’t look to desperate, right. And he calls her after two weeks and he says, “You know, Sarah, I’d love to take you out.” And Sarah’s kind of flabbergasted and she thinks this guy’s great and she says “Yes” and is so excited and hangs up the phone and she realizes, “He doesn’t know I’m pregnant.” And so she realizes, I’ve got to pick up the phone and I’ve got to be honest. So she calls him back and says, “John, I’m so honored that you asked me out but I realized that you don’t know this. I’m actually pregnant.” There’s a long pause on the phone and he said, “Well, I love pregnant women.” And they went out and they ended up married, like for real! Think about what must have gone through her mind. She revealed at that point what to her felt like the most shameful thing, and instead of this guy retreating he actually took a step forward and created a real joy in her.
I’m telling you, that is a small picture of Jesus. If we will identify our self as a sinner this morning, if we will admit the things we are ashamed about – did Jesus want you to do those things, no. Does He love you with those things? Yes. And that really does mean we can look up and we can say, “But I like yelled at my kids before coming to church today.” And Jesus says, “I love people who yell at their kids.” “Yeah, but I like fall asleep in the pew as a junior high kid; I fall asleep as an adult.” Jesus says, “I love people who fall asleep in church.” “But what about if you’re a minister and Sports Center captivates your heart more than the Bible does sometimes?” And Jesus says, “I love ministers who sometimes even are captivated more by Sports Center than the Bible.” “What about if you struggle with same-sex attraction or fill in the blank?” He says, “I love people who struggle with that. That’s who I am.”
This is saying that if you will identify yourself as a big sinner you will realize that Jesus wants to be with you. That’s who He is. Which means that our second response after identifying ourselves, it really should be joy. It’s incredible. There’s this constant theme of joy that what makes the heavens ring out – He says this two times and then the third times He gives you this visible party to demonstrate what goes on in heaven. What makes the heavens ring out in joy, this is what Jesus said, not me – it’s not what you’ve finally had that perfect week and you’ve got your life together; it’s not when you finally did it all right. He says it’s when you repent. That what brings joy before the angels of God is when a sinner, when a lost person is rescued, or – I used to think this was just about non-Christians; it’s not – because every time a Christian repents, a sinner is repenting, it ignites joy in the heavens. That’s amazing! So much so that He compares it to an unbelievable party that was heard in the streets.
And I think that means our response, if you’re a Christian, there needs to be a real playfulness about you because the reason we are right with God is not because of our performance but because of who He is and because of His love. And that makes all the difference. I’m telling you, if you ground what God thinks of you or your acceptability before God, if you ground it in anything about you – whether it’s your sincerity, whether it’s your prayer life, whether it’s your morality or how you feel – you will never have joy, ever. You can’t throw a party. You’ll be like the older brother always angry at everybody else that they haven’t gotten it right. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the old great preacher, I love this – he said, “You can always tell the different between a moral and religious person and a real Christian based on how they answer this one question – Are you a Christian?” He said if you ask the moral, religious person, “Are you a Christian?” they’ll actually get mad and say, “Well of course I am! How dare you ask me!” You see, because by you asking they have to look right, they have to be right, and you threaten them with that question. But you see, if you ask the Christian, “Are you a Christian?” his response will be, “Yeah, I know. Isn’t it hilarious? Me! God loves and saves me! That’s who I am!” Those people can throw a party because they realize Jesus had incredible mercy on us and you can actually enjoy His love and you can begin to obey Him not because it makes God love you any more but because it helps you enjoy His love better.
And this is where, at least for me, this is where this parable gets very convicting. You know, I don’t know this sanctuary as well as I know my own RUF, but what Luke 15 I think is saying is this – that when the Gospel goes out, the younger brothers, the wild people, start pouring in. And look, I know my RUF. My RUF is filled with elder brothers, probably because their campus minister is a struggling elder brother. We just think we’re better than people. And what this is saying is, my RUF, and I don’t know this sanctuary but if this sanctuary is not filled with the wild people, with the younger people coming in, the only explanation is we don’t understand grace. We just don’t get it or else those people would be coming. And don’t let that make you despair. Let it push you to Jesus. Look at the kindness of Jesus. Look at how kind Jesus is in this parable. The whole parable is an invitation to the smug, religious leaders who have their doctrine right and who thought they were better than everybody else. The invitation is to them, to come in. Does the elder brother ever come into the party? I don’t know, but this parable itself is an invitation to come in and to receive free grace and believe that God really loves you.
And that’s my last appeal, as our final response. We’ve just got to see Jesus. He really is better than we think. All this stuff that I’m about to say probably comes from Tim Keller somewhere in there, but in all the other stories that Jesus tells in chapter 15, someone goes out and finds the lost thing except for when the younger brother goes out. Why did nobody go out and find him? Because in those days it was the older brother’s responsibility. He should have done it but he didn’t. He refused to go out and find his younger brother. He refused to say, “Dad, your love is so great I will go back and find my brother so that he realizes that your smile is the best thing in the world.” Why does Jesus give us a final story with a flawed, sinful elder brother? I think because He’s asking us to yearn and to long for a perfect elder brother, one that we have. It’s what Jesus really did. We have ruined ourselves in sin. We think that other things are more exciting than God. We run from Him and Jesus says, “Dad, I’ll go get them. I’ll go get them and remind them that Your smile is better than anything else.” And so He leaves everything, two thousand years ago, and He goes to a cross at great cost Himself. What happens on the cross? He becomes helpless, He becomes lost, and He becomes alienated from His Father as He cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Because He’s taking our place so that He can bring us in so that we can have the smile of the Father forever, so He can bring us home to an eternal party of joy. That’s the big final response Jesus is pushing for – see Jesus! He’s better than you think. He’s not disappointed in you. He’s not frustrated with you. He loves you.
I’ll end with this. It reminds me of this other story of this great missionary, Harvie Conn. He went to Korea and he really ministered to the outcasts, really mainly the prostitutes. And he was preaching forgiveness and free forgiveness so much so that even some of the pimps broke his legs and told him to get out of there. But he started getting frustrated because none of the prostitutes were listening. They said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m too bad. Even my family won’t forgive me” and things like that. And so finally he changed his tune and he started saying this. He said, “Your heavenly Father chose you. Your Father wants you.” And the prostitutes started coming in; they started being converted. They got it, because at the heart of this God, what Luke 15 tells us, is that He wants you. The Lord of this universe can have anything that He wants, He can be anywhere that He wants, and He wants to be with you. That’s what this is saying. And isn’t that what you long for? Isn’t that worth celebrating this morning? This really is an invitation, for the first time or for the thousandth time, to realize your heavenly Father has more grace than whatever sin you want to put up next to it. It’s bigger and it’s better and He loves repentance. If you turn to Him this morning for the first time or the thousandth time, it will ignite another party in heaven. Luke really does say you can have certainty about how the Lord of this universe feels about you. Do you see it? He loves you. He wants you. He enjoys you. He’s not tolerating you. Do you realize that? That’s an invitation. Let’s pray.
Father, would You do what only Your Spirit can do and help us to see how great our Father is, how great Jesus is, and draw us in. Lord, there are many days, I think, that people think, “I don’t even like myself.” Lord, You convince us that You like us, that in Christ You love us and we’re Your treasure, and may that enable us to respond with worship, obedience, and trust. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
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