It's a pretty universal feeling for all of us to sense "I've got so much, but something is still missing..." Let’s take a look at what's lacking in our lives and resolve ourselves to finding The Missing Link.
What is one thing you are most excited about in 2018?
Gene talked about the game of hide and seek many of us played as a child. Our relationship with God is sometimes like that. When it comes to God we want to hide, we need to be sought, but we’re confused about being found.
We’ve been talking for several weeks about our horizontal relationships with each other, but the cross of Jesus Christ has 2 cross beams, one horizontal and the other vertical. The cross is where the vertical dimension meets the horizontal dimension. This series hopefully inspires you to get linked-in both horizontally with one another and vertically with God as we begin a new year.
Which is harder for you to do, connect with others or with Jesus? What is one thing you could do that would make a difference in that area?
Have someone read Luke 15:1-7.
When Jesus told this story, he was speaking to two groups of people. One group was full of people of questionable integrity. They are messy, irreligious, unbelieving, disreputable “sinners” and dishonest tax collectors. The other group was a group of elite religious leaders called Pharisees and teachers of the law.
Who are the modern day Pharisees? Who are the modern day lost sheep?
Luke 15:1-2 sets the scene saying that both tax collectors and sinners all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The people in the second group were upset that Jesus was associating with the people in the first group. In a way they were saying, “Jesus claims to be the son of God, God in human form. But no Son of God would freely associate with messy, irreligious, non-believing, ungodly people like this. It was scandalous to them that He actually welcomed them and laughed and dined with them.”
In response to the outrage Jesus tells a story of hiding and seeking. In Luke 15:7 Jesus says, “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.”
When you’re playing hide and seek “Olyolyoxenfree” means it’s safe for you who have been running and hiding to come home now. You won’t be It. There will be no penalties. You’re free to come home.
Jesus message is a cry of grace to people who are hiding from God, telling them that it’s time to come home.
Share a time when you were lost and felt God pursuing you.
The Shepherd is searching for the lost sheep, out of His great love and concern. This is not really a story about sheep and shepherds, it’s a story about God and human beings.
God is the Shepherd who loves His people so much He goes on a search for them. He searches for you and me. Religion is you searching for God, but Christianity is God’s loving search for you.
Have someone read Isaiah 53:6.
Jesus referred to us in Matthew 9 as sheep without a shepherd. The Bible says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Bible says if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. One of the hardest things for us to do as human beings is to admit that we are sinners before a holy God. We are lost sheep.
It has been that way since the beginning. The Bible isn’t filled with stories of perfect people. It is just the opposite. We read story after story of broken, flawed people in need of redemption. Just read through Genesis, the first book of the Bible and you will be struck by how messed-up these people and their families are. The Bible is laying out very early in Genesis a very important theological principle about human beings, which is simply everybody’s a screw up, we’re lost sheep!
Jesus is saying this is your story and my story. You can’t get connected to the God of the universe on your own and you can’t make it to heaven on your own.
Both groups listening to Jesus tell the story were lost. The religious leaders didn’t consider themselves lost because they paid their taxes and attended church each week. Yet they couldn’t be honest with themselves and admit they were lost. They didn’t believe they needed saving and had a quality that many of us share: stubbornness.
When is one time you’ve wrestled with stubbornness, a time you felt in your heart God was asking you to take action or move forward in some area of your life and yet you resisted?
Shepherds were common in the first century. A shepherd would have up to 200 sheep and would lead his flock in and among the hills of Palestine searching for the best grass and water. The shepherd often risked his life to protect the sheep from the dangers of wild animals in the hills. Sometimes a sheep would fall down a crevice and the shepherd had to climb down and pull it to safety. It would have been common for a shepherd to carry a sheep on his shoulders.
We often sing the song Reckless Love by Bethel Music in our weekend services. It talks about the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. How he loves us so much he leaves the 99 who are found behind to search for us, the one lost one. He fights for us.
God is just like the shepherd in this story. He leaves the 99 sheep who are found to lovingly go search for his lost sheep and He’s searching for you right now. The beauty is that God never stops searching for you and it’s why we as a church never stop searching for people who need to be found.
How would your life look different if you lived as if God truly loved you that much?
Maybe you’re afraid of how God might respond to you after some of the things you’ve done. You feel ashamed of past choices or behaviors. Look at what the Shepherd in Jesus’ story does not say. He doesn’t say “You stupid sheep, what were you thinking of wandering off like that!”
Instead, the shepherd just gathers the sheep up in his arms and puts him on his shoulders and brings him home. It is a time of laughter and rejoicing, because what was lost is now found. There’s no condemnation, there’s no lecture. There’s just a shepherd who is so in love with His sheep that when the sheep is found it melts His heart.
God is a loving shepherd searching for His lost sheep today. He lovingly said, “Instead of you dying for your sins, instead of you being punished for your sins, I’ll send my only son as a sheep and who will pay the price for you.” That is what the cross is all about. Jesus became a sheep that was slaughtered on a cross. He was beaten, His hands and feet were pierced with nails and a crown of thorns was placed on Him. They hoisted Him up and mocked Him. And then he died to pay for their… and our wrongs.
How do we respond to this loving God? You have to take that step of faith and the response God asks us to make is to trust the payment Jesus made for us on a cross by faith.
Who do you know who is far from God? What can you do to help him or her find his or her way back to God?
Have someone read Ephesians 2:8-9
Sometimes we feel like we have to do good works, to make amends for what we’ve done wrong. We feel we must do something to deserve God’s grace. The truth is there is nothing we can do to earn it. Our response is to believe and trust in God, to receive the gift offered to us.
Many of us are here today because someone invited us or introduced us to Jesus. Take a few minutes to make a list of people in your life who are far from God. Commit to praying for those folks individually and as a group.
Consider inviting them to our At The Movies series and/or one of our Alpha groups. Both of them are great ways to help people who don’t know Jesus take a step towards Him.