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Love for the Lost (Sermon 1-8-2023)

Love is a word that has become so important in our society. In 1967, the Beatles told us that “All You Need is Love”. We are still vocally calling for love. We could spend the rest of our time here this morning discussing love and just what love is. However, we, for the most part, understand that love involves seeking the best for someone. We love ourselves thus we seek to love in comfort and take the necessary steps to help ensure our health and safety. We love our families and in like manner we try to provide comfort and take those steps that will ensure their health and safety.

You have heard me state that I firmly believe the central theme of the Bible is love. More than 50 years of intense Bible study has only served to strengthen that belief. Love is demonstrated in many ways throughout the pages of the Bible. From the creation where God provided everything necessary for us to not only live but to thrive up to and including the sending of Jesus to bring salvation to everyone. Love is found on each page.

While Jesus was on earth, He was constantly being tested by many religious leaders. Jesus was showing how love and compassion should be lived on a daily basis while the leaders were concerned about the laws and commandments. On one occasion, Jesus was asked:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-39 NASB)

Jesus goes on to tell them that all of the Law and prophets are based on these two commandments.

In that second commandment, the one about loving our neighbor as ourself, is a compelling command that has remained hidden to many. It is the command that came from Jesus just prior to His return to heaven.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB)

Does our loving our neighbor extend to love for the lost? Seeking the lost was a high priority for Jesus. In the 15th chapter of Luke, He was criticized for associating with sinful people. This entire chapter of Luke is devoted to seeking and finding the lost. Some to the lost items may seem insignificant; one coin out of ten, one sheep out of one hundred, or even a child that squandered his inheritance. We won’t read these again this morning. If you have turned there already, turn a few more pages to the 19th chapter and we will read starting with the first verse.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So, he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NASB)

Why did Luke record this event? Jesus was active in ministry for 3-1/2

years. There are so many days of His life on earth that are not recorded, so many things He must have done, so many things He must have said that are not written down but this one saved for us to read. Go back to the 10th verse. You may want to underline it or in some way mark this verse. This is the reason Jesus came to earth.

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Do you think that Jesus had a love for the lost?

Moving on, and yes, I am building a case, we are keenly aware that there are sinners all around. In fact, Paul tells us; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NASB). Paul then reminds us of the penalty for sin along with the cure for that penalty.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)

God gives us a free gift-the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. God is love. However, we must also remember that God requires justice. Jesus died to pay for our sins. This is freely offered to us and we are free to accept that gift. We are also free to not accept the gift.

I have mentioned before that there is one scripture in the Bible that scares me. Let’s read it. It is found in 2 Thessalonians the first chapter.

For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NASB)

Who will be separated from God? Those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. This scares me because I will bear the blame for those who did not know God that I know. If I fail to share the message with my family, friends, neighbors, then on that day of judgement, God and those who are separated because they did not know God will turn and look at me. That is frightening.

There should be an urgency about reaching out to those lost souls with whom we come in contact. What’s the hurry? Well, do you know when you will die? Do you know when anyone else will die? James, the brother of Jesus tells us something that we should already know.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14 NASB)

Life is a vapor that is here and quickly disappears. When we die, we are told; And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27 NASB)

We may add to this uncertainty the fact that none of us know when God will send Jesus with His angels and the scene, we read about just a few minutes ago will unfold.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been building up to a conclusion. Here it is in three questions.

First, do we love ourselves enough that we have come to Jesus and accepted Him as our savor? Our salvation in found in and through Jesus Christ.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NASB)

Second, are the lost (outside of Christ) our neighbor? I’m not talking about those half-way around the world. What about those who live just down the block? What about those who make-up our foursome as we play golf? What about those who we meet in the grocery store each week? Are the people we see on a daily basis our neighbors? Do these people know Jesus? Are they washed in His blood? Are they joint heirs with Christ? Do you love them enough to care for their soul? Sadly, many of the people just mentioned do not have a relationship with God. They are without a savior. They are abandoned in a helpless situation as surely as the person robbed, beaten and left on the side of the road. Jesus spoke of that situation and in His story, He asked: Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37 NASB) Who is my neighbor? Do we really need to ask this question? This brings us to our third point.

Third, since I am to love my neighbor and my neighbor includes the lost (those outside of Christ) why do I not reach out to share the good news of Jesus with those lost neighbors? Perhaps there are two reasons we fail to share the gospel. A) We are too busy to take the time to speak to them about Jesus. After all, we hired a preacher to do that. I don’t have the time. Well, Paul tells us that we are not to allow this world to change us but we are to be changed by God into the person God wants us to be.

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NASB)

Are we letting the world set our priorities?

B) We don’t know enough to share the gospel. We aren’t prepared to speak to others about Jesus. Do you know enough to accept Jesus? How long have you been a Christian? How many Sunday school classes have you attended? How many sermons? In industry, we talked of people who had twenty first-year experiences rather than people with twenty years of experience. This aligns with the writer of Hebrews and this reminder: For though by this time, you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB)

Jesus said and repeated what God revealed to Moses that we are to love God and to love our neighbor. Jesus demonstrated and taught that our neighbor includes those who are lost. So, do we love our neighbor (our lost neighbor) enough to share the soul-saving message of Jesus? Is it a priority with us?

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