evangelism

Shepherding the Lost

For a flock of sheep, the shepherd is an important figure. Without a leader, the sheep would live aimlessly, only doing what is necessary for survival. This is a wonderful reflection of church structure and the necessity for not just a strong leader; but more importantly, an even greater Shepherd to guide all processes. I am glad and blessed to know that the Lord’s provision is upon our church and can’t wait to see what He has in store for us during and after this transition. So, if we know that God cares for our church, we should also be reflecting that heart of others. If God then cares for us, how should we care for others?

Luke 15:1-7 looks at the background and the cultural story that was presented. The story begins not with the parable, but with events that occurred in the past. Luke recounts tax collectors and sinners gathering and eating with Jesus. At the same time, we also see pharisees and scribes grumbling at Jesus’ actions from afar. For now, Jesus begins his parable:

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
 
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “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? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 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.’ 7 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. (Luke 15:1-7, ESV)

Two things that we see:

  1. First, we see the shepherd’s mental willingness to go out and find this lost sheep. If the shepherd does not go out for that one sheep, how unsure would the rest of the flock be knowing that losing one is no big deal? Honestly, it could have been any of the other ninety-nine. The shepherd’s willingness is able to give assurance to the rest of the flock.
  2. Second, we see the shepherd’s physical willingness to bear the burden of this task. Not only is it a journey to find the sheep, but it’s also another quest to bring it back to the flock. The shepherd needs to know that he is able to complete this task, otherwise his life along with the ninety-nine others left in the open may not end with a bliss.

For one, we are the lost sheep and God is the Great Shepherd. We should be encouraged knowing that God is willing to seek us despite our own straying away from Him. It is because of our own instincts, our own desires to fulfill that cause us to move further away from God. He is there, seeking us. Are we willing to accept His efforts? Though it is also a common mindset to equate anything related to shepherding to the pastorate, Jesus seems to encourage the differ. Just like the shepherd who is willing to seek the lost, I also get the feeling that He is commissioning us to go and do likewise. Who else will be there to guide and suggest the lost back into our churches? Let us also be mindful of the possible dangers that a wandering sheep may encounter during their lost journey.

May the Lord entice our hearts for the weary and the lost.

Original post from the author at The Two Cities Blog.

The Self and Public Proclamation of the Gospel

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
— Philippians 1:12-18 [ESV]

Still in prison, Paul is still able to glorify God. Despite his current state, what Paul has been doing is continuing to advance the Gospel (v. 12). At the moment, I believe it is safe to say that most of us reading this are in a better position than Paul. Regardless of our status, we should always be pursuing the progression of the Gospel. Paul took the extra step to even tell his guards that what he is doing is all for Christ (v. 13). Even those who are in prison with him are now proclaiming the name of Christ without fear (v. 14).

In this era, preaching the Gospel is one of the toughest things to do, especially in a upper-middle class community. It's encouraging to see that people are continually preaching the Gospel to fellow friends and neighbors, but sometimes, there are times where the Gospel message is not preached out of love (v. 15-17). Despite whatever motives are being used, we should still be appreciative of the Gospel message that is being shared. If God does accomplish good using the means of the wicked, continue to rejoice. One group of people who come to mind is those who hold up those picket signs on college campuses condemning people to hell and what not. As "obnoxious" as they sound, some people do come to know Christ because of the type and style of the Gospel that is being preached. Regardless of the tone and attitude of these people, Paul would still rejoice; however, Paul would most likely not have ordained those who cannot share the Gospel out of love as ministers. Paul knew that the Gospel message would not be preached with love 100% of the time, but regardless of the reason for preaching the Gospel, rejoice in the advancement of the Gospel.

I also wonder how much of our own intentions are also mixed when we preach the gospel. Even if we think we are doing it out of love, there may be other motives as well. So it's good to also be able to search our own hearts too. Despite this, it's good to know that God does what He wants and saves people and uses us, as imperfect people, to bring the gospel to others. It is humbling.

A Missional Church

When activities become routine, it can be easy to overlook their significance and simply run on autopilot. This can happen in many areas of life – including church. We can become so familiar with our traditions that we never stop to consider what the church is and why it exists. In fact, we may even forget whose it is and start to think it’s “our” church.

The first mention of the church in the New Testament is in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” This clearly shows us that the church belongs to Christ, and there will always be conflict involved in the growth. However, victory is assured because it is God’s power at work in the building process.

Although the Lord is the one forming His church, He’s enlisted us to participate in the work. That’s why, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus’ parting words to His disciples were, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is the unfinished task of the church, and it is still being accomplished to this very day.

We have a message to bring to the world – that God sent His only Son to earth to pay the penalty for sin with His death on the cross. He did this so those who believe in Him could be forgiven and receive eternal life (John 3:16). Our message is not about a thousand things. We have this one essential truth, and everything we do is because of it. If it’s not, then we are failing to accomplish what Christ called us to do. Unlike so many ideas and philosophies, our message never needs revising. It’s the same one Jesus spoke almost 2,000 years ago, and it still effectively and powerfully transforms people’s lives, no matter their culture or language. 

Christ gave His church a mission to accomplish – to spread the gospel to every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). Even to the church’s teaching and training through sermons, Bible studies, and Sunday school programs exist to equip God’s people. We must know the truth before we can pass it on to others.

Although the gospel is global in its outreach, it’s personal in its impact. No nation or people group is saved corporately. Faith in Christ and repentance from sins are personal issues. Each person must hear and believe the message in order to be saved.

The motivation for the church’s mission is twofold. First of all, Jesus commands us to make disciples and teach them to observe all His instructions (Matt. 28:19-20). If we call Him Lord, our desire and ambition should be to obey Him. Second, the condition of lost humanity should prod us into action. In the Scriptures, God describes the unredeemed as separated from Him, deceived, darkened in their understanding, helpless to save themselves, and hopeless without Him (Eph. 2:12; 4:17-18). How can we possibly keep to ourselves the only message with the power to transfer people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Son?

Our methods for spreading the message of Christ are diverse (1 Cor. 9:16-23). We live in the most amazing time in history with multiple avenues available for reaching the lost. Whether it is through Christian radio, Christian films, internet websites and ministries, or just the traditional modes of visiting a church and hearing the Gospel, the way has been opened like never before for many to hear the Good News of Jesus. Let us be thankful for the Gospel and let us be faithful to use whatever means possible to spread the Gospel to those near and far.