(Ed. Note: This was the second half of a subject begun at the morning service at same mission in Africa). Now those of you who were here this morning, you may remember that I spoke then on the text from Matthew chapter 18, beginning with verse 12 and reading verses 12 and 13; and Luke chapter 15, verses 1 through 7; which as you recall is the parable of the lost sheep and/or the parable of the ninety and nine sometimes we call it.
As I was thinking of this message and preparing it for today I saw that there was no way that I could do a proper job on it in one sermon so I have this "continued" sermon tonight. It's continued from this morning. But I'll give you a little quick review on this morning's sermon. You may remember those of you who were here that I told you this morning that in connection with our two text Scriptures that we read that we would study four things in some detail. There are four things which clearly show in our text that the Lord Jesus has a special and peculiar interest in one lost soul. We said secondly that we would be showing you from our text that He puts forth special effort for the rescue of that one lost one.
Now let us go on to the second of two parts of this theme I mentioned to you this morning but didn't have time to discuss. (Both sermons together have four main points.) Now we go to main point number three, in other words, of the four. The Shepherd displays a special rejoicing when the lost one is restored. And fourthly, He set us a striking example, teaching us to care for each soul destroyed by sin. Now that's the whole four point outline and we discussed the first two points in some detail this morning. I might quickly read from Luke chapter 15, which was one of the passages I read this morning, to get our minds back again on the right track for the discussion of the last two points of the theme.
Luke chapter 15, beginning with verse 1 and we'll read down through verse 7. In this passage you must remember before we even read it that this passage we are starting to read together is really only a portion of a sermon, we might say, or a portion of a lesson which Jesus preached or taught. We perhaps also should remember that it comes in connection with a sermon that He preached about the child text. If you read over in Matthew where it's recorded, you'll find it more clearly shown there that it is in connection with His discussion with the disciples and with the Pharisees in particular, the disciples no doubt were there also listening, but it was a sermon delivered in the presence of the disciples and preached primarily to the Pharisees. And remembering now that it is in connection with this sermon on the child text that He preached also. It's a portion of that sermon, we might say.
Now reading from Luke 15, beginning with verse 1: "Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, ‘What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
As we mentioned to you this morning, not only was this parable of the lost sheep or the parable of the ninety and nine preached to the Pharisees in connection with the child text as recorded in Matthew but it was also (as you can see here in this recording of it in Luke) preached in connection with some complaints from the Pharisees who constantly made attacks on Jesus: they said He was too friendly with sinners. In fact, they always made attacks on Him from this viewpoint, saying that He should not have anything to do with sinners.
But, of course, this simply showed that they themselves were Pharisees or that they themselves were hypocrites because actually from their actions in the New Testament as recorded, we can use the word Pharisee as a synonym for the word hypocrite, can't we? Because they showed constantly that they were hypocrites, that they were people who put on a big show of religion. They put a big show of religion out front but when it came down to real religion inside, they didn't have it, did they? They just didn't love the Lord, they didn't have a personal relationship with God, which is what it takes to have true religion, pure and undefiled, as the Scripture calls it in one place. So these Pharisees were constantly condemning Jesus because of the fact that He went out with love and compassion to win the lost. To draw those whom they considered well below their notice, to hear the gospel and to believe and to be saved.
Now as we continue from that point, we notice in the first section of our two section sermon tonight that the Lord finds or feels a special rejoicing at the recovery of one wandering sheep. We saw that clearly shown in the parable we read to you from Luke here. He not only went out and sought for the sheep, He not only sought until He found it and He brought it back with Him, but He also rejoiced at the fact that He had found it, and called in His friends in the parable as it shows, saying to them, "Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost."
This reminds me of a true story that I read. Many years ago in Ireland there was an old preacher of the Word who was very faithful in trying to win the lost everywhere he went. And he was in an area out in the poor part of Ireland and back in those days it was all poor. It was back in the early 1900s or the late 1800s, the Irish were starving to death literally by the hundreds and even by the thousands. So they were all, even the ones who were better off than otherd what we would call extremely poor. So this old preacher was out and he heard about a young lad about seventeen or eighteen years old who was very ill and they didn't expect him to live. The Preacher just felt impressed to go out and witness to this young man. So he walked ten or fifteen miles out in the countryside to locate this young man of seventeen or eighteen years age to witness to him about the Lord, to try and lead him to the Lord.
When he got out to the little cottage where the family lived, he found the young man lying on an old pallet on the floor. They had almost no furniture in the cottage, a very poor family. And the young man was obviously very sick. So the old preacher went in, sat down there on the floor beside him to try to talk to him about the Lord. He prayed that God would give him some means of approaching this young man. He knew that the young man would not be very well educated because obviously from such poor circumstances in those days he could not be well educated because they could not have afforded to send him off to school. And so as he knelt down there on the floor to talk to the young man who was lying on the pallet near death, he prayed. And he just didn't know how to approach the young fellow to try to tell Him about Jesus. But the Lord just put it on his mind to ask the young man: "Well, now how did you come to be in this state that you're in now?"
And so the young fellow, between his bouts of coughing, told him what had happened that had caused him to be this way. That he'd been ill now for several months, that some while back on a bad stormy night one of their sheep had gotten lost. One of the lambs had disappeared. And he had gone out, his father had desired him to go out and look for the lamb that was lost. He went out there in the wild mountain country in the storm looking for the lamb that was lost. He searched and he searched far into the mountains, and far into the night. He finally found the lost sheep and put it on his shoulders and brought it back.
When he got back to the house, of course, the family were rejoicing that he had found the sheep and brought it back. The next day, of course, their friends who lived in little cottages similar to them nearby also rejoiced that they had found the sheep and gotten it back. Because then one sheep was a lot, of course, to a little family like that.
And so the old preacher, whose name was Darby knew then how to approach the young fellow. He talked to him about the parable of the ninety and nine and the one that was lost and how God the Father sent His Son Jesus down to seek the one that was lost. And that He did seek, until He found it! That He came down, and how He died. "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (Remember how John 10 tells us this story. So the old preacher told him this story of the Good Shepherd, and the story of the ninety and nine.
When the preacher finished, the young man could easily understand and receive the truth as it had been brought to him of the gospel in these stories. He could understand, since it had happened to him as well in a somewhat similar fashion. And so the young man was saved and soon after died. But Darby used this passage here to lead him to the Lord, plus the one in John 10.
As we go on a little further here, we said the Lord feels a special rejoicing at the recovery of one wandering sheep. But don't be confused here. Do not suppose that the shepherd cares more for the one wandering sheep than He does for the ninety and nine that are not wandering. That would not be true, would it? He cares just as much for each of the ninety and nine as He does for the one that's lost and wandering.
But let's illustrate the idea this way. If you had a large family, say, ten children and the mother and the father. And one little boy right down near the end of the line was really ill, near to death and he recovered. At the moment then it would seem as if you loved him more and in fact, the whole group loved him more than any of the other children, wouldn't it? For a little while it would seem that way. But not in reality.
And the same way with this passage here, not that Jesus or the Good Shepherd cares more for the one that's lost than for the ninety and nine that are not wandering. But yet, that it just seems so by the way He goes out and seeks and finds and brings them back. In the same way this—as this illustration that we said about the large family with several children, in the same way the love of Christ for each sheep is equal. But there seems to be a period of special closeness and rejoicing when one lost sheep has been restored to the Shepherd's care after wandering away into danger.
Now as we did this morning, we are in a sense applying this two different ways here. We are applying it both to the wandering saved person, and to the lost person as well. To the saved person who has wandered away from the Lord and to the lost person who has not yet come to Him. And in a sense it can be applied either direction as we shall again tonight.
Now learn the occasion of this great joy over the wanderer returning. What's the occasion of all this special joy? Well, in the first place, let's remember that the wandering one has caused great sorrow whether he's a backslider or whether he's an unsaved one, just wandering out there lost from God. So the wandering one has brought about or caused great sorrow to himself and to others. And we're all grieved that our brother or sister should become a backslider or that our fellow human should be unsaved. In the case of a backslider we might be amazed that such an earnest Christian as he seemed to be should disgrace his profession by wandering away so far. And our Lord no doubt is even more grieved than we at this wandering away.
When the erring one comes back we feel a new joy both in ourselves, and we can see it shown in him. Great apprehensions have been aroused by his wandering. And we feared that he might not even be truly saved but that he might be a false professor. That's what one tends to think when people wander away from God when they have already made a profession. In other words, we could say we trembled with fear for his soul, wondering if his false—if his profession were false or not. But now this one lost sheep, the one wanderer brought back by the Good Shepherd is clearly safe, saved, restored to the fold. And then we can rejoice. The Shepherd has exercised great toil to bring the sheep back, to bring back the wanderer. But now, the Shepherd is rejoicing that the sheep is safe and back in the fold.
In this wanderer restored, there are some marks of salvation which cause great joy. We could picture this wanderer restored like the sheep torn by the briars after wandering away but resting now, restored and recovered. See how he lies down, this sheep that's been wandering away, all torn by the briars, lost for a long time and now recovered. See how he lies down in the tender green grass at the feet of the shepherd. Imagine this, think about it in your mind. He was weary, this sheep was, and near dead with his wanderings. But see now how happy he is in the presence of the Good Shepherd. See how closely he follows the Shepherd's footsteps now. He doesn't wander away and go this way and that way like he did before. But now he follows closely to the Shepherd. And this also makes the Shepherd glad as well.
You may remember from John chapter 10 where the Lord Himself said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Now that's a good description of the the wandering sheep that has been found by the Savior --- Whether referring to a lost person or to a backslider.
Because the Shepherd rejoices when He brings back the lost sheep, He makes that rescue an occasion for rejoicing with His friends, as we read in the text Scripture. The Shepherd rejoices because of the finding of the wandering sheep but He also wishes that we should rejoice with Him. And we should rejoice when a backslidden brother or sister comes back to the church or the fold.
Don't think as some do or say, "Aha, I wonder when he'll wander away again." That is not the right attitude, is it? That is the attitude of the hypocrite! That's the attitude of the Pharisaical brother of the prodigal son isn't it? That's the attitude of one who needs to get his own heart right with God. Don't be like this elder brother in the story of the prodigal son, as recorded in Luke 15.
This prodigal son, you may remember, was angry because of the fact that the father had held a great celebration when his wandering brother came back. He was very angry about it, and said some very harsh things. But we must not be that way. When a backslider comes back, we should rejoice rather than condemn.
Now let's look at the last half of our sermon. Let's look upon the Divine Shepherd as He set us a very clear example! His example here, we could say, is our personal missionary effort instruction. It's a personal example to you and to me as Christians to go out and do likewise, isn't it? It should be an example for us to do that. Every Christian can't be a full-time foreign or home missionary. There is no doubt about that at all. Some have to stay by the stuff, as they did in the times when they went out to battle in David's day.
Some have to stay by the stuff. But yet, every Christian can be a missionary in a sense. Every Christian can be a personal soul winner. That is, you can tell others what Jesus has done for you. You can invite others to come to church with you and hear the gospel preached and perhaps they may be found by the Good Shepherd as well. You can do these things though you're not a full-time foreign or home missionary. If you're a Christian, you can do these things, and should! Every Christian knows at least one lost or wandering sheep that he can witness to and possibly bring to the Great Shepherd. If everyone would win one, then soon our numbers would be doubled. And then as those new ones learned a little, they could go out and win one with us again the next time and it would be doubled again. And that's the way it's supposed to work. And it does work that way if we worked it that way.
Now a question, what shall we do then to imitate this example given here? Well, there are many answers to that. In summary I could say it this way, and then I'll go into a little more detail of answering this question, what shall we do to imitate this example? That is, the example of Christ, the example of the Good Shepherd here. First, live a daily witness. And second, speak a witness often. Yes, speak a witness often!
Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." In other words, to get down to the nitty gritty, let's say it this way. Let us go after one soul. Now I know we can't win a soul. We can't do it ourselves, we don't have the power to save anyone. I don't, you don't, the church doesn't; salvation is only of grace, and comes only from God. We have not the power to save anyone but we do have the power sometimes with the leadership of the Spirit and the working of the Spirit in their hearts as well to lead that lost sheep into the hearing of the gospel where they may be saved. They may come to be found by the Good Shepherd. So go after the ones. Don't ignore the ones and think about the crowds but go after the ones, one by one. That's the way you win them.
We don't all have (or perhaps none of us you might think - preacher laughs) have the silver tongues of oratory or persuasion. We don't necessarily all have the silver tongue . But yet you don't have to be a silver tongued orator to tell someone what Jesus has done for you and what Jesus means to you in your life. Anyone who can speak in any language can do that! They can do that if they can speak any language! Often the one by one approach by a neighbor or a relative or a friend is more effective than preaching to a large crowd. Because they can see what you are, they know you and they hear you, and it's very effective sometimes. So seek the lost or wandering sheep one by one.
If the Great Shepherd goes out after one (and He does), we just read the example of it here in Scripture, didn't we? He goes out after one, and so can we. But the big secret is, do it now. Do it now. You know, time is flying so rapidly by. You just get home from morning service, hardly finish lunch, and it's time for the evening service. You leave the evening service and the first thing you know, it's next Sunday again. First thing you know, it's Wednesday night again. And time just flies but the secret is, do it now.
Let that someone whom you seek be someone who is gone far astray and out of the way. Don't just go talk to some high class person necessarily, though it is well to speak to them as well - don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that we should go only to the down-and-outer, that is not true. But we should not overlook the down-and-outer along with the middle and upper class as well. So go after anyone, whatever the situation may be. Whether it's a member of your family or a close friend or a neighbor, maybe someone you work with on your job, think carefully about that one soul and think about its danger. It faces great danger, lost in sin and needing a Savior, needing to be brought into the fold. Don't pick out an easy one, as I said already. Pick out a real wanderer. One that you've got to go hunt to get!
Go as the Lord did, after one who is very unlikely to be found and returned. And remember we made a point of that this morning, that this one the Shepherd went out to seek was far away and still going further when He went out to seek him. The question is, will you try this plan? If you will, there will be revival not only in your heart but in the hearts of others here as well.
Remember Luke 14:23 says, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." That's in the parable of the great supper, of course, in Luke 14.
You say: "Oh, but I have a class or I work already in the church." But that's not what I'm asking about. What I'm asking about is to follow the Lord's example. Leave the ninety and nine for the moment, leave those you already have in your Sunday School class or those in your own family who are already saved and go out and seek that one lost sheep. This doesn't mean, of course, to give up your class or to give up your family or to abandon them but leave them for the moment in your mind's eye, and seek that one lost one! We must by all means go out, in other words, after that one lost sheep. Because now is the time, this is the day!
If life is dull and joy in service to God has fled, there's nothing in the world that will stir up your joy in the Lord so much as to go out and bring in a wandering sheep. Oh, that does something to you. That just puts the joy of living in your heart again, doesn't it? Joy comes when you go out and bring that wandering sheep in. Bringing that one lost sheep is a great blessing to you as well as to the lost sheep. You're sure to find that the ninety and nine with which you worked in the church regularly will bring you more joy as you all rejoice together over the one lost one that you brought into the fold.
When you go after that one lost sheep you must have all your wits about you. It's not a job for stumble bums. It's not a job for dummies. In the first place, you have to go and you have to seek, as it shows in our parable. You have to follow up the straying one. You might even have to track him over the mountains and through the valleys and through the rocks. You say, "Well, maybe I'll wait till he calls at our house and then I'll witness to him." Never. You'll never find the lost sheep that way, will you? You'll never get him that way. Go out and seek and go after them as the Shepherd did and seek until you find and bring them back to the fold.
Even under the requirements of the old law, you'd be bound to do this. If you read over in Deuteronomy 22, the first four verses, you'll see it states very clearly that even under the old Mosaic system you were required by the law if your neighbor had lost a sheep and you found it, you were required to bring it back, And various other animals are included in it as well. But you were required by the law to bring that animal back and return it to it's rightful owner. So even under the Mosaic rules this was required! Also, if you look at verse 4 of chapter 22 of Deuteronomy, it says that we must not hide ourselves from the lost. We must not hide ourselves from the lost or the wicked ones. We must not become a participant in the evil, that is true. But we must be ready and willing to seek for that one lost sheep, and bring it back to the fold. DO NOT HIDE YOURSELF FROM THAT LOST ONE.
I read a story one time about a ship in distress. The ship was full of immigrants. It had very little cargo but it was nearly all just immigrants. Human beings in great distress and great danger of loss of their lives. A certain captain was passing by in his ship, "The Denmark", and saw that they were in trouble and in danger. Now suppose that he had kept on his way as he could have done. No one would have known the difference because shortly thereafter the ship full of immigrants sank. And they would have all been lost. No one could have ever told on him. What if he had gone on his way? He couldn't spare the time, or his owner would lose money if he stopped. But he didn't do that, he stopped and he towed them for awhile to try to rescue them that way. When he saw that was not going to work, and saw that the ship was going to sink soon. So what he did, he threw all his valuable cargo overboard and lost it so that he could take on the ship full of immigrants. He took all of them into his ship. And thus he saved the lives of hundreds of people. In other words, he did not hide himself from them in their distress.
There are many Christians today who seem to have the idea of hiding themselves away from the lost, from the wandering sheep. Not that we should wander with them but rather that we should go out and seek them and bring them back.
So, Christian today, this is the message. Give up a little of your comfort, your own efforts, give up some of your time or pleasure or work for self and family! Go out and bring in that one lost sheep. Do it today. Remember that our glorious Savior, our own glorious Shepherd, left the glory of heaven, to seek and find us! He left the bosom of the Father and all of the sweet fellowship and glory that He enjoyed there. He came out to seek and to save, to find and to rescue that one lost sheep.
Now a BIG question --- what if that one lost sheep were you? It would be very important to you that someone should seek and find, would it not? There is one thing that we must add to this before we close and that is this: if you're a wandering sheep, you must know that your rescue from sin and death must be from the Good Shepherd alone. It cannot come from any other source. There is no other place from which it can come. It must come from Him and of Him alone. He is the Good Shepherd!
Will you, like that sheep of His in John 10:27, do as the Good Shepherd there said His sheep should do? "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27. Would you do that tonight if you haven't been following the Lord? There's never a better time to start than right now. There will never be a better time to leave the wrong path and get on the right path than now. There is never a better time to leave the wandering and come back to the Savior, to Jesus the Good Shepherd.