We are continuing in a sermon series on The Miracle of God’s Mercy. One of the purposes of this series is to help us understand who God is and what he is really like. Our God is full of mercy. He always acts toward us with mercy. Every good thing in our lives is given us as an act of God’s mercy. Without God’s mercy we would have nothing. Today we are going to look at how much we matter to God and how our salvation is an act of God’s mercy from beginning to end. The Bible says, “Jesus saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)
When God entered into our world in human flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ, he came on a mission of mercy. He came to save us from our sins and give us a new life. He came to a world that was lost. Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10) This is the ultimate expression of God’s mercy. This is the whole reason Jesus came into our world. In God’s eyes there are only two kinds of people. From God’s perspective a person is either saved or they are lost. Everyone who has ever lived or ever will live is either saved or lost. Ultimately no other distinction matters to God. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, male or female, smart or not so smart, red or yellow, black or white, from here or there. The only thing that matters to God is whether you are saved or whether you are lost. Here’s the amazing thing about God: even in your lost state, your lost condition, he still loves you! He still values you! If you’re following along in your outline, please write this down. LOSTNESS IMPLIES VALUE! People who are spiritually lost have value in the eyes of God. His greatest act of mercy was to send Jesus into the world to seek and to save the lost. Lostness implies value.
Think about your own life. When you lose something, it means the something you lost has value or you wouldn’t say it was lost. Things that have no value are thrown away, forgotten and discarded. Only things that are of value are considered lost. I’ve lost my keys. I’ve lost my phone. Those things are of great value to me. I’ve lost the internet connection and it’s sent me into a panic. But I’ve never lost a booger before. I’ve misplaced, discarded and forgotten boogers before. I’ve misplaced, discarded and forgotten to pick up a toenail clipping before. But I’ve never lost a toenail clipping before. These things are of no value. But if I attached value to them by realizing that if I don’t find them on the floor and clean them up then I may lose something of value, like the respect of my husband, only then would I refer to them as lost. Lostness implies value. Whether a person is saved or lost, they are valued by God. Lost people have value!
Jesus told three stories to drive home this point. The first story is about a lost sheep. Jesus says there’s this shepherd who had 100 sheep and as he was putting them in the sheep pen for night, where they would be safe from thieves or wild animals, he notices one is missing. So he leaves the others and goes in search of the lost one. He doesn’t say, “Oh well, I’ve got 99 other sheep.” No. He sets of to search for the lost one because it is of great value. Lost people are of great value to God and he commands us to look for them and do all that we can to bring them into the fold. We’ve got to keep reaching out.
The second story Jesus tells is about a woman who has ten silver coins. Maybe she had them in a pouch around her waist or maybe in a jar on the table, but she suddenly realized one is missing. She lights a lamp and searches carefully through her whole house until she finds it. And when she does, she is so happy, she calls her neighbors to share the good news. Jesus adds, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The third story Jesus tells is about a lost son. It’s about a father who had two sons and the youngest comes to him and asks his half of the estate. So the father divided his property between his two sons. As soon as he could, the younger son sells off the property, takes the money and heads to a far off land where he squanders away every last dime on wild living. When he ran out of money he also ran out of friends. He tries to get a job but no one will hire him. He finally does get a job but it’s taking care of pigs and if you know anything about Jews back then, you know that pigs were considered unclean. Jews were not allowed to eat them or even touch them. Now he’s living with them and he’s so hungry that he longs to eat the pods the pigs are fed but no one will give him any.
Suddenly he comes to his senses and he thinks how his father’s hired hands have all the food they need and then some, so he heads back home to apologize and throw himself on the mercy of his father. You know the story. The father sees his son coming. Even though he’s still a long way off, the father runs out to meet him and throws his arms around him and kisses him. The son says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The father responds by restoring his son to him and throwing a party for him for he “was dead and now he is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
To be lost in God’s eyes is to be spiritually disconnected from God. If I’m not connected to God moment by moment, day by day, in a loving relationship, then I’m spiritually lost. That relationship is everything. Without it I am spiritually lost.
WHAT DO YOU LOSE WHEN YOU’RE SPIRITUALLY LOST? What do you miss out on?
FIRST, YOU LOSE YOUR WAY. You lose your sense of direction. That’s what the story of the lost sheep teaches us. Sheep don’t set out to get lost. They don’t intentionally get lost. They don’t necessarily want to get lost. They get lost because they don’t stay close to the shepherd. They wander off looking for greener pastures or they may get spooked and run off. Sheep just naturally wander and so do people. The Bible says, “All of us have strayed away just like lost sheep. We’ve all left God’s path to follow our own ways.” (Isaiah 53:6) That’s when we always get lost—when we follow our own ways, when we seek our own plans, when we make up our own rules. We just kind of wander off in life with no clear direction, no clear vision, no clear purpose, no clear destination. We don’t really know where we’re going and our lives lack meaning. Lost people tend to just travel through life faster, never slowing down long enough to realize their lostness. They’re like the famous World War II pilot who radioed in to his command base and when they asked him where he was he said, “I don’t know where I am but I’m making record time.” Lost people have lost their way.
SECOND, when you are lost YOU LOSE GOD’S PROTECTION. In your lostness you lose God’s protection. This is also seen in the story of the lost sheep. Sheep are very vulnerable creatures. They don’t have much of an ability to protect themselves, no horns, no claws, no sharp teeth, they can’t run as fast as their predators. They wander off and get stuck in a thicket or a hole. They get attacked by wild animals and stolen by thieves. Sheep need a shepherd to protect them. They need a shepherd to lead them to green pastures and safe waters. But when they wander off, they lose the shepherd’s protection. The Bible says, “My people are wandering like lost sheep, without a shepherd to protect and guide them.” (Zechariah 10:2)
Even the most powerful king of Israel needed a shepherd. He writes, “The Lord is my shepherd….” (Psalm 23:1a) We all need the protection of a shepherd. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd….” (John 10:11) He is the One we are to follow. He is the One we are to stay close to for protection. When we wander off from Him, we put ourselves in danger. Staying close to Jesus is like standing under an umbrella of protection. When you disobey Him and wander off, it’s like stepping out from under His protective care. The promise of God’s protection is for those who walk with him. It is for those who stay close to him, under his authority, the umbrella of his protection. The Bible says, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This verse doesn’t mean you will never experience anything bad in your life if you love God and walk according to his teachings. It means that he can and will make all things work for our good, even the bad stuff. Is this a promise for everyone? No. It is a promise to those who love God and walk close to him for protection.
THIRD, when you are lost YOU LOSE YOUR POTENTIAL. When you are disconnected from God, you lose your potential to do good things in the world. You have been given a treasure of gifts and talents by God to be used for his purposes. If you are disconnected from God you won’t be using those gifts and talents for him. You’ll be squandering them on your own plans and purposes, or you’ll never even discover them apart from him. God made you to do great things in the world for good. The Bible says we are treasures in clay pots, broken and cracked pots. We will never realize our potential without God. The Bible says, “No one has ever seen or heard or even imagined the wonderful things God has prepared and arranged for those who love him.” (1st Corinthians 2:9) We will never reach our potential without loving God. We will lose out on all those wonderful things God desires us to experience without him.
FOURTH, when you are lost YOU LOSE YOUR HAPPINESS. This is what we learn from the story of the Lost Son. He chose to rebel from his father. Rather than waiting patiently for his inheritance, he asked for it before his father was still alive. In essence this was the same as telling his father, “I wish you were dead.” Then he left with his inheritance and got as far away from his father as he could. There he lost his way, he lost his father’s protection, he lost his potential, and then he lost his happiness. The Bible says, “The younger son wasted all he’d been given and eventually he became miserable and lonely.” (Luke 15:14) That’s the natural progression of things. When your life is full of misery and loneliness, there will be no room for happiness. And your unhappiness will be compounded by the fact that your misery and loneliness has been self-inflicted.
One of the most difficult things as a parent is to watch your child make bad choices and wander away from how God would have them live. It’s so difficult to watch, so painful to watch. That’s why so many parents try to keep their kids from experiencing the consequences of being lost. But if we do that, those we love will never learn from their mistakes, they will never come to their senses. They will be prodigal sons and daughters for the rest of their lives. Fortunately for the lost son, no one would help him in his lost state and he came to his senses and returned to his father and asked for forgiveness. His unhappiness led him back home where he found his way again and received his father’s protection. He went on to achieve his potential and find happiness again. But first, he had to hit bottom as they say.
FIFTH, when you are lost YOU LOSE YOUR HOME. Disconnected from God you lose your heavenly home. A heavenly home is what Jesus promises for all those who come to Him, for all those who trust in Him. It doesn’t matter what you accomplish in this world, it doesn’t matter what you accumulate in this world. When you die you have to leave it all behind. What matters most in life is that you know Jesus and live in relationship with Him. Jesus asks, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, if he loses or forfeits his soul?” (Luke 9:25) That’s a question we all must ask ourselves. What good will it be if we acquire all that the world has to offer us, money, fame, pleasure, power, prestige, only to die without a relationship with Jesus and lost for eternity?
We lose all these things, our way, God’s protection, our potential, our happiness and our home in heaven when we are lost, when we are disconnected from Jesus. One thing a person doesn’t lose in their lost state is their value. You can be lost spiritually but you still have value in the eyes of God. You do not lose your value. The Bible says, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, (may not perish) but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) A person may be lost, but they do not lose their value. As those who have been found, we have an obligation to reach out to others who are still lost and introduce them to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. His mercy saves.
HOW DOES GOD’S MERCY SAVE YOU?
FIRST, by God’s mercy he RESCUES YOU FROM YOURSELF. In an act of mercy Jesus rescues you from your sins. You’re given a new way to live. The Bible says, “Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. He became a human and gave himself to rescue all of us.” (1st Timothy 2:5) He finds us in our lost state and brings us into a right relationship with God. He rescues us! The Lord says, “Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” (Psalm 50:15) In other words, we will have reason to rejoice and we will praise God for rescuing us.
SECOND, by God’s mercy you RECOVER YOUR POTENTIAL. All those gifts and talents no longer are wasted on chasing after worthless idols. Now the way is clear for you to discover your God given gifts and talents and use them for his glory. The life that was stolen in your lostness is recovered. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and worn out from carrying too much. Learn to trust and rest in me and you’ll recover your life.” (Matthew 11:28) God says, “I will give you back what you lost in the years when the locusts ate all your crops.” (Joel 2:25) In other words, God will enable you to make up for lost time. He will enable you to recover your lost potential.
THIRD, by God’s mercy he RECONNECTS YOU TO HIM. Through your relationship with Jesus you are reconnected to God. Remember the father in the story of the lost son? He represents our heavenly Father. When we turn back to God through our relationship with Jesus Christ, he runs out to welcome us. He celebrates our return. He throws a party for us in heaven! By his mercy we are reconciled to our heavenly Father and given a new life to live. The Bible says, “Anyone who connects to Christ becomes a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything becomes new. God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17-18)
HOW DO YOU RECEIVE GOD’S SAVING MERCY?
STEP ONE: is to GET FED UP WITH YOUR LIFE. The lost son got fed up with his life, with the way he was and the way he was living. The Bible says, “…he wasted it all… he had nothing left… he got desperate and hungry… then he finally came to his senses….” (Luke 15:13-17) We have to experience the sadness of being lost. Only then will we seek God. The Bible says, “You’ll find me when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
STEP TWO: is to OWN UP TO YOUR SIN. The lost son, when he came to his senses, he owned up to his sin and he went back to his father and said, “I have sinned against God and against you.” (Luke 15:18) He owned up to his sin and asked for forgiveness. So must we.
STEP THREE: is to OFFER YOURSELF UP TO GOD. After we own up to our sin we need to offer ourselves up to God, to be used for his good purposes. The lost son drifted away, but when he returned he asked his father to make him a servant. That’s when we know we are saved by God’s mercy, when we are willing to be used by God as his servant in the world.
Here’s the FATHER’S RESPONSE when his lost son returned. It says, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran out to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
And that is how our heavenly Father responds when we get fed up with our lives, when we own up to our sins, and when we offer ourselves up to be a servant of the Lord.