“Joy in heaven”

Summary of sermon by Erlo Stegen, 23 Aug 2015

Luke 15:1-10
1 And all the tax-collectors and sinners drew near to Him in order to hear Him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.

3 And He spoke this parable to them, saying,

4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after that which 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 neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.

7 I say to you that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

8 Or what woman having ten drachmas, if she loses one drachma, does she not light a lamp and sweep the house, and seek carefully until she finds it?

9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.

10 Likewise I say to you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

We read here that Jesus was in a certain place and the Pharisees criticized Him because He “receives sinners and eats with them”. Jesus spent time with the tax collectors and sinners, and was criticized severely by the scribes and pharisees. What type of people were the tax collector? The tax collectors in Jesus’ day collected the tax for the government of the day, the Roman government. Nobody liked them. When they taxed people, they would add to the cost for their own pocket. They were thieves, charging more than the government required. And even today there are such people in the world who require bribes for their work. These tax collectors were therefore despised. And Jesus was sitting with them and ate with them! We must be careful interpreting this lest we think that Jesus loves a person that is corrupt and steals from others. And the sinners with whom Jesus ate would include those who divorce, adulterers, drunkards, blasphemers of God, very evil people. They were all categorized together in this term, sinners, together with the tax collectors. They were infamous for their wickedness and corruption; those who are blood-suckers. Our text therefore refers to tax collectors and sinners as really bad people, those considered sinners by everyone, fraudsters, addicts, those who lived like dogs. They came to Jesus with their huge sins. They sought out the Lord, because they wanted help. They wanted the way of salvation. They realized they were lost!

When many drug addicts were brought to the mission from the street, there were those that said that such people would defile this place and they didn’t want them.

However, remember the tax collector who prayed in the temple, beating his breast and cried to God, ‘Lord be merciful to me a sinner.’ But the Pharisee stood aloof and prayed by himself, ‘Lord thank you that I am not like the sinners or this tax collector.’ (Luke 18:9-14)

In our text we also find these self-righteous people who said that they didn’t want to have anything to do with these sinners. When the scribes and Pharisees came and saw Jesus sit with these sinners, they complained and criticized Him because of it. But the truth is that there is no one without sin (Rom 3:10). Many don’t recognize their own evil, but are quick to see the sin of another and to criticize him. Jesus said that the one that looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her (Matt 5:28).

There was a reason that these sinners came to Jesus. They came because they felt their evil, that they were bad people and that Jesus could help them. They came to the Lord Jesus like that woman who came to Him, washing his feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7:36-50). She was tired of her sins, exhausted by her evil, carrying a heavy load. She had a sense of conviction and heavenly remorse for her evil. Simon who had invited Jesus to eat with him, criticized Jesus whether He didn’t know what an evil woman she was. And so too with these so-called righteous people criticizing Jesus, they had no realization of their own sin, for they hid their sin. Have you had that type of godly remorse over your own sin and drew near to Jesus that He can help you? Or do you look down on other sinners that come to Jesus for help?

We read here that the shepherd left the 99 and went after the one lost sheep in the wilderness. It can be that a true sheep of the Lord Jesus sins and leaves the flock. That is why we must be careful to examine ourselves whether we’re still on track, or whether something has entered between us and the Lord.

You might be in the position of the psalmist in Ps 23 that the Lord is your Shepherd who leads you to green pastures. But you might then leave those green pastures and head to the wilderness, like king David, the author of that psalm. He was in those green pastures, but left it and went into the wilderness through adultery and murder. Jonah was in the green pastures too, but when God commanded him to go and preach to Nineveh, he disobeyed and went in the opposite direction and almost died. Peter was close to the Lord for years, but then denied the Lord with curses (Matt 26:74). Yet he repented afterwards with tears. That is why even if you are His sheep, you must be careful to watch and pray that nothing comes between you and the Lord, as these examples teach us.

We can so easily develop an attitude like the elder brother of the prodigal son, and become like the Pharisees, criticizing others while we are oblivious to the log in our own eyes (Matt 7:3). The sinners came to Jesus coming to hear Him, to get help and deliverance from the things that bound them, while the Pharisees, instead of rejoicing that these sinners were repenting, criticized Him!

In the second parable the Lord spoke of the coin that was lost. A coin would have had an imprint on the front and the back. Likewise, we have the imprint of Jesus on us – we the coin. But, is it still visible or have we lost it? This parable also teaches us that we must watch and pray lest we lose what we had received. Many there are who forsake the genuine church of Christ. But have a look where they end and where you will end if you follow them. Do you seek the things of this world? This world has nothing to offer. You will end up like the prodigal son, eating pig’s food.

Remember when you first came to the Lord, when you had the joy of salvation? But what is it like today? Remember the sweet fellowship of the saints you once had? But what do you have in the world? It is foolishness to forsake the church of Christ and go into the world. If you backslide you might go back so far that you cannot find your way back again. You might seek the fellowship of the saints but not find it.

This woman lost her silver coin. She was so anxious about it. She swept the house and sought it until she found it. Then she called her friends to come and rejoice with her that she had found the precious coin she had lost.

It is heart-breaking that there are Pharisees who act very righteously, as if nothing had gone wrong in their lives, but they know very well that they had lost something. Let each child of God examine him or herself whether they still have their first love and joy. Remember the joy you had when you read the Bible and could testify of the Lord? But today you see yourself as just fine, and you’re simply happy that you are better than so and so. You see another person as a murderer little realizing that you are guilty of the same.

The crux of the matter with both parables is the joy in heaven at one who repents. There was much more joy in heaven over the single sheep and the single coin than the 99 sheep who needed no repentance and the other coins which were not lost. This gives us a picture of what excites the heavenly host.

Are you bringing joy to the heavenly host? If you carry on in your sin there is no joy, not in this life or in the next. But if you turn to the Lord again in truth, there will be joy in heaven.

German translation



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