“The most offensive message” Luke 15:1-10

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. 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.

 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” 

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Some of you may remember pastor Kevin Golden, who came as our guest speaker for “Speak Lord” conference in 2016. He shared a revealing story. As he was visiting one of his members in a hospital, he was introduced to a Hindu guy, who obviously was a very devoted follower of his religion.

But he was also curious to understand what the main message of Christianity is. So, they engaged in conversation. Pastor Golden delivered him briefly the message that we have received from our God thanks to all His faithful servants.

That all people are dead in their sins and can’t save themselves. That we are separated from our God and there is nothing we can do to fix it. Worse, we don’t even realize it and don’t care about it.

But the Triune God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit has acted in His grace, He has come and has done everything that is needed so that we can again be reunited with Him already now, and especially in the age to come, when all the evil will be destroyed, entire creation restored in its goodness and where God’s chosen people with reign with Him forever.

When they had finished their conversation, the Hindu guys said… what do you think, he might have said? He said: “To say that I can’t do anything about my salvation, this is the most offensive message that I have ever heard!”

Does it sound strange to you? It shouldn’t. You see, our God has created us for certain kind of lives. That’s why we have built into us this mechanism that constantly evaluates us whether we do live up to what we are supposed to.

Put it differently, all people keep asking this question – are we good enough? Am I good enough? We want to be good. We need to be good. We want to be acknowledged that we are good. In our own eyes and in the eyes of others.

No one can escape from this need. Of course, because of our separation from our Creator, we don’t know anymore what exactly makes us good. But the need to feel that way remains. And then we need to find ways how to accomplish it.

Some people choose religion, some people choose other pathways. Those who choose difference religions, like the Hindu guy whom we mentioned, they believe that to be good, to be judged to be good by some higher being, can be achieved if you do certain things and avoid doing others, as taught by your religion.

That is a common theme for every and all religions. You do what you believe your deity considers to be the right things, the good things, and that will make you good and then you will get … whatever it is what people want to get and believe to be coming their way.

But see, the same is also true for those who reject religion as such. You may have heard some of your friends or relatives saying that you don’t need to be a Christian to do good, or you don’t need to go to the Church to be a good person.

Even if they don’t believe that some sort of deities will hold them responsible for how they have lived, they still have the same mechanism built into them. They want to be good. They want to know that they are good. They want to feel that they have done the right things and lived good lives.

And, unfortunately, many have believed that Christianity is just one more alternative path how we can lead good lives, how we can be good people. And if that is all that there is, then why would they need it? They can be good also without it.

And this is where this the most offensive message comes in. This is the message that no one wants to hear, unless the Holy Spirit has already awakened them from their deadly sleep. The message that you cannot be good on your own.

Sure, everyone can think that they are good enough for themselves or others whose views they value. But here comes this harsh judgment from God the Creator and the Judge of all nations and all people: “You are not good enough on your own.”

Worse, you are dead in your sins. Worse, there in no one who is good or just, or who seeks God, not a single one. All have turned away. All have become worthless. Huh… which one of the self-identified “good people” would like to hear it!

This is where God’s grace, our God’s unmerited love and affection to us comes in, God’s undeserved kindness and His self-sacrificial faithfulness to you, – when He comes to us, not because we deserve it, not because we are rather good, or good enough, or goodish, not because He has to … but because of what kind of God He is. Gracious.

God’s grace was the reason the Pharisees and the scribes were complaining about Jesus. “This fellow”… they didn’t even use His name. This fellow, He welcomes sinners and eats with them. Their thinking was clear and it makes sense.

They were the good guys. They tried to keep the laws of God as they understood them, they tried to be good people. As so many do today. They deserved to have been appreciated. They had merited it. But what is this Jesus doing?!

He welcomes tax collectors and sinners. The lowest, the worst, the most corrupt and promiscuous members of their community. And He eats with them. Meaning He shows His acceptance of them… Of course, that was offensive.

For they just couldn’t believe the message that offended the Hindu guy. That it is only by God’s grace that you could be welcomed back into relationships with the true God, not by your weak and occasional attempts to be good.

So, Jesus tells them these two parables. About the lost sheep and about the lost coin. And who are we in these parables? It would be nice to think about us as courageous and caring shepherds. But this is not us. We are the lost sheep… and the lost coin.

Jesus makes this clear, that on our own we can’t make it back. According to those who know this stuff much better that I do, when a sheep gets lost, she panics, and she quickly loses her strengths.

Soon she can only lie on the ground and hope that someone will come and find her. Before she dies, of before she falls prey to some predators. It is even clearer with the lost coin. It cannot possibly find itself, and somehow bring itself back.

Both, the lost sheep and the lost coin need to be found. We need to be found. This is where our gracious God comes in. He comes to us, searching for us, going to great lengths to find us, and when He has found us, He puts us on His shoulders and carries us home. And so often we still resist Him, we fight against Him, we push Him away, still arguing that we can do it on our own…

This message is offensive. You can’t save yourself. But the flipside of the same message is what we know as the Good News. And the Great News. It is the News about God’s grace, about our gracious God.

It is this message that He loves us, His little lost sheep, His little lost coins, that He values us, that He is faithful to us, that He will not abandon us, that He comes searching for us, when we simply lay lost, day-dreaming about how we could be good on our own.

There is only One, who is good and who is holy. The true God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is Him who comes to you and what He offers is the best proposal ever. “I invite you into the fellowship with me. I want to embrace you. I want to take you to this unforgettable adventure. I want you to be with me, with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I am speaking to you through my Son Jesus, and I am sending my powerful Spirit to dwell in you, so that you are united with me. So that we are one. And because I am good and holy, by inviting you into this wonderful fellowship I am making you good and holy. That is my gift to you.”

Being a Christian is to live by God’s grace alone. Recognizing, that everything we are and everything we have, we have received from Him. God the Father shaped and formed you in your mother’s womb. He breathed the breath of life in you.

He prepared this bountiful planet for you. He gave you your parents. He has cared for you every second of your life. Before you were born, He sent His Son as one of us, He became as one of us in Jesus, so that He can make us like Him.

He has taken upon Him all the responsibility for everything that is wrong with us, and for every wrong that we have done. He has sent His messengers to the farthest corners of the world, so that only you would hear His voice, this invitation.

He has called you out of this world into His family, into this divine fellowship, and He still every day keeps you in this fellowship, in this one true faith. And all of this, not because we were or are good, but because our God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is good and gracious towards you.

This surely is the most offensive message, but it is also the most beautiful and life-changing message. For it means at the same time, that you are not only much worse that you think of yourself, but you are also valued, cherished, loved and cared for more, much, much more than you could ever be able to imagine and hope for.

We, Christians, we are not here because this is our way of being good people. We are here in God’s family for we live by God’s grace alone. Every day. And to acknowledge this, to believe this, it has certain consequences.

First, we can’t be, or better, we shouldn’t be arrogant, we should be humble, especially towards those who are not here among us yet. For we are not here because we are better than anyone else in this world, we are here only by God’s grace.

And the same God of grace wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But it also means that we should be really, really grateful about this undeserved grace and to do our best to appreciate it and cherish it. We can’t be lazy or indifferent Christians.

We are to lead our lives in daily repentance, we are to try to love our God more that anyone or anything and trust in Him and have our ultimate allegiance to Him for what He has done for us, and we are to fear to disappoint Him, to displease Him and to lose His undeserved grace.

Finally, once we have tasted this grace ourselves, once we know that the Lord is good, and once we know that our God the Father and our Brother Jesus desires everyone to receive and enjoy His grace, we are to willingly give ourselves up to Him to be use as the messengers of this the most offensive message.

For when this message is proclaimed, when you deliver it to your loved ones or relatives or friends or neighbours, this is when the Holy Spirit comes and touches their hearts. This is when the lost are found. This is when hearts are made repentant and then there is, as Jesus said, – great joy and celebration in heaven.

I pray that through us many and many could be reached with this the most offensive message, and that our God could use us to bring many and many into this most wonderful fellowship with Him, where we can call Him our Father through our Brother Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Into this fellowship that will last forever.

Amen.

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