Do You Have God's Heart? (Luke 15:1-7)
I. Getting What is Needed to Where It is Needed
Listen to the following article, written several years ago, but still relevant:
“The international humanitarian relief organization…known as Doctors Without Borders (a.k.a. MSF), has called a vaccination effort developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other partners, seriously flawed. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) aims to increase immunization world wide. But MSF says that the plan fails to address the 20% of infants — some 19 million — who never receive basic, life-saving shots.
Rather than pushing for novel vaccines, the plan should focus more concretely on strategies to get existing vaccines to children, [the group] says…“It’s great to have new vaccines, but we need to address the problem of getting what is needed to where it is needed,” says Jane Boggini, a field nurse for MSF…Last year, Boggini gained first-hand knowledge of what current vaccine campaigns lack when she worked with her MSF colleagues in South Sudan during a measles outbreak. To vaccinate children in rural villages, Boggini says, the team trudged through streams and swamps, carrying food, water, syringes, and vaccines kept in heavy, cooled containers. “Sometimes the water was up to my shoulders,” Boggini says. “We vaccinated 1,500 children, but we had to return before we reached the most remote regions because we could no longer keep the vaccines cold.”
I suspect that you, like me, appreciate the efforts of people like this; people who are trying to bring help to the most vulnerable among us; people who are trying to get what is needed to where it is needed... in spite of the challenges.
I hope you will keep this example in mind as we look into God's word this morning. Take your Bibles and turn to Luke 15.
II. The Passage: “This Man Receives Sinners!” (15:1-7)
With that in mind, let's look together at Luke 15 and discover what it can teach us about “fishing with Jesus”. Now, as we study these verses, we first need to establish why Luke included them in his gospel, more importantly, why God included them in His word.
1. Expressing God’s Heart (15:1, 2)
Let's begin with the first two verses of chapter 15:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Now, if we had time to look at this entire chapter, we would see that what Jesus is doing here is simply expressing the heart of God. How is He doing that? He's doing that by spending time with these “tax collectors and sinners”.
And of course, this is the very thing the Jewish leaders, explicitly here, “the Pharisees and the scribes”, are complaining about. We have to remember that the word “sinner” refers to men and women who were, according to 'official' estimations, failing to live according to the Law of Moses. Along with the “tax collectors”, who were viewed as traitors and thieves because they worked for the Romans and often collected more than was fair, these were all people who were, at best, according to these Jewish leaders, “D minus” Jews.
And so these leaders believed that expressing God's heart to such people meant keeping them on the outside until they reformed their behavior. If, as they believed, God was judging and rejecting these sinful people, shouldn't they do the same?
But Jesus was doing something different. Even though verse 1 merely tells us that tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him, the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of “receiving” and eating with these sinners. So... were his critics blowing things out of proportion? No, not at all. The Gospels tell us clearly that Jesus did receive and eat with these kinds of people: Matthew 9:10-13; 11:19; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32; 7:36-50; Luke 19:1-10, and the list could go on. (Remember, “eating”=table fellowship; acceptance)
So these Jewish leaders, who were constantly trying to discredit Jesus and the legitimacy of His ministry, these leaders believe Jesus is “soft on sin”. Are they right?
2. Explaining God’s Heart (15:3-7)
Well look at how Jesus goes on here, not only to express God's heart, but also to explain God's heart; to explain why he is doing something that seems so out of step with the perspective of the Jewish leadership. Look at verse 3
So he told them this parable:  “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?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
 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.’  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.”
Jesus could not be clearer here. His actions, his willingness to spend time with these “sinners” was not about minimizing sin or embracing compromise. No, his actions were focused on maximizing grace and embracing lost sinners.
And if we went on to look at the other two parables in this chapter, we would find the same lesson. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son all explain to us the heart of God for lost people. You see, the Pharisees and the scribes had it all wrong when it came to the heart of God. Yes, God is angry about sin, about human beings trying to play God. But at the same time, God is a God of compassion. His heart is full of compassion. Let me quickly give you three things we learn from this chapter about the heart of God:
The heart of God seeks lost sinners.
The heart of God desires to carry lost sinners to safety.
The heart of God rejoices when lost sinners are found.
Jesus was on a divine “recovery mission”. In spite of the cultural opposition, in spite of the raised eyebrows or furrowed brows of his onlookers, Jesus was seeking lost sheep. And he rejoiced that these “sinners” wanted to be close to Him and to listen to His words.
III. Getting in the Boat
Brothers and sisters, do you have the heart of God in this way? Are you like Jesus in this way? Think about what God is teaching us this morning.
First of all, the Bible makes it clear that all of us are lost sinners. All of us need to be sought out. All of us need to be rescued. If you sit here this morning as a follower of Jesus, enjoying the grace, peace, and love of God, then that's exactly what God has already done.
But if Jesus has called you to follow, then Jesus has also called you to “fish”. Do you remember what Jesus said when he called certain fishermen to be his disciples? We read in Matthew's Gospel...
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
If it is your desire to follow Jesus, then that is where Jesus is headed. Jesus Christ is always interested in getting what is needed to where it is needed. Therefore He is always interested in getting in the boat and putting out to sea. He is interested in going to where the fish are. Do you see that?
When it comes to infants and vaccines, getting what is needed to where it is needed is something we strongly support. But what about when it comes to talking the life-giving, soul-protecting message of grace to the spiritually lost? Here's where we often struggle.
Several years ago a leading Christian magazine printed the results of a poll showing that within two years of conversion over 90% of new Christian had no non-christian friends. This doesn't mean that Christians have no interaction with non-Christians, but it does point to the very common temptation of 'staying on the beach', rather than' putting out to sea'. As the famous radio personality Paul Harvey once put it, “Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium.”
As we've seen this morning, and as you can see throughout the Gospels, Jesus Christ spent meaningful and 'missional' time with the spiritually lost. If we are His disciples, if it is Him and Him alone that we are following, then shouldn't we do the same? We could spend weeks together talking about the unreached peoples of the world and techniques to share your faith, but that would be pointless if we are not willing or not interested or too busy or too scared of spending meaningful and 'missional' time with non-Christians.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is calling us to get in the boat with Him and put out to sea. Are you ready to climb on board?
As we think about doing that, we need to talk about both cautions and commitments. The cautions are principles from the Bible that will help us 'steady the boat'. Now, as you will see, these cautions are also the basis for the typical excuses and rationales we offer in order to 'stay on the beach'. Let me give you an example:
I Corinthians 15:33 tells us, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Very often, we do not spend meaningful and 'missional' time (whether that's 10 minutes or 10 hours), we do not spend that time with the spiritually lost because we are afraid that we, or maybe our children, will be corrupted by worldliness.
And this is a good caution. Here's a question to ask yourself: Am I standing as the influenc-er or falling as the influenced? We absolutely need to be careful about the what, where, and how much of our time with the spiritually lost. We need to understand the strength of our own foundation and the reality of our weaknesses. We need to be careful about reaching out to individuals of the opposite sex, we need to be discerning about circumstances, and we need to guard against justifying a certain lifestyle by claiming it's all evangelism.
You see, God's word does give us wisdom about 'putting out to sea', about being with lost people. But nevertheless, it still calls us to do that very thing.
A second caution comes from a verse like Hebrews 3:13: But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. It is common for Christians to get so busy with 'Christian activity' that they hardly have time to do what Jesus did when it comes to the spiritually lost. We can get so busy, we can get so comfortable that we respond to Jesus' invitation with something like, “No, you go ahead guys, I'm more of a beach person than a boat person.”
But even though that deviates from genuine discipleship, there is a valid caution here: We cannot let time with the lost eliminate time with the found. We need fellowship with God's people. We need to be regularly breathing in what is true in a world drowning in lies. If we are not built up in God's truth, we will be slowing torn down by what is false. AND remember, putting out to sea is not an individual mission. We need to go as part of a team. We need to go out as part of a spiritual family in order to build our spiritual family.
But our devotion to God's people should never become an excuse to neglect God's work of fishing with Jesus.
So these cautions are important. But we need to hold on to these cautions while we are also pursuing certain commitments, commitments we see modeled by Jesus in Luke 15. Here are a just a few of those commitments:
First, like Jesus, we need to take the initiative. Like the shepherd in the parable, we need to step out to seek the lost. Oftentimes we get fearful and distracted, and we wait for God to drop something in our lap. And sometimes He does. But that shouldn't keep us from stepping out. Invite someone to lunch or coffee. Get involved in the community. Open your home to a neighbor. Join a bowling team. Step out and watch what God will do!
Second, like Jesus, we need to fish in the midst of everyday life. When Jesus spent time with the spiritually lost, He didn't take them into a synagogue and present a PowerPoint. No, He sat in their homes and ate with them. He had conversations around the table. He was not sharing a sales pitch with them, He was sharing His life with them.
Here's one more...third, like Jesus, we need to maintain our 'fishing focus' in spite of criticism. Jesus was attacked by the religious establishment of His day for spending time with the spiritually lost. And that still happens today. Please be open to concerns from brothers and sisters about genuine compromise, but... ignore those who are throwing stones. Remember...remember how the shepherd came after you. Remember how heaven rejoices when a sinner is “found”. Remember how Jesus stood firm, and how so many were blessed by his presence, his light, and his love.
I am so grateful for that family in the early 1980's, that family that lived across the street from me, that family who was willing to spend meaningful and 'missional' time with my family. By God's grace, the fact they 'put out to sea' with Jesus is the very reason I'm sharing with you this morning.
God has called us to get what is needed (the gospel) to where it is needed (the lost). How are you doing that? Are you willing to “trudge through streams and swamps”, whether literally or figuratively? The only way to reach the lost is first to be found, and then to walk each day in the confidence and joy and strength of the Shepherd's care. My prayer is that you have been found, and because of that, your heart is changing. You see, God changes our heart by giving us His heart, and the call to follow Jesus is also a call to ‘fish’ with Jesus. Let's pray and ask God to give us His perspective and His power in light of this amazing work.
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