Luke chapter 15 - and again this is the message that I believe the Lord would have me bring this evening, and that has been confirmed in almost all the prayers that were prayed in the prayer meeting. They mightn't have known it, but they prayed and each quoted something out of this passage of Scripture. The first hymn that we sang talked about it, and the last hymn that the choir has sung talked about the saving ability of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke chapter 15 and verse 1: "Then drew near unto him", unto Jesus, "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".
Let's come before the Lord in a word of prayer: Our Father, we thank Thee for the glorious gospel, the good news that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - that He came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. We thank Thee, our Father, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Lord, to this end, we see even in our gathering that there are those who are lost, and they need to be saved. Lord, we pray that Thou wouldst come by Thy Holy Spirit and save them tonight - to the glory of the Lord Jesus. We pray that You'll fill me with the Holy Spirit, O God, and that Thou wilt descend upon this gathering in a freshness, and Lord that Thou wilt come and speak to men and women's hearts. In Jesus' name, Amen.
You've heard the nursery rhyme: 'Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?'. We read this parable together that the Lord Jesus spoke of in Luke chapter 15, and we see Him talking about every human being that has ever lived. He talks about a subject that you don't often hear preached today, something that's offensive. It's something that people don't like hearing and some ministers even, today - a bit like the Pharisees that we've been reading about - are afraid to preach about. You see, Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The Bible says that Jesus Christ was the friend of sinners.
Do you know what He said? 'I didn't come into this world to save righteous people. I didn't come into this world to try and save religious people, because they don't know that they even need to be saved - they think they're alright, they think they're getting to heaven'. That's why, every chance He was given, He castigated, He reprimanded the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day - because they thought that they were good enough to get into heaven.
Of course, they didn't like that. The old Pharisees don't like it today either - and there are plenty of them! They fill the pulpits of our churches, and they stand there and they talk a load of waffle about how, if you're good to your neighbour, and you come to your church, and you have Communion, and you're baptised, and you do this and that, that you'll get to glory. They are taking the place of the devil himself because they are liars! Make no mistake about it, my friend, if you know a minister or a so-called 'man of the cloth', and he contradicts this book - listen to me, listen to the word of God: Paul says, 'If an angel from heaven, or a devil from hell, comes and preaches another gospel to you than you find within the word of God - let him be damned!'.
That's what Paul said, so you can understand why - when the Lord Jesus Christ started going to the prostitutes and drunkards, and going to the lepers and the untouchables of society, and the publicans and the tax collectors - why in verse 1 and 2 the Pharisees and the scribes, it says, began to murmur. They were talking and they said: 'This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. It's not even bad enough that He talks to them, but these unclean, unreligious people - this man is hobnobbing with them!'.
The religious establishment would crucify Christ if He was here today - you better believe it. They would do the same to Him if He came today, because the message of Christ is this: 'I am the way - not a church, not a religion, not a religious order - I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me - whether they be Pope or Protestant!'. Unless they have Christ, they have nothing. Boy, they didn't like it then, and they don't like it now - but it's the only message that can save them!
I wonder have you ever been lost? You know what it's like, you're driving down the road, and maybe you get lost here. I would get lost here, up around the mountains. You don't know where you are, and you've no map. Or maybe you can cast your mind back to an experience as a child, or a toddler, in the supermarket - something, a toy perhaps or a bright light or something colourful, catches your eye. All of a sudden the wee child is away, and they're lost! They're wandering along, they don't know they're lost, they don't know that they've left their Mummy or Daddy - and all of a sudden it dawns on them, the reality that they turn around and they can't find them! They realise their lostness! You've seen it, haven't you? Wandering around, as happy as can be, looking at everything around them - then all of a sudden they stop! Then there's the wail, isn't that right? They realise.
My friend, what the Lord Jesus was talking about here was something a bit like that. You know when you're lost, and that feeling of dependence goes - you have a feeling of insecurity, a feeling of need, a feeling of fear and emptiness, a feeling that you reach out and you're groping for something to hold on to. Maybe this is the way that you feel in your life: there is no security, no stability, no sure foundation. That's why Jesus went to the publicans and sinners. He went to people who knew that they'd made a mess of their life. He went to the people who were realists about their physical and their spiritual state, they knew they needed help. They didn't know where to get the help, they certainly didn't think the help was found in Jesus Christ - but they knew that they were far from perfect, they knew there was something missing in their lives and they needed much more. Jesus went to them.
Did He not say: 'They that are well, they that think they're well, don't need a physician - but they that are sick. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance'. You know what I'm talking about. If you don't know you're sick, if you have no symptoms - you haven't a cough, you haven't a pain, you haven't a lump - you don't go to the hospital, you don't go to the doctor. But as soon as you realise there is something wrong, and everything is just not right the way it should be, you get down to the doctor for help! Jesus told this parable, and He was trying to show these Pharisees, and show these sinners, that they were lost.
He told a story about a shepherd. He knew every one of his sheep, and he loved every one of his sheep, and he named every one of his sheep. He could tell the difference in them, each one was characteristic, each one was special and unique. Day by day that shepherd lived for his sheep, and he cared for his sheep. He brought them home, day by day, from the pastures. He brought them down the rocky roads, and the slopes, and the valleys, and the mountains. He brought them into the fold at night, and there he lay with them and kept them safe. But one night he brought them all home, and he counted them one by one, by name, as they entered into that fold - but one was missing! One was lost! The story is told that he went out and he left the ninety and nine there - and they were in danger when he left them - but he left them because one that he loved was in danger. It says that he went out into the mountains, he risked his life and he risked the life of the other sheep to go and to find the little one that was lost. It says when he found it, he lifted it and he put it on his shoulders, and he carried it safely home. Boy, when he got home, what a party he had! He got all his friends and his neighbours together, and he said: 'Rejoice with me, for the sheep that was lost I have found!'.
Do you know, my friend, that you are loved? You are loved, the Bible says, with an everlasting love. You are loved with a love that is deeper than the sea, that is higher than the heavens, that is further than east from west, north from south. You are loved with a love that is of greater volume than the whole of the universe - and it is bigger than we can ever know, or fathom, or measure. God says: 'Listen, my child', God's message to you is this, 'I love you'! Do you know that? I'm not asking you do you know it all up here [in your head], sure we all know it. Our heads, in Ulster, are filled with all this knowledge - but it hasn't travelled the 15 inches down to our hearts. I'm asking you: do you know what it means to feel in your heart, and to realise, and to let it dawn upon you, that no matter if all your kith and kin, and friends and relatives and work colleagues, hated the guts of you - that there's One who loves you?
Oh, you know that there's people in your family who love you, and maybe even people who would die for you - but, my friend, I say this to you: there is none that loves you like the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is that Shepherd, He is willing to leave the ninety and the nine and - for you, just you, one person - He loves you so much that He is willing to come tonight, to bring you to a meeting, to speak specifically to you, to woo you, to win you, and to save you - that's the love that He has for you! You see, it's an individual love - that's why He was willing to leave 99 and go for 1. He wasn't in it for the price of the sheep, He wasn't in it for the numbers game - He was in it because He loved each one individually.
You know what I'm talking about, maybe you've a family of four or five, and they're all special. There was the first one, and when they were born that was really special - but when the last one was born, it was as special, wasn't it? They all have different characteristics, don't they? One's quiet, and one's loud. One's affectionate, one's distant. You know what I'm talking about - but you don't love any of them more than the other, do you? You love them individually, don't you? You love them for who they are, the person that they are. You love them uniquely - and God loves you, my friend. Yes, He loves the world, but He loves you specifically and individually.
The Bible says, Jesus says, that 'Every hair of your head is numbered'. Some of you haven't too many to number, but nevertheless they're numbered! Think of that! Scientists tell us that a black-haired woman has 110,000 hairs, and a blonde woman has 140,000 hairs. The average woman loses 100 hairs a day. A man between 20 and 65, it says, removes approximately 23 feet of hair by shaving. The Bible says this, now listen, that God knows every one of them! There are some of you here, and you think that your life is too small for God. 'Sure, why would He be worried about me? I'm insignificant, sure my life is nothing special. My wee kitchen house, and my wee family, and my wee job - I'm no earth-shaker, I'm no big-wig'. But, my friend, God is saying: 'Look, if I care for you so much that the very hairs of your head are numbered, there's nothing insignificant about you! I love you! I love you so much that I'm willing to leave the ninety and nine - and they're special to me, but you're as special, and I want you'.
Oh, He said: 'If the lilies of the field are so clothed' - and look how He clothes them in colour and beauty - 'how much more shall He care about you'. Even the little sparrow that falls, He knows about that sparrow. My friend, He knows about all the problems, all the perplexities, the tribulations and the trials that you go through day by day - what you have to put up with, He knows about it, and never you get it into your head that He doesn't care about you! He loves you greater than you could ever know.
The sheep was lost. Can you imagine the sheep in the storm? The little mountain, the little peak and precipice there, hanging over the ocean perhaps. There it is, and all you can see is the four silhouettes of the spindly legs of that little ball of wool as it stands there in the wind, and as the rain belts down upon it. There it is, out in the wind, bare, alone, lost! What it is to be lost! Can you imagine what that dumb sheep is thinking? No hope! No hope, standing over a precipice, waiting just for that last gust of wind to blow it over like a cloud! My friend, do you feel like that at times? Do you feel at the end of your tether? Just one more straw to break the camel's back - are you ready to give up? Are you ready to just lie back and let life go by you, there's no purpose, there's no meaning for you?
Do you feel like that in your soul? Maybe you've been coming to these meetings, and you've heard about God and how angry God is with you about your sin - and you better believe He is! You've heard about hell, you've heard about conviction of sin, you've been shaken about death and about hell that will follow it. You've heard about the cross, and you've thought: 'That was my sin upon Jesus there!'. You've felt your lostness. Sometimes I use a phrase, and it's unbiblical - and some of us use it: 'unsaved' - you'll not find that in the Bible. It's 'lost'! Lost! Eternally lost! Never to be found again! Never to be touched!
There was once a newspaper in a district, and they had two photographs in it. One was of the town Council, and the other was of a prize-winning farmer's flock of sheep. They put them into the paper, and they had got the captions below mixed up. It said under the Council: 'From left to right: Naive and vulnerable, they huddle for security against the uncertainties of the outside world'. Is that not what we're like? Oh, we're confident when we're with our friends. Oh, we group together alright - when we all have the same views, everything is OK. We're confident in our family, and once you're in the prime of your youth and you've your children to live for, and bring them up, and educate them, and everything. But what do you now, friend, when they're all married off and they're all gone away - and you're there on your own in your retirement, and you don't know what to do? What life is there for you? You just don't know, no more work, no more family - it's different then, isn't it?
The word of God tells you that. Do you know the word of God is full of truth? They're all sitting in their fine halls and universities trying to work out the meaning of life, and it's in the word of God if they would only open it and look at it! 'All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one of us to his own way'. My friend, you are lost. You're lost in your sin if you haven't got Christ. You're lost in your sin if you've never trusted Him, if you've never looked to the cross, if you've never repented of your sin and forsook it and turned to Christ for saving power in His blood. My friend, listen: you're lost! You're out there in the wild winds of life and of sin - and one day, if you don't turn to Him before you die or before Christ comes again, you'll be lost in hell!
Charles IX, in the Bartholomew massacre, was usurped. He was stabbed several times in the chest, and he lay in his own palace in a pool of blood. Do you know what historical records record about him? He was heard to cry: 'I'm lost! I'm lost!'. Will the aeons of eternity hear your voice crying the same forever? My friend, you are loved, God loved you, Christ loved you. But listen: you're lost! You need to realise that you're lost, you need to realise the danger that you're in! Listen, the beauty of the Gospel is this: that this parable tells us, tells you, that you're looked for. You're loved, and you're lost, but you're looked for!
It says in verse 4 that that shepherd left the ninety and nine, and he went out after the one until he found it! Do you know that you're looked for? Do you know who's looking for you? The Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd - the Lord is my Shepherd, and my Shepherd is looking for you! He's out there, He has gone out, and He is following you. He's stalking you down, and the 23rd Psalm says that even through the valley of the shadow of death, He is going. You know, He loves you so much, my friend, that He tells you: 'I am the Good Shepherd', listen, 'the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep'. He loves you so much, that He is willing to go out into the mountains wild and bare, He is willing to climb the mountains, He is willing to go down the valleys, He is willing to brave the storm and the snow and the sleet - He's willing to do it all until He finds you!
You know that in the east the Shepherd would do anything to protect the sheep. I heard the story once about a little boy who was leading the sheep up a mountain road, and there was a precipice at one side and a hill on the other. He knew that the sheep are so dumb that they would run over the side, and he stood there - stood at the side of the precipice to make sure that the sheep wouldn't go over. Just one gust of wind, or one little nudge by one of the foolish beasts, would cast him over - but he loved them so much that he was willing to do it.
You see, Jesus Christ loves His own. As He was bleeding and dying, my friend - now listen to this - He was going through death on the cross for you. He was taking your place, He was bearing your punishment for your wrong, for your lostness, because He loved you so much. He took your place, He suffered all the hell that you could ever have. He took it all, because He loved you, because He was looking for you, and because He wants to find you.
People often ask the question: 'Why did Jesus say on the cross, 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?''. Do you know why God forsook Him? Because He loves you - He loves you.
You know, sheep are thankless creatures - and any farmer will tell you that. Some of you have been coming to this mission, and you don't care about what Christ did for you. It doesn't make a rap of difference to you that He died on the cross! It doesn't matter that He went through death to look for you, it doesn't matter that we put these meetings on and a mission on - some of you have run out the door, almost, every night to get away from the fact that you're loved and you're lost, and that God and Christ and the Holy Ghost is hunting you down night by night, looking for you, trying to bring you to Himself. You're running away!
Are you running away? Well, He's catching up with you tonight. My advice to you is this: give up, give up to Him, because He says He'll go after you until He finds you. I don't know what He's going to have to put you through, and I would advise you to give up to Him now, surrender to Christ and be given a life that you couldn't imagine.
I remember hearing about a farmer, and this sheep gave birth to these wee lambs. She needed help in the delivery of them, and he came over and helped - but because his scent was left on the wee lamb, the mother sheep wouldn't touch it. He had to look after it, he had to feed it, walk about and nurse it. She wouldn't look at it. He would bring it over and put its scent upon things, put it under her nose and bring the wee lamb and try to bring her round to the child - but it wouldn't have it. One day that old farmer was walking across with the little lamb in his arms, and it gave out a little bleat. That mother turned its head in a flash, and went like lightning straight for the little lamb.
Listen: Jesus said: 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out'. He says that if He hears the voice of His sheep, He will listen! His sheep hear His voice and follow Him! My friend, if you're hearing His voice, you've got to follow Him - and if you follow Him, He'll never cast you out. For what earthly reason would Jesus die, but for the fact that He loves you?
That wee sheep wasn't just loved, and lost, and looked for - but listen, as we close: he was lifted. I love that! He was lifted, it says in verse 5 that: 'he layeth it on his shoulders'. David put it like this: 'I waited patiently on the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and he heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. He has put a new song in my heart, even praise unto my God, many shall see it and fear, and many shall trust in the Lord'.
I hear this: 'Och, I couldn't keep it. If I got saved tonight, I couldn't keep out of the pub, and my mates would drive me mad running after me. I couldn't keep off the fags, I couldn't keep this salvation'. Listen to me: if you come to Christ - you may be lost, but He loves you so much that He is willing and able to save you to the uttermost. That means that when He takes you, He'll put you on His shoulders, and He'll carry you through. Don't you think He's leaving it up to you. Listen: if He didn't leave it up to you to be saved, He's hardly going to leave it up to you for the rest of the way, is He? No. He is the Shepherd that will put you on His arms, and you will become the apple of His eye - and he that touches you, will touch God's anointed. You're special, and you will be special - you're so special that He loved you, and even though you were lost He risked everything. He gave His life, and He shed His blood, and He took your hell to go after and look for you - and He wants to lift you, to put you on His shoulders!
A tourist once went to Syria, and he couldn't understand it - because the fold of the sheep was just some stones that were put round in a rectangle, and there was a hole left at the front. There was no gate or anything. He saw a shepherd, one night, bringing all the sheep down from the hillside - and he put them in the door, and the tourist went over to him and he said: 'Sir, I couldn't help thinking, you see there's no gate there. All those sheep, once you get them in, do they not all come out?'. He says: 'Oh no, you see what I do is: when I get them all in late at night, I lie down in front of the hole, and I'm the door'.
Jesus says to you this evening: 'I am the door'. If you get into that fold tonight, you'll never be out, for He says: 'No man will pluck you out of my hand'. But perhaps, like the Israelites who were there, and the angel of death was coming from house-to-house, and they were told by God to slay a little lamb, to put the blood on the lintel and the posts. It says in the word of God - and in the Hebrew it seems to indicate that they also put the blood on the doorstep - that if they wanted to be saved they stayed in the house, but if they wanted to stay lost, they would have to tread over the blood of the lamb on the way out.
Some of you, night after night - I'm surprised when you've got home and taken your shoes off that they haven't been covered in red blood, for you've walked over the death of Christ night after night after night. But yet the miracle of God's grace is this: He still loves you, and He wants to find you tonight, and He wants to lift you.
Let us pray. My friend, it's time for you to come home. If you're a backslider it's time to come home, if you're a sheep that has wandered since your birth in sin without Christ - it's time to come home. Come home now, don't let the distractions of the wind and the storm, even the wild beasts around you that would distract you away from the shepherd - don't let them do it. He waits with open arms for you this evening, it's time now to come home.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the Great Shepherd of the sheep who gave His life in their place, that he might buy for Himself a peculiar people unto good works. We thank Thee for His blood that is able to save tonight, as it has always been. We pray that one of Thy lost sheep would hear the voice of the Shepherd, and would come into the fold. Lord, do a work tonight - let no-one walk out of this place without Christ as their Shepherd. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Kilkeel Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Friend Of Sinners" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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