2005 July 10
THE CHURCH LOVES: LOVE SEEKS
Our preaching minister is David Kester.
This July 10th sermon reminds the listener of God’s ever-seeking love for him and every person everywhere. As His body, His Church, we are to be likewise seeking.
Copies of each Sunday's sermon are available via email.
Copies of each Sunday's sermon are available via email.
THE CHURCH LOVES: LOVE SEEKS
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
The good shepherd leaves the 99 sheep out in the open, to go and seek the one lost lamb. When he finds the lamb, he rejoices. The woman, of Luke 15, swept and cleaned every nook and cranny of her house, looking for the one coin she had lost. When she found the lost coin, she rejoiced. “In the same way,” Luke 15:7 says, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God loves and seeks the lost. He loved the world so much that he sent his own Son to seek and save us. Love seeks.
God loves the lost and because he loves the lost; he seeks them. He searches the byways, the back alleys, he looks among criminals and drunkards; he combs through the prisons; he sits with the sinners, eats with tax collectors and prostitutes because he loves them. God has a passionate heart for the lost. Jesus described his ministry with these simple words: “I came to seek and to save what was lost.” He came looking for us: for the sin sick, the dead and the dying. When he finds the lost, he binds their wounds; he cleanses their disease; he makes the spiritually dead alive again all because of his great love for us. Love seeks; it searches; it pursues. Love is not dissuaded by rejection, refusal, rebuke or ridicule. Love never fails. It never gives up. It keeps on seeking. God’s love is stubborn.
Maybe you have forgotten, but that is the kind of love that found you when you were lost. God still loves you with that kind of love. Never forget that God loves you. Live your life centered in his love. Last Monday, I was sitting on a bench at family camp watching the people go by: flocks of children skipping from place to place; Gabe, not quite three, riding a three-wheeler; a serious little girl who approached me to ask if I owned a gray dog. She had seen one wandering through camp and thought it might be mine. Rudy and Lynette, at camp with their three girls – two of the girls are already out of high school. I wondered if they realized what a blessing it was for them to be together or if they recognized how fleeting that blessing might be. Brittany, sitting with her parents, still a little miffed that they had ended up in a cabin with no bunks, just mattresses on the floor. Lee Tate sitting alone. Margaret, his wife and partner died just six months ago. He has been at family camp for more than 30 years, this year he was there alone. I saw Ruthie. I like Ruthie a lot, she is only eight or nine but she was so kind to my mom last year. She wondered if I owned the camp. I don’t, but thought maybe I should. Camp is a unique mixture of young and old, bold, shy, newcomers and veterans, odd and not so odd. A band of running, laughing, talking, flirting, bike riding, singing, skipping, tetherball playing, cuddling, pouting, embracing, singing folk. I thought — what an ordinary bunch of people. You could go to the mall or Wal-Mart and gather a bunch just like them. There wasn’t a flashy, famous individual anywhere in the group, just a bunch of ragamuffins. Surprisingly, in that moment, as I watched them, my heart welled up with love for them. Some of them I hardly knew but I loved them.
Then in one of those rare flashes of clarity, I realized God loved them too. I wanted to shout, “Do you know how much God loves you?” You just won at the tetherball. That is great but did know that God loves you? You put your arm around your wife. Did know that God loves you even more than you love her? You enjoyed sweet fellowship with old friends but did you know while you laughed with them, God loved you. Camp is a pretty good place to be at any time but I thought won’t it be amazing if everyone suddenly became aware of God’s love. That realization might have done us in. It sure made me look at those people differently (at least for a while) when I considered how much God loved them.
God loves the world. He loves the lost. He loves you. Did you know that? He loves you. Too often, we struggle through life; blithely unaware that the Creator of the universe loves us with a passionate, burning love and that he would seek us to the ends of the earth if that were what it took to find us. When he finds us, he wraps us in his arms. He tenderly wipes the tears from our eyes. The prophet Isaiah said, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Lee, Ruthie and Brittany, do you know that God loves you? What about you? Do you know that God loves you? He demonstrated his love on the cross. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Sometimes I wonder, how our lives would be transformed if we only grasped how high and wide and deep the love of God is for us. We are loved by a God who is passionate about us, who seeks us when we are lost, who stands to defend us, who would die for us (in fact, has died for us), who is now preparing a place for us in his presence, who has betrothed us to his Son, who chose us, called us, bought us and loved us with a pure, holy, unconditional love. Should it seem that the entire world stand against you know that God stands for you. If you are unloved by everyone else, know that God still loves you. Rest in the warmth of his love, bask in his tender concern, and know that he will never stop loving you. He has never loved you more than he loves you right now and he will never love you less than he loves you now. God loves you. If you can get your mind around his love for you then realize that he loves the lost just like he loves you. Now, as his body, Christ calls us to love the lost, to join his mission in seeking them, to go out into the highways, the byways, the back alleys and seek the lost bringing them home.
The church loves and love seeks. We know that is our commission. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations….” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation….” “We,” as the apostle Paul said, “are…Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” When those who are invited to his table, refuse to come, he sends us out to bring in the meek, the lowly and the sinners because he loves the lost and longs for fellowship with them and he wants his house to be full. We know that we are called to love and to seek the lost. However, I am afraid that many of us share a dark secret. We struggle to love the lost.
We know we should love them but it seems like there are all sorts of reasons not to love them. Almost a billion Chinese people do not know Jesus. I don’t know one of them. I don’t know about you but it is difficult for me to be passionately concerned about those I do not know. Furthermore, while it is hard to love those we do not know, sometimes it is even harder to love the lost we do know. When you get close enough to the lost to love them, you will find out that some of them aren’t all that loveable.
I hadn’t been preaching for very long, when a middle-aged couple stopped at my door looking for a place to stay. I had no money to put them up in a motel but I did have a couple spare bedrooms and so I invited them to stay the night at my house. I was trying to do the right thing. I got up in the morning and fixed breakfast for them, scrambled eggs and toast. They sat down and announced that they didn’t like scrambled eggs. Could I make two eggs over easy, don’t break the yokes, and could I boil two more eggs exactly three minutes. By the way, could I give them a few dollars so they could buy lunch? I gave them what I had and watched them leave without so much as a backward glance or a word of thanks, leaving me with a table of dirty dishes, uneaten scrambled eggs, an empty wallet and the realization that doing the right thing does not guarantee a thank you, or even a warm feeling in your heart. The lost are not always so loveable. Love them anyway.
Realize that not everyone who is lost wants to be found. The lost are not always grateful for our intrusion into their lives. Loving the lost does not mean that they will love us. Jesus came seeking the lost and they nailed him to a tree. He healed their sick, fed the hungry, proclaimed the way of forgiveness and life and they spit on him, beat him and killed him. They hated him but he kept loving them, pleading for their forgiveness even as his life’s blood was poured out on the ground. Loving the lost can be costly. I’m afraid that sometimes that makes us wonder why we should risk loving and seeking the lost. Sometimes it even makes me wonder how we can love and seek the lost. Consider these three reasons for loving them.
First, remember what we were when Christ found us. Some of us were defiant, rebellious and angry. Others of us were lost and scared and desperately alone. Some of us did not even know were lost. We were headed for damnation unaware of the danger until Jesus rescued us. All of us were sinners who did not deserve Christ’s love but needed desperately. We deserved death but he gave us life. Remember the joy of discovering you were loved. Remember that God loved you freely; then love as you were loved. Share the love of Christ with someone who is lost. Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Love the lost, just as Jesus loved you.
Second, try to see the lost as God sees them. Look past the exterior and recognize glory that is found in each individual God has made. The scars of sin, the stains and filth that cover the lost is not all there is. I have a maple dresser, maybe the nicest piece of furniture I own – although that wouldn’t necessarily take much. My friend, Gary Kurka, gave the dresser to me. He found it on the porch of an old house and offered the woman how owned the house $5 for the dresser. She was glad to get $5 for it. The dresser was in bad shape; the handles were missing. It had layers and layers of old peeling paint on it. It was missing some casters. It looked terrible but Gary knew how to look past the surface. He saw that it was solid maple, no veneer. The drawers were in good shape and the sides were all neatly dovetailed. He knew he could make something of the dresser. He paid $5. Took the dresser home and restored and then gave it to me. He knew there was more than met the eye.
God knows what the lost could be. He knows that they were created in his own image and likeness. He knows that they can be transformed and made brand new. God can see past the dirt, the grim and the stain of our sin; he can see beyond our brokenness. He knows what we could be. His heart breaks when he sees how sin has twisted the lost. He longs to set them free. Look at lost as God sees at them. See not only what they are but also what God can make of them. Then seek them and bring them home.
Finally, love them because God loves them. I remember talking to my sister Lois, just after she adopted Bev. Bev was six years old and Lois loved her with all her heart. She was afraid that we (the rest of the family) might not love Bev like she did. I said, “Lois, I started loving Bev the first day you told me about her. You are my sister and if you love her, then I will love her too.” God loves the lost. He knows what they have done, who they are deep in their hearts and still he loves them. How can I refuse to the love those my Father loves? Trust God’s love for the lost. When we refuse to love the lost, we are saying God is wrong to love them. We are saying he was wrong to send his Son to die for them. We are saying he is wrong to hope for their redemption and transformation. To say that I cannot love the lost is saying that Jesus cannot change me enough to love them; or, worse still it is saying, I will not allow him to change me. God loves the lost. Love them because he does. He knows them better than we do. He has suffered more at their hands than we have. Love the lost. Your Father does. Pray that he would grant you his eyes to see them as he sees them. Remember what you were when God found you. Love the lost and seek them. It is what your Father would do. It is what your Father is doing.
When I consider the time I have spent with you, with this congregation, I have one regret. During my years here, there have been people who once worshiped with us who walked away. Some slowly drifted away over time. Others were here one week and then gone the next. That has always broken my heart. What I regret, even more than their absence, is that I just let some of them go. I didn’t pursue them; I didn’t seek them. I just let them go. It occurs to me, if I had loved them more, I would have sought them more diligently. So, I pray: “Jesus, help me love others more. Give me the courage to seek the lost more diligently. Help me be more like you.”
Jesus loves the lost. Love seeks. Let us be a church that seeks the lost.