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We have covered the first parable of seeking for those who are lost—the parable of the lost sheep. Today I want to work through the second of the three parables Jesus shares in response to the criticism. The second parable is the lost coin. He says:
"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
This is a story about a woman who has 10 silver coins and misplaces one of them. This is most likely a Greek silver coin and most agree that its value is equal to a day’s wages.
Who knows what a plight the loss of this coin might have caused, but it was a great loss, for sure. The search for this coin would have been a big deal. To search around the house with little light and in a room with a dirt floor was especially difficult. But when she found it, she was elated and threw a party among her friends.
These parables raise the question, “What is the focus of Jesus and therefore what is the focus of the church of Jesus to be?” It seems that there are two extremes. FIRST—focus entirely on reaching the world and ignoring those who have already been reached. And SECOND—focus on those who have already been found and ignore the lost.
Jesus seems to tweak our thinking a bit with these parables. Within the last few years I have come full circle. I have spent most of my life focusing on those who have lost their way, yet recently I have been drawn into focusing on the few who are following Jesus. In the process of being more inward in my focus rather than outward, I realize I have been missing the heart of Jesus and why He came.
The balance of these two potential extremes can be quite tricky. You can discern this balance by the comments that you hear. For instance, since we are such a consumer-oriented society, there can be a great tendency toward focusing on what meets your needs. So, if you find yourself making the following statement, “That group or fellowship just doesn’t meet my needs.” or, “I am just not getting the feeding the way I like it.”, then you have been overtaken by the consumerism of the culture. The church or fellowship does not exist to meet your needs. Yet the churches that become mega-churches spend most of their money to do just that. But where do you see this in the teaching of Jesus?
The other extreme is to focus totally on reaching the lost. I grew up in this kind of atmosphere. It was quite an experience. In our churches the pastors spent most of their time in the work of evangelism. It was so extreme that the pastors would do everything they could do to evangelize the faithful. So, there were many mid-week services where only the leadership was in attendance and the pastor still tried to evangelize them. You see, if this is your only focus then you just keep hammering away with the same message no matter the audience. It’s like the saying, “If you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” The constant comment around this sort of focus is, “Are you ready?”
Each of these extreme focuses have arisen not due to the teachings of Jesus. They emerge through what I refer to as “Christian rumors” that have a life all their own. We must discipline ourselves to really FOLLOW JESUS.
Jesus’ clear teaching is to focus in three ways. 1. Your relationship with Him, characterized by abiding in Him as a branch abides in a vine. 2. Your relationship with fellow believers, characterized by loving one another. 3. Your relationship with outsiders, characterized by bearing witness about the person of Jesus and His kingdom. And these three relationships are to be practiced in balance. In fact, Jesus is clear that you must practice the first two so that you will be able to bear witness of Him most effectively.
Jesus sheds a lot of light on what the faith-walk ought to look like. So, hang out with Him and be careful to do exactly what He says to do.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
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