One of the leaders of the First Great Awakening, which is one of the three greatest revivals in western history, said, “The corruption of our nature by the fall, and our recovery through Jesus Christ, are the two leading truths in the Christian religion…” (Romaine, The Life of Faith, p. 20). Every Christian believes these two truths, although some believers may understand them better than others. However, every unbeliever rejects both of these Biblical truths, because he or she thinks that there is good in human nature, especially his or her own nature. “I’m a nice guy when you really get to know me!” Since he or she thinks that people are basically okay, the opinion persists that if we do just a few good things and are religious that God will accept us wonderful humans. Since God will accept us on our own merits, why would we need Jesus?
Now the Lord Jesus Christ had more than a few conflicts with people who had this opinion; namely, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They thought that they were “so-o good!” And for that reason, they believed that God would certainly accept people like them. On the other hand, they could never believe that the Holy God would accept “sinners”—or even want to! Jesus understood what his opponents were saying, and as God’s spokesman (Hebrews 1:1-3), in Luke 15 he told them three parables, or stories to illustrate his teachings and to correct their wrong views. In two articles, we will consider the first two of these parables. There are three points that we should learn from these parables, and we’ll focus on the first one in this article: God is involved in seeking lost sinners (Luke 15:3-6, 8-9).
The Pharisees thought that contact with sinners was reprehensible and disgusting. They were afraid of contaminating themselves by contact with sinners. “They might defile me and God might be less likely to accept me.” Therefore, they went to great lengths to keep themselves “pure”, according to their own ideas of what spiritual purity was.
However, Jesus taught that far from avoiding sinners, God pursues sinners. God seeks sinners! Though the idea of a woman looking for her lost coin probably made sense to them, the concept of a shepherd leaving ninety-nine sheep to search for one lost one was probably more difficult. Why risk the ninety-nine for the sake of one?
Perhaps you have never thought about how God went seeking you. God, enjoying heaven’s glory, dared to take human form to seek and to save. But more than that, he seeks the sinners he has died to save. When most of us are coming to faith in Christ, we never think or imagine that Christ is actually seeking us. Listen to the testimony of Charles Spurgeon. “When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the new convert is at first aware of it… One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, ‘How did you come to be a Christian?’ I sought the Lord. ‘But how did you come to seek the Lord?’ The truth flashed across my mind in a moment – I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, ‘I ascribe my change wholly to God” (Spurgeon, The Early Years, pp. 164-165, his emphasis).
As we grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and study the Scriptures, we come to a better and fuller understanding of his true glory. Then we learn that he was seeking us and that he loved us first. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19 ESV).
As I look back at the events leading to my conversion, I can now see that the Lord was seeking me, one of his lost sheep. He did this through the messages of a young man at Wednesday night prayer meetings, the questions of my girlfriend and my dormitory supervisor, the sermons of my pastor, a statement by my aunt, and a growing sense of despair. And then, suddenly, when all seemed dark, God turned the lights on, and I heard the message of hope and salvation (Isaiah 55:6-7)! He tenderly sought me long before I ever looked for him. God seeks sinners!
Grace and peace, David