As sinners who chase the evil desires of our hearts, we are very much like dim-witted sheep. I realize it’s an unflattering comparison, but I beg that you would bear with me as we learn more about why the LORD compares us to lost sheep.
In the same way that a shepherd offers life and protection to sheep within his flock, God promises us new life and salvation through Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
Much to our damage — and despite being offered the promise of grace — we stray from the flock. We are deceived by the sinful nature that is inherent in each of us, and we are enticed by false promises of satisfaction apart from God.
As sheep who wander from the flock, with our eyes turned away from God, we face certain death.
Christ Finds and Saves the One Who Is Lost
But by God’s grace for His chosen children, Christ finds and saves the one who is lost.
The good news of the gospel is that Christ Himself is our Good Shepherd. He died on the cross, bearing our sins in His body, and He rose again to new life, granting us new life in Him. As a result, He is able to find sinners, pour out His grace upon them, and restore them to Himself for His glory. These truths give us reason to praise Him and rejoice!
Let’s feast upon Christ’s words in Luke 15:
“1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “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? 5 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. 7 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.””
We see in this parable that Christ (the Shepherd) is steadfast in His aim to redeem sinners (the lost sheep). This is a testament both to God’s mighty power to save and to the care that our Savior has for us.
While the Gospel of Luke does use the word “find”, it’s important to note that God doesn’t “find” things in the same manner that we do. As humans in a fallen world, we often seek, even diligently, after things we aren’t able to find. We grasp for objectives that we can’t achieve.
This isn’t the case for the Good Shepherd. God is able to find and save whomever He chooses for Himself. The Bible teaches that nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17) and that He is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17). Indeed, Job confessed: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
God’s power and ability to save should give us comfort. We are like straying sheep, wandering from the throne of grace. But God — by the power that is His alone, and with zeal for His great name — convicts us of our sin, leads us to repentance, and heals us by His grace.
Christ Rejoices In Our Salvation
Not only is Christ able to find and save us, He also rejoices in our repentance and salvation.
Christ says in this parable “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
When He speaks of the ninety-nine, He speaks of those who have a false sense of righteousness. These are the Pharisees and scribes, who believe they have no need to repent.
They have mistakenly trusted man’s deeds and their own righteousness, rather than Christ’s righteousness and His finished work on the cross.
In truth, these Pharisees and scribes have no righteousness at all, for there is no righteousness apart from Christ. Scripture tells us that in order to be saved, we must be covered in Christ’s righteousness, for “none is righteous” (Romans 3:3) and “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
Notice that Christ doesn’t hesitate to leave the ninety-nine hypocrites to find and save the lost sinner. We, who are all sinners, need God to humble us before Himself and convict us of our need to repent. This is the genuine repentance in which Christ rejoices
Christ goes on to say in another parable (also in Luke 15), that this rejoicing over sinners being saved takes place “before the angels of God” (Luke 15:10).
Imagine the community of angels in heaven who rejoice at the news of each new birth; when a heart of stone is removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). These are gifts given to believers by the LORD God Himself. God has completed this work in us.
May this image remind us of what a precious gift our salvation is, and may it continually refresh our joy in Christ.
Praying to Our Good Shepherd
In summary, here are a few points to keep in mind as we pray to our Good Shepherd:
- Praise God for His power to save. LORD, we praise you, for you are mighty to save. You are sovereign over salvation, and we know that you are able to find and save sinners whom you choose for yourself and for your glory.
- Pray that God would remove the pride in our hearts. LORD, remind us of our helpless state as sinners. We pray that we would not be found among the ninety-nine who believe they are righteous, but have no righteousness at all. We confess that there is no righteousness apart from Christ.
- Rest in the grace and righteousness that we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. Thank you, Jesus! We were lost, but now we are found (Luke 15:32).
Stay tuned! Next week, Citizen’s Press will post Part 2 of this blog post — “The Good Shepherd: Is it Possible to Wander Outside of the Shepherd’s Care?”
Image Via nikolinelr