BEST OF FELLOWSHIP CHURCH – PART I
I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
DECEMBER 16, 2001
I hate to admit it, but sometimes while driving around the Metroplex, I say those words that men hate to say the most. I turn to my wife, Lisa, and I say, “Honey, I’m lost.” I’ll linger in my lostness. I’ll drive around aimlessly trying to find my destination. After a while, Lisa will look back at me and say, “Honey, why don’t you stop and ask for directions?” I say, “Lisa, I’m not going to stop and ask for directions. I can find it. I know where I’m going.”
I’ll admit it. I am directionally-challenged. How many men in here need to lift their hand and say, “Ed, I am with you, too, man. I am directionally challenged as well?”
Thank you very much. We have got some honest guys, some men with real integrity. Jesus talked a lot about lostness. He talked a lot about sin, but he talked even more about lostness. Most of us will admit we are sinners. We will say, “Yes, I have committed cosmic treason. I have dropped the ball. I have fumbled.” Few will say, “I’m lost.”
In Luke, Chapter 15, Christ told three stories in rapid-fire succession. I am going to talk about two of them. Jesus was driving at the whole subject of lostness. Let’s see what he had to say about it. Luke, Chapter 15, Verses 1-2, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him.” The tax collectors were the Jews who were working for the Roman government. They were overtaxing the Jews, giving some money to the Romans, and keeping a lot of money for themselves. Their Jewish brethren did not dig their chili. They were not popular.
The sinners were those disenfranchised, the downtrodden, the prostitutes, the people who didn’t really live the life. In Verse 2 it says, “But the Pharisees,” (now the Pharisees were a strict group of religious leaders who were so legalistic, they had rules about how long the fringe on your garment should be), “and the teachers of the law muttered about Jesus, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
The tax collectors and the sinners were known as people of the land. The Pharisees and the religious intelligencia of the day could not eat with the sinners or tax collectors, they could not talk to them, do business with them, and their testimony couldn’t even be used in a court of law. They were on Christ’s case because he was rubbing shoulders with the sinners, the disenfranchised, the irreligious, the non-Temple-attending people.
Let me stop and ask you a question. Why do you think people were attracted to Jesus, specifically people like the tax collectors and the sinners? Let’s bring it down to our modern day context. What if Jesus was in the flesh in 2001? What if Jesus was walking around the Metroplex right now? Do you think people would be drawn to him? You better believe they would. People would swarm Jesus. Why would they swarm Jesus? Jesus talked about and lived out supernatural power.
What would you think if a man in his early thirties happened to walk into Baylor Hospital or Presbyterian and was healing aids victims and cancer patients? What if this same guy went to a wedding reception at the Anatole and turned water into wine? I’m talking about turning Mountain Valley into Napa Valley. I think that would draw a crowd, don’t you? He had this supernatural power that he wielded. I think also Jesus would attract people because he had his eyes set on eternity. When he looked at people, he looked at people through eternal lenses.
Remember one time this rich young heavy-hitter, this guy who was set in life, came up to Christ and ask him how he could get set in eternity. Jesus told him. People are attracted to people who talk about eternity, especially God in the flesh. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says that God has set eternity in our hearts.
I think another reason why people would be attracted to Christ in this modern-day culture is that he spoke the truth. He spoke the truth in love.
Many of us here are Christ-followers. You are a Christian. Just for a second, think back before you became a Christian. Maybe you heard a Christian song. Or maybe you went to some sort of Bible study. Or maybe you heard a saying of Jesus, like, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul?” Maybe you said to yourself, “That stuff kind of has a ring of truth to it.” We are attracted to truth because so many people are floating on the seas of relativism these days.
Another reason I think we would be attracted to Christ is because of his love. He loved on another level, didn’t he? He loved people. He had passion for others and he treated them like that. We are attracted like a moth to a flame to people who give out large amounts of love.
Let’s put another spin on the question. People would definitely be attracted to Jesus. Here is the next spin. Are people attracted to you? That’s a question I ask myself. Are people attracted to me—the irreligious, the disenfranchised, the detached, the non-church-attending people? Are they attracted to us? They should be.
When they look at you and me, do they see someone who deals with supernatural power? When it doesn’t go that well for you during the day, when you have a problem at the office, or at school, or around the apartment complex, do you just fly off the handle like everyone else and use all the same words? Or do you tap into that supernatural power source? Do you have that peace that surpasses all understanding? People are attracted to those people who live by grace and mercy, who tap into supernatural power.
How about eternity? Do you see people as just rungs on a ladder? Do you see people as people you can just kind of use up to get to your position, to get to your corner office, to get to your goals? Or when you lock eyes with people, do you say to yourself, “This person matters to God. I am going to treat them like an equal image-bearer before the Lord.”
How about truth? Are you a truth-teller? People are attracted to it. Do you do life with integrity? Are you honest with your clients? Are you truthful with your teachers, with your professors, with your parents, with your spouse, with your friends? Or, do you say just enough to get by, kind of hold back, and twist the truth and manipulate it? People are drawn to truth.
How about love? Are you giving out large levels of love because of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you loving others? Or are you considering others as more important than yourself only because people are watching? If we have that kind of Christ-like attitude that can only come from Christ, it will snap the heads of others, and the irreligious, the disenfranchised, the non-church-attending people will be drawn to us.
It’s against that backdrop that Jesus told these stories in Luke, Chapter 15. You just heard Rob singing U2’s mega hit, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I’m going to put a different perspective on that song. I want you to look at that song like God is singing it. Because Jesus says in Luke, Chapter 15, that God is saying, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for until I found you, and you, and you.”
The first story that Christ talked about really connected with the men in the crowd. When he said it, the men probably said, “Oh, yes, I understand that. Jesus, you are a man’s man. I like you.” Jesus said, “Suppose a shepherd had 99 sheep in his sheepfold. And then suppose a shepherd lost a sheep. A good shepherd would leave the 99 and go out and find the lost sheep.”
To understand that story, you have got to understand something about shepherding, about sheep. Being a shepherd was not some cush job. Being a shepherd was not a situation where you kind of leaned on your staff and sipped lattes and watched the sheep jump around. Shepherds did not own their herd of sheep, for the most part. Usually the community in which they resided owned the sheep. Sheep were valuable and the shepherd’s business was to watch and lead the sheep. That’s what he did.
A shepherd was an expert in tracking game. He was an expert in fighting lions and bears. He would give his life for the sheep. That’s the kind of guy he was. So, it was nothing laid back, nothing that was easy. It was tough. They were weather-beaten, hard-nosed, aggressive men.
Jesus said, “Suppose a shepherd left his 99 sheep who were safely in the sheepfold, and suppose he went out and looked for the lost sheep, because a good shepherd would do so.” A good shepherd would take along his staff. It was a stick with a crook in it. Maybe a good shepherd would say under his breath, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for until I find the sheep.” He probably looked under rock and shrubs.
Jesus said, “One day, when the shepherd found the sheep, he would take the sheep and place it over his shoulders and walk back home.” Check out what Jesus said happened. Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
You see, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law didn’t get it. They did not understand why Jesus was on Planet Earth at that time. And Jesus was saying, “Guys, here is my mission statement. Here is what I am about. I am the Good Shepherd, and I will leave 99 in the sheepfold to go out, and I will find that lost sinner.”
The Pharisees could easily see God accepting a repentant sinner crawling back on his or her hands and knees. The Pharisees could see that. But they could not see an initiative-taking, Shepherd-like God, who went out and said, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for until I found you.”
There’s rejoicing when one sinner repents. There is rejoicing—check this out now—in the heart of one who repents. There is rejoicing in the one who communicates the truth to him or her. There is rejoicing in the group of people who have seen this person step over the line of faith. The Bible says that there is a heavenly hoedown going on when someone bows the knee to Jesus. Lost things matter?
Now Jesus changes gears. He tells another story. This is a story that the female folk could identify with. I’m sure when Christ went off on this next story, the girls were saying, “Oh, that is just horrible. That is just terrible. Really.” Because he was talking about a woman who was married. He was talking about a woman who lost a silver coin. To those of us here in this culture, we say, “What’s so big about a silver coin, Ed? That’s no big deal.” Back in Biblical times, it was. It was like losing your wedding ring. Ladies, if you lost your wedding ring, would you press the pause button and try to find it? I think most of you would.
Back in ancient days, a groom would give his bride a wedding headband. It would have ten silver coins in the wedding headband. Jesus said, “Let’s say you are a woman and wife, and you lose one of the silver coins. You would stop and go on an all out search to find the coins.”
Now again, think about the housing back in this day, little houses, dirt floors with reeds on the floor, maybe two or three candles. Finding a little silver coin would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Maybe this wife who lost her wedding coin was saying, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for until I’ve found the coin.” Well, Jesus said, she found the coin.
Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Lost sheep—lost coin.
What does it mean to be lost? What is lostness all about? To be lost means to be out of place, to literally be misplaced. The sheep was out of place. He was not in the sheepfold when he was lost. The coin was out of place. It was not in the wedding headband when it was lost. A sinner is out of place when he or she is outside the family of God.
Also, lostness has to do with being misused. What good is a sheep outside the sheepfold? You can’t use a sheep for anything good. What good is a coin, what value does it have to the wife if it is hidden in the reeds and the dirt floor of your house? What good is a sinner who is outside the family of God? That sinner will never, ever understand the true essence of life until he or she is found. The Good Shepherd is saying, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for until I found you and you and you.” Jesus is like the woman looking for the lost coin.
“Ed, thank you. I have learned a lot. I had no idea about how much a shepherd cares for his sheep. This is pretty fascinating. So they didn’t own the sheep? Wow. That’s interesting. I should take some notes. I didn’t realize that about ancient weddings and the wedding headband with coins. Amazing stuff. Wow.”
God is an Initiative-Taker
Let’s get relevant here, because there are some things that we need to understand out of Luke, Chapter 15, because of the lost sheep and the lost coin. God is an initiative-taker. God doesn’t sit back. God does not rest on his staff and sip lattes. God is an initiative-taker.
Go back to Genesis, Chapter 3. Adam and Eve committed cosmic treason. They sinned before God. After they sinned before God, do you know what they did? They played hide and seek with God. They tried to hide from him. They realized they were naked. They realized their guilt.
I remember when my son was about three years old, we used to play hide and seek together. He would hide in the same place every single time, under the steps. He would cover his eyes and he thought because he couldn’t see me that I couldn’t see him. That’s how we look when we try to hide from God.
Jonah tried to run from God, because Jonah was supposed to be in Nineveh. But do you know what he said? “Not Nineveh. I’m going to Tarshish. I’m getting away from you, God.”
Here is what we learned last weekend. When you run from God, you crash right into him. David thought he could shake and bake with God. Look what David said in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from you spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
God is an initiative taker. He is a seeking God, a searching God. We have to realize something else, too. We have got to see the signs of the search. You say, “Ed, you are saying God is searching for me now?” Yes, he is. He has put signs in your life, people, places, and events. And hopefully, you see the signs, so you can get found. Why do you think God allowed that difficulty? Why do you think God allowed the prop to be knocked out? Why do you think God allowed this situation? I’ll tell you why: so you will see the signs.
Some close friends of mine who are in this church had been praying for a family for years to bow the knee to Christ. This family has been riding high. They have been on a roll. My friends said, “Ed, it is just a matter of time before the bottom drops out on them.” Sure enough, several days ago, the bottom dropped out. Guess what happened? These people who didn’t have a bottom anymore, whose world crashed and cratered, guess who they turned to? To my friends, who are part of Fellowship. My friends right now are talking to them, ministering to them, and I believe this family has a great shot at becoming found.
The Search Will End
You can’t play games with God. You can’t box with God. Your arms are too short. You have got to realize something else, too, and I don’t like to talk about this one. I don’t dig talking about this next one but I have got to tell it to you. We have got to realize also the search will end one day. The search is going to end. This is an extremely unpopular verse.
Jesus said in Luke 13:25, “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”
“Well, Ed, wait a minute. I can become a Christian anytime I want to, right? I might wait until I do this, or I might wait until my deathbed.” You can’t become a Christian anytime you want to. Where do you get that in the Bible? It’s not there. Only God knows. You have a certain number of times, a certain number of opportunities. This might be your last chance ever to become a Christian today. I don’t want to sound morbid, but it could be. You might have fifty more times to become a Christian. I don’t know. God is a patient God. He wants everyone to come to repentance, but he is not going to sit there and lean on that staff forever. One day, the Bible says, he will shut the door, end of the hunt, end of the party. We will plead, “God, let me in.” It will be over.
Bartimaeus was a blind beggar. He lived in Jericho. One day, Jesus was walking through Jericho. He heard the clambering and the crowds, and he began to yell and scream to Jesus. I’m sure people said, “Bartimaeus, shut up. He has more important things to do than talk to you.” Yet, Christ stopped, looked at Bartimaeus, healed him and saved him on the spot. For a second, put yourself in Bartimaeus’ sandals, in his situation, in Jericho on the dusty streets begging. What if Bartimaeus would have said, “You know what? I’m just going to wait until the next time Jesus comes through Jericho. I’m just going to wait. The crowds are there. It’s packed out.”
Read the gospels. That was the last time Jesus ever walked through Jericho. Maybe this is your chance. I don’t know.
Join the Search Party
We need to realize something else about this. I’m talking to those of us who are believers. We need to join the search party. If you are a believer, if you are a Christian, you don’t have any options here. We need to join the search party. Christ commanded us with these words in Matthew 28:19, “Go (in the literal language. If you read the Greek it means “as you are going”) and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus gave the responsibility to you and to me. Yes, it’s by his grace and his power. “Yet, we”—and I love this now—“can be tools in the hands of the Good Shepherd.” If you are a believer, you can be a tool in Christ’s hands. I love that.
One day, I am going to be held accountable for all the people that Christ has put in my path, all of the people. Because, you, sir, right there, you know people that I will never know. You, right there, know people that I will never know. I know people that you will never know. Christ has put them in our path for a specific reason. That reason is for us to be tools in his hands to convey the message of Christ with them. During judgment, Jesus will look at me and say, “Ed, okay, I put this person in front of you and you did a good job there. You were an instrument in my hands. But here, Ed, you weren’t prayed up. You were just thinking about yourself and you missed it.”
A lot of people don’t realize this, but a lot of Christians are going to hang their heads in shame and shed some serious tears, because they missed out on a lot of greatness they could have done for God. Are you ready to be a tool in God’s hands? Are you ready to be an instrument?
Let’s have some fun. If you are seated on the end, look under your seat. You will see a bag full of candy canes. Check this candy cane out because it is shaped like a shepherd’s staff, a long stick with a crook in it. You can be used, you can be that candy cane in the hands of the Good Shepherd if you are a believer. And so can I. We can be an instrument with the grace and the mercy of God. We can say like God is saying, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for until I found this person, that person, and that person.”
Think about this. Ask the Holy Spirit of God right now, just in your mind, just say, “Holy Spirit of God, you reveal to me one person, one person in my path that I need to share with, one person that I need to use this shepherd’s staff as an instrument in the hands of the Good Shepherd to bring them to Jesus.
Who? Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe the Holy Spirit is saying it is a spouse, a friend, maybe someone you go to school with, maybe someone you knew a long time ago. I don’t know. Who is God putting on your heart right now? Invite the person. Together, we can win this Dallas/Ft. Worth area to Christ. You heard the song? You heard the song of the Good Shepherd, of the woman who has lost a coin. You heard the song that you should sing as a Christ-follower, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for,” until I found you.