A threefold parable of God’s redeeming love
In and through Christ we must be willing to be delivered of every spiritual mistake and self-will in the service of the Lord
How often children of God follow their own sinful heart, and that they act willfully while serving their Lord and Savior. Many Christians often do not ask themselves, whether they do walk and act in and by the Spirit of the Lord. How often is the Lord not saddened by the stubborn actions of many a child of God, because, tempted by one’s own deceitful heart, one over and over again tries to justify oneself before God and men.
Strikingly the Lord Jesus Christ tells us in this chapter, by means of three parables, of a spiritually mature laborer, and child of God, who also acts so willfully (and thus wrongly), but – we must give God alone all thanks for this – also of His redeeming love, whereby he is found again and brought back home (with God and His Church), because he let himself be found by that divine love!
The first parable: The lost sheep
LUKE 15 verse 1-7, “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
We read here about the redeeming love of the Son of God. In this parable the relationship between shepherd towards sheep is discussed. Some two thousand years ago the Savior gave His (earthly) life on the cross at Calvary; but now, by His resurrection in the NEW (divine and eternal) LIFE, He is united in the spirit with His spiritual Body, namely the Church, and all its members. He now is, for all eternity, united with humanity in the spirit, with all who have accepted Him in their heart as their Lord and Savior.
What is a shepherd without sheep; what is a head without the body? By (physically) dying and rising the Son of God, by His (Holy) Spirit, has become the Head of the Church, His (spiritual) Body. What is a vine without its branches? What is a bridegroom without his bride? By His death and resurrection, which brings us (and all who are willing) redemption – He forever entered into this wonderful relationship with those who sincerely believe. He sought this union with the (believing) person; this union is given Him (by the Father), and the joy over this must have been so immensely great that He was fully prepared to suffer the shame and death on the cross; and because of which He was able to meet this suffering courageously. He is the Prince of Life, but He put Himself under the heel of the prince of death to save mankind. He (voluntarily) surrendered to the power of darkness, to satan. Satan is (and remains) His enemy, but He voluntarily put Himself under his heel to save you and me, His Church, His Body and His Bride, by sharing the human body, vulnerable to sin (He, as the Son of man on earth, had a will of His own). The joy of these (spiritual) riches, He knew, would be great for Himself as well as for His Bride(church)!
The sheep in this parable is not a lamb, but a mature sheep in a (special) group of a hundred! This has a deeper meaning, for the number 100 can be divided in 2 x 50, whereby the number 50, seen in biblical light, is God’s code for the infilling with the Holy Ghost. These two groups of 50 sheep refer to God’s children and laborers of the so-called “Former Rain” (whereby is meant the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; see Acts 2:1-4), and those of the so-called “Latter Rain” (whereby is meant the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the end-time), which now is about to break through. Therefore, to keep it brief: this sheep belongs to the Bride-church. Thus, it is a Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit of God; a Christian belonging to the “elite corps” of Jesus! What made this sheep withdraw from the flock (the Church) and from its Shepherd? It had tasted the sweet relationship with Jesus; it had the sweet guidance to the green pastures of God’s Word, to the very quiet waters of the comforting communion with the Holy Spirit. What made it draw away from Shepherd and flock? What was the reason? Slowly, ever so slowly, and undetected by the unwatchful eye, the poison of sin penetrated little by little the heart, once purified by the blood of Jesus. By the cleansing in the blood of the Lamb of God, this heart used to live in fervent devotion for Jesus and His Kingdom. Clearly a fiery “first love” was present. But by the almost imperceptible penetration of sin that (spiritual) fire was quenched… Because of it the sheep inwardly went through a straying from the only and right way, so that it did not feel at home with the Shepherd and the flock. The self-willed ego-life again flourished… and because of it, it reached the point that it separated itself from the Shepherd and the flocks… All kinds of causes could be mentioned for this, but in fact they were all caused by a three-headed monster, namely by the (sin)monster of lust. This monster tempts with… a beautiful man and/or woman, and sinful enslavement to sex; with (pursuing) riches, or the worries and many activities of (daily) life; a self-willed labor for Jesus or pride; a desire for honor, fame and the applause of people.
We are not told why this sheep drew away from the Shepherd and the flock. What we do know, is that this three-headed monster will try carefully and resolutely to sneak into hearts which are devoted to God. And if it is successful, the self-centered life, in different areas of life, will surface again, and before one realizes what is happening, one (again) is a prisoner of some lust which leads to sin! Slowly, but surely, this force of sinful lust will then come and dwell in that life, and will force the human spirit to satisfy this lust; because of which the person, who at first was a servant of justice, now again has become a servant of sin.
One could also become disloyal to the Lord by following (the will of) another person, while that will in essence is contrary to the will of God. And that person could be: an essentially apostate minister, a friend, one’s own husband or wife. One could also idolize the minister, one’s own husband, wife or child, or another person, with the sad result that one automatically strays from the Savior because of this. For, if we no longer love Jesus Christ above all and everything (else), if we no longer give him the (seat on the) throne of our heart, but give that place to something or someone else, then all mercy will (have to) leave us, and we will lose the bond with His Holy Spirit and His Word. Then we will separate from the Shepherd and from the flock.
Nowadays we see many separate from the flock; they no longer visit the congregations. And, most assuredly, even if they claim the opposite, they have left the Shepherd. Their heart no longer is the property of Jesus; their heart does not have the first love for Him anymore, for if that were so, they, in spite of everything, would be found in the circle of the flock and, above all, at His feet.
Drawn away by lust and self-will the sheep strays further and further from the Shepherd and the flock, and becomes increasingly more entangled in the thorns of the wilderness of this life. But, alleluia (praise ye the Lord), there is One, Who came to seek that which is lost; the rescue operation initiates from Him, from Him personally. It comes forth from the compassionate heart of the Shepherd: “He leaves the ninety-nine and goes after that which is lost, until He finds it!” The Spirit of the Lord seeks for the lives of those who once belonged to His flock. He seeks them with His searching love: He calls them with a wonderful Word of grace. He goes to them, He approaches them, He calls them; He calls those whose hearts have almost been totally destroyed by sin. Blessed that sheep that responds to the call of the Shepherd. So many believers were lost in the wilderness of the earthly life. Some used to preach the Word full of fire themselves; namely the news of Him, Who died for us on Calvary, in order to give us a NEW LIFE here on earth, and ETERNAL LIFE in the Kingdom of God. But many did hear the call of the Shepherd (again), but did not respond; they stayed away and were lost forever! But this sheep was blessed, because it responded to the call of the Shepherd! It bleated, it called for help! Glory to Jesus! “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
Beloved, that is how it is when we respond to the call of that almighty Shepherd of Love. When we do, and in all sincerity say: “Yes, Lord, here I am, the lost and strayed sinner!”, then He will put us upon His shoulders. We do not have to take care of the homecoming, He will do that for us. He will rectify what we have spoiled (botched), without any reproach, if we confess our sins to Him (Proverbs 28:13). He it is Who will take us back to the safe circle of the flock (the Church of the Lord), whereby we will be one of the 100 (2 x 50) again. Glory to God’s great mercy! He it is Who carries us upon His shoulders, Who fills our heart with new joy and courage, whereby we receive strength to fight in the life of the cross (i.e. the dying process of our old life), and to enter into His Kingdom. It is Jesus Who will restore all things for us, when we again accept Him in our heart, because for Him all darkness must disappear. Then that same first love will be kindled again which made David exclaim: “For by Him I have run through a troop (with Him I will defeat [the army of] the enemy); and by my God have I leaped over a wall!” (2 Samuel 22:30; Psalm 18:29). It is God’s mercy when this first love is kindled (again) in our heart and life, but this first love must burn in each laborer of Jesus! O, that first love, the love for Jesus, that love that is so needed and necessary, also for the labor for Him. But, this first love must go together with the “fear of God“, whereby is meant the fear to again stray from God into the desert of sin of this life; the fear which keeps us alert to shut every little door and chink to satan that might cause us to stray again.
Beloved, let us maintain that first love. It burns in the hearts of those who have just discovered the great love and mercy of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. But do you still have this first love? For with all, who are not alert enough, who do not walk in the fear of God, this first love will gradually disappear, because of the powers of those monsters of lust and self-will. Therefore we must see to it that we remain in this first love, in the ardent love for Jesus. We must continue to feel this burning longing for Jesus in our heart and life. Even after thirty, forty or fifty years. For, however long we have walked (in faith) with Jesus during our earthly life, this first love must lead us, and must be the basis of our everyday life. This first love must be the motivation of all our labor, of all our speaking. It is the love wherewith we love God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. It is by this love that we can reach the final phase of our sanctification and our justification; whereby we will also experience that perfect love towards our neighbor; yes, even towards those who hate us! It is by this love for Jesus that we will stand as conquerors on the shores of the crystal sea (see Revelation 15:2).
This sheep then again returned to the flock; this child of God fortunately came back again in the circle of his brothers and sisters; in that circle where he can love his Lord and Master and can serve Him, because he has been delivered from all self-will and sinful lust! Glory to Jesus!
By E. van den Worm
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