18th November 2023

John MacArthur shares
Heaven's Joy Recovering the Lost



What makes God rejoice?

the answer is:
When the lost are found.

The great message of this chapter is: Heaven rejoices greatly, heaven celebrates when a sinner is saved, when a lost soul is found and recovered and restored.

As we look at this great text, we can examine our own life and test ourself and ask the question:
Am I closer to the attitude of Jesus and, therefore, to God, or am I closer to the attitude of the Pharisees and the scribes in the very opposite direction of God?

We don't often think about God's joy.

"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

Jesus is talking about joy in heaven, God's joy.

Joy is a part of our lives. We know joy. We experience pleasure, delight, joy, laughter, happiness. Where did it come from?

Well, it had to come like everything else, from the Creator, the source.

Let me take you on a little bit of a preparation trip if you will allow me.
Go back in the Old Testament to the book of Deuteronomy.

He's saying, some day when we wake up and take a look at the curses that we have endured,
"and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity and have compassion on you and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.

What brings the Lord joy?

That's exactly the point of Luke 15. It's a very convicting chapter. It is, in many ways, a devastating chapter.

It's the story of heaven's reaction when the lost are found.
The first story is the story about a lost sheep. The second story is about a lost coin. And the third story is about a lost son.
All three follow the same pattern: lost, sought, found, restored, and celebrated.

How do I understand these stories?
One is about a shepherd. He has 100 sheep. One is lost, he leaves the ninety-nine, he goes and gets the one, he brings it back, takes it home and they have a party.

Whatever it meant, exactly, no less and no more, to the people to whom Jesus said it, is exactly what He intended it to mean to us and to every generation and every language and every culture since and until Jesus comes.

Now, that sets a challenge for us.

You take the people in modern times and put them back in the Bible.

That is the only legitimate way to ever interpret the Scripture because whatever it meant to them is exactly what it must mean to us.

And since there's such a huge gap between us and them, time, culture, society, we've got to reconstruct that so we know exactly what Jesus meant when He said it, to the people to whom He said it.

As always, the first layer is a story that everybody can identify with.
They all knew what shepherds were.
They all knew what shepherds did.
That's why He talks about shepherds.

The second layer is the ethics.
And there always is in these parables an ethical issue, an ethical issue that everybody would understand.
The ethical issue in the opening story is: Did the shepherd do the right thing in leaving the ninety-nine in the open pasture to go and find the lost sheep, pick it up, bring it back, restore it?

Did he do the right thing? That is the ethical issue.
The parables always have ethical issues.

Those two things get the people drawn into the story and force them to come up with some kind of an ethical response.

Then you come to the third layer, which is theological.
And this is where Jesus moves them from what they do understand to what they don't understand.

What are the theological implications of a of a shepherd finding a sheep?

And then usually, the fourth layer is Christology.
Where is Christ in this?

Now, you're going to see that and it's profound and powerful and magnificent.
You miss all of this if you don't go through the clarity process to get back into the context.

In all these parables I think our Lord hits the high point.
And I will give you this; they are gospel parables. OK?
They are invitations to salvation.

They really are.
They're about salvation.
And just telling a story about salvation, about being lost, being found, being restored and being celebrated by God, the angels and the redeemed, just telling that story in itself is an invitation for others to participate in that great reality.

The Pharisees wanted nothing to do with anybody in these categories.

The tax collectors were the worst because Rome was the occupying power, Gentile, idolatrous, and the Jews despised the Roman occupation, and tax collectors were Jews who had bought tax franchises from Rome to extort money out of their own people to fill the coffers of Rome.

The attitude of the Pharisees was that they were so pure and so holy and so righteous that they couldn't get near these people for fear that these people would somehow pollute them.

They were so worried about pollution that they didn't even take the law of God to the people who needed to hear it.

What were Jesus' last words? "He who has ears to hear" what?
"let him hear."

Who was hearing? The outcasts, the riff-raff, the sinners, the tax gatherers.

This is more than a Pharisee can possibly bear. So they protest.

And Jesus knows that this is a million miles from the heart of God, that God finds His greatest joy when an outcast sinner is saved.

God finds His greatest joy when the lost is found and restored.
And these Pharisees know nothing of God and nothing of God's heart.

How far away are you from the heart of God?

You see, this is typical of Jesus' parables.
The story...and they get then...Then He gets them to chime in on the ethic and then they're dead. Then the knife goes in.

And that's what we're going to see.
They protest and they complain and Jesus unmasks them as being very different than God.
One sheep out of a hundred, one coin out of ten, one son out of two.

Maybe that's why the stories flow that way.
We don't know. The sheep is dumb and helpless.
The Father is always the seeker and He finds the one whom He seeks.

And heaven always celebrates.
This is the joy of God in salvation, the joy of God in recovering the lost.

The big message to leave you today is that I trust that in the process God is going to draw you closer to His heart so that you begin to find your joy where He finds His joy, in the recovery of lost sinners.

This is an edited version. The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request

The launch of 'Grace to You'
came with little fanfare. Just a few months before Apollo 11 landed, John MacArthur arrived at a small church on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Spawning a media ministry that would stretch to every corner of the globe was out of the question-the young pastor's priority was simply to teach God's Word.
But one man in the congregation immediately saw an opportunity and acted.
Realizing some members were too ill to attend services, that church member began recording John's lessons.
That first tape contained a message titled "How to Play Church" and was the first resource produced by what would become 'Grace to You.'


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