Wow, thank you for all the sharings. You really filled my heart with a lot of gratitude. It’s good to have Sister Sarah back and Brother Abraham. He’s speaking at Pepperdine, so we missed you both. We look forward to hearing about how your trip was.
Father, we just give You all the praise for the testimony of Your children. You deserve all the praise. We give You glory for what You’re doing, even through difficulty. We pray for the Oh’s. We’re thankful that we could hear a testimony unexpectedly as their stay here got extended. Lord, we give You thanksgiving even in the midst of sickness and trials.
Lord, we thank You for what You’re doing in the Oh Family. We plead the blood of Jesus over Elaine, especially, and over Micah and Jaden. We pray that all arthritis be cast out in Jesus’s name. All seizures be cast out. Father, we pray for full healing. We don’t know if it’s going to be a natural process over time or supernatural, happening in an instant, but we trust that You are the Great Physician.
You know, You knit our bodies together in our mother’s womb. You know everything down to the DNA of every person we pray for. So Lord, we plead the blood of Jesus. We thank You that even through difficulties like this in life, You brought James to his knees. You spoke to him in such a tender way. So Lord, we thank You for that.
We thank You for Pauline, for her testimony. We thank You for using her in various places, through preaching, through her songs. We thank You for that song that You blessed her with, and how she is now being a blessing to the nations.
Lord, we want to seek Your face. We don’t seek Your handouts. We don’t seek the things that You do for us. We want Your presence more than anything else. We just want to be someone who can worship You in spirit and in truth. We want to be a priest who can praise You and thank You for who You are and bless Your holy name.
Thank You, Lord, for Matthew and the whole Kim family going to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. We praise You. You are the Creator. Lord, You remind us to put down technology, to go outside, just to see what You do in creation. And none of us has an excuse. Everyone who does this will know there is a God who created all the different species of plants, insects, birds, and even humanity. So Father, we praise You for who You are. You did this all for our enjoyment. We are the crown of Your creation. And so Lord, You gave this for our enjoyment and our pleasure.
We praise You. We pray that You would speak now as we share Your word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
I will shorten this. A one-line summary of this message is to enjoy God. Let’s just enjoy God for who He is and let’s be a blessing to others. And in order to enjoy God, in order to be a blessing to others, we need to have a clear identity as children of God. I’m going to share from Luke 15. It’s a famous passage. It’s almost like we don’t even have to read it. We know what it’s about. But I’m asking the Lord to give us fresh eyes to see this very familiar text.
Luke 15:1: “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him and the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’. So he spoke this parable to them,” (Luke 15:1, ESV).
I think it’s clear who the audience is. This passage is not about a non-Christian coming to faith for the first time. This is not an evangelistic sermon, although it can apply to a non-believer who comes to meet Jesus for the first time, and comes to faith and meets his Heavenly Father. It can be used in that way. But really, this passage is for veteran churchgoers like us.
It’s really for us and specifically is talking to the leadership, to the Pharisees and to the scribes. Unfortunately, these religious leaders don’t know the Father. They talk about the Father, but they don’t know the Father. And they don’t know their identity as children of God. They have their titles, they have their degrees, they have their praise of men, they have their standing in society. They have that going for them. But the very basic principle of being a child of God who actually knows the heavenly Father, it’s hidden from their eyes.
And we’ve been talking about conscience. I think conscience— again, I just want to keep talking about it until it really gets hammered in. The word for “conscience” has two root words; one root word is ‘together with,’ the other root word is ‘knowing.’ And this combines morality and spirituality. I think we make the mistake of just limiting the conscience to morality, because even a non-Christian can be more moral than any of us. Because God gifts all humanity, whether you’re a believer or not, with this gift of a good conscience. And that explains why even as a non-believer, you might be a very upright, upstanding citizen of society and not sin in very blatant ways, while Christians are still struggling in those same ways.
But the difference between a Christian and a true child of God… And I also want to distinguish a true child of God from a religious-minded churchgoer. The key thing is now, through a conscience, our spiritual awareness of God is awakened. And because of what Jesus did, now we are in His presence. We can worship the Father, as He seeks worshipers who can worship in spirit and in truth. You can come to Him honestly, as you are, like the Samaritan woman.
And when she met Jesus, Jesus told her everything about her and then she changed the topic to worship. And Jesus made it very definitive. It’s not church, it’s not where you go for worship. Are you a worshiper? It’s not this mountain, Gerizim. It’s not your mountain, Jews, in Jerusalem. It’s everywhere. You can have that kind of audience with God, wherever you are. This worship is in spirit and in truth, and it can happen anywhere, at any time.
And unlike these Pharisees, I think they understand morality. They understand that part of the conscience and it’s a partial conscience that’s functioning. But they are not aware of God’s presence. And so, they can talk about God and, in the end, like Jesus will say, I don’t even know who you are. That awareness of God is not there. There’s no connection. And so, that is what I want to speak to today.
These Pharisees and scribes, they are hyper moral and there’s nothing wrong with that in some sense because we don’t look at that and say, “Well, morality doesn’t matter because these Pharisees are all about rules.” Actually, morality does matter. It does matter that you’re an honest person. It does matter that you are not addicted to things. But are you just a moral person because on your own, you’re struggling to be moral? That’s a problem. That’s partial understanding.
A Christian is different. A child of God is different. The morality will come, but it starts with an awareness of God. You’re in His presence. You’re in the throne room of God. You’re seeking His face. And with that audience with God firmly in view, you’re fellowshipping with Him. You’re changing. Then the morality comes.
And so we don’t want to reduce Christianity to rules. And you may go to churches and they just have a lot of rules. And you struggle to try to obey these rules. You fail half the time. And then you wonder, “What’s wrong with me? I’ve been a Christian for 20 years. Why am I still struggling?” It’s because their conscience is only partially functioning. You need the other side. You need the spiritual component of being a worshiper of God.
Wherever, as a child, you boldly approach the throne room of God. And He is my Father.
And through the Spirit of adoption, you can call Him Abba. And you can abide in Christ. And this is a spiritual fellowship which a good conscience offers. Again, He is, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, the scribes, to morally hyper-religious folks. So He says in verse seven, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7, ESV).
This problem, which is not just a one-time issue, is lostness. What is the primary thing that Satan will attempt to trip us up in? He’s going to try to make us lost by us losing the most critical thing about us, which is our identity, the image of God. He is trying to rob us of that. It doesn’t matter if you were saved twenty years ago. If he robs this identity as a child of God, then you’re lost. It’s as if you have never met God before because that’s the spiritual state. He’s addressing this issue of lostness. Lostness is the problem.
There are three types of people in the church. There are those who are lost and know they’re lost. They are atheists. They are non-believers. They were just invited to church. They don’t understand anything yet and they’re just learning. They are lost, whether they recognize it or not. And if you try to talk to them, they would probably agree with you readily. Yes, they’re lost because they don’t see or agree with what you’re expressing.
Then there are the true children of God who are found and who remain connected with the Lord. And then there’s the most tragic case of the churchgoers, those like the Pharisees and maybe even those in leadership who are lost, but don’t even know they’re lost. And because they’re in leadership, what do they do to the sheep? They make them lost as well. Instead of the church members returning to their identities as children of God and growing into the fullness of the image of Christ, which is Jesus Christ, they try to mold you into their image. This is a crisis of identity.
If the leadership doesn’t know this, their teaching will perpetuate lostness. And the longer you stay, you’ll become further lost and you won’t even suspect that anything is wrong. That is the most tragic person in a church. Because Jesus makes it incredibly clear. There are people in the church who believe they don’t need to repent, who don’t suspect they’re lost, who think they are quite found and they’re preaching about the things of God while they don’t even know God. This is what Jesus is trying to address.
It refers to the lost sheep in verse 4. What man of you, having a sheep? What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them? That’s Luke 15:4. And then Luke 15:8: “Or what woman, having 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin?” Or Luke 15:11-12: “Then he said, ‘A certain man had two sons and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.”
This is a clear text about lostness. You have the lost sheep. You have the lost coin. I don’t want to even call them the prodigal son. Let’s just call them the lost son. Because if you’re lost, yes, you will become a prodigal son. You will get lost in something. But this is a chapter about those who are lost. So, let’s agree. This chapter is about lostness. They’ve lost something critical, their identity.
What does a Father do? He searches for that which is lost. He sends Jesus our Shepherd to go after that which is lost. And here is what it says about the pursuit or this searching, the second half of Luke 15:4: “Does he not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4, ESV)
Or in Luke 15:8, the woman who’s searching for the coin, “Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” (Luke 15:8, ESV)
And, this is not in the text, but I suspect the hidden figure of this last part of the parable, the lost son. How does this son get found? I suspect Jesus, the Shepherd, is going after this lost son, as He did for all of us. And when Jesus finds him, it says in Luke 15:17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father.'” (Luke 15:17, ESV)
So the problem is lostness. The Father sends Jesus, the Shepherd, to find that which was lost. And it’s a careful search. He does not give up. He goes after you and me until He finds you. And as sheep tend to do quite often, even though we were once found, don’t we get lost again? Because we lose our identity. I think the longer you’re at church, the greatest danger for you and me is that we become lost and we don’t realize it.
It is my testimony. I was lost for 20 years and I was serving the church. I even got ordained as someone who was lost. Can you imagine? How can somebody serve the church become ordained while being lost? That was my story.
But Jesus is so persistent that He doesn’t leave one of His sheep lost. He will leave all the others who think they don’t need to be found. All those who think they don’t need to repent. He will leave the religious people behind. But He will go after His sheep who are lost until they are found. And that is my story. It’s not because I’m so clever that I figured out how to be found again. It’s because Jesus was so persistent that He found me. Even as a lost pastor, after 20 years He found me and I bet some people here can testify while you are lost, even while sitting in a church, He found you again.
What did I lose during those 20 plus years of being lost? I lost my identity. I lost my identity. So God is bringing us back to just fundamental things. And it’s strange, it speaks of this lost son. It says he came to himself. It’s such an odd expression. It’s like you’re you, but when you’re lost, it’s like your identity is so broken that you’re not the same person. You don’t think the same way. And suddenly you come to your senses. It’s like you’re brought back to the beginning. You come back to yourself. It’s like I’m brought back now. How many years has it been? In my 30th year walking with the Lord, I’m brought back to the beginning of my being a child of God on the Berkeley campus. He found me. I called Him my Abba Father. I experienced the unconditional love of God. I didn’t have any pressure to lead the church or to serve in any way. I was just born from above and I just enjoyed those years.
And now God is bringing me back. It’s like I’m coming back to myself. It’s like my identity was shifted and changed. I didn’t even realize it. And now I’m brought back. Oh, I didn’t. I’m supposed to be a child. Oh, it’s like, of course, of course, this is what I should be. Of course. It’s like I’ve come to my senses.
That’s what Jesus does. If you’re born from above, that’s where you belong. And that’s what you see in this story. The sheep belongs to the shepherd. The coin belonged to the woman. The son belongs to the father. It’s like I’ve now I belong. It’s like I didn’t know for 20 years. I lost my sense of belonging to the Father. And He was a stranger to me. And Jesus was just an idea that I preached. And I didn’t belong.
And when I came on Sunday, it wasn’t a safe place. It was a ministry place. It was a workplace. It wasn’t something I necessarily looked forward to. But now it’s like, oh, I’m coming back to where I belong. And this happens throughout the week. It doesn’t just happen on a Sunday. So when we gather on a Sunday, we celebrate our belonging that’s been happening all week. And we just celebrate the goodness of the Lord. And He’s done this, just met me and reaffirmed His love for me. And I’m a beloved child of God. He didn’t necessarily answer prayers. But I have so much to share. May that be all of us on a Sunday. We gather with that kind of eagerness to share the goodness of the Lord. I met Him. I saw His face. I believe His Word more than I did last week. I am a child of God. I am saved. Our identity is brought back to the forefront. I am a child of God.
This lost son, he lost his identity. It was an identity crisis. Sometimes we get lost and it’s our fault. We chase after an idol. And we end up lost. A lot of times, I think it’s the church’s fault. Unfortunately, I think a lot of time it’s the church’s fault. The reason why so many people in the church are lost and they don’t even know they’re lost, I think the pastors are at fault. They themselves are lost. They’re perpetuating the lostness.
If your church is led by a Pharisee, then it’s just rules. It’s burdensome. You’re going to get rebuked. You’re in trouble today. It is a fearful, condemning place to come to church if the church is led by a Pharisee. It’s my testimony that when I was part of such a church, my identity got shaped into that image. And then now I’m growing up under a heavy weight of guilt and condemnation. And then I am doing, I’m perpetuating it. I just say sorry to the Lord, sorry to anybody if I did that to you. That’s not how it’s supposed to be in God’s church.
This chapter begins with Jesus speaking to those who just spew out judgment. “This man, He’s eating with sinners. What’s wrong with this Jesus? He’s an uneducated, why are people following Him?” Such a, just harsh judgment. It starts with that. It ends sadly with the same judgment. It ends sadly with the same thing. The older brother is a Pharisee. This chapter ends how it began. It ends with a Pharisee.
This older brother does not know the Father. He’s in the Father’s house. The Father’s literally next to him. He’s serving the Father. He’s doing chores all day long. He can’t rejoice that his younger brother was lost and now is found (Luke 15:32). He doesn’t have the Father’s heart. He’s actually annoyed that the son is welcomed by a party. He’s angry. He’s dutiful. He says, I’ve obeyed everything (Luke 15:29). He’s a Pharisee among Pharisees.
So you have to see, what is Jesus doing here? He’s exposing hearts of the Pharisees. Hyper-moral. Hyper-religious. Not in the presence of God. And because they are not in the presence of God, their heart doesn’t change. They don’t know how to bless others. Instead, they just judge others. They’re angry and annoyed at others all day long. This is the heart of somebody who is lost.
You know that you’re in God’s presence because praise starts overflowing. You know you’re in God’s presence because it doesn’t matter if you had the lousiest week in terms of your circumstance. There’s still thanksgiving on your lips. You know you’re in God’s presence when church members, who resemble the Pharisees, say things they should not say at your work, maybe even in your family. Perhaps the person is the waiter at the restaurant. Maybe they said something and you react, so annoyed. Instead of blessing them, instead of having pity for them, instead of saying, “Oh, they don’t know their Heavenly Father. Otherwise, they wouldn’t talk like this. I should pray for them.”
Instead of reacting that way, you react like this elder brother’s son. He doesn’t have the Father’s heart, although the Father’s literally next to him. It’s like the Pharisee who stands in front of a synagogue on a Sunday and says, “Thus saith the Lord. I will speak on behalf of the Lord.” And it’s their lips, it’s just lip service. Their hearts are far from the Lord. They don’t even know the Lord.
How can we bless other people, people who don’t deserve it? It’s when, as a child of God, you get into His presence, He starts changing you and you encounter people who don’t have God’s heart, who don’t know the Lord as well as you do. And they say things they should not say, like the Pharisees to Jesus. And Jesus’ heart must have broken for them. “They don’t know the Heavenly Father, the Person they’re speaking about every Sunday.” And He must have prayed for them. He must have grieved for them. That is the Father’s heart.
What percentage of people in God’s church experience true fellowship with the Lord? If the first parable is an indication, it seems like it’s 1%. One out of a hundred. Could it be that low? Perhaps. I pray that in this place, 100%, we all learn how to be in God’s presence. By the sprinkling of Jesus, we have a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21, ESV).
And we are praising the Lord, aware of His presence, giving thanksgiving to His holy name, and out of the Father’s heart, being a blessing to other people, mainly through our lips.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, thank you for reminding us about our identity. No matter what titles this world gives, or even the church gives, we’re all children of God. And through the finished work of Jesus, we have access to the Father, the throne room of heaven. As priests, we give You praise, thanksgiving from our lips. And we bless other people, even those who don’t deserve it.
We pray, Father, that not just Sundays, but every day we can be in Your presence. We thank You for what the blood of Jesus accomplished, which all the other Old Testament sacrifices could not accomplish: a good conscience, not just morality, but spirituality. We can be in Your presence, not just Sundays, but every day. Not just a high priest, but we can enter the holiest of all, anytime through the blood of Jesus. Thank You, Lord, for making a way for us. We pray that You change us.
Father, we pray for Your heart, especially for Your church. This parable is not for the lost non-believer. This is for the lost in God’s church. And so we want to pray for the 99% who may be lost in God’s church. We pray that You would find them, Lord Jesus, as You did for some of us throughout our spiritual pilgrimage. You found us. We pray You would find us again. You find all the 99% who are lost, who don’t know they’re lost. We pray that You reach them as You reach some of us.
Through dreams, visions, through Your Word, through conversations, through circumstances, I pray all people will be brought to their knees, that a growing percentage in God’s church will be found and stay found. We thank You that our identity is not as a servant, someone who serves the church, but as children, sons, and daughters. The lost son and the lost older brother, they thought their identity was a servant. No wonder they were lost.
Even as the lost son was returning home, he thought he would be welcomed back as a servant, and You surprised him. No, he’s welcomed as a son. He doesn’t deserve it, but he’s welcomed back as a son. That is our identity. So Lord, we pray that we would serve you, Lord, yes. But Lord, that is not our main identity. We are not servants. We’re sons and daughters.
Thank You, Lord, for reminding us. Thank You for Jesus dying on a cross, allowing Your blood to be shed and Your body broken. Thank You for Your body. The remembrance every time we partake in the Lord’s Supper. Thank You that we can remember and fellowship with You in a supernatural way that we can’t fully comprehend every time we partake in the Lord’s Supper. Thank You, Lord. We pray that You meet us as we close this service. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen