One In Ninety-nine

Dear Brethren,

Some things hurt more than others.  I saw some folks after they lost their home in a tornado, and they were just happy to be alive.  It hurts to lose your home and property, but that is nothing in comparison to losing a loved one – because they can never be replaced.  Jesus wants us to realize that our brethren in the Church are our loved ones.

Jesus gave a parable about leaving the ninety-nine sheep, and going after the one lost sheep.   Someone accused me of doing just the opposite – leaving the "one" for safety and security of the ninety-nine.  I do not know how to defend myself, because I have not stopped seeking the lost ones.  It is like a game the kids used to like to play.  They would say, "You love me the most out of all the kids, don't you?"  And we'd play along and say. "Yes I do!"  And we would say it to each and every one of the children.

God loves us all – we know that – at least we’ve been told that – and we should know it.  Who is the "one" in the parable of the lost sheep?  Who are the ninety-nine?  The accusation made against me included the claim of having a double standard—one standard for brethren in the Church, and a different standard toward the billions of people who have not yet been called by God to be His children in the Church of God.  We need to understand what God’s intent is in this parable?

God has a standard for recovering the lost sheep – what is it?   “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he cometh home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep that 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.”  (Luke 15:4-7)

This parable speaks of the ninety-nine who have no need of repentance - they are doing just fine.  They are converted and living righteous lives.  The lost sheep is a sinner who is in need of repentance.  He was in the sheepfold and now is lost (John 10:1).  Jesus wants us to recover such a one.  This parable is not referring to someone in the world who has never been a part of the Church.  God, Himself, must call those when He is ready for them (John 8:44,65).  There is a witness and a warning to the world – but within the Church, we are our brother's keeper, and we must go after the lost sheep (Matthew 24:14).

What are the reasons and importance of saving the "one?"  Why is the sheep lost?  Did it leave of its own accord?  Was it stolen?  Was it hurt?  Was it confused?  Did it fall in to a trap?  How it was carried away is not the important thing – what is important is that it is lost and its life is in danger – that is the point.  Jesus equates the lost sheep with a sinner – who when he repents, "is found."  This is not referring to those sinners of the world who have never repented and been baptized.

When a little child goes running toward the street filled with traffic, or falls into the deep end of the swimming pool, a parent will instantly risk his life to bring the child to safety.  For true Christians, it is exactly the same.  We gladly lay our life down to recover or save a loved one.  We cannot of our own will convert someone in the world.

Where are the people today who will leave the ninety-nine for the one?  Jesus did it – He left the ninety-nine for the one - giving us the example that we must do the same.  What we need to understand from the Scriptures about this parable is this – it certainly is not optional.  It is a salvational issue.  We must do the same as Jesus did.  “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”  (John 13:15)

There are large Churches of God which have made it their policy, not to go after the lost sheep – even the ones they are responsible for scattering.  Their official policy is that the sheep must find their own way back.  Yes, it is a matter of pride.  "For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted."  (Luke 14:11)  This is a serious issue.

Why can it cost one his salvation?  The answer is because it is against God's will.  (Matthew 18:14)  This parable is not about sheep or children or people in the world – it is about us - it is about sinners.  “All we like sheep have gone, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 57:1)

“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

Who is the Good Shepherd"I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep...  I am the Good Shepherd: and know my sheep, and am known of mine."  (John 10:11,14) Who is the Chief Shepherd?  "When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."  (1Peter 5:4)  Who is the Great Shepherd?  "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant."  (Hebrews 13:20)

"How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."  (Matthew 18:12-14)


Sermon:  "One In Ninety-nine"