Several years ago my wife and I lived in small town rural Arkansas at the first church I pastored. Our oldest son, Josh, was about 3 and one Wednesday night as our Bible study ended I was sitting in my office just off the front door. To the left was a short hallway that had the ladies restroom in it and at the end the one room nursery. As the last few people were leaving I saw out of the corner of my eye Josh go down the hallway, no doubt to play in the nursery. About five minutes later having finished a few last minute things, I got up to leave. I immediately went down the short hallway to get Josh, only he was not there. I then looked in the ladies restroom and again, no Josh. As I came back up the hallway I asked my wife if she had seen him, she too had been looking for him. My heart rate immediately went up and a feeling of dread and worry came over me. Both of us began looking in each room in the building, calling out his name. After searching every corner I hit the front door at a dead run. The church was situated way too close to a state highway where cars sped by well in excess of the posted 55 MPH speed limit. I ran around the entire building frantically calling his name; again, no Josh. As I came running back into the building with tears in my eyes reaching for the phone to call 911something told me to look one more time in that ladies restroom. This time as I opened the door, I looked behind it and there stood my son with the biggest smile on his face, no doubt in his mind thinking he was doing so well at his impromptu game of hide and seek! I swept him up in my arms as a rush of emotions ran across me. Joy! Relief! There was no way I could be mad. My son who was lost, was found!
Do you think that is how God feels when one of His is found? I do. If you read the scriptures you will see in Luke 15 Jesus talking about the heart of God toward sinners. He first appeals to all the men in the crowd by saying, “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?” And all the men nodded in agreement. But then he says something unexpected in verse 7, “I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” Here Jesus uses the same word “sinner” that was used in verse 1 when he was accused of hanging out with “sinners”. He then appeals to all the women in the crowd by saying, “Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” And all the women nod in agreement. By the way, this was not what we think. She did not just lose pocket change. The silver coin was one of ten that made up the wedding necklace. It was of great value to her. You could say, “Or what woman who loses her wedding ring…” I have heard of walls being ripped out and plumbing cut to find a wedding ring! Then again Jesus finishes with the joy in heaven when one sinner repents.
And in case we still don’t get it, He says, “A man had two sons…” What a story! The younger wanted his inheritance and wanted it now. He left the father’s house, wasted all of it, found himself destitute (this is where we all are without God) and finally comes to himself and realizes that his father treats his servants better than he has it. So he goes home, all the while rehearsing his speech. (What father in their right mind would forgive and restore any son who did what he did.) He would only ask to become a servant. But wait!!! As he is still a ways from home his father sees him, runs to him, embraces him and immediately restores his found son. He then throws a party. No lecture, no “I told you so”, no conditions!! Just restoration and forgiveness.
That is God’s heart! That is grace! And it is offered freely through faith in Jesus!!!
“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB