Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” Luke 15:1-7

Today’s thoughts from today’s verses:

Pursuing righteousness for ourselves without demanding it of others is a very difficult thing but is essential to effective kingdom work. Others need to feel there is a climate of welcome, acceptance, and love in our presence. Similarly, others need to feel there is a climate of welcome, acceptance, and love in our corporate presence (church). This is the key to reaching the lost. When others know we really care about them they become receptive to the message of Christ and the life of righteousness He wants to bring to them. When we are offended by unrighteous lifestyles, convey our displeasure, and impose our values, we unnecessarily alienate the very people that need us and the message of Christ the most. The lost desperately need to be rescued but how we go about it makes all the difference.

Certainly, there was nothing wrong on Jesus’ part that resulted in the unrighteous people in our passage associating with Him nor was there anything wrong with Jesus associating with them. Granted there can be things that are wrong in having certain people associate with us and in turn our associating with them. Being a safe haven for a searching unbeliever is much different than running with them and participating in their sinful behavior. The Lord can so ground us in our relationship with Him that we become ones who do not waver in pursuing righteousness for ourselves as we, while not demanding that righteousness of others or being offended at their lack of it, welcome them, accept them, love them, and reach them with the message of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul says, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus.” Our association with Christ is totally His doing. There is nothing we could be or do that would make it possible for us to warrant our relationship with Him. This is because no one is more sinful than anybody else and all thoroughly need the forgiveness and cleansing He offers on the basis of the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross for all. Often the reason we find it difficult to associate with unbelievers and are offended at their behavior is that we harbor within ourselves some measure of personal merit for our being connected to Christ. This is self-righteousness and it is the very stuff that made hypocrites of the scribes and Pharisees and us if we do not let the Holy Spirit deliver us from it. Such a work of the Holy Spirit is crucial if we are going to be ones who effectively reach the lost.

Today’s prayer response from today’s thoughts:

Lord, I want to be one who truly loves the lost and welcomes them into the sphere of my life in anticipation of their return to the Lord. Deliver me from self-righteousness and mold me into a reaching, loving person who delights and rejoices in the salvation of the lost. Thank you for your amazing love that reached me and brought me home to you forever. Amen!