Monday, April 17, 2006


In Luke 15 we read that Jesus was criticized for “welcoming sinners and eating with them.” In response to that criticism Jesus told three great stories all in defense of hanging out with "sinners” - the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. All have the same punch line: God's heart is toward the lost.

The story of the lost sheep demonstrates that God's love is focused. As God looks across his sheep, his eyes run directly to the one who is missing. He is not fixated on counting the ones who are “already here.” 99% of his sheep were accounted for, but His eyes search for the lost one, the broken one. He's concerned for their well-being, safety, redemption and recovery.

The story of the lost coin shows us how God's love is persistent. He doesn't give up. He turns the place upside down to get at the object of his affection. He's knows the intrinsic value of each and every coin.

The story of the lost son makes it clear that God's love is unconditional. The father runs to his son when he is “still a long way off.” Dad doesn't even ask where he's been or what he's done, he's just glad to have him back in the family!

Standing by at the reunion of the prodigal son, is an older brother (a bit part that Christ not-so-subtly assigns to his religious critics). The older son is upset because he's been behaving himself, but the party is being thrown for the prodigal son. The wandering brother is getting the attention. How unfair can that be!?!

Bingo! It's not fair. It's grace. It's's unearned....yet it's given freely. The Bible says: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Our God is a God of grace. “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefit upon the undeserving,” says A.W. Tozer. God loves us in spite of who we are, not because of who we are.

It is our hope at CTK to treat people better than they deserve to be treated. That is certainly what God has done for us. We learn how to treat others by how God has treated us.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
- Psalm 103:8-13

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
- Ephesians 4:32-5:2

At CTK we don’t view failures as final. We have a culture of recovery. The sheep can come back into the fold. The coin can come back into the bag. The son can come back into the family. The sinner can be a son. The ruined can be redeemed, recovered, recruited, renewed and reproducing.

I’ve learned how to treat people because of how they’ve treated me.
- An employee at Ritz Carlton

That’s not to say that sin doesn’t bring consequences. But we are not looking to create unnecessary consequences for broken people. We know that sin carries it’s own “built in” spanking. Provided that someone is “pointed in the right direction” we want to run to them with love, acceptance, and forgiveness, even if they are “a long ways off.”

In the 1929 Rose Bowl, UCLA played Georgia Tech. Toward the end of the first half, Roy Riegels from Georgia Tech picked up a UCLA fumble and ran for the goal line. Unfortunately for him, he had been spun around in the scramble for the ball and was heading for the wrong end zone. A teammate chased him and tackled him from behind just short of scoring a touchdown for the other team. Georgia Tech could not move the ball, and punting from their own end zone, had the punt blocked. UCLA scored to take the lead just before the end of the half. The Georgia Tech locker room was silent at half time. “Wrong way Roy Riegels” say quietly in a corner with a towel over his head. Then Coach Price spoke. All he said was: “The same team that started the first half, will start the second half.” Not a big statement, but an important one for Roy to hear.

We all fall. We all fail. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Sin is anything in our lives (thought, word or deed) that is inconsistent with God's character or laws. Some of us have fallen farther than others, and created a bigger dust cloud. But we’re all sinners in need of a savior. There are people at CTK who have lied, cheated, stolen, hated, lusted, gossiped, been self-centered, unkind. You name it, we've done it. And that's why we're here. But our past is an inadequate predictor of our future. There is hope for the future and forgiveness for the past.

What statements can a church make that will communicate that there is a “second half”? Script a half dozen hope-filled statements that could be made.

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