A Passion for EVANGELISM

A Passion for EVANGELISM

“A Passion for Evangelism”

(Luke 15)

Series: The Pursuit of Passion

4-16-06 (AM) (3 of 5)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Church Henderson, KY

  • ·         Please take your Bibles and open to Luke, chapter 15.


The Easter story is about more than an empty tomb.  This morning we have sung and celebrated the truth of the empty tomb.  We have heard the passage from the Gospel of Matthew, about how the women came to the tomb there and found it empty.  We heard again about the angel who told them, “He is not here.  He has risen, just as He said.”


But why do we celebrate Easter?  What’s so significant about a man named Jesus of Nazareth dying and then rising from the dead on Sunday?  How does all this apply to us?  Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about in the next few moments we have together.


You see, Jesus Christ was born, died, and rose from the grave, for one main reason.  Jesus tells us that reason later in this book where He says in Luke 19:10, “I have come to seek and save that which was lost.”  That’s the whole point of Easter.  God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He dies on the cross for us, taking our sin upon Himself.  He takes our punishment for sin upon Himself.  He dies for our sin.  And He rises on the third day, on Easter Sunday.  His rising from the dead demonstrates that He has power over sin, death, hell, and the grave.  So Easter is about His coming to us, dying for us, and rising for us.  He has come to seek and save those who are lost.


So this morning when we talk about Easter we are talking about evangelism.  The word evangelism means good news.  It means telling the good news to those for whom Jesus Christ came.  Easter is significant because without Jesus Christ, we are lost.  We are separated from God and full of sin.  That’s the bad news.  But God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He lives and dies and rises for us.  That’s the good news.  Jesus has come to seek and save those who are lost.


In Luke 15, we have the Lord Jesus Christ explaining this truth to us in story fashion.  He tells three stories, the story of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.  I want to look at these three stories He tells so that we can appreciate the meaning of Easter and renew our passion for evangelism.  Easter and evangelism go together.  Before we look at the stories, let’s read the first three verses to establish the context, the reason, Jesus told these stories.


  • ·         Please stand in honor of the word of God.


1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So He spoke this parable to them [one parable with illustrations, lost sheep, lost coin, lost son].


  • ·         Pray.




I said a moment ago that Easter and Evangelism go together.  And they do.  When the women went to the tomb 2,000 years ago they expected to find it occupied.  Instead, they were shaken by a violent earthquake when an angel rolled the stone away and invited the women to come inside and check-out the fact that Jesus was not there.  They are totally surprised and the Bible says they hurried away from there “afraid yet filled with joy” and went and told others.  On the way back they encounter the risen Lord Jesus Christ Himself and again, the mission is “Go and tell.”


So Easter and evangelism go together.  Coming to a worship service on Easter Sunday is a bit like the women coming to the empty tomb.  We celebrate with them the fact that Jesus is risen.  Similarly, leaving the worship service should be like the women leaving the empty tomb.  We leave in order to tell others the good news of the Gospel.  So it’s fitting that we are looking at the third reason we exist as a church body on Easter Sunday.  The first Sunday of this month we looked at worship.  The second Sunday of this month we looked at ministry.  Now this morning we are looking at evangelism.  And we’re asking God to renew our passion for evangelism.


And so I want us to see how we can renew our passion for evangelism this Easter Sunday.  In Luke 15 Jesus tells us how Easter applies.  Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost and He seeks and He saves through the work of the body of Christ, through the church.  So He gives us a few actions to take as we turn our hearts to evangelism, as we apply the Easter message.


  • 1. Remember to Love the Lost (1-2)


Lost people are those who have not yet become followers of Jesus Christ.  That’s who the lost are.  All of humanity divides into two categories: Lost and Found.  That’s it.  Only those two categories.  You’re either one or the other.  There is no in-between.  You’re either lost or found.


John Newton wrote of this truth in what has became perhaps our most favorite hymn:


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind, but now I see.


Now remember that Jesus Christ came to seek and save those who are lost.  The religious people of Jesus’ day had a problem with that.  Can you believe it?  They didn’t appreciate Jesus’ hanging out with the riff-raff.  That’s what we read there in verses one and two:


1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”


The religious people complained!  They didn’t like Jesus’ hanging out with lost people.  They complained.  They spoke negatively about Him.  With contempt in their hearts they said, “This man welcomes sinners.  He even sits down and eats with them.”


Jesus loved the lost.  Remember, that’s why He came.  He came to seek and to save those who are lost.  He loved the lost.  He spent time with the lost.  It showed that He loved them.  He didn’t expect lost people to act like found people.  He didn’t expect blind people to act like those who could see.  He loved them by spending time with them and it was through His spending time with them that they felt loved and were drawn to His saving power.


How many of you think this principle of loving the lost applies to us today?  Can I see your hands?  Yeah.  We, too, must remember to love the lost.


What good is a church on Easter Sunday that doesn’t love lost people?  I read where Peter Lord, a good friend of Adrian Rogers, had a church in Florida and over the portals of the doors of that church is a sign that reads, “Sinners Only Welcome Here.”


Yet, too many churches continue to act like the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day.  They expect people to clean themselves up before becoming a follower of Jesus Christ.  Get your life in order first.  Clean up your act and then you can become a Christian.  That’s backwards, like trying to clean fish before you catch them.  Lost people are supposed to act like lost people.  Every Christian was once lost and acted like a lost person.  We must remember to love the lost.


How can First Baptist Church remember to love the lost?  Start by remembering that you once were lost.  Remember how you acted?  Remember what you used to believe?  Remember those things you used to do before you became a committed follower of Jesus Christ?  Yes, God has changed you, but you used to not be who you are.  So you love lost people like Jesus loved lost people.


The third story Jesus tells in chapter 15 pointedly illustrates the attitude of the Pharisees and scribes.  I won’t read the whole story because most of you know it.  It’s the story of the prodigal son.  But we often forget that there are two sons in the story.  There is the son who is lost, acting like a lost person, running away from his father with a bunch of money and spending it on wine, women, and song—acting like a lost person.  He repents and he comes home to his waiting father.  A celebration takes place.  His father kills the fatted calf and they feast and party.  It seems like a happy ending, but not exactly, because not everyone is celebrating.  And who is this person who is not celebrating?  A self-righteous, self-centered Southern Baptist!  Well, actually we don’t know his religious affiliation, but this other son of the father, the elder brother, sure is full of himself.  He says in verses 29-30:


29 “So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.

30 ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’


Hear the self-righteousness in that?  “I never transgressed your commandment at any time.  I am a good person.  I didn’t waste your money on parties and prostitutes.  Look at me, how good I am.”  Jesus told this story to remind the Pharisees and scribes to love lost people.


Remember to love lost people no matter what—no matter what they look like, no matter what they act like, no matter what they say, no matter what they do, no matter what kind of music they listen to, no matter how they dress, no matter what kind of language they use, no matter what they believe.  And when you find yourself arguing against this whole idea of loving the lost, ask yourself whether you are acting like one of the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day.


Remember to love the lost.  Secondly,


  • 2. Resolve to Look for the Lost (4, 8, 20)


We look for things we love.  We look for things we love.  Jesus tells these three stories now to illustrate the fact that we look for things we love, for things that are important to us.  So we have the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.


4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?


8 ” Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?


Then, there’s a little twist in the third story.  When one of the father’s sons runs away the father doesn’t chase after him, but he looks for him nonetheless.  Verse 20 tells us that when the son returns to his father, his father saw him “when he was still a great way off.”  That means the father was looking for him, waiting for his son, looking down the road probably every day, looking to see if his lost son returns.


We look for things we love.  Remember that Jesus is telling these stories to illustrate the Father’s love for the lost.  God loves lost people like a shepherd loves a lost sheep, like a woman loves a lost coin, and like a father loves a lost son.  We, too, must remember to love the lost and we must resolve to look for the lost.


Jesus says a shepherd will leave 99 sheep to go after one lost sheep.  That’s love.  A business person might say, “Hey, you’ve got 99.  The loss of one sheep is just a 1% loss.  Cut your loss and be thankful for the 99.”  But the shepherd leaves the 99 and goes after the one because we look for things we love, we look for things that are important to us.


Jesus says a woman will look for a lost coin because we look for things that are important to us.  Some scholars think this woman’s lost coin was part of a headband of 10 coins that married women wore.  It may be.  The text doesn’t say.  The point is that this silver coin was important and we look for things that are important to us.  She lights a lamp—remember there was no electricity in those days; when it was dark, it was dark—she lights a lamp, gets out a broom and carefully sweeps the floor, probably sweeping one time and then getting down with the lamp and looking.  Then she sweeps again and gets down on hands and knees, looking for the lost coin.  We look for things we love.


Sometimes we look for things we love and we don’t find them.  I remember when Michele and I were engaged in Atlanta and she lost her engagement ring.  We searched and searched for that ring.  We traced over her steps throughout Georgia State University and looked for that ring.  We spent hours upon hours searching for that ring and never found it.  Then I, too, lost a ring.  A couple years later I lost my wedding band.  I was working landscaping at the time and became convinced I planted it in someone’s yard.  I got a metal detector and searched and searched, but never found it.  So we both lost something that was very important to us and we searched and searched.  And even though we didn’t find those rings, we were persistent in our search.  Neither one of us felt like (looking down at our hand), “Well, what do you know, I lost a ring . . . oh well!”


We look for things we love, for things that are important to us.  Jesus teaches that we should resolve to look for lost people the way we look for other things.  Just as a shepherd looks for a lost sheep, or woman looks for a lost coin.  That’s evangelism, resolving to look for the lost, being persistent in our efforts.


I remember when my friend Hershael York was with us a couple of years ago.  He came here and preached one Sunday morning and Michele and I took him out to lunch afterwards.  We were eating over at the Ponderosa.  And while we were eating there this young lady kept coming over to our table with hot rolls.  She would come by and ask, “Would you like a hot roll?”  We all said, “No thanks” and she went away.  She came back a few minutes later and asked again, “Would you like a hot roll?”  We said, “No,” and away she went.  I kid you not—that young lady must have asked us half a dozen times if we wanted a hot roll.  It got to the point where we were embarrassed and finally had to laugh about it and Hershael said to me, “If only our church members were as persistent in their evangelism!”


He’s right.  We must resolve to look for the lost and be persistent in our search.


I’ve told you all that our ministerial staff prays every Sunday morning at this altar at 7:30 AM.  Often, we are joined by other folks who are here.  And just about every Sunday Tootie Bourland prays with us.  Last Sunday he was praying for our community and he made a comment that struck me.  You remember how our community was searching for the bodies of those poor souls who drowned in the river.  Tootie was praying for the families, and so forth, and then he said, “Lord, help us be concerned for the soul before it goes into the water.”


And I had to wonder, “How concerned are we for souls?”  Communities are good at rallying behind folks in physical danger and so we should be.  We thank God for that.  But what about search and rescue teams for folks in spiritual danger?


That’s evangelism.  That’s what we do through our FAITH evangelism ministry here at First Baptist.  Like a band of search and rescue teams we go out into the community sharing the good news.  And just as the shepherd is not satisfied with 99%, and just as the woman is not satisfied with 99%, so we are not satisfied until every person in our sphere of influence has heard the good news and is presented the opportunity to become a committed follower of Jesus Christ.


And you can do that every day of your life.  You do that when you talk with your neighbors, when you talk with fellow students, when you talk with co-workers, when you talk with your family today during Easter dinner.


Remember to love the lost.  Resolve to look for the lost.  Number three:


  • 3. Rejoice when you Locate the Lost (5-7, 9-10, 20-24, 32)


When the lost are found there is rejoicing.  Look what happens when the shepherd finds the lost sheep:


5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

7 “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.


Look what happens when the woman finds the lost coin:


9 “And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’

10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Look what happens when the father finds the lost son:


20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.

23 ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;

24 ‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.


Whenever a lost person is located, whenever a lost person is found, there is joy in heaven.  There is a cosmic celebration in heaven.  Look again at verse 7 and verse 10.  Jesus says:


7 “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.


10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


A church is a vibrant church when the people get excited about what God gets excited about.  Can I say that again?  A church is a vibrant church, a powerful church, a biblical church, when the people get excited about what God gets excited about.  Some Christians act like they couldn’t care less about souls being saved.  You tell them someone got saved and they just look at you like you’re speaking in tongues.  You share a praise about sharing the gospel with someone and they just sit there like the old hymn, “We shall not be moved.”  A church is a vibrant church when the people get excited about what God gets excited about.


God is excited about evangelism.  There is rejoicing in heaven when a person is saved.  There is a cosmic celebration.  When you were saved all heaven rejoiced.  If you trust Christ today, there will be a party in heaven.


Conclusion / Invitation:


Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost.  He came for us.  He died for us.  He arose for us.  Some years ago I heard this song that moved me very deeply.  It’s about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep and going after the one lost shepherd.  I later learned it was sung by Ira Sankey, the traveling minister of music who accompanied D.L. Moody.  Dr. Moody had just preached a sermon entitled, “The Good Shepherd.”  After he preached, D.L. Moody then turned to Mr. Sankey and asked him to play something appropriate.  Ira Sankey remembered that he had this poem stuffed in his pocket so he pulled it out and lay it there in front of him on the organ and he improvised the tune that has remain unchanged to this day.


Stand with me and bow your heads as I read these words:


There were ninety and nine that safely lay

In the shelter of the fold;

But one was out on the hills away,

Far off from the gates of gold,

Away on the mountains wild and bare,

Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.


“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine–

Are they not enough for Thee?”

But the Shepherd made answer, “This of Mine

Has wandered away from Me;

And although the road be rough and steep

I go to the desert to find My sheep.”


But none of the ransomed ever knew

How deep were the waters crossed;

Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through

Ere He found His sheep that was lost.

Out in the desert He heard its cry,

Sick and helpless and ready to die.


“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way

That mark out the mountain’s track?”

“They were shed for one who had gone astray,

Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”

“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”

“They were pierced tonight by many a thorn.”


And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,

And up from the rocky steep,

There arose a cry to the gate of heaven,

“Rejoice, I have found My sheep!”

And the angels echoed around the throne,

“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own.”


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