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Going After The Straying Lamb

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I love to read the gospels,especially the parts where Jesus talks about sheep and lambs.Like most of you,when I hear the words “sheep” and “lamb” I immediately see images of fluffy,playful sheep and sweet,innocent little lambs.I doubt there are too many things more beautiful than that.

There is a special relationship that exists between the shepherd and his flock, one not unlike a man has with his own children.The shepherd is the caretaker,or protector of his flock.He is the one that the sheep depend upon for their very survival.

The shepherd is responsible for chasing away the hungry wolves who lurk on the outskirts of the flock,always waiting for an opening to rush in and seize his prize.The shepherd tends the wounded among his flock,gently nursing the hurting back to health.Without the faithful shepherd,the sheep would be scattered to the four winds and would eventually be either killed by predators or die of hunger or thirst.

In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus is once again teaching his disciples a lesson,and this time the lesson is all about going after the one that has wandered from the flock.This story paints a beautiful picture of the love of the shepherd for his sheep,and it is a portrait of Christ and His church.

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 “And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that [sheep] than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.   Mat.18:12-14  NKJV

What Jesus has done here is reiterate a very basic truth about the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep.Simply stated;if one sheep were to wander away from the flock, the shepherd must leave the rest to find it.No questions asked;that is his duty and his calling.To seek the one who has wandered is his solemn responsibility.This is the value the shepherd places on just one of his sheep.

This is a key point not to be missed:the shepherd places as much value on the one sheep as he does the entire flock.Have you ever wondered why this is?Why not stay with the ninety nine and just write off the one that wandered off on his own.After all,it’s just one sheep and the shepherd still has almost all of the original flock.So what’s the big deal about the one?

To a shepherd,a real shepherd,his heart is in his work.In fact,it’s all about the heart isn’t it?Because the shepherd’s heart is in his work,he has committed himself to them.To the outsider they’re just dumb animals,but to a real shepherd those sheep represent his heart.They represent his love for them.

Christ and the church are another type of Shepherd and sheep aren’t they?Jesus is often referred to as the Good Shepherd that gives his life for the sheep,an analogy that is easy to grasp.Jesus the Good Shepherd leads his flock to greener pastures,to a tranquil place from which to drink,and to a place of safety for the long night ahead.

Jesus,like the shepherd in the field,would stop at nothing to retrieve that one sheep that has strayed from the safety of the flock and bring it home to safety.His heart is in His work.

The straying lamb wants to come home,to feel once again the safety and security that he once knew.This world has a way of turning what looked to be so appealing into hell on earth,and many a lamb has succumbed to the enticements of others. What seemed to be the bright lights calling was no more than a mirage that deceives and binds us with cruel chains.

Perhaps you know one that has strayed,one that has drifted close to the outer edge of the sheepfold,ready to bolt.Maybe Jesus the Good Shepherd has been dealing with you about this particular one,urging you to be the caring and loving shepherd that they will respond to.

If this is you,would you please listen to that still small voice that is urging you to go after the one that has wandered?Would you open your arms to carry that wounded one back to the safety of the flock?It’s not hard,really it isn’t.

You would be surprised to know that to hear the sound of a loving shepherd calling out to him is all it takes to break every chain and free the straying lamb from his situation.

Pastor,Teacher,Worker,Saints of every description….there’s a straying lamb waiting to hear you say “come back home”.

So Let’s Talk About Love

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A God kind of love.

The kind of love that no one has the power to take from you.That love that instills every fiber of your being when you repent of your sins and you know without a doubt Christ is in you,and you in Him.

That kind of love.

The love that all of Hell trembles at. A difference making love.A separating kind of love.A redeeming love.

The kind of love that the devil cannot stand and would do anything in his power to rip from you.

And he will,if you permit him to do so.

Did you notice that? “If you will permit him to do so”. Satan cannot take it from you…but you can let him have it.

Somehow we in the church have believed a lie,a lie that says that Satan can’t take anything from us. That we are super saints,immune to his deceptions.

Have you ever thought of this?

Jesus wrote about this to one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation,the church at Ephesus.

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand,who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands: 2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent.

To this church Jesus had several encouraging,uplifting things to say.Who among us would not be thrilled to hear our Lord tell us that He knows our works,our labors,our perseverance? All of us would give just about anything to know that we were pleasing Him in some way!

But Jesus doesn’t stop there,does He?

Unfortunately for this church,this same Jesus that encouraged is also the same Jesus that must address something that has gone horribly wrong.Read again verse four:

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

First love? What is that?

The first love Jesus is referring to is the immeasurable love for God and man that floods our hearts when we turn to Jesus and repent.It’s that love that forgives all who have wronged us.It’s that love that washes our blackened hearts clean.It’s a vibrant love,an all encompassing love. A love so intimate that it cannot be experienced apart from Christ.

That’s the first love Jesus is referring to here.

Do you see how verse four is carefully worded? Jesus stated that this church had left it’s first love.That can only mean that at one time they had it,but now it’s gone.

Jesus went even further when He told them that they were “fallen”!They did not lose their first love. That would be different. They left it. And because they did this they are described as “fallen”.

How is this possible you ask? They left their first love which means they intentionally gave it up! Who would do such a thing? How could anyone do this? To go from a “first love”experience to “fallen” almost defies the imagination!

Many times I have heard it said of someone who has left the church that they lost their first love. That they had rejected Christ and turned back to the world.Likely you know of people like this as well.

But there is a huge problem with saying that someone lost their first love: it’s not true!

It cannot be true because Jesus said that they have left their first love. Big difference!

Having left their first love describes a willful act of disobedience. Not like “losing”your car keys,or “losing” a glove.Those things happen.

All of this brings me to the point I wanted to make,which is this:

If the Lord were to inquire of us,all of us,you and me us, as to whether or not we have retained our own “first love”,how would we answer Him? If He were to ask us if our love for Him and each other was just as strong,just as vibrant as it was when we first came to Christ,how would we answer?

Would we say to Him “I must have lost it someplace,or I thought I had it”? You already know what His response would be,don’t you?

You cannot lose your first love any more than anyone can take it from you.

But you can leave it.

So yes,let’s talk about love. Our first love.And doing everything in our power to keep it alive.By keeping the lines of communication open to Him….always.

Something to think about…