In the 15th chapter of Luke, we have some interesting stories comprised of some very interesting characters. This is the chapter of things that were lost and then found. In this chapter we can find that there is a sheep that was lost and was retrieved. There was a silver coin that was rediscovered and there was a son that was lost and then reclaimed. All three stories tell us of something or someone that was lost and then found.
This is of great significance to the child of God as it has a powerful spiritual application for us. Not only were things lost in the chapter, but every story has someone who cares enough to search and find and restore that which was missing. We hear all the time about how people “find Jesus” but in reality, it was Christ that found that them. You weren’t looking for God before you got saved. You were busy doing your own thing and being your own person. Admit it, before you got saved you couldn’t care less about the scriptures, the Savior, or the saints of God. You may have been seeking peace and truth, but that’s like trying to find the taste of pizza without trying to find pizza. The scriptures tell us that the purpose of Christ coming to this world and manifesting Himself in the flesh was to “seek and to save that which was lost.” You are saved today because Christ cared enough to seek you out and save your soul.
If you are saved, it is because the Holy Spirit of God came knocking at the very door of your heart and convicted you of your sins and showed you your need of the Saviour. Only then did you find the peace and truth that you were so fervently seeking. In John 6 are told that He will “in no wise cast out.” This means that not only does Christ seek us but He also promised that He would forgive our sins and cleanse our hearts and promised us a home in Heaven!
So it is easy for us to see how that the theme of the chapter is especially beneficial to the born again child of God. Now allow me to zoom in on a certain portion of the scripture and examine it a bit closer. In this chapter we have the widely familiar story of the prodigal son. Every bible teacher, pastor, evangelist, sunday school teacher and bible professor has at one time or another taught or preached on the prodigal son. I have preached from this story all over America. I have heard outlines on the prodigal son from evangelists and pastors in most every denomination. I have heard it preached that the prodigal was backslidden and I have heard others say that he was lost. Personally, I believe that he was backslidden and not right with the father. I have personally preached in many churches and to many congregations about this prodigal while comparing him to the modern day Christian and this is a needful and very accurate comparison. But as I look closer at this familiar story, I see another character that intrigues me and may even have a greater comparison to the modern day church than that of the prodigal.
This character is none other than the older brother. unfortunately, we often neglect to apply the principles and spiritual lessons that we can learn from this older brother. Upon further study, it is excruciatingly evident that there are many more “older brothers” in the church than there are prodigals. We are all so familiar with the happenings and the mistakes of the younger son that we have failed to see the actions of the elder son. If we could take a trip back in time and just simply observe and report the story from a third person point of view, we would see the older son as that responsible and hard working young man that every parent is proud of. He knew what was expected of him and he performed his duties without regards to pay or compensation. He simply did it because he felt that it was the right thing to do. This boy looks like a saint right now compared to his younger brother. While the younger brother is out sowing his wild oats, the older brother is busy at work on the farm. He has not failed to perform that which was expected of him while his younger brother continues to spoil the good name of the family with his dangerous way of living.
We all know that eventually the younger son comes to his senses and decides to go back home and work as a slave instead of as a son. Going back to our third person point of view we can see this worried father stepping out on the porch daily and looking far out on an old dust filled road wanting to see his boy coming down that road but all to no avail. Then one day he completed his daily morning routine and stepped out on the porch to look down that old dusty trail once more. This time he saw the figure of what he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt to be his youngest son. His boy had come back home! Oh how excited he was! He leaped off the porch and ran to meet his boy. The boy cried and repented and told his father how ashamed he was that he had lived such a wicked life and ruined the name of the family and then he told his father that he was not worthy to be called a son but wanted to work as a hired servant of his father. The ecstatic old man would have none of it! He called for the fattest calf to be killed and the best robe to put on him. He put a ring on his finger and new shoes on his feet and they began to rejoice and celebrate that the prodigal had come home!
This is where we begin to see the true colors of the elder son. This older brother didn’t like this rejoicing and this celebration. He considered his younger brother to be unworthy of such an occasion. He even told his father that it wasn’t fair that the younger son got a celebration while he continued to work in the fields. The father explained that he was celebrating the return of his son because he was lost and is now found but the older son would have none of it.
Unfortunately, this is the state of the modern day church. We have become so obsessed with the ministry that we have neglected to honour the God of the ministry. Perhaps we have become so obsessed with the church that we have turned the church into a god instead of serving the God of the church. There seems to presently be a mentality that borders on the belief that anything done for God has to take place inside the local church. Now I am not belittling the importance or the value of the local church. Scripture tells us that Christ gave His life for the church. All I am simply saying is that we have neglected to take the gospel to the streets and have kept it locked up within the confines of the local church. Just as the older son was too obsessed with the work of the field to recognize the value of the celebration of his brother’s return, we have become so obsessed with the happenings of the ministry and the local church that we have neglected to minister to those in the real world. Though we know that the biblical church is not the building but rather the body of believers inside the building, we have forgotten that the church is the last place to we need to be taking the gospel. You can take medicine to a pharmacy and discuss and learn about that medicine all day. As a matter of fact, knowing and learning about the medicine is an integral part of helping people. But nobody will ever receive any help if the medicine is never offered to those who are sick. The same concept is true of the church. Jesus said He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Christ Himself said that they who are not sick do not need a physician. He came to call sinners to repentance. We are faithful as clock work to the church and its services and that is great, but what about the person next to you in the grocery store? What about the coworker you work along side of every single day? What about your neighbor that you watch the game with and have barbeques with? Have you told them the gospel? Have you told them that Jesus loves them, died for them, and wants to save them? We’ve become so obsessed with growing the church that we’ve neglected to meet the spiritual needs of our own local community. There is presently a disconnect between the church and society and it is largely due to the neglect on the part of the church. We must not forget that our purpose here as a born again child of God is not build a big ministry or even compete with other ministries. Believe it or not, the world can see right through that front being put on by many christians. They can tell if you are real or not. The ministry is not a competition but rather a journey.
Ask yourself daily “what can I do today to impact somebody for the glory of God?” This may be accomplished at work, at starbucks for your morning latte, during your lunch break or maybe as you meet someone in the grocery store. Being a christian is not a career or a part time job. It is a life long journey and way of life. Christ didn’t just halfway pay for our sins on Calvary so we shouldn’t give Him half hearted service by only serving Him during church services. Going to church is like going to the gas station. You receive a spiritual fill up while at church so that you can leave the church and go out into the world and society and make an impact for the cause of Christ.
So every morning as we face another day, may we not have the mindset of the prodigal’s older brother and kill the celebration of someone receiving Christ into their hearts simply because we are too concerned with the ministry to minister.