“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need to repent… In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7 & 10, NIV).
On Sunday, September 25 , I am beginning a five-part sermon series that focuses on Biblical guidance that helps us to discern the will of God. I have titled this series “Remember the Goal.” So, spoiler alert. As I address this topic in this article, I will reveal a few of the points in this upcoming series.
The 15th chapter of Luke is comprised of three familiar parables (that is, descriptive stories) told by Jesus: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (or prodigal) son. The parable of the prodigal son is probably the most familiar of the three, but it is the only one of the three in which the lost object (a person in this case) was not actively sought. The prodigal son gets to the end of his rope, recognizes his sin, humbles himself to return to his father’s household as a servant, and is welcomed home by the welcoming, outstretched arms of his father. We get the message: God welcomes every repentant sinner returning home.
In the other two parables, the shepherd hunts his lost sheep until he finds it, and the woman searches diligently for her lost coin until she finds it. Afterwards, they each invite their neighbors to “rejoice with me.” As verses 7 and 10 tell us, there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents – when a person sheds the bondage of self- centeredness, humbles himself/herself, and believes in Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior. Because God wants willing, humble, and repentant citizens in His Kingdom, He waits for us to respond to His outstretched, loving arms. Yes, He waits for our response, but He is not helpless or idle while He waits. God has a goal – a goal so significant that we need to remember it whenever we ponder the will of God.
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15- 16). God is holy; we are not. Only God has the authority to define holiness; we do not. Holiness cannot abide the
presence of unholiness (or unrighteousness). God’s goal is to make us holy. The series will expand the reason and the means for this; for now, though, the summary version is that God has made available the only means possible for anyone to “be holy.” As expressed in the Bible, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Without the forgiveness of sin by the sacrificial cleansing blood of Christ, we cannot stand in the holy presence of God. After we are cleansed from sin through the washing by the blood of the Lamb, God continues to purify us – to set us apart for His divine purpose. The goal of God is to make us holy so that we can enter into the His presence and worship before His throne.