“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” — Luke 15:4
The entire ministry of our Lord Jesus is an eloquent commentary upon the heart of God and the worth of a single man. With Christ it was the cry of the individual rather than the weight of the crowd that mattered–the one lost sheep, the one lost coin, the one prodigal boy, the woman by the well, the ruler by night, Zacchaeus in the tree, James and John by the lake, the thief on the cross.
This is the thing we so often do: while we are busy saving society in bloc, in toto, in mass, fashioning new measures, planning immense organizations, avidly following the progress of international conferences and developments, our eyes are blinded to the lost and dying all around us. Their spiritual condition does not move us. It is this lack of care that has chilled our hearts and rendered pulseless our hands of appeal. Our spiritual heavens have turned to brass; our spiritual earth to iron. Our undeniable guilt is evidenced by our unspoken testimonies, our unwept tears, our unsought lost, our unopened Bibles, and our unburdened hearts. We stand immobile and petrified like an image without heart, soul, or compassion, while the tragedy of the ages in each lost human life is acted out before our eyes.
A while back, I had the opportunity to preach a meeting in another town. From Sunday morning to Wednesday night the meeting was lifeless. There was no concern for the lost on the part of the congregation or their pastor. On Wednesday afternoon I had gone out for a walk. On that walk I met a man named John. Engaging him in conversation, I discovered that he was not a Christian and that he felt that there was not a Christian in that town who cared if he died and went to Hell. I share the gospel with John and he came under deep conviction. I invited him to attend the meeting and he agreed to come on Thursday night.
Wednesday night I entitled my message: “Who’s Going To Reach John?” To my surprise, everyone knew who I was talking about. They were ashamed that they had been so uncaring and committed themselves to praying for John and the meeting on Thursday night.
The atmosphere Thursday night was electric. John was in the congregation and the pre-service fellowship was abuzz with anticipation. The song service was upbeat and the message that I preached that night was the simple gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the invitation was extended, John responded in brokenness, publicly confessing his faith and trust in Jesus Christ as his savior.
Thursday night was a transformational moment for the Church and its pastor. There was weeping and deep conviction on the part of the people. The key to this transformation could be summed up in the statement of one of those who had responded in brokenness and repentance: “Preacher, the Lord has reminded us this week of the importance of loving and reaching John!”
The lost sheep–this is the basic doctrine of evangelical Christianity. Our awakening will begin when we once again see the infinite value which God places upon the individual soul. We must begin with the man next to us, with the congregation where we belong, in the neighborhood where we live, with the burning conviction that each man is a soul for which Christ died.