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Little and Valuable

Matthew  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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(Father's Day) One of the things that every child longs for is time alone with their dad. If you're counseling with someone and you ask them about their dad, most people will inevitably say one of the following two things right out of the gate. They will say, "My dad always made time for us. He worked hard, and he had a lot of responsibilities, but still he'd end up at my ballgames or he'd just grab me and we'd go fishing or he'd take me out to do our special thing so that I knew he loved me and was there for me." Maybe they didn't get as much time as they would have wanted, but they knew that their dad made an effort to take an interest in them. The other thing you hear a lot is something along the lines of, "My dad was just never there. He worked all the time or he golfed all the time or hunted all the time, and we just didn't talk much. It seemed like the only time he talked to me was when I had messed up or disappointed him in some way. Even when he was home, everybody just kind of left him alone."
And, I think we describe our dads this way because we realize that there are a lot of different things and a lot different people that are competing for a dad's time. There's work and responsibilities and a wife and siblings and parents and hobbies. So, if dad has time for us, in the middle of all of that, if dad has time for you, then you realize your worth in his eyes. This morning, Jesus is going to teach his disciples about the character of his Father. He is going to teach his disciples that his heavenly Father doesn't just care about them generally; He cares about them individually. And, as a result, they have a responsibility to emulate the Father's character in their relationships with one another.
And, I think we describe our dads this way because we realize that there are a lot of different things and a lot different people that are competing for a dad's time. There's work and responsibilities and a wife and siblings and parents and hobbies. So, if dad has time for us, in the middle of all of that, if dad has time for you, then you realize your worth in his eyes. This is one of the things that I've had to learn over the last year. As SE has gotten older and I've wanted to play with her more, I've realized that GK feels more and more like she has to compete for time with her dad. Now, I think it's a good lesson for her to learn that she's not the center of the universe. That's a good lesson for every person on earth to learn, but I think it's equally important that she learns that her dad has time for her and that he wants to know her personally and individually. She needs to know that I don't just care about family in general, but that I care about her specifically. This morning, Jesus is going to teach his disciples about the character of his Father. He is going to teach his disciples that his heavenly Father doesn't just care about them generally; He cares about them individually. And, as a result, they have a responsibility to emulate the Father's character in their relationships with one another.
"little ones" It refers to those who have believed in him with a childlike faith in submission and dependence upon him. In our passage this morning, he explains what happens when one of these 'little ones' strays from the flock. He's explaining what must take place in the life of the Christian community when it appears that a brother or sister is falling away.
“do not despise one of these little ones” In our text this morning, Jesus is continuing to teach his disciples about how they are to relate to one another within the Kingdom God. That is, He is teaching them about their life within the church with other Christians. This is who He means by 'little ones.' And, Jesus tells his disciples that they must not ‘despise’ these ‘little ones’ in Jesus’ flock. Your bible may say ‘do not disdain one of these little ones.’ The point of what Jesus is saying is that there is never a time in the life of one of his disciples in which they are in a position to look down upon another one of his disciples. There is no place for superiority in the Church of Jesus Christ. It does not matter if you know more about the Bible. It does not matter if you’ve been a Christian for far longer. It does not matter if you have been 100 mission trips and your brother zero. It doesn’t even matter if your brother or sister is in the midst of sin. You have no right to disdain or despise one of these for whom Christ has died. Remember that Jesus is saying this to a group of disciples that have been arguing with one another about who is the greatest in Jesus’ eyes. A rivalry has broken out among the disciples, and they are comparing themselves to one another. And, all this does within the body of Christ is create feelings of contempt and superiority.
“their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” Cross-bought sinners are not positioned as to loathe one another, but to empathize with one another. After all, we are only as good as the cross has made us! And, we bring reproach upon the cross of Jesus Christ when we make one of the ‘little ones’ it purchased and redeemed to seem as though they are less valuable and less worth saving than we are. Jesus says, “Do you not realize that God so values every, single one of his ‘little ones’ that He demands his fleet of angels to protect and care for each one! He looks them face-to-face so that they might understand how highly He values these ‘little ones!’
APPLICATION: Every person within the body of Christ has great value in the church. You cannot cherish the cross if you do not cherish the Church. For it was the cross that proved the Church was worth redeeming. Cherish the Church, brothers and sisters, and bring glory to the cross! When you find yourself 'disdaining' or 'despising' those in the church, remember the price that was paid! When we find ourselves becoming at odds with one another and the roots of disunity begin to spread, let us remember what price that was paid for our brother and for our sister and for us, so that we might bring glory to the cross! Cherish the church! Cherish your brothers and sisters! And, bring glory to the cross!
Cross-bought sinners are not positioned as to loathe one another, but to empathize with one another. Our natural reaction is to think increasingly more lowly of someone the more that we know them. We begin by saying, "This person is going to become one of my closest friends! And, after spending just a few dinners together, you say, "I really like them BUT...." Or, "I just would have never imagined...." This is not the reaction of empathy but disdain! Surely, you realize that people do, or at least could, say the same about you!
“go in search of the one who has went astray” To explain in greater clarity the value of each ‘little one’ in the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells a parable. It’s a parable that explains to us not only our value in the eyes of God, but also our responsibility in loving one another and fellow children of grace. And, the picture that Jesus paints of his heavenly Father is a beautiful one. O, on this Father’s Day, to hear such a description of our heavenly Father is such a challenge to me! He says that his heavenly Father is like a Shepherd who has one hundred sheep. This is a modest flock, and the Shepherd is keeping diligent watch over every one. As He counts through them and realizes that He is short, the Shepherd does not cut his losses and move on. One sheep, one ‘little one’ is not an acceptable loss in the eyes of the Shepherd. And, one child, one disciple, one ‘little one’ in the church is not an acceptable loss in the church of God! And so, the Shepherd goes in pursuit of the one missing sheep. He is relentless in his pursuit of this tiny lamb, and when He finds him, He celebrates! He brings in the mariachi band and the balloons and the hummus, and they party, man! And, what is He saying? God, our heavenly Father, is a relentless shepherd! He will not turn a blind eye to our straying! He will not deem us an acceptable loss! He will pursue us with all of the power and resources of heaven that we might be restored in the flock of God!
Jesus is calling us to emulate the character of God within his church. He is calling each one of us, not just our pastors, to be relentless shepherds within the Church and to go after one another with the passion of the cross. Not a single person here is an acceptable loss, church! Not a single person! Every, single member of Iron City Baptist Church matters in the Kingdom of God, and we must not allow ourselves to deem them, even in their sin, as an acceptable loss.
Jesus is calling us to emulate the character of God within his church. He is calling each one of us, not just our pastors, to be relentless shepherds within the Church and to go after one another with the passion of the cross. Not a single person here is an acceptable loss, church! Not a single person! Every, single member of Iron City Baptist Church matters in the Kingdom of God, and we must not allow ourselves to deem them, even in their sin, as an acceptable loss.
“went astray” There’s an important balance given to us to emulate as we pursue straying members of the flock of God. First of all, there is the necessity and importance of holiness. Jesus does not say to turn a blind eye to the straying disciple. He does not say to pretend as though all is well with them. He does not say that it's their personal business and so you should stay out of it. Jesus tells his disciples that when a member of the flock strays that we should pursue them and call them back to the flock. We should call them out of their sin because we know that their sin is destructive to them. One of the most common perversions of the gospel today in good churches is that we have convinced ourselves that because of the gospel and because of grace and because of mercy that we should not call individual people out of their sins. But, this is not the gospel! Jesus did not come so that God would overlook our sin. Jesus came to call us out of our sin. When we excuse one another from the responsibility of holiness in the name of love, we aren’t really loving. Love is wanting what is best for the other person regardless of its personal cost to you, and sin destroys. It is not loving to leave people alone on the path to destruction.
APPLICATION: Holiness matters, brothers and sisters! And, we must take responsibility for one another’s holiness. Let me tell you what I dream of for us as a church. I dream that each of us would have friends from within the church that are so close to us that they know all of our weaknesses and all of our tendencies to sin and yet they don’t use it against us and they don’t distance themselves from us as a result. Instead, I dream of a church in which we are helping one another overcome these things together. I dream of a church where we are just real with each other and we can encourage each other and make each other better. The question is this: Are you willing to be known? Are you willing to let your guard down and be known by people this way? And, are you willing to put in the hard work of getting to know others this way? We are so used to putting on fake smiles and projecting marital bliss and parental pleasure that it goes against everything inside of us to let people in on our struggle with holiness. Are you willing to be known? And, are you willing to put in the work know others?
"go in search" But, here's the balance of what Jesus is saying: Go in grace and kindness. So, he's saying: 'Take your brother's holiness seriously. Do not be content to leave them be in their sin. Do not be okay with letting them self-destruct. But, when you go to them, go with kindness and gentleness. When you go, don't go as the self-righteous hypocrite would go. Don't go in harshness. Don't go as if you'd never do the same thing. Go as one that Jesus has already had to come after himself. Go as one filled with grace because you have received such grace." The Shepherd is doing the painstaking work of searching out the sheep so that He might restore the sheep and rejoice! He doesn’t go to crush the sheep; He goes to rescue the sheep! And, this has to be the shape of discipleship in our church! Discipleship is hard, and sometimes it comes with painstaking, difficult conversations. But, we don’t go to our fellow disciple in righteousness and judgement. We go in grace! We go not to crush them, but to restore them!
Illustration: It's like disciplining your children, and then crying because it hurt you so badly to do it. Discipline in the church must always be done with tears, not vengeance. This isn't get-even-ness. This isn't pull your weight. This isn't stop dragging me down. This is I want what's best for you!
Illustration: It's like disciplining your children, and then crying because it hurt you so badly to do it. Discipline in the church must always be done with tears, not vengeance. This isn't get-even-ness. This isn't ‘pull your weight.’ This isn't ‘stop dragging me down.’ This is ‘I want what's best for you!’
APPLICATION: Churches that are all grace and no holiness are churches that God wants to die for they bring reproach upon his Kingdom. Churches that are all holiness and no grace are churches that kill themselves from within for eventually the gun is pointed at every person since every person will fail. Church family, let us require both of ourselves!
"he rejoices" And, Jesus is sure to give his disciples the vision for what they're doing. Why does the shepherd go out? Why do we have the difficult conversations? Why do we put ourselves in such difficult situations? So, that we might rejoice! So that our brother might be restored to the flock, and we might rejoice with him! Rejoicing is the opposite of disdain. When the prodigal runs away and feasts upon the slop of this world, Jesus is filled with sorrow, not loathing. But, when the prodigal comes home, when he comes to his senses and remembers the kindness of his Father's house, when he remembers that the lowest in his Father's house are far greater than the greatest in the world, and he returns, how does Jesus receive him? He rejoices! He kills the fattened calf and celebrates the return of his child!
APPLICATION: There are prodigals here this morning I am certain. You wanted to try the college scene, and you wanted to have the 'college experience,' but you were left with more guilt than joy. You were left with more insecurity than true friends. There were moments of fun, but when the party stopped and you were alone, you were still hungry. You were still unsatisfied. Can I just tell you, regardless of who you've slept with and regardless of what you've said and regardless of where you've been, Jesus would rejoice if you'd return to him this morning. He would rejoice! And so would I! Maybe you’re a high-schooler, and you just wanted friends so badly and you just wanted to stop feeling like an outcast for 5 minutes, and so you've done things. You've become somebody that you would have never imagined you'd become. And right now, you feel like you've gone too far! You feel like you've went past the point of no return. You feel like it's impossible to turn back now. But, listen to me: Jesus would rejoice if you returned to him today! Jesus would rejoice if you'd just realize how much better He is than being liked by your peers! There are young husbands and young wives, moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, and you just keep running from the Lord convinced that you can't turn back. There's been an affair or there's been bitterness in your heart or there's been anger and things said or there's been corners cut or there's been a divorce. Listen to me: If you can hear my voice this morning, it's not too late. Jesus in his sovereign power has brought you to this place on this day to hear these words: Turn back to Jesus, and He will rejoice! You know the world isn't better and lovers aren't better and self-indulgence isn't better! Jesus is better, and He will rejoice if you will turn back to him! Come back, dear brother! Come back, dear sister! Come back and find the opened arms of Jesus waiting to receive you! Come back to Jesus and the Kingdom of God, hear and in glory, will celebrate the gracious power of our Lord to restore his children!
APPLICATION: There are prodigals here this morning I am certain. You wanted to try the college scene, and you wanted to have the 'college experience,' but you were left with more guilt than joy. You were left with more insecurity than true friends. There were moments of fun, but when the party stopped and you were alone, you were still hungry. You were still unsatisfied. Can I just tell you, regardless of who you've slept with and regardless of what you've said and regardless of where you've been, Jesus would rejoice if you'd return to him this morning. He would rejoice! And so would I! Maybe your high-schooler, and you just wanted friends so bad and you just wanted to stop feeling like an outcast for 5 minutes, and so you've done things. You've become somebody that you would have never imagined you'd become. And right now, you feel like you've gone too far! You feel like you've went past the point of no return. You feel like it's impossible to turn back now. But, listen to me: Jesus would rejoice if you returned to him today! Jesus would rejoice if you'd just realize how much better He is than being liked by your peers! There are young husbands and young wives, moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, and you just keep running from the Lord convinced that you can't turn back. There's been an affair or there's been bitterness in your heart or there's been anger and things said or there's been corners cut or there's been a divorce. Listen to me: If you can hear my voice this morning, it's not too late. Jesus in his sovereign power has brought you to this place on this day to hear these words: Turn back to Jesus, and He will rejoice! You know the world isn't better and lovers aren't better and self-indulgence isn't better! Jesus is better, and He will rejoice if you will turn back to him! Come back, dear brother! Come back, dear sister! Come back and find the opened arms of Jesus waiting to receive you! Come back to Jesus and the Kingdom of God, hear and in glory, will celebrate the gracious power of our Lord to restore his children!
"he rejoices" And, Jesus is sure to give his disciples the vision for what they're doing. Why does the shepherd go out? Why do we have the difficult conversations? Why do we put ourselves in such difficult situations? So, that we might rejoice! So that our brother might be restored to the flock, and we might rejoice with him! Rejoicing is the opposite of disdain. When the prodigal runs away and feasts upon the slop of this world, Jesus is filled with sorrow, not loathing. But, when the prodigal comes home, when he comes to his senses and remembers the kindness of his Father's house, when he remembers that the lowest in his Father's house are far greater than the greatest in the world, and he returns, how does Jesus receive him? Does Jesus give him a list of things that he has to do so that he can be placed back into the Kingdom of God? Does Jesus place him under probationary status and micromanage his every step? No! Jesus throws open his arms, and he embraces the repentant sinner! Jesus doesn't just say, "Welcome back." He rejoices! He kills the fattened calf and celebrates the return of his child!
"he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine on the mountains" Now, there's something that kind of hits us funny about verse 13, isn't there? It says not only does Jesus say that the shepherd rejoices over the one who is found, but Jesus says that the shepherd rejoices more over the one who is found than over the 99 who didn't need finding. And, it hits us funny because we apply this to the Kingdom of God, we're thinking: "Wait a second! Why would the Father celebrate the son who wandered more than the sons who we remained faithful. The Pharisee inside of every, single one of us says: Shouldn't He celebrate the 99 more? After all, didn't they earn it? But, I think this gets to the point of this parable. First of all, it gets back to the big picture of what Jesus has been saying. In the Kingdom of heaven, the least are the greatest. And so, Jesus is dismantling any inkling of pride in the disciples because this story would actually cause the disciples to long to be in the position of the one who wandered and was pursued. You see, what Jesus is teaching in verse 13 is not that God loves straying children more than faithful children. Rather, Jesus is teaching us that God loves everyone of his 'little ones' this much. The Pharisee in all of us that asks this question of why He celebrates the one more than the ninety-nine ignores the fact that this has been all of us. But, God is the shepherd of every individual child of his Kingdom.
APPLICATION: He's the God of billions, and yet He cares about you specifically, individually. Our heavenly Father is personal with his flock! He knows your individual difficulties, worries, struggles, and fears. He knows your abilities and experiences and sins. He knows YOU, and He loves YOU, and He pursues YOU! Even in your wandering. Even in your straying. Even in your doubts. God pursues you and loves you and will chase you to the far ends of the earth. You can run like Adam and hide. You can run like Jonah on a boat around the world. You can run like Lot into the midst of Sodom. But, God will pursue his children. God will come after them, ever one, down to the number. And, when they turn back, when they repent, when they remember the goodness and kindness of their heavenly Father, when they are found, even if it's on a boat or under a tree or in the middle of Sodom, oh how heaven celebrates! Oh, how the Father rejoices and celebrates the return of his child! What greater joy does one have than to find the one whom he has pursued?
APPLICATION: He's the God of billions, and yet He cares about you specifically, individually. Our heavenly Father is personal with his flock! He knows your individual difficulties, worries, struggles, and fears. He knows your abilities and experiences and sins. He knows YOU, and He loves YOU, and He pursues YOU! Even in your wandering. Even in your straying. Even in your doubts. God pursues you and loves you and will chase you to the far ends of the earth. You can run like Adam and hide. You can run like Jonah on a boat around the world. You can run like Lot into the midst of Sodom. But, God will pursue his children. God will come after them, ever one, down to the number. And, when they turn back, when they repent, when they remember the goodness and kindness of their heavenly Father, when they are found, even if it's on a boat or under a tree or in the middle of Sodom, oh how heaven celebrates! Oh, how the Father rejoices and celebrates the return of his child! What greater joy does one have than to find the one whom he has pursued?
“it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” And because God loves every, single person in his Kingdom, He is unwilling to lose anyone. God’s ‘little ones’ will persevere to the end because God himself will ensure it. That is, God’s children, every, single one of them, will not lose their salvation and their relationship with God because God has willed it so. After all, what can stop the will of God? Nothing! Job says after his life of trial that "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." God's will cannot be thwarted! It cannot be stopped! And, it is God's will that you would not fall away from the faith. God is promising to hold you fast! God is promising to ensure your endurance! God is promising that you will not fall away because He himself has taken responsibility to ensure it!
APPLICATION: And what Jesus is teaching his disciples is that one of the greatest means of Christ to keep your feet planted in his kingdom is your brothers and sisters in Christ. It's your church. Hold onto one another, brothers and sisters. Hold onto one another. The person beside you is not an acceptable loss in the Kingdom of God. The person in front of you and behind you and adjacent to you are not acceptable losses in the Kingdom of God. Hold onto one another by the power of God in you! Hold onto one another!
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