Lessons Of A Lifetime

STAYING OR STRAYING
Or
THAT NONE SHOULD PERISH
SUNDAY JAN. 3, 2021

Scripture To Consider:
“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? 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. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18.12-14

Something To Consider:
This is an earthly story with a profound heavenly meaning. For it is a true story not so much about sheep that either stay or stray, but about the absolute unconditional love of a heavenly Father that is transferred and exemplified in and through Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Later in John’s gospel Jesus will declare of Himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

An evil shepherd would not risk his own life by attempting to track down a single sheep that had strayed. But Jesus, our very Good Shepherd will do whatever is required to safely return to the fold, one of His little ones who believe. For according to Jesus, “For the Son of Man [Jesus] has come to save that which was lost.” Jesus did not come to save that which is lost, but that which was lost.

Remember from an earlier lesson that if Jesus has a straying sheep or lost soul in His sights, then from Jesus’ perspective that little one was lost, past tense. And as the old song so wonderfully reminds us, “Jesus never fails.” And so, whether we are staying or straying, it is not God’s will that any perish. Our staying or straying is our decision!

According to Jesus, the ultimate eternal goal is that none perish! But the truth is that not all come to Christ for the cleansing of their sin. The truth is also that not all who come to Christ remain with Christ. The truth is that not all who are forgiven from their past sins refrain from future sins. Therefore, the spiritual objective is for a new born-again believer to stay or to remain abiding in Christ.

And yet, the majority or the many are found straying or going astray, while the few remain in close fellowship with Christ and with His Word! Are we therefore of those who remain or of those requiring the Good Shepherd to seek due to our being lost? “What do you think?” Better yet, what is it that Jesus thinks when He is considering our spiritual position in or outside of Christ? How we answer that question is important but how Jesus answers that question is eternally important!

Something Else To Consider:
Now a good shepherd in reality would never leave the ninety-nine sheep totally alone and not cared for while adventuring off into the mountains looking for one lost sheep. That would be an act proving to be unwise and unloving. Just as our heavenly Father’s love for sheep who do not stray is deep and meaningful, it is the same for those who have strayed.

Therefore, arrangements are surely made for the care and provision of those who do not stray. For us as believers who may not have strayed but have decided to stay or to remain in His infinite care, He has given us His Holy Spirit. Therefore, the promise of Jesus to never leave us nor to forsake us is faithfully fulfilled through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.

And yet, our flesh wars against the Spirit of God and against the things of God, bringing with it discontentment for the peaceful things of God. Our flesh with the help of the enemy of our souls, Satan, tempts us to stray and while straying he further tempts us to sin against our heavenly Father while wandering further from Christ every second of every day we are away!

Therefore, we must keep in mind the words of Jesus as He was being tempted in the Garden of Gethsemane. “The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” Therefore, we must feed the spirit within us with the nourishment of the Word of God, and thereby have the strength to deny the flesh! Otherwise, the battle is lost and we remain lost while straying from God.

Something More To Consider:
It is important for us to note the response of our Good Shepherd Jesus, upon His locating the one lost sheep. In our Scripture to consider, there is no strong rebuke or punishment that is promised. There is no confinement or refusal to express love and affection toward the sheep that strayed.

Rather, our Good Shepherd rejoices over this one time lost sheep that for whatever reason had strayed away. And so, we can honestly say that this scriptural example is a realistic snapshot of many of our own lives. For whether we are guilty of straying, or whether we have remained obedient by our staying where God has placed us in His private pasture, His unconditional love, purpose, and passion remains the same, which is that none perish.

Can we honestly proclaim that His purpose and His passion is indeed the same as ours? If not, there is no better time than now to begin. And if we refuse His promises of forgiveness, eternal life, and of remaining in and under His care, we risk perishing despite His lovingly seeking us while straying.

His goal is that none perish! What is our end game goal? Just because it is the will of God that none perish, He will not force His will upon us! Our eternal end game status is determined by our everyday decisions we make or refuse to make.

A Few Final Words:
But if we choose to walk after the flesh our foolish decision will in the end condemn us. The apostle Paul instructed us in Romans 8.1; “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus [to those who remain rather than straying], who do not walk [who do not live their lives] according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Later in verse 14, Paul acknowledged; “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons [and daughters] of God.” And so, the choice rests solely on our shoulders. Will we be found by Christ staying or straying the comfort and safety of our abiding in Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit? Or will we for whatever reason, leave that divinely providential care and eternal safety of Christ and become among the many who will perish?

The will of our heavenly Father and eternal goal of Jesus is that none perish. Therefore, a good shepherd-like leader or leader in training finds their passion in life when their purpose in life is that of their heavenly Father. For according to Jesus, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, may Your overwhelming and unconditional love keep our hearts from straying away from Your provision and biblical guidance. In Him Always, Amen!

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