I have been out for several Sundays following surgery, but am recovering. Thank you for your many messages saying that you are praying for me.
Precious We Are To Him!
friend of ours relates the story about how patients became people, precious people, to her as a medical student. All freshmen had to spent time with their assigned cadavers. The way most dealt with cutting into a strangers body for the first time was to block out the fact that this was a human being. Each day she cranked her cadaver up out of the preservatives and performed her assigned dissections, and gradually she was able to not think of the humanity of the person who had donated his body for medical research. Then one day she noticed that somehow his wedding ring had mistakenly been left on: And her heart broke in gratitude for her special man and his family, and her prayer went to heaven thanking God for this unique relationship she was having with this precious creation of God.
As creatures for whom Christ died, and as unique individuals, each of us are precious in His sight. Jesus story about a Good Shepherd clearly illustrates this Good News. None of us are shepherds but we can all identify with the shepherds love for his one lost sheep. All of us undoubtedly number ourselves with the one lost sheep, and not with the grumbling, legalistic, scribes and Pharisees. Is there anyone here who would take their side in this story. As in the movie Thunder Road, we all pull for the bootleggers, even though we realize that they are on the wrong side of the law. Dont we always identify with the last, the least and the lost--- the humble underdog, and the repentant sinner. America was pulling for Mark McGuire to break the unbreakable single season home run record last Tuesday, not because he is a multa million dollar professional baseball player, but because he came across to us as being so humble, and nice, and thoughtful. He somehow seemed to deserve it.
As a kid I spent many hours staring at that popular painting of The Good Shepherd clinging to the side of a high mountain, reaching out as far as he possibly could to just barely grasp the lost sheep. That picture seemed to follow me to each to each new Sunday School classroom that I was promoted to. Is it any wonder that as a college sophomore, after having rebelled in a record fashion, I found myself caught out on a mountain ledge and had no way to get out of my lostness? But, in my predicament I felt that familiar hand of Jesus, The Good Shepherd, reaching out for me. Suddenly, the lost sheep was returned to the fold, the Prodigal Son had come home. I have never doubted that, by Grace, I am precious to Him. From that time on I have been His child. The fact is that each one of us is precious to Him. None of us are anymore precious than anybody else--- He loves all 100 sheep equally well.
Notice that our text says, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who (think they) need no repentance. (v.7, NRSV). It is clear that the lost sheep can not be saved unless it is willing, unless he/she actively repents.
Great questions surround the current situation that our President finds himself in. Will America forgive Bill Clinton, who has now made the words of his repentance very clear, a number of times? Is his repentance genuine? How can we really know? And, do most people care about true spiritual repentance? And if Christians forgive him, should Congress? In all of this I am haunted by that picture of the Good Shepherd rescuing the lost sheep, and find myself asking, What Would Jesus Do?
Certainly we do not want forgiveness of President Clinton to be merely an act of worldly grace where a person feels bad because he is caught, easily says I am sorry, and all is quickly forgiven. This situation is much more vile and volatile than that. The Christian Community needs to collectively act according to its own theological underpinnings.
Genuine Christian forgiveness always begins in a broken heart when a sinner inwardly feels guilt, contrition, and calls out to God for forgiveness. Gods extraordinary grace, as exemplified in the Good Shepherd, always forgives, and there is rejoicing in heaven. After this occurs, the community of faith is also called upon to forgive the sinner. Forgiveness by the Christian community is always a catalyst to enable the repentant sinner to feel accepted by the family of God, and restoration is completed. This salvation, conversion, repentance process is enabled by the power of God. His Spirit is active in giving members of the faith community a forgiving heart so that the lost soul can be brought home. Using the analogy of Jesus parable, as the Good Shepherd brings the lost sheep home to the fold, it is important that the ninety-nine, who were there all along, receive the formerly lost sheep back into fellowship.
Only time will tell if our President is genuine in his repentance. He may or may not escape impeachment, where the issue is not forgiveness but lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering. That will be decided in time. However, if he has truly reclaimed new life in Christ, this renewal ought to mean more to him than his presidency: More than anything! We would expect to see the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a reclaimed Bill Clinton. We would also expect to see him freed for what has possibly been a lifelong sinful compulsion that has led him to the brink of destruction: New Life always leads to New Living!
Having read the Internet edition of the Presidents affaire d amour, it seems to me that the actual legal case against him is thin. Most of us would hope that our nation can avoid another impeachment ordeal. I pray for the eventual healing of the many wounds to all parties directly concerned, and for the rest of us who have been indirectly hurt by this sinful event.
I also hope that some good can come out of this sordid mess. Perhaps it will keep others from falling from grace and yielding to sin. Perhaps Bill and Hillarys marriage can come back from the abyss stronger than ever. Perhaps our secular society can learn something wonderful about the extraordinary Grace of our Savior. Perhaps we can someday look back on this terrible time and Rejoice with the Good Shepherd because he has found his sheep that was lost. Perhaps many will come to know How Precious We Are To Him.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor