Joy in heaven – Luke 15:1-10

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” *  No doubt he was right.  The stories Jesus tells in Luke 15 give us some insight into that serious business of heaven’s joy.  The context is set up for us by Luke.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The self-righteous see sinners and reject them.  Jesus never affirms us in our sin, but he sure enjoys the company of sinners.  And they seem to consistently enjoy him.  He illustrates his attitude toward them, first with a story about sheep.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

For Jesus and for his Father, it was joyful seeking and saving the lost.  A sinner who repents brings joy to heaven.  We probably can’t fathom the full extent of the serious business of such joy.  Jesus goes on.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Again the lost is found. The sinner repents.  Again, according to Jesus, heaven and the angels of God get down to the serious business of joy.

If we want to make heaven joyful, we should be asking ourselves what the best sort of repentance looks like.  Jesus makes it clearer in his next story.  Read the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 to learn more.

The shepherd, the woman and the father in the stories all stand for God.  The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost – that is, the prodigal – son all stand for the sinner who repents, who is lost, but is then found.  We need to all see ourselves in the place of the prodigal, the lost sheep or the lost coin.  God seeks us out, and when he finds us, we repent and turn to him. 

So yes, there is a sort of tension between God doing the seeking and finding and our repenting.  He does something and we do something.  It isn’t one or the other, it is both at the same time.  We need not worry about whether God is going to do his part, but whether we do, that is another question.

Let’s make heaven rejoice by turning wholeheartedly back to God.  Saving sinners is serious business and a serious cause for joy.  It took Jesus going to the cross to accomplish the task.  Does that sound joyful to you?  In a way, it was.  Let’s close with Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

* in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 93.

Looking toward the end result – Matthew 5:3-12

Christ’s beatitudes, those memorable opening words from his Sermon on the Mount, are among the most loved and best known verses in the Bible.  People who never bother to read the Bible quote them.  They appear in all kinds of contexts and sometimes entirely out of context.  Here they are once more.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What strikes me about them today is their long-term outlook.  Each one points to some activity or condition in the present and what we might call its long-term reward or payoff.  That is, it gives us the “why” that makes each activity or condition worthwhile right now.  Christ’s perspective is nothing short of eternal.

Some of them seem completely improbable.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are you when others revile you…”  And yet we have on the authority of Jesus that in any of these situations we should count ourselves blessed.

These are the words of the one who brought blessing out of his cross.  Jesus endured that, knowing that it was necessary to accomplish his objectives.  I want to be able to look toward Jesus and look toward the end result of what he might be doing in my life in the same way.  It’s a lot like Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

39 Books: Leviticus – Worship and Walk

39 Bks Torah Scroll White

Leviticus: Worship and Walk

In Leviticus, God emphasizes his perfect holiness, but shows his less-than-perfect people how they may still approach him.

03 Leviticus.pdf           03 Leviticus.mp3

Palmer St. Podcast: Well Pleasing in His Sight

We come today to the end of a first-century sermon written by an author trained in Jewish rabbinical tradition. He wrote this to a congregation of Jewish Christian believers, probably residing in Rome. He has encouraged them to remain faithful to Jesus no matter what. And he wants them to understand that knowing and following Jesus is far and away better than any religious tradition they can ever find anywhere else.

Hebrews 13.mp3

Hebrews 13.pdf

Hebrews 13.pptx

Palmer St. Podcast: A Formula for Spiritual Renewal

Strictly speaking spiritual renewal doesn’t follow any strict formula. It’s a work of God’s grace and, as such, is entirely dependent upon Him. Still, if we are willing to recognize our need for spiritual renewal, then we can take conscious steps in that direction. God, as it happens, loves to move in the lives of people who are earnestly seeking Him.

Hebrews 12c.mp3

Hebrews 12c.pdf

Hebrews 12c.pptx

Palmer St. Podcast: Running Toward Jesus

Most of us have heard of Eric Liddell. He was the Olympic athlete whose religious convictions would not let him compete on Sunday. His story was later immortalized in the movie Chariots of Fire. He might have done more in athletics, but Eric knew he had a more important race to run. In 1925, he went to China where he served the Lord for the rest of his life.

Hebrews 12a.mp3

Hebrews 12a.pdf

Hebrews 12a.pptx