“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He spoke this parable to them, saying: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which 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 neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’”
Does the Lord Find Those Who Have Been Lost?
In Luke 15 that we read today, there are two parables: the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. The Lord here is speaking through two parables; one is speaking of how much joy the Lord had when He, the Master, found one of a hundred of His sheep which had lost its way. It’s speaking of how tiresome and difficult it is for Him to find a sheep that has been lost and that it is a very joyful thing to find it. God is powerful, but I can’t describe how difficult it is for Him to find a sheep that has left His house as it wanted. My fellow believers, finding one lost sheep is such a joyous thing that all the people in the village gathered and had a feast.
The second parable is a story of losing a drachma. A woman lost one of the coins, turned everything over, looked everywhere on the floor, moved her wardrobe, cleaned where it had been, and she searched through ten years worth of dust. She even wondered if maybe she hadn’t lost it between the wall and the wallpaper, so she tore the whole house apart looking for it. Doing that is really annoying and difficult. The woman swept her house, cleaned it, turned it over, and tore up the wallpaper to find a coin she had lost. She wondered if perhaps it hadn’t fallen into a bowl and turned all the bowls over. She wondered if maybe it was with her clothes and shook them all out. How much of a commotion do we make when we lose things that are precious to us? When we lost something that was most precious to us and didn’t know whether it was hidden behind the refrigerator, under the television, or behind the wardrobe, we would try our best to find it. It was really precious and we had to find it, but it wasn’t anywhere. Didn’t we sweep, clean, turn the whole house over, and diligently search for it? That’s the way it is when people try to find something they lost. It’s also tiresome and hard for God to find someone He’s lost. God looks for our souls that way. People think that a coin isn’t a lot, but God thus looks for the most precious souls who haven’t received the remission of sins, wander, and are lost.
There are quite a lot of people in this world. But the Lord asked here, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4) Not all people in a hundred are lost souls. The Lord is saying that He looks for one of those hundred; not all of them are lost.
There Is One Lost Soul in a Hundred; Do You Know How Hard It Is to Find That Soul?
It is a case of having to find one soul among a hundred people. It is a hundred to one. Is that easy or not? It is really difficult. We are also preparing the preaching of the gospel and are looking for people like that. There are really a lot of people, and the question is who the lost souls are among them. God knows who the lost souls are. That’s the way it is in God’s eyes. When we meet souls, they don’t know if they are lost or not. They all think they are righteous. Of a hundred souls, ninety-nine think they are OK. Those people say the following, right? “I’m OK. I believe right, so what’s your problem? Why are you acting that way to me? Go talk to someone who doesn’t believe.”
God said that there were a hundred sheep. He left the ninety-nine in the wilderness to find the one lost sheep and He had joy when He found it. Who has been saved? It is only one sheep, that is, the lost sheep that has been saved. So, have the ninety-nine sheep been saved? The ninety-nine all died. He said He left them in the wilderness. A pack of wolves probably come and devour them all.
All the many people who believe in Jesus who wish and say, arbitrarily, that they have received the remission of sins are all headed for hell. God looks for the lost with utmost sincerity. He is saying that it is difficult to find a lost sheep. But God tiresomely does that difficult task and definitely finds and saves that lost sheep. I can’t describe how hard it is for Him to find it. I can’t explain how troublesome it is. He diligently looks for the lost sheep, crossing bodies of water and mountains, turning over forests, and wondering where they are. He wonders if they are behind big trees or perhaps in bushes. He ultimately finds them, embraces them to His chest, and returns with them on His shoulders. He returns and eats, drinks, rejoices, and has a feast with others.
My fellow believers, do you think that you have somehow been chosen and received the remission of sins when God looks for lost souls among men? No, you haven’t. God tiresomely and tenaciously looked for us until He found us. When I studied theology, I felt that I was a lost soul before God. I realized the fact that I was a soul who had never met God. I tried to find the Lord, but there was no way to find Him. I now know that my soul can’t meet the Lord on my own but that the Lord is looking for my soul to meet me. I learned the fact that I was looking for Him but that He was also looking for me. So, I came to meet Him. I was saved. I have sometimes said that I have quite a lot of friends, haven’t I? I also had quite a lot when I was attending Seminary. There were also a lot of famous people I knew. But of all those people around me, God found me. There are so many people in the world. But of all those people, He found me.
I was a person who had lost my way once. You are the same. You probably didn’t know that you had lost your way, but in God’s eyes, you were the same as the sheep that had lost their way. So, He came to find us. When you know the fact that you are lost souls that have not yet been able to meet the Lord, He finds you and meets you through His Word, His Church, and His servants. The Lord thus finds you and me, has a feast, and rejoices.
I can’t explain how hard God tries to find these lost souls and how much joy He has after He has found them. We must know and realize what God’s heart is like. How hard is it for a lost sheep to find its master? Likewise, how hard is it for us to find God? Of course, we have tried to meet God ourselves. We have even believed in several religions. But it doesn’t work. We suffer all kinds of afflictions. However, most people who try to look for God can’t meet Him. It is really difficult even if they try all kinds of things. I’m sorry to say this, but you must know how worthless a human being is. You must first know what kind of person you are, feel the nothingness of life by uselessly trying this and that religion, and become a person who sincerely looks for God for the first time to barely see Him. It is not easy for us to find and meet God.
You and I Also Have Met God by Believing in the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit
This is a benevolent thing, but we can also know how hard of a task it is when we read the Word in the Bible. People say they are looking for the Lord and trying to meet Him, and they haven’t met Him yet. But they believe that they are standing right in front of the door to Him. There are a lot of people who think they will easily meet the Lord soon. They are people who haven’t received the remission of sins yet. People who believe in a certain religion and are satisfied even though they haven’t been able to meet the Lord haven’t worked hard enough yet. They still have a long way to go. They must suffer some more. My fellow believers, we must really think about how a lost soul meeting the Lord is this hard. It is extremely difficult. There are a lot of people who can’t meet the Lord even though they try their whole lives. People who suffer to a certain extent and surely realize that it won’t work no matter what they do have the possibility to meet the Lord; but it is hard to meet the Lord for people who think they can do it by their own strength. Such people don’t believe the gospel when we preach it to them if they don’t suffer a certain amount. They must suffer to death, be on the verge of death several times, and fall into hell to be able to really believe in the gospel. The Lord comes through the Word and says, “I saved you this way,” and when our Master puts out His hand, we say, “Thank you, Master” and can firmly grasp His hand. Otherwise, no matter how tenderly the Master puts out His hand, we don’t believe in the Lord like foolish sheep and think, “Is that my Master’s hand or not?” We don’t grasp His hand to the end.
My fellow believers, there are people here who are advanced in years and people here who are young. Whether you are old or young, you have suffered a lot and looked for God a lot. That is how we can meet here and praise the Lord. Do you understand? It doesn’t automatically turn out this way even though you didn’t look for Him so eagerly. We suffered numerous things. All the lives you have lived until now were a process to meet God. The Lord put out His hand and grabbed the hands of you who also put yours out. This is salvation.
I could know the fact that people don’t accept the gospel unless they suffer sufficient hardship. If you had not suffered all those things, had accepted the gospel, and were in the Church, you would have to be really thankful. If you had not met the gospel, you would suffer your whole lives. Do you understand? People don’t become rich by trying. Even if a person collects property to his heart’s content, it can all be spent in a moment if something bad happens. That’s so strange. No matter how diligently one saves money, it doesn’t pile up. Even if he tries to make a fortune, it all goes away if a problem occurs suddenly. That’s life; your property disappears in all kinds of ways. It will disappear right after you have painstakingly collected it. But we met the Lord in the middle of that. That is the way most lives are. So, if you have met the Lord without suffering too much, you must truly unite with the Lord and give Him thanks. If you suffered a lot until you met the Lord, you surely know how precious this gospel is.
Therefore, you must keep this gospel. You must diligently spread this gospel to lost souls. You mustn’t spread it worthlessly but you must spread it valuably. I can’t explain how many people oppose this gospel. They do that because they still have only suffered a little. Have you suffered a lot? I am a person who has almost died because of sin. I haven’t almost died because of some bodily illness or something else. I have almost died because of my sins. Therefore, I like the Lord a lot. I am very thankful.
Have you ever had the desire to die after agonizing over your sins before you heard the gospel? Or did you somehow happen to hear the gospel and receive the remission of your sins? No matter what your case is, God exerted all His power looking for you and paid a big price, the price of death, to save you and me. You must know that fact. Because you have heard so often that you have been saved by grace, you may think His salvation is nothing; but the Lord saved us by paying an enormous price. We obtained it for free, but God paid a big price.
Beloved saints, you must keep in mind the amazing grace with which God saved us. People must know God’s heart and how they must really look for God. They must feel the fact that they need God. People who still don’t think they need God still haven’t suffered enough. They still have a lot of crises ahead of them. Only then can they say, “Oh God, please save me,” and become a person who seeks for God’s help.
However, people who still think that they have a lot of strength think, “I only trust in myself. I believe in my own strength.” I was like that a long time ago and so were you. We only believed in ourselves. People say so because they still haven’t lost all their strength of man. Don’t spread the gospel too soon to such people. Instead, prophesy and teach them in advance that they will suffer a lot. Tell them, “You will suffer these kinds of things in the future and almost die because of sin, and if you suffer more and die in this state, you will go to hell and suffer for eternity.”
People have to suffer. They have to realize what miserable existences they are. You have to tell them about that misery in detail. I can’t explain how much they are standing against you because you speak to them too nicely. Do you understand? Do you know why God gives trials to the people to whom we are trying to spread the gospel? Do you know why He doesn’t make their works go the way they want but instead gives them many troubles? He does it to make them try to find Him.
Here come the Pharisees and scribes in today’s Scripture passage.
“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He spoke this parable to them, saying: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?’” (Luke 15:1-4)
What does this mean? It means that if the ninety-nine sheep are not the lost ones the Lord is looking for, He thrusts those ninety-nine into hell and looks for the one lost sheep. The Lord doesn’t care even if the ninety-nine go to hell. On the contrary, He prepares the way to hell for them. The ninety-nine don’t get the Lord’s attention. Only one gets His attention. What is that one sheep like? The lost sheep is the one that gets the Lord’s attention.
Some people say the following: “Wait, there are probably a lot of people who passed away while believing in the Lord; are you saying that they went to hell even though they believed?” Yes, they did. Many people don’t get the Lord’s attention even though they believe well in the Lord that way. Why? That is because they think arbitrarily that they’re the righteous. They go to hell. It is like the verse of a famous Korean poem that says, “I will send you gently without a word.” The Lord says, “Ninety-nine, Good bye! Enter the furnace of fire.” He doesn’t think it’s a loss at all.
My fellow believers, you must know the Lord’s heart. If you look at the numbers, it’s ninety-nine to one; which is more precious? Is it not bad if just one dies? No. One sheep is more precious to the Lord than the pretentious ninety-nine. This means that the Lord saves those who say, “God please save me who cannot but be ruined and go to hell because I am a sinner and insufficient. I am so lacking and weak. I am nothing. I am a grave sinner.” We who became the righteous also incorrectly think, “There are many people who say they believe in the Lord that way; I wonder if maybe we’re not wrong and they’re not really right. I wonder if maybe we’re wrong.’ We don’t purposefully think this way, but we can have those kinds of thoughts after a while.
But my fellow believers, the Lord came to save the lost souls like you and me. He didn’t come to save the pretentious ninety-nine that claim to be righteous. Our Lord is a Person who came to save one lost sinner. It suffices to know your insufficiencies and be honest before God. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Don’t show too much pity for them. This runs counter to the Lord’s law. If you want to have mercy on people, then show pity for the lost sheep. Lost sheep are people who, even though they are sinners, and really don’t know anything. They don’t know that they are sinners and they follow after whoever leads them, even though those leaders are frauds. Such sinners are the lost sheep. You must show pity for them. Don’t show too much pity for those who think they know the doctrines and the Lord well and think they are good people. If there is something you should absolutely say to those people and the most necessary news to them, it would be these words: “If you continue believing this way, you will surely go to hell.” That one saying is more joyous news to those souls than the gospel. There is absolutely no need to tell them that they will go to the Kingdom of Heaven if they accept Jesus. What they really need to hear is this: “Congratulations! If you believe this way, you will go to hell. Know that if you are killed in a traffic accident, you will fall into the fires of hell the moment your eyes close. Sleep well all night because you don’t know what’s going to happen while you are sleeping. Know that you’ll surely go to hell if you die.” That is the gospel to those souls. Saying something shocking like that to people who don’t know that they are going to hell is better than saying a hundred things about the gospel.
I can’t explain how tiresome of a job it is for God to look for us. My fellow believers, you probably felt the same as we made preparations to spread the gospel. We are holding revival meetings in this city of Chuncheon in order to save one lost soul. We mustn’t just do that kind of work once; we have to do it countless times. But such ministries sort out the ninety-nine self-righteous people. God works so hard to find one lost soul. He leaves the ninety-nine self-righteous ones in the wilderness, and looks for the lost one.
My fellow believers, you have probably seen pictures of sheep on cliffs or falling from high places and a shepherd grabbing it by the horns and saving it. Having the same mind of God, the workers and saints of our Church are devoting themselves to spreading the gospel on this earth. Souls who haven’t met God also suffer a lot, but God shows us through this Word how hard it is to save lost souls.
The Lord said, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). This is a parable. We are among the ninety-nine just persons. In this case, the ninety-nine refer to those who have received salvation already. God rejoices quite a lot because of one sinner who repents and receives the remission of sins; He does so more than because of the ninety-nine. We who are the righteous have many hardships because we serve the Lord and the gospel, but God’s heart totally goes to the one person who receives the remission of sins today. When the lost sheep who thought it was all right to have sins accept God, He asks them whether or not they have sin and they respond that they don’t because He already took them all. So, because they answer that way, God puts them on His shoulders, comes back home, rejoices, and has a feast.
My fellow believers, this is the way the Lord’s heart is. When one person receives the remission of sins when we spread the gospel, we forget all the hard work we had done in the kitchen, making literature, typing on the computer, and everything else. We were happy with only that soul being saved, and were really happy, saying, “Do you have sins or not? You don’t, do you? Let’s have a party.” God likes it even more than we do. If you want to know what God’s heart is like, He truly rejoices and is happy when a sinner repents.
My fellow believers, we were also sinners. We were also sinners before we repented and met Jesus. We received the remission of our sins. How was God when we received the remission of sins? He was extremely joyous. People who have just received the remission of sins might wonder if they are such a wonderful existence to make God rejoice like that, but that’s not the case. The Lord rejoices that way because souls that have lost their way have put on God’s love and come back to His fold. Isn’t there a festive atmosphere in the whole Church when someone receives the remission of sins? If one person received the remission of his sins in God’s Church, there is a festive atmosphere no matter who that person is. That festive atmosphere lasts for a month or two. When we ask them if they have sins and hear from them, “I have no sin,” we have another festival. We ask them and have festivals everyday. The person who should really feel happy is the person who has received the remission of sins; but those who actually like it are God and us. Our hearts are truly joyous and it is a beautiful thing in the eyes of God. My fellow believers, do you understand God’s heart somehow? The Lord said, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
How much does the Lord rejoice over the remission of our sins? It is written, “He will rejoice over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:17). My fellow believers, the Lord said that He rejoices over us with gladness. God loves us this way. He rejoices over us like this, but He rejoices more if one sinner returns to Him. Don’t we also rejoice when someone receives the remission of sins? Our hearts are so joyous because God rejoices that much in Heaven. If you read the Bible, you can know a little about God’s heart. You can also know how the Holy Spirit does works in our hearts.
We Have Struggled to Meet the Lord of Righteousness
It was hard for us all to meet the Lord, wasn’t it? It was truly hard to meet Him. We nearly died as we followed after false shepherds. We really had to get ourselves together or else we would have one day suddenly become cooked mutton. If the Lord didn’t take me out of Satan’s mouth, we would have been devoured by Satan. Think about it for a moment. It’s a really terrible thing. Imagine the scene of Satan grabbing us, putting us on a skewer of sin, and turning us in never-ending fire. That would have happened to us had we made a slight mistake. The Lord came to us in those circumstances and told us how He saved us. We are so thankful that we could not but say, “Hallelujah!” The Lord told us that He saved us and put His hand down to us and we grabbed His hand. There is no one else but Him. No matter how hard we look on this earth, there is no one besides the Lord who eliminated our sins. There is no one besides God.
My fellow believers, it was a short moment, but if we hadn’t abandoned our selfishness and stubbornness and accepted God’s salvation, wouldn’t there have been big problems? What would have happened had the Lord who is our Shepherd left us in the wilderness and abandoned us? Where did He go? He went to find the other lost sheep. He found a lost sheep. So, He waits for the sheep to return to the fold, but what would happen if it never returned? Won’t it be left in the wilderness and ultimately die? That could have easily happened to us.
My fellow believers, it was fortunate that God found us and really put His hand out to us when we were suffering in difficulty. What would have happened if God found us and said, “I eliminated all your sins,” when we were well off? We would have said, “I don’t need God. What does God care? God’s not so special. I don’t need to look for God until I’m on my deathbed. Why would I look for Him while living well in this world?” Wouldn’t we have really arrogantly swatted His hand away? We would not have met the Lord if we were happy and perfect while living in this world. But the Lord allowed difficulties and hardships to us to save us, and He found us afterwards.
It is written, “‘Return, O backsliding children,’ says the LORD; ‘for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding’” (Jeremiah 3:14-15). We have received the remission of sins by this kind of miracle; one from a city and two from a family. That’s the way we were saved. Strictly speaking, the probability isn’t very high. Out of all the many people in the world, God met us, the little flock. I hope that you know that we are truly chosen among so many people.
There are even now souls that God is looking for and whom He earnestly hopes to meet. My fellow believers, we also must find those kinds of souls. It is our work to help those souls meet the Lord by finding them, sitting them down, and having them listen to the Word. The work we have to do is to look and see if those kinds of souls are around us and look around to find them. This is what we who are little shepherds have to do. We are the righteous who have received the remission of our sins first. Do you see that there are lost souls like that around you? We must find them. Many people read our books and listen to this Word, but only about one in a hundred or thousand receives the remission of sins.
There is no need to be disappointed because of that. It suffices for two people to receive the remission of sins after we spread the gospel to a hundred people. There’s no need to be disappointed. If you have listened well to today’s Scripture passage, you probably understand, don’t you? Isn’t it two times the blessings as spoken of in today’s Scripture passage? The Lord said that there was only one saved person among a hundred, but we’ve saved two. We have truly been blessed by the Lord for we usually save one or more people when we spread the gospel to ten. That’s amazing. Not even the Apostle Paul received as many blessings when he spread the gospel on this earth. If we read the Pauline Epistles carefully, there weren’t a lot of people who received the remission of their sins, even if you consider the Church in Rome or the Church in Corinth. Even so, if you examine the history of the Church, you can know that several thousand people received the remission of sins in the time of the Apostles and the Early Church age, but the number who received it later was small.
It was also very hard for us to find God, but we have to remember the fact that He looked for us more tiresomely and we must give thanks for the fact that we could meet Him. We must truly be thankful that God has met us. I hope that you are always thankful to the Lord. What a big blessing this is! Even though we are truly insufficient beings, we are people who have received the blessing of having been able to meet God. Even though we are insufficient, we are people in God’s Church. We are people who have received God’s blessings. Of all the many stars in the sky, we are one of a thousand or ten thousand that have been chosen by God.
I can’t explain how thankful we are. I hope that we become people who are thankful our whole lives, rejoice, follow the Lord in God’s Church that is His body, serve the Lord, are capable of the mission of spreading this gospel, and connect lost sheep to the Lord by diligently looking for them. I hope that you become those kinds of saints.