Salvation Joy and Amazing Grace

Luke 15:11-32
September 17, 2017
Abraham Hong


Every once in a while, I lose my wallet. And when I lose my wallet, I do what I believe most other people would do when faced with the same predictament: I freak out. My wallet has my driver’s license, my credit card and debit card, my health insurance card, and sometimes some cash. Thankfully, I have never completely lost my wallet. I’ve always been able to find it or get it back. And when it is in my hand again, I feel relieved and happy.

I’m sure you can understand the feeling. And perhaps you have a story or two about losing and finding stuff. Maybe it was your wallet too, or maybe your keys or your phone. Maybe you accidentally deleted an important file and lost everything that you wrote for that school essay. Maybe after folding a load of laundry you are left a little rattled and disturbed as you stare at a single orphan sock. Maybe you have gotten serious but well-deserved wrath from your spouse for being careless with your wedding ring. And the list goes on and on: sunglasses, sports equipment, headphones, umbrellas, your car in the shopping mall parking lot.

But it feels great to find things that you’ve lost. You feel relieved after miraculously recovering that deleted file. You feel glad after finding the missing sock nestled in the armpit of a shirt. You feel safe after finding your wedding ring again. 

People lose things all the time. And it is no small drama to lose things and then find them. But can you imagine losing and finding a person? Can you imagine losing and finding someone that you love?

This morning’s Scripture text is a very famous parable. But it is a parable with a very simple point. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of salvation joy and amazing grace for sinners. And I want to talk to you about these two things: salvation joy and amazing grace.

First, let’s talk about salvation joy.

Why did Jesus tell this parable in the first place? He told this parable because the Pharisees grumbled. The Pharisees were supposedly the good people. And they didn’t like how Jesus hung around sinners - with supposedly the bad people.

Why did Jesus receive and eat with sinners? He was glad. To be more precise, he was glad about them. You see, they were sinners who were spiritually lost and dead. But they came to Jesus. They repented of their sins and believed in him. And now they were spiritually found and alive. This called for joy and celebration! This is why Jesus embraced them! It’s a salvation joy.

When a family receives their father and husband after a tour in Iraq, they throw a party. When a mom finds her lost daughter at the zoo, she cries and hugs her tightly. And when a father sees a good-for-nothing son come home, he runs to him. He embraces him. And he covers him with a robe and a ring and throws a huge party for him.

You see, it’s very simple. There is joy when you get back what was once lost. Especially if what you lost was a person - someone you love. If you understand that, then you understand God’s heart. Jesus and everyone in heaven rejoices when a sinner repents and believes in the Savior. Heaven is glad when sinners repent and believe in Jesus. And so the kingdom of God is a kingdom of salvation joy.

Brothers and sisters, as the dust settles from our 40th anniversary celebration and as we move forward and wait for the return of our King with his kingdom, let us be a church that keeps it simple. Let us be a church that is filled salvation joy. Every single one of us who professes the name of Jesus was, at one point in his or her life, lost. We were once sinners who were enemies of God. Like the prodigal son, we took our own journeys into faraway countries, having squandered everything in reckless living.

But God saw us and had compassion on us and embraced us. And heaven was filled with joy when we repented and believed in Christ.

What were you happy about this past week? As we start a brand new week today, I invite you to be happy… simply because you are saved and loved by the Lord. The kingdom of God is one of salvation joy.

Second, the kingdom is one of amazing grace.

Other kingdoms of the world are based on justice and fairness. If you break the speed limit, you get a ticket and a fine. You deserve it. That is justice. If you get one Krispy Kreme doughnut, then everyone else should get one too. It’s the right thing to do. That is fairness. This mindset goes deep. It’s all about what is good. That’s why the Pharisees grumbled at Jesus. They thought the kingdom of God was just and fair. It wasn’t right to them that Jesus accepted sinners and bad people in the world. If Jesus was God, then he should accept righteous and good people in the world.

But the kingdom of God is not like the older brother in the parable. Instead, the kingdom is like the father. Do you see it? The older brother is the grumbling Pharisee. The younger brother is the welcomed sinner. The older brother was angry and bitter. “It’s not fair that my younger brother be forgiven by our father! It’s not fair that he gets a lavish party! I wasn’t the one who ran away and took all the money. I worked hard and obeyed dad. But now he gets a robe and a ring and a slaughtered calf? This is ridiculous! This is wrong! He doesn’t deserve this! He deserves to be punished. He should not come back as a son. He should start off as a slave and pay back all the family money he took and wasted.”

The older brother’s mindset was one of justice and fairness. But that is not how the kingdom of God works for sinners.

The kingdom of God invites bad people to repent and believe in Christ and be forgiven of their sins. The kingdom of God cancels the punishment of death for bad people and instead gives them the inheritance of life everlasting. This is totally “unfair.” That is why we call it grace. And this is all possible because of Jesus Christ.

So while the Pharisees grumbled, Zacchaeus climbed a tree. While the lawyers were bitter, the sinful woman bowed and wept before Jesus with her broken alabaster jar. While the good people scorned Jesus, Paul gave up everything for him. If you read well, then you’ll notice that Zacchaeus, the sinful woman, and Paul were all bad people. They were sinners, and they knew it. But the shocking thing about the kingdom of God is that there is grace for people like them. Instead of grumbling, they melted with thankfulness and worship - because of God’s grace.

But that is not all. I didn’t say that the kingdom of God was one of grace. I said that it was one of amazing grace. When a sinner gets forgiven, that’s grace. But when the only person who never sinned gets punishment for the something he never did, that’s amazing grace. Jesus is the king! Yet he humbled himself and suffered a humiliating punishment on the cross. All because he loved you.

And the Lord Jesus Christ is glad to have you.

You may not believe what I’m going to say next. But according to Hebrews 12:2, Jesus endured the cross because of a joy. There was a joy set before him as he dripped in blood. There was a joy set before him as Jesus suffered the pain of wrath. There was a joy set before him as he was humiliated, with skin shredded and sharp thorns driven into his skull. And when the thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus turned to him and said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” He said this because there was a joy set before him. That joy was his people. His lost sheep. That joy was you.

Brothers and sisters, you know the feeling of finding a cell phone or a set of keys or a single sock. But do you have any idea how Jesus feels about finding you? This might sound strange to you, but I am certain that you are not going to be the most happiest person in the new heavens and the new earth. The happiest person in the new heavens and the new earth is going to be Jesus Christ. It is his kingdom and his love. It is his salvation and his grace. We are his church and we are his people. We are his joy and we are his crown.

Salvation joy. Amazing grace. That’s the kingdom of God. That is why Jesus ate with sinners. And one day, he will literally, face to face, eat and dine with you.

Brothers and sisters, let us be a church that is joyful when sinners repent and believe in Jesus. Lord willing, our church will grow from evangelism in the near future. And if bad people come to know the Lord here at Highland, then let us not be like the older brother in this parable. Let us be like the father in this parable. Let us have the heart that heaven has when new people confess the name of Christ. If we are fishers of men, then let us have the same joy as that of a little kid who catches a fish for the first time with his or her father. Let us celebrate and be glad - not just for our own salvation, but for the salvation of others.