I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Did you know that joy is a fruit of the spirit? Would you know that if you went to a church? Not sure. Would you know that if you were to witness heaven? Oh, yes.
As Jesus tell these parables about the lost, there are two groups. One group eating together. The other group standing to the side muttering to themselves. Which group is Jesus with? In fact, as we have gone through this study and have hopefully gotten to know Jesus better, could you picture Jesus with the group standing off to the side muttering? I can't.
Here's a lie that needs to be refuted: Heaven hates people.
In fact, heaven loves people. Jesus loves people just as His Father loves people. He wants to spend time with us. He wants to eat with us. He wants us to enjoy His creation. He wants us to want to spend time with Him. He wants us to want to eat with Him. He wants us to enjoy life with Him.
Fact of the matter is, we cannot enjoy life without Him. But I'm starting to bleed into a future post about the younger brother. I won't elaborate right now other than to say that our perspective on joy, heaven and the Living God is so skewed and we have believed the lies about heaven being the great joyless land is so pronounced, it's hard to wrap our heads around a righteous celebration.
I come from a traditional, rational, intellectual church tradition. I've heard my brothers and sisters criticise songs for not being serious enough, for not being reverential enough. Why do we view joy and reverent as opponents? We meet on Sunday and stand side by side. No hands are raised. No smiles are encouraged. And, preaching more often resembles an academic lecture rather than an introduction to our Father.
Worse, we criticise those who do raise their hands. We criticise those who dance in church. We portray those churches as shallow. "They are a km wide and a cm deep." Why do we view joy and serious as opponents? Can we be serious and joyful?
The church needs to emulate Jesus. Was there anyone more serious than Jesus? He knew that his ministry would be brief. He knew what he ultimately came to do. He taught repeatedly about how his time with them would end. He set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem and ultimately took the cup he did not want to drink.
And, he plunged headlong into the serious matter. The most serious matter of all, for the whole world, is man has destroyed its relationship with God. Because of this, man cannot relate to themselves, with each other, with creation. Man is a mess. People are blind and nobody helps. People are poor and still robbed. People ache to be loved and still hold contempt in their hearts for one another. This is serious business.
Jesus, and only Jesus, his grace, his truth, his life is what makes it possible to love instead of hate, to appreciate instead of despise, to heal instead of wound, to give relational beings the opportunity at the greatest relationship of all; we will be His people and He will be our God. This is good news.
And so, he comes to the broken hearted. He eats with the sinners and the tax collectors. He heals the blind. He forgives sin. It's been said before in this study, but eating with one another is a great equaliser. Sharing in blessing is hard to do with hate in our hearts. Hear me clearly Christian, if your desire is to win someone over to share the faith we have in Jesus, we must do what Jesus did. We must eat with those who perceive us as enemies. Not because we are looking to manipulate out of a selfish desire, but because we are looking to make peace in the Spirit of the only one where true peace can be found.
Do we really want to be standing off to the side murmuring. Jesus couldn't, wouldn't and shouldn't stand with murmuring people. Neither should we. Who is worthy to eat with the Lord? Nobody! So, let's be thankful and joyful that He chooses to eat with each and every single one of us who are unworthy to eat with Him.
And as He is eating with us, He gives a picture of great celebrations happening in heaven because more and more people are choosing to come to the party. Heaven is not the great joy killer. Heaven is the real joy giver. Heaven is our best, greatest hope.
Thank you so much, Jesus, for coming and showing us a most excellent way!