Praying For The WaywardSeries: A Constant Sense
PRAYING FOR THE WAYWARD
Pt.#10 – A Constant Sense
Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / September 27, 2015
Our Seven Sundays In Sunday School is now underway.
Last year we posted a weekly average of 42 during this span of seven Sundays.
Our weekly average SS attendance thus far in 2015 - - leading up to our Seven Sunday campaign is 35.
I read a quote from a writer named Tim Gill
“Have you ever noticed how BACKSLIDERS can be THE LOST that the church often forgets about?
It is our mission to reach the lost, and than includes backsliders.”
I have been thinking lately about the wayward.
What is the role of the church in helping to recover and strengthen wayward sheep in the household of God?
Do we have the desire? Have we given serious thought as to what we can do - - how we can help? Do we have a plan?
Could it be that we as a church have become wayward in dealing with the wayward?
I’m not talking here about dis-fellowshipping the lost - - our focus today is not on disciplinary measures.
I’ve heard of churches where “excommunication” has been tried, but found wanting - - with mostly negative results.
Suffice it to say that most approaches to dis-fellowshipping the wayward have left much to be desired.
It seems to me that we ourselves (those safely in the fold) have lost our way on this matter.
Some have come to harbor a measure of disgust (and sometimes even disdain) for lost sheep.
Someone becomes a Christian and then falls away, and we have little or no tolerance for such a lack of loyalty.
“If that’s the option they have chosen, they’ll just have to reap what they sow and live with the consequences.”
Perhaps as a means of coping, we’ve taken a no-nonsense approach that is rather cold-hearted.
“Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life”.
After all, attrition is just a fact of life when it comes to discipleship.
So we shake the dust off our feet and dismiss the wayward as we seek to find others with more spiritual interests.
In some respects, as far as the wayward sheep are concerned, it is often a case of “out of sight, out of mind”.
? If we’re not careful, we will come to look just like the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son. ?
As the story of the prodigal son reveals, the attitude of the elder brother does not reflect that of the Father.
And neither does this dispassionate stance reflect the heart of Jesus.
There are a few who become wayward to such an extreme that they become enemies of cross of Christ.
There is a seriousness about this degree of apostasy that cannot and should not be easily dismissed.
Open your Bibles to 2Pet.2:20-22
These three verses have a sense of gravity that is seldom superseded in Scripture.
For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.
It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘a dog returns to its own vomit’
and ‘a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’.
As the context (2Pet.2:1ff) clearly shows this is a exceptionally stern warning written about false teachers.
These strong words do not describe the common wayward sheep or the typical backslider.
These words speak of sheep who have morphed into recalcitrant rams and self-centered ewes.
and even more - - have evolved into savage wolves (the law of genetics notwithstanding). cf. Acts 20:29
These have become so wayward that Paul warns, “beware of the (mutilating) dogs” (Philp.3:2).
Of these John pronounces a severe judgment - - “outside are the dogs” (Rev.22:15) - - they have no access to the
tree of life (Rev.22:1f) and they have no part or place in the holy city, the heavenly kingdom (Rev.21:1f).
The focus of my message this morning is not how to pray for or deal with rabid apostates or savage wolves.
Rather, I want us to think about how do we deal with (and pray for) ORDINARY WAYWARD SHEEP.
There are two key passages of Scripture that give us insight in the Jesus approach to wayward sheep.
(1) Lk.15:1ff contains three parables - - vss.8f/lost coin … and vss.11f/prodigal son.
In vss.3-7 Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep.
It not so much a critique of the wayward sheep as it is a glimpse into the heart of the shepherd - - read Lk.15:4
He leaves the 99 to go out and seek that single lost sheep.
We must not read this and conclude that he has become reckless with the 99. He surely leaves them in good hands.
The emphasis here is simply this: he is not content to cut his losses and move on.
The shepherd doesn’t have the mindset that reasons “you win some, you lose some - - that’s life.”
While the text does not give the details of his hunt for the lost, it was most likely arduous and difficult.
Listen to the passion-filled words of Elizabeth Clephane’s Song #641 (The Ninety And Nine - - vss.1-4).
There is no hint in the text of a severe scolding or a harsh reprimand.
This is no indication of the lost sheep being impounded or put on probation when he is returned to the flock.
Vs 5 of this song echoes the text of Lk.15:5-7.
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 which was lost’.
I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,
than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Thomas Kinkaide has a painting of Jesus carrying a black-lamb on His shoulders, with a smile on face that is captivating.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus added the “punch line” found in vs.7, just to get the goat of the Pharisees.
It was their arrogance & grumbling (about the time Jesus spent with sinners) that prompted the parable in the first place.
Read vs.7 as “the ninety-nine (self-righteous) persons who (think they) need no repentance.”
(2) A second key passage is found in Jn.10:1-18.
In the interest of time I’ll ask that you read this text in full in your own private time.
For our thoughts this morning, I just want to call attention to vs.11 4 “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”.
This thought is emphasized over and over again by Jesus. cf. Jn.10:15, 17 & 18.
I want to close this sermon today by making one more observation and then closing with an appeal.
First, an observation - - how might we describe the common, ordinary wayward sheep?
Perhaps many of us (if not all of us) can look to a time when we suffered from a similar malaise.
(Isa.53:6 / all of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way).
Such is the very definition of wayward - - to be strong-willing & headstrong and seeking one’s own way/will.
Maybe all we need to do is look in the mirror.
The typical wayward sheep is seldom hostile to the cause of Christ.
Quite often they are quick to affirm their love for God and Jesus.
In many respects they are very much like their four-legged friends (real sheep).
They did not set out to abandon the flock. They did not become lost because they were protesting the flock.
They did not wander astray because they disliked their shepherd or his under-shepherds.
Some wayward sheep (humans) become wayward because someone or something else had distracted them.
I’m reflecting here upon the words of Jesus in the parable of the sower (Lk.8:9ff).
Some are wayward because they’re not rooted in the word and they subsequently become snared by temptations.
Some are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life.
Some are like Martha and they have are “worried and bothered about so many things” (Lk.10:41).
Some, like the rich man in another parable told by Jesus (Lk.12:16) suffering from myopia: they are fixated on themselves.
“My crops … my barns … my grain … my goods.”
They loose sight of the fragility and brevity of life and dangerously conclude that
they will have plenty of time … later on … to get their spiritual house in order.
Some are wayward because they have become discouraged.
If we only knew what some sheep were dealing with on a day-to-day basis, we’d be more tender-hearted.
They’ve begun their Christian walk, but have grown weary in well-doing (Gal.6:9) and they need encouragement & help.
The metaphor of us Christians being like sheep is rather humbling.
We’re not always smart. In fact, sometimes we are quite foolish.
The grass often looks greener on the other side of the pasture and thus begins our trek into waywardness.
We’re not the strongest of creatures and we are prone to slips and slides and all manner of altercations.
We have a tendency to become easily distracted and thereby sorely wrapped up in a host of entanglements.
But the truth of the matter is that many of the sheep of God’s fold who have wandered astray want to come home.
Deep down in their heart of hearts they l-o-n-g to come home.
Let’s sing together Song# 936 (Lord, I’m Coming Home) - - refrain only after vs.4.
I want to close with an appeal.
Jesus once sent out His disciples with a very specific task (Mt.10:5-6). He told them 4 “Do not go in the way of
the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; But rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Gal.6:16 speaks of the church as “the Israel of God”.
Like Israel of old, we too have many lost sheep - - scores who have wandered away from the fold.
We have church elders who have been appointed to “shepherd the flock” (1Pet.5:2).
But this assignment is not just for them.
This task of “guiding the erring back to the right” is for all of us.
Js.5:16 states that we are to “pray for one another”.
Such praying will pave the way for us to follow up on the exhortation of Gal.6:1-2
Brothers and sisters, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual,
restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
Let us seek out the wayward sheep. Let us go humbly. Let us go lovingly. Let us go with determination.
Let us go, not under compulsion, but willingly, because we love our fellow sheep.
Js.5:19-20 4 “My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know
that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.”