Jesus Cleans House

Jesus+Gets+Tough+Sins+Out

Luke 15 may be one of the most famous chapters in the New Testament. It contains several very famous stories, including the most famous of all, the story of the prodigal son. The three parables Jesus told in Luke 15 share a common idea: there is great joy when something lost is found. There is an old Jewish proverb that our Lord was probably familiar with, and it goes like this:

There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the earth.

That may or may not be totally accurate from a theological standpoint, but Jesus paints a very different picture of God in Luke 15: God rejoices over the return of the penitent more than over the many who are safely in the fold.

The most common picture of Jesus in the gospels is found in Luke 15, that of the Good Shepherd. It’s a beautiful picture of the caring, hardworking, determined Shepherd of the sheep who would go out into a dangerous wilderness to track down a stray sheep and return him to the safety of the fold. Obviously, our Lord wants us to see Him that way. He is the One who would give, and indeed did give, His life to save His people.

Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free. (Mark 10:45 NIrV)

The fold is that place of safety where Jesus hides and protects those who belong to Him. Or the home where the prodigal son is always welcome. Or the jewellry box where a woman stores a precious coin. Whatever metaphor He used, His idea is very clear: Jesus protects His own.

Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy. (Jude 24 NIrV)

That’s quite a comforting thought, isn’t it? Jesus saves us and then He does everything He can (to put it in human terms) to help keep us saved!

And yet, in spite of that, some of the Good Shepherd’s sheep like to leave the safety and protection of the fold. When he does that, the Shepherd goes to bring him back.

Everyone the Father gives me will come to me. I will never send away anyone who comes to me. (John 6:37 NIrV)

Our Lord; such a Good Shepherd!

When he finds it, he will joyfully put it on his shoulders and go home. Then he will call his friends and neighbors together. He will say, ‘Be joyful with me. I have found my lost sheep.’ (Luke 15:5, 6 NIrV)

And yet, if you picture Jesus as always looking for the lost, searching out sinners, welcoming the lost back, you don’t have the complete picture of our Lord. He is not always going to be the Shepherd, or the Savior. Sure, today He’s the Shepherd doing what He can to find His sheep, but someday He’ll be the Judge who will reject them. Today He brings sheep into His fold, but one day He will go into His fold and take some out. It’s a side of Jesus you don’t hear a lot about, but let’s consider these two very different sides of the Son of God.

Jesus as Shepherd

First, let’s consider our Lord’s role as the Good Shepherd. What is His purpose in bringing the straying sheep into the fold? Why does Jesus, the Savior, seek the lost soul, save the lost soul, then place the now-redeemed soul into His Body, the church? The simple, short answer is so that they will remain with Him until the future when He brings them to their final reward. The pen isn’t the final destination for the sheep any more than the church is the final destination for the Christian.

Our Lord came to save sinners. He works through the Holy Spirit to bring them repentance and then pardons their sins so that they may walk in newness of life instead of continually committing the sins of which they were guilty of before.

By being baptized, we were buried with Christ into his death. Christ has been raised from the dead by the Father’s glory. And like Christ we also can live a new life. (Romans 6:4 NIrV)

In a very real sense, that “new life” starts at the moment of salvation. It’s immediate. But in another sense, the “new life” comes on us gradually, as we come to grips with the frightening reality that sin is always trying to reclaim us, and as we wrestle with temptation and overcome the urge to sin, our “new life” becomes more and more a present reality. In yet another sense, our “new life” is wholly in the future. What we are right now is not what God intends for us to become.

God planned that those he had chosen would become like his Son. In that way, Christ will be the first and most honored among many brothers. And those God has planned for, he has also appointed to be saved. Those he has appointed, he has made right with himself. To those he has made right with himself, he has given his glory. (Romans 8:29, 30 NIrV)

The Lord will save me from every evil attack. He will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18 NIrV)

Jesus as the Savior, and metaphorically as the Good Shepherd, brings the sinner back to Himself, in a state of forgiveness, and therefore, innocence. So then, the redeemed liar is brought back to the truth and Christ expects him not to lie again. The drunkard is brought back to sobriety and is expected to never return to his drunken state. The adulterer is brought back to fidelity and is expected to remain that way. The apostle Paul explained it this way:

You were taught not to live the way you used to. You must get rid of your old way of life. That’s because it is polluted by longing for things that lead you down the wrong path. You were taught to be made new in your thinking. You were taught to start living a new life. It is created to be truly good and holy, just as God is. So each of you must get rid of your lying. Speak the truth to your neighbor. We are all parts of one body. (Ephesians 4:22 – 25 NIrV)

The “behaving” part of the deal must follow the “believing” part. Jesus does His part and we respond with belief, and then must do our part and behave like the forgiven sinners we are. When we do that, our Good Shepherd does what He can to help us – to keep us within the pen of His Body.

I am sending this letter to you who have been chosen by God. You are loved by God the Father. You are kept safe by Jesus Christ. (Jude, verse 1 NIrV)

Jesus as Judge

That’s now. But it won’t always be like this because Jesus won’t always be the Good Shepherd. At some time in the future, Jesus will become the Judge and He will separate the bad from the good within His fold. He will closely examine His sheep and will identify and pick out all the sheep that don’t really belong to Him; the diseased sheep that threaten the healthy ones, and He will cast them outside of His pen.

The day will come when our Lord will stop calling sinners to Himself and placing them in His church and will, instead, turn His attention TO His church and examine those IN His church. If He finds anyone who has not changed his ways; who continually goes back to his unregenerate state; who has given no evidence of progress in the “new life,” He will toss him out.

We have an Old Testament illustration of Jesus’ role as Judge. In Joshua 7, we read about Israel being led by Joshua into the Promised Land. Here is what God told the people to do:

‘Make yourselves pure. Get ready for tomorrow.’ (Joshua 7:13 NIrV)

What was going to happen “tomorrow?” They were to be led into the Promised Land, their final destination. The people had to do the one thing their leader, Joshua, couldn’t do for them: They had to make themselves pure. In the KJV the word is “sanctified.” The people had to sanctify themselves. They were IN Israel, but in order to enter into their final destination, they had to make an effort to sanctify themselves. They had to do this because all was not well in the fold of Israel.

Joshua spoke to Achan. He said, “My son, the Lord is the God of Israel. So give him glory by telling the truth! Give him praise by admitting you have sinned! Tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”

Achan replied, “It’s true! I’ve sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Here is what I’ve done. I saw a beautiful robe from Babylonia among the things we had taken. I saw five pounds of silver. And I saw a gold bar that weighed 20 ounces. I wanted them, so I took them. I hid them in the ground inside my tent. The silver is on the bottom.” (Joshua 7:19 – 21 NIrV)

Good old Achan had sinned in what he had done, and then he tried to cover up that sin by hiding the stuff he never should have had. He sinned and then compounded that sin. What happened to Achan is what happens to anybody who thinks they can hide their sin from God and the rest of the Body of Christ:

Then all of the people killed Achan by throwing stones at him. They also killed the rest of his family with stones. They burned all of them up. (Joshua 7:25 NIrV)

Pretty severe, but Achan knew. He gambled that he could get away what he’d done. He lost. What happened to Achan served to sanctify, or if you will, purify, Israel. The figurative “black sheep” had been dealt with.

When Jesus gathered His friends together for the Last Supper, there was a tense moment when Judas, the betrayer, stood up and walked away from Jesus the others. When he did that, Jesus said a curious thing:

After Judas was gone, Jesus spoke. He said, “Now the Son of Man receives glory. And he brings glory to God. (John 13:31 NIrV)

Just before that, Jesus was “troubled in His spirit,” verse 21. But the very moment the betrayer, the phony disciple, left His presence, His glorification began.

And so it is now, as it will be in the future. Jesus is glorified when sin is dealt with. As long as evil exists within the church, as long as there are sinners in the church that will not change; that will not submit to Jesus Christ, our Lord remains, “troubled in His spirit.” As long as unconfessed sin riddles His church, His glorification will be spotty at best.

But it won’t be this way forever. When the great Day comes, when Jesus Christ assumes His role as Judge, just as Joshua sanctified Israel and led his people into their Promised Land, so our Lord will purify His people by casting out from among them all the pretenders; all the Achans, and lead us into our Promised Land. On that Day of days, we will see the ultimate, final glorification of the Son of God.

 

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