the Parable of a Shepherd Seeking the Lost Sheep

My Harvest From the Parable of a Shepherd Seeking the Lost Sheep

Whenever reading these lines from Scripture: “How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Mat 18:12-14), I feel very moved in my heart, as God loves men so much that He won’t leave anyone as long as the sheep belongs to Him. But I had been wondering before why the Lord Jesus expressed His love for us human beings by parable and what the Lord’s will was? I didn’t understand the profound meaning within it until one day I saw the word of God on the gospel website. God’s word says: “(Mat 18:12-14) How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. “This is a metaphor—what kind of feeling do people get from this passage? The way this metaphor is expressed utilizes a figure of speech in human language; it’s something within the scope of human knowledge. If God had said something similar in the Age of Law, people would have felt that it wasn’t really consistent with who God was, but when the Son of man delivered this passage in the Age of Grace, it felt comforting, warm, and intimate to people. When God became flesh, when He appeared in the form of a man, He used a very appropriate metaphor to express the voice of His heart in humanity. This voice represented God’s own voice and the work He wanted to do in that age. It also represented an attitude that God had toward people in the Age of Grace. Looking from the perspective of God’s attitude toward people, He compared each person to a sheep. If a sheep is lost, He will do whatever it takes to find it. This represents a principle of God’s work among mankind this time in the flesh. God used this parable to describe His resolve and attitude in that work. This was the advantage of God becoming flesh: He could take advantage of mankind’s knowledge and use human language to speak to people, to express His will. He explained or ‘translated’ to man His profound, divine language that people struggled to understand in human language, in a human way. This helped people understand His will and know what He wanted to do. He could also have conversations with people from the human perspective, using human language, and communicate with people in a way they understood. He could even speak and work using human language and knowledge so that people could feel God’s kindness and closeness, so that they could see His heart.” From the word of God, I understood that through the parable—“a man seeks the lost sheep,” the Lord Jesus used the feeling that we can understand to describe God’s eager desire to save people, so that we can experience God’s sincere feelings of expecting mankind to be able to return to the proper path after going astray. When a person strays far from God, God’s intention in wanting to find him is the same as the man’s intention in looking for the lost sheep; when this person is recovered and returns to God again, God feels the joy which is like that of the man finding his lost sheep. But the Lord Jesus’ word didn’t mean that He preferred this lost sheep to the ninety and nine that did not go astray, but expressed God’s love and expectation of mankind. God values us and hopes that we can turn to Him and come before Him to worship Him. So we can understand God’s love for mankind. Apart from this kind of joy, God also made clear to us His resolve and attitude of saving people and never giving up until He gains people. The Lord Jesus also used this parable to let us understand His will toward the people He intends to save. When we are immature and get lost, God is worried about us by our side, and arranges all kinds of situations to awake us and causes us to no longer be harmed by Satan. For instance: When I first started to believe in God, I was so tempted by social evil trends that I just worked hard to earn money, without regular gatherings. Just when I was about to be lost in the social trends and devoured by Satan, God arranged some situations to awake my heart. At that time, I often hit a wall when I did things. Besides, I also felt that I lived like that so miserably and tiredly, feeling empty inside. At last I thought of God, so I came before God once again, admitted my sins and repented to God. God gave me one more opportunity, which made me feel the warmth of His love. Now, I look back on it: If I had not hit a wall in the world and not experienced the pain of living for money, I wouldn’t have turned around; on the contrary, I would still keep on falling into the whirlpool of money from which I would be hard put to extricate myself, let alone have the chance to get God’s salvation. Meanwhile, I also…

Lord Jesus Preaching

What Is the Moral of the Parable of New Cloth on an Old Coat?

By Yaning One day, after a meeting, a sister asked me, “Brother, the Lord Jesus said, ‘No man puts a piece of a new garment on an old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agrees not with the old’ (Luke 5:36). Do you know what this parable means? What does the Lord want to tell us through it?” Hearing the sister’s questions, I thought that I happened to have some understanding of this parable of the Lord Jesus, so I replied without thinking, “In the Old Testament, the Israelites were required to fast on the day of atonement every year. But as the salvation of the Lord Jesus had come, the old practices were no longer applicable, and people should abide by the new requirements proposed by the Lord. By telling this parable, the Lord Jesus warns us that in our faith in Him, we cannot cling only to the laws of the Old Testament like the Pharisees did, but instead should accept and follow the Lord’s words and act in accordance with His teachings.” Upon hearing my answer, the sister nodded her head, and I also felt gratified for my ability to understand the Lord’s will. Just then, Co-worker Zhang, who had recently returned from another place, said, “Brother Wang, I used to think like you. But God’s words are the truth and contain deep meaning. A couple of days ago, I had a fellowship with a brother from another church on this verse. Through reading a book of truth, I gained some deeper understanding about the Lord’s will behind this parable. How about we fellowship together?” Hearing that Brother Zhang had a deeper understanding and knowledge about this verse, I said happily, “That would be great!” “Brother Zhang,” the sister anxiously cut in, “since you have a deeper understanding, please tell us about it!” Brother Zhang smiled and said, “OK. Let me first read a passage that we read that day.” As he said this, he took a tablet out of his bag and read, “‘Because there are always new developments in God’s work, thus there is new work, and thus there is also work that is obsolete and old. This old and new work is not contradictory, but complementary; each step follows on from the last. Because there is new work, the old things must, of course, be eliminated. … The work of God is always new and never old, and it never forms doctrine and is, instead, continually changing and renewing to a greater or lesser extent. This work is the expression of the inherent disposition of God Himself. It is also the inherent principle of God’s work, and one of the means by which God accomplishes His management. If God did not work in this way, man would not change or be able to know God, and Satan would not be defeated. Thus, in His work there continually occur changes that appear erratic, but which are actually periodic. … God’s intention has always been for His work to be new and alive, not old and dead, and that which He makes man hold firm to varies with the age and period, and is not everlasting and immutable. That is because He is a God who causes man to live and be new’ (‘Only Those Who Know the Work of God Today Can Serve God’). “From this passage we can see that God’s work does not follow rules, and that He performs new work in accordance with His plan for mankind’s salvation as well as according to the degree of mankind’s corruption by Satan. God’s work varies with the age and period, and is not everlasting and immutable, and He always does newer and higher work. When the new work begins, the previous work becomes out of date, and God embarks on another plan and carries out new work. For example, Jehovah God did the work of issuing laws and guiding the lives of people. Under the guidance of Jehovah God, the Israelites of the time learned how to conduct their lives and how to worship God, and understood what sin was. But in the later period of the Age of Law, as man was becoming more and more corrupted by Satan, no one was able to keep the laws and commandments any longer, and all were in constant danger of being sentenced to death by the law. In order to save mankind, God incarnated into the image of Jesus and, on the basis of the work of the Age of Law, did a stage of work of redeeming mankind through crucifixion. The Lord Jesus brought a new age, fulfilled the laws and commandments, gave people a new way to practice and proposed new requirements for them, such as being tolerant and patient, loving their enemies, being the light of the world and salt of the earth, and so on. From the outside, these two stages of work appear different, but they actually complement each other, through which God saves mankind from the influence of Satan step by step. From this we can see that God’s work does not remain unchanged, but rather is always moving forward, and that God’s requirements of mankind are becoming ever higher. “The Pharisees back then, however, didn’t know God’s work. They abided by religious notions and used the laws of the Old Testament to examine the Lord Jesus’ new work and words. They said that the Lord Jesus sat at the table with tax collectors, and that He and His disciples had violated the laws by not keeping the Sabbath day and not fasting, thereby denying that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah. So when the Lord Jesus said, ‘No man puts a piece of a new garment on an old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agrees not with the old’ (Luke…

christ's agony on the cross

The True Meaning of the Last Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross “It Is Finished”

By Lingling That Sunday morning was just like any other as I opened my Bible and began my spiritual devotions, when I then saw Hebrews 9:28 that said: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation.” Thinking about it carefully, I couldn’t help but feel confused. “That can’t be,” I thought. “Didn’t the Lord Jesus saying ‘It is finished’ upon the cross mean that God’s work to save man was totally finished? When the Lord returns, we can immediately enter heaven and will feast with the Lord, so how come this says that the Lord Jesus will appear again to save man when He returns? What on earth does it all mean?” The more I thought about it, the more doubtful my heart became … “This won’t do! I must find someone to fellowship this with,” I thought. Just then, I thought of my co-worker from the church, Sister Xiao Xue. We usually discussed the Bible together, and it just so happened that Sister Xiao Xue had just returned from attending a gathering elsewhere, and there was nothing she couldn’t help me to seek. I went to Xiao Xue’s home, and when I saw that both Sister Xiao Xue and her husband Brother Xu were at home, I blurted out my question: “I am confused about something that I’d like to talk with you about. We all know that the Lord Jesus said “It is finished” when He was upon the cross. This meant that God’s work to save man was over, and as long as we believed in Jesus, then the Lord would no longer regard us as sinful, and when He returns, we will immediately be raised up into heaven. And yet it says in Hebrews 9:28: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation.” This says that God will appear again in the last days to perform His work to save us. How do you understand this?” Xiao Xue smiled and said, “This question you ask just so happens to be one that I’ve been discussing with brothers and sisters on my trip away, and after a few days of fellowship, we finally came to a conclusion. In actual fact, when the Lord Jesus said ‘It is finished’ upon the cross, He didn’t mean that God’s work to save mankind was completely finished, for He had previously prophesied: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). ‘And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:47–48). ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 2–3). The Lord has already told us clearly that when He returns in the last days, He shall express the truth to the churches, tell us many mysteries and also perform the work of judgment. God is faithful, and everything that God has said shall come to pass.” I contemplated Xiao Xue’s fellowship, and I thought, “Yes! God is faithful, and seeing as the Lord Jesus prophesied that He shall utter more words and perform more work in the future, then that must surely come to pass.” Brother Xu continued, saying, “Yes, the Lord’s words can never just come to nothing. Moreover, we should also be aware that when the Lord Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ He meant that God’s work to redeem mankind was finished and that man would no longer be put to death by the law. Thinking back to the end of the Age of Law, mankind was being corrupted deeper and deeper by Satan, they were no longer capable of observing the law and were in constant danger of being put to death by the law. In order to save man, God incarnated in the form of the Lord Jesus and preached the gospel, healed the sick and cast out demons wherever He went. He performed many miracles and was ultimately nailed to the cross to redeem man from sin. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ He meant that as long as all those who accept His salvation confess their sins to Him and repent, then their sins shall be forgiven, they shall enjoy the grace He bestows, and they shall no longer be condemned and put to death by the law. After listening to his fellowship, I suddenly saw the light, and said, “Brother Xu, your fellowship has made me understand. The Lord saying ‘It is finished’ actually meant that God’s work of redemption was finished, and that as long as we trusted in the Lord and confessed and repented, then our sins could be forgiven, and we would not be put to death by the law.” Sister Xiao Xue then said, “Thank the Lord, it’s really great that you can come to this understanding. The Lord Jesus acted as a sin offering for man and He redeemed man from sin and forgave man his sins. This was the mercy of God, but it did not mean that we were then free of sin, because our sinful nature still remained deeply rooted within us, and we were still capable of being frequently subject to the bonds of our sinful nature and committing sin and defying God. After we believe…

the birth of the Lord Jesus

Why the Pharisees Could Not Recognize the Lord Jesus Was the Messiah

By Liu Fang Two thousand years ago, the Israelites desperately longed for the coming of the Messiah, but when the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, finally arrived, the Pharisees actually nailed Him to the cross, and as a result, the Israelites were subject to God’s punishment—the destruction of Israel. This bitter failure really calls for our reflection: How come the Pharisees who had believed in God for generations resisted God? Now it is already the last days, and the prophecies of the Lord’s return have basically been fulfilled. At this critical time of welcoming the Lord, how can we avoid following in the footsteps of the Pharisees? As we all know, at the end of the Age of Law the Israelites, according to the prophecies in the Scripture, all longed for the Messiah to come and save them. At that time, the Pharisees, after hearing the prophecies about the coming Messiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6), and “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2), began to fancy what He would be like based on the literal meaning of these prophecies. In their mind, the One who was to come must be called Messiah. Since He would come to rule, He must be someone who would be born into a royal palace with a heroic bearing and commanding presence, who would grow into a great warrior like David and lead His people to drive the Romans out of Israel, rescuing them from the oppression of the Romans. However, the fulfillments of the prophecies were not as the Pharisees had imagined. When the Lord Jesus came, He was neither called the Messiah nor born into a royal palace. Instead, He was born in a manger and grew up in a poor carpenter’s home. His external appearance was not as majestic and extraordinary as they had fancied, but was very ordinary and normal. He didn’t lead the Israelites to overthrow the rule of the Romans, but walked among the people preaching the way of repentance, and taught them to practice forgiveness and tolerance and to love others as themselves. Seeing the Lord Jesus, who was ordinary and normal, not like the Messiah they imagined, the Pharisees stubbornly held on to their own notions and imaginings, concluding that He couldn’t be the coming Messiah, and seized upon every chance to condemn and resist Him. Even though the Lord Jesus performed many miracles and expressed many truths, from which many people recognized that He was Christ, the Pharisees didn’t have the slightest intention to seek. Regardless of how profound the Lord Jesus’ preaching was or how many miracles He performed, they obstinately rejected His work and even incited the people of Israel to resist and condemn Him. Later, they went so far as to collude with the Roman government to crucify the Lord Jesus—the Messiah who had come, committing a heinous sin and offending God’s righteous disposition, and ultimately were subject to God’s punishment—the destruction of Israel. The failure of the Pharisees is really worthy of our self-reflection. They treated the prophecies about the Messiah based on their own conceptions and imaginations, which led to them becoming the ones who bitterly longed for the arrival of the Messiah but nailed Him to the cross. We all know that the prophecies in the Bible are about the things that God will accomplish in the future, which cannot be fathomed by us humans. So how should we treat them in a way that is after God’s heart? The Bible says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21), and “Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). These verses tell us that the prophecies are all from God, which cannot be commented on at will by us. We cannot interpret them literally, or rely on our own notions to speculate on them or determine their meaning, because they will only be fulfilled according to God’s own plan. God’s work is wondrous and full of His wisdom, which cannot be fathomed by us humans. If we define God’s work based on the literal meaning of the prophecies, we are liable to resist God and ultimately be destroyed by our own conceptions and imagination. Compared to the Pharisees, there was a group of people who approached the prophecies of the Messiah in a different way. When seeing the Lord Jesus, who was ordinary and normal in appearance and not in accord with their fantasies about the Messiah, they didn’t hold on to their conceptions and imaginings but focused on listening to His words, and finally recognized through His words and work that He was the coming Messiah. Just like Simon Peter—he once said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Why could he say these words and recognize the Lord’s identity as Christ? This is because he found that what the Lord did was totally beyond what humans can do, that what He said contained the truth, and that He possessed the essence of God and “the words of eternal life.” The woman of Samaria is another example. When she…

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