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Lesson 8: The Mission of Jesus *

Introduction: In a discussion about outreach, a fellow told me that at his church "we preach the straight gospel." I understood they just preached church teachings with no frills and outsiders should be attracted to an honest message. "How is that working out for you," I asked? He lowered his head and confessed they had one new member in the last ten years. Luke records Jesus' amazing strategy for outreach. Let's jump into our study and learn more!

  1. Lost Things

    1. Read Luke 15:1-4. If Jesus put that question to you, how would you answer it? (I'm no shepherd, but if the ninety-nine were in "open country" I would let the one go to protect the rest.)

      1. Why is my answer wrong? (Jesus asks the question as if the answer is obvious, so His answer must have been the automatic answer of his listeners.)

    2. Read Luke 15:5-7. I'm not trying to be contrary, but if your pet makes you hunt for him, how would you react?(I would be glad to have my pet back, but I would be annoyed to have to chase after it.)

      1. Compare my reaction (and yours?) to God's reaction. What does this teach us about Jesus? (He loves to pursue us. He delights when we repent and turn to Him. We are loved.)

    3. Read Luke 15:8. Recall that I was annoyed with the lost sheep. How is this story different? (The coin has no responsibility for being lost. I am at fault for losing my money.)

    4. Read Luke 15:9-10. Why not just tell the sheep story? One dumb sheep runs off. That seems a good comparison to me when I run off from God. Why add the story of the coin? (The most obvious reason is that God wants us to know that the "lost" problem involves Him. I think our next story more clearly makes that point.)

    5. In the stories of the sheep and the coin, what attitudes of God come through? (He claims an ownership interest in us. He targets the lost. He works hard to retrieve the lost. He rejoices in the lost coming to Him. You, the "one sinner," are important to God and the angels.)

  2. The Prodigal

    1. Read Luke 15:11-12. Is there anything fair about this request?

      1. Anything you think is unfair? (Normally, a son receives his inheritance when the father dies. In the meantime, the son helps the father. Because this was the younger son, he would get half the inheritance of the older son. The father loses one-third of his assets and the benefit of the son's labor.)

    2. Read Luke 15:13. Do you think the father had a good idea about his son's intentions for the future?

      1. If so, why did the father agree?

      2. Would you tell your son "No. This is a bad idea, it will turn out poorly," and then hope that by the time you die, the son will have become more mature?

    3. Read Luke 15:14-17. All of the money is gone. Has any good come out of this? (He came to his senses. It was an expensive life lesson.)

      1. I hear of parents who engage in heroic efforts to restrain their children from bad behavior. What does this story suggest about that?

      2. Consider the lop-sided approach in all of these cases. God does not seem to work very hard to keep the sheep/coin/son from getting "lost." But, He does engage in serious effort to recover the lost. Why?

    4. Read Luke 15:18-19. The son's desire is to be like a "hired hand." Previously, he was dissatisfied with being a son. How completely has his attitude changed?

      1. Would his attitude have changed if the father refused to let him go? (This makes the point about change coming from within, not without.)

    5. Read Luke 15:20-24. What is the son's opinion of his proper status? ("I am no longer worthy to be called your son.")

      1. What is the father's opinion of the son's status? ("This son of mine ... is alive again.")

      2. What has the father gained? (He had a son who did not want to be a son. He only wanted money. He now has a son who wants to be with him.)

        1. Or, am I being too kind to the son? Did he only come back for the food? (He did come back for food, but the incredible love of the father undoubtedly changed his heart.)

          1. Parents, consider what happened here if you have a prodigal who wants to return home for food (and work).

    6. Read Luke 15:25-28. Is this how you would react if you were the older son? (I would be worried the younger son was now threatening my inheritance because he made poor choices.)

    7. Read Luke 15:29-30. Is the older brother a true son? (He views his service for the father as "slaving" with no opportunity for celebration.)

    8. Parents, put yourself in the place of this father. The younger son just wants your money. The older son thinks he is slaving for you. What kind of children do you have?

    9. Re-read Luke 15:28 and read Luke 15:31-32. Is the father chasing after the older son? (Yes! He "pleaded with him," and he tells the son he owns "everything.")

    10. Have you thought it might be good to come to God just before you die so that you can do what you want and still have heaven?

      1. If so, what is the problem? (One is that you miss "God with you" - Luke 15:31. You miss having the riches of God right now. What you view as "slaving" is actually ownership of God's blessings.)

    11. Who is the most sympathetic figure here? (The father! His sons treat him badly. He treats them wonderfully. The calf sacrificed for the younger son belonged to the father, not the older son. The father gave up his rights to let his sons have "rights.")

  3. Conniving Manager

    1. Read Luke 16:1-2. What is the problem? (The manager is "wasting" his employer's money.)

    2. Read Luke 16:3-7. What is the manager's problem? (The manager will have trouble making a living because he is out of shape and proud.)

      1. What is the solution to the problem? (To cheat his employer! He will benefit himself at his employer's expense.)

      2. I'm a lawyer, would you like your lawyer doing this to you - cheating you to benefit himself? (This gets a lawyer disbarred and sent to prison.)

    3. Read Luke 16:8. Would you commend your lawyer (or employee) for doing this to you?

    4. Read Luke 16:9. Who is speaking here? (Jesus!)

      1. Have you ever heard religious leaders say, "We don't use the methods of the world to bring new members into the church!" What do you think about this point of view? (It is completely at odds with this parable and Jesus' comment!)

    5. Let's step back a moment. We have read four parables: lost sheep, lost coin, lost son, dishonest manager. What is Jesus trying to teach us? (He wants to reclaim the lost because He unselfishly loves them, and He wants us to use the most sophisticated, diligent, cunning efforts to find the lost.)

    6. Read Luke 16:10-12. Is Jesus teaching us to be dishonest? (No.) What is He teaching us? (We have "worldly wealth" and He expects us to use it to advance the Kingdom of God.)

      1. What is "worldly wealth?" Study Luke 16:9 very closely. (What does the world value? Intelligence, beauty, talent, and money. If we are entrusted with any of these, we have an obligation to use them "shrewdly"( Luke 16:8) to advance finding the lost. If we don't, we will not be entrusted with "true riches" ( Luke 16:11). That is a sobering idea.)

    7. Friend, how shrewd is your church in finding the lost? Will you commit today to using your very best strategy and talents to seek the lost?

  4. Next week: Jesus, the Master Teacher.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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