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“The Celebration of Heaven” ~ Luke 15:1-10

April 8, 2018 ~Mercy Hill Church ~ Pastor John Ferguson

Intro: Max Lucado comments by Jeffery Dahmer’s conversion in the book, “In the Grip of Grace.”

You know what disturbs me most about Jeffrey Dahmer?

What disturbs me most are not his acts, though they are disgusting. Dahmer was convicted of seventeen murders. Eleven
corpses were found in his apartment… My thesaurus has 204 synonyms for vile, but each falls short of describing a man who
kept skulls in his refrigerator and hoarded a human heart. He redefined the boundary for brutality. The Milwaukee monster
dangled from the lowest rung of human conduct and then dropped. But that’s not what troubles me most.

Can I tell you what troubles me most about Jeffrey Dahmer? Not his trial, as disturbing as it was, with all those pictures of him
sitting serenely in court, face frozen, motionless. No sign of remorse, no hint of regret. Remember his steely eyes and impassive
face? But I don’t speak of him because of his trial. There is another reason. Can I tell you what really troubles me about Jeffrey
Dahmer?

Not his punishment, though life without parole is hardly an exchange for his actions. How many years would satisfy justice? A
lifetime in jail for every life he took? But that’s another matter, and that’s not what troubles me most about Jeffrey Dahmer. May I tell
you what does?

His conversion.

Months before an inmate murdered him, Jeffrey Dahmer became a Christian. Said he repented. Was sorry for what he did.
Profoundly sorry. Said he put his faith in Christ. Was baptized. Started life over. Began reading Christian books and attending
chapel.

Sins washed. Soul cleansed. Past forgiven.

That troubles me. It shouldn’t, but it does. Grace for a cannibal?

Maybe you have the same reservations. If not about Dahmer perhaps about someone else. Ever wrestled with the deathbed
conversion of a rapist or the eleventh-hour conversion of a child molester? We’ve sentenced them, maybe not in court, but in our
hearts. We’ve put them behind bars and locked the door. They are forever imprisoned by our disgust. And then, the impossible
happens. They repent.

Our response? (Dare we say it?) We cross our arms and furrow our brows and say, “God won’t let you off that easy. Not after what
you did. God is kind, but he’s no wimp. Grace is for average sinners like me, not deviants like you.”

If you can feel the tension that Lucado articulates, then you are in a perfect position to consider what Jesus taught about
God’s outrageous, scandalous grace. Today we beginning a new series called the “Celebration of Heaven.”

If you are new to Christianity, you could not have picked a better day to come and explore the core message of Jesus
because he’s going to take everything that we & our city & our world naturally believe about God and salvation on its
head. And that’s a good thing.

If you are a follower of Christ, you are going to be challenged to embrace the outrageous, even scandalous heart of
God, and orient your entire life around it.

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled,
saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

1. The despised of the despised

(1) Tax-collectors were not just despised, but hated.

• They were considered traitors b/c they were Jews who worked for the Roman tax-machine who preyed on the
Jewish people.
• Synagogues would not even accept their money as alms, and their testimony was not allowed in courts.

(2) “Sinners”

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• Code word for the sexually immoral, prostitutes and those who used them.
• One commentary on the OT law said that “a person should not associate with the godless;” this was especially
to be the case with the rabbis who were not to even teach the godless about the law (qtd in Hughes 132).

2. The Pharisees & scribes (experts in the OT Law) were the religious leaders of Israel

(1) Here’s the catch: they were supposed to care for these people, but they could not care less. And what bothered
them was that it seemed like Jesus could not care more.

• To share a meal with someone indicated a sharing of life, of fellowship, of care and interest in another. The
religious leaders would never dare to consider doing something so scandalous, but evidently, this Jesus who
claims to speak for God, doesn’t care about keeping himself pure from the scum of the earth.

(2) So they grumbled, they complained, they murmured, “This man receives sinners & eats with them.”

• What do you think about that description of Jesus? The answer probably depends on whether or not you view
yourself as a sinner.

(3) Question: why do you think that your average sinner doesn’t care to spend any time around religious people?
Why is it that when you read about the life of Jesus, “Sinners were all drawing near to him?”

This response of grumbling was so diametrically opposed to the heart of God that it sparked the following story….

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave
the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays
it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,
‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

1. Sheep are dumb animals who can easily stray, get themselves into trouble, and have no idea how to find their way
back to the Shepherd. So the shepherd goes on a search and rescue mission until he finds his lost sheep. He brings
it home on his shoulders, rejoicing.

2. Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine right-eous
persons who need no repentance.

1. The joy of heaven. Do you normally think of “joy” and “heaven” in the same sentence?

• CS Lewis, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” // Each moment is better than the last.

• The normally insane amount of exhilarating joy and never-ending ecstasy of heaven is actually heightened even
more when someone repents.

2. Repentance.

• Repentance is not merely confession, but a returning to God.

8 Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek
diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice
with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one
sinner who repents.”

• St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “The tears of the repentant form the wine of angels.”

Why does Luke record this account in his historical biography of Jesus?
B/c when we hear Jesus tell these stories, we need to hear him saying, “God’s heart is bent on seeking the lost because
he loves to celebrate.”

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It’s ironic, the religious leaders divided the world into two categories: the good people like us, and the bad people like
them. There’s only one category: sinners who need to be rescued & brought into the celebration of heaven.

Bottom Line: God’s heart is bent on seeking and celebrating.


Or, in other words, God can’t wait to celebrate.

Obj: Pastor, that’s good news, and I love hearing that. But that illustration you used about Jeffery Dahmer still rubs me
the wrong way. If what you are saying is true, that means that Dahmer gets off scot-free. If what you’re saying is true,
then God doesn’t punish him for his sins and crimes against humanity.

Ans: You are absolutely right. What we’re saying is that if a sinner repents and turns to God, he get’s off scot-free, and
God doesn’t punish him for his sins. That goes for sinners like you and sinners like me, and sinners like Jeffrey Dahmer.

• But don’t think that means a miscarriage of justice. When Jesus died on the cross, God laid upon him this sins of
people like you and me Jeffrey Dahmer. When the Bible says that Christ became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), that means
that God reckoned him as not simply the greatest sinner who ever lived, but sum total of the sins of his people. That
means that Jesus was considered a tax-cheat and a gossip, a thief and a liar, a murderer and a cannibal.

• Hebrews 12:2, “Jesus…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at
the right hand of the throne of God.”

• Jesus endured the cross because his heart was bent on seeking and celebrating.

Application

1. How does this teaching of Jesus challenge your beliefs and attitudes and actions?

• Is there any evidence in your life that your heart reflects the searching and celebrating heart of God?

• God’s heart is bent on seeking and celebrating. Is yours?

2. How does this teaching of Jesus challenge our church community?

• If you are looking for a place where you can gather with other like-minded people and look down your nose at
sinners, you will find yourself sorely out of place here.

• God’s heart is bent on seeking and celebrating. Is ours?

3. How does this teaching of Jesus change the way you view our city?

• God sends his Son, his Spirit, his church, his gospel, his you into the world with the radical message that our God
is a God whose heart is bent on searching and celebrating.

MHC, may you be a people who reflect that heart of God that is bent on seeking and celebrating. Amen.

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