Jesus Christ is the most influential human to ever walk the earth. We've heard and seen so many depictions of Him that we think we know Him better than we actually do. If we took the time to really look at Him, we might be surprised at what we'd find.
In 52 Weeks with Jesus, author and pastor James Merritt leads you on a transformational journey as he shares what he's learned over a lifetime of studying Jesus' life and ministry. As you join Dr. Merritt on this journey, you will come to know and encounter Jesus in new and surprising ways and be inspired anew to embrace His invitation, "Come, follow Me."
Filled with practical applications and surprising truths, this book will help you more ably answer that ancient question that's as timely today as when it was first posed: "Who do you say that I am?"
The following is an excerpt from this month's ministry offer, James Merritt's book 52 Weeks With Jesus.
There were always two types of people around Jesus: the rebellious crowd and the religious crowd. Today some would identify these as the "wrong" crowd and the "right" crowd. The rebellious crowd might include drug addicts, ex-cons, and gang members. The religious crowd would, most certainly, include Christians dressed to the nines in their Sunday best. A lot of church people are more like the Pharisees than they'd care to admit. And because the Pharisees considered themselves the "right" crowd, it drove them nuts that Jesus hung around with the "wrong" crowd (Luke 15:2).
The Pharisees didn't understand why Jesus - someone who claimed to be the Son of God - hung around with sinners because they didn't see sinners the way God does. They saw sinners as losers, but God sees sinners as lost.
A young couple was shopping at the mall with their two-year-old, Jimmy, when the husband stopped at a store to try on a pair of pants. Jimmy was sitting in a stroller, his diaper bag and his mother's purse hanging off the handles.
When the husband emerged from the dressing room, he looked at his wife and asked, "Where's Jimmy?"
The pair scanned the area, searching for their son, but Jimmy, the stroller, the purse, and the diaper bag were gone! They frantically dashed around the store, but couldn't find Jimmy anywhere. When they asked a salesperson if she'd seen a little boy and a stroller, her reply was surprisingly nonchalant.
"Yes," she said. "He just pushed the stroller out the door about two minutes ago."
"Why didn't you stop him?" the father demanded.
"He wasn't my kid."
The couple ran out into the mall, eyes darting in every direction, and still couldn't find their son. Instinctively, perhaps, they turned to the right, walked up two flights of steps, and headed for the toy store.
Glancing into the window, the couple spotted their son. Entirely content, Jimmy was sitting in a little red toy car, next to the family's stroller, waving at his parents through the window.
On the verge of breaking down, the father gulped a deep breath to regain his composure. Overwhelmed with relief, the couple experienced deep joy.
This isn't a fictional story or even the story of a stranger. It's a true story about my son James! In those harrowing moments, I came to understand the heart of Jesus who is the finder of the lost.
My son James wasn't a loser, he was lost.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, when you view a person who is far from God the same way that you see a child who is lost, your attitude and priorities toward them will change completely. I experienced a powerful rush of joy when I was finally reunited with my son, and God's exuberance when the lost are found is even greater than His celebration of those who are already "in the family."
What was true of my son James is true of sheep: the one that's lost doesn't even realize it's lost! Not only did James not know he was lost, he didn't care that he was lost. The shepherd has to keep careful watch over the flock because sheep just naturally wander away. And when they do, they don't return because they neither realize they are lost nor are smart enough to find their way back. A person far from Jesus is lost. He is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there.
Did you notice what the shepherd in Jesus' story did? He left the 99 sheep to fend for themselves, and he went to look for the one sheep that had wandered off. What made that sheep so valuable was the love and concern of the one who had lost it.
Jesus doesn't love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because Jesus loves us.
The deepest desire of Jesus' heart is that the lost be found.
This Week's Prayer: Lord, kindle in my heart Your passion for the lost. Give me eyes to see as You see and the will to pursue and invite them into the celebration that awaits them.
This Week's Question: Do you share the Shepherd's passion to pursue the one who is lost?