We talk a lot about salvation, but what God really wants is a relationship with us. Are we willing to join Him?
5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD [Old Testament way of looking at God; today, we trust Him] and find the knowledge of God [Old Testament way of thinking about God; today, we know Him personally].
Jesus came to reveal God the Father to us. Jesus told stories that show us the true nature of God the Father. One of those stories is about the lost sheep.
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:3-7
The relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd is a true picture of the love the heavenly Father has for His children–all of them. He loves the 99 sheep and He loves the sheep that wandered off. He searched until He found it. The sheep represents us lost because of sin. The Shepherd is Jesus. He rejoiced over the sheep that He found and He carried it home, and then threw a party!
What does this story tell us about the relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd?
- The Shepherd cares for the sheep.
- We don’t know how the sheep got lost; was it eating and simply wandered off? Was it being sneaky and slipped away? Was it being rebellious and ran away? Was it lured away by tasty flowers, or something blowing in the wind? We can assume that the sheep was thankful that the Shepherd found it. Sheep are defenseless. The best they can do is run, and that not very well.
- The sheep had a connection with the Shepherd. We have a connection with Him, too.
Our connection is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ comes to live in us. In other words, He never leaves us! Salvation comes down to this: We either have the Spirit or we don’t. One way to tell is to look at our desires. We all have base desires–our natural desires of food and drink, love and companionship, etc. Many times, our desires tempt us to go overboard in certain areas and even to warp those desires. Satan has a heyday with us in these areas.
The Spirit in us will acknowledge the desires and then overlay His desires. I call it our higher desire; Robin calls it the want-to to want to. We either have this higher desire of the Spirit or we don’t. Obedience to the Spirit is essential–not for relationship, but for fellowship with our heavenly Father. Here is the promise we have from Him:
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Another way to tell is the certainty of His presence. When we are in tune with Him, His love, joy and peace flow through us. Sounds like the Force, doesn’t it? Interestingly, George Lucas took aspects from several religions and mashed them into what he called the Force on Star Wars. The part he took from Christianity is the way the Spirit flows through us. We are at peace when we are resting in the Father via the Spirit. We “do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [we live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power]. 5 For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]” (Romans 4-5).
Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” We are to “ fix our thoughts on Jesus“ (Hebrews 3:1); another way of saying it is, “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
People who enter into a relationship with Jesus are, indeed, born again as the Spirit comes into their lives and takes up residence. We should be able to tell pretty easily because of the ongoing conversation that He has with us every day. But, if there is a question, consider 2 Corinthians 13:5,
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
Salvation without a relationship with Christ is not true salvation. A person misses out on the whole purpose of salvation! His Spirit is our salvation; He brings salvation to us as He comes to live in our heart and life. May we nurture that relationship–even when we venture away from Him. Know this: He WILL search for you until He finds you. Then, He will carry you home rejoicing and throw a party!
Abba, thank You for coming after me. I got lost for a while when I was young, but You kept after me. I am so glad! You have nurtured me all these years. I can’t imagine life without You–I’m sure glad I won’t ever have to find out! Ke-e-e-ep me close to You, Lord Jesus. I am Your sheep and You are my Shepherd. Amen.