by Lim Chong Teck
In Luke 15 when the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ actions in eating with sinners, He told them three parables. Each parable talks of the preciousness of each person. In bringing souls to Christ we need to understand how precious these souls are. And in each parable the Lord highlights the urgency (parable of the lost sheep), the diligence( parable of the lost coin) and the patience (parables of the prodigal son) in saving the lost.
The Lord’s servant must work with a sense of urgency, diligence and patience in the field. I would like to share a point from the idea of value that is mentioned in the bible regarding a man’s soul and Christ.
1. Value of souls
Is value a matter of perspective? Some of us place great value on antiquities, but some others view them as junk. Yet some things have an inherent value. Water has an inherent value to life regardless of whether it is valued or not. In Matt 7:6 Jesus tells us of some who do not know how to value good things. Yet that does not diminish the value of the good things. True value is given by the owner or by those who appreciate and know how to value things.
One of the differences between man and other living creatures is that man was made a living soul (Genesis 2:7). As a living soul, God had made plans for them to live eternally (Titus 1:3, Eph 1:9-11). Their life have a different value because they were created in the image of God (Gen 1 :26-27). And as such their life was precious in God’s sight and the shedding of blood of man was not permitted except it be in accordance to God’s will (Gen 9:5-6, Psalms 50:6).
But the scripture in Matt 16: 24-27 gives a value to our physical life and the soul that is in us. How we live our lives will determine our souls’ reward. This implies that life goes beyond this physical realm. It further values the soul to the physical life and all the things in this physical life.
The value that God puts on the soul is far more exceeding than all the things in this physical world.
i. The value of the soul is more than all that is created in this world (Matt 6:25-34, 10: 29-31). The earth was created for us (Gen. 1:27-31). In as much it was created for us, God has not ceased to tell us we are of more value than the whole world. That is from the perspective of God.
ii. The soul is of more value than the physical life we have.
Jesus tells us that our life is of more value than the material things that we have (Luke 12:15). And in life we often realize this truth when we are beset with ill health. Sometimes all the things we possess cannot be changed for better health or a few more days extra. What more when compared to our souls? Jesus tells us the whole world is not to be compared with our souls. He says that even our very life on earth is not above our souls (Mark 8:35-36). A life that is lived for Christ will be rewarded. How then can a physically dead man be rewarded except his soul continues to live beyond this life? The eternal value of a soul is not to be taken lightly. Sometimes this value is not appreciated by man until he goes beyond this life (Luke 16:1-31) when it may be too late.
God has told us how much we are valued. Man has inherent value because we were created in God’s image. He has shown us how we are valued by sending His Son to die for us. The amount of love shown to us tells us how much we are valued in God’s sight.
We need to share with others so that they may value their souls and appreciate how much God values us by sending His Son to die for us.
2. Value of Christ
Matt 13:45-46 tells of a merchant who understood the value of a pearl and strived to get it by exchanging all that he had for the precious pearl. It reminds me of Paul in Philippians 3:7-8 : “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” That was how Paul valued Christ. We can help another to understand the value of Christ.
There is no other denominator to purchase us back to God. A soul that sinned is separated from God (Isaiah 59:2).The value of a soul is precious and it is very costly to purchase or redeem it back to God. The Psalmist tells us that it is a price too much for us to pay. We are not purchased with gold or silver (1 Peter 1:18). The Hebrew writer tells us that blood of animals could not take away the sins committed by man. Isaiah 53:10-12 proclaims that Christ was made a sin offering and He bore our sins. Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other name under heaven given among man whereby we must be saved.”
Paul echoes this in Acts 17: 23-31 of the only True God in heaven and the man sent by God. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
Until man can see the value of Christ as the only way back to God, they will continue to carry on their lives without realizing their need for Christ. Like Paul we need to be polite but direct (the account at Mars Hill in Acts 17) in the hope of winning souls.
There are blessings that are only bestowed on those in Christ. No other person can give us these blessings. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.” Eph 1:3. What are these blessings? The adoption as children of God, redemption and forgiveness of sins, salvation, the hope of eternal life in heaven, the knowledge of God and Christ, the power of prayer, the earnest of the Holy Spirit and much more. May we help others to see this great value in Christ. Hopefully there will be those who can see this value as in Matt.13:45-46 and like Paul, cling to Jesus.
3. The Lord’s worker
In the parable of the lost sheep, rescuing the sheep within a certain time was important as the lost sheep would be in the cold, without food and in danger of wolves. The shepherd knew he cannot wait and must take action quickly.
The bible tells us the work of preaching and saving the lost is urgent. Yet urgency does not mean we give a quick fix without proper thoughts. There is purpose, plan, preparation and work involved in bringing the plan of salvation to man. Eph 1:9 tells us God purposed in himself to save us through Christ. He purposed to save and the plan to save us was through Christ. We noticed prophets were sent and in the fullness of time Christ was sent (Gal 4:4). God’s plan to save mankind was a tremendous work. And it continues through Christians to reach out to the lost.
The individual Christian and the church as members working together should have purpose and plan. Just as we are to give what we purpose in our hearts (2 Cor 9:7) so we need to purpose in our hearts to save others. As we give of material possessions within our ability, we also bring others to Christ within our ability.
It may start with a simple invitation as Philip shared with Nathanael (John 1:45-46) or about the goodness God had shown to us (Mark 5;19). As our ability increases in time, we then could teach others privately together with other brethren (Acts 18:2,11,26). And as we progress, that might come a time we would be able to teach others independently.
Every effort to reach out to the lost is important; together we do more for God. The urgency of the work means we need to begin to purpose in the heart, plan with the mind and put it into action. The shepherd did these and found the sheep.
The Lord also reminds us through the other two parables in Luke 15 that the worker must be diligent because sometimes a little more effort makes the difference between finding and giving up. Sometimes having done all that we can, we should not give up even though it doesn’t seem like it is working. The last parable was on the patience and hope that a worker should have in reaching out to the lost. The father’s love was manifested in his patience and hoping that his lost son would return. Our love, patience and hope of the lost returning will keep us alert to the first sign of a lost person’s desire to return and we too can encourage them and welcome them back.
May God help us in our efforts to reach out to the lost.