Salvation Of Loved Ones
Duane Vander Klok
God wants every believer to have His heart for the lost so that we can help them find their way to Him. But what is God’s heart like?
One of the places that God’s heart for the lost can be seen is in Luke 15 where Jesus told three parables.
The first parable is about a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep. One of the sheep has strayed away and the shepherd leaves the other 99 to look for him. After he locates the lost sheep, he carries him back to the rest of the flock. He then invites others to celebrate with him at finding the sheep.
The second parable is about a woman who has ten coins. When one of the coins comes up missing, Luke tells us that she turns on a light and tears her house apart looking for it. When she finds it, she gathers her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her.
In the third parable, the story of the prodigal son, one of a man’s sons decides to take his inheritance and leave home. He quickly spends everything he has on wrong living and ends up eating with the pigs. After awhile, he comes to his senses and realizes how much better life was with his father. He heads back home, and when his father sees him coming, he runs out to meet him. He cannot contain his joy at his son’s homecoming, and he spares no expense at throwing a big party to let everyone share in his happiness.
These three parables tell us a lot about God’s heart for the lost. To God:
What is lost is valuable. No one would waste time searching for something that has no value. In these parables, though each lost item was different, each had value in the eyes of the one doing the searching. The shepherd could have thought, “It’s just one little sheep. I have 99 more, so what does it matter if one is missing?” Instead, we see that each individual sheep was valuable to him.
There is a sense of urgency. In each parable, there was a sense of urgency in finding what was lost. There was no waiting until tomorrow to see if the lost coin might show up somewhere. Likewise, the father of the prodigal was eager for his son to return. Jesus said, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). This paints a picture of a forgiving father who anticipates that his son is coming home. He is constantly scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his return.
A celebration is coming. Each time when the lost had been found, there was a celebration. The shepherd did not angrily chase the sheep all the way back to the flock. The woman did not nonchalantly put the coin back with the others, turn out the light and go to sleep. The father did not say, “Why should I let you come back home after what you’ve done?” No! In each case, there was rejoicing and celebration because what was once lost had been found.
In Luke 15:7 (TLB), Jesus said: “Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who haven’t strayed away!” Verse 10 says that, just as the woman who found the coin was happy, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner repents.”
When it comes to people who have not yet received Jesus Christ, the Bible is clear. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “…He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” and 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” That is His heart for your unsaved friends, neighbors and family members.
The Deciding Vote
John 3:16 is one of the best-known scriptures in the Bible. It tells us: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” While salvation is a gift that God freely offers, each individual must make the choice to receive it.
When it comes to the salvation of your loved ones, it is like there is an election: God gets one vote, the devil gets one vote, and they get one vote. God’s vote is for them. The devil’s vote is against them. That leaves the deciding vote up to the individual.
What Can We Do?
We cannot make the decision for our unsaved friends, neighbors and family members, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do. God can use you to make a difference in the eternal destinies of our loved ones. You can:
Develop God’s heart for them. That means we should recognize their value the way God does and have a sense of urgency that keeps us from giving up on them. As you see the people in your life turning toward God in little things, you can be one of the first ones there to cheer them on!
Pray. You can pray that God will send people into their lives to show them His love. You can also pray that their eyes will be opened so they can see and know God and receive all He has for them (Ephesians 1:16-19).
Check your attitude. It is easy to become negative when the people we care about are slow to change. Condemning attitudes and a lack of faith on our part can hinder their progress. A positive attitude will reflect your expectation that they are going to turn to God.
Live a life that reflects who God is to you. Our actions generally speak louder than our words. Even though our friends – and especially our families – have seen our faults, how we live our lives is still often the best form of evangelism. Here are some examples from scripture:
Women may win their husbands to the Lord by their behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2)
Husbands can serve their wives sacrificially, showing them Christ’s love. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
Parents can encourage their children to come to the Lord by not provoking them. Spending time with them, giving them personal attention, loving them affectionately and listening to them will help them receive godly instruction and discipline. (Ephesians 6:4)
Children can influence their parents to the Lord by honoring and obeying them. (Ephesians 6:1-2).
Any one of us can influence others simply by living right. Matthew 5:13-16 talks about us being salt and light in the world and ends by saying, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Put our faith into words. Our friends and relatives often do not respond well to our preaching or constantly telling them what God says. But, 1 Peter 3:15 (TLB) tells us, “…if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.”
Our attitude and actions can make people thirsty for God, and the example of a consistent Christian life makes God hard to resist. We should, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
Be encouraged to know that God wants to see your loved ones saved even more than you do. He doesn’t want any of them to perish, and He has put you in their lives to help them find their way to Him. As you develop more of God’s heart for them, pray for them, maintain a positive expectation and live a consistent life of faith, God can use you to make a difference in their lives!
(All scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)
Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)